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Despotate of Angelokastron and Lepanto
The Despotate of Angelokastron and Lepanto was a short-lived despotate ruled by the Albanian chieftain Gjin Bua Shpata, in the late medieval period including parts of Western Greece. It was created after the defeat of Nikephoros II Orsini, Despot of Epirus in the Battle of Achelous, in 1359 and ceased to exist in 1374, when its ruler unified the territory with the Despotate of Arta.
The Principality of Valona (1346–1417) was a medieval principality in Albania, roughly encompassing the territories of the modern counties of Vlorë (Valona), Fier, and Berat. Initially a vassal of the Serbian Empire, it became an independent lordship after 1355, although de facto under Venetian influence, and remained as such until it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1417.
Principality of Valona and Kanina
The Despotate of Arta was a despotate established by Albanian rulers during the 14th century, when Albanian tribes moved into Epirus and founded two short-lived principalities there. The Despotate of Arta was created after the defeat of the local Despot Nikephoros II Orsini by the Albania tribesmen in the Battle of Achelous in 1359 and ceased to exist in 1416, when it passed to Carlo I Tocco.
Despotate of Arta
In the late spring of 1359, Nikephoros II Orsini, the last despot of Epirus of the Orsini dynasty, fought against the Albanians near river Acheloos, Aetolia. The Albanians won the battle and managed to create two new states in the southern territories of the Despotate of Epirus. Because a number of Albanian lords actively supported the successful Serbian campaign in Thessaly and Epirus, the Serbian Tsar granted them specific regions and offered them the Byzantine title of despotes in order to secure their loyalty.
The two Albanian lead states were: the first with its capital in Arta was under the Albanian nobleman Peter Losha, and the second, centered in Angelokastron, was ruled by Gjin Bua Spata. After the death of Peter Losha in 1374, the Albanian despotates of Arta and Angelocastron were united under the rule of Gjin Bua Spata.
At April 1378 the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, Juan Fernández de Heredia set about to take Arta but failed and was captured in battle by Gjin Bua Spata. Herendia was sold by Spata to the Ottoman Turks for a huge prize. Thomas II Preljubović, the Despot of Epirus offered valuable help during the battle, however this alliance didn't last for long.
The territory of this despotate at its greatest extent (1374–1403) was from the Corinth Gulf to Acheron River in the North, neighboring with the Principality of Gjirokastër of John Zenevisi, another state created in the area of the Despotate of Epirus. The Despotate of Epirus managed to control in this period only the eastern part of Epirus, with its capital in Ioannina. During this period the Despot of Epirus Thomas II Preljubović was in an open conflict with Gjin Spata. In 1375, Gjin Bua Spata started an offensive in Ioannina, but he could not invade the city. Although Spata married with Thomas' sister, Helena, their war did not stop.
The Principality of Gjirokastër or Argyrokastro (1386–1418) was an Albanian principality created by John Zenevisi in 1386, encompassing the area around Gjirokastër (modern southern Albania). It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1414, but Zenebishi was able to rally the local population and recover his realm before being finally defeated by the Ottomans in 1418.
Principality of Gjirokastër
The League of Lezhë (2 March 1444 – ca. 1450) was an alliance of Albanian principalities forged in Lezhë on 2 March 1444 and is regarded as the first unified Albanian state. It was initiated and organised by Skanderbeg with the aim of uniting the Albanian principalities that had been founded in the 14th century, to fight the Ottoman Armies. The league, whose main members were the Arianiti, Dukagjini, Spani, Thopia and Muzaka, as well as the Albanian highlander clans, was led by George Kastrioti Skanderbeg. The League of Lezhë had the trappings of a confederation where each principality over all maintained its sovereignty. Skanderbeg was the supreme commander of the military alliance. All earlier and many modern historians accepted Marin Barleti's news about this meeting in Lezhë (without giving it equal weight), although no contemporary Venetian document mentions it. Barleti referred to the meeting as the generalis concilium or universum concilium [general or whole council]; the term "League of Lezhë" was coined by subsequent historians.
League of Lezhë
After the death of Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan in 1355, Albanian noblemen established their own dominions. When Ottoman forces entered Albania, they were faced with small principalities that were engaged in vicious fights among themselves. The first battle against the Ottoman forces in Albania was that of Balsha II, the Lord of Zeta, whose forces were defeated in the battle of Savra (18 September 1385) and Balsha II himself was killed.
In the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire established itself in the Balkans with no significant resistance offered by local Christian nobles during this period. Many of them were still fighting amongst themselves and didn't see the advance of the Ottoman Empire as a threat to their power. Although a civil war broke out between Bayezid I sons', during 1402–1413, none of the Christian noblemen in the Balkans at the time seized the opportunity to repel the Ottomans; in the contrary, Serbs and Hungarians even helped the future Sultan Mohammed I seize power, by participating as his allies in the final battle against his brother. After the Ottoman civil war was over in favor of Mehmed I, his forces captured Kruja from the Thopia family in 1415, Berat in 1417 from Muzaka, Vlora and Kanina in 1417 from the widow of Balsha and Gjirokastër in 1418 from the Zenevisi family. Under pressure from the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice, the Albanian principalities began to vacillate.
Together with occupation, new rulers were appointed and the registration process of the population and properties was done by Ottoman tax officers. Local populations and old nobility were not happy with that and various local rebellions took place. The most famous ones being those of Gjon Kastrioti in 1429–1430 and Gjergj Araniti in 1432–1435.
In November 1443, Skanderbeg captured Kruja with his troops and declared its independence from the Sultan. However a more organised resistance than that of a single principality was needed.
Skanderbeg's example gave impetus to the liberation movements in Central and Northern Albania. George Kastrioti made efforts to unite all moral and material resources of the individual families in a successful struggle against the Ottomans. To this effect, on 2 March 1444 he called in Lezhë an assembly of the Albanian princes, where almost all of them gathered: the Arianits, Dukagjin, Thopias, Muzakas, as well as the leaders of the free Albanian tribes from the high mountains. In spite of the discord among the princes, they founded a union, which went down in history by the name of the League of Lezhë.
The League of Lezhë was founded by:
Lekë Zaharia (lord of Sati and Dagnum), and his vassals Pal and Nicholas Dukagjini
Peter Spani (lord of the mountains behind Drivasto)
Lekë Dushmani (lord of Pult)
George Strez, John and Gojko Balšić (lords of Misia)
Andrea Thopia (lord of Scuria) with nis nephew Tanush
Theodor Corona Musachi
Stefan Crnojević (lord of Upper Zeta) with his three sons Ivan, Andrija and Božidar (the latter was killed by Lekë Dukagjini and members of Zaharia family when he led soldiers to help Skanderbeg in his fight against the Ottomans).
George Kastrioti - Skanderbeg was elected its leader, and commander in chief of its armed forces numbering 8,000 warriors.
In the light of modern geopolitical science, the League of Lezhë represented an attempt to form a state union. In fact, this was a federation of independent rulers who undertook the duty to follow a common foreign policy, jointly defend their independence, and contribute their armed forces to the alliance. Naturally, it all required a collective budget for covering the military expenditures, and each family contributed their mite to the common funds of the League.
At the same time, each clan kept its possessions, its autonomy in solving the internal problems of its own estate. The formation and functioning of the League, of which George Kastrioti was the supreme feudal lord or suzerain, was the most significant attempt to build up an all-Albanian resistance against the Ottoman occupation and, simultaneously, an effort to create, for the span of its short-lived functioning, some sort of a unified Albanian state. It is no accident at all that to this day Skanderbeg is a national hero of the Albanians, and the period of the Albanian League has been perceived by the Albanians as a peak in their history, especially if compared with the subsequent failed attempts, until the beginning of the 20th century, to constitute an independent statehood.
After Peter Spani and George Dushmani left the League of Lezha, and after the Arianiti and Dukagjini left it in 1450, members of Dukagjini family concluded peace with the Ottoman Empire and started their actions against Skanderbeg. Robert Elsie emphasizes that Gjergj Arianiti was often Skanderbeg's rival and that he actually left his alliance with Skanderbeg by 1459.
For 25 years, from 1443–1468, Skanderbeg's 10,000 man army marched through Ottoman territory winning against consistently larger and better supplied Ottoman forces. Threatened by Ottoman advances in their homeland, Hungary, and later Naples and Venice – their former enemies – provided the financial backbone and support for Skanderbeg's army. On May 14, 1450, an Ottoman army, larger than any previous force encountered by Skanderbeg or his men stormed and overwhelmed the castle of the city of Kruja. This city was particularly symbolic to Skanderbeg because he had been appointed suba of Kruja in 1438 by the Ottomans. The Ottoman forces were unable to capture the city and fell back as winter arrived. In June 1466, Mehmed II led an army of 150,000 soldiers back to Kruja but failed to capture the city.
Though an official date of dissolution is unknown, the League of Lezhë fragmented soon after its founding, with many of its members breaking away. By 1450 it had certainly ceased to function as originally intended, and only the core of the alliance under Scanderbeg and Araniti Comino continued to fight on. After Skanderbeg's death in 1468, the sultan "easily subdued Albania," but Skanderbeg's death did not end the struggle for independence, and fighting continued until the Ottoman siege of Shkodra in 1478–79, a siege ending when the Republic of Venice ceded Shkodra to the Ottomans in the peace treaty of 1479.
Battles of the League of Lezhë
The League of Lezhë fought the following battles against the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Venice:
Battle of Torvioll (1444)
Battle of Mokra (1445)
Battle of Otonetë (1446)
Albanian–Venetian War (1447–1448)
Battle of the Drin (1448)
Battle of Oranik (1448)
Second Siege of Sfetigrad (1449)
First Siege of Krujë (1450)
Lordship of Berat / Muzakaj Principality of BeratPrincipality of Kastrioti (1389–1444) was one of the most important principalities in Medieval Albania. It was created by Gjon Kastrioti and then ruled by the national hero of Albania, George Kastrioti Skanderbeg.
Principality of Kastrioti
The Lordship of Berat (1335–1444) was a county created by despot Andrea II Muzaka of the Muzaka noble family in 1335, with its capital at Berat. The lordship was united with other Albanian Principalities in the League of Lezhë in 1444.
A chronicle by Gjon Muzaka (John Musachi), written in 1515 after he abandoned Albania and went to Italy, records many interesting facts about the Muzakaj family and the Principality of Berat, although at places unreliable. The text is considered to be one of the oldest written by an Albanian.
|Lordship of Berat
|Principata e Muzakajve
Muzakaj Principality of Berat in the 15th century
|Despot and later Prince
||Andrea II Muzaka
Gjon Kastrioti had originally only two small villages. In short time John Kastrioti managed to expand its lands so as to become the undisputed lord of Central Albania. He married Voisava Tripalda who bore five daughters - Mara, later wife of Stefan Crnojević of Montenegro; Jela, then wife of Gjin (Gino) Musacchio; Angjelina (Angelina), later wife of Vladan Arianit Comnenus Thopia; Vlajka, later wife of Stefan Maramonte Balšić; Mamica, later wife of Karol Musacchio Thopia - and four sons: Repoš, Staniša (Stanislaus), Kostandin (Constantine) and George Kastrioti. Gjon Kastrioti was among those who opposed the early incursion of Ottoman Bayezid I, however his resistance was ineffectual. The Sultan, having accepted his submissions, obliged him to pay tribute and to ensure the fidelity of local rulers, George Kastrioti and his three brothers were taken by the Sultan to his court as hostages. After his conversion to Islam, he attended military school in Edirne and led many battles for the Ottoman Empire to victory. For his military victories, he received the title Arnavutlu İskender Bey, (Albanian: Skënderbe shqiptari, English: Lord Alexander, the Albanian) comparing Kastrioti's military brilliance to that of Alexander the Great.
Restoration of Gjergj Kastrioti
He was distinguished as one of the best officers in several Ottoman campaigns both in Asia Minor and in Europe, and the Sultan appointed him General. He even fought against Greeks, Serbs and Hungarians, and some sources say that he used to maintain secret links with Ragusa, Venice, Ladislaus V of Hungary, and Alfonso I of Naples. Sultan Murat II gave him the title Vali which made him General Governor. On November 28, 1443, Skanderbeg saw his opportunity to rebel after a battle against the Hungarians led by John Hunyadi in Niš as part of the Crusade of Varna. He switched sides along with 300 other Albanians serving in the Ottoman army. After a long trek to Albania he eventually captured Krujë by forging a letter from the Sultan to the Governor of Krujë, which granted him control of the territory. After capturing the castle, Skanderbeg abjured Islam and proclaimed himself the avenger of his family and country. He raised a flag showing a double-headed eagle, an ancient symbol used by various cultures of Balkans (especially the Byzantine Empire), which later became the Albanian flag. The Governor was killed as he was returning to Edirne, unaware of Skanderbeg's intentions... Skanderbeg allied with George Arianite (born Gjergj Arianit Komneni) and married his daughter Donika (born Marina Donika Arianiti).
Principality of Dukagjini (1387–1444) was a principality in Medieval Albania. It was created by brothers Pal and Leka I Dukagjini and then ruled by Pal's descendants, Tanush Dukagjini, Pal II Dukagjini, who took part in the League of Lezha. Pal's son, Lekë III Dukagjini is one of the most prominent personalities in Albanian history.
Principality of Dukagjini
Princedom of Albania
Princedom of Albania (1368–1392) was an Albanian principality formed after the disestablishment of Kingdom of Albania, by Karl Thopia. The principality changed hands between the Thopia dynasty and the Balšić dynasty, until 1392, when Durrës was annexed by the Republic of Venice.
In 1358, Karlo rose against the rule of the Anjou and could drive them out up to Durrës from Epirus and Albania. It prevailed from 1358 to 1387 over far parts of central Albania and called themselves Princeps Albaniae.
Since 1362, Karlo sought himself to set Durrës, which was in the possession of the Duchess Johanna of Anjou, also into the possession of the city. The first, certainly still unsuccessful siege lasted from April 1362 until May 1363. Then, Thopia had to withdraw his troops, who were weakened by an epidemic disease. Only in 1367 could Karlo conquer Durrës, who had attained in the meantime the tacit agreement of the Venetians for his project and make important port his residence.
Karlo gained control of Durrës in 1368, which was where the Angevins held out due to their Kingdom becoming smaller in size. This event caused the Kingdom of Albania to end.
Albanian principalities - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia