bogor_mileseva.jpgTHE EARLY CENTURIES
Settlement, conversion, organization (ca. 500 - ca. 1000). By crossing the Carpathian range and the Danube at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the Serbs and South Slavs in general enter their present homelands and the historical scene at large. At the same time, they are drawn into the complex process of establishing themselves, coexisting with their numerous neighbors, and maturing politically and spiritually.

The preeminence of Zeta and the rise of Raska (ca. 1000 - 1168). The emergence of new geopolitical realities following the 11th century decline of the Byzantine state leads to the rise of Zeta (Duklja) - the first Serb state with wider international recognition and more prominent cultural monuments. While not surviving the Komnenian Byzantine revival of the early 12th c., it was to lay foundation for the rise of its more centrally located neighbor, Raska - hence the dominant Serbian entity of the Middle Ages.

Establishment of the Nemanjic state as a Balkan power (1168-1321). The remarkable statesmanship and spirituality of the early Nemanjic dynasts - above all, the canonized trio of its founder Stefan Nemanja, the father of the Serbian Church St. Sava, and the "Holy King" Milutin - lay the foundation not only for a viable, prosperous and cultured medieval state, but also for a national consciousness that was to survive long beyond it.

The Empire of Stefan Dusan (1321-1366). Reaping the benefits of an existing solid foundation, yet adding a statesman prowess all his own - Stefan Dusan, precedeed by his able father, elevates the Nemanjic monarchy to a dominant regional position. Territorial expansion is accompanied by major advances in legal codification, ecclesiastic organization and artistic expression.

Fragmentation of the empire and the arrival of the Ottomans (1366-1402). Despite efforts to maintain central authority within a modern and efficient state, Dusan's successors are unable to assert collective interests over the petty feudal ones - at the crucial point of grave threat from an organized eastern invader. While the ensuing military showdowns were to mortally cripple the state, they also will have spawned a spiritual legacy that was instrumental in further shaping the national identity in the centuries to follow.

The restored Despotate and its successors (1402 -1496). The Battle of Kosovo marks the traditional end of medieval Serbian statehood, but the 15th century saw a meaningful revival and unification of the land under the able Despots. While no longer a major regional power and wedged between the advancing Ottomans and opportunistic Hungarians, this state managed nevertheless to produce lasting legacies in areas as diverse as the arts,legislation and chivalry.

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