During the quarter of the century that preceded 1204, the fateful year for the Byzantine Empire, Serbia made significant advances in the development of a specific idea of the state, which was Byzantine in essence but autochthonous in its external forms. In an agreement concluded with Ragusa in 1192, Byzantium for the first time regarded Serbia as an independent power;1 this view, however, was neither confirmed nor refuted in the period preceding the fall of the capital into the hands of the crusaders. Throughout the latter half of the twelfth century Constantinople made it quite clear that the grand zhupan of Serbia was to be considered not only a dependent ruler, but also a ruler who governed his own territories by permission of the emperor of Byzantium.2 In case the ruler thus empowered was not completely compliant, his policy was to be treated as a rebellion (ἀποστασία).3 The Serbian view, on the other hand, implied continuous struggle for the attainment of an independent role on the Balkans, and even on the European political scene.4 This opposition to the interests of Byzantium involved reliance on other powers, such as Hungary, Venice, the Normans, Germany.