Desa, Grand Prince of Serbia

Desa (Serbian Cyrillic: Деса)[1] was the Serbian co-ruler from 1148 to 1153, alongside his elder brother Uroš II, Grand Prince of Serbia; the Prince of Duklja, Travunija and Zahumlje from 1149 to 1162; the Grand Prince of Serbia from 1153 to 1155, and again from 1162 to 1166.

Grand Prince of Serbia
Prince of Duklja, Travunija and Zahumlje
Reign1150–1153 (co-ruler)
1153–55, 1162–66
FatherUroš I
MotherAnna Diogenissa


Desa was the youngest of three sons of Uroš I, the Grand Prince of Serbia from c. 1112 to 1145. His mother was Anna Diogenissa, a Byzantine noblewoman. The eldest son Uroš II succeeded their father in 1145. Their sister, Helena, married Béla II of Hungary (r. 1131–41). Upon the death of Béla II, Helena and the middle son Beloš became regents of Hungary. Desa initially held the region of Dendra, near Niš, until later acceding to the throne. Desa was an uncle to three kings of Hungary and Croatia.

In ca. 1148, the political situation in the Balkans was divided by two sides, one being the alliance of the Byzantines and Venice, the other the Normans and Hungarians. The Normans were sure of the danger that the battlefield would move from the Balkans to their area in Italy.[2] Emperor Manuel I Komnenos also allied himself with the Germans after defeating the Cumans in 1148.[3] The Serbs, Hungarians, and Normans exchanged envoys, as it was in the interest of the Normans to stop Manuel's plans to recover Italy.[4]

The Serbs under brothers Uroš II and Desa revolted against the Byzantines, when Manuel was in Avlona planning an offensive across the Adriatic. This revolt posed danger to the Emperor if he would attack Italy, as the Serbs could strike at the Adriatic bases.[4] The Serbs next undertook an offensive against Radoslav of Duklja, who was a loyal Byzantine vassal.[4] Radoslav was pushed to the southwestern corner of Duklja, to Kotor, and retained only the coastal area, with the brothers holding much of inland Duklja and Trebinje, i.e. over two thirds of Duklja.[4] Radoslav sought help from the Emperor, who sent aid from Durazzo.[4] At this moment, the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja ends, presumably because the author of the original text had died.[4] A major war was about to erupt in the Balkans; Uroš II and Desa, in light of Byzantine retaliation, sought aid from their brother Beloš, the count palatine of Hungary.[4] By 1150, Hungarian troops played an active role in Serbia.[4]

Desa's brother Uroš II ruled alone from 1140 until the battle at the Tara river against Emperor Manuel in 1150, when the Byzantines defeated the Serbs and Hungarians. Uroš II was spared and Desa was instated as co-ruler along with Uroš. He is mentioned in Venetian charters from 1150 as a Prince of Duklja, Travunija and Zahumlje, and again in 1151. In 1153 a dispute between the two brothers resulted in Desa and the Serbian court ousting Uroš II. Emperor Manuel I intervened and re-instated Uroš II in 1155, deposing Desa. He tried to engage in diplomacy with Hungarian king Frederick. In the summer of 1165, Manuel I sent an army to pursuit Desa. Desa was granted a safe meeting with Manuel I and was escorted by a bodyguard. Desa gave oaths to Manuel I in a public humiliation after being examined in Constantinople on his diplomacy with Hungary. Manuel put Tihomir on the throne in 1166.

Some have concluded that Desa was the father of Stefan Nemanja, this however is disputed among other theories.


  1. ^ He is also known as Desa Vukanović.
  2. ^ Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti (1940). Društveni i istoriski spisi. Око 1148. год. ситуација на Балкану била је овака. На једној страни беху у савезу Византија и Млеци, а на другој Нормани и Мађари. Нормани су били побеђени и у опасности да се ратиште пренесе с Балкана на њихово подручје у Италију. Да омету Манојла у том плану они настоје свима средствима, да му направе што више неприлика код куће. Доиста, 1149. год. јавља се нови устанак Срба против Ви- зантије, који отворено помажу Мађари. Цар ...
  3. ^ Fine 1991, p. 236.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Fine 1991, p. 237.


Further readingEdit

  • "Поклад жупана Десе". научни скуп 15-16. новембар 2000. Краљ Владислав и Србија XIII века. Београд: Историјски институт: 31–39. 2003.
Preceded by
Uroš II
Grand Prince of Serbia
with Uroš II (1149–1153)
Succeeded by
Uroš II
Grand Prince of Serbia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
as Byzantine vassal
Duke of Dioclea
Succeeded by
Mihailo III
as King of Dioclea
Succeeded by
as Župan of Trebinje