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Višeslav of Serbia

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Title: Višeslav of Serbia  
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Višeslav of Serbia

Višeslav (Greek: Βοϊσέσθλαβος, ) or Vojislav (Војислав)[A] was the first Serbian ruler known by name, who ruled as the Prince of the Serbs in c. 780. He was a progenitor of the Vlastimirović dynasty, which ruled the polity known in historiography as the Serbian Principality.

The history of the early medieval Serbian Principality and the Vlastimirović dynasty (ruled ca. 610–960) is recorded in the work De Administrando Imperio ("On the Governance of the Empire", DAI), compiled by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus ( 913–959). The work mentions the first Serbian ruler, without a name (known conventionally as the "Unknown Archon"), that led the Serbs to the Balkans and received the protection of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), and was said to have died long before the Bulgar invasion (680).[1][2] The Serbian ruler was titled "Prince (archon) of the Serbs" (αρχων Σερβλίας).[3] In Serbo-Croatian historiography, the Slavic title of knez (кнез) is used instead of the Greek arhont (архонт).[4] The DAI mentions that the Serbian throne is inherited by the son, i.e. the first-born;[1] his descendants succeeded him,[2] though their names are unknown until the coming of Višeslav.

The first ruler of the dynasty known by name was Višeslav who began his rule around 780, being a contemporary of župe (sing. župa), a confederation of village communities (roughly the equivalent of a county), headed by a local župan (a magistrate or governor); the governorship was hereditary, and the župan reported to the Serbian prince, whom they were obliged to aid in war.[7] According to SANU's Istorijski časopis 8 (1959), it is possible that Višeslav was a chief military leader (veliki vojvoda) who with his company seized the entire power in his hands and turned himself into a hereditary ruler, as veliki župan; in this way, the first Serbian state was thus established after 150 years of permanent living in the new homeland and existence of military democracy.[8] The first capital of the Serbs was Ras, in Raška.[6] According to DAI, "baptized Serbia" (known erranously in historiography as Raška[9]), included the inhabited cities (καστρα/kastra) of Destinikon (Δεστινίκον), Tzernabouskeï (Τζερναβουσκέη), Megyretous (Μεγυρέτους), Dresneïk (Δρεσνεήκ), Lesnik (Λεσνήκ), Salines (Σαληνές), while the land (χοριον/chorion) of Bosna (Βοσωνα) had the cities of Katera (Κατερα) and Desnik (Δέσνηκ).[10] The other Serb-inhabited lands (or principalities) that were mentioned in the DAI included the maritime Paganija, Zahumlje and Travunija,[10] while maritime Duklja was held by the Byzantines (it was presumably settled with Serbs as well).[11] All of the maritime lands bordered Serbia to the north.[10]

Although Višeslav is only mentioned by name, the DAI mentions that the Serbs served the Byzantine Emperor, and that they were at this time at peace with the Bulgars, whose neighbours they were and with whom they shared a common frontier.[12] The Bulgars, under Telerig, planned to colonize Bulgaria with Slavs from the neighbouring Berziti,[13] as the earlier Bulgar expansion had caused massive Slav migrations and depopulation of Bulgaria — in 762, more than 200,000 people fled to Byzantine territory and were relocated to Asia Minor.[14] The Bulgars were defeated in 774, after Constantine V learnt of their planned raid.[13] In 783, a large Slavic uprising took place in the Byzantine Empire, stretching from Macedonia to the Peloponnese, which was subsequently quelled by Byzantine patrikios Staurakios.[13] In Pannonia, to the north of Serbia, Charlemagne started his offensive against the Avars.[13]

Višeslav was succeeded by his son Radoslav, then grandson Prosigoj,[5] and one of these two most likely ruled during the revolt of Ljudevit Posavski against the Franks (819–822);[14] according to Einhard's Royal Frankish Annals, written in 822, Ljudevit went from his seat at Sisak to the Serbs (believed to have been somewhere in western Bosnia),[14] with Einhard mentioning "the Serbs, who control the greater part of Dalmatia" (ad Sorabos, quae natio magnam Dalmatiae partem obtinere dicitur).[15] Višeslav's great-grandson Vlastimir began his rule in c. 830, and he is the oldest Serbian ruler of which there is substantial data on.[1]

A street in the Čukarica neighbourhood in Belgrade is named after him (ulica kneza Višeslava).

See also


  • ^ Historiography agrees that Višeslav ruled in c. 780,[5][6] or "the last centuries of the 8th century",[2] and that either his son Radoslav or grandson Prosigoj ruled in 822.


  1. ^ a b c Živković 2006, p. 11
  2. ^ a b c Blagojević & Petković 1989, p. 19.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ Fine 1991, pp. 225, 304
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c Moravcsik 1967, p. 153, 155
  11. ^ Fine 1991, p. 53.
  12. ^ Moravcsik 1967, p. 155
  13. ^ a b c d Ćorović 2001, ch. Бугари и балкански Словени
  14. ^ a b c
  15. ^


Primary sources
Secondary sources
Regnal titles Unknown
Last known title holder:
"Unknown Archon"
Prince of the Serbs
c. 780
Succeeded by
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