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Jovan Oliver

Jovan Oliver

Serbian general
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Serbian general
Countries Serbia
Occupations Judge Diplomat
Gender male
Spouse: Maria Palaiologina
The details

Jovan Oliver Grčinić (Serbian: Јован Оливер Грчинић; ca. 1310-1356) was a magnate of the Serbian Emperor Dušan the Mighty (r. 1331-1355), holding the titles of sebastokrator and despotes, and the rank of "great voivode", showing his prominence and status as one of the most important nobles of Dušan. Oliver supported Dušan in the succession war against his father, and was one of the supreme generals in the southern military expeditions (Macedonia, Thessaly). His province included Ovče Pole and the left bank of the Vardar. After the death of Emperor Dušan, there are no more mentions of Oliver. During the fall of the Serbian Empire, his lands were held by the Dejanovići.


Jovan was the son a vlastelin Grčin (Грчин, "Greek") who had lands in some part of the Serbian Kingdom.

Jovan is referred to in a Ragusan source as Oliver Grčinić, and his knowledge of Greek lends support to the notion of a Greek origin. He ruled his domain, in the modern-day Republic of Macedonia, as a semi-independent prince, acknowledging Dušan's suzerainty but not subordinate to him. He probably had supported Dušan's overthrow of his father, King Uroš III, in 1331, and after the death of his first wife, Karavida, in 1336, he married Maria Palaiologina, Dušan's stepmother. There is considerable scholarly debate as to when Jovan Oliver acquired his domains, i.e. whether he held them before Dušan's accession, whether they were granted to him by Dušan as a reward for his support, or whether he gained them as a result of his marriage to Maria.

At any rate, he was one of the most powerful nobles under Dušan, and exercised considerable influence over him, as evidenced in the negotiations in July 1342 which led to the decision to support John VI Kantakouzenos in the Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347, in exchange for which he hoped to marry his daughter to Manuel Kantakouzenos. He was also active in the 1334 war with the Byzantine Empire, and was present during the subsequent peace negotiations together with Vratko Nemanjić, when Jovan was probably named despotes by Andronikos III Palaiologos. With the death of Hrelja in late 1342, when the latter's domain was split between Jovan Oliver and Dušan, he was able to further expand his lands, including the important towns of Štip and Strumica.

In 1341, imitating the Serbian kings, he built the Eastern Orthodox Lesnovo monastery as his endowment. Jovan Oliver outlived Dušan, but after his death, his sons were unable to assert themselves: possibly opposed by a coalition of other nobles, they failed to acquire any positions of importance, and most of their father's lands were taken over by Constantine and John, the sons of sebastokrator Dejan Dragaš of Kumanovo.


He had 7 children:

  • Danica
  • Krajko (or Krajmir)
  • Damnjan (or Damjan)
  • Vidoslav
  • Dabiživ
  • Rusin
  • Oliver
Court offices
First despot of Stefan Dušan
Served alongside:
Simeon Uroš and Jovan Asen
Succeeded by
as despot of Uroš V
First sevastokrator of Stefan Dušan
before 1346
Succeeded by
Dejan and Branko
Preceded by
Gradislav Vojšić
as čelnik
veliki čelnik of Stefan Dušan
before 1340–before 1349
Succeeded by
Military offices
Title last held by
Novak Grebostrek
veliki vojvoda of Stefan Dušan
fl. 1341–1355
Served alongside: Nikola Stanjević
Succeeded by
Jovan Uglješa
as veliki vojvoda of Uroš V

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