Stefan Nemanja: A Case Of Sacral Kingship
By Marija Vukovojac
PhD Dissertation, King’s College London, 2017
Abstract: This PhD thesis investigates how the successors to the first ruler of an amalgamation of Serb lands, the Raškan Serb Veliki Župan, Stefan Nemanja, sought to create legitimacy for what otherwise may have been the passing successes of one local chieftain. The question is approached through the Lives of Nemanja written by his sons, Prvovenčani and Sava, whose tasks were to stabilise the immediate succession and consolidate the longer lasting power of the dynasty.
Through a close reading of the two Lives, the thesis identifies and compares the motifs used by the authors to portray Nemanja as a saintly ruler divinely inspired by God to ‘lead and unite’ his people. Without an existing Serbian literary tradition, the thesis investigates how the authors found inspiration, looking first at the European-wide phenomenon of holy rulers and their associated texts, before considering the general literary environment surrounding the Raškan Serbs, to place the writing of Nemanja’s Lives into context.
The motifs highlighted in the Lives are compared with those in a selected group of texts, potentially available to the authors, to identify possible models which each other may have copied, adapted or transformed. The secondary objectives of the two authors, ruler and monk, will also be touched on bearing in mind the secular and sacred image of Nemanja being portrayed.