The Rise of Serbia, 13th–14th Centuries
In the mid-11th century the Serbs of the Zeta (Montenegrin) region of the Byzantine Empire managed to establish a modicum of independence from Byzantium, and in 1077 their ruler Mihajlo (1051–81) was granted a royal crown in the pope’s effort to gain a permanent foothold in the Orthodox East following the Great Schism of 1054. But the Zeta Serb tribal kingdom, isolated in its mountainous environment, was of little consequence in the Byzantine Balkans. A truly influential Serbian state emerged in Raska under the reign of Stefan I Nemanja, who after 1180 managed to throw off direct Byzantine control (1190) and unite Zeta, northern Albania, and much of present-day eastern Serbia under his authority. A devout Orthodox Christian, Nemanja definitively planted his Serb state in the East European Orthodox East. After abdicating in favor of his son Stefan II Nemanja (1196–1227), the true founder of the Nemanja dynasty, the former ruler retired first to a Serbian monastery and then to Mount Athos, where he joined another son, Rastko (known as St. Sava), in founding the large and influential Slav monastery of Hilandar.