THE great Serbian Empire broke into fragments on the death of Dusan. The dying Tsar had made his magnates swear to maintain the rights of his son, then a boy of nineteen. But even the most solemn oaths could not restrain the boundless ambition and the mutual jealousies of those unruly officials. Stephen Uros V had scarcely been proclaimed when his uncle Simeon Uros, the viceroy of Acarnania and Aetolia, disputed the succession. Many of the nobles were on the latter's side; the Dowager-Empress, instead of protecting her son's interests, played for her own hand; while the most powerful satraps availed themselves of this family quarrel to establish themselves as independent princes, each in his own part of the country, sending aid to either of the rival Emperors, or remaining neutral, according as it suited their purpose. The civil war in Serbia and the death of Preljub, the Serbian governor of Joannina and Thessaly, suggested to Nicephorus II, the exiled Despot of Epirus, the idea of recovering his lost dominions. His former subjects received him gladly; he drove Simeon into Macedonia and might have retained his throne, had he not offended the Albanians by deserting his wife in order to marry the sister of the Serbian Empress. An Albanian victory near the town of Achelous in 1358 ended his career and with it the despotat of Epirus. Simeon then returned, and established his authority in reality over Thessaly, in name over Epirus also. Thenceforth, however, he confined his personal attention entirely to the former province, making Trikala his capital and styling himself "Emperor of the Greeks and Serbs," while he assigned Joannina to his son-in-law Thomas Preljubovic, and left the rest of Epirus to two Albanian chieftains, heads of the clans of Boua and Liosa. From that time onward the Serbian possessions in Greece remained separate from the rest of the Empire. Simeon Uros was succeeded in 1371 by his son John Uros, who retired from the pumps of Trikala to the famous monastery of Meteoron, where, long after the Turkish conquest of Thessaly in 1393, he died as abbot. At Joannina Thomas Preljubovic, after a tyrannical reign, was assassinated by his bodyguard, and his widow, by marrying a Florentine, ended Serbian rule there in 1386. The four decades of Serbian sway over Thessaly and Epirus in the fourteenth century are now almost forgotten. Its only memorials are an inscription at the Serbian capital of Trikala; the church of the Transfiguration at Meteoron, founded by the pious "King Joseph," as John Uros was called by his fellow-monks; and perhaps the weird beasts imbedded in the walls of the castle at Joannina.


Break-up of the Serbian Empire


The Greek provinces of the Serbian Empire were naturally least attached to Dusan's son. With a certain section of the Serbian nobles John Cantacuzene had always been more popular than the great Tsar himself, and accordingly Voijihna, who held the rank of "Caesar" and governed Drama, invited Matthew Cantacuzene to invade Macedonia, and promised that Seres, which contained the Empress, should be his. Matthew engaged a body of Turkish auxiliaries for this enterprise; but these turbulent irregulars disregarded his orders, and began to attack and plunder his Serbian confederates. The latter retaliated, and Matthew, forced to flee, was captured while hiding among the reeds of the marshes near Philippopolis, and handed over by Voijihna to the Greek Emperor. Seres, meanwhile, continued to be the residence of the Serbian Empress, while from there to the Danube stretched the vast provinces of the brothers John Ilgljesa and Vukagin, natives of the Herzegovina, of whom the former was marshal, and the latter guardian and cup-bearer, of the young Tsar. Between Seres and the Vardar lay the domain of Bogdan, a doughty warrior whose name is still famous in Serbian ballads. In the Zeta, the cradle of the dynasty, the family of Balk, by some connected with the French house of Baux, by others with the royal blood of Nemanja through the female line, from imperial governors became independent princes, whose territory stretched down to the Adriatic at Budua and Antivari and whose chief residence was Scutari. Various native chiefs held the rest of Albania, most famous among them Carlo Thopia, who in 1368 drove the Angevins, from whom he boasted his descent, out of Durazzo, and whose monument with the French lilies is still to be seen near Elbassan. Finally, Lazar Hrebeljanovic, a young noble connected by marriage with the imperial house (according to some he was a natural son of Dusan) administered Macva on the Hungarian frontier. Central authority there was none save the young and feeble Tsar, a mere figure-head, guided, like Rehoboam of old, by the advice of men as young and inexperienced as himself.


Vukasin's usurpation


The first result of his weakness was a Hungarian invasion. The two powerful magnates whose provinces adjoined the Danube, Vukasin and Lazar, quarrelled with one another, the latter invoked the aid of the King of Hungary, and a Hungarian army forced the Serbs to retire to the impregnable forests which then covered their mountains. Ragusa, since 1358 a Hungarian protectorate, was involved in this dispute, with the natural result that Serbian trade suffered. Peace had not long been restored when a revolution broke out in Serbia. Vukasin, a man of boundless ambition and marked ability, was no longer content with the rank of despot, which he had received from his young master, now emancipated from his control. Supported by his brother and a strong party among the nobles, he drove Stephen Uros V from the throne in 1366, assumed the title of king with the government of the specially Serbian lands whose centre was Prizren, and rewarded Ugljesa with the style of "despot" and the Greek districts round Seres, where the latter wisely endeavoured to strengthen his hold upon the Hellenic population in view of the Turkish peril, by restoring to the Ecumenical Patriarch all the churches and privileges which Dusan had transferred to the newly-created Serbian Patriarchate. A later legend makes the usurper complete his act of treachery by the murder of his sovereign during a hunting-party on the plain of Kossovo. But it has now been proved that Stephen Urog survived his supposed murderer. For the rest of his life, however, he was a mere cypher in the history of his country, glad to accept a present from the Ragusans, who, in spite of his former war with them, alone remained faithful to him and continued to pay him the customary tribute, even suffering losses for his sake.

The Bulgarian Empire was almost as much divided as the Serbian,. The Jewish marriage of John Alexander had created bitter enmity between his favourite son, John Shishman, whom he had designed as his successor at Trnovo, and John Sracimir, the surviving offspring of his first wife, to whom he had assigned the family castle of Vidin as an appanage, while on the Black Sea coast an independent prince had established himself and has perpetuated his name, Dobrotich, in the dismal swamps of the Dobrudzha. Thus weakened by internal divisions, Bulgaria was further crippled by the attacks of her Christian neighbours, at a time when all should have united their resources against the Turks. John V Palaeologus invaded the Black Sea coast, and extorted a war indemnity from the Tsar, and when the latter died in 1365 the Hungarians seized Vidin, carried off Sracimir and his wife, and retained possession of that famous fortress for four years. The new Tsar, John Shishman, revenged himself on the Greek Emperor, who had come to ask his aid in repelling the common enemy of Christianity, by throwing him into prison, whence he was only released by the prowess of the famous "green count," Amadeus VI of Savoy. Well might the rhetorician Demetrius Kydonis point out the futility of an alliance with a nation which was so fickle and now so feeble, and which dynastic marriages had failed to bind to Byzantine interests. The Ecumenical Patriarch tried indeed to form a Greco-Serbian league to check the Ottoman advance, but died at the moment when his diplomacy seemed to be successful.


Battle on the Maritza, 1371


Meanwhile, the Turks were rapidly spreading their sway over Thrace. Demotika, Hadrianople, Philippopolis, marked the progress of their arms; the city of Philip became the residence of the first Beglerbeg of Rumelia, that of Hadrian the capital of the Turkish Empire. In vain the chivalrous Count of Savoy recovered Gallipoli; despite the appeal of Kyddnis, that important position was surrendered to the Sultan. One place after another in Bulgaria fell before him; their inhabitants were exempted from taxes on condition that they guarded the baggage of the Turkish army. Popular legends still preserve the memory of the stand made by the imperial family in the neighbourhood of Sofia; the disastrous attempt of the Serbs to repulse the Turks in the valley of the Maritza is one of the landmarks of Balkan history. Alarmed at the progress of the enemy, Vukasin and his brother Ugljesa collected a large army of Serbs and Wallachs, which marched as far as Chirmen between Philippopolis and Hadrianople. There, at dawn on 26 September 1371, a greatly inferior Turkish force surprised them; most of the Christians perished in the waters of the river; both the King of Serbia and his brother were slain, and poetic justice made the traitor Vukagin the victim of his own servant. So great was the carnage that the battlefield is still called "the Serbs' destruction." Macedonia was now at the mercy of the conqueror, for the leaders of the people had been killed, and their successors and survivors were compelled to pay tribute and render military service to the Turks. On these ignominious terms "the king's [Vukasin's] son Marko," that greatest hero of South Slavonic poetry, was able to retain Prilep and Skoplje, and his friend Constantine the district round Velbukl, whose modern name of Kostendil contains a reminiscence of the time when the borderland between Bulgaria and Macedonia was still known as " Constantine's country." Even the Bulgarian Tsar could only save himself by promising to follow the Sultan to war and by sending his sister Thamar to Murad's seraglio, where the white Bulgarian princess neither forswore her religion nor yet forgot her country.


Hegemony of Bosnia


Two months after the Serbian defeat on the Maritza, Stephen Uros V died "as Tsar and in his own land," the last legitimate male descendant of the house of Nemanja. The adherents of the national dynasty naturally fixed their eyes at this critical moment upon Lazar Hrebeljanovic, who was connected with the imperial family and had led the opposition to Vukasin. Lazar ascended the throne of the greatly diminished Serbian Empire, and either a sense of proportion or his native modesty led him to prefer the style of "Prince" to the title of Tsar which was conferred upon him. But the hegemony of the Southern Slavs now passed from Serbia to Bosnia, whose ruler, Tvrtko, after a long and desperate struggle for the mastery of his own house, had become the leading statesman of the Balkan peninsula. Threatened by Louis the Great of Hungary, who forced him to surrender part of the land of Hum and sought to make him a mere puppet without power; deposed at one moment by his rebellious barons and his ambitious brother, and then restored by Hungarian arms; he was at last able to think of extending his dominions. The moment was favourable to his plans. The King of Hungary was occupied with Poland; the Bosnian nobles were crushed; his brother was an exile at Ragusa; while Lazar was glad to purchase his aid against his own refractory magnates by allowing him to take from them and keep for himself large portions of Serbian territory, which included a strip of the Dalmatian coast from the Cetina to the Bocche di Cattaro and the historic monastery of Milegevo in the district of Novibazar. There in 1376, on the grave of St Sava, Tvrtko had himself crowned with two diadems "King of the Serbs, and of Bosnia, and of the coast." Not a voice was raised against this assumption of the royal authority and of the Serbian title, which he could claim as great-grandson of Stephen Dragutin. All his successors bore it, together with the kingly name of Stephen. Ragusa was the first to recognise him as the rightful wearer of the Serbian crown, and promptly paid him the so-called "Serbian tribute," which the republic had been accustomed to render to the Kings of Serbia on the feast of St Demetrius. Venice followed suit, and the King of Hungary was too busy to protest. Tvrtko proceeded to live up to his new dignities. His court at Sutjeska and Bobovac, where the crown was kept, was organised on the Byzantine model. Rough Bosnian barons held offices with high-sounding Greek names, and the sovereign became the fountain of hereditary honours. Hitherto Bosnian coins had been scarce except some of Stephen Kotromanie, and Ragusan, Hungarian, and Venetian pieces had fulfilled most purposes of trade. But now money, of which many specimens still exist, was minted from the silver of Srebrenica and Olovo, bearing Tvrtko's visored helmet surmounted by a crown of fleur-de-lis with a hop-blossom above it. Married to a princess of the Bulgarian imperial house, representing in his own person both branches of the Serbian stock, Stephen Tvrtko took his new office of king by the grace of God very seriously, for he was animated, as he once wrote, "with the wish to raise up that which is fallen and to restore that which is destroyed."'

Tvrtko had gained the great object of all Serbian rulers, medieval and modern—a frontage on the sea. But the flourishing republic of Ragusa interrupted his coast-line, while he coveted the old Serbian city of Cattaro, hidden in the remotest bend of its splendid fiord; both of them were then under Hungarian protection, and the former was too strong to be conquered by one who had no navy. The death of Louis the Great of Hungary in 1382 and the subsequent confusion were his opportunity. In the same year he founded the picturesque fortress of Novi, or Castelnuovo, at the entrance of the Bocche, to be the rival of Ragusa and the outlet of all the inland trade, as it is the port of the new Bosnian line. Three years later Cattaro was his. Thus possessed of the fiord which is now a Jugoslav naval station, he sought to make Bosnia a maritime power and thereby conquer the Dalmatian coast-towns. One after another they were about to surrender, and 15 June 1389 had been fixed as the date on which Spalato was to have opened its gates. But when that day arrived, Tvrtko was occupied elsewhere, and the fate of the Southern Slavs for centuries was decided on the field of Kossovo.


The Turkish advance


The successes of the Turkish arms had thoroughly alarmed the leaders of the Serbian race, for the Turks had been coming nearer and nearer to the peculiarly Serbian lands. In 1382 the divided Bulgarian Empire had lost Sofia, the present capital; in 1386 Nis was taken from the Serbs and Lazar forced to purchase a craven peace by the promise to pay an annual tribute and to furnish a contingent of horsemen to the Sultan. Upon this the Bosnian king made common cause with his Serbian neighbour; a Pan-Serbian league was formed against the Turks, and in 1387 on the banks of the Toplica the allies won a great victory, their first and last, over the dreaded foe. This triumph at once decided the waverers: John Shishman joined the league; Mircea, the first Prince of Wallachia who received the epithet of "Great," took his share in the defence of the peninsula. Croatians, Albanians, and even Poles and Hungarians, furnished contingents to the army which was intended to save the Balkans for the Balkan peoples. On his side, Murad made long preparations to crush the Christians who had dared to combine against their destined masters.

Bulgaria, being the nearest, received the first blow. The capital of the Tsars offered but a feeble resistance; Shishman, after a stubborn defence of Great Nicopolis between Trnovo and the Danube, obtained peace from the Sultan on condition that he paid his arrears of tribute and ceded the fortress of Silistria. Scarcely had Murad left, when he refused to carry out this humiliating cession; whereupon the Turkish commander captured his castles on the Danube, besieged him again in Great Nicopolis, and forced him a second time to beg for mercy. Murad was long-suffering; he allowed Shishman to retain a throne from which he knew full well that he could remove him at his own good pleasure. Sracimir, too, remained in his "royal city of Vidin" by accepting the suzerainty of the Sultan, instead of signing himself "vassal of the King of Hungary." Having thus disposed of Bulgaria, Murad marched into Old Serbia by way of Kostendil, where his tributary, Constantine, entertained him splendidly and joined his army. Lazar's messenger,the bearer of a haughty message, was sent back with an equally haughty answer. From his capital of Krusevac (for the Serbian royal residence had receded within the recent limits of the modern kingdom) Lazar set out attended by all his paladins to do battle on the field of Kossovo.


Battle of Kossovo, 1389


The armies met on 15 June 1389. Seven nationalities composed that of the Christians; at least one Christian vassal helped to swell the smaller forces of the Turks. While Murad was arraying himself for the fight, a noble Serb, Milos Kobilie, presented himself as a deserter and begged to have speech of the Sultan, for whose ear he had important information. His request was granted, he entered the royal tent, and stabbed Murad to the heart, paying with his own life for this act of daring and thereby gaining immortality in Serbian poetry. Though deprived of their sovereign, the Turks, with the perfect discipline once characteristic of their armies on the field of battle, went into action without dismay. At first the Bosniaks under Vlatko Hranic drove back one of the Turkish wings; but Bayazid I, the young Sultan, held his own on the other, and threw the Christians into disorder. A rumour of treachery increased their confusio ; whether truly or no, it is still the popular tradition that Vuk Brankovic, Lazar's son-in-law, betrayed the Serbian cause at Kossovo. Lazar was taken prisoner, and slain in the tent where the dying Murad lay, and Bayazid secured the succession to his father's throne by ordering his brother to be strangled, thus completing the horrors of that fatal day.

At first Christendom believed that the Turks had been defeated; a Te Deum was sung in Paris to the God of battles, and Florence wrote to congratulate Tvrtko on the supposed victory, to which his Bosniaks had contributed. But Lazar's widow Milica, as the ballad so beautifully tells the tale, soon learnt the truth in her "white palace" at Krusevac from the crows that had hovered over the battlefield. The name of Kossovo polje ("the plain of blackbirds") is still remembered throughout the Serbian lands as if the fight had been fought but yesterday. Every year the sad anniversary is solemnly kept, and in token of mourning for that great national calamity (the Waterloo of the Serbian Empire) the Montenegrins still wear a black band on their caps. Murad's heart is still preserved on the spot where he died; Lazar's shroud is still treasured by the Hungarian Serbs in the monastery of Vrdnik; and in many a lonely village the minstrel sings to the sound of the gusle the melancholy legend of Kossovo. Kumanovo, 523 years later, avenged that day.


Zenith of Tvrtko I


The Serbian Empire had fallen, but a diminished Serbian principality lingered on for another 70 years. Bayazid I recognised Stephen Lazarevic, the late ruler's eldest son, a lad not yet of age, on condition that he paid tribute, came every year with a contingent to join the Turkish troops, and gave him the hand of his youngest sister. The Sultan then withdrew, leaving the Serbs weakened and divided. Vuk Brankovic, likewise his vassal, held the old capital of Pristina and styled himself "lord of the Serbs and of the Danubian regions"; the dynasty of Balk ruled over the Zeta. Tvrtko, instead of using this brief respite to concentrate all his energies for the defence of his realm against the Turks, continued his Dalmatian campaign; made himself master of all the coast-towns, except Zara and Ragusa, as well as of some of the islands; and assumed, in 1390, the additional title of "King of Dalmatia and Croatia." The first King of Bosnia had now reached the summit of his power. He had achieved the difficult feat of uniting Serbs and Croats under one sceptre; he had made Bosnia the centre of a great kingdom, which possessed a frontage on the Adriatic from the Quarnero to Cattaro, save for the two enclaves of Zara and Ragusa; he had laid the foundations of a sea-power; and under his auspices Dalmatia, in union with Bosnia, was no longer what she has so often been—"a face without a head." Even thus his ambition was not appeased. He was anxious to conclude a political alliance with Venice, and a matrimonial alliance (for his wife had just died) with the house of Habsburg: Then, on 23 March 1391, he died, without even being able to secure the succession for his son, and the vast power which his country had so rapidly acquired as rapidly waned. The Bosnian kingdom had been made too fast. Its founder had not lived long enough to weld his conquests into an harmonious whole, to combine Catholic Croats with Orthodox Serbs, Bosnian Slavs with the Latin population of the Dalmatian coast-towns, Bogomile heretics with zealous partisans of Rome. The old Slavonic law of succession, which did not recognise the custom of primogeniture, added to these racial and religious difficulties by multiplying candidates to the elective monarchy; and thus foreign princes found an excuse for intervention, and the great barons an excuse for independence. Deprived of all real authority, which lay in the hands of the privy council of nobles, Tvrtko's successors were unable to cope with the Turkish autocracy, while the Kings of Hungary, instead of assisting them, turned their arms against a land which from its geographical position might have been the bulwark of Christendom.


End of the Bulgarian Empire


The evil effects of Tvrtko's death were soon felt. His brother, or cousin, Stephen Dabisa, who succeeded him, felt himself too feeble to govern so large a kingdom. The Turks invaded Bosnia; the King of Naples was plotting to obtain Dalmatia and Croatia. Accordingly, at Djakovo in Slavonia, in 1393, Dabisa ceded the two valuable and neighbouring lands, which his brother had so lately won, to King Sigismund of Hungary, who recognised him as King of Bosnia, and to whom he bequeathed the Bosnian crown after his death. A combination of Bosnian magnates and Croatian rebels refused, however, to accept this arrangement, which Dabisa thereupon repudiated. A Hungarian invasion and the capture of the strong fortress of Dobor on the lower Bosna reduced him to submission, and a battle before the walls of Knin in Dalmatia finally severed the brief connexion between that country and the Bosnian crown. On Dabisa's death, in 1395, the royal authority was further weakened by the regency of his widow, Helena Gruba, in the name of his infant son. All power was in the hands of file magnates, who had elected her as their nominal sovereign, but who were practically independent princes in their own domains. One of their number, the Grand-Duke Hrvoje Vukelc, towered above his fellows, and his figure dominates Bosnian history for the next quarter of a century.

Meanwhile the Turks had gained fresh triumphs in the Eastern Balkans. Mircea of Wallachia, who like his modern representative ruled over the Dobrudzha with the strong fortress of Silistria (a precedent invoked in 1913), was carried off a prisoner to Brasa and only released on payment of tribute in 1391—the first mention of Wallachia as a tributary province of Turkey. Two years later Bayazid resolved to make an end of Bulgaria. On 17 July 1393 Trnovo was taken by storm after a three months' siege; the churches were desecrated, the castle and the palaces were set on fire, the leading nobles were treacherously summoned to a consultation and then butchered; the last Bulgarian Patriarch was stripped of his sacred garb and led to execution on the city wall. At the last moment, however, a miracle (so runs the legend) arrested the headsman's arm; the Patriarch's life was spared; and he lived to conduct a band of sorrowful exiles across the Balkans, where he was ordered to bid his flock farewell. Their path led to Asia Minor, his to Macedonia, where he ended his days; the Bulgarian national Church was suppressed, and from 1394 to 1870 Bulgaria remained under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Thus alike in politics and religion the Bulgars became the slaves of foreigners; the Turks governed their bodies, the Greeks ministered to their souls. It is no wonder that many abjured their faith in order to reap the advantages of the Turkish colony which settled on the castle hill among the blackened walls of the imperial palaces, and offered up prayer in the mosque that had once been the church of the Forty Martyrs, over the graves of the Bulgarian Tsars.

John Shishman had been absent when his capital fell, but he did not long survive its fall. Local tradition connects his death with the mound which still bears his name near Samokov, where seven fountains mark the successive bounds of his severed head. A Bulgarian chronicle I states, however, that Bayazid killed the captive Tsar on 3 June 1395. One of his sons became a Musulman ; another settled in Hungary; while Sracimir was allowed to linger as a Turkish vassal in his palace at Vidin—the last remnant of the Bulgarian Empire.


Battle of Nicopolis, 1396 


Wayazid's next object was to crush Mircea. Followed by his unwilling Serbian dependents, "the king's son, Marko," and Constantine, he invaded Wallachia, and at Rovine on 10 October 1394 gained a victory with heavy loss of life. Marko Kraljevic had said to his friend Constantine that he prayed that the Christians might win and that he himself might fall among the first victims of their swords. Half the prayer was heard; the two comrades perished in the battle. Mircea fled to Sigismund of Hungary, who restored him to his throne and prepared to recover Bulgaria, which he had demanded from the Sultan as an ancient possession of the Hungarian crown. Bayazid's reply was to lead the envoy into his arsenal, and there to show him hanging on the walls the weapons that were the Turkish title-deeds of Bulgaria.

Sigismund assembled an army of many nationalities, which was to drive the Turk from Europe and revive the memory of the Crusades. The first act of his soldiers in the Balkan peninsula was to attack the Christian vassals of the Sultan, to plunder the Serbs, and to force Sracimir of Vidin to acknowledge for the second time the Hungarian suzerainty. Nicopolis on the Danube' resisted for 15 days, until Bayazid had time to come up. There, on 25 September 1396, a great battle was fought which sealed the fate of this brilliant but ill-planned expedition. The rashness of the proud French chivalry, the retreat of the Wallachian prince, and the strategy of the Sultan, were responsible for the overwhelming defeat of the Christians, while it was reserved for Stephen Lazarevic and his 15,000 Serbs, at a critical moment, to strike the decisive blow for the Turks. Immediately after the battle, or at most two years later, the victor ended the last vestige of the Bulgarian Empire at Vidin, and the whole of Bulgaria became for nearly five centuries a Turkish province. The last Tsar's son, like Constantine "the Philosopher" and other Bulgarian men of letters (for the Empress Anne of Vidin had patronised learning), found a refuge at the court of the literary Serbian prince, whose hospitality Constantine repaid by writing the biography which is so valuable a record of this period. Unfortunately South Slavonic literature only began to flourish when the Balkan States were already either dead or dying.


Battle of Angora, 1402


Stephen Lazarevic was well aware that he only existed upon the sufferance of the Sultan, and for the first thirteen years of his long reign he thought it prudent to follow a Turcophil policy, even at the cost of his own race and his own religion. Content with the modest title of "Despot," which he received from the Byzantine Emperor, he aimed at the retention of local autonomy by the strict observance of his promises to his suzerain. Thus every year he accompanied the Turkish troops; in 1398 his soldiers assisted in the first great Turkish invasion of Bosnia; in 1402 he stood by the side of Bayazid at the fatal battle of Angora with 5,000 (according to others 10,000) lancers, all clad in armour. When the fortune of the day had already decided against the Sultan, the Serbian horsemen twice cut their way through the Tartar bowmen, whose arrows rebounded from their iron cuirasses. Seeing that all was lost, Stephen in vain urged Bayazid to flee; and, when the latter refused to leave the field, the Serbian prince saved the life of the Sultan's eldest son Sulaiman, and escaped with him to Brasa. There the Sultan's Serbian wife, whose hand had been the price of Serbian autonomy thirteen years before, fell into the power of Tamerlane. The brutal Mongol, flushed with his victory, insulted both his captives by compelling the Serbian Sultana to pour out his wine in the presence of her husband, no longer " the Thunderbolt " of Islam.

The Turkish defeat at Angora and the civil war between the sons of Bayazid which followed it, removed for a time the danger which threatened the Christian states of the Balkan peninsula. It was now the policy of the Serbian Despot to play off one Turkish pretender against another. At first he supported Sulaiman, who had been proclaimed Sultan at Hadrianople; then, like Mircea of Wallachia, he espoused the cause of Musa, only, however, to desert him at a critical moment. But Stephen was not the only Serb who sought to profit by the rivalry of the Turkish claimants. George Brankovic, the son of the traditional traitor of Kossovo, had succeeded his father in 1398, and, no longer content with the lordship of Prikina, had assumed the style of "Prince of Serbia." Brankovic undermined Stephen's influence at the court of Sulaiman, who despatched him with a Turkish force to make good his pretensions. A second battle on the fatal field of Kossovo, fought on 21 November 1403, resulted in so uncertain a victory for either side that Brankovic and Stephen concluded peace. The two relatives were temporarily reconciled; Brankovic contented himself with his paternal heritage and the expectation that one day he might succeed the childless Stephen; Sulaiman was occupied by the civil war in Asia, and sorely-tried Serbia enjoyed, under her benevolent despot, a period of peace, while an attempt of the late Tsar's sons to raise a revolt in Bulgaria failed.

Stephen Lazarevic, secure against Turkish and domestic intrigue, devoted his energies to the organisation of his country and the patronage of literature. We are told that he appointed a species of Cabinet, with which he was wont to discuss affairs of state; a second class of officials meanwhile attended in an outer room to receive the orders of his ministers; while a third set of functionaries waited in an ante-chamber to carry them out. Imaginative writers have seen in these arrangements the germs of parliamentary government ; but the description rather suggests an elaborate system of bureaucracy. He obtained Belgrade from the Hungarians by diplomacy in 1404, fortified it, and adorned it with churches. But his most celebrated religious foundation was the monastery of Manassia, still one of the glories of Serbia. His own inclinations were in the direction of a monastic life, and he converted his court into an abode of puritanical dullness, whence music and mirth were banished and where literature was the sole relaxation of the pious diplomatist who sat on the throne. Himself an author, he possessed a rich library, and he strove to increase it by the translations of Greek books which were made by his orders. Thus for five years the land had rest.

Serbia had again and again suffered from the quarrels of the reigning family; and even when it should have united to consolidate the state against the inevitable Turkish revival, a fresh pretender arose in the person of Stephen's next brother Vuk, who demanded half of the country as his share and appeared at the head of a Turkish army to enforce his demand. Stephen was compelled to retire to the strong frontier-fortress of Belgrade, and to purchase domestic peace by ceding the south of Serbia to his brother, under Turkish suzerainty, in 1409. Fortunately for the national unity, Vuk did not long survive this arrangement. Summoned to assist Musa in the civil war which still divided the Turkish Empire, he played the part of traitor, after the fashion of the day, thinking thereby to obtain the whole of Serbia from the gratitude of Sulaiman. But on his way to seize his reward, he fell into the hands of the Sultan whom he had betrayed. Musa sent him and the youngest of the three Lazarevie brothers to the scaffold; but, with characteristic diplomacy, he spared the life of George Brankovic, who had shared the treachery of the others, in order that Stephen might still have a rival, and the Turks an ally, in his own household. Brankovic at first acted as the Sultan had anticipated, and the latter, at last triumphant over Sulaiman in 1410, invaded Serbia. In order to strike terror into the hearts of the Serbs, the barbarous invader butchered the entire garrison of three castles, and then ordered his meal to be spread upon their reeking corpses. Acts of this kind made Brankovic revolt from contact with such a monster. He abandoned the camp of Musa, was reconciled with Stephen, and thenceforth regarded his uncle as a father whose crown he would one day inherit. Together they aided Mahomet I, the most powerful of the Turkish claimants, to overthrow his brother. At the battle of Chamorin near Samokov, on 10 July 1413, the fate of the Turkish Empire and with it that of the Balkan Slavs was decided. It was the lot of the two Serbian rulers, Stephen Lazarevic and his nephew, to contribute, the one by the assistance of his subjects the other by his personal prowess, on that day to the consolidation of the Ottoman power, and thus inadvertently to prepare the way for the complete conquest of their country later on. Stephen, to whom some have assigned the command of the left wing, is known to have returned home before the battle; but Brankovic dealt Musa the blow which caused him to flee from the field. The conqueror rewarded the Despot of Serbia with an increase of territory, and assured his envoys of his pacific intentions. Mahomet I was as good as his word; for the rest of his reign Serbia remained unmolested. Nor did his warlike successor Murad II attack that country as long as the diplomatic despot lived.


Venice in Albania


Another, and a Western, Power had now, however, obtained a footing in Serbian lands, thus exciting the protests of the despot in his later years. We saw that some fifty years earlier the family of Balk had established itself in the Zeta, where it had formed an independent state, the germ of the heroic principality of Montenegro, with Scutari as its capital. In 1396, however, George II Balga, hard pressed by the Turks, who had already once captured his residence, sold Scutari with its famous fortress of Rosafa, whose legendary foundation is enshrined in one of the most beautiful Serbian ballads and whose name recalls the Syrian home of SS. Sergius and Bacchus, together with the neighbouring castle of Drivasto, to the Venetian Republic. Three and four years earlier Venice had obtained possession of Alessio and Durazzo respectively; a few years later she occupied the sea-ports of Dulcigno, Antivari, and Budua; in 1420 the citizens of Cattaro, long anxious for Venetian protection against Balk on the one hand and the Bosnian barons, who had for a generation been their lords, on the other, at last induced her to take compassion upon their city; and that year found Venice mistress of practically all maritime Dalmatia, except where Castelnuovo, Almissa, and the republic of Ragusa formed an enclave in her territory. Finally, when in 1421 the last male representative of the Balk family died, Venice declined to recognise his maternal uncle, the Despot of Serbia, as his heir and cede to him the places which had once belonged to that race. Hostilities broke out, but it was finally agreed that Venice should keep Scutari, Cattaro, and Dulcigno, while Stephen should have Drivasto, Antivari, and Budua. The inhabitants of these three places found, however, that the republic could give them support against the Turks, which the Serbian rulers were unable to furnish. One after the other they begged to share the good-fortune of Cattaro, until at last in 1444 we find them all Venetian colonies. In the same year, the tiny republic of Poljica near Spalato, a "Slavonic San Marino," which had been founded by Bosnian fugitives in 944 and had received Hungarian bans from about 1350, placed herself under Venetian overlordship.

When Stephen Lazarevic saw his end approaching, he recognised the suzerainty of Hungary over his land, as the only means of securing it from the Turks, and obtained from King Sigismund the formal confirmation of his nephew George Brankovic as his heir. Then, on 19 July 1427, he died, the last of his name. His tombstone at Drvenglave has survived the ravages of the foes whom he had seen divided, but whose power he had unwittingly helped to consolidate; his life is better known than that of far greater Serbian sovereigns, thanks to the fact that he found a biographer among his contemporaries. If, with pardonable exaggeration, the Ragusans' wrote of the just-departed despot as "the hammer and bulwark against the enemies of the Christian faith," modern research has shown him to have been a stronger character than earlier historians had believed.


The Bosnian King-maker 


Meanwhile, the other surviving Slav state of the Balkan peninsula had suffered more than Serbia from the Turks without and also from a civil war within. The great Turkish invasion of 1398, which had "almost entirely ruined Bosnia," had convinced the Bosnian magnates that a woman was unfit to rule over their land. Headed by Hrvoje Vukcic, the king-maker of Bosnian history, they accordingly deposed Helena Gruba and elected Stephen Ostoja, probably an illegitimate son of the great Tvrtko, as their king. As long as Ostoja obeyed the dictates of his all-powerful vassal, who proudly styled himself "the grand voivode of the Bosnian kingdom and vicar-general of the most gracious sovereigns King Ladislas and King Ostoja," he kept his throne. Under Hrvoje's guidance he repulsed the attack of King Sigismund of Hungary, who had claimed the overlordship of Bosnia in accordance with the treaty of Djakovo, and endeavoured to recover Dalmatia and Croatia for the Bosnian crown under the pretext of supporting Sigismund's rival, Ladislas of Naples. But when the latter showed by his coronation at Zara as King of both those lands that he had no intention of allowing them to become Bosnian possessions, Ostoja changed his policy, made his peace with Sigismund, and recognised him as his suzerain. The puppet-king had, however, forgotten his maker. Hrvoje, the "Bosnian kinglet," aided by the Ragusans, laid siege to the royal castle of Bobovac, where the king was residing; and, when Sigismund intervened on behalf of his vassal, summoned an assembly of the nobles in 1404 to depose Ostoja and choose a new sovereign. The assembled barons unanimously voted the expulsion of Ostoja, and elected Tvrtko's legitimate son, who had been passed over thirteen years before, under the title of Tvrtko II. All real authority, however, lay as before in the hands of Hrvoje, whom the grateful Ladislas had created Duke of Spalato and lord of Cattaro, whom Sigismund regarded as his "chief rival," whom a modern historian has described as "the most powerful man between the Save and the Adriatic," and to whom the shrewd Ragusans wrote that "whatsoever thou dost command in Bosnia is done."


Civil war in Bosnia


Tvrtko II, for Sigismund was resolved to restore his influence, while Ostoja still held out in Bobovac. After a first futile attempt, the Magyar monarch entered Bosnia in 1408; once again the walls of Dobor witnessed a Hungarian victory; the yellow waters of the Bosna were reddened by the headless corpses of more than a hundred Bosnian nobles, and Tvrtko II was led a prisoner to Buda. Hrvoje humbled himself before the victor, and Ladislas of Naples sold all his Dalmatian rights to Venice in despair. But Sigismund's schemes for extending Hungarian authority over Bosnia encountered the stubborn resistance of the national party, whose leaders came from the land of Hum, the cradle of so many insurrections against the foreigner. They restored Ostoja to the throne, and in their own stony country and in the south of Bosnia their candidate held out against the Hungarian sovereign, who dismembered the rest of the kingdom, and even bestowed Srebrenica, its most important mining-district, upon the Despot of Serbia, thus sowing discord between the two kindred peoples. Law and order ceased; members of the royal family took to highway robbery, and the Ragusans complained that even among the heathen Turks their traders met with less harm than in Christian Bosnia. The climax was reached when Sigismund, occupied with the religious quarrels of Western Europe, released Tvrtko in 1415, and sent him with a Hungarian army to recover the Bosnian crown. Hard pressed by this formidable combination (for Tvrtko's was a name to conjure with) his rival and Hrvoje, who had now rallied to Ostoja, committed the fatal mistake of summoning the Turks to their aid, thus setting an example which ultimately caused the ruin of Bosnia. The immediate result of this policy was, indeed, successful; the Magyars were routed, but the victors could not rid themselves of their Turkish allies so easily. In the very next year Mahomet I appointed his general Isaac governor of the district of Vrhbosna, which took its name from the "sources of the Bosna," and occupied the heart of the country. From the like-named castle, on the site of the present fortress of Sarajevo, the low-born Turkish viceroy could dominate the plain at his feet and confirm great Bosnian nobles in their fiefs by the grace of his, and their, master, the Sultan.

The joint authors of this Turkish occupation did not long survive the evil which they had inflicted on their country. In the same year that saw the Turkish garrison installed in Vrhbosna Hrvoje died. No Balkan noble is better known to us than this remarkable man. An ancient missal has preserved for us his features, and we are told of his gruff voice and rough manners which so greatly disgusted the courteous magnates of Hungary. The coins which he struck for his duchy of Spalato have survived, and the loveliest town in all Bosnia, the fairy-like Jajce ("the egg" of the Southern Slavs) will ever be connected with his name. There, on the egg-shaped hill above the magnificent waterfall, he had bidden an Italian architect build him a castle on the model of the famous Castel dell' Uovo at Naples, and there he dug out those catacombs which still bear his arms and were intended to serve as his family vaults. But the influence of this Bosnian king-maker perished with him; his widow became the wife of Ostoja, who, two years later, died himself; another great noble, the grand voivode Sandalj Hranie of the house of Kosaca, once Hrvoje's most formidable rival, for nearly two decades wielded from his stronghold in the land of Hum the predominant authority over the south. He did not scruple, during the brief reign of Ostoja's feeble son and successor, Stephen Ostojic, to increase his estates by the aid of the Turkish garrison in Vrhbosna. Fortunately the death of "king" Isaac on a Hungarian raid ended for the moment the Turkish occupation. Stephen Ostojic did not, however, long profit by the liberation of his country from this terrible foe. Tvrtko II, who had disputed the throne with Ostoja, now once more arose to wrest it from Ostoja's son. His attempt succeeded; in 1421 Ostojic is heard of for the last time. Tvrtko II wore again the crown of his father, a crown which had, however, just lost that bright jewel which the first Tvrtko had added to it, the city of Cattaro and its splendid fiord. Only the "new castle" which the great king had built to command the mouth still remained in Bosnian hands, the powerful hands of Sandalj Hranie, and survived in those of his successors the downfall of the kingdom itself.


Mircea "the Great" of Wallachia  


Wallachia, like Bosnia, had suffered from the armies of Mahomet I. After the defeat of Musa the victorious Sultan sent an army to ravage the land of Mircea, who had previously sheltered his rival, and Mircea was forced to purchase peace by the promise of a tribute. The spirit of the Wallachian ruler chafed, however, at this fresh degradation. He welcomed the advent of a self-styled son of Bayazid, who claimed the Turkish throne, and supported his claim. The pretender was defeated, and Mircea paid for his temerity by a fresh Turkish inroad. In order to have a base for future action against Wallachia, Mahomet occupied the two Roumanian towns, Turnu-Severin and Giurgevo. Not long afterwards, in 1418, Mircea "the Great," as his countrymen call him, died, the first commanding figure in their troubled history. Unfortunately, "the Grea " prince had won his crown by the murder of his elder brother, and his crime was now visited upon his heirs and his country. Wallachia was distracted by the civil wars of the rival cousins, who appealed with success to the jealousies of the nobles and to those misguided feelings of local patriotism which tended towards the separation of the smaller western from the larger eastern portion of the principality. In their eagerness to gain the throne, the hostile candidates called in now the Hungarians and now the Turks to their aid, and thus the resources of the country were weakened by almost constant bloodshed.


Moldavia and Serbia


Meanwhile, the sister-principality of Moldavia, after a number of ephemeral reigns, found in Alexander the Good a prince who managed to maintain himself on the throne, albeit under the suzerainty of Poland, for nearly a whole generation. His administration, which lasted from 1401 to 1433, was devoted to the internal organisation of Moldavia and to the development of its resources. He regulated the tariff, prevented the export of the famous Moldave horses, upon which the defence of the country largely depended, established the official hierarchy of the Moldave nobles, and recognised the long-disputed authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch over the Moldavian Church. Hitherto both the Roumanian principalities had, with rare intervals, depended in ecclesiastical matters upon the ancient Church of Ochrida, an arrangement dating from the time of the first Bulgarian Empire, which had had the natural result of introducing Old Slavonic as the language of the Roumanian church services. Even at a time when Ochrida had long ceased to be Bulgarian and a Patriarchate, the jurisdiction of this archiepiscopal see over the distant Roumanian lands beyond the Danube was revived, and the literature of the Church and the official language of the princely chanceries still remained Slav. After Alexander's time the archbishopric of Ochrida recovered its authority, which Wallachia did not shake off till the end of the fifteenth, and Moldavia till the seventeenth century, when the Roumanian language, alike in Church and State, replaced the archaic idiom of the alien Slavs.

While such was the dubious plight of the Latins of the lower Danube, their neighbours, the Serbs, were being driven back upon that river under the pressure of the Turkish advance to the north. Originally a mountainous, and at its zenith a Macedonian state, Serbia under George Brankovic, except for a few places on the Adriatic, was essentially a Danubian principality, even to a greater degree than was till lately the case. The new despot, a fine, tall man of sixty when he at last succeeded his uncle, was an experienced diplomatist, whose life had been spent in those tortuous political manoeuvres which passed in the Near East for the height of statesmanship. But something more than diplomacy was needed to defend the Balkan Christians from the Turks, now that a warlike Sultan in the person of Murad II directed their undivided forces. As soon as Murad had leisure to attend to Serbian affairs, he sent an embassy to the despot, demanding the whole of Serbia for himself, on the pretext that a sister of the late prince had married his father. George saw that his best policy was to pacify the dragon by making some concessions, and thus to save at least a portion of his territory. He promised to sever all connexion with Hungary, to pay an annual tribute (not a difficult undertaking for a man of his great wealth), to furnish the usual military contingent to the Sultan's armies, and to give to the latter the hand of his daughter Maria with a dowry of Serbian land. Delay in the performance of this last condition brought upon Brankovic a Turkish invasion.


Brankovic at Semendria


Krusevac, the residence of Prince Lazar, fell before the invaders, and ceased to be the Serbian capital; and the despot, when he had secured a respite by the betrothal of his daughter, humbly but astutely asked from her all-powerful suitor permission to build a new fortress at Smederevo, or Semendria, on the right bank of the Danube. The site was well chosen; for, if the Sultan was induced to approve of the construction of Semendria as a bulwark against Hungary, the despot could easily escape thence across the river, should his suzerain attack him there. The noble towers and ramparts of George Brankovic's castle, thenceforth the Serbian capital till the Turkish conquest, still stand by the brink of the great river; the cross of red brick which the master-builder defiantly built into the walls has survived the long centuries of the Crescent's domination; and the coins which the despot minted there commemorate the foundation of this great Danubian stronghold. In our own day, when Serbia feared the Austrian more than the Turk, it was a disadvantage to have the capital on the northern frontier; in the fifteenth century, when the Hungarian was the only hope of safety, it was the best choice. Brankovic, in order to secure for himself a comfortable refuge beyond the Danube, did not hesitate to hand over Belgrade itself, which his uncle had rendered even stronger than it was by nature, to the King of Hungary in exchange for a goodly list of towns and estates in that sovereign's territory. This act of enlightened selfishness was a sore blow to the Serbian people; it was a bitter humiliation to them to see "the white city" transferred to the authority of a Magyar commander. Nature herself seemed to protest against the cession of Belgrade; thunder rolled over the betrayed fortress; a tempest swept the roofs off the houses; and the citizens wept at the surrender of their homes to the foreigner from beyond the Save. More serious still, Murad was angry that so valuable a position should be in Hungarian hands. For the present, however, he contented himself with sending for his betrothed, who still lingered at her father's court. Brankovic, who had just received from the Greek Emperor the dignity and the emblems of despot, gave the bride a splendid outfit worthy of a king's daughter. The charms of the Serbian princess captivated the heart of the Sultan; but this matrimonial alliance, from which the Serbs might have expected much, availed nothing against reasons of state. Brankovic, as a French traveller who visited him said, was "in daily fear of losing Serbia." His only safeguard was the Sultan's belief that tributary states were more profitable to Turkey than annexation.

Murad had not been many months married to the fair Serbian when one of those fanatics so common in Muslim lands accused him of sinning against Allah by allowing the unbelievers to live in peace. The building of Semendria, so this man insisted, had been not only a crime but a blunder, for it barred the way to the conquest of Hungary and of Italy beyond it—the ultimate goal of Musulman endeavour, which might be reached by means of the immense riches of the Serbian Despot. Murad listened to this counsel, and sent an ultimatum to his father-in-law, demanding the surrender of Semendria. Brankovic left his capital in charge of his eldest son Gregory and one of his Greek relatives, and crossed over with his youngest son Lazar into Hungary to obtain assistance. Semendria, strong as were its defences, had, however, provisions for no more than three months, so that before the pedantic bureaucracy of the Magyar army could be put in motion the garrison was compelled to yield. Gregory and his next brother Stephen, who had been forced to accompany Murad to the siege, were blinded at the instigation of the Sultan's fanatical adviser and deported to Asia Minor. From Semendria, where he left a Turkish guard, Mural marched to the rich mining town of Novobrdo, which a Byzantine historian calls "the mother of cities," and the minerals of which had been rented by the Ragusans for a large sum. Novobrdo was captured, and nearly all Serbia was in 1439 a Turkish province. Her lawful ruler was forced to seek refuge in the maritime towns of Antivari and Budua, which were still Serbian. Even there, however, the long arm of the Sultan menaced him; he fled with his vast treasures to the neighbouring republic of Ragusa, where he hoped to find a shelter on neutral ground. But Mural was still inexorable; he bade the embarrassed republicans banish their guest, and suggested that they might salve their consciences for this breach of hospitality by appropriating the 500,000 ducats which his father-in-law had deposited for safety in their public coffers. The Ragusans boldly refused to tarnish their honour at the Sultan's bidding, but they none the less hinted to their guest that he had better return to Hungary. Warned by this example, his last possessions on, or near, the Adriatic (Budua, Drivasto, and Anti­vari) sought and obtained from Venice that protection which he could no longer give them. Many noble Serbs settled at Ragusa, and that artistic city owes one of her most treasured relics, the cross of Stephen Uros II, to this troubled period of South Slavonic history

Belgrade, however, with its Hungarian garrison, still rose above the Ottoman flood which had swept over the rest of Serbia, and in 1440 Mural accordingly laid siege to it by land and water. The fortress was commanded by a Ragusan and provided with excellent artillery, which wrought such terrible havoc among the besiegers that neither the Turkish flotilla nor the janissaries could prevail against it. After wasting six months before the town, Muräd reluctantly raised the siege with the sinister threat that sooner or later "the white city" must be his. It was not till eighty-one years after this first Turkish siege that his threat was accomplished by one of his greatest successors.


John Hunyadi


A new figure now arose to check for a time the Ottoman advance. John Hunyadi, "the white knight of Wallachia," a Roumanian in the service of Hungary, began his victorious career with his appointment as voivode of Transylvania in 1441. After several preliminary defeats of the Turks on the slopes of the Carpathians and in the neighbourhood of Belgrade, he undertook with King Vladislav I in 1443 a great expedition across Serbia and Bulgaria. Both Pope Eugenius IV and Brankovic subsidised the undertaking, Vlad "the Devil" of Wallachia joined his countryman, while the exiled despot placed his local knowledge at the disposition of the dashing Roumanians. The Christian army rapidly traversed Serbia, burning Krugevac and Nis on the way, and entered Bulgaria, whose inhabitants received the Polish King of Hungary and the Slavs in his force as brothers. Leaving Sofia behind him, Hunyadi pressed on with his colleagues towards Philippopolis; but he found the pass near Zlatica already occupied by the janissaries whom Murad had assembled, and he had to retreat. On the return march, the despot, who was in command of the rear, was attacked by the Turks at Kunovica near Nis, but the cavalry came to his aid and completely routed his assailants. Mursd, dismayed at this first great Hungarian raid across the Danube, and threatened by troubles in Asia, signed, in July 1444, the humiliating peace of Szegedin, which restored to Brankovic the whole of Serbia and his two blinded sons, on condition of his handing half the revenue of the land as tribute to the Sultan. Bulgaria remained a portion of the Turkish Empire, and the citizens of Sofia, which ten years earlier had been the most flourishing town in the whole country, lamented among the ashes of their ruined houses the vain attempt of the Christians to set them free. Their city, famous for its baths, became the residence of the "Beglerbeg of Rumelia," the viceroy of the Sultan in the Balkans. Wallachia, under Vlad "the Devil," continued to pay tribute to Turkey while acknowledging the suzerainty of Hungary, whose sovereign pledged himself not to cross the Danube against the Turks, just as the Sultan vowed likewise not to cross it against the Magyars. The only real gainer by the campaign of 1443 was George Brankovic, who received the congratulations of Venice on his fortunate restoration to the throne of Serbia. Honour and policy alike suggested the maintenance of this solemn treaty with the Turks.


Battle of Varna, 1444


But the parchment bond had scarcely been signed when the evil counsels of Cardinal Julian Cesarini, the papal legate, caused the Hungarian monarch to break it. The moment seemed to the statesman­ship of the Vatican to have come for driving the Turks out of Europe. Mural was occupied in Asia, and it was thought that the fleets of the Duke of Burgundy and the Pope could prevent his return. In vain Brankovic argued against this impolitic act of treachery; Hunyadi, the soul of this new crusade, was eager to free Bulgaria in order to revive in his own person the Empire of the Tsars; the legate was ready to absolve Vladislav from the oath which he had so lately sworn. Not without forebodings of his approaching doom, the perjured King of Hungary re-crossed the forbidden river, set fire to Vidin, and, flushed by easy successes gained at the expense of the helpless peasantry whom he had come to liberate, disregarded the warning of the astute voivode of Wallachia and pushed on to the Black Sea. Thus far his expedition had been a triumphal march; but among the gardens and vineyards of Varna, the district which still preserves the name of the former Bulgarian Despot Dobrotich, he suddenly found himself confronted by the Turkish army. Murad had made peace with his enemies in Asia, and, thanks to a strong wind which had prevented the Christian vessels from leaving the Dardanelles, had crossed over to Europe at his ease where the Bosphorus is narrowest, and had reached Varna by forced marches. The battle which decided the fate of this last attempt of Christendom to free Bulgaria was fought on 10 November 1444. It is only a later, if picturesque, legend that Murad displayed before him on a lance his copy of the broken treaty, but when night fell the scattered remnant of the Christian army had good cause to lament alike the perjury and the rashness of its leader. At first the prowess of Hunyadi seemed to have broken the Ottoman ranks; but the young king, envious of the laurels of his more experienced commander, insisted on exposing his valuable life at a critical moment. His death was the signal for the defeat of his army; his evil adviser, the cardinal, perished in the carnage; the survivors fled either across the Danube into Wallachia, or westward to the fastnesses of Albania, where Skanderbeg a year earlier had begun to defy the Turks in his native mountains. Hunyadi was treacherously captured by the Wallachian "Devil," whom he had accused of double-dealing during the campaign, but was released on the arrival of a Hungarian ultimatum. Two years later he wreaked his vengeance upon his captor, whom he deprived of both crown and life, restoring the elder branch of the Wallachian princely house to the throne which Mircea and his descendants had usurped from his brother and his brother's children.


Battle of Kossovo. 17 October 1448


George Brankovic, wise in his generation, had refused to take part in the expedition which had ended so disastrously at Varna. Like the shrewd diplomatist that he was, he had made his calculations in the event of either a Hungarian or a Turkish victory. In the former case he relied on his money to shelter him from the consequences of his neutrality; against the latter he made provision by sending news of the Christian advance to the Sultan and by barring the road by which Skanderbeg was to have traversed Serbia on his way to join the Christian forces at Varna. He persisted in the same policy of enlightened selfishness when, four years later, Hunyadi again attacked the Turks. On this occasion, too, Brankovic betrayed the Christian cause by warning Murad of the coming Hungarian invasion, and refused to participate in an expedition which he considered inadequate for the purpose intended. Hunyadi stormed, and vowed vengeance upon him, but once more facts proved the shrewd old Serb to be right. The armies met on the fatal field of Kossovo on 17 October 1448, while the Serbs lurked in the mountain passes which led out of the plain, ready to fall upon and plunder the fugitives. On the first and second days the issue was uncertain; but, when the fight was renewed on the third, the Roumanian contingent, whose leader owed his throne to Hunyadi, deserted in a body to the Turks. Murad, however, suspecting this movement to be a feint, ordered them to be cut to pieces. Nevertheless, their defection demoralised their chivalrous countryman, who fled for his life towards Belgrade. His danger was great, for Brankovic, anxious to obtain possession of a man whom he hated and whom he could then surrender to the Sultan, had ordered the Serbs to examine and report to the authorities every Hungarian subject whom they met, while the Turks were also on his track. Once, like Marius, he hid himself among the reeds of a marsh; then he narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of two Serbian guides; at last, driven by hunger, he was forced to disclose his identity to a Serbian peasant. The peasant revealed the secret to his brothers, one of the latter reported it to the local governor, and Hunyadi was sent in chains to Semendria. The despot durst not, however, provoke the power of Hungary by refusing to release so distinguished a champion or Christendom, and his captive recovered his freedom by promising to pay a ransom and never to lead an army across Serbia again. Not only did these promises remain unfulfilled, but, as soon as Hunyadi was free, he revenged himself by seizing the Brankovic estates in Hungary and by devastating Serbian territory.

But the Serbian Despot's armed neutrality while others fought at Varna and Kossovo was not his only crime against the common cause of the Balkan Christians. Despite his years and the imminent Turkish peril, he did not scruple to extend his frontiers at the expense of Bosnia with the Sultan's permission. Tvrtko II had not long enjoyed in peace his restoration to the Bosnian throne. His title was disputed by Radivoj, a bastard son of Ostoja, who summoned Murad II to his aid, and Tvrtko was forced to purchase peace by the cession of several towns to the Sultan, already the real arbiter of Bosnia. In 1433 the puppet king was overthrown by a combination between Brankovic and the powerful Bosnian magnate, Sandalj Hranic, who paid the Sultan a lump sum for his gracious permission to partition the Bosnian kingdom. The despot thereupon annexed the district of Usora, watered by the lower Bosna, while the grand voivode ruled over the whole of what was soon to be called the Herzegovina, and a part of what is now Montenegro. Hranic might claim to be de facto, if not de jure, the successor of the great Tvrtko, for the monastery in which the first Bosnian king had been crowned, and the castle which he had built to command the fiord of Cattaro, were both his. But the opposition of the barons hindered, and his death in 1435 ended, his striving after the royal title.


The "Duchy of St Sava"


His vast territories passed to his nephew, Stephen Vukcic, the last of the three great Bosnian magnates whose commanding figures overshadowed the pigmy wearers of the crown. His land was now regarded as independent of Bosnia; ere long, despite a Bosnian protest, he received, either from the Emperor Frederick III or from the Pope, the title of "Duke of St Sava," which, in its German form of Herzog, gave to the Herzegovina its name. Meanwhile, in 1436, a Turkish garrison re-occupied Vrhbosna, and Tvrtko II, who had sought refuge in Hungary, recovered his throne by consenting to pay a tribute of 25,000 ducats to the Sultan. He had not, however, been long re-installed when the Turkish invasion of Serbia up to the gates of Belgrade seemed to forebode the annexation of Bosnia also. In his despair he implored now Venice, now Vladislav I, the Polish King of Hungary, to take compassion upon him. Venice he begged to take over the government of his dominions, Vladislav he urged to succour a land whose people were also Slavs. But the diplomatic republic declined the dangerous honour with complimentary phrases, while Tvrtko did not live long enough to witness the fulfilment of the Hungarian monarch's promise to aid him. In 1443 he was murdered by his subjects, and with him the royal house of Kotromanic became extinct. In his place the magnates elected another bastard son of Ostoja, Stephen Thomas Ostojic, as their king.

Stephen Thomas began his reign by taking a step which had momentous consequences for his kingdom. Although his predecessor had been a Roman Catholic, his own family was, like most of the Bosnian nobles of that time, devoted to the Bogomile heresy, which had come to be regarded as the national religion. The new king came, however, to the conclusion that he would not only enhance his personal prestige at home, diminished by his illegitimate birth and his humble marriage, but would also gain the assistance of the West against the Turks, if he embraced the Roman Catholic faith. But, although he had none of the fervour of a convert from conviction, he soon found that the erection of Roman Catholic churches did not satisfy the zeal of the Franciscans, of his protector Hunyadi, and of the Pope. Accordingly in 1446 an assembly of prelates and barons met at Konjica, the beautiful town on the borders of the Herzegovina through which the traveller now passes on the railway from Sarajevo to Mostar. It was there decided that the Bogomiles "shall neither build new churches nor restore those that are falling into decay," and that "the goods of the Catholic Church shall never be taken from it."' No less than 40,000 of the persecuted sect emigrated to the Herzegovina in consequence of this decree, and found there a refuge beneath the sway of Duke Stephen, who, although he had allowed his daughter Catherine to embrace Catholicism and marry Stephen Thomas, remained himself a Bogomile. Thus, if the King of Bosnia had, by his conversion, gained a divorce from his low­born consort and had become the son-in-law of the powerful magnate whose sovereign he claimed to be, if he had been taken under the protection of the Holy See and had secured the support of the famous Wallachian hero, he had estranged a multitude of his own subjects, whose defection involved him in a war with his heretical father-in-law, and hastened the downfall of Bosnian independence. Moreover, the old Despot of Serbia continued to harass his eastern frontier, so long a source of discord between the two sister-states; while, as if that were not enough, this embarrassed successor of the great Tvrtko must needs try to make good his mighty predecessor's title of "King of Dalmatia and Croatia," regardless of the hard fact that what should have been in theory the natural sea-frontage of his inland kingdom had become a long and practically unbroken line of Venetian colonies. Such was the behaviour of the Balkan leaders when in 1451 their destined conqueror, Mahomet II, ascended the throne.


Policy of Mahomet II


It was the policy of the new Sultan to humour the Balkan princes until the capture of Constantinople left him free to subdue them one by one. He not only renewed his father's treaty with Serbia, but sent his Serbian stepmother back to her father with every mark of distinction, assigning her sufficient estates to support her in her widowhood. The consequence was that George Brankovic assisted him to amuse the Hungarians till the capital of the Byzantine Empire fell, and contributed nothing to the defence of those walls which only five years before he had helped to repair. When the fatal news arrived, the wily despot and the terrified King of Bosnia hastened to send envoys to make the best terms that they could with the conqueror. For the moment Mahomet contented himself with a tribute of 12,000 ducats from Serbia; but he had already made up his mind to put an end to the autonomy which that rich and fertile country, the stepping-stone to Hungary and Wallachia, had been permitted to enjoy for the last two generations. In the spring of 1454 he sent an ultimatum to the despot, bidding him, under threat of invasion, surrender at once the former land of Stephen Lazarevie, to which he had no right, and promising him in return the ancestral territory of the Brankovic's family with the city of Sofia. Only twenty-five days were allowed for the receipt of his answer. George was, however, absent in Hungary when the ultimatum reached Semendria, and his crafty officials managed to detain its bearer until they had had time to place the fortresses on a war footing. Before the Sultan could reach the Serbian frontier, Hunyadi had made a dash across the Danube, had penetrated as far as the former Bulgarian capital, and had retired with his plunder beyond the river. Mahomet's main object was the capture of Semendria, the key of Hungary, but that strong castle resisted his attack, and he withdrew to Hadrianople. In the following year he repeated his invasion, and forced Novobrdo to surrender after a vigorous and protracted bombardment. A portion of the inhabitants he left there to work the famous silver mines, which, as his biographer remarks, had not only largely contributed to the former splendour of the Serbian Empire but had also aroused the covetousness of its enemies. Indeed, the picture which Critobulus has drawn of Serbia in her decline might kindle the admiration of her modern statesmen as they read of the "cities many and fair in the interior of the land, the strong forts on the banks of the Danube," the "productive soil," the "swine and cattle and abundant breed of goodly steeds," with which this little Balkan state, so blessed by nature, so cursed by politics, was bountifully endowed. But the "numerous and valiant youths" who had been the pride of the old Serbian armies had been either drafted into the corps of janissaries to fight against their fellow-Christians, or were helpless, in the absence of their aged and fugitive prince, against the artillery of Mahomet. The summer was, however, fast drawing to a close; Serbia gained another brief respite, and George to his surprise obtained peace on the basis of uti possidetis and the payment of a smaller tribute for his diminished territory.


  Siege of Belgrade, 1456


In June 1456 Mahomet appeared with a large park of heavy artillery before the gates of Belgrade, boasting that within a fortnight the city should be his. So violent was the bombardment that the noise of the Turkish guns was heard as far off as Szegedin, and the Sultan hoped that all succour from that quarter would be prevented by his fleet, which was stationed in the Danube. But Hunyadi routed the unwieldy Turkish ships, and made his way into the beleaguered town with an army of peasant crusaders, whom the blessing of Calixtus III and the preaching of the fiery Franciscan Capistrano had assembled for this holy war. Enthusiasm compensated for their defective weapons; when the janissaries took the outer city, they not only drove them back, but, headed by the inspired chaplain, charged right up to the mouths of the Turkish cannon; Mahomet himself was wounded in the struggle, and retreated in disorder to Sofia, while the Serbian miners from Novobrdo fell upon his defeated troops. Unfortunately, the pestilence that broke out in the Hungarian camp and the death of Hunyadi prevented the victors from following up their advantage. Belgrade was saved for Hungary, but the rest of Serbia was doomed. Even at this crisis, the quarrels of the despot and Hunyadi's brother-in-law Szilagyi, the governor of Belgrade, demonstrated the disunion and selfishness of the Christian leaders. The despot, who tried to entrap his enemy, was himself captured; and, although he was released, died not long afterwards on 24 December 1456, of the effect of a wound which he had received in the encounter. His ninety years had been spent in a troublesome time; his character had been rather of the willow than of the oak, and the one principle, if indeed it was not policy, which he consistently maintained, was his refusal to gain the warmer support of the West by abandoning the creed of his fathers and his subjects, as he had abandoned the cause of the other Balkan Christians to keep his own throne.


Death of George Brankovic. 1456 


George Brankovic had bequeathed the remnant of his principality to his Greek wife Irene and his youngest son Lazar; for his two elder sons, Gregory and Stephen, had been blinded by Murad II. But the new despot chafed at the idea of sharing his diminished inheritance with his mother; indeed, he had refused to ransom his old father from captivity, in order to anticipate by a few months his succession to the throne. The death of Irene occurred at such an opportune moment and under such suspicious circumstances that it was attributed to poison administered by her ambitious son; and his eldest brother and his sister, the widow of the late Sultan, were so greatly alarmed for their own safety that they fled the selfsame day with all their portable property to the court of Mahomet II. That great man treated the fugitives with generosity; they obtained a home near Seres, where the former Sultana became the good angel of the Christians, obtaining through her influence permission for the monks of Rila to transport the remains of their pious founder from Trnovo to the great Bulgarian monastery which bears his name. Lazar III was now sole ruler of Serbia, for his second brother Stephen soon followed the rest of the family into exile, and became a pensioner of the Pope. But he did not long profit by his cruelty. While he allowed the internal affairs of his small state to fall into confusion, he was lax in paying the tribute which he had promised to his suzerain. Mahomet was preparing to attack this weak yet presumptuous vassal, when, on 20 January 1458, the latter died, leaving a widow and three daughters. Before his death, Lazar had provided for the succession by affiancing one of his children to Stephen Tomagevic, son and heir of the King of Bosnia—an arrangement which would have united the two Serbian states in the person of the future Bosnian ruler, and seemed to promise a final settlement of the disputes that had latterly divided them.


End of medieval Serbia


Three candidates for the Serbian throne now presented themselves, Stephen Tomasevic, a son of Gregory Brankovic, and Mahomet II. None could doubt which of the three would be ultimately successful; but at first the Bosniak gained ground. In December 1458 King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary in a parliament at Szegedin formally recognised him as Despot of Serbia, that is to say of as much of that country as was not occupied by the Turks. Meanwhile, in order to strengthen herself, as she thought, against the latter, the widowed princess, a daughter of the Despot Thomas Palaeologus, had offered the principality as a fief to the Holy See. The marriage of the Serbian heiress and the Bosnian crown-prince took place; the commandant of Semendria was sent in irons to Hungary; and Stephen Tomaisevic took up his abode in the capital of George Brankovic. But the inhabitants of Semendria regarded their new master, a zealous Catholic and a Hungarian nominee, as a worse foe than the Sultan himself. They opened their gates to the Turks; the other Serbian towns followed their example; and, before the summer of 1459 was over, all Serbia, except Belgrade, had become a Turkish pashalik.

The history of medieval Serbia was thus closed; but members of the Brankovic family continued, with the assent of the kings of Hungary, to bear the title of despot in their Hungarian exile, whither many of their Serbian adherents had followed them and where their house became extinct just 200 years ago. Belgrade was able, in Hungarian hands, to resist repeated Turkish attacks till 1521, while the Serbian Patriarchs did not emigrate from Ipek to Karlovic till 1690. But from the time of Mahomet II to that of Black George in the early years of the nineteenth century, the noblest representatives of the Serbs were to be found fighting for their freedom among the barren rocks of what is now Montenegro.

The kingdom of Bosnia survived by only four years the fall of Serbia. In 1461 Stephen Thomas was slain by his brother Radivoj and his own son Stephen Tomasevic, who thus succeeded to the sorry heritage of the Bosnian throne, of which he was to be the last occupant. The new king depicted to Pope Pius II in gloomy but not exaggerated colours the condition of his country, and begged the Holy Father to send him a crown and bid the King of Hungary accompany him to the wars, for so alone could Bosnia be saved. He told how the Turks had built several fortresses in his kingdom, and how they had gained the sympathy of the peasants by their kindness and promises of freedom. He pointed out that Bosnia was not the final goal of Mahomet's vaulting ambition; that Hungary and the Dalmatian possessions of Venice would be the next step, whence by way of Carniola and Istria he would march into Italy and perhaps to Rome. To this urgent appeal the Pope replied by sending his legates to crown him king. The coronation took place in the picturesque town of Jajce, Hrvoje's ancient seat, whither the new sovereign had transferred his residence from Bobovac for greater security. The splendour of that day, the first and last occasion when a Bosnian king received his crown from Rome, and the absolute unanimity of the great nobles in support of their lord (for on the advice of Venice he had made peace with the Duke of St Sava, whose son was among the throng round the throne) cast a final ray of light over this concluding page of Bosnia's history as a kingdom. Stephen Tomasevic assumed all the pompous titles of his predecessors—the sovereignty of Serbia, Bosnia, the land of Hum, Dalmatia, and Croatia—at a time when Serbia was a Turkish pashalik, when a Turkish governor ruled over the "Bosnian province" of Fosca, and when the self-styled "King of Dalmatia" was imploring the Venetians to give him a place of refuge on the Dalmatian coast! There was still, too, one Christian enemy whom he had not appeased. The King of Hungary had never forgiven the surrender of Semendria, and had never forgotten the ancient Hungarian claim to the overlordship of Bosnia. He resented the Pope's recognition of Stephen Tomasevic as an independent sovereign, and was only appeased by pecuniary and territorial concessions, and by a promise that the King of Bosnia would pay no more tribute to the Sultan. This last condition sealed the Bosniak's fate.

When Mahomet II learnt that Tomasevic had promised to refuse the customary tribute, he sent an envoy to demand payment. The Bosnian monarch took the envoy into his treasury, and showed him the money collected for the tribute, telling him, however, at the same time that he was not anxious to send the Sultan so much treasure. "For in case of war with your master," he argued, "I should be better prepared if I have money; and, if I must flee to another land, I shall live more pleasantly by means thereof." The envoy reported to Mahomet what the king had said, and Mahomet resolved to punish this breach of faith. In the spring of 1463 he assembled a great army at Hadrianople for the conquest of Bosnia. Alarmed at the result of his own defiant refusal, Tomasevic sent an embassy at the eleventh hour to ask for a fifteen years' truce. Michael Konstantinovic, a Serbian renegade, who was an eye-witness of these events, has preserved the striking scene of Mahomet's deceit. Concealed behind a money-chest in the Turkish treasury, he heard the Sultan's two chief advisers decide upon the plan of campaign: to grant the truce and then forthwith march against Bosnia, before the King of Hungary and the Croats could come to the aid of that notoriously difficult and mountainous country. Their advice was taken; the Bosnian envoys were deceived; and even when the eavesdropper warned them that the Turkish army would follow on their heels, they still believed the word of the Sultan. Four days after their departure Mahomet set out. Ordering the Pasha of Serbia to prevent the King of Hungary from effecting a junction with the Bosniaks, he marched with such rapidity and secrecy that he found the Bosnian frontier undefended and met with little or no resistance until he reached the ancient castle of Bobovac. The fate of the old royal residence was typical of that of the land. Its governor, Prince Radak, a Bogomile forcibly converted to Catholicism, could have defended the fortress for years if his heart had been in the cause. But, like so many of his countrymen, he was a Bogomile first and a Bosniak afterwards. On the third day of the siege he opened the gates to Mahomet, who found among the inmates the two envoys whom he had so lately duped. Radak met with the fitting reward of his treachery, for when he claimed his price the Sultan ordered him to be beheaded. The giant cliff of Radakovica served as the scaffold, and still preserves the name, of the traitor of Bobovac.

At the news of Mahomet's invasion, Stephen Tomasevic had withdrawn with his family to his capital of Jajce, hoping to raise an army and get help from abroad while the invader was expending his strength before the strong walls of Bobovac. But its surrender left him no time for defence. He fled at once towards Croatia, closely pursued by the van of the Turkish army. At the fortress of Kljuc (one of the "keys" of Bosnia) the pursuers came up with the fugitive, whose presence inside was betrayed to them. Their commander promised the king in writing that if he surrendered his life should be spared, where­upon Tomasevic gave himself up, and was brought as a prisoner to the Sultan at Jajce. Meanwhile, the capital had thrown itself upon the mercy of the conqueror, and thus, almost without a blow, the three strongest places in Bosnia had fallen. The wretched king himself helped the Sultan to complete his conquest. He wrote, at his captor's dictation, letters to all his captains, bidding them surrender their towns and fortresses to the Turks. In a week more than seventy obeyed his commands, and before the middle of June 1463 Bosnia was practically a Turkish pashalik, and Mahomet, with the captive king in his train, was able to set out for the subjugation of the Herzegovina. But the Turkish cavalry was useless against the bare limestone rocks on which the castles were perched, while the natives, accustomed to every cranny of the crags, harassed the strangers with a ceaseless guerrilla warfare. The duke and his son Vladislav, who only a few months before had intrigued with the Sultan against his own father, now fought side by side against the common foe, and Mahomet, after a fruitless attempt to capture the ducal capital of Blagaj, withdrew to Constantinople. But before he left he resolved to rid himself of the King of Bosnia, who could be of no further use and might be a danger. It was true that the Sultan's lieutenant had promised to spare the prisoner's life; but a learned Persian was found to pronounce the pardon to be invalid because it had been granted without Mahomet's previous consent. The trembling captive, with his written pardon in his hands, was summoned to the presence, whereupon the lithe Persian drew his sword and cut off Tomagevie's head. The body of the last King of Bosnia was buried by the Sultan's orders at a spot on the right bank of the river Vrbas only just visible from the citadel of Jajce, where, in 1888, the skeleton was discovered, the skull severed from the trunk. The remains of the ill-fated monarch are now to be seen in the Franciscan church there, his portrait adorns the Franciscan monastery of Sutjeska, but the fetva, which was carved on the city gate of Jajce to excuse the Sultan's breach of faith by representing his victim as a traitor ("the true believer will not allow a snake to bite him twice from the same hole") vanished some seventy years ago. The king's uncle Radivoj and his cousin were executed after him; his two half-brothers were carried off as captives; and his widow Maria became the wife of a Turkish official. But his stepmother Catherine escaped to Ragusa and Rome, where she received a pension from the Pope. There, in the midst of a little colony of faithful Bosniaks, she died on 25 October 1478, after bequeathing her kingdom to the Holy See, unless her two children, who had become converts to Islam, should return to the Catholic faith. A monument with a dubious Latin inscription in the church of Ara Coeli and a fresco in the Santo Spirito hospital still preserve the memory of the Bosnian queen, far from the last resting-place of her husband by the banks of the Trstivnica.


Hungarian banats of Jake and Srebrenik


Even although Bosnia had fallen, the Turks were not allowed undisturbed possession. In the same autumn the King of Hungary entered Bosnia from the north, while Duke Stephen's son Vladislav attacked the Turkish garrisons in the south. Before winter had begun Matthias Corvinus was master of Jajce, and even the return of Mahomet in the following spring failed to secure its second surrender. Such was the terror of the Hungarian king's arms that the mere report of his approach made the Sultan raise the siege. Matthias Corvinus then organised the part of Bosnia which he had conquered from the Turks into two provinces, or banats, one of which took its name from Jajce, and the other from Srebrenik. Over these territories, which embraced all lower Bosnia, he placed Nicholas of Ilok, a Hungarian magnate, with the title of king, not however borne by his successors. Under Hungarian rule, these two Bosnian banats remained free from the Turks till 1528 and 1520 respectively—serving as a buffer-state between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian lands of Croatia and Slavonia.

The Herzegovina, which had repulsed the conqueror of Bosnia, did not long maintain its independence. The great Duke Stephen Vukcic, after losing nearly all his land in another Turkish invasion caused by the aid he had given in the recovery of Jajce, died in 1466, leaving all his possessions to be divided equally between his three sons, Vladislav, Vlatko, and Stephen. The eldest, however, whose quarrels with his father had wrought such infinite harm to his country, did not long govern the upper part of the Herzegovina which fell to his share; he entered the Venetian service, and thence emigrated to Hungary where he died. Accordingly, the second brother, Vlatko, assumed the title of Duke of St Sava, and re-united for a time all his father's estates under his sole rule, relying now on Venetian and now on Neapolitan aid, but only secure as long as Mahomet II allowed him to linger on as a tributary of Turkey. In 1481 he even ventured to invade Bosnia, but was driven back to seek shelter in his strong castle of Castelnuovo. Two years later Bayazid II annexed the Herzegovina, whose last reigning duke died in the Dalmatian island of Arbe. The title continued, however, to be borne as late as 1511 by Vladislav's son Balk. Stephen, the youngest of old Duke Stephen's three sons, had a far more remarkable career. Sent while still a child as a hostage to Constantinople, he embraced the creed and entered the service of the conqueror. Under the name of Ahmad Pasha Hercegovic, or "the Duke's son," he gained a great place in Turkish history, and, after having governed Anatolia and commanded the Ottoman fleet, attained to the post of Grand Vizier. His name and origin are still preserved by the little town of Hersek, on the Gulf of Izmid, near which, far from the strong duchy of his father, he found a grave.

The fall of the Bosnian kingdom is full of meaning for our own time. The country is naturally strong, and under the resolute government of one man, uniting all creeds and classes under his banner, might have held out like Montenegro against the Turkish armies. But the jealousies of the too powerful nobles who overshadowed the elective monarchy, and the still fiercer rivalries of the Roman Catholics and the Bogomiles, prepared the way for the invader, and when he came the persecuted heretics welcomed him as a deliverer, preferring "the mufti's turban to the cardinal's hat." Most of the Bogomiles embraced Islam, and became in the course of generations more fanatical than the Turks themselves; they had preferred to be conquered by the Sultan rather than converted by the Pope; and, when once they had been conquered, they did not hesitate to be converted also. The Musulman creed possessed not a few points of resemblance with their own despised heresy, while it conferred upon those who embraced it the practical advantage of retaining their lands and their feudal privileges. Thus Bosnia, in striking contrast to Serbia, presents us with the curious phenomenon of an aristocratic caste, Slav by race yet Muslim by religion, whose members were the permanent repositories of power, while the Sultan's viceroy in his residencies of Vrhbosna, Banjaluka, or Travnik, was, with rare exceptions, a mere fleeting figure, here today and gone tomorrow. In fact, Bosnia remained under the Turks what she had been in the days of her kings, an aristocratic republic with a titular head, who was thenceforth a foreigner instead of a native; while the Bosnian begs were in many cases the descendants of these medieval nobles who had lived in feudal state within their grey castle walls, whose rare intervals of leisure from the fierce joys of civil war were soothed by the music of the piper and amused by the skill of the jongleur, and who, unlike the rougher magnates of the more primitive Serbian court, received some varnish of western civilisation from their position as honorary citizens and honoured guests of Ragusa, the South-Slavonic Athens." But, besides these converted Bogomiles, there remained in the midst of Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats some who adhered to the ancient doctrines of that maligned sect, and it is said that only a few years before the Austrian occupation a family named Held, living near Konjica, abandoned the "Bogomile madness" for the Muslim faith. Their bitter enemies, the Roman Catholics, at first emigrated in numbers to the territories of adjacent Catholic Powers, till a Franciscan prevailed upon Mahomet II to stop the depopulation of the country by granting them the free exercise of their religion in what was thence­forth for four centuries the border-land between the Cross and the Crescent, the home of "the lion that guards the gates of Stamboul."




The Turkish conquest of Bosnia was followed, after a desperate struggle, by that of Albania. That mysterious land, whose sons are probably the oldest race in the Balkan peninsula, had been divided upon the collapse of the great Serbian Empire between a number of native chieftains, over whom Carlo Thopia exercised, with the title of "Prince of Albania," a species of hegemony for a whole generation. After his death, Albania was split up among rival clans who acknowledged no common head, and seemed inevitably destined to one of two fates—that of a Turkish province or that of a Venetian protectorate. At first there appeared to be some hope of the latter alternative. The republic began her career as an Albanian power with the acquisition of Durazzo in 1392; Alessio, "its right eye," was annexed as a matter of necessity in the next year; then followed in succession Scutari and Drivasto, Dulcigno and Antivari, all acquisitions from the Balsa family, and finally, in 1444, Satti and Dagno on the left bank of the Drin. At that time the whole Albanian coast as far south as Durazzo was Venetian, and the Albanian coast-towns were so many links in the chain which united Venetian Dalmatia with Venetian Corn. The Adriatic was, what it has never been again, an Italian lake. It was not, however, the policy, nor indeed within the power, of the purely maritime republic to conquer the interior of a country so difficult and so unproductive. It was her object to save expense alike of men and money, and she saved the former by devoting a little of the latter to subsidising the native chieftains in order that they might act as a bulwark against the Turks. But the brute force of the Turkish arms proved to be too strong even for such astute diplomatists as the Venetians and such splendid fighters as the Albanians. As early as 1414 the Turks began to establish themselves as masters of Albania, and for nearly twenty years the castle of Kroja, soon to be immortalised by the brave deeds of Skanderbeg, was the seat of a Turkish governor. The national hero of Albania, whose name is still remembered throughout a land which has practically no national history except the story of his career, was of Serbian origin. His uncle had, however, married an heiress of the great Thopia clan, and had thus acquired, together with the fortress of Kroja, some of the prestige attached to the leading family of Albania. Then came the Turkish invasion, and George Castriota, the future redeemer of his country, was sent as a youthful hostage to Constantinople. The lad was educated in the faith of Islam, and received the Turkish name of Iskander, or "Alexander," with the title of beg, subsequently corrupted by his countrymen into the form of Skanderbeg, under which he is known as one of the great captains of history. For many years he fought in the Turkish ranks against Venetians and Serbs, leaving to Arianites Comnenus, a prominent Albanian chief, the futile task of trying to drive out the Ottoman garrisons from his native land. At last, in 1443, while serving in the Turkish army which had been defeated by Hunyadi's troops near Nis, he received the news of a fresh Albanian rising. Realising that his hour had come, he hastened to Kroja, made himself master of the fortress, which was thenceforth his capital, abjured the errors of Islam, and proclaimed a new crusade against the Turks. His personal influence was increased by a marriage with the daughter of Arianites; the other chiefs rallied round him; the Montenegrins flocked to his aid; and at a great gathering of the clans held on Venetian soil at Alessio he was proclaimed Captain-General of Albania. Venice, at first hostile to this new rival of her influence there, took him into her pay as a valuable champion against the common enemy, and soon Christendom heard with delighted surprise that an Albanian chief had forced the victor of Varna and Kossovo to retreat from the castle-rock of Kroja. The Pope and the King of Naples hastened to assist the tribesmen, who were both good Catholics and near neighbours, while the king dreamed of reviving the claims of the Neapolitan Angevins beyond the Adriatic, and even received the homage of Skanderbeg.

Mahomet II was, however, a more formidable adversary than his predecessor. He played upon the jealousy of the other Albanian chiefs, and his troops utterly routed an allied army of natives and Neapolitans. For the moment Skanderbeg seemed to have disappeared, but he soon rallied the Albanians to his side; fresh victories attended his arms, until in 1461 the Sultan concluded with him an armistice for ten years, and the land had at last a sorely-needed interval from war. But the peace had lasted barely two years when Skanderbeg, at the instigation of Pope Pius II, broke his plighted word and drew his sword against the Turks. The death of the Pope caused the failure of the projected crusade; and Skanderbeg found himself abandoned by Europe and left to fight single-handed against the infuriated Sultan whom he had deceived. In the spring of 1466 Mahomet himself undertook the siege of Kroja; but that famous fortress baffled him as it had baffled his father, and Skanderbeg journeyed to Rome, where a lane near the Quirinal still commemorates his name and visit, to obtain help from Paul II. With the following spring the Sultan returned to the siege of Kroja, only once again to find it impregnable. But his valiant enemy's career was over; on 17 January 1468 Skanderbeg died in the Venetian colony of Alessio. Thereupon the Turks easily conquered all Albania, with the exception of the castle of Kroja, occupied by Venice after Skanderbeg's death, and of the other Venetian stations. Ten years later, the disastrous war between the republic and the Sultan brought Kroja, Alessio, Dagno, Satti, and Drivasto under Turkish rule until 1912; the peace of 1479 surrendered Scutari; in 1501 Durazzo, and in 1571 Antivari and Dulcigno, the two ports of modern Montenegro, were finally taken by the Turks, and the flag of St Mark disappeared from the Albanian coast. Today, a part of the castle of Scutari, a mutilated lion there, a Venetian grave and escutcheon at Alessio, and a few old houses and coats-of-arms at Antivari and Dulcigno, are almost the sole remains of that Venetian tenure of the Albanian littoral which modern Italy was anxious to revive. Skanderbeg's memory, however, still lives in his own land. Although his son and many other Albanian chiefs emigrated to the kingdom of Naples, where large Albanian colonies still preserve their speech, a soi-disant Castriota has in our own day claimed the Albanian throne on the strength of his alleged descent from the hero of Kroja. If his grave in the castle of Alessio has disappeared, the ruins of the castle which he built on Cape Rodoni still stand to remind the passing voyager that Albania was once a nation. And, even under Turkish rule, the Roman Catholic Mirdites preserved their autonomy under a prince of the house of Doda, still wearing mourning for Skanderbeg, still obeying the unwritten code of Lek Ducasin.


History of Montenegro


Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania had successively fallen, but there was another land, barren indeed and mountainous, but all the more a natural fortress, which sheltered the Orthodox Serbs in this, the darkest hour of their history, and which the Turks have in vain tried to conquer permanently. We saw how the Balga family had established a century earlier an independent principality in what is now Montenegro, and how upon the death of the last male of that house in 1421 his chief cities had been partitioned between Venice and Stephen Lazarevic of Serbia. Even in the time of the Balgas, however, a powerful local family, that of the Crnojevic, derived by some from the royal line of Nemanja itself', had made good its claim to a part of the country, and its head, Radic Crnoje, even styled himself "lord of the Zeta." After his death in battle against the Balks in 1396, the family seems to have been temporarily crushed; but early in the fifteenth century two collateral members of it, the brothers Juragevic, had established their independence in the upper, or mountainous, portion of the Zeta, the barren sea of white limestone round Njegug, which then began to be called by its modern name of Crnagora (in Venetian, Montenegro), perhaps from the then predominant local clan, less probably from the "black" forests which are said to have once covered those glaring, inhospitable rocks. Venice found the brothers so useful in her struggle with the Balgas that she paid them a subsidy, and offered to recognise one of them as "voivode of the Upper Zeta," although they were supposed to be nominally subjects of the Despot of Serbia. A son' of this voivode, Stephen Crnojevic by name, revolted against the Serbian sovereignty, then weakened by its conflict with the Turks, made himself practically independent in his native mountains, but in 1455 admitted the overlordship of Venice, which had appointed him her "captain and voivode in the Zeta. A solemn pact was signed, between the republic and the 51 communities which then composed Montenegro, on the sacred island of Vranina on the lake of Scutari: Venice swore to maintain the cherished usages of Balga and to permit no Roman Catholic bishop to rule over the Montenegrin Church; while Stephen Crnojevic, victorious alike over Serbs and Turks, hoisted the banner of St Mark at Podgorica, and made his capital in the strong castle of Zabljak.


End of the "Black Princes"


On his death in 1466, his son and successor, Ivan the Black, was confirmed by Venice in his father's command as her "captain and voivode" in the Zeta. In this capacity he assisted with his brave Montenegrins in the defence of the Venetian city of Scutari against the Turks in 1474, an event still commemorated by a monument on a house in the Calle del Piovan at Venice and by a picture by Paolo Veronese in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio. Four years later he again aided the Venetian governor of Scutari and the heroic Dominican from Epirus who was the soul of the defence. But by the peace of 1479 the republic ceded Scutari to the Turks after an occupation of 85 years, and Montenegro lost this powerful obstacle to the Turkish advance from the south, the quarter from which the principality has always been most vulnerable. The conclusion of peace was a severe blow to the Montenegrin chief,especially of a peace on such terms. Abandoned by Venice, Ivan the Black was now at the mercy of the invader. His capital was too near the lake of Scutari to be any longer a safe residence; accordingly, he set fire to Zabljak, and founded in 1484 his new capital at Cetinje, which remained the seat of the Montenegrin government. There he built a monastery and a church, and thither he transferred the metropolitan see of the Zeta, hitherto established in the Craina, the piece of the Dalmatian coast between the Narenta and the Cetina. The Turks occupied the lower Zeta; but a national ballad expresses the belief that Ivan the Black would one day awake from his sleep in the grotto of Obod near Rjeka, and lead his heroic Montenegrins to the conquest of Albania. At Obod he erected a fortress and a building to house a printing-press for the use of the church at Cetinje, and under his eldest son George the first books printed in Slavonic saw the light there in 1493, an achievement commemorated with much circumstance four centuries afterwards. But George Crnojevic was driven from Montenegro in 1496 by his brother Stephen with the support of the Turks. The exiled prince took refuge in Venice, the home of his wife, whence, after a futile attempt to recover his dominions, he threw himself upon the mercy of the Sultan, embraced Islam, and died, a Turkish pensioner, in Anatolia. Meanwhile, Montenegro was governed by Stephen II till 1499, when it was annexed to the Sanjak of Scutari and placed under a Turkish official who resided at Zabljak. But the mountaineers resisted the Turkish tax-gatherers, and in 1514 Stephen II was restored by the Sultan. According to tradition, one of his descendants, married to a Venetian wife who found residence at Cetinje both monotonous and useless, abandoned the Black Mountain for ever and retired to the delights of Venice in 1516, after transferring the supreme power to the bishop, who was assisted by a civil governor chosen from among the headmen of the Katunska district. The prince-bishop, or Vladika, was elective, until in 1696 the dignity became hereditary, with one interval, in the family of Petrovic. Meanwhile, for some years after the final abdication of the Crnojevic family, another brother of George, who had become a Musulman, held, under the name of Skanderbeg, the post of Turkish "governor of Montenegro," a land which, although the Turks have often invaded and overrun it, they never permanently conquered.


The Danubian Principalities


While Montenegro, the autonomous Mirdites, and the tiny republic of Poljica alone remained free on the west of the Balkan peninsula, the two Danubian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia retained a large measure of domestic independence, under the forms of vassalage, on the east. After a long period of civil war between rival claimants, who called in their neighbours and partitioned their distracted dominions, Wallachia acknowledged in 1456 a strong if barbarous ruler in the person of Vlad "the Impaler," and Moldavia in 1457 a vigorous prince in that of Stephen the Great. The Wallach's hideous cruelties do not belie his name; he executed 20,000 of his subjects to consolidate his throne; but he achieved by his savage punishments what his predecessors had failed to obtain, the loyalty of his terrified nobles and the suppression of brigandage. As soon as he felt secure at home, he defied his Turkish suzerain, refusing to send him the contingent of 500 children which Mahomet demanded in addition to the customary annual tribute. He impaled the Sultan's emissaries, and when the Sultan himself marched forth to avenge them in 1462 forced him to retire in disgrace. In the same year, however, "the Impaler" was driven from his throne by his brother, a Turkish puppet, aided by the great Prince of Moldavia. For the rest of the century Stephen overshadowed the petty rulers of the sister-principality, and became the leading spirit of resistance to the Turks in Eastern Europe. His father had, indeed, paid tribute to them as far back as 1456; but he completely routed them at the battle of Itacova in 1475, the first time that a Turkish and a Moldavian army had met. Europe applauded his success; but, after in vain trying to form a league of the Christian Powers against the enemy, he realised at the end of his long reign that his efforts had only postponed the necessity of recognising the suzerainty of the Sultan. His son Bogdan in 1513 made his submission and promised to pay tribute, on condition that the Moldaves should retain the right of electing their own princes and that no Turks should reside in their country—a condition modified in 1541 by the imposition of a guard of 500 Turkish horsemen upon the prince of that period. Thus, largely owing to the fraternal quarrels of their rulers, both the principalities had fallen within the sphere of Turkish influence ; their constantly changing princes, whether natives or Phanariote Greeks, were the creatures of the Sultan ; but, unlike Bulgaria, Serbia, and Bosnia, they never came under his direct rule, were never formally annexed to the Turkish Empire.

The medieval history of the Balkan states and the causes of their fall are full of significance for our own time. In the Near East, and in the Near East alone, the Middle Ages are but as yesterday to the newly-emancipated nations, which look upon the centuries of Turkish domination as a watch in the night, and aspire to take up the thread of their interrupted national existence where it was left by their ancient Tsars, each regardless of the other's overlapping claims to lands which have been redeemed from the Turk. The medieval records of the motley peninsula teach us to regard with doubt, in spite of Turkish vicinity, the prospect of common action between Christian races, which, if small individually, would, if united, have formed a powerful barrier against the foreigner either from the East or from the West. But the greater nations of Christendom cannot afford to criticise too harshly their weaker brethren in the Balkans; for it was quite as much the selfishness and the mutual jealousy of the Western Powers as the fratricidal enmities of the Eastern States which allowed the East of Europe to be conquered by Asia, and which has even in our own day retarded its complete emancipation.