Marko Kraljevic

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Depiction in the Demtrius Church in Markova Sušica, Macedonia

Marko Kraljević , also Kraljević Marko and ( Bulgarian ) Krali Marko ("King's son Marko"), more rarely Marko Mrnjavčević (* around 1335; † 1394/1395 with Rovine ) was a Serbian king (1371-1394/95) and hero of the South Slavic Folk poetry .

Historical person

Markos lands (green)
Marko's lands

Little is known about the person of Markos. Marko was the eldest son of the Serbian king (gr. Krales ) Vukašin Mrnjavčević and the Anca, a Wallachian nobleman. He accompanied his father to Dubrovnik on a diplomatic mission in 1361 . A note from 1371 mentions him in connection with an attack on the neighboring Župan Nikola Altomanović .

Marko's father, Vukašin, was the coregent of the Serbian Tsar Uroš, who held the king's title krales . Since Uroš was childless, Vukašin named his son Marko crown prince. With the death of Uroš, the Nemanjid dynasty died out . A dispute about the succession broke out among the remaining Serbian rulers. The Mrnjavčevićs , who saw themselves as the legitimate successors of Uroš, owned large parts of what is now Macedonia . To the north of them Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović and his son-in-law Vuk Branković spread out, while Dušan's half-brother Simeon Uroš ruled over the Greek territories of the Serbian Empire in the south .

After the deaths of Vukašin and Uglješa at the Battle of the Mariza in 1371, Marko seems to have risen to the rank of king, as evidenced by coins and portrait inscriptions. At the same time he had to accept considerable territorial losses: the Balšićs took Prizren from him , Vuk Branković Skopje , his possessions in the Pindus were disputed by Albanian leaders; probably only West Macedonia around Prilep remained for him in the end . Like his neighbors Johannes and Konstantin Dragaš , he recognized the suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan.

Marko was married to Helena, daughter of the voivod Radoslav Hlapen . His foundations include the Archangel Monastery in Prilep and the Marko Monastery (Demetrios Church ) in Sušica near Skopje.

Marko fell in 1394 or 1395 in the Battle of Rovine as an Ottoman vassal in the fight against the Wallachian voivode Mircea the Elder . Its territory was annexed by the Ottomans.

Markos' siblings were Andrijaš, Dimitar and Ivaniš and Olivera, wife of Georg Balšić . Andrijaš and Dimitar appeared in Dubrovnik after Marko's death, where they demanded a large sum of money; they then moved to Hungary and entered the service of the king there. Ivaniš is believed to have died in 1385 together with Balša II. Balsić in the battle of the Voiussa River against the Ottomans.


Kraljević Marko is a central figure in South Slavic folk poetry and is sung about in epics. Epensingers traditionally accompany each other on strings, in Serbia on the gusle and in Bulgaria on the gadulka . It is unclear why the historically insignificant person Markos became the object of such veneration. According to a theory that is unpopular and little known in Serbia, the Ottomans promoted or falsified the epics of Marko in order to underline the emphasis on loyalty to the Ottoman Empire. In the epics, Marko is the greatest hero of all time, who alone beats entire armies, but is condemned to serve the Turkish sultan, which Marko accepts with a certain irony and indifference. He does not defend himself against this fate, although he could actually defeat the entire Ottoman Empire and liberate his people. Others point out that the name of the king's son, Marko, was formative and absorbed other epic characters like Miloš Vojinović before the Turkish era or Stefan Lazarević , whose names were less appealing to the common people. Others believe that the epic Marko had an entertainment character in which the people found themselves under the Ottoman rule and with whom they could identify, according to the motto: “With Miloš ( Miloš Obilić , who defended Sultan Murad I during the Battle of the Blackbird supposed to have killed and is considered the noblest and greatest knight in Serbian epics) you survive, but you live with Marko ”. The noble Miloš sacrifices himself, but Marko has to go on (or would rather) live. Marko also wishes to join the ranks of Miloš and Prince Lazar, but something always comes up. It is this humor of the vanquished that gives the epics of Marko their charisma.

In the vita of the despot Stefan Lazarević , before the Battle of Rovine, Marko laments his position as the Sultan's Christian vassal and wishes to be one of the first to fall in battle, if this would secure the victory of the Christians. He already has legendary features in the Musachi Chronicle . In a poem recorded by Petar Hektorović in 1555 , he kills his brother Andrijaš because of a noble horse that he keeps as prey.

The poetry of the 19th century describes Marko as the protector of the disenfranchised and oppressed, who takes revenge on the Turks. Occasionally he instigates arguments, but is usually fair and lets himself be influenced in his judgment “neither by father nor by uncles” (Serbian ni po Ocu ni po stričevima ).

In contrast, the tradition of the 17th century casts Marko's father and uncle, Vukašin and Uglješa, in a less favorable light. This is probably due to the fact that the Mrnjavčevićs were in conflict with the courtly structures of the Serbian imperial era: They were considered to be upstarts, and not all granted them the right to inherit the Nemanjids, especially Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović , who in contrast to the other princes could count on the support of the Serbian Church .

In the epic poems, Marko unites different characters that are often very contrary. This suggests that the poems and folk songs were based on various models and sources. On the one hand he can be brutal and unpredictable, attack innocent people or people who love him or help him, injure them or even kill them; then again he bears the traits of a hero who despairs of the injustice in the world. He acts irrationally and extremely cruelly when he chops off the hands of the beautiful young sister of his good friend, Captain Leka, for whose hand he had previously wooed, and stabs eyes after she rejects him with derision, or when he kills the Moorish princess, who loves him and frees him from captivity. Then again he is an ideal of justice when he helps the poor and rejects the rich, abolishes the “bride tax ” of the black Arabs , or does not award his father the tsar's crown (which is why he is cursed by the father for serving the Turks). For his righteousness he is respected by Christians and non-Christians alike. Marko has friends and blood brothers among many races. He is the chosen one of the fairies, to whom he owes his superhuman strength and on whose help he is sometimes dependent. Marko loves animals, he can talk to animals, also a gift from the fairies. Once he leads a monastic life, then he is wild and uncontrolled. He is God-fearing, but then a drunkard and drinker who starts an argument - Marko is then known for his belligerence - and in which someone always dies. He is taller than anyone else, and so strong that he never needs armor in battle. He wears his full hair long and wild, and his main weapon is the mace. His most loyal companion is his horse Šarac (unlike other kings or heroes, he has no gray or black horse, but a spotted horse, which should emphasize his connection to the common people), with whom he holds philosophical discussions for days. So Marko has two character traits in the epics: the Christian, civilized, on the other hand the archaic, wild.

According to legends, Marko lived for 300 years. Eventually fairies informed him that his time had come, whereupon Marko broke his weapons so that his weapons would not serve anyone and killed his horse Sarac so that it would not serve anyone else. Then he lay down on the floor and passed away. Many travelers who passed Marko believed that he was only asleep and did not dare to wake the supposedly sleeping man. Only a monk from the Athos monastery in Hilandar realized that Marko had died and buried him. In the legends, Marko did not really die, but rather he slept, hidden in the Urvina Mountains, a deep sleep until the day when the Serbs were in great danger. At that time he would rise and lead the nation to freedom.

Marko is represented iconographically around 1370 in the Church of Demetrius ( Marko Monastery ) in the village of Markova Sušica near Skopje and in the church of the Archangel Michael Monastery in Prilep , Macedonia.

Ivan Mestrović created a sculpture of Kraljević Marko and his warhorse as part of his Kosovo cycle.

See also


Used literature

  • Frank fighter: Marko Kraljević . In: Mathias Bernath, Karl Nehring (Hrsg.): Biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte Südosteuropas. Volume 3: L - P (= Southeast European Works. Vol. 75, 3). Oldenbourg, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-486-48991-7 , pp. 103-105.

further reading

  • Gerhard Gesemann : Heroic way of life. On the literature and essence of the Balkan patriarchy. Wiking Verlag, Berlin 1943.
  • Gabriella Schubert : Marko Kraljević - a figure that identifies the southern Slavs. In: Gabriella Schubert, Wolfgang Dahmen (ed.): Images of the own and the foreign from the Danube-Balkan area. Analyzes of literary and other texts (= Southeast European Studies. Vol. 71). Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-925450-95-5 , pp. 101-120.
  • Barbara Beyer: Marko above all. Notes on the South Slavic universal hero and its functionalizations. In: Reinhard Lauer (Ed.): Culture of Remembrance in Southeast Europe . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, Boston 2011, ISBN 978-3-11-025304-7 , ISBN 978-3-11-025305-4 (e-ISBN), pp. 149–188.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rajko Petrov Nogo: Oj darovi, ti, Kosovo ravno. Srpske junacke pjesme. Oktoih et al., Podgorica / Belgrade, 1999, ISBN 86-7659-175-X .