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TIA Janus

Nenad Šerović

Stefan Tvrtko I Kotromanić
(1353 – 1391)

Translated from Serbian by Dejan Djurovic

Tvrtko I Kotromanić was the Bosnian ban from 1353 until 1377., the king of Serbs, Bosnia, Seaside and the West Sides from 1377 until 1390 and the king of Raška, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia and Seaside from 1390 until 1391.

Tvrtko the First was the son of the duke Vladislav Kotromanić and Jelena Šubić. After death of his uncle ban Stjepan II he takes over the throne in 1353. The very first year of his rule his father helped him. After his father’s death his energetic mother helped him. Tvrtko came to power in the period of the great battles, which Hungarian king Lajoš the Great led against Venice because of its estate in Dalmatia and also against Serbs. As the Hungarian vassal he and his mother put lots of efforts to turn Dalmatian towns against Venice. Despite all of this Hungarians were not satisfied by his efforts so they forced him to give them Hum to the river of Neretva as the dowry of Jelisaveta, daughter of Stjepan II, the wife of the king Arthur. When Hungarians tried to put more pressure on Tvrtko he decided to answer them using his army. Hungarians sent two armed forces against Bosnia but both forces were defeated: the first one under the leadership of Lajoš on the foot of the town of Sokolac, the other one on the foot of Srebrenik. After these battles Tvrtko tried to strengthen his grip on power that caused the riot of landownership in 1366. The head of the riot was Tvrtko’s younger brother Vuk. The riot became an open war and as the result of these events Tvrtko and his mother were expelled from Bosnia. Vuk was appointed the new governor. Because of that Tvrtko asked the help of the Hungarian king and by his help he came back on power in Bosnia. During 1366 and 1367 Tvrtko succeeded in his intention to calm his land down and his brother had to flee to Dubrovnik. Afterwards Vuk tried to activate high Vatican’s authorities and the Hungarian Court in achieving his goals but it wasn’t successful.

By the death of Serbian king Uros in 1371 died out the last member of the dynasty Nemanjic. When the king Vukasin died in the battle on the river Marica in 1371 there was not a genuine Serbian ruler any more. After these events which had had serious consequences for the entire Serbianship Tvrtko came out with his intention to sit in the Serbian throne. As he was the grandson of Jelisaveta, the daughter of the king Dragutin, which was married with his grandfather Stjepan Kotroman – that would say he was Nemanjic taking into consideration the female members of that family- he asked for the Serbian Crown..

He had very good relations with the duke Lazar. At that time Lazar was the owner of Moravska Serbia and was as well as Tvrtko the neighbour of the very aggressive head of a tribal state Nikola Altomanovic whose rule was spread on areas from Rudnik to the coast, along the river Drina and along towns like Gacko, Bileca, and Trebinje. Nikola Altomanovic openly helped Tvrtko`s brother Vuk in the above mentioned riot, he also fought against Dubrovnik and he took over Rudnik from Lazar. He wanted to seize Prizren and to become the main ruler of Serbian lands. Uniting their forces Tvrtko and the Duke Lazar defeated Nikola Altomanovic and destroyed his power in 1373. By sharing his estate the Bosnian ban Tvrtko joined part of Serbian lands in Podrinje to Bosnia. As the ruler of one part of the former Nemanjic` estate Tvrtko accepted to tie his rule to their tradition. That`s why it wasn`t very difficult for him to accept the attitude of his chief administrator Vlatko who persuaded him that the Serbian Crown was intended to be his. Tvrtko The First was crowned for the king on the newly conquered area. The act of crowning probably took place on The Holy Dimitrus Day in the autumn of 1377 in the monastery of Mileševa, the place of the remarkable cult of Saint Sava, the founder of Serbian Orthodox Church. He was crowned by the crown of Serbian Royal Dynasty – the king of Serbs, Bosnia, Seaside and the West Sides. He added the name Stefan that used to be symbolic medieval custom among all Serbian rulers. The crowning of Tvrtko was accepted by all prominent Serbian rulers as well as by Dubrovnik and Venice and he rising himself to the level of ruler and adopting titles and ceremonial of Serbian Court he tightened his power in Bosnia.

After the death of king Lajoš The Great in 1382 Hungarian queen trying to win Tvrtko over to her side gave him the town of Kotor in 1385. Tvrtko was very interested in it because he wanted Bosnia to get its exit to sea and in that way not to be dependent of Dubrovnik’s port anymore. Therefore he founded the town Novi in 1382 as the fortified Bosnian port. When the king Tvrtko started to build his town he named it after The Holy Stephen, in memory and remembrance of his sacrifice. After a period of time the name was altered to "Novi". When the first merchant ships began to carry salt from Novi appeared the first problems with Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik considered trade and carriage of salt as its monopoly and therefore the new Tvrtko`s fortress was dangerous competition. The position for the new town was carefully chosen in accordance with the need of the Bosnian State. The chosen locality was on the north side of the entrance of the Bay of Boka Kotorska in the district called Dracevica. The building of the first fortress started at the very end of May in 1382 and was finished in September – the same year. The first fortress was at the very coast of Topla`s bay. The location of the terrain was suitable for defense of possible attacks that was very significant at the time. Beside this there were good facilities for docking of boats and ships and building of a port near the town. Novi started its life by opening of the square for trade in salt with warehouses round it on the river Sutorina near the town in August 1382. The foundation of Novi had in its root the very clear idea and the aim to represent the square for trade in salt.

Tvrtko wasn’t satisfied by taking over Kotor in 1385, he also wanted to take over the whole Dalmatia. Soon he took over Klis “the cradle of the family Šubić “in 1387. He was stopped for a while because at the time Turkey attacked Serbia and Bosnia. A part of Turkish army was defeated near Bileća in 1388. In the battle of Kosovo polje in 1389 Tvrtko sent a part of his army under the lead of the duke Vlatko Vuković, the winner of Bileca battle. The Bosnian unit had little loss during the battle so that the duke Vlatko informed Tvrtko that the Christians were winners. There is no doubt that Tvrtko fought against Turks in Kosovo`s battle as the Serbian king who was obliged to protect lands of his parents and their ancestors – The Serbian refinement. He was sure that his army and the forces of the Serbian regional rulers had won the battle of Kosovo Polje. Accordingly Tvrtko sent letters to all Christian lands spreading good news about his big success. Among many replied letters there was the stylized one from Florence written by well-known humanist Colluccio Salutati who praised and glorified the kingdom of Bosnia which had been given blessed opportunity to fight and defeat such enemy, he also praised the heroes who killed the sultan Murat, and the very king who won that magnificent battle which will never be forgotten.

In the summer of 1390 towns like Split, Trogir, Sibenik as well as islands like Brac, Hvar and Korcula were subdued by Tvrtko. Tvrtko had genuine power over Dalmatian towns and almost entire Croatia except the town of Zadar. About his short rulership over Croatia a little data remained. Among some Latin papers Tvrtko was mentioned for the first time on the 10th July 1390 as the king of Bosnia, Dalmatia, Croatia and seaside. He died suddenly at the height of his fame and success in March of 1391.

Tvrtko`s death spell the end to the brilliant period of Bosnian history. Regional rulers started to strengthen their power to disadvantage of the power of the Bosnian kingdom. The absence of the firm land organization accelerated the fall of the rulers' authority. The king's death caused the negative, bad period for Bosnia and short after the whole development of Bosnia was redirected in a wrong way.


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