Albanian principalities

The term Albanian Principalities refers to a number of principalities created in the Middle Ages in Albania and Epirus that were ruled by Albanian nobility. The 12th century marked the first Albanian principality, the Principality of Arbër, however it is in the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century that these principalities became stronger, especially because of the fall of the Serbian Empire. Some of these principalities were united in 1444 under the military alliance called League of Lezha.

List of Albanian principalities

Principality Emblem Years
Principality of Arbanon 1190–1255
Despotate of Angelokastron and Lepanto 1358–1374
Principality of Valona and Kanina 1332–1417
Despotate of Arta 1358–1416
Principality of Gjirokastër 1386–1418
Lordship of Berat 1335–1417
Principality of Kastrioti 1389–1444
Principality of Albania 1368–1392

Principality of Arbanon

The Principality of Arbanon (1190–1255) was the first Albanian state during the Middle Ages. The proclamation of the feudal state of Arbanon, in the north of Albania, with Kruja as the capital took place in 1190. As the founder of this state is known Progoni and later on Gjini and Dhimiter. Nderfandina is known as the most important center of this principality. For this was spoken clearly by the emblem of Arber found carved on a stone in the Catholic Church of Saint Maria. After the fall of Progon Dynasty the principality came under Grigor Kamona and Gulam of Albania. Finally the principality was dissolved in 1255. The best period of the principality was under Dhimiter Progoni.

Despotate of Angelokastron and Lepanto

Despotate of Angelokastron and Lepanto (1358–1374) was a Despotate, ruled by Albanian chieftains of Epirus. It was created after the defeat of Nikephoros II Orsini in 1358 and ceased to exist in 1374, when its despot, Gjin Bua Shpata, unified the territory with Despotate of Arta.[1][2][3]

Principality of Valona

The Principality of Valona (1346–1417) was a medieval state roughly encompassing the territories of the modern Albanian counties of Vlorë (Valona) and Berat. Initially a vassal of the Serbian Empire, it became an independent lordship after 1355 until conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1417.

Despotate of Arta

Main article: Despotate of Arta

Despotate of Arta (1358–1416) was a Despotate, ruled by Albanian chieftains of Epirus. It was created after the defeat of Nikephoros II Orsini in 1358 and ceased to exist in 1416.[1][2][3] After the death of Peter Losha in 1374, the Albanian despotates of Arta and Angelocastron were united under the rule of Despot Gjin Bua Shpata. The territory of this despotate was from the Corinth Gulf to Acheron River in the North, neighboring with the Principality 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 Despotate of Epirus was ruled by Thomas II Preljubović, who was in an open conflict with Gjin Bue Shpata. In 1375, Gjin Bue Shpata started an offensive in Ioannina, but he couldn't invade the city. Although Shpata married with the sister of Thomas II Preljubović, Helena their war did not stop. After the death of Gjin Bua Shpata in 1399, the Despotate of Arta weakened continuously. Among the animosities with the rulers of Janina Gjin’s successor, Muriq Shpata, had to deal with the intentions of the Venetians and of Count Carlo I Tocco of Cefalonia. In 1416 he defeated Jakup Shpata and conquered Arta, ending the Shpata dynasty.

Principality of Gjirokastër

Principality of Gjirokastër (1386–1418) was a principality created by John Zenevisi in 1386 and abolished after the Ottoman invasion in 1434. In 1380, John Zenevisi was appointed sebastocrator or prefect of Vagenetia near Delvina and in 1386 he became prince. In 1399 Esau, supported by some Albanian clans, marched against his wife's brother-in-law John Zenevisi of Argyrokastron. Now Esau was routed and captured, and much of his land was occupied by Zenevisi. Esau returned to Ioannina in 1400, regaining the reign from Zenebishi. Zenebishi was defeated by the Turks, he fled to the Venetian island of Corfu, but was called back two years later (1416) by an uprising of the mountain tribes. With the support of Venice, he again set his sights on Gjirokastra, but was chased away once more by the Turks and died in Corfu in 1418.

Lordship of Berat

Main article: Lordship of Berat

The Lordship of Berat (1335–1417) was a principality created by despot Andrea II Muzaka in 1335, with its capital Berat.

Kastrioti Principality

Principality 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, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg. Gjon Kastrioti had originally only two small villages, which probably emblem of the eagle family with a black two-headed, even if it can provide different interpretations. In short time John Kastrioti managed to expand its lands so as to become the undisputed lord of Central Albania. Gjon Kastrioti was among those who opposed[4] 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. Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg 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. On 28 November 1443, Skanderbeg saw his opportunity to rebel during 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[4] from the Sultan to the Governor of Krujë, which granted him control of the territory. After capturing the castle, Skanderbeg[5] abjured Islam and proclaimed himself the avenger of his family and country. Following the capture of Krujë, Skanderbeg managed to bring together all the Albanian princes in the town of Lezhë[6] (see League of Lezhë, 1444). Gibbon[5] reports that the "Albanians, a martial race, were unanimous to live and die with their hereditary prince" and that "in the assembly of the states of Epirus, Skanderbeg was elected general of the Turkish war and each of the allies engaged to furnish his respective proportion of men and money".

Princedom of Albania

Main article: 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 Balsha dynasty, until 1392, when it was occupied by the Ottoman Empire.

See also


  1. 1 2 "History of Albanian People" Albanian Academy of Science. ISBN 99927-1-623-1
  2. 1 2 John V.A. Fine Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1987.
  3. 1 2 The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  4. 1 2 James Emerson Tennent, 1845, The History of Modern Greece, from Its Conquest by the Romans B.C.146, to the Present Time
  5. 1 2 Edward Gibbon, 1788, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 6, Scanderbeg section
  6. Minna Skafte Jensen, 2006, A Heroic Tale: Marin Barleti's Scanderbeg between orality and literacy

"History of Albanian People" Albanian Academy of Science. ISBN 99927-1-623-1

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