Decissive Medieval Battles: Kosovo Polje (1389)

Figure 1.--

Lazar Grebelyanovich was killed at the Battle of Kosovo Polje 1389 when the Serbs suffered a disatrous defeat at the hands of Turkish Sultan Murat I. This ended the Serbian royal line and devestated the Serbian nobility. This ended the existance of Serbia as an indepebdent state. Serbia and the Ottoman Empire fought the Battle of Kosovo Polje on St Vitus' Day (June 28). The basic oitline of the battle is know as well as the outcome. It essentially settle the fate of the Balkans for 500 years. Actually there are few reliable sources surviving and the battle continues to inflame political passions in the 21st century. This is because most Serbs know the battle through emotionally charged epic poetry. Historians other than Serbian nationalists question the view of the battle surviving in poetic sources. Ottoman Sultan Murad (1326?–1389) was one of the great warrior Ottoman sultans. He was the son and successor of Orkhan to the Ottoman throne. Murad greatly expanded Ottoman territory in Europe, although he was unablr to take Constantinople because of the massive fortfied walls, although he forced Byzantine Emperor John V to pay tribute (1373). He conquering Macedonia and made Adrianople his residence. The southern Balkans became the Ottoman province of Rumelia. He persued a feudal policy of granting Muslim suporters conquered lands as fiefs. Murad initiated the policy of taking Christian youths as slaves who were used to form the feared Janissaries. Murad organized a massive force and struck into the Balkans. His army contained units from both the the Anatolian heartlands and Rumelia, the southern Balkans previously conquered. King Lazar of Serbia who had receently seized the crown organized a Christian coalition to resist the Ottoman Army. Lazar's force consisted of Serbs resiforced by Bosnians. Lazar's force was, however, much smaller than Murad's invading army. Reliable historical accounts of this battle are scarce, and they've been largely displaced in the Serbian tradition by the epic poetry, which tell a distorted picture of the events. The two armies fought at Kosovo Polje. The Balkan army was commanded by and Lazar's son-in-law, General Vuk Branković, on the left flank, Lazar commanding the center, and Bosnian Duke Vlatko Vuković commanding the right flank. The actual battle was confused by the assaination of Sultan Murad. Miloš Obilić posing as a deserter managed to enter the Sultan's camp. He managed to enter Murad's tent and stabbed him with a poisoned dagger. Murad's son Bayezid quickly took control. After the battle Bayezid ordered the death of many Balkan prisoners. The Serbs began the battle with a charge of their heavy armored cavalry. This severely damaged the Ottoman flank commanded by Jakub Celebi. The Serbs also pushed back the Ottoman center. It was Bayezid's command that heald steady against attacks from Vlatko Vuković's Bosnian force. The Ottomans counter attacked and heavily damaged the Balkan army as fighting continued. Both the Balkans and Ottomans suffered heavy losses, bith withdawing from Kosovo Polje. The losses sustanied by the Balkan army, however, were catastrophic from which the country could not recover. The Serbian nobility meaning the political elite was decestated. King Lazar and most of the Serbian warrior knights were killed. The Ottomans were able to seize control of both Serbia and Bosnia.


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Created: 1:48 AM 9/11/2006
Last updated: 9:19 AM 11/29/2007