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    The first state
    Rise of Kingdom
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I The Settlement of Serbs on the Balkans and the First State

The territory of the Balkan peninsula, which the Serbs - a Slavic tribe - were to settle and in it create their states, was inhabited from time immemorial. Scientists believe that today's Western and Central European countries were inhabited already in the first period of the Pleistocene (Diluvial, Ice Age), and the man appeared in the Balkans in the period of the last glaciation (Alp glaciation - Wuerm) During those cold climates, 40.000 years ago, perpetual ice descended on 1.500 meters above sea-level.

The first communities at the time inhabited caves. Research on these caves, in particular the one under the Jerinini hill in the villages of Gradac and Risovace on Vencac, allows us to recreate their lifestyle. The communities had 10-15 members each, from one to three biological families, who lived chiefly off hunting and fruit gathering. The man, already a Homo sapiens, shaped stone and bones into implements and weapons. He first hunted large herbivores (huge deer, wild horses, and cattle), but when climatic conditions changed (when the prearctic climate prevailed) he hunted mammoths, rhinoceroses, lions and hyenas. Owing to an extremely cold spell, (glaciation Wuerm 3) around 25.000 years B.C., caves were abandoned and human life ceased. The first chapter in the history in human life in communities on the territory of Serbia is thus closed.

The next phase began in changed climatic conditions, at the close of the Ice Age (a new geological epoch - the Holocene). Research conducted on archeological sites in Djerdap has confirmed that one of the most complex cultures of the pre-historic era developed there, named the culture of the Lepen Whirl (7000-5500 years B.C.) after a large whirlpool in the Danube river. The oldest people lived in settlements, in communities of two to four biological families. Subsequently, as the population expanded, settlements were built on an established pattern. Burial places were outside the settlements. The quality of implements and weaponry improved. Many finds point to the existence of private ownership, social hierarchy, religion, art. In the field of production they retained traditional methods in obtaining food and never became farmers or stockbreeders.

Communities on Serbian soil dating from the second period of the Stone Age (Paleolithic) developed cultures of the latest period of the Stone Age (Neolithic) which, besides the hunting-gathering economy, cultivated farming and stockbreeding. This was certainly the result of a warmer climate. The Neolithic culture expanded north and south of the Sava and Danube rivers, from 5300 to 3200 B.C., and the most important sites are at Starcevo and Vinca. Based on archeological excavation, it can be assumed that these communities built their houses in juxtaposition, pasting them with a mixture of mud and weed. Floors were made of pressed earth, and roofs from brushwood and thatch. Households had a variety of dishes. Implements and weaponry were made of polished stone, and ornaments from shells. The communities, which formed the cultures of Starcevo and Vinca, were subject to migrations for internal, but also external motives. Thus, with the arrival of people from Anatolia and Pannonia, the ethnic and cultural picture changed and the Vinca communities disappeared, their place taken by others who employed metal, marking the beginning of a new epoch in human history.

Around 1900 B.C. the first centers of culture in the Bronze Age were set up in Banat (moriska), Srem (vinkovacka), northwestern Serbia (Belotic-Bela Crkva), the southern Morava River basin (Bubanj-Hum III Slatina). Communities of Bronze Age, inhabiting expanses north and south of the Sava and Danube lived in peace for centuries. Their life was upset around 1425 B.C. with the penetration of people from the north (the culture of grave mounds) who had bronze weapons - swords, daggers, axes/ Those movements continued in the following centuries, reaching as far as Egypt. Archeological finds dating from 1125 to 750 B.C. lead to the conclusion that a new culture was developing - the Iron Age - together with the formation of the first ethnic groups known in history within the Balkan peninsula> Dardanians, Tribals, Illyrians and Thracians.

From 1200 to 1000 B.C. in Kosovo, the Morava River basin, Srem, Backa and Banat uniform settlements were built, the dishes were the same, and the burial custom identical. Farming was already developed, wheat and barley were grown, and cattle, pigs and horses were largely kept, much less sheep and goats. The Iron Age on Serbian soil was linked with the arrival of Thrako-Kimercis from the Caucasus-Pont regions about 750 B.C. They brought with them cultural goods, such as weapons and ornaments made of iron. Over the next 200 years the Iron Age culture grew stable and clear distinctions were drawn between ethnic groups. In time active trade was established between ethnic and cultural groups that started undergoing stratification. Archeological sites uncovering luxury items produced in Greece provide evidence of this. Rich finds testify to the Hellenization of the Tribals and Dardanians. They did not disappear since in the coming centuries they waged wars against Macedonian kings. From 300-100 B.C., the Dardanians, historical sources say, retained their individuality and self-awareness, as witness the extraordinary dating from the 3rd century A.D.

The arrival of Celts and the breakthrough of the Hellenic civilization marked the later period of the Iron Age on Serbian soil. Celtic emissaries met Alexander the Great by the Danube in 335 B.C., and after his death crossed the Sava and Danube. Their devastation throughout Dardani, Macedonia and central Greece were cut short after a Greek victory at the Delphi in 279 B.C. During their retreat, and in the following decades, the Celts conquered Tribal and part of the Autariat territory, together forming a powerful tribe called Skordiska. They were the first to build a settlement on the territory of Belgrade. At the beginning of the new era the Romans took all the lands of the Balkan Peninsula, conquered both the Dardanians and Skordiskans, but did not destroy their culture. The old Balkan tribes, nearly three hundred years old, lived autochthonously, though under Roman rule, and nurtured their traditional culture. Only subsequently did they become part of the political and cultural history of the Roman Empire.

By the Roman administrative division, the largest part of the present-day Serbia was a province called Gornja Mezija. This province served as a platform for Emperor Trayan to cross the Danube at Ram and Tekija with his army, conquer Decane and establish the Dakija province. At the close of the first century A.D., the Roman Empire boasted the greatest territory. New cities were founded and old ones strengthened in Mezija and Pannonia. Cities at the Danube became important defense posts when the Romans withdrew from Dakija (about 272 A.D.) and fortified themselves on the right bank of the Danube. Regardless of the organization of the Romans and the strength of their boundaries (limites), barbarian tribes continually raided the border provinces, which permanently weakened the Empire.

After the division of the Roman Empire in 395 A.D. into the Western and Eastern (Byzantium), the latter inherited the continual struggle with barbarians at the Danube. During the reign of Justinian (527-565), the situation settled, but then an onslaught of Avars and Slavs followed, whose plundering were stopped only after their defeat at Constantinopole in 626. Among the Slavic tribes were the Serbs. According to a Byzantine source, Tsar Traklije (610-641) allowed them to settle around Salonika, which they did, subsequently withdrawing from it to the north. The same source also testifies that the first Serbian princes (arhonti) were called Viseslav, Radoslav, Prosigoj and Vlastimir.

The ancient history of Serbia, until the rule of Nemanja, was marked by continual fighting either with Bulgaria or with Byzantium, and internal struggles for power among Serbian princes - members of the same family. The supreme rule in Byzantium was conducive to the Hristianization of Serbs in the second half of the 9th century, mainly the work of Cyril and Methodius, From the third decade of the 12th century; Hungary became the third state to affect the history of Serbs. In the Hungarian-Byzantine struggles from 1165-1167, the name of Stefan Nemanja was mentioned for the first time. In the first years of his reign, Nemanja ruled over Toplice, Ibar, Rasina and Reka. After a conflict with his brother Tihomir, he became the grand zupan of Raska, probably in 1166. Nemanja`s attempts to achieve independence resulted in a conflict with Tsar Manojlo I Komnin of Byzantium. The Tsar won; Nemanja was taken prisoner to Constantinople, but returned to Serbia remaining loyal, as vassal, to Tsar Manojlo I until his death in 1180.

During 1180-1190, Nemanja succeeded, with an offensive policy and making avail of Byzantium`s troubles (the Bulgarian uprising, the Crusades), to considerably expand the Serbian state. He conquered Metohija and Kosovo in the south. Further expansion came with the annexation of the Nis region, Dubocica, Vranje, Binicka Morava, land to the east of Juzna Morava and Reka. Regions between Zapadna and Velika Morava (Levac, Belica, Lepenica) were also adjoined. To the west, Nemanja took Duklja with the coastal cities (Ulcinj, Bar, Kotor) and entrusted his son Vukan to rule over them, The attempts of Nemanja and his brothers, Miroslav and Stracimir, to conquer Dubrovnik, bore no fruits. Thus, Nemanja established and consolidated his rule in lands from Kotor to Sofia, with the center in Ras where Serbian Bishops Jevtimije and Kalinik had their seat. During his reign, Nemanja generously assisted the clergy, and left behind large endowments.










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