The first organized Serbian state was called Raska (q.v.). It was established in the ninth century by Serbs, namely, Slavs (q.v.) who settled in the Balkan Peninsula (q.v.) during the reign of Herakleios (q.v.), who converted to Orthodoxy (q.v.) and recognized Byzantine authority. Until ca. 930 it was dominated by neighboring Bulgaria (q.v.). In ca. 1170 Stefan Nemanja (q.v.) proclaimed an independent Serbia, but he was forced to acknowledge Byzantine overlordship when Manuel I Komnenos (q.v.) led an army into Serbia. Nevertheless, the successors of Stefan Nemanja expanded Serbia over the next two centuries (from ca. 1168-1371) into a powerful state under such famous rulers as Stefan Urosh I, Stefan Urosh II Milutin, Stefan Urosh III Dechanski, and Stefan Urosh IV Dushan (qq.v.). The location of Serbia was such that it threatened the two main roads through the Balkan Peninsula: the Via Egnatia (qq.v.) and the military road from Belgrade through Nish and Serdica to Adrianople and Constantinople (qq.v.). Serbia resisted the Ottomans (q.v.), even after the defeat in 1389 at Kosovo Polje (q.v.). Despite the leadership of Stefan Lazarevich and George Brankovich (qq.v.), Serbia in its entirety was occupied by the Ottomans by 1459.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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