Serb Medieval State of Zeta
The Slav peoples were organized along tribal lines, each headed by a zupan (chieftain). In this part of the Adriatic littoral, from the time of the arrival of the Slavs up to the 10th century, these local magnates often were brought into unstable and shifting alliances with other larger states, particularly with Bulgaria, Venice, and Byzantium. Between 931 and 960 one such zupan, Ceslav**, operating from the zupanija of Zeta in the hinterland of the Gulf of Kotor, succeeded in unifying a number of neighbouring Serb tribes and extended his control as far north as the Sava River and eastward to the Ibar. Zeta and its neighbouring zupanija of Raska (roughly modern Kosovo) then provided the territorial nucleus for a succession of Serb kingdoms that in the 13th century were consolidated under the Nemanjic dynasty.
Although the Serbs have come to be identified closely with the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity, it is an important indication of the continuing marginality of Zeta that Michael, the first of its rulers to claim the title king, had this honour bestowed on him by Pope Gregory VII in 1077. It was only under the later Nemanjic rulers that the ecclesiastical allegiance of the Serbs to Constantinople was finally confirmed. On the death of Stefan Dusan in 1355, the Nemanjic empire began to crumble, and its holdings were divided among the knez (prince) Lazar Hrebeljanovic, the short-lived Bosnian state of Tvrtko I (reigned 1353-91), and a semi-independent chiefdom of Zeta under the house of Balsa, with its capital at Skadar. Serb disunity coincided fatefully with the arrival in the Balkans of the Ottoman armies, and in 1389 Lazar fell to the forces of Sultan Murad I at the Battle of Kosovo.
After the Balsic dynasty died out in 1421, the focus of Serb resistance shifted northward to Zabljak (south of Podgorica). There a chieftain named Stefan Crnojevic set up his capital. Stefan was succeeded by Ivan the Black, who, in the unlikely setting of this barren and broken landscape and pressed by advancing Ottoman armies, created in his court a remarkable if fragile centre of civilization. Ivan's son Djuradj built a monastery at Cetinje, founding there the see of a bishopric, and imported from Venice a printing press that produced after 1493 some of the earliest books in the Cyrillic script. During the reign of Djuradj, Zeta came to be more widely known as Montenegro (this Venetian form of the Italian Monte Nero is a translation of the Serbian Crna Gora, "Black Mountain").
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