|Country|| Lordship of Zeta (1355-1421)|
Serbian Empire (1355-71)
Republic of Venice (1380s)
Serbian Despotate (1405-21)
|Founded||before 1355, by Bal?a I|
|Final ruler||Bal?a III (1403-1421)|
|Estate(s)||the Zeta and the coastlands (southern Montenegro, |
|Dissolution||1421 (possessions passed to |
The Bal?i? (Serbian Cyrillic: , pl. Bal?i?i / ?; also Ba?i?i; Latin: Balsich; Albanian: Balsha) was a noble family that ruled "Zeta and the coastlands" (southern Montenegro and northern Albania), from 1362 to 1421, during and after the fall of the Serbian Empire. Bal?a, the founder, was a petty nobleman who held only one village during the rule of Emperor Du?an the Mighty (r. 1331-1355), and only after the death of the emperor, his three sons gained power in Lower Zeta after acquiring the lands of gospodin ?arko (fl. 1336-1360) under unclear circumstances, and they then expanded into Upper Zeta by murdering voivode and ?elnik ?ura? Iliji? (r. 1326-1362+). Nevertheless, they were acknowledged as oblastni gospodari of Zeta in edicts of Emperor Uro? the Weak (r. 1355-1371). The family is known to have seized control through trickery, such as against the Dukagjini family, and many people were deported or murdered. After the death of Uro? (1371), the family feuded with the Mrnjav?evi?i, who controlled Macedonia. In 1421, Bal?a III, on his death, passed the rule of Zeta to his uncle, Despot Stefan the Tall.
The Bal?i? family was first mentioned in a charter of Emperor Stefan Uro? V, dated 29 September 1360. Due to sources having nothing reliable to say about their ancestors, there has been speculation on their origin, which some deem unknown. Apart from Mavro Orbini's tale, there are really no other accounts on their origin. In oral tradition, they descended via Grand Prince Vukan Nemanji?. There exist fragmental assertions that they descended from "Emperor Nemanja". The oldest mention of a Bal?i? is from 1304, when Serbian Queen Helen of Anjou sent a letter in Slavic through her trustee Matija Bal?i? from Bar (Mata de Balsich de Antibaro) to Ragusa. A theory is that this Bal?i? married a female member of the Nemanji? royal family, and thus established the noble family of Bal?i?. There has been various opinions about the family's origin.
Karl Hopf (1832-1873) considered "unquestionably part of the Serb tribe".Ivan Stepanovich Yastrebov (1839-1894), Russian Consul in Shkodër and Prizren, when speaking of the Bal?i?i, connected their name to the Roman town of Balletium (Bale?) located near modern Shkodër. According to ?edomilj Mijatovi? (1842-1934), the Bal?i? family had ultimate origin in the House of Baux from Provence (southeastern France); from that family sprung an Italian family (del Balzo), and from them the Bal?i?i, and from them a Romanian family. Serbian historian Vladimir ?orovi? (1885-1941) concluded, based on their name, that they had Roman (Vlach) origin. Croatian ethnologist Milan ?ufflay (1879-1931) mentioned them as of "Romanian and Vlach origin". Croatian linguist Petar Skok considered them to have been of Vlach origin, and Serbian historian Milena Geci? supported his theory. Giuseppe Gelcich theorized on the origin in his La Zedda e la dinastia dei Bal?idi: studi storici documentati (1899). The theory asserting them as descendants of the Frankish nobleman Bertrand III of Baux, a companion of Charles d'Anjou is regarded as highly improbable.[according to whom?] German linguist Gustav Weigand (1860-1930) supported a mixed Albanian-Aromanian origin after he noted that the family name was included in a list of early Albanian surnames in Romania.
In modern scholarship John Van Antwerp Fine Jr.,Donald Nicol, Peter Bartl view the origin of the Bal?i? family as Serbian. According to Noel Malcolm, the Balsi?i were a Serbo-Albanian family, while Robert Elsie mentions them as of "probably Slavic origin". Sauro Gelichi considers them Serbian-Montenegrin. Ines Angjeli Murzaku says that the family had an Albanian origin. Edgar Hösch mentions the Thopias and Bal?i?i as native Albanian families that gained political power after 1355. Alexandru Madgearu mentions the Bal?i? as a noble Albanian family, however he states that their Albanian origin is unclear, due to the debate over the family's origin as either Serbian or Vlach. Wayne E. Lee, Matthew Lubin, Eduard Ndreca, Michael L. Galaty, Mentor Mustafa and Robert Schon mention the families of Balsha (Bal?i?), along with Dukagjin, Topia and Kastrati, as local Albanian lords which held fragmented power in north of Albania.
According to Sarajevo University historian Mehmed Hod?i?, who studied the works of Konstantin Jire?ek, Vladimir Jovojovic, and Dragoje Zivkovic, the Bal?i?s originated from Shkodër and from Slavized Vlachs and that they rose to military nobility on military merit.
According to Mavro Orbini (writing in 1601), Bal?a, the eponymous founder, was a petty nobleman that held only one village in the area of Lake Skadar during the rule of Emperor Du?an the Mighty (r. 1331-1355). Only after the death of the emperor, Bal?a and his three sons gained power in Lower Zeta after acquiring the lands of gospodin ?arko (fl. 1336-1360) and by murdering voivode and ?elnik ?ura? Iliji? (r. 1326-1362+), the holders of Lower and Upper Zeta, respectively. Bal?a dies the same year, and his sons, the Bal?i? brothers, continue in ruling the province spanning Podgorica, Budva, Bar and Skadar.
Simplified family tree:
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