The Full Wiki

Duklja: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Duklja or Diokletija (Cyrillic: Дукља or Диоклетија); Latin: Doclea or Diocleia; Greek: Διοκλεία, Diokleiaa[›]) was a medieval state with hereditary lands roughly encompassing the territories of the modern-state Montenegro (Zeta River, Lake Scutari and the Bay of Kotor) and bordering with Travunia at Kotor. Duklja was at first a vassal of the Eastern Roman Empire until it won its independence in the mid-11th century, ruled by the House of Vojislav (Vojislavljević). After a large fall, Doclea was incorporated into the Serbian state, where it remained until the fall of the Serbian emperor, tsar Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, when it regained independence, changing its name to Zeta.



"Doclea", the name of the region during the early period of the Roman Empire, was termed for an early Illyrian tribe - the Docleatae. The Roman Emperor Diocletian hailed from this region. In later centuries, Romans "hyper-corrected" the name to Dioclea, wrongly guessing that an "I" had been lost due to vulgar speech patterns. "Duklja" is the later Slavic version of that word. The actual city of Dioclea was located at present-day Podgorica (throughout the Middle Ages known as Ribnica).


Doclea (roughly Montenegro today) bordered the Byzantine Theme of Dyrrachion to the east, at the City of Bar and Travunia to the west. From the Skadar Lake at the east its territory sprang down the river of Zeta all the way to the river of Piva to the west. Afterwards, Scutari became the capital of the state until the end of the Middle Ages. The Royal Capital of Duklja was Ston. It had only three major settlements: Gradac (Old Budva), Novi Grad and Lontodoclea. The most important City was Diocleia (after which the entire Archonty was named), but that city was in ruins by the 10th century from numerous invasions. Doclea was split on Zhupanates, each with its own City: Lusca, Podlugiae, Gorsca, Cuceva with Budva, Cupelnich, Obliquus, Prapratna (between Bar and Ulcinj), Cermenica and Gripuli. Continental Doclea, or Submontana (Podgoria), which was between the rivers of Rama and Morača, consisted of: Onogost, Moratia, Comerniza, Piva, Gerico, Netusini, Guisemo, Com, Debreca, Neretva and Rama. Ever since the 12th century, the term Zeta, a smaller geographical part of Doclea, started to replace the name of this Archonty.

The Adriatic Sklaviniae c. 800 AD




Duklja was settled by Slavs predominantly during the 7th century, although the area was subject to raids by Avars and Slavs from the 6th century. According to DAI a second migration of Slavs into the Balkans, of Serbs and Croats, occurred c. 610 - 640 A.D.[1] Being a mountainous region, it perhaps served as an area of refuge for the pre-Slavic populations[2]. In fact, the name Docleatae derives from an Illyrian tribe which earlier inhabited the area[3]

The De Administrando Imperio has been a widely used source in reconstructing the earliest histories of the South Slavic states. Porphyrogenitus wrote that Duklja had been made desolate by the Avars and "repopulated in the time of the Emperor Heraclius, just as were Croatia and Serbia" (ie in the first half of the seventh century).[4] Whilst he clearly states that the neighboring principalities of Serbia, Zahumlje, Travunia and Pagania had been settled by the 'unbaptised Serbs', he makes no direct connection in the case of Duklja. John Fine Jr. argues 'although Serbs settled in regions along its borders, presumably this would have not been a Serb region".[5] In describing the rebellion of the Slavic chief, Ljudevit Posavski, the Royal Frankish Annals stated he escaped from his fortress in Sisak to the Serbs, "a people who are said to hold a large part of Dalmatia".[6]

The presence of Croats has also been postulated. In DAI, Porphyrogenitus states that, after settling northern Dalmatia, a part of the Croats "split off and took control of Illyricum and Pannonia".[7] Ivo Banac proposed that the former referred to Duklja.[8] Indeed, the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja, written in the late twelfth century, refers to Croats in southern Dalmatia, as do a few Byzantine sources. If this is not mere Byzantine confusion over Serbs and Croats, it might allude to the existence of Croat tribes until the the late twelfth century.[9]

Scholars have debated at length as to the reliability of such sources. For example, Florin Curta, amongst others, suggested that the DAI was a political document, rather than a strictly historical one. It probably indicates that the coastal zhupanias were under the authority of the Serbian zhupan, Caslav Klonimirovic, in the mid tenth century.[10]

Ultimately, the origins of Duklja are not known with certainty, for the literary evidence often rests on semi-legendary genealogies. Moreover, what actually constituted a people (gens) in the Middle Ages has been rigorously debated. There is no clear evidence that peoples known as Serbs or Croats migrated en masse as a coherent nations.[11] Rather, some sort of group identity began to form within the Balkans from the late seventh century as Slavic notables formed a system of alliances. This coincides with the final demise of Avar hegemony over the western Balkans.[12] At the same time, the Byzantines had begun to re-establish some control in parts of the Balkans after the seventh century collapse of imperial control. The establishment of the Byzantine theme of Dyrrachium facilitated diplomatic contacts between the East Romans and the Adriatic Sklaviniae.

Both, Florin Curta and John Fine, amongst other medievalists, have argued that ethonyms such as Serb or a Croat were primarily political labels referring to a dux and his retinue of nobles, whilst on a lower level it also referred the mass of commoners who inhabited the territory under the (often nominal and transient) rule of such leaders. There is little evidence that a modern notion of nation-type ethnicity, and the values associated with it, existed in medieval societies.[13][14] Rather, for the general masses, identity was rooted primarily with one’s own clan, village and region. As Fine states, "In this large region settled by Slavs, all of whom spoke the same language, certain political entities emerged, and that is all that they were, political entities".[15] Duklja was one such polity, and its subsequent history was closely intertwined with that of Raska-Serbia and the Byzantine Empire, and as well as Rome and 'western' powers. Duklja is seen as one of the medieval Serb states[16][17][18] and was the political and cultural predecessor of modern Montenegro.

Early history

Little is known about Duklja prior to the late 900s. Our main source on early Balkan Slavic states is the works of Constantine Porphyrogenitus - de Administrando Imperio. In it, he mentions virtually nothing about Duklja apart from stating that it was settled by Slavs and was ruled by ‘the emperor of the Romans’ (ie ruled by Byzantine Emperors). It probably did not exist as an established, independent polity before the late 900s. The Byzantines ruled over coastal cities such as Doclea, Bar, Kotor and the hinterland surrounding them. Archeologic evidence suggests that local officials ruled in the name of the Emperor. The rest of what would later become Duklja was inhabited by Slavs separated into numerous župa, (roughly, a county) ruled by the preeminent family of the region. From 840, we learn of the beginnings of a small Serb principality which was centered in the what is now southwestern Serbia, but included much of eastern Montenegro and southeastern Bosnia.[19]. It was Knez Vlastimir that forged an alliance of several Slav tribes around the aforementioned area in order to repel a Bulgarian invasion[20]. One of his successors, Časlav Klonimirović, ruled over a confederacy of state-lets covering an expansive area. According to some sources, Caslav's 'state' was based from the hinterland of Kotor [21].

Lead stamp of archont Petar (or Predimir) (9th century), a Byzantine viceroy; The Holy Virgin Mary with the Christ Child (left) and inscription in Greek "+ Petar archont of Dioklia AMIN" (right).
Duklja within confederacy of Slav principalities during the reign of Caslav Klonimirovic, c. 950 AD

After Časlav died c. 960, the Serbian principality dissolved back into many small zhupanias. One noble, Ivan Vladimir emerged as the most powerful ruler. With his court centered in Bar on the Adriatic coast, he had much of Duklja Primorje ('coastal Croatia') under his control including Travunia and Zachlumia- which was ruled by his uncle Dragimir. His realm may have stretched westward to include some part of Dukljansko Zagorje (inland Doclea; literally Dioklia by the mountains) as well. Vladimir’s pre-eminent position over other Slavic nobles in the area explains why Emperor Basil approached him for an anti-Bulgarian alliance. With his hands tied by war in Anatolia, Emperor Basil required allies for his war against Tsar Samuel, who ruled a Slavic empire centered on Macedonia. In retaliation, Samuel invaded Duklja in 997, and pushed through Dalmatia up to the city of Zadar, incorporating Bosnia and Serbia into his realm. After defeating Vladimir, Samuel reinstated him as a vassal Prince. We do not know what Vladimir’s connection was to the previous princes of Serbia, or to the rulers of Croatia- much of what is written in the Chronicles of the Priest of Duklja about the genealogy of the Doclean rulers is mythological[22].

Vladimir was murdered by Vladislav, Samuel’s brother and successor, circa 1016 AD. The last prominent member of his family, his uncle Dragimir, was killed by some local citizens in Kotor in 1018. That same year, the Byzantines had defeated the Bulgarians, and in one masterful stroke re-took vitrually the entire Balkans.

Byzantine hegemony and Struggle for Independence (1020-1050)

The Byzantine victory over the Bulgarians was a critical development in Balkan history. The Byzantines ruled most of the Balkans - Bulgaria, Serbia, Duklja,and Bosnia all fell back under Byzantine rule for the first time since the 6th century.

Shortlived as it was, Vladimir's influence in Balkan politics shifted the centre of Croatian rule from inland Croatia to the coast. This was a "renewed Serbian state centered on Duklja"[23]. Over much of the 11th century, we hear very little about events from the interior. Central Serbia was probably under the jurisdiction of the strategos (governor) of Sirmium - Constantin Diogenes, the Duke of Thessaloniki. Some historians suggest that Duklja was ruled directly by the strategos of Dyrrachium, whilst others posit that a native prince (whose name has not survived) was allowed to remain, ruling as a Byzantine vassal. Either way, the Slavic nobility was under Byzantine control.

In the 1030s, one Stjepan (Dobroslav I) Vojislav, believed to be the nephew of Vladimir, was ruling Travunia. In 1034, he stopped paying homage to the Byzantines and defeated the Doclean bans (who were loyal to the Byzantines), taking Diklja for himself. The Byzantines retaliated by sending in troops from Dyrrhachium and captured Vojislav, who was taken prisoner to Constantinople. He managed to escape and began a guerrilla resistance from Duklja's mountains. He defeated several Byzantine expeditions and liberated most of Duklja. A Slav rebellion centered on Belgrade, organised by Petar O'Delian in the late 1030s, worked in Vojislav’s favour by diverting attention from Duklja. He used this to assert rule from his capital in Scutari, and extended his rule from Duklja to Travunia and a part of Zachlumia. He sieged the Byzantine city of Dyrrhachium and held the lands surrounding it[22]. For much of the Middle Ages, there was considerable Slavic influence upon what would become northern Albania[22]

In 1042, another Byzantine attack was defeated. The Byzantine’s had sent a "coalition" comprising of vassal Slavic chiefs to fight Voislav. The coalition consisted of the zhupan of Bosnia, Knez (Prince) Ljudevit of Zachlumia and the Župan of Raska. Fine suggests that under Byzantine dominance, "Rascia" had emerged in the 1040s as yet another Serbian state (roughly centred on what is now southern Serbia and Kosovo[22]. Vojislav won a great victory against his attackers. He overthrew Ljudevit of Zachlumia and placed the region entirely under his control. Duklja was undoubtedly the leading Slavic state[24].

The Kingdom of Duklja (1053-1100)

Principality of Doclea (Duklja) half XI century.

Vojislav probably died in 1043. Of his 5 sons, Mihailo (Michael) eventually secured rule by 1046. He was an apt diplomat, he fostered good relations with the Byzantines by marrying one of the Emperor’s relatives,earning himself the title protostrator. He also entered diplomatic relations with the western powers by marrying one of his sons, Constantine Bodin, to the daughter of the Norman governor of Bari. Michael conquered Rascia from the Byzantines in the 1060s and assigned one of his sons, Petrislav as ruler. In 1072, he supported another Slav rebellion in Macedonia by sending a force led by his son Constantine Bodin. After initial success, The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja claims that Bodin was proclaimed Tsar Peter III of Bulgaria. A Byzantine retaliation, however, resulted in Bodin’s capture, only to be freed by Venetian mercenaries hired by his father.

Mihailo I of Duklja, the first recognized ruler of Duklja on a fresco in the Church of St. Michael in Ston: He was crowned King of Slavs and known as Ruler of Serbs and Tribals.
The Church of St. Mihailo in Ston from 1080, a foundation of King Mihailo Voislav.

At some point during his rule, Michael acquired the title of King. Most scholars place this date to 1077, when he received a legate from the Pope referring to him as the King of Slavs. However, Curta suggests that Michael may have been King as early as 1053, since he proclaimed himself ‘King’ sometime after receiving the protostrator title from the Emperor. However, formal recognition as King in medieval Europe required acknowledgement either from the Pope or the Byzantine Emperor. Either way, he was King by 1077.

When Michael died in 1081, he was succeeded by his son Constantine Bodin. The Normans attacked Croatian south Dalmatia, capturing Dyrrhachium and Ragusa. Bodin was expected to aid the Emperor at Dyrrhachium, instead he remained idle (possible as part of a pre-conceived plan with the Normans) and watched the Byzantines get utterly defeated. During his early rule, energy spent consolidating his rule and meddling with Byzantine-Norman matters diverted Bodin’s attention from other parts of his realm. The "Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja" notes that Bodin sent expedition into Bosnia and Rascia. Since his father, Michael, had already captured Raska earlier, it must have slipped out of Duklja’s control. Bodin successfully marched against Raska and placed his cousins Vukan and Marko (the sons of Petrislav) as župans. He also captured Bosnia, and placed one of his courtiers, Stipan, to rule in his name. Although Bodin was recognised as 'King of Duklja and Dalmatia, there is no evidence to suggest that Bosnia, Zachlumia, Duklja and Rascia were incorporated into an integrated kingdom. Each region retained its own hereditary nobility, but were under the political and military sway of Duklja[22].

1080 AD. The zenith of Dukljan power


By 1085 the Byzantines got the upper hand in their wars with the Normans, recapturing Dyrrachium and Ragusa. In 1090, they punished Bodin for his impudence, possibly capturing him for the second time, and not much is known about him subsequently until he dies in c. 1101. Raska, Zahumlje and Bosnia probably broke free from Dukljan vassalage.

With Bodin gone, his Norman wife, Jaquinta (Jakvinta), feared that Bodin’s nephew, Branislav, would try to seize power before her young children could take the throne. She ordered the arrest of Branislav and his family and Branislav died in captivity, whilst his other 6 brothers and sons found asylum in Ragusa. Thus in the haste to claim the throne, seeds of family hatred were planted amongst the extended family. After Bodin died, his half-brother Dobroslav II gained the throne of Duklja. Seeing a weak Duklja, the Byzantines started to meddle, sending Kočopar, one of Branislav’s exiled brothers to capture the throne. He managed to get assistance from Vukan of Raska, and together they beat Dobroslav. However, there was a falling out between Kočopar and Vukan. Vukan drove out Kočopar, who then died in exile. The Doclean nobles then elected a Vladimir, yet another relative, who ruled in peace as a Byzantine vassal. But Jaquinta had not given up. After Vladimir died, she had Dobroslav II (who was still in jail) castrated and blinded in case he were to gain the throne, thus securing the throne for her son Đurađ (George), c. 1114-18. She had gained support from an anti-Byzantine faction of nobles. Branislav’s family again fled to Byzantine safety, this time in Dyrrhachium. There they gained support from the Byzantines, who ousted Đurađ and imprisoned Jaquinta. Grubeša, one of Branislav’s sons, was placed on the throne in 1118. He ruled peacefully until 1125. Đurađ had fled to Rascia, and secured the support of the new Rascian Grand Župan, Uroš, believed to be the nephew of Vukan. Uroš was aligned with the Hungarians, and was anti-Byzantine. He invaded Duklja and placed Đurađ back on the throne. Yet another Byzantine intervention ousted Đurađ for the second time, capturing him, and he died in captivity. Gradinja, one of Grubeša’s brothers was then placed as King, the last ruler to hold such a title in Duklja. He died a natural death in 1146, and was succeeded by his son Radoslav. Radoslav only bore the title Knez (Prince).

Duklja’s long internecine strife was devastating for its status, as it was reduced back to a Principality dependent on Byzantine support, and was increasingly losing territory to Raska. By the time of Radoslav's reign as prince, he only held a small strip of land on the Dukljan coast (From Kotor to Ulcinj). By 1166, much of Duklja was occupied by Rascia, and in 1186, Stefan Nemanja annexed Duklja in its entirety after defeating the last Doclean prince - Mihailo (Radoslav’s successor, and Nemanya’s nephew).

Religious affairs

In the 10th century, following the Synod of Split, Split gained jurisdiction over much of the Croatian-Dalmatian coast, except southern regions (including most of Duklja), which were under the Archbisphopric of Dyrrhachium. However, Split’s pre-eminent position was soon challenged by other cities vying for metropolinate status- Bar and Dubrovnik (Ragusa). The East-West Schism would soon have a great impact upon Serbia, not only religiously, but also politically. Since Serbia was positioned at the border zone between Roman and Constantinopolitan jurisdiction, Serb rulers tried to exploit this rivalry to their advantage.

The slavs who lived along the southern Dalmatian coast fell under the religious jurisdiction of Rome, via the Archbishops of Split, Bar and Ragusa. The rest, in the hinterland stretching to Serbia, were under the Patriarch of Constantinople via the Archbishops of Ohrid, Sirmium and Dyrrhachium. King Mihailo‘s prerogative was to establish an autocephalous Slavic Church- an independent state requires an independent church. For political reasons, he turned to Rome, since at the time he was in less than amicable relations with Byzantium. Michael presumed that the Pope would jump at the chance to expand his jurisdiction in southern Dalmatia, but Michael’s wish was not easily forthcoming. Although some studies have stated that his request to raise Bar to an Archbishopric was granted in 1067, it seems that the cited bull is not authentic.

It was not until 1089, under Bodin’s rule, that Bar got raised to an archbishopric, as a reward for Bodin’s support of the Pope against the antipope. The Bishops of Kotor, Ulcinj, Svač, Scutari, Drivast, Pula, Serbia, Bosnia, and Trebinje were suffragan under Bar. Zachlumia (Hum) was under the see of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) at the time. However, much of Bar’s new territory was only theoretical, as only some churches were willing to recognize Rome. Fine points out that although Bar remained a Roman Catholic Bishopric through the middle ages, the majority of southern Dalmatian Slavs were Orthodox Christians.

List of rulers


^ a:  Dioklea: The corresponding demonym appearing in De administrando imperio is Διοκλητιανοί, "Diocletians"


  1. ^ Moravcsik (1967, p. 137, 153)
  2. ^ The early Medieval Balkans. A Critical survey from the 6th to the late 12th Century. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-274-08149-7. Pg 37 others withdrew to the mountains...into remote or less fertile regions, e.g. Montenegro
  3. ^ A Stipcevic. The Illyrians. History and Culture. Page 31. Noyes Press. 1977. ISBN 0-8155-5052-9
  4. ^ De Administrando Imperio. Constantine Porhyrogenitus. Translated by Gy Moravscik, R J H Jenkins. Page 165
  5. ^ Fine Jr. Page 53
  6. ^ Royal Frankish Annals. 822
  7. ^ DAI. In Moravscik. Page 143
  8. ^ The national question in Yugoslavia. Ivo Banac. Page 35
  9. ^ Fine (2006, p. 63-4)
  10. ^ Curta (2006, p. 210)
  11. ^ Curta (2006, p 141, footnote 64) The argument gains weight in light of Hew Evans' remarks about the absence of any archaeological evidence pertaining to the migration of any group into present-day Croatia between c.650 and c.800
  12. ^ Whittow (1996, p. 263) The Croats and Serbs have also been seen as rebels who broke away from the Avars to set up their own states in the 620s with the blessing of Emperor Heraklois. But the only evidence is an anachronisitc story preserved in De Administrando Imperio which seems to have been invented in the late ninth or early tenth century to give historical precedent to current Byantine policies.
  13. ^ Fine (2006, p. 2)
  14. ^ Curta (2006, p. 141)some have concluded that the "Croat" refer not to ethnic identity, but to an elite
  15. ^ Fine (2006. p 31)
  16. ^ D P Hupchik. The Balkans. From Constantinople to Communism. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN. 1-4039-6417-3. Pg 54: Jovan Vladimir, who ruled a renewed Serb state centered on Zeta (present-day Montenegro)
  17. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History, IV. 1024- 1198. Part II. Page 136. In 1018 when Basil II conquered Bulgaria a number of Serbian principalities also fell under Byzantine rule. These included Raska.., Duklja.., Tribenje..., Zahumlje.., and Bosnia
  18. ^ The legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer. Paul Stephenson. Page 42-43. Ljutovid's claim to be strategos not only of Zahumlje, but all Serbia suggests that he had been courted by the Emperor and awarded nominal rights over neighboring lands, including Duklja
  19. ^ The early Medieval Balkans. John V A Fine
  20. ^ The Balkans. From Constantinople to Communism
  21. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica
  22. ^ a b c d e Fine
  23. ^ The Balkans. From Constantinople to Communism. Dennis Hupchik
  24. ^ The Balkans. From Constantinople to Communism. D P Hupchik

See also


  • Fine, Jr., John V.A. (2006), When Ethnicity did not matter in the Balkans. A study of Identity in pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0-472-11414-x  
  • Hupchik, Dennis P. (2002), The Balkans. From Constantinople to Communism., Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 1-4039-6417-3  
  • Stephenson, Paul (2003), The Legend of Basil the Bulgar -Slayer, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-81530-4  
  • Curta, Florin (2006), Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-81539-0  
  • Moravcsik, Gyula (1967), De Administrando Imperio, Library of Congress Catalogue  
  • Whittow, Mark (1996), MacMillan Press, ISBN 0-520-20496-4  

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address