Balšić noble family

The House of Balšić (Serbian Cyrillic: Балшић, or the Balsha (Albanian: Balshaj)[a] was a noble family that ruled "Zeta and the coastlands" (southern Montenegro and northern Albania), from 1362 to 1421, during and after the fall of the Serbian Empire. Balša, the founder, was a petty nobleman who held only one village during the rule of Emperor Dušan the Mighty (r. 1331–1355), and only after the death of the emperor, his three sons gained power in Lower Zeta after acquiring the lands of gospodin Žarko (fl. 1336–1360) under unclear circumstances, and they then expanded into Upper Zeta by murdering voivode and čelnik Đuraš Ilijić (r. 1326–1362†). Nevertheless, they were acknowledged as oblastni gospodari of Zeta in edicts of Emperor Uroš the Weak (r. 1355–1371). After the death of Uroš (1371), the family feuded with the Mrnjavčevići, who controlled Macedonia. In 1421, Balša III, on his death, passed the rule of Zeta to his uncle, Despot Stefan the Tall.

CountryZetacoa.jpg Lordship of Zeta (1355–1421)
 Serbian Empire (1355–71)
 Republic of Venice (1380s)
Despot of Serbia.png Serbian Despotate (1405–21)
Coa Kastrioti Family.svg League of Lezhë (1444–1479)
Foundedbefore 1355, by Balša I
Final rulerBalša III (1403–1421)
Titlesgospodar (lord)
autokrator (self-ruler)
Estate(s)the Zeta and the coastlands (southern Montenegro,
northern Albania)
Dissolution1421 (possessions passed to
Despot Stefan)


According to the testimony of the Balšići themselves, they connect their origins with the Nemanjići. Balša II Balšić from Shkodra, in the charter to the citizens of Dubrovnik from January 27, 1385 said:

"... prayers and supplications of my holy ancestors Simeon Nemanja, the first myrrh-bearer of Serbia and Saint Sava ..."[1]

There has been speculation on their origin, which some deem unknown.[2][3] Apart from Mavro Orbini's tale, there are really no other accounts on their origin.[4] There exist fragmental assertions that they descended from "Emperor Nemanja".[4] There has been various opinions about the family's origin.[5]

In modern scholarship, Lee, Lubin, Ndreca, Galaty, Mustafa and Schon consider the Balsha as local Albanian lords.[6] According to Malcolm, the Balšići were probably of Albanian stock who had been but culturally Serbicized to a large degree.[7] Ćirković concluded that they are of non-Slavic origin, being referred to in medieval Serbian documents as "Albanian (arbanas) lords".[8] Hösch mentions the Balšići as native Albanian families that gained political power after 1355.[9] Murzaku says that the family had an Albanian origin.[10] Madgearu mentions the Balšić as a noble Albanian family, however he states that their Albanian origin is unclear, due to the debate over the family's origin.[11] Bartl[12] views the origin of the Balšić family as Serbian, while Elsie mentions them as of "probably Slavic origin".[13] Gelichi considers them Serbian-Montenegrin.[14] Winnifrith states that they were Slavs who fought Albanians.[15]

In archaic accounts, Karl Hopf (1832–1873) considered "unquestionably part of the Serb tribe".[16] Ivan Stepanovich Yastrebov (1839–1894), Russian Consul in Shkodër and Prizren, when speaking of the Balšići, connected their name to the Roman town of Balletium (Baleč) located near modern Shkodër.[17] According to Čedomilj Mijatović (1842–1934), the Balšić family had ultimate origin in the House of Baux from Provence (southeastern France); from that family sprung an Italian family (del Balzo), and from them the Balšići, and from them a Romanian family.[18] Serbian historian Vladimir Ćorović (1885–1941) concluded, based on their name, that they had Roman (Vlach) origin.[19] Croatian ethnologist Milan Šufflay (1879–1931) mentioned them as of "Romanian and Vlach origin".[16] Croatian linguist Petar Skok considered them to have been of Vlach origin, and Serbian historian Milena Gecić supported his theory.[18][20] Giuseppe Gelcich theorized on the origin in his La Zedda e la dinastia dei Balšidi: studi storici documentati (1899). The theory asserting them as descendants of the Frankish nobleman Bertrand III of Baux, a companion of Charles d'Anjou is regarded as highly improbable.[21][according to whom?] German linguist Gustav Weigand (1860–1930) supported a mixed Albanian-Aromanian origin after he noted that the family name was included in a list of early Albanian surnames in Romania.[21]


rough borders of the Serbian provincial lords during the fall of the Serbian Empire, 1373-1395 (Zeta in grey)

Zeta [Zoomed].

The Balšić family was first mentioned in a charter of Emperor Stefan Uroš V, dated 29 September 1360. According to Mavro Orbini (writing in 1601), Balša, the eponymous founder, was a petty nobleman that held only one village in the area of Lake Skadar during the rule of Emperor Dušan the Mighty (r. 1331-1355). Only after the death of the emperor, Balša and his three sons gained power in Lower Zeta after acquiring the lands of gospodin Žarko (fl. 1336-1360) and by murdering voivode and čelnik Đuraš Ilijić (r. 1326-1362†), the holders of Lower and Upper Zeta, respectively.[22] Balša dies the same year, and his sons, the Balšić brothers, continue in ruling the province spanning Podgorica, Budva, Bar and Skadar.[22]

The Balšići managed to elevate themselves from petty nobility to provincial lords.[23]


Family treeEdit

Simplified family tree:


  1. ^
    Balšići/Балшићи; also Bašić/Башић or Baošić/Баошић)


  1. ^ Šekularac, Božidar (1987). Dukljansko-Zetske Povelje. p. 173.
  2. ^ Rudić 2006, p. 99: "О њиховом пореклу не знамо ништа" ,, "Према Чедомиљу Мијатовићу Балшићи су пореклом били француска, односно провансалска породица. Од њих су настали италијански Балшићи, од којих потичу српски Балшићи, а од њих румунски. Ч. Мијатовић, Балшићи, генеалошка студија, 150"
  3. ^ Veselinović-Ljušić 2008, p. 91: "Пошто нам извори ништа поуздано не говоре о њиховим прецима, порекло ове породице је загонетно. Оно што је сигурно, то је да је име њиховог родоначелника несловенског порекла, па је то био повод историчарима да претке ..."
  4. ^ a b Fajfric, 44. Oblasni gospodari: "O njihovom poreklu se zna veoma malo, tako da osim navoda koje je ostavio Mavro Orbin drugih podataka skoro i da nema. Postoje neki fragmentarni navodi koji ukazuju da je rodonačelnik ove porodice, Balša, zapravo rod od "cara Nemanje" te da je držao oblast Bojane (u susedstvu Skadra), no to je sve veoma nesigurno."
  5. ^ Soulis 1984, p. 254, "Various opinions have been expressed concerning the national origin of the Balšići family".
  6. ^ Lee, Wayne E.; Lubin, Matthew; Ndreca, Eduard; et al. (L. Galaty, Michael; Mustafa, Mentor; Robert, Schon) (2013). "4: Archival Historical Research". Light and Shadow: Isolation and Interaction in the Shala Valley of Northern Albania. ISD LLC. p. 46. ISBN 978-1938770913.
  7. ^ Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: a short history. Macmillan. p. 370. ISBN 978-0-333-66612-8. Retrieved 5 May 2012. The Balshas were probably of Albanian stock, but culturally Serbianized to a large degree: they had been Orthodox for a long time, and only converted to Catholicism once or twice for political reasons
  8. ^ Ćirković, Sima (2020). Živeti sa istorijom. Belgrade: Helsinški odbor za ljudska prava u Srbiji. pp. 396–397.
  9. ^ Edgar Hösch (1972). The Balkans: a short history from Greek times to the present day. Crane, Russak. p. 86.
  10. ^ Catholicism, Culture, Conversion: The History of the Jesuits in Albania (1841-1946). Pontifical Oriental Institute (original from the University of California). 2006. p. 46.
  11. ^ Alexandru Madgearu (2008). The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins. Scarecrow Press. p. 83.
  12. ^ Bartl, Peter (2001) [1995], Albanci : od srednjeg veka do danas (in Serbian), translated by Ljubinka Milenković, Belgrade: Clio, p. 31, ISBN 9788671020176, OCLC 51036121, retrieved 1 February 2012, Род Балшића (Балша) био је српског порекла.
  13. ^ Elsie, Robert (2012), A biographical dictionary of Albanian history, London: I.B. Tauris, p. 27, ISBN 9781780764313, OCLC 801605743
  14. ^ Sauro Gelichi (1 September 2006). The Archaeology of an abandoned town. The 2005 Project in Stari Bar. All’Insegna del Giglio. pp. 57–. ISBN 978-88-7814-468-2.
  15. ^ Winnifrith, T.J. (2021). Nobody's Kingdom: A History of Northern Albania. Andrews UK Limited. ISBN 9781909930957. In Northern Albania it was the Balšič family who took over, but though they reigned for four generations they were not nearly as powerful as the Nemanjids and can hardly pass muster as a heroic Albanian family, being Slavs, fighting other Albanians and subservient at various times to Serbs, Turks and Venetians.
  16. ^ a b Slijepčević 1974, p. 43: "Према Карлу Хопфу и Балшићи и Црнојевићи »припадају без спора српскоме племену».34) Милан Шуфлај вели: »Балшићи су румунскога и влашкога подријетла;"
  17. ^ Akademia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë 1985, p. 323: "Whereas JS Jastrebov, when speaking of the Balshaj of Shkodra calls then Balesium, Balezza, Balezum, Balezo and adds that the Greeks in Dukel74 called them Barizi."
  18. ^ a b Rudić 2006, p. 99.
  19. ^ Ćorović 2001, ТРЕЋИ ПЕРИОД, IX. Распад Српске Царевине
  20. ^ Grga Novak, Povijest Splita I, Split, 1978, p.335
  21. ^ a b Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: a short history. Macmillan. p. 370. ISBN 978-0-333-66612-8. Retrieved 5 May 2012. The Balshas were probably of Albanian stock, but culturally Serbianized to a large degree: they had been Orthodox for a long time, and only converted to Catholicism once or twice for political reasons
  22. ^ a b Fajfrić, ch. 44, Oblasni gospodari: "Balša o kojem ćemo sada govoriti beše veoma siromašan zetski vlastelin i za života cara Stefana držao je samo jedno selo. Ali kad je umro car, a kako njegov sin Uroš nije bio valjan vladar, počeo je s nekoliko svojih prijatelja i sa svojim sinovima Stracimirom, Đurđem i Balšom da zauzima Donju Zetu." "Posle toga krenuo je sa svojim ljudima na osvajanje Gornje Zete, koju je držao Đuraš Ilijić i njegovi rođaci. Đuraša ubiše Balšini sinovi, neke njegove rođake zarobiše, a ostali napustiše zemlju. I tako su Balšini sinovi zagospodarili i Gornjom Zetom" "Isto tako pali su u njihove ruke Dukađini koji su imali mnogo poseda u Zeti. Neke su poubijali, a druge bacili u tamnicu. Pri osvajanju ovih i drugih pokrajina više su se služili lukavstvom i prevarama nego silom oružja"
  23. ^ Recueil de travaux de l'Institut des études byzantines: Volume 21 1982, "За разлику од Лазаревића, Бранковића и Драгаша, ближих или даљих рођака Немањића и потомака најугледцијих властеоских породица, први Балшићи су прави скоројевићи који су из редова ситне властеле доспели ..."



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