Stefan Dusan

From Academic Kids

Tsar Stefan Uroš IV Dušan Silni ('the mighty') (Serbian: Цар Стефан Душан Силни) (circa 1308December 20 1355) was a Serb king (September 8 13311346) and tsar (1346December 5 1355).

Missing image
Dušan Silni

Dušan was the only true tsar of Serbia; he created and was the only ruler of the Serbian Empire. Under his rule Serbia reached its territorial peak and was one of the larger states in Europe. Apart from territorial gains, in 1349 and 1354 he made and enforced Dušan's Code. He is also the only ruler from the house of Nemanjić not canonised as a saint.



He was the first-born son of Stefan of Decani and Theodora, daughter of Bulgarian tsar Smilets. Early in his life he visited Constantinople, in which as a child he spent around seven years (13141320). There he learned the Greek, gained an understanding of Greek life and culture, and got a clear sense of Greek empire. He himself was more a soldier than a diplomat: as a youngster he excelled in two battles: in 1329 he beat Bosnian ban Stefan Kotromanić, and in 1330 Bulgarian tsar Michael III Shishman on Velbužd.

For uncertain reasons he had a conflict with his father, whom he overthrew, then crowning himself king on September 8 1331. In 1332 he married Jelena, sister of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Alexander, a woman of strong will, who had a large influence on him and bore him a son Uroš and one daughter.

In the first years of his rule, Dušan started to fight against the Greeks (1334), and battles continued with smaller and larger interruptions until his death in 1355. Twice he had larger conflicts with the Hungarians, but these battles were mostly defensive. He was at peace with the Bulgarians, who even helped him two or three times. He exploited the civil war in Greece between the minor emperor John V Palaeologus and his regent John Cantacuzenus; his systematic offensive began in 1342 and in the end he conquered the whole Greek kingdom from the Balkan to Kavala except the Peloponnesus and Thessaloniki, which he could not conquer because he had no fleet.

A coin minted by Dušan in  on the occasion of his coronation. (Photo courtesy of the  [1] (
A coin minted by Dušan in 1346 on the occasion of his coronation. (Photo courtesy of the National Bank of Serbia [1] (

After these successes he proclaimed himself in 1345 as tsar in Ser and was solemnly crowned in Skopje on April 16 1346 as "Tsar and autocrat of Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians and Albanians" by Serbian Patriach Janichie II with the help of the Bulgarian Patriarch Simeon and the Archbishop of Ohrid, Nikolas. At the same time he raised the rank of the Serbian Orthodox Church from archbishopric to patriarchate, took over sovereignty on Mt. Athos and the Greek archbishoprics under the rule of the Constantinople Patriarchate (The Ohrid Archbishopric remain independent). For those acts he was cursed by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Faced with him, the Greeks sought allies in the Turks whom they brought into Europe for the first time. The first conflict between the Serbs and the Turks on Balkan soil, at Stefaniana in 1345, ended unfavourably for the Serbs. In 1348 Dušan conquered Thessaly and Epirus. Dušan saw a danger in the Turkish presence in the Balkans and searched for ways to push them back but he was interrupted by Hungarians with their attacks on Serbia. Because of them he fought with Hungarian protegee ban Stefan II in 1350, wishing to regain formerly lost Zahumlje.

Dušan had grand intentions but they were all cut short by his premature death on December 5 1355, possibly from poisoning. He was buried in his foundation, the Monastery of the Holy Archangels near Prizren. Today his remains are in the Church of Saint Mark in Belgrade.

Dušan was the greatest Serb medieval ruler, under whom incredible impulse and strength of Serbs have expressed. His state was really a great force, but in that greatness there was a weakness: Serbia was enlarged too quickly for gains to be joined to old Serb reign. Besides, Dušan conquered a lot of purely Greek lands and their inhabitants, who expressed national awareness, higher culture than the Serbs at the time, and so were constantly hostile. By nature a soldier and a conqueror, Dušan did not intend to stabilise his work systematically. That is why the dissolution started right after disappearance of his strong personality.

Related topics


  • Revision of Ph.D. thesis Harvard University, 1958: George Christos Soulis (d. 1966), The Serbs and Byzantium during the reign of Tsar Stephen Dusan (1331-1355) and his successors. Washington, D.C. : Dumbarton Oaks Library and Collection, c1984. ISBN 0884021378

Further reading

Alexander Soloviev


  • Translated with small changes from small encyclopedia Sveznanje published by Narodno delo, Belgrade, in 1937, which is now in the public domain. This article is therefore written from the point of view of that place and time and may not reflect modern opinions or recent discoveries.

Preceded by:
Stefan Dečanski
House of Nemanjić
Succeeded by:
Stefan Uroš V

Template:End boxde:Stefan Uroš IV. Dušan ja:ウロシュ4世 pl:Stefan IV Duszan sr:Стефан Душан


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