The medieval history of Serbia begins in the 6th century with the Slavic invasion of the Balkans, and lasts until the Ottoman occupation of 1540.

Early Middle Ages

Slavic settlement

Sclaveni raided and settled the western Balkans in the 6th and 7th century.[1] The Serbs are mentioned in De Administrando Imperio as having settled the Balkans during the reign of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), however, research does not support that the Serbian tribe was part of this later migration (as held by historiography) rather than migrating with the rest of Early Slavs.[2] Through linguistical studies, it is concluded that the Early South Slavs were made up of a western and eastern branch, of parallel streams, roughly divided in the TimokOsogovoŠar line.[3] Archaeological evidence in Serbia and Macedonia shows that the White Serbs may have reached the Balkans earlier than thought, between 550–600, as many findings of Fibula (brooch)e and pottery at Roman forts point to Serbian characteristics and thus could have represent traces of either part of the Byzantine foedorati or a fraction of the early invading Slavs who upon organizing in their refuge of the Dinarides, formed the ethnogenesis of Serbs and were pardoned by the Byzantine Empire after acknowledging their suzerainty.[4]

De Administrando Imperio on the Serbs

The history of the early medieval Serbian Principality and the Vlastimirović dynasty (ruled ca. 610–960) is recorded in the work De Administrando Imperio ("On the Governance of the Empire", DAI), compiled by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (r 913–959).[5] The DAI drew information on the Serbs from, among others, a Serbian source.[6] The work mentions the first Serbian ruler, without a name (known conventionally as the "Unknown Archon"), that led the Serbs from the north to the Balkans and received the protection of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), and was said to have died long before the Bulgar invasion (680).[7]

First Serbian principality

According to DAI, "baptized Serbia" (known in historiography as Raška[8]), included the inhabited cities (καστρα/kastra) of Destinikon (Δεστινίκον), Tzernabouskeï (Τζερναβουσκέη), Megyretous (Μεγυρέτους), Dresneïk (Δρεσνεήκ), Lesnik (Λεσνήκ), Salines (Σαληνές), while the "small land" (χοριον/chorion) of Bosna (Βοσωνα), part of Serbia, had the cities of Katera (Κατερα) and Desnik (Δέσνηκ).[9] The first capital was Ras, in Raška (southwestern Serbia).[10] The other Serb-inhabited lands (or principalities) that were mentioned included the "countries" of Paganija, Zahumlje and Travunija,[9] while the "land" of Duklja was held by the Byzantines (it was presumably settled with Serbs as well).[11] These polities bordered Serbia to the north.[9] The exact borders of the early Serbian state are unclear.[8] The Serbian ruler was titled "Prince (archon) of the Serbs" (αρχων Σερβλίας).[12] The DAI mentions that the Serbian throne is inherited by the son, i.e. the first-born; his descendants succeeded him, though their names are unknown until the coming of Višeslav.[7][13]

High Middle Ages

Vojislavljević dynasty (Duklja)

Duklja was a medieval Serb state which roughly encompassed the territories of present-day southeastern Montenegro, from the Bay of Kotor in the west to the Bojana river in the east, and to the sources of the Zeta and Morača rivers in the north. First mentioned in 10th– and 11th century Byzantine chronicles, it was a vassal of the Byzantine Empire until it became independent in 1040 under Stefan Vojislav (fl. 1034–43) who rose up and managed to take over territories of the earlier Serbian principality, founding the Vojislavljević dynasty. Between 1043 and 1080, under Mihailo Vojislavljević (r 1050–81), and his son, Constantine Bodin (r. 1081–1101), Duklja saw its apogee. Mihailo was given the nominal title King of Slavs by the Pope after having left the Byzantine camp and supported a Slavic uprising in the Balkans, in which his son Bodin played a central part. Having incorporated the Serbian hinterland and installed vassal rulers there, this maritime principality emerged as the most powerful Serb polity, seen in the titles used by its rulers ("Prince of Serbia", "of Serbs"). However, its rise was short-lived, as Bodin was defeated by the Byzantines and imprisoned; pushed to the background, his relative and vassal Vukan became independent in Raška, which continued the fight against the Byzantines while Duklja was struck with civil wars. Between 1113 and 1149 Duklja was the centre of Serbian–Byzantine conflict, with members of the Vojislavljević as protégés of either fighting each other for power. Duklja was then incorporated as a crown land of the Grand Principality of Serbia ruled by the Vukanović dynasty, subsequently known as Zeta, remaining so until the fall of the Serbian Empire in the 14th century.

Vukanović dynasty (Raška)

The Serbian Grand Principality, also known as Rascia, was founded in 1090, and ended with the elevation to Kingdom in 1217. During the reign of Constantine Bodin, the King of Duklja, Vukan was appointed to rule Rascia as a vassal, and when Bodin was captured by the Byzantines, Vukan became independent and took the title of Grand Prince. When Bodin had died, Rascia became the strongest entity, in which the Serbian realm would be seated, in hands of the Vukanović dynasty. Uroš I, the son of Vukan, ruled Serbia when the Byzantines invaded Duklja, and Rascia would be next in line, but with diplomatic ties with the Kingdom of Hungary, Serbia retained its independence. Uroš II initially fought the Byzantines, but after a defeat soon swore oaths of servitude to the Emperor. Desa, the brother of Uroš II and an initial Byzantine ally, turned to Hungarian support, but was deposed in 1163, when Stefan Tihomir of a cadet line (which would become Nemanjić dynasty), was put on the throne by the Emperor.

Nemanjić dynasty

Stefan Nemanja was succeeded by his middle son Stefan, while his first-born son Vukan was given the rule of the Zeta region (present-day Montenegro). Stefan Nemanja's youngest son Rastko became a monk (as Sava), turning all his efforts to spread religion among his people. Since the Catholic Church already had ambitions to spread its influence to the Balkans as well, Stefan took advantage and obtained the royal crown from the Pope in 1217. In Byzantium, Sava managed to secure autocephaly (independence) for the Serbian Church and became the first Serbian archbishop in 1219. In the same year Sava issued the first constitution in Serbia, the Zakonopravilo. Thus the medieval Serbian state acquired both forms of independence: political and religious.

The next generation of Serbian rulers, the sons of King Stefan, Stefan Radoslav, Stefan Vladislav and Stefan Uroš I, marked a period of stagnation of the state structure. All three kings were more or less dependent on some of the neighbouring states—Byzantium, Bulgaria or Hungary. The ties with the Hungarians played a decisive role in the fact that Uroš I was succeeded by his son Stefan Dragutin, whose wife was a Hungarian princess. Later on, when Dragutin abdicated in favor of his younger brother Milutin (in 1282), the Hungarian king Ladislaus IV gave him lands in northeastern Bosnia, the region of Mačva, and the city of Belgrade, while he managed to conquer and annex lands in northeastern Serbia. Thus, some of these territories became part of the Serbian state for the first time. His new state was named Kingdom of Srem. In that time the name Srem was a designation for two territories: Upper Srem (present day Srem) and Lower Srem (present day Mačva). Kingdom of Srem under the rule of Stefan Dragutin was actually Lower Srem, but some historical sources mention that Stefan Dragutin also ruled over Upper Srem and Slavonia. After Dragutin died (in 1316), the new ruler of the Kingdom of Srem became his son, king Vladislav II, who ruled this state until 1325.

Under the rule of Dragutin's younger brother—King Milutin, Serbia grew stronger despite having to occasionally fight wars on three different fronts. King Milutin was an apt diplomat much inclined to the use of a customary medieval diplomatic and dynastic marriages. He was married five times, with Hungarian, Bulgarian and Byzantine princesses. He is also famous for building churches, some of which are the finest examples of Medieval Serbian architecture: the Gračanica monastery in Kosovo, the Cathedral in Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos, the St. Archangel Church in Jerusalem etc. Because of his endowments, King Milutin has been proclaimed a saint, in spite of his tumultuous life.

Late Middle Ages

Nemanjić dynasty

Map of the Serbian Empire in 1355.

In the first half of the 14th century Serbia flourished, becoming one of the most developed countries and cultures in Europe. It had a high political, economic, and cultural reputation in Europe.[citation needed]

Milutin was succeeded by his son Stefan Dečanski, who maintained his father's kingdom and had monasteries built, the most notable being Visoki Dečani in Metohija (Kosovo), after which he is known in historiography. Visoki Dečani, Our Lady of Ljeviš and the Gračanica monastery, all founded by Dečanski, are part of the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, a combined World Heritage Site.[14] After decisively defeated the Bulgarians, Serbia was caught up in a civil war between two groups of the Serbian nobility, one supporting Dečanski, the other supporting his son Stefan Dušan which sought to expand to the south.[15] Dušan won, and in the following decades fought the Byzantine Empire, taking advantage of the Byzantine civil wars. After conquering Albania, Macedonia and much of Greece, he was crowned Emperor in 1346, after having elevated the Serbian archbishopric into a patriarchate.[16] He had his son crowned King, giving him nominal rule over the "Serbian lands", and although Dušan was governing the whole state, he had special responsibility for the "Roman" (Byzantine) lands.[16] "Dušan's Code" was enacted in 1349 and 1353–54.[17] Dušan sought to conquer Constantinople and become the new Byzantine emperor, however, he suddenly died in 1355 at the age of 47. The Serbian state crumbled during the reign of his son, Uroš V, called "the Weak", in a period known as the "Fall of the Serbian Empire".

Decline and Ottoman conquest

States that emerged after dissolution of Serbian Empire in the 14th century

Following the death of child-less Emperor Uroš the Weak in 1371 (and end of the Nemanjić dynasty), the Empire was left without an heir and the magnates, velikaši, obtained the rule of its provinces and districts (in so called feudal fragmentation), continuing their offices as independent with titles such as gospodin, and despot, given to them during the Empire. The period saw the rise of a new threat, the Ottomans, Turkic warriors who overran Anatolia and subsequently the Balkans.

The Serbian Empire was divided between the feudal lords; without an Emperor, it became "a conglomerate of aristocratic territories", and the Empire was thus divided between the provincial lords: Marko Mrnjavčević, the Dejanović brothers, Đurađ I Balšić, Vuk Branković, Nikola Altomanović, and Lazar Hrebeljanović.[18] Lazar managed to rule most of what is today Central Serbia (known as Moravian Serbia). He was unable to unite the Serbian magnates, as they were too powerful and pursued their own interests, fighting each other.[19] Ottomans began raiding Serbia in 1381, though the actual invasion came later. In 1386, Lazar's knights beat the Ottoman army near Pločnik, in what is today southern Serbia. Another invasion by Ottomans came in the summer of 1389, this time aiming towards Kosovo.

Battle of Kosovo by Petar Radičević

On 28 June 1389 the two armies met at Kosovo, in a battle that ended in a draw, decimating both armies (both Lazar and Murad I fell).[20] The battle is particularly important to Serbian history, tradition, and national identity (see Kosovo Myth).[21] By now, the Balkans was unable to halt the advancing Ottomans. Eventually, Serbian nobility became Ottoman vassals.

Serbia managed to recuperate under Despot Stefan Lazarević, surviving for 70 more years, experiencing a cultural and political renaissance, but after Stefan Lazarević's death, his successors from the Branković dynasty did not manage to stop the Ottoman advance. Serbia finally fell under the Ottomans in 1459, and remained under their occupation until 1804, when Serbia finally managed to regain its sovereignty.



Some of the social classes included:

  • Čelnik or čeonik was a type of elder, a chief or head of some state institute or local administration. The title was recorded for the first time in the 11th century, during the Peter Delyan's rebellion of 1040-41. Emperor Dušan appointed čelniks to head cities within the empire. There was a special category of čelniks, which were employed at the royal court. Their duties included the protection of the ruler and implementation his commands and orders. In time, they became integrated into the central state administration and began to take over other duties, outside of their usual function: protectors of the church land, judges, dvorodržica, kaznac (treasurer), tepčija (majordomo of the royal lands and household), etc.[22]
  • Dvorodržica ("court handler") was taking care of the royal court's management. The tenure became a norm during the rule of the Lazarević dynasty in the 14th and 15th century. He had a major position among the central management. The appointment was copied from previous similar positions which existed on the courts of despot Jovan Uglješa, Alexander Komnenos Asen, ruler of the Principality of Valona or the Bosnian kings. The permanent court was situated in Kruševac but the royal family often traversed through the country. Among the duties of dvorodržica was to set those temporary courts and organize their normal functioning. He was authorized to issue orders to the citizens all over the state in order to construct and structure the courts and providing and sustaining them. He was always present at the court and, due to its high social status, he could serve as a witness for the various documents issued by the ruler.[23]
  • Meroph (also meropah or parik, plural merops(i)) was a serf. Apart from the laboring duties to the upper feudal class, he had other tributes he had to pay. One was soća, a type of tax, which had to be paid by every house. The amount of soća was 1 perper per year and it could be paid either in money or grains. The other tribute was priselica. It consisted of meroph's duty to accommodate, feed and escort his master and the official guests and travelers: rulers, their courtiers, clerks, envoys, etc. Meroph was also obliged to sow, plow, harvest and thresh 7.5 mats of the church land. Mat was a measure for cereal grains, but also was a measure of area: it was a patch of land which could be seeded by a mat of cereals. Approximately, one mat was either 40 lb (18 kg) (weight) or 200 square motikas (or 1.44 ha (3.6 acres); surface).[24]
  • Ćеlator was a member of the poor class, who were employed by the monasteries. They worked on the monastery farms, mostly handling the smaller livestock (sheep, goats) and wool processing. They had different duties from other herders, the nomadic vlah or merops (singular meropah or meroph), the serfs. It was not allowed for a meroph to wed a vlah girl and to become vlah himself. If he would do that after all, the couple would be pushed back down the social ladder and would become ćelators or to the position in the society occupied by their parents. Even then, they were not allowed to be vlah soldiers. Though they shared part of the social duties with ćelators, the latter were more numerous and more poor. One joint duty they both fulfilled was bringing cheese down the mountain, to the monasteries.[25] As ćеlators couldn't pay their duties in products, they were shearing the sheep and used wool to make blankets and thick vests (klašnja).[26]


Among provisions and institutes in the Dušan's Code, some of the today unknown or unusual are:

  • Bližike; The concept of private ownership was quite different in the Middle Ages compared to the modern ideas of this institute. The titular holder of the property wasn't one person who had all the rights, but the property was owned jointly by the entire family, sometimes including the distant relatives. The circle of relatives which had the right to limit the management of the assets, including the disposition of the property, was much wider than the circle which was nominally a titular on the possessions. This prerogative of the relatives to limit each other's rights was called bližike. For example, father had no prerogative to have the disposition right on the entire property, but only on "his share", which excluded the share which belonged to his children.[27]
  • Gradozidanije; The dependent classes had to fulfill the obligation of gradozidanije. It included the construction and fortification of new towns, reconstruction and repair of the damaged and desolate forts, ramparts and towers. The peasants would transport the stones to the locations, but they also had to help with the construction works. Though present since the early days of the Serbian statehood, it became common in the 14th century, especially during the reign of emperor Dušan. As he vastly expanded the state at the expense of the Bzyantine Empire, numerous abandoned, damaged and razed Byzantine forts needed to be repaired. Byzantine emperor John VI Kantakouzenos wrote that during the reconstructions of the town of Ber, 10,000 people were employed.[28]
  • Mehoskubina; It was a fine charged for the twitching of someone's beard (skubež) during the physical altercation among the lower classes. Article 98 of the Code states that mehoskubina amounts to 6 Serbian perpers. Since Article 97 protects the dignity of the nobility and good people under the threat of severe mutilation, Article 98 continues in the same vein: the fine wasn't actually being paid to the indemnified party, but to his master cause it was his dignity that was tarnished. This is in line with the general direction of the Code, which concentrates on the fine itself rather than on the indemnifying party.[29]
  • Smuđenje; In the medieval Serbian and Dubrovnik law, there was a punishment of smuđenje, or scorching of a beard. It was a specific Serbian measure as the Byzantine law hadn't such a provision, but included the forcible cutting of a beard instead. As a nobleman's beard was a sign of dignity, it couldn't be scorched, unlike the beards of the lower classes. Dušan's Code (article 55) provided that a nobleman who insults the subordinated person should pay 100 perpers, but if a subordinated one insults the nobleman, he will pay the same amount but his beard will be scorched, too. Beard could also be scorched if a person attends the illegal assemblies or if it is a meropah (serf) who has escaped (article 69). Additionally, the leader of such an assembly or a meropah could also be punished with cutting of their noses in addition to scorching.[29]
  • Sok; In Serbian medieval and customary law, there was an institute of sok. It was a secret witness, who testified in front of the judicial organs, but his testimony was secret, while his personal identity might remain secret even from the judges. Testimony of the sok was paid, and court documents contained spending for the sok fees, called sočbina, though it wasn't paid by the court but by the plaintiff. The secrecy of the testimony wasn't diminishing its value as the courts were bent on finding the guilty person as quick as possible and for the process to be short.[30]
  • Zamanica; The state of zamanica was a medieval equivalent of a modern state of emergency. Declaration of zamanica meant that the ordered feudal obligations had to be fulfilled as fast as possible. When declared, it concerned the entire population. It was mostly declared because of the agricultural works, but sometimes because of the war efforts. Article 68. of Dušan's Code provided that the meropsi were obliged to work on noblemen's land for two days in a week, once a year to pay money to the emperor and to scythe one day per year, as part of zamanica. A chrysobull of the Banjska Monastery explains that zamanica is obligatory even for those dependent classes which are usually not mandatory to do it. On the first day, those who were capable to work with the scythe were mowing and later they would have to collect and stack the hay. Off course, they all had to do it for free.[31]

Agriculture and diet

In one of the oldest Slavic settlement in the region, near Pančevo, archaeologists discovered that the main food were grains and millet, but some meat was prepared, too..[32] Later, the agriculture barely covered the needs of the total population and while the rich ones enjoyed in luxury, poor ones were constantly on the brink of starvation. Once vast forests were still home of the now extinct aurochs and wisent, which today survived only in Białowieża Forest, on the Poland-Belarus border. As population grew, especially from 13th century onwards, the forests were massively cut down to clear land for the cultivation, so the natural world looked completely different in Serbia in the 13th than in the 15th century. In time, the agricultural tools were getting more sophisticated and the use of iron plow and fertilizers spread, which, on the other hand, further accelerated the clearing of the forests. Word hrana, meaning food, remained in use today, but some other names for food included pišta (which disappeared from language) and krma (which evolved in krmivo, fodder). Name used for dish in general was jedenie (modern jelo; jedenje means "eating"), lunch was obed which today means a meal in general (lunch itself is ručak), while dinner was called the same as today, večera.[33] The vegetables were called zelje, which is today a name for patience dock. Onions and radishes were called "hot zelje".[34]

Red-hot stones were used for cooking and boiling. This technique was especially used during the warfare or among those who spent lots of time alone (shepherds, later also hajduks etc.). Right away after milking (sheep, goats, cows), the milk would be poured in the hollowed pumpkin or a wooden container. The rocks were then heated above the fire and placed in the milk. Good cooks knew how much the stone should be heated for a given amount of milk. Larger pigs and lambs were prepared the same way. The heated stones were placed inside their bellies. When the belly was roasted, the food would be skewered on the spit. The vegetables were cooked in the same way. Heated stones were also used for the preparation of skorup, precursor of the modern kaymak, and rakija (brandy). Additionally, ashes and charcoal were sometimes used instead of the stones. On the other hand, after being killed the poultry was scalded with hot water.[35] In the process of cooking or baking with heated stones, the food was half-dug into the ground and covered with a lid (sač). Filo dough was being made. It was used for numerous pies, like the zeljanica (type of spanakopita). Cicvara was also made. It is a grains porridge cooked with skorup, which is today made from corn and kaymak.[36]


Bread made from the mix of wheat, rye and barley, with added yeast[36] was a base of the diet in medieval Serbia. It was also made from oats and buckwheat. Bread dough would be wrapped in the leaves of sorrel or great yellow gentian, placed on the live coal and covered with ashes. Porridges were often prepared, made from barley, oats and millet. Broths were prepared with the addition of vegetables, red wine or bread soaked in red wine. A whole array of vegetables (onions, garlic, beetroot, cabbage), fruits (apples, pears, plums, raspberries, hawthorns, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, cherries, walnuts, grapes, hazelnuts) and mushrooms supplemented the everyday diet. The fruit was often dried (apples, plums, apricots).[32][36][37] The food intake was enriched with milk and dairies, mostly goat's sirene cheese and skorup. With sour cabbage, skorup is today considered as the only autochthonous Serbian dish. Vlach sirene was more expensive than any meet. Meet itself was rarely eaten by the common people and was usually consumed during the festivals and religious holidays.[37] Byzantine records write that the main food of the Serbian peasants were barley bread mixed with chaff, sorrel and sour cabbage. The lowest, poorest classes in general had a vegetable oriented diet as the meat was expensive and game hunting was allowed only for the noblemen.[32] They were mostly consuming bread, onions, water and sometimes skorup. Lower classes, in general, had only two meals a day: one around 10:00 and another in the evening.[34]

Nobility and royalty

Unlike rest of the population, all sorts of meat were abundant in the houses of the nobility or the royal court itself. Especially popular were game meat, fish, ram's meat, poultry, dried meat and bacon. Salted meat was also much used. Region of Pomorje provided sea fish, octopuses and salted ikra. Fish from the Zeta provided sea fish for the Studenica Monastery, as ordered by the ruling Nemanjić dynasty. All monasteries had to be supplied with fish and even during the Great Fast, in Hilandar Monastery octopuses, polyps and jellied sea fish were served. Despot Uglješa provided the monastery of Saint Athanasius with bivalves, cuttlefish and fish.[37] Some regions rich in fish had an obligation to send fish to the court of Stefan Nemanja.[32] Town of Bar supplied the court with the olive oil, and Dubrovnik, Kotor and Bojana with sea salt. After the conquest of Emperor Dušan and expansion of the state, Serbia acquired its own saltworks in Greece and Albania. Later, salt was purchased in Hungary and Wallachia. Through Pomorje, the court was supplied with other condiments, like pepper, wild thyme, common yarrow, mint, basil, saffron, cinnamon, clove and dill..[36][32][37]

Main alcoholic beverage was honey rakija (medovača), while the honey wine, medovina, was popular until the late 15th century.[37] Domestic ale in eastern Serbia was called alovina.[38] Prince Lazar originally held the title of stavilac, which means he was in charge of the imperial cuisine during the reigns of emperors Dušan and Uroš.[37]

Byzantine statesmen Theodore Metochites describes the rich lunch prepared at the court of King Milutin, which consisted of the fish from the Danube, boar meat, venison, and bird meat.[32] He also mentions other food served at the court, like other game (roe deer and rabbit meat), broths made from numerous birds (partridge, snipe, wild pigeon) and a special treat, pogača kneaded with honey. Aromatic wines and spring water were served, too. Dessert consisted of apples, pears, black and white grapes, figs (both fresh and dried) and watermelons, kept in the underground pit (trap), to stay cool. Other delicacies included: millet balls with porcini; squares of duck and goose meat cooked in the cauldron with black wine, honey and spices; prunes filled with goat cheese, covered with walnuts and baked under the sač; baked apples with walnuts and honey; barley balls with dried fruit.[36]


Tableware was diverse, influenced by the different regions and social status of the population. The food was served at the table or at sinija, also known as sofra, a short round or square table made of wood. In oldest periods, people were eating sitting on the ground. Later, people would sit around on the small logs, tripod stools or on a cloth, but the poorest continued to sit on earth. The tables in the homes of the gentry were covered with tablecloths. Different sources list golden, gold-plated and silver glasses. Despot Đurađ Branković personally sent 50 gold-plated glasses to Dubrovnik. Cutlery consisted of spoons, forks and knives, made of iron, corals, silver or being gold-plated. It was imported but also manufactured in Serbia.[39][40]

First dishes and tableware were made of wood. Later, the clay and stone came into use. Originally, both the rich and the poor were using wooden spoons. It is known that at the court of king Vladislav, in the first half of the 13th century, quite simple cutlery was used, both in the sense of the materials used and the craft of making it. Half a century later, during the reign of king Milutin, the tableware was already made from silver and gold. At first, the wooden spoon was used only by the head of the housem while the rest of the household members were using fingers for eating. Fork came into use much later. The clergy declared the fork a "sinful debauchery" in the 12th century. Even the wooden ones were considered a sin. Only in the 16th century the clergy allowed the usage of fork.[40]


When Stefan Nemanja issued the founding charter for the Hilandar monastery at the end of the 12th century, he bequeathed the vineyards in Velika Hoča to it. It is believed that the modern vineyards in Velika Hoča descended from those old ones. Other rulers also donated vineyards to the monasteries later, like kings Stefan Prvovenčani and Stefan Dragutin. The grapes were originally cultivated in Primorje, Macedonia and Metohija. Center of wine making in the Primorje was the town of Kotor, which was the center of the Saint Tryphon festivity, who is even today celebrated as the protector of wine makers. The largest wine producing region was Metohija, and from the 14th century, the vineyards expanded to Vranje, Paraćin, Prokuplje and monasteries of Žiča, Manasija and Ravanica. Both the white and red wine were produced and the malvasia variety was among the most popular. It originated on Peloponnese but Venetians spread it along the Adriatic coast.[41]

As wine is essential for the church rituals, monasteries had their own vineyards which were frequently mentioned in the charters. In the Law on mines, issued by despot Stefan Lazarević and dealing with the town of Novo Brdo, a tribute called psunja was to be collected for each wine brought to the city square to be sold. Only wine produced in the city metochion was freed from taxes and, apart from money collecting, the tribute served as a protective measure for the domicile wine production. Some of the even older wine provisions by emperor Dušan can be considered as the origins of the geographical indication, while mixing of wine and water was strictly forbidden.[41]

After the expansion in the 14th century, the majority production moved to the central, Moravian Serbia. Vast patches of land were turned into the vineyards. In the 15th century, Constantine of Kostenets wrote: "many vineyards were planted, with such a great effort, in this country more than in any other", while Bertrandon de la Broquière noted that in the valleys of the Serbian state there are many villages and good food, and especially good wine. Turkish defters, after the Ottoman occupation in the mid-15th century, show how much the vineyards were spread and how much taxes were collected on wine and must. Fleeing from the Ottomans to the north, Serbs expanded the wine production in the area of Fruška Gora in Syrmia, which was a wine producing region since the Roman period.[41]


Special class of the commoners were ulijars. They were the bee keepers and collectors of the bee products on the feudal lordships. Ulijar had a duty to take care of the apiaries (ulijanik) which belonged to rulers, monasteries, churches or lords, and was relieved of all other feudal duties. It is recorded that during the establishment of the monasteries, the rulers would sometimes, among other gifts, donate ulijaniks with ulijars to take care of them. The bee keepers were much sought in this period as need for the bee products, especially the wax needed for the churches, was great and growing all the time. Also, honey and wax were expensive export goods. As ulijars were giving the 10% tribute in the products, that wasn't nearly enough for the entire state, so the number of ulijars grew. The Hilandar Monastery administered 15 apiaries throughout the state. Ulijars mostly lived within the agricultural settlements or outside of the villages, on the monastic properties suitable for the bee keeping, but a rare, small settlements consisting solely of the bee keepers also existed.[42]


There were three possibilities to get educated: with priests, with monks in the monastery or with the private tutors. The surviving sources can't point to which of this possibilities was the most spread. The modern idea of the school as the central institution in the educational system differs greatly from the education in the Middle Ages. The schools developed on specific locations, where the continual meeting of the students and teachers was possible. Each school was an educational entity for itself and the level was dependent on the qualifications and training of the teacher. Some traditional educational elements, however, were applied in different schools throughout the state.[43]


Byzantine historians left testimonies about musicians, singers and players (trumpet, strings) among the South Slavs. Remains of the medieval tradition can be found in the songs and dances of the customs of dodola. After Saints Cyril and Methodius introduced the church service in the Slavic language, Slavic church music began to develop. Serbian music evolved within the Byzantine musical culture, from the 12th to the 15th century, but also continued to develop on the same basis during the later Ottoman occupation. The chanting was performed in one voice, both choral and solistic. The conductor, called domestik, pointed to the melodic flow with his hands. The main singer, protopsalt, was singing the shortened melodic preparation of the song at the beginning, which was the formula for the entire musical work. After that, he would began to sing a sing, in one voice, accompanied by the choir. In the case of melismatic melodies, the task of the choir was only to keep its drone tone, ison.[44]



The most used materials among the lower classes were wool, flax and hemp. Rich ones used silk, velvet and taffeta which were imported from Italy, Greece and Flanders via Dubrovnik. In time, the weaving workshops began to open in Serbia itself. The silk was produced in Dečani and Prizren and domestic gold-woven fabrics appear at the court of Emperor Dušan. In time, the colored embroidery developed as the main characteristics of the Serbian medieval attire.[45]

The trade and custom inspection of the cloths and textiles were precisely described in the inscriptions so as a fact that they were often being given as a gift or the caravans were being looted. According to the sources, the most expensive fabric was aksamit. It was type of a brocade, interwoven with gold, having a contrast basic colors of the warp and weft. Hazdija or bračin, was a type of velour or velvet. Also considered valuable, it was often ornamented with the golden two-headed eagles. The expensive fabrics were especially handy as gifts during the diplomatic meetings. That way, some exotic fabrics reached Serbia, like hamuha or kamha, Middle Eastern, whole-colored fabric made of the sea silk, the threads produced by the pen shells. Olovera was a purple material, sometimes decorated with lion motifs. Pandaur included a batch of gold-woven textiles, while often mentioned faustan was a thin, cotton material for summer dresses. Čenda, either golden or silk, was actually a sindon or muslin, thin silk fabric used for the suits and linings.[46]


The attire was specific for each class and, in general, four different styles of robes can be differentiated: rural, urban, noble/ruling and imperial ornate attire. Influence of the Byzantine Empire was the strongest, Western influence penetrated later, while the Ottoman impact became evident from the 15th century. There are no evidence that the luxury was forbidden, but there were instruction which ornaments and colors could be used at the court. Fur and animal skins were also used as a currency, up to the 16th century.[45]

Rural attire

There are issues with the rural garment from this period as the written and artistic sources differ visually but also show the garment from different parts of the state and from different times. Earliest Slavic dress, both for men and women, consisted of rubaš, a long shirt made of coarse linen or hemp, which was often the only item of the costume. Married women would add an apron-type skirt (ponjava) over the lower part of rubaš, while over the top they would wear different types of short dresses. In modern Serbian, ponjava (поњава) means "coarse blanket", but in the old times it meant "to understand", akin to modern Russian понимаю. Girls would be allowed to wear ponjava only when they turn 15 after reaching maturity and acknowledging that they have understood they are grown up. A special ceremony was held in presence of the parents, cousins and friends. A girl would get on a bench, and mother would held a skirt saying to her daughter to jump into it if she understands that she is grown up. A girl would pretend to hesitate for a while, and then say ponjala ("I understood") and jump into the skirt. That way, the girl would announce she is ready to get married.[47]

Additionally, men were wearing trousers. They were of different shapes and sizes and had numerous names: gaće, pelengaće, pelengiri, benevreci, bečve. They were made from hemp or flax with some reaching the lengths of the calves, some of the knees and some would cover only the thighs. A lower dress over trousers, the only other additional part of the garment during summer, was actually a rubaš shirt, which also had numerous other names: rubina, klinara, cjelara and rebrača. They were cut in different fashions and the most simple was klinara or cjelara. It had clothespins (klin) over the both front and back sides, straight cut, untailored sleeves and knee length. It was fitted by the belt at the waist and the shirt was partially pulled out, over the belt, as a puffy girdle (bauš). Over the shirt, a textile vest was worn, called klašnja. It could be with or without sleeves, and was covered with the wool or kostret (coarse goat hairs) dress. That top dress was used in the mountains even during the summer. After the cloth which was used (sukno) and the way it was prepared, it was called suknja (if the fabric was woven) or gunj (if it was rolled). It was of different lengths. In modern Serbian language, suknja is name for the women's skirt, while gunj is a thick, leather or fur, wool-padded vest which was often decorated with silver buttons. Sheep fur and leather were the most common so as some sorts of capes, blue or green. The cape with sleeves, made of fur, was called šuba. Hats included shallow caps, proper hats and winter, šubara hat. Footwear consisted of some rudimental type of opanak.[45][48]

Urban attire

The law on mines from 1411, issued by Despot Stefan Lazarević is the most important written source on the medieval Serbian urban attire. The law lists this types: a) male and female woolen suknja (vest) with buttons; b) male and female velvet barhan; c) kuntuš, male top dress with hanging sleeves; d) mrčni plašt, female top dress; e) kavas, a suit embellished with embroidery, with hanging sleeves; f) svita, a ceremonial military suit. The transcription of the Law from the second half of the 16the century contains illustration with the portraits of the citizens - čelniks of the Novo Brdo mines. They wear long dresses, tall, bubble-shaped hats (klobuk) while some have insignia sticks. As they were symbol of a nobility, it appears that the top level of the citizen class were equaled with the nobility when it comes to the attire. Basic attire was similar to the rural attire. lower part attire, and of the entire body, was a linen or hemp made dress (basically, a rubaš), while the main top attire was still a sunkja, in urban attire called gonela. Another top clothing was mrčni plašt or mrčina, a type of cape with sleeves. More complex items were kuntuš and kavad, the latter better known as the part of the noble suit. Both were taken from the Byzantine fashion. Women from the cities were dressed equally to the noblewomen.[49]

Nobility attire

The most widespread clothing among the nobles was kavadion or kavad, a type of tunic. It was a tightly tailored long dress, with either long or short, narrow sleeves. It was buttoned in front, and usually had gold-woven ribbons on the collar and along the entire length. First graphical evidence of kavadion was the scene from the Sopoćani Monastery which depicts the mourners in the death scene of the queen Anna Dandolo. A nobleman, standing next to the episcop, is depicted in blue attire with the golden waistband and next to him is a young man in the long, red kavadion, of simple tailoring and with long sleeves. On the sides, from the shoulders to the waist, the dress is hemmed with the golden ribbon, so as along the neckline. Next to him is a nobleman in the lower red dress with golden bracelets. He wears an upper blue dress, cut on both sides below the armpits, and is probably some kind of a cape, worn over the kavadion.[50][51]

Influenced by the Byzantines fashion, the attire was largely oriental in appearance, but in time Western influences also shaped it. The dress was long to the ankles or heels. The kavadion was in general richly embellished with the embroidery like the silk or silver threads (srma), while the puffy waistband, which was falling down on the hips, was sometimes adorned with pearls and gemstones. Across the tunic, a cape ornamented with the embroidery was worn. In front, it was held with needles, but often with very expensive fibulas. By the early 15th century, the dress became shorter, wider and hemmed with the fur, made from the luxury Italian and Flemish fabrics while the expensive furs, like ermine, became popular. The hats were tall, mitre-like, bedecked with the costly gemstones. This crown resembling hat was called čoja. The main footwear in this period were boots.[45][51]


Production of the precious jewelry in Serbia dates from the early 13th century. It was influenced both by the East and the West. Originally, the western influence was prevalent, but by the end of the 13th century, the Byzantine influence became dominant. Byzantine impact included the filigree technique, which became quite common in Serbian goldsmithing. The best example of the mixed influences is the ring of Stefan the First-Crowned, the first Serbian king. Filigree was part of the national medieval heritage which became the most used technique in working with gold and silver after Serbia was conquered by the Ottomans.[52]


In his 1601 work "The Realm of the Slavs", which was published in Serbia in 1968 with critical commentaries, Ragusan chronicler Mavro Orbini writes that Emperor Dušan practiced using all available weapons at the time, and that he expected from his lords the same. Orbini says that two types of knights games were organized at that period: đostre, or tournaments, and bagorde, or duels. Despot Stefan Lazarević also organized tournaments, but on a smaller scale. He personally was a participant in the grand scale tournament in 1412 in Buda, organized by Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. Historian Stojan Novaković, in his work "A monk and a hajduk" from 1913 describes the palace of the local lord Vitomir Gvozdenović in 15th century: "On the convenient location, in front of the little town, there was a potecište, a place for racing and other heroic games, where men from the lord's house, and other houses, played and had fun all day long".[53]


See also


  1. ^ Bogdanović 1986, ch. II, para. 2.
  2. ^ Bogdanović 1986, ch. II, para. 3.
  3. ^ Bogdanović 1986, ch. II, para. 4.
  4. ^ Janković, Đorđe (2008). "The Slavs in the 6th century North Illyricum". Belgrade: Faculty of Philosophy. 
  5. ^ Moravcsik 1967.
  6. ^ Živković 2006, p. 23.
  7. ^ a b Blagojević & Petković 1989, p. 19.
  8. ^ a b Novaković 2010.
  9. ^ a b c Moravcsik 1967, pp. 153–155.
  10. ^ Strizović, Đorđe (2004). Прошлост која живи. Доситеј. p. 19. 
  11. ^ Fine 1991, p. 53.
  12. ^ Moravcsik 1967, pp. 156.
  13. ^ Živković 2006, pp. 22–23.
  14. ^ http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/724.  Missing or empty title= (help)
  15. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 273–274.
  16. ^ a b Fine 1994, p. 309.
  17. ^ "Serbian Culture of the 14th Century. Volume I". Dusanov Zakonik. Archived from the original on 2010-08-03. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  18. ^ Ćorović 2001, ch. 3, XIII.
  19. ^ Mihaljčić 1975, pp. 164–165, 220.
  20. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 409–411.
  21. ^ Isabelle Dierauer (16 May 2013). Disequilibrium, Polarization, and Crisis Model: An International Relations Theory Explaining Conflict. University Press of America. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-7618-6106-5. 
  22. ^ Politika, 16 March 2014.
  23. ^ Politika, February 2014.
  24. ^ Politika, 15 May 2014.
  25. ^ Politika, 28 August 2014.
  26. ^ Politika, 24 April 2014.
  27. ^ Politika.
  28. ^ Politika, 19 March 2014.
  29. ^ a b Politika, 29 August 2014.
  30. ^ Politika, 29 January 2014.
  31. ^ Politika, 10 February 2014.
  32. ^ a b c d e f Politika 1.
  33. ^ Politika, 17 April 2014.
  34. ^ a b Politika, 28 October 2012.
  35. ^ Politika, 5 August 2013.
  36. ^ a b c d e Politika, 2013.
  37. ^ a b c d e f Politika, 10 May 2014.
  38. ^ Politika, 25 September 2014.
  39. ^ Politika, 14 February 2014.
  40. ^ a b Politika, 10 March 2014.
  41. ^ a b c Tajne srednjovekovnog srpskog vina, 18 February 2018.
  42. ^ Politika, 30 August 2014.
  43. ^ Politika, 5 October 2013.
  44. ^ Politika, 22 November 2012.
  45. ^ a b c d Politika, 7 August 2013.
  46. ^ Politika, September 2014.
  47. ^ Politika, October 2014.
  48. ^ Politika, October 2014 I.
  49. ^ Politika, 4 April 2014.
  50. ^ Politika, 3 May 2014.
  51. ^ a b Politika, 21 April 2014.
  52. ^ Politika, 17 June 2014.
  53. ^ Politika, 15 December 2014.


Primary sources
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  • "Da li znate: šta je bilo na trpezi naših predaka?" [Do you know: what was on the dining tables of our ancestors?]. Belgrade: Politika. 

Further reading

External links