The Byzantine historiography on the state of Serbian despots

Fresco of Stefan Lazarević in Manasija monastery, near Despotovac, Serbia.The Byzantine historiography on the state of Serbian despots

By Maja Nikolić Maja

Zbornik radova Vizantoloskog instituta, Voo.45 (2008)

Abstract: The four Byzantine historians of “the Fall” of the Byzantine Empire, Doucas, Chalcocondyles, Sphrantzes and Critobulos, as well as the Byzantine short chronicles, bring many news concerning Serbian history of the first half of the XV century. Although almost all of them refer to the Serbian political history of the period, they also imply that Serbia was a state, having its own territory, ethnicity, government, diplomacy, army and economic resources.

Introduction: The Fifteenth Century Byzantine sources narrating, among the other things, of the Serbian history of the first half of the century, also testify that the contemporaries regarded Serbia as a state. It appears, from their news, that Serbia of that time had complete apparatus of a body which could be, from a contemporary historian’s point of view, understood as a state structure.

First of all, the 15th century Byzantine authors certify that Serbia had its own territory. Their sporadic and imprecise news do not mention the borderlines, but there are some implications that the region might most roughly be defined as Moravian Serbia, or the continental land drawn by the rivers of Velika Morava and Ju`na Morava. Although Zeta formally belonged to despot Stefan Lazarevi’s state since 1421, it is not considered as a part of Serbia. They do not even allude to Zeta in their works. It is no wonder, concerning the fact that it has been widely accepted today and apparently clearly perceived by the contemporaries that in the restored Serbian state, Moravian Serbia represented its most significant part.

Click here to read this article from Recueil des travaux de l’Institut d’etudes byzantines

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