|sevastokrator and despot of the Serbian Empire|
Dejan and his wife, fresco from the Zemen Monastery.
|Serbian imperial magnate|
|Died||between 1366 and 1371|
Dejan (Serbian Cyrillic: ;[a]fl. 1346-ca. 1366) was a Serbian magnate who served Emperor Stefan Du?an (r. 1331-55) as sevastokrator, and Emperor Uro? V (r. 1355-71) as despot. He was married to Emperor Du?an's sister Teodora, and possessed a large province in the Kumanovo region, east of Skopska Crna Gora. It initially included the old ?upe (counties) of ?egligovo and Pre?evo (modern Kumanovo region with Sredorek, Kozja?ija and the larger part of P?inja). Uro? V later gave Dejan the Upper Struma river with Velbu?d (Kyustendil). Dejan built the Zemen Monastery, among others, and reconstructed several church buildings throughout his province.
Dejan was one of the prominent figures of Du?an's reign and during the fall of the Serbian Empire after Du?an's death. Dejan is the progenitor of the Dejanovi? noble family, with his two sons, despot Jovan and gospodin Konstantin, also becoming powerful during the fall of the Serbian Empire and the ensuing Ottoman period.
Dejan had married Teodora, the sister of King Stefan Du?an, and received the title of sevastokrator in 1346, upon Stefan Du?an's crowning as Emperor. Dejan's origin is deemed unknown. Earlier scholars believed that Dejan was a relative of Jovan Oliver, another magnate in Macedonia, but this is no longer accepted.K. J. Jire?ek suggested that he was vojvoda Dejan Manjak ( ), only found mentioned in a 1333 charter, in which Stefan Du?an officially sold Ston and Prevlaka to the Republic of Ragusa.
On Easter, 16 April 1346, Stefan Du?an convoked a massive assembly at Skopje, attended by the Serbian Archbishop Joanikije II, the Archbishop of Ochrid Nikolaj I, the Bulgarian Patriarch Simeon and various religious leaders of Mount Athos. The autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric was raised to the status of a Patriarchate. The new Patriarch, Joanikije II, now solemnly crowned Du?an as "Emperor and autocrat of Serbs and Romans (Greeks)". Du?an had his son Uro? V crowned King, giving him nominal rule over the Serbian lands, and although Du?an ruled the whole state, he had special responsibility for the "Roman", i.e. Greek lands, in the south. There was a further increase in the Byzantinization of the Serbian court, especially in court ceremonies and titles. From his new position, Du?an could grant titles only possible for an emperor to grant, such as despot, sevastokrator, and ?esar. Among the Serbian magnates were:
The raising of the Serbian Patriarchate resulted in bishops becoming metropolitans. The Serbian ruler had wide autocratic powers, but was surrounded and advised by a permanent council of magnates (velika?i or velmo?e) and prelates. The court, chancellery and administration were rough copies of those of Constantinople.
In 1354, when Dejan had finished building the Arhiljevica Church of the Holy Mother of God, his endowment, he asked that some of the villages under his administration be granted to the church (as metochion). According to Stefan Du?an's charter to Arhiljevica dated 10 August 1354,sevastokrator Dejan, whom he called his brother ("? ? ? "), possessed a large province east of Skopska Crna Gora. It included the old ?upe (counties) of ?egligovo and Pre?evo (modern Kumanovo region with Sredorek, Kozja?ija and the larger part of P?inja). The granted villages included: village Podle?ane with hamlets, village Arhiljevica at the church with hamlets, village Izvor, village Ruginci (Ru?ince), seli?te (arable land) Mokra Poljana (Mokro Polje), village Maistorije, seli?te Maistorije Krupnici, seli?te Prusci (Rusce), seli?te Vrdun, seli?te Prvevo, seli?te Deikovo (Dejlovce), seli?te Vra?e (Vra?evce), seli?te Sedlar, seli?te Mek?a and village Gla?e (Gla?nja). A total of 9 villages, 9 seli?te and a few hamlets. Based on the charter, Arhiljevica was situated where the granted villages of Podle?ane, Izvor and Ru?inci lay, on the slopes of Jezer (Kumanovska Crna Gora). The fact that Dejan built Arhiljevica rather than renovated it is evidence of his economic strength. Apart from Dejan's granted villages, Du?an also granted, on his behalf as a gift, the church and village of Gospo?dino Polje (lost), village Koznica Kri?anovska (Gorna- and Dolna Koznitsa) and village Strojkovo (lost), situated in the Velbu?d region.
Dejan was one of the prominent figures of Du?an's reign and during the subsequent fall of the Serbian Empire, after Du?an's death. Under Emperor Du?an, despot Jovan Oliver, with his brother Bogdan and sevastokrator Dejan, ruled over all of eastern Macedonia. Dejan is not mentioned much in Du?an's military endeavors, although his reputation and that of his successors suggest that he was involved in most of Du?an's successes. His prominence beyond Serbia is also evident from the fact that Pope Innocent VI addressed Dejan in 1355, asking him to support the creation of the union between the Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church (such letters were sent to the highest nobility and the church).
Dejan received the title of despot sometime after August 1355, either from Emperor Du?an, who died on 20 December 1355, or from his heir Uro? V, most likely the latter. During the rule of Uro? V, Dejan was entrusted with the administration of the territory between South Morava, P?inja, Skopska Crna Gora (his hereditary lands) and in the east, Upper Struma river with Velbu?d (Kyustendil), a province notably larger than he had possessed during Du?an's life. This province was located in the very heart of the Balkans, and the important Via de Zenta, a trade route connecting the Adriatic with the interior of the Balkans, crossed it. As the only despot, Dejan held the highest title in the Empire (this had earlier been the veliki vojvoda, Jovan Oliver). Dejan's daughter Teodora married ?arko, the lord of Lower Zeta, in 1356.
Serbian historian M. Blagojevi? supported the view in historiography that Dejan also served as logotet (fl. 1362-1365), mentioned as the envoy of Emperor Uro? alongside ?esar Grgur in the peace talks with the Republic of Ragusa, which had been at war with Vojislav Vojinovi? in southern Dalmatia. The peace was concluded on 22 August 1362, in Onogo?t (Nik?i?), and the Emperor's charter confirmed the "old laws" and other laws regarding the Ragusans. Dejan and Grgur each received 100 ducats.
Until Vojislav's death in December 1363, the Serbian nobles in the Greek lands showed themselves more ambitious, as they held more titles and greater independence (deriving from their more extensive possessions, and therefore, wealth) in relation to the nobility of the old Serbian lands. While Vojislav lived, his influence secured the preeminence of the old Serbian nobility. After Vojislav's death, Vuka?in Mrnjav?evi?, who had previously served Emperor Du?an as a ?upan (count, holder of a ?upa, a "county" or "district") of Prilep, quickly gained a decisive influence on Emperor Uro? V. The nobility in the old Serbian lands was not at first alarmed at this, but Vuka?in's ambition and his subsequent power moves woke up the simmering antagonism between the two groups. It was not only Vuka?in's endless ambition that led to his success, as he had plenty of support from other nobles who benefited from him.
It is not known for certain when Dejan died, as no Serbian or foreign sources have been found with information that could give historians clues to which year he died.S. Mandi? said it may have been as early as 1358, and that Vuka?in, who until then was veliki vojvoda, took Dejan's place as despot, and in turn Jovan Uglje?a became veliki vojvoda.V. ?orovi? believed it to have been sometime after the death of Vojislav (1363).M. Raji?i? concluded that it was between 1366 and 1371, as he believed Jovan Oliver to have held his lands at least to 1366, and based on that the P?inja pomenik (memorial book) said that Dejan had died after Jovan Oliver (this is refuted by S. Mandi?). S. Mandi? also believed that it was unlikely that Dejan took monastic vows before his death, as his children were still young. His wife Teodora took monastic vows as Evdokija and lived in Strumica and Velbu?d, and she would until her death sign as basilissa (Empress), as did: Ana-Marija, the wife of Jovan Oliver; Marija, wife of despot Toma Preljubovi?; and Jefimija, the wife of Uglje?a.
Dejan built and reconstructed several churches and monasteries throughout his province, including the Zemen Monastery and the lost Arhiljevica Church. His two sons Jovan and Konstantin later became rulers of his domain.
After the death of Dejan, his province, except for the ?upe of ?egligovo and Upper Struma, was appropriated to nobleman Vlatko Paska?i?, whose hereditary land was Slavi?te directly to the south.Vuka?in Mrnjav?evi?, of whom there are no notable mentions until 1365, became more powerful (ultimately the most powerful nobleman in Macedonia) after the deaths of Vojislav Vojinovi?, Dejan and despot Jovan Oliver (whose status in Macedonia was very high), as Vuka?in's rise would have been unlikely during the lifetime of these men. Vuka?in's younger brother Jovan Uglje?a is also thought to have participated in the dismemberment of Dejan's province, as he used this chance to take the provinces which bordered on the oblast (province) of Ser (Serres). No one looked to the young sons of Dejan who would later become very important. Dejan's death benefited Vuka?in and Jovan Uglje?a, not so much in territorial expansion (which is not so sure), but because Dejan's disappearance ended any stronger candidate to counter the Mrnjav?evi? family.
Like his father before, Dejan's eldest son Jovan received the title of despot from Emperor Uro?. He and his brother later received most of Jovan Oliver's lands. It is not known why Jovan Oliver's sons did not inherit his lands. Serbian historian V. ?orovi? attributed this to turmoil and disorder, though it is not known what extent it developed to and what the consequences were. Earlier scholars believed that the Dejanovi? were relatives of Jovan Oliver, although this is no longer accepted. The Dejanovi? brothers ruled a spacious province in eastern Macedonia, in the southern lands of the Empire, and remained loyal to Uro? V until his death. Emperor Uro? V died childless on December 2/4, 1371, after many of the Serbian nobility had been killed in the Battle of Maritsa against the Ottomans earlier that year. This marked an end to the once powerful Serbian Empire. Vuka?in's son Marko, who had earlier been crowned Young King, was to inherit his father's royal title, and thus became one in the line of successors to the Serbian throne. Meanwhile, the nobles pursued their own interests, sometimes quarreling with each other. Serbia, without an Emperor, became "a conglomerate of aristocratic territories", and the Empire was thus divided between the provincial lords: Marko Mrnjav?evi?, the Dejanovi? brothers, ?ura? I Bal?i?, Vuk Brankovi?, Nikola Altomanovi?, and Lazar Hrebeljanovi?. In the new redistribution of feudal power, after 1371, the brothers despot Jovan and gospodin (lord) Konstantin greatly expanded their province, not only recreating their father's province, but also at least doubling the territory, on all sides, but chiefly to the south. The brothers ruled on the left riverside of the Vardar, from Kumanovo to Strumica. In 1373, two years after Maritsa, the first mentions are made on the events in the province of the Dejanovi? brothers, as well as their mutual relation. As Marko had done, also the Dejanovi? brothers recognized Ottoman sovereignty. Although vassals, they had their own government. Their state symbol was the white double-headed eagle and they minted coins according to the Nemanji? style.
Dejan and Teodora had three children:
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