Marko Mrnjavčević (Serbian Cyrillic: Марко
Мрњавчевић, pronounced [mâːrko
mr̩̂ɲaːʋt͡ʃeʋit͡ɕ] ( listen); c. 1335 –
17 May 1395) was the de jure Serbian king from 1371 to 1395, while he
was the de facto ruler of territory in western Macedonia centered on
the town of Prilep. He is known as
Prince Marko (Serbo-Croatian:
Краљевић Марко, Kraljević Marko,
IPA: [krǎːʎeʋit͡ɕ mâːrko]) and King Marko (Bulgarian:
Крали Марко; Macedonian: Kрaле Марко) in South
Slavic oral tradition, in which he has become a major character during
the period of Ottoman rule over the Balkans. Marko's father, King
Vukašin, was co-ruler with Serbian
Tsar Stefan Uroš V, whose reign
was characterised by weakening central authority and the gradual
disintegration of the Serbian Empire. Vukašin's holdings included
lands in western Macedonia and Kosovo. In 1370 or 1371, he crowned
Marko "young king"; this title included the possibility that Marko
would succeed the childless Uroš on the Serbian throne.
On 26 September 1371, Vukašin was killed and his forces defeated in
the Battle of Maritsa. About two months later,
Tsar Uroš died. This
formally made Marko the king of the Serbian land; however, Serbian
noblemen, who had become effectively independent from the central
authority, did not even consider to recognise him as their supreme
ruler. Sometime after 1371, he became an Ottoman vassal; by 1377,
significant portions of the territory he inherited from Vukašin were
seized by other noblemen. King Marko, in reality, came to be a
regional lord who ruled over a relatively small territory in western
Macedonia. He funded the construction of the Monastery of Saint
Skopje (better known as Marko's Monastery), which was
completed in 1376. Marko died on 17 May 1395, fighting for the
Ottomans against the Wallachians in the Battle of Rovine.
Although a ruler of modest historical significance, Marko became a
major character in South Slavic oral tradition. He is venerated as a
national hero by the Serbs, Macedonians and Bulgarians, remembered in
Balkan folklore as a fearless and powerful protector of the weak, who
fought against injustice and confronted the Turks during the Ottoman
1.1 Until 1371
1.2 After 1371
2 In folk poetry
2.1 Serbian epic poetry
2.2 Epic poetry of Bulgaria and Macedonia
3 In legend
4 In modern culture
5 See also
9 External links
Marko was born about 1335 as the first son of Vukašin Mrnjavčević
and his wife Alena. The patronymic "Mrnjavčević" derives from
Mrnjava, described by 17th-century Ragusan historian
Mavro Orbin as a
minor nobleman from
Zachlumia (in present-day
Herzegovina and southern
Dalmatia). According to Orbin, Mrnjava's sons were born in
western Bosnia, where he may have moved after
Zachlumia was annexed
from Serbia by Bosnia in 1326. The Mrnjavčević familyn.b.1 may
have later supported Serbian Emperor (tsar) Stefan Dušan in his
preparations to invade Bosnia as did other Zachlumian nobles, and,
fearing punishment, emigrated to the
Serbian Empire before the war
started. These preparations possibly began two years ahead of
the invasion, which took place in 1350. From that year comes the
earliest written reference to Marko's father Vukašin, describing him
as Dušan's appointed župan (district governor) of Prilep,
which was acquired by Serbia from
Byzantium in 1334 with other parts
of Macedonia. In 1355, at about age 47, Stefan Dušan died suddenly
of a stroke.
Dušan was succeeded by his 19-year-old son Uroš, who apparently
regarded Marko Mrnjavčević as a man of trust. The new Emperor
appointed him the head of the embassy he sent to Ragusa (now
Dubrovnik, Croatia) at the end of July 1361 to negotiate peace between
the empire and the
Ragusan Republic after hostilities earlier that
year. Although peace was not reached, Marko successfully negotiated
the release of Serbian merchants from
Prizren who were detained by the
Ragusans and was permitted to withdraw silver deposited in the city by
his family. The account of that embassy in a Ragusan document contains
the earliest-known, undisputed reference to Marko Mrnjavčević. An
inscription written in 1356 on a wall of a church in the Macedonian
region of Tikveš, mentions a Nikola and a Marko as governors in that
region, but the identity of this Marko is disputed.
Dušan's death was followed by the stirring of separatist activity in
the Serbian Empire. The south-western territories, including Epirus,
Thessaly, and lands in southern Albania, seceded by 1357. However,
the core of the state (the western lands, including Zeta and Travunia
with the upper
Drina Valley; the central Serbian lands; and
Macedonia), remained loyal to Emperor Uroš. Nevertheless, local
noblemen asserted more and more independence from Uroš' authority
even in the part of the state that remained Serbian. Uroš was weak
and unable to counteract these separatist tendencies, becoming an
inferior power in his own domain. Serbian lords also fought each
other for territory and influence.
Marko's father King Vukašin (from a fresco in the Psača Monastery,
Vukašin Mrnjavčević was a skilful politician, and gradually assumed
the main role in the empire. In August or September 1365 Uroš
crowned him king, making him his co-ruler. By 1370 Marko's potential
patrimony increased as Vukašin expanded his personal holdings from
Prilep further into Macedonia,
Kosovo and Metohija, acquiring Prizren,
Pristina, Novo Brdo,
Skopje and Ohrid. In a charter he issued on
5 April 1370 Vukašin mentioned his wife (Queen Alena) and sons
(Marko and Andrijaš), signing himself as "Lord of the Serb and Greek
Lands, and of the Western Provinces" (господинь зємли
срьбьскои и грькѡмь и западнимь
странамь). In late 1370 or early 1371 Vukašin crowned
Marko "Young King", a title given to heirs presumptive of
Serbian kings to secure their position as successors to the throne.
Since Uroš was childless Marko could thus become his successor,
beginning a new—Vukašin's—dynasty of Serbian sovereigns, and
ending the two-century Nemanjić dynasty. Most Serbian lords were
unhappy with the situation, which strengthened their desire for
independence from the central authority.
Vukašin sought a well-connected spouse for Marko. A princess from the
House of Šubić
House of Šubić of
Dalmatia was sent by her father, Grgur,
to the court of their relative Tvrtko I, the ban of Bosnia. She was
supposed to be raised and married by Tvrtko's mother Jelena. Jelena
was the daughter of George II Šubić, whose maternal grandfather was
Serbian King Dragutin Nemanjić. The ban and his mother approved
of Vukašin's idea to join the Šubić princess and Marko, and the
wedding was imminent. However, in April 1370
Pope Urban V
Pope Urban V sent
Tvrtko a letter forbidding him to give the Catholic lady in marriage
to the "son of His Magnificence, the King of Serbia, a schismatic"
(filio magnifici viri Regis Rascie scismatico). The pope also
notified King Louis I of Hungary, nominal overlord of the ban, of
the impending "offence to the Christian faith", and the marriage did
not occur. Marko subsequently married Jelena (daughter of Radoslav
Hlapen, the lord of
Veria and Edessa and the major Serbian nobleman in
During the spring of 1371, Marko participated in the preparations for
a campaign against Nikola Altomanović, the major lord in the west of
the Empire. The campaign was planned jointly by King Vukašin and
Đurađ I Balšić, lord of Zeta (who was married to Olivera, the
king's daughter). In July of that year Vukašin and Marko camped with
their army outside Scutari, on Balšić's territory, ready to make an
Onogošt in Altomanović's land. The attack never
took place, since the Ottomans threatened the land of Despot Jovan
Uglješa (lord of
Serres and Vukašin's younger brother, who ruled in
eastern Macedonia) and the Mrnjavčević forces were quickly directed
eastward. Having sought allies in vain, the two brothers and their
troops entered Ottoman-controlled territory. At the Battle of Maritsa
on 26 September 1371, the Turks annihilated the Serbian army;
the bodies of Vukašin and
Jovan Uglješa were never found. The battle
site, near the village of
Ormenio in present-day eastern Greece, has
ever since been called as Sırp Sındığı ("Serbian rout") in
Battle of Maritsa
Battle of Maritsa had far-reaching consequences for the
region, since it opened the
Balkans to the Turks.
Approximate borders of territory ruled by King Marko after 1377 (shown
in darker green)
When his father died, "young king" Marko became king and co-ruler with
Emperor Uroš. The
Nemanjić dynasty ended soon afterwards, when Uroš
died on 2 (or 4) December 1371 and Marko became the formal
sovereign of Serbia. Serbian lords, however, did not recognise
him, and divisions within the state increased. After the two
brothers' deaths and the destruction of their armies, the
Mrnjavčević family was left powerless. Lords around Marko
exploited the opportunity to seize significant parts of his patrimony.
Đurađ I Balšić
Đurađ I Balšić took
Prizren and Peć, and Prince Lazar
Hrebeljanović took Pristina. By 1377
Vuk Branković acquired
Skopje, and Albanian magnate
Andrea Gropa became virtually independent
in Ohrid; however, he may have remained a vassal to Marko as he had
been to Vukašin. Gropa's son-in-law was Marko's relative, Ostoja
Rajaković of the clan of Ugarčić from Travunia. He was one of
Serbian noblemen from
Travunia (adjacent principalities
in present-day Herzegovina) who received lands in the newly conquered
parts of Macedonia during Emperor Dušan's reign.
Remains of Marko's fortress above Prilep, known as Markovi Kuli
The only sizable town kept by Marko was Prilep, from which his father
rose. King Marko became a petty prince ruling a relatively small
territory in western Macedonia, bordered in the north by the Šar
mountains and Skopje; in the east by the
Vardar and the Crna Reka
rivers, and in the west by Ohrid. The southern limits of his territory
are uncertain. Marko shared his rule with his younger brother,
Andrijaš, who had his own land. Their mother, Queen Alena, became
a nun after Vukašin's death, taking the monastic name Jelisaveta, but
was co-ruler with Andrijaš for some time after 1371. The youngest
brother, Dmitar, lived on land controlled by Andrijaš. There was
another brother, Ivaniš, about whom little is known. When Marko
became an Ottoman vassal is uncertain, but it was probably not
immediately after the Battle of Maritsa.
At some point Marko separated from Jelena and lived with Todora, the
wife of a man named Grgur, and Jelena returned to her father in Veria.
Marko later sought to reconcile with Jelena but he had to send Todora
to his father-in-law. Since Marko's land was bordered on the south by
Hlapen's, the reconciliation may have been political. Scribe
Dobre, a subject of Marko's, transcribed a liturgical book for the
church in the village of Kaluđerec,n.b.2 and when he finished, he
composed an inscription which begins as follows:
Слава сьвршитєлю богѹ вь вѣкы, аминь,
а҃мнь, а҃м. Пыса сє сиꙗ книга ѹ Порѣчи,
ѹ сєлѣ зовомь Калѹгєрєць, вь дьны
благовѣрнаго кралꙗ Марка, ѥгда ѿдадє
Ѳодору Грьгѹровѹ жєнѹ Хлапєнѹ, а ѹзє
жєнѹ свою прьвовѣнчанѹ Ѥлєнѹ,
Glory to God the Finisher for ever and ever, amen, amen, amen. This
book was written in Porečje, in the village called Kaluđerec, in the
days of the pious King Marko, when he handed over Todora the wife of
Grgur to Hlapen, and took back his first-wedded wife Jelena, Hlapen's
Marko's Monastery in Markova Sušica, near Skopje
Fresco above south entrance of the church at Marko's Monaster], with
King Marko (left), King Vukašin (right) and a semicircle of seven
saintly busts framing a portrait of St. Demetrius
Marko's fortress was on a hill north of present-day Prilep; its
partially preserved remains are known as
Markovi Kuli ("Marko's
towers"). Beneath the fortress is the village of Varoš, site of the
medieval Prilep. The village contains the Monastery of Archangel
Michael, renovated by Marko and Vukašin, whose portraits are on the
walls of the monastery's church. Marko was ktetor of the Church of
Saint Sunday in Prizren, which was finished in 1371, shortly before
the Battle of Maritsa. In the inscription above the church's entrance,
he is called "young king".
The Monastery of St. Demetrius, popularly known as Marko's Monastery,
is in the village of
Markova Sušica (near Skopje) and was built from
c. 1345 to 1376 (or 1377). Kings Marko and Vukašin, its ktetors,
are depicted over the south entrance of the monastery church. Marko
is an austere-looking man in purple clothes, wearing a crown decorated
with pearls. With his left hand he holds a scroll, whose text begins:
"I, in the
Christ God the pious King Marko, built and inscribed this
divine temple ..." In his right hand, he holds a horn symbolizing
the horn of oil with which the
Old Testament kings were anointed at
their coronation (as described in 1 Samuel 16:13). Marko is said to be
shown here as the king chosen by God to lead his people through the
crisis following the Battle of Maritsa.
Marko minted his own money, in common with his father and other
Serbian nobles of the time. His silver coins weighed
1.11 grams, and were produced in three types. In two of them,
the obverse contained a five-line text:
ВЬХА/БАБЛГОВ/ѢРНИКР/АЛЬМА/РКО ("In the Christ
God, the pious King Marko"). In the first type, the reverse
Christ seated on a throne; in the second,
Christ was seated
on a mandorla. In the third type, the reverse depicted
Christ on a
mandorla; the obverse contained the four-line text
БЛГО/ВѢРНИ/КРАЛЬ/МАРКО ("Pious King Marko"),
which Marko also used in the church inscription. He omitted a
territorial designation from his title, probably in tacit
acknowledgement of his limited power. Although his brother
Andrijaš also minted his own coins, the money supply in the territory
ruled by the Mrnjavčević brothers primarily consisted of coins
struck by King Vukašin and
Tsar Uroš. About 150 of Marko's coins
survive in numismatic collections.
By 1379, Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović, the ruler of Moravian Serbia,
emerged as the most-powerful Serbian nobleman. Although he
Autokrator of all the
вьсѣмь Србьлѥмь), he was not strong enough to unite all
Serbian lands under his authority. The Balšić and Mrnjavčević
Konstantin Dragaš (maternally a Nemanjić), Vuk Branković
Radoslav Hlapen continued ruling their respective regions. In
addition to Marko, Tvrtko I was crowned King of the
Serbs and of
Bosnia in 1377 in the Mileševa monastery. Maternally related to the
Nemanjić dynasty, Tvrtko had seized western portions of the former
Serbian Empire in 1373.
On 15 June 1389 Serbian forces led by Prince Lazar, Vuk
Branković, and Tvrtko's nobleman
Vlatko Vuković of Zachlumia,
confronted the Ottoman army led by Sultan
Murad I at the Battle of
Kosovo, the best-known battle in medieval Serbian history. With
the bulk of both armies wiped out and Lazar and Murad killed, the
outcome of the battle was inconclusive. In its aftermath the
insufficient manpower to defend their lands, while the Turks had many
more troops in the east. Serbian principalities which were not already
Ottoman vassals became such over the next few years.
In 1394, a group of Ottoman vassals in the
Balkans renounced their
vassalage. Although Marko was not among them, his younger brothers
Andrijaš and Dmitar refused to remain under Turkish dominance. They
emigrated to the Kingdom of Hungary, entering the service of King
Sigismund. They travelled via Ragusa, where they withdrew two-thirds
of their late father's store of 96.73 kilograms (213.3 lb) of
silver, leaving the remaining third for Marko. Although Andrijaš and
Dmitar were the first Serbian nobles to emigrate to Hungary, the
Serbian northward migration would continue throughout the Ottoman
In 1395 the Turks attacked
Wallachia to punish its ruler, Mircea I,
for his incursions into their territory. Three Serbian vassals
fought on the Ottoman side: King Marko, Lord Konstantin Dragaš, and
Stefan Lazarević (son and heir of Prince Lazar). The Battle of
Rovine, on 17 May 1395, was won by the Wallachians; Marko and
Dragaš were killed. After their deaths the Turks annexed their
lands, combining them into an Ottoman province centred in
Kyustendil. Thirty-six years after the Battle of Rovine,
Konstantin the Philosopher wrote the Biography of Despot Stefan
Lazarević and recorded what Marko said to Dragaš on the eve of the
battle: "I pray the Lord to help the Christians, no matter if I will
be the first to die in this war."
In folk poetry
Serbian epic poetry
Marko Mrnjavčević is the most popular hero of Serbian epic
poetry, in which he is called "Kraljević Marko" (with the word
kraljević meaning "prince" or "king's son"). This informal title
was attached to King Vukašin's sons in contemporary sources as a
surname (Marko Kraljević),n.b.3 and it was adopted by the Serbian
oral tradition as part of Marko's name.
A Herzegovinian sings with a gusle in an 1823 drawing. Serbian epic
poems were often sung, accompanied by this traditional instrument.
Poems about Kraljević Marko do not follow a storyline; what binds
them into a poetic cycle is the hero himself, with his adventures
illuminating his character and personality. The epic Marko had a
300-year lifespan; 14th- to 16th-century heroes appearing as his
companions include Miloš Obilić, Relja Krilatica, Vuk the Fiery
Dragon and Sibinjanin Janko and his nephew, Banović Sekula. Very
few historical facts about Marko can be found in the poems, but they
reflect his connection with the disintegration of the Serbian Empire
and his vassalage to the Ottomans. They were composed by anonymous
Serbian poets during the Ottoman occupation of their land. According
to American Slavicist George Rapall Noyes, they "combine tragic pathos
with almost ribald comedy in a fashion worthy of an Elizabethan
Serbian epic poetry
Serbian epic poetry agrees that King Vukašin was Marko's father. His
mother in the poems was Jevrosima, sister of voivode Momčilo, the
lord of the
Pirlitor Fortress (on Mount
Durmitor in Old Herzegovina).
Momčilo is described as a man of immense size and strength with
magical attributes: a winged horse[disambiguation needed] and a sabre
with eyes. Vukašin murdered him with the help of the voivode's young
wife, Vidosava, despite Jevrosima's self-sacrificing attempt to save
her brother. Instead of marrying Vidosava (the original plan),
Vukašin killed the treacherous woman. He took Jevrosima from Pirlitor
to his capital city, Skadar, and married her according to the advice
of the dying Momčilo. She bore him two sons, Marko and Andrijaš, and
the poem recounting these events says that Marko took after his uncle
Momčilo. This epic character corresponds historically with
Bulgarian brigand and mercenary Momchil, who was in the service of
Tsar Dušan; he later became a despot and died in the 1345
Battle of Peritheorion. According to another account, Marko and
Andrijaš were mothered by a vila (Slavic mountain nymph) married by
Vukašin after he caught her near a lake and removed her wings so she
could not escape.
Prince Marko and Musa Kesedžija, 1900 painting by Vladislav Titelbah;
Prince Marko is on the right
As Marko matured, he became headstrong; Vukašin once said that he had
no control over his son, who went wherever he wanted, drank and
brawled. Marko grew up into a large, strong man, with a terrifying
appearance, which was also somewhat comical. He wore a wolf-skin cap
pulled low over his dark eyes, his black moustache was the size of a
six-month-old lamb and his cloak was a shaggy wolf-pelt. A Damascus
sabre swung at his waist, and a spear was slung across his back.
Marko's pernach weighed 66 okas (85 kilograms (187 lb)) and
hung on the left side of his saddle, balanced by a well-filled
wineskin on the saddle's right side. His grip was strong enough to
squeeze drops of water from a piece of dry cornel wood. Marko defeated
a succession of champions against overwhelming odds.
The hero's inseparable companion was his powerful, talking piebald
horse Šarac; Marko always gave him an equal share of his wine.
The horse could leap three spear-lengths high and four spear-lengths
forward, enabling Marko to capture the dangerous, elusive vila
Ravijojla. She became his blood sister, promising to help him in dire
straits. When Ravijojla helped him kill the monstrous, three-hearted
Musa Kesedžija (who almost defeated him), Marko grieved because he
had slain a better man than himself.
Miloš Obilić and the vila Ravijojla in a 1906 painting
Paja Jovanović inspired by the poem "Marko Kraljević and the
Vila", which takes place on Mount Miroč
Marko is portrayed as a protector of the weak and helpless, a fighter
against Turkish bullies and injustice in general. He was an idealised
keeper of patriarchal and natural norms: in a Turkish military camp,
he beheaded the Turk who dishonourably killed his father. He abolished
the marriage tax by killing the tyrant who imposed it on the people of
Kosovo. He saved the sultan's daughter from an unwanted marriage after
she entreated him, as her blood brother, to help her. He rescued three
Serbian voivodes (his blood brothers) from a dungeon and helped
animals in distress. Marko was a rescuer and benefactor of people, and
a promoter of life; "
Prince Marko is remembered like a fair day in the
Characteristic of Marko was his reverence and love for his mother,
Jevrosima; he often sought her advice, following it even when it
contradicted his own desires. She lived with Marko at his mansion in
Prilep, his lodestar guiding him away from evil and toward good on the
path of moral improvement and Christian virtues. Marko's honesty
and moral courage are noteworthy in a poem in which he was the only
person who knew the will of the late
Tsar Dušan regarding his heir.
Marko refused to lie in favour of the pretenders—his father and
uncles. He said truthfully that Dušan appointed his son, Uroš, heir
to the Serbian throne. This almost cost him his life, since Vukašin
tried to kill him.
Marko is represented as a loyal vassal of the Ottoman sultan, fighting
to protect the potentate and his empire from outlaws. When summoned by
the sultan, he participated in Turkish military campaigns. Even in
this relationship, however, Marko's personality and sense of dignity
were apparent. He occasionally made the sultan uneasy, and
meetings between them usually ended like this:
Цар с' одмиче, а Марко примиче,
Док доћера цара до дувара;
Цар се маши у џепове руком,
Те извади стотину дуката,
Па их даје Краљевићу Марку:
"Иди, Марко, напиј ми се вина."
The Sultan went backwards and Marko followed after,
Until he drove him even to the wall.
Right so the Sultan put hand in pocket
And drew forth a hundred ducats,
And gave them to Kraljević Marko.
"Go, Marko," quoth he, "drink thy fill of wine."
Serbian epic poem "
Prince Marko and Musa Kesedžija"
The poem's conclusion, sung to a gusle (verses 220–281; 5:12)
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Marko's fealty was combined with the notion that the servant was
greater than his lord, as Serbian poets turned the tables on their
conquerors. This dual aspect of Marko may explain his heroic status;
Serbs he was "the proud symbol expressive of the unbroken
spirit that lived on in spite of disaster and defeat," according
to translator of Serbian epic poems David Halyburton Low.
In battle, Marko used not only his strength and prowess but cunning
and trickery. Despite his extraordinary qualities he was not depicted
as a superhero or a god, but as a mortal man. There were opponents who
surpassed him in courage and strength. He was occasionally capricious,
short-tempered or cruel, but his predominant traits were honesty,
loyalty and fundamental goodness.
With his comic appearance and behaviour, and his remarks at his
opponents' expense, Marko is the most humorous character in Serbian
epic poetry. When a Moor struck him with a mace, Marko said
laughingly, "O valiant black Moor! Are you jesting or smiting in
earnest?" Jevrosima once advised her son to cease his bloody
adventures and plough the fields instead. He obeyed in a grimly
humorous way, ploughing the sultan's highway instead of the
fields. A group of Turkish Janissaries with three packs of gold
shouted at him to stop ploughing the highway. He warned them to keep
off the furrows, but quickly wearied of arguing:
Диже Марко рало и волове,
Те он поби Турке јањичаре,
Пак узима три товара блага,
Однесе их својој старој мајци:
"То сам тебе данас изорао."
He swung plough and oxen on high,
And slew therewith the Turkish Janissaries.
Then he took the three charges of gold,
And brought them to his mother,
"Behold," quoth he, "what I have ploughed for thee this day."
The Death of Prince Marko, 1848 painting by Novak Radonić
Marko, age 300, rode the 160-year-old Šarac by the seashore towards
Mount Urvina when a vila told him that he was going to die. Marko then
leaned over a well and saw no reflection of his face on the water;
hydromancy confirmed the vila's words. He killed Šarac so the Turks
would not use him for menial labor, and gave his beloved companion an
elaborate burial. Marko broke his sword and spear, throwing his mace
far out to sea before lying down to die. His body was found seven days
later by Abbot Vaso and his deacon, Isaija. Vaso took Marko to Mount
Athos and buried him at the
Hilandar Monastery in an unmarked
Epic poetry of Bulgaria and Macedonia
"Krali Marko" has been one of the most popular characters in Bulgarian
folklore for centuries. Bulgarian epic tales in general (and those
about Marko in particular) seem to originate from the southwestern
part of the Bulgarian region, primarily in the present-day
Republic of Macedonia. Therefore, the tales are also part of the
ethnic heritage of present-day Macedonia.
According to local legend Marko's mother was Evrosiya
(Евросия), sister of the Bulgarian voivoda
Momchil (who ruled
territory in the Rhodope Mountains). At Marko's birth three narecnitsi
(fairy sorceresses) appeared, predicting that he would be a hero and
replace his father (King Vukašin). When the king heard this, he threw
his son into the river in a basket to get rid of him. A samodiva named
Vila found Marko and brought him up, becoming his foster mother.
Because Marko drank the samodiva's milk, he acquired supernatural
powers and became a Bulgarian freedom fighter against the Turks. He
has a winged horse named Sharkolia ("dappled") and a stepsister, the
samodiva Gyura. Bulgarian legends incorporate fragments of pagan
mythology and beliefs, although the Marko epic was created as late as
the 14–18th centuries. Among Bulgarian epic songs, songs about Krali
Marko are common and pivotal. Bulgarian folklorists who
collected stories about Marko included educator
Trayko Kitanchev (in
the Resen region of western Macedonia) and
Marko Cepenkov of Prilep
(throughout the region).
South Slavic legends about Kraljević Marko or Krali Marko are
primarily based on myths much older than the historical Marko
Mrnjavčević. He differs in legend from the folk poems; in some areas
he was imagined as a giant who walked stepping on hilltops, his head
touching the clouds. He was said to have helped God shape the earth,
and created the river gorge in
Demir Kapija ("Iron Gate") with a
stroke of his sabre. This drained the sea covering the regions of
Tikveš in Macedonia, making them habitable. After
the earth was shaped, Marko arrogantly showed off his strength. God
took it away by leaving a bag as heavy as the earth on a road; when
Marko tried to lift it, he lost his strength and became an ordinary
Legend also has it that Marko acquired his strength after he was
suckled by a vila. King Vukašin threw him into a river because he did
not resemble him, but the boy was saved by a cowherd (who adopted him,
and a vila suckled him). In other accounts, Marko was a shepherd (or
cowherd) who found a vila's children lost in a mountain and shaded
them against the sun (or gave them water). As a reward the vila
suckled him three times, and he could lift and throw a large boulder.
An Istrian version has Marko making a shade for two snakes, instead of
the children. In a Bulgarian version, each of the three draughts of
milk he suckled from the vila's breast became a snake.
Marko was associated with large, solitary boulders and indentations in
rocks; the boulders were said to be thrown by him from a hill, and the
indentations were his footprints (or the hoofprints of his horse).
He was also connected with geographic features such as hills, glens,
cliffs, caves, rivers, brooks and groves, which he created or at which
he did something memorable. They were often named after him, and there
are many toponyms—from
Istria in the west to Bulgaria in the
east—derived from his name. In Bulgarian and Macedonian stories,
Marko had an equally strong sister who competed with him in throwing
In some legends, Marko's wonder horse was a gift from a vila. A
Serbian story says that he was looking for a horse who could bear him.
To test a steed, he would grab him by the tail and sling him over his
shoulder. Seeing a diseased piebald foal owned by some carters, Marko
grabbed him by the tail but could not move him. He bought (and cured)
the foal, naming him Šarac. He became an enormously powerful horse
and Marko's inseparable companion. Macedonian legend has it that
Marko, following a vila's advice, captured a sick horse on a mountain
and cured him. Crusted patches on the horse's skin grew white hairs,
and he became a piebald.
According to folk tradition Marko never died; he lives on in a cave,
in a moss-covered den or in an unknown land. A Serbian legend
recounts that Marko once fought a battle in which so many men were
killed that the soldiers (and their horses) swam in blood. He lifted
his hands towards heaven and said, "Oh God, what am I going to do
now?" God took pity on Marko, transporting him and Šarac to a cave
(where Marko stuck his sabre into a rock and fell asleep). There is
moss in the cave; Šarac eats it bit by bit, while the sabre slowly
emerges from the rock. When it falls on the ground and Šarac finishes
the moss, Marko will awaken and reenter the world. Some allegedly
saw him after descending into a deep pit, where he lived in a large
house in front of which Šarac was seen. Others saw him in a faraway
land, living in a cave. According to Macedonian tradition Marko drank
"eagle's water", which made him immortal; he is with
In modern culture
During the 19th century, Marko was the subject of several
dramatizations. In 1831 the Hungarian drama Prince Marko, possibly
written by István Balog, was performed in
Buda and in 1838, the
Prince Marko – Great Serbian Hero by Celesztin
Pergő was staged in Arad. In 1848
Jovan Sterija Popović
Jovan Sterija Popović wrote
the tragedy The Dream of Prince Marko, in which the legend of sleeping
Marko is its central motif.
Petar Preradović wrote the drama
Kraljević Marko, which glorifies southern Slav strength. In 1863
Francesco Dall'Ongaro presented his Italian drama, The Resurrection of
Prince Marko. In her collection of short stories from 1978,
Nouvelles Orientales, Marguerite Yourcenar imagined an alternative,
inexplicable end to Marko's life (La Fin de Marko kraliévitch).
Of all Serbian epic or historical figures, Marko is considered to have
given the most inspiration to visual artists; a monograph on the
subject lists 87 authors. His oldest known depictions are
14th-century frescoes from
Marko's Monastery and Prilep. An
18th-century drawing of Marko is found in the
Čajniče Gospels, a
medieval parchment manuscript belonging to a Serbian Orthodox church
Čajniče in eastern Bosnia. The drawing is simple, unique in
depicting Marko as a saint and reminiscent of stećci reliefs.
Vuk Karadžić wrote that during his late-18th-century childhood he
saw a painting of Marko carrying an ox on his back.
Nineteenth-century lithographs of Marko were made by Anastas
Jovanović, Ferdo Kikerec and others. Artists who painted
Marko during that century include Mina Karadžić, Novak
Radonić and Đura Jakšić. Twentieth-century artists include
Nadežda Petrović, Mirko Rački, Uroš Predić and Paja
Jovanović. A sculpture of Marko on Šarac by
Ivan Meštrović was
reproduced on a Yugoslavian banknote and stamp. Modern
illustrators with Marko as their subject include Alexander Key,
Aleksandar Klas, Zuko Džumhur, Vasa Pomorišac and Bane Kerac.
Princ Marko, and his
Sabre was also inspiration for Current Serbian
National Anthem "Boze Pravde". The song was taken from a theatre piece
Markova Sablja, very popular among
Serbs in 1872.
Motifs in multiple works are Marko and Ravijojla, Marko and his
mother, Marko and Šarac, Marko shooting an arrow, Marko plowing the
roads, the fight between Marko and Musa and Marko's death. Also,
several artists have tried to produce a realistic portrait of Marko
based on his frescoes. In 1924
Prilep Brewery introduced a light
beer, Krali Marko.
Serbian nobility conflict (1369)
Djemo the Mountaineer
^n.b.1 The family name "Mrnjavčević" was not mentioned in
contemporary sources, nor was any other surname associated with this
family. The oldest known source mentioning the name "Mrnjavčević" is
Ruvarčev rodoslov "The Genealogy of Ruvarac", written between 1563
and 1584. It is unknown whether it was introduced into the Genealogy
from some older source, or from the folk poetry and tradition.
^n.b.2 This liturgical book, acquired in the 19th century by Russian
collector Aleksey Khludov, is kept today in the State Historical
Museum of Russia.
^n.b.3 The name Despotović ("despot's son") was applied in a similar
way to Uglješa, the son of Despot Jovan Uglješa, King Vukašin's
^ a b Fostikov 2002, pp.49–50.
^ a b Орбин 1968, p. 116.
^ a b c d e Fine 1994, pp.362–3.
^ a b Fine 1994, p.323.
^ Stojanović 1902, p.37.
^ Fine 1994, p.288.
^ Fine 1994, p.335.
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.51. Ćorović 2001, "Распад Српске
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.77.
^ Šuica 2000, p.15.
^ Fine 1994, p. 358
^ Fine 1994, p. 345.
^ Šuica 2000, p. 19
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.83.
^ Miklošič 1858, p.180, № CLXVII.
^ Sedlar 1994, pp. 31.
^ a b Šuica 2000, p. 20
^ Fajfrić (2000), "Први Котроманићи".
^ a b Jireček 1911, p.430.
^ a b Theiner 1860, p.97, № CXC.
^ Theiner 1860, p.97, № CLXXXIX.
^ a b c d e Mihaljčić 1975, pp. 170–1
^ a b Mihaljčić 1975, p. 137; Fine 1994, p. 377
^ Ćorović 2001, "Маричка погибија".
^ a b c d Fine 1994, pp. 379–82
^ a b c d Mihaljčić 1975, p.168.
^ Šuica 2000, pp.35–6.
^ Šuica 2000, p.42.
^ Fostikov 2002, p.51.
^ a b c Mihaljčić 1975, pp.164–5.
^ Stojanović 1902, pp.58–9
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.166.
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.181.
^ Šuica 2000, pp.133–6.
^ a b c Mandić 2003, pp.24–5.
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.183.
^ Mihaljčić 1975, p.220.
^ Fine 1994, p.393.
^ a b Fine 1994, pp.408–11.
^ a b Fostikov 2002, pp.52–3.
^ a b Fine 1994, p.424.
^ Ostrogorsky 1956, pp. 489.
^ Konstantin 2000, "О погибији краља Марка и
^ a b c Noyes 1913, "Introduction".
^ a b Rudić 2001, p.89.
^ a b c d e f g Deretić 2000, "Епска повесница
^ a b c d e f g h Low 1922, "The Marko of the Ballads".
^ Popović 1988, pp.24–8.
^ Low 1922, "The Marriage of King Vukašin".
^ Ćorović 2001, "Стварање српског царства".
^ Bogišić 1878, pp. 231–2.
^ Low 1922, "Marko Kraljević and the Vila"
^ Low 1922, "Marko Kraljević and Musa Kesedžija"
^ Popović 1988, pp.70–7.
^ Karadžić 2000, "Марко Краљевић познаје
^ Low 1922, p.73.
^ Karadžić 2000, "Марко Краљевић укида
^ Karadžić 2000, "Орање Марка Краљевића".
^ Low 1922, "Marko's Ploughing".
^ Low 1922, "The Death of Marko Kraljević".
^ For further information, read Veliko Iordanov (1901). Krali-Marko v
bulgarskata narodna epika. Sofia: Sbornik na Bulgarskoto Knizhovno
^ Mihail Arnaudov (1961). "Българско народно
творчество в 12 тома. Том 1. Юнашки
песни" (in Bulgarian). Archived from the original on October 15,
2007. CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
^ The River Danube in Balkan Slavic Folksongs, Ethnologia Balkanica
(01/1997), Burkhart, Dagmar; Issue: 01/1997 , pp. 53–60
^ A History of Macedonian Literature 865–1944, Volume 112 of
Slavistic Printings and Reprintings, Charles A. Moser, Publisher
^ Прилеп; зап. Марко Цепенков (
СбНУ 2, с.
116–120, № 2 – "Марко грабит Ангелина").
^ a b c d e f g Radenković 2001, pp.293–7.
^ Popović 1988, pp.41–2.
^ a b c Karadžić 1852, pp.345–6, s.v. "Марко
^ a b c Šarenac 1996, p. 26
^ Šarenac 1996, p. 06
^ a b Šarenac 1996, p. 02
^ a b Šarenac 1996, p. 05
^ "Serbian Medieval Royal Attire". 2006-11-21. Retrieved
2011-06-27. [permanent dead link]
^ Momirović 1956, p. 176
^ a b Šarenac 1996, p. 27
^ a b Šarenac 1996, p. 44
^ a b Šarenac 1996, p. 45
^ Šarenac 1996, p. 28
^ Šarenac 1996, p. 24
^ a b Šarenac 1996, p. 46
^ Šarenac 1996, p. 33
^ Šarenac 1996, p. 6–14
^ "Krali Marko".
Prilep Brewery. Retrieved 2011-06-28. [permanent
^ Rudić 2001, p.96.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prince Marko.
Wikisource has several original texts related to: Prince Marko
The Ballads of Marko Kraljević, translated by David Halyburton Low
Heroic Ballads of Servia, translated by George Rapall Noyes and
Leonard Bacon (1913)
Macedonian songs, fairy tales and legends about Marko (Macedonian)
Bulgarian ballads (also here, with more information) and legends about
Marko, The King's Son: Hero of The
Serbs by Clarence A. Manning (1932)
Poem, "Marko Kraljević and the Vila"
Conclusion of "
Prince Marko and Musa Kesedžija" (verses 220–281)
Web comic strip
Videos of Serbian epic poems sung to the accompaniment of the gusle:
Prince Marko Recognises His Father's Sword
Prince Marko Abolishes the Marriage Tax
Prince Marko and the Eagle
Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv
Lech, Czech, and Rus
Nikita the Tanner
Vasilisa the Beautiful
Spirits of place
Fern flower-Chervona Ruta
Kingdom of Opona
Book of Veles
Films based on Slavic mythology
Polish folk beliefs
Russian traditions and superstitions
Serbian folk astronomy
Notes: 1 historicity of the deity is dubious; 2 the deity status is
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