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of Kossovo made the Turks masters of the Balkan peninsula, in 1393 Tirnovo was captured and destroyed by the Turks, and thereafter until our own time the Bulgars were crushed beneath the Ottoman heel. By the beginning of the nineteenth century their existence and their name were almost forgotten by the world.
The Serbs are a Slavonic people, kin to the Croats, and first appear in history in the writings of Pliny, who described them as an agricultural people settled in Poland and especially in what is now known as Galicia. In the sixth century of our era they moved down the Danube and settled in what is now the kingdom of Serbia and the adjoining provinces, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, now claimed by Austria-Hungary, and the northern part of Macedonia and Albania. It was not until the twelfth century that their first ruler, Stephen Nemanya, organized them into an independent kingdom. Education, literature and the arts were greatly promoted, and Serbia became one of the most enlightened lands of Eastern Europe. Under Stephen Dushan, in the fourteenth century, the Serbian Empire attained the zenith of its greatness and glory. It comprised the whole Balkan peninsula, from Greece northward to Poland, and from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, excepting Constantinople itself and a small territory adjacent. In laws and civilization it was scarcely inferior to the most advanced nations of Western Europe. Near the end of that century the last great Serbian ruler, the Tsar Lazarus Hrebelianovich, sought to unite Greece and Constantinople itself with his empire to form an irresistible barrier against the advance of the Turks into Europe. But through the indifference of some and the treason of others his plans failed and he was defeated in the great battle of Kossovo. On that fatal field both the Serbian Tsar Lazarus and the Turkish Sultan Amurath I were slain, and the Ottoman power became supreme. While, however, Bulgaria and other parts of the Serbian Empire fell under complete Turkish control, Serbia proper long maintained a semi-independent status. In the latter part of the fifteenth century, Serbia had become weakened by repeated Turkish assaults, no other nation in Europe would or could raise a hand to help her, and so at last she fell beneath the Ottoman yoke. But as she was the last of all the Christian states to be vanquished, she was in course of time also the first to strike a successful blow for the restoration of her freedom.
After the fatal battle of Kossovo a number of the most valiant and resolute of the Serbian nobles and their retainers fled to the mountain fastnesses at the north of Albania and established themselves as an independent state. There they held their ground with unrivaled heroism against all the power of the Ottoman Empire, unconquerable as the rocky peaks amid which they made their home. In all the time during which the Turks were masters over the rest of the Balkan region, Montenegro alone retained its independence, and never until the present, in all the more than five centuries since, was the brave little mountain state subdued. It held its own through being a nation of warriors. Here we have a law forbidding men to carry deadly weapons. But in Montenegro they had a law which required every man to carry at least one loaded pistol in his belt at all times; at work and at play, in the family circle and in worship at church; and woe to the luckless man who was found without such equipment. The greatest of the early Montenegrin rulers was Ivan the Black, and there is to this day a legend among the people that he is not dead but merely sleeping in a mountain cavern, awaiting the call for the final expulsion of the Turks from Europe, when he will awaken again to lead his people.
GREECE Of Greece it should scarcely be necessary to speak, so familiar is its history to the world. Twenty-four centuries ago it was the bulwark of Europe against Asiatic invasion. It rose to a height of intellectual and artistic splendor which the world for more than twenty centuries since has despaired of rivaling. It fell under alien subjection through its own intestine feuds. after the fall of Constantinople it was conquered by the Turks, and though Venice two centuries later wrested half of it from the Asiatic conquerors, in 1715 the whole of it fell back under the Ottoman yoke and there remained until, more than a century later, occurred the revolution adorned by the chivalric heroism of Byron, which in 1829 was finally successful. Since that time Greece has been an independent kingdom among the nations of the world.
One other kingdom demands at least passing notice. This is Roumania, the largest of them all, lying between Russia on the north, Bulgaria on the south, the Black Sea on the east and Hungary on the west. We first hear of that region as occupied by the Dacians, a brave and warlike tribe who for many years held their own against first the Greeks and then the Romans. The Emperor Trajan at last subdued them and the region was then largely colonized by Romans. After the fall of Rome the province became a thoroughfare through which passed many hordes of invaders, coming from Russia and Asia into Southern Europe. The Goths, the Huns under Attila, the Lombards under Alboin, the Bulgars, the Magyars and the Wallachs successively traversed that region, leaving their imprint upon it, and the Wallachs particularly leaving many permanent settlers. In time the region became divided into the two provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia, long known as the Danubian provinces and ruled by independent chiefs. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries they were both so far conquered by the Turks as to be compelled to pay tribute to the Sultan, though they always retained a considerable measure of self-government. Under Peter the Great the Russians attempted the conquest of them, and for many years practically controlled the provinces. But in 1859 the two were united under a single prince whose independence of both Turkey and Russia was presently recognized, and in 1881 Roumania was erected into a kingdom, ranking in importance next to the great powers of Europe.
THE OTTOMAN TURKS But we must not play Hamlet with the part of Hamlet left out; nor review the history of the Balkans without recalling that of the Ottoman Turks. This formidable tribe was first heard of at Khorassan, on the Afghan border of Persia. Driven westward by the Mongols it, early in the thirteenth century, entered Armenia and Asia Minor and gave much military assistance in a time of need to the Seljuk of Iconium, helping him to win the great battle of Angora against the Mongols. For this service the Sultan gave to the tribe extensive lands at Sugut, in the ancient province of Phrygia, in Asia Minor. At that place was born the great leader, Osman, or Othman, from whom the tribe thereafter took its name of Osmanli or Ottoman Turks. He and his son conquered all that part of Asia Minor to the shores of the Dardanelles and Bosporus. There for years the tribe 'rested, developing one of the most marvelous and masterful civil and military systems in the world, and then, in the middle of the fourteenth century, they resumed their westward movement. Amurath I crossed the Dardanelles and soon conquered Adrianople, Philippopolis, most of Thrace, Bulgaria and Serbia and practically the whole Balkan country save Constantinople itself and the territory immediately adjacent. Constantinople itself would probably have been taken had not the Mongols under Timur Leng swept into Asia Minor and crushed the Ottoman army at Angora, on the very field where the Mongols had been defeated many years before.
For a time the Ottoman Empire seemed destroyed, but its tremendous vitality survived and in a few years it had regained all that it had lost. Under Mohammed I the capital was transferred from Broussa, in Asia Minor, to Adrianople, in Thrace, and that is the reason why the Turks today regard Adrianople with peculiar veneration and were so reluctant to surrender it to the victorious allies of the Balkans. In time the Ottoman Empire extended from Persia at the east to Italy at the west, and from Poland at the north to Ethiopia at the south. Hungary for a century and a half was an Ottoman province, and the Austrian capital, Vienna, was twice attacked by Turkish besiegers and was saved from capture only by payment of a ransom.