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Zeta and a Life of Toil

Stephan Uros IV. Dušan - Copyright © by
Stephan Uros IV. Dušan

"There is at least some evidence," writes Roberts, "favouring a sense of Zetan identity." But, she concedes, there is precious little to prove beyond doubt that the people, or rather the nobles of Zeta who ruled the kernel of what was later to emerge as Montenegro, felt a particular distinctiveness from their Raškan overlords, even in 1332, when the Serbian emperor Dušan, "had to suppress a serious revolt that broke out when some nobles in Zeta tried to secede and form their own principality."

Whether the ordinary people felt any sense of Zetan identity is still more doubtful. Borders were porous and constantly changed. In the feudal society of Dušan's time it is likely that the inhabitants of Zeta would have felt themselves to belong to a particular locality and to have owed allegiance to the local lord or bishop. In a hierarchically ordered world rulers, nobles and ordinary people, whether free or in a state of serfdom, were bound together by military and personal obligations rather than by effective state administration and abstract concepts of patriotism and statehood…Zeta at this stage was thus one of a number of inherently unstable and loose-knit Balkan kingdoms, whose raison d'ętre was the concept of loyalty to a particular potentate or ruling dynasty. Lacking clearly defined territorial boundaries and offering little to their populations beyond a life of toil and military service, these entities were vulnerable both to conquest and to internal revolt and fragmentation whenever a powerful ruler died. Such a fate was soon to befall even the greatest of these, Dušan's empire, which would make way for the emergence of new magnates and powerful families in the Zetan lands.

[pp: 70, 71]

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. 2007. [C.Hurst & Co]

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