"Moreover, you scorned our people, and compared the Albanese to sheep, and according to your custom think of us with insults. Nor have you shown yourself to have any knowledge of my race. Our elders were Epirotes, where this Pirro came from, whose force could scarcely support the Romans. This Pirro, who Taranto and many other places of Italy held back with armies. I do not have to speak for the Epiroti. They are very much stronger men than your Tarantini, a species of wet men who are born only to fish. If you want to say that Albania is part of Macedonia I would concede that a lot more of our ancestors were nobles who went as far as India under Alexander the Great and defeated all those peoples with incredible difficulty. From those men come these who you called sheep. But the nature of things is not changed. Why do your men run away in the faces of sheep?"
Letter from Skanderbeg to the Prince of Taranto ▬ Skanderbeg, October 31 1460

Texts and documents about Albanian history

Talk about Albanian history.
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Texts and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:33 pm

These documents have been collected by Robert Elsie, the exceptional historian, who passed away and was buried in Albanian Alps, not long ago. This thread aims to dublicate these precious information.
https://web.archive.org/web/20120601132 ... xts15.html
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:34 pm

1000 - 1018
Fragment on the Origins of Nations

What is possibly the earliest written reference to the Albanians is that to be found in an old Bulgarian text compiled around the beginning of the eleventh century. It was discovered in a Serbian manuscript dated 1628 and was first published in 1934 by Radoslav Grujic. This fragment of a legend from the time of Tsar Samuel endeavours, in a catechismal 'question and answer' form, to explain the origins of peoples and languages. It divides the world into seventy-two languages and three religious categories: Orthodox, half-believers (i.e. non-Orthodox Christians) and non-believers. Though the Serbs go unmentioned, the Albanians, still a small conglomeration of nomadic mountain tribes at this time, find their place among the nations of half-believers. If we accept the dating of Grujic, which is based primarily upon the contents of the text as a whole, this would be the earliest written document referring to the Albanians as a people or language group.


It can be seen that there are various languages on earth. Of them, there are five Orthodox languages: Bulgarian, Greek, Syrian, Iberian (Georgian) and Russian. Three of these have Orthodox alphabets: Greek, Bulgarian and Iberian. There are twelve languages of half-believers: Alamanians, Franks, Magyars (Hungarians), Indians, Jacobites, Armenians, Saxons, Lechs (Poles), Arbanasi (Albanians), Croatians, Hizi, Germans.



[Extract from: Radoslav Grujic: Legenda iz vremena Cara Samuila o poreklu naroda. in: Glasnik skopskog naucnog drustva, Skopje, 13 (1934), p. 198 200. Translated from the Old Church Slavonic by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 3.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:35 pm

1038, 1042, 1078
Michael Attaleiates:
The First Byzantine References

Michael Attaleiates was a Byzantine lawyer and historian who rose to high office under the emperors Romanus IV (r. 1067-1071) and Michael VII (r. 1071-1078). His 'History', covering the years 1034-1079, is a largely eyewitnessed account of political and military events in the Byzantine Empire. It was during this period that the Byzantine Greeks first took note of the Albanians as a people.


When the Emperor Michael (1), who passed away in piety and whose home is known to have been the province of Paphlagonia, took up the sceptre of the Byzantine Empire, the Agarene (2) people in Sicily in the West were defeated by Byzantine naval and land forces.

And had not the well-known George Maniakes, who had been entrusted with the general command, been eliminated on the slanderous accusation that he was hungry for power, and had not the military command of the war been transferred to others, that large and renowned island, blessed with large cities knowing no lack of precious goods, would still be under Byzantine control. Now, however, jealousy has destroyed not only the man and his endeavours, but also that enormous undertaking (3). For when subsequent commanders made base and shameful plans and decisions, not only was the island lost to Byzantium, but also the greater part of the army. Unfortunately, the people who had once been our allies and who possessed the same rights as citizens and the same religion, i.e. the Albanians and the Latins, who live in the Italian regions of our Empire beyond Western Rome, quite suddenly became enemies when Michael Dokenianos insanely directed his command against their leaders...


Constantine IX Monomachos (4) proved to be more benevolent on the imperial throne than his predecessor. He conveyed imperial honours and gifts to almost everyone with ambition, and delighted his subjects. Suddenly storm clouds gathered in the West and threatened him with nothing less than destruction and expulsion from the throne. The aforementioned George with the surname Maniakes, thirsting for blood, began an uprising in the Italian part of the Empire with Byzantine and Albanian soldiers there, being offended because the emperor had shown him a lack of respect and fearing the emperor in view of previous hostilities. He caused great turmoil in the rest of the army opposing him and took it over. After having set up his camp at a two days' march from Thessalonika, he made his attack on the imperial camp in the evening...


When this had taken place and the usurpers had gradually calmed down, another disaster began to take its course and to spread like a poisonous weed intent on destroying the crops. The danger came from the city of Epidamnus (Durrës). The Protoprohedros Duke Basiliakes, who had been sent there by the emperor, having succeeded in avoiding Bryennius and withdrawing from Adrianopole, took over Durrës and assembled an army there from all the surrounding regions. By soliciting support for his side by means of substantial gifts, he succeeded in having the Franks enter his territory from Italy and attempted to make use of them for his side. By various pretences and means, he collected money from everyone under his order and command, set up a list and used as a pretext for this arms buildup the fact that he intended to attack Bryennius as a renegade. Once he had ensured that he had indeed assembled a large army and forces fit for action, composed of Byzantine Greeks, Bulgarians and Albanians and of his own soldiers, he set off and hastened to Thessalonika...



(1) Michael IV (r. 1034-1041).
(2) i.e. the Arabs.
(3) i.e. the recapture of Sicily in 1038-1040.
(4) Constantine IX (r. 1042-1055).

[Extracts from: Michaelis Attaliotae: Historia, Bonn 1853, p. 8, 18, 297. Translated by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 4-5.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:36 pm

Anna Comnena:
The Norman Invasion of Albania

Byzantine historian Anna Comnena (1083- ca. 1153) was the daughter of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (reg. 1081-1118) and his wife Irene Ducas. In 1097, she married historian Nicephorus Bryennius (1062-1138). The failure of a clumsy plot to prevent her younger brother, John II Comnenus (reg. 1118-1143), from succeeding to the throne, forced her and her mother to retire to a convent. There she spent the rest of her days, devoting her energies to erudition and scholarship. With the death of her husband in 1138, she continued his "History" which, on its completion in 1148 in eight books, became known as the "Alexiad." Of interest in the "Alexiad" which, as the title implies, is devoted to the memory of her father, is her description of the Norman invasion of Albania led by her father's early rival, Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia (reg. 1057-1085). Guiscard laid siege to Durrës in 1081 and defeated the Byzantine emperor there. His men then set off in pursuit of Alexius. Anna Comnena describes the events with great clarity.


Robert reached the sanctuary of St Nicolas, where was the imperial tent and all the Roman baggage. He then despatched all his fit men in pursuit of Alexius, while he himself stayed there, gloating over the imminent capture of the enemy. Such were the thoughts that fired his arrogant spirit. His men pursued Alexius with great determination as far as a place called by the natives Kake Pleura [Ndroq]. The situation was as follows: below there flows the River Charzanes [Erzen]; on the other side was a high, overhanging rock. The pursuers caught up with him between these two. They struck at him on the left side with their spears (there were nine of them in all) and forced him to the right. No doubt he would have fallen, had not the sword which he grasped in his right hand rested firmly on the ground. What is more, the spur tip on his left foot caught in the edge of the saddle cloth (which they call a hypostroma) and this made him less liable to fall. He grabbed the horse's mane with his left hand and pulled himself up. It was no doubt some divine power that saved him from his enemies in an unexpected way, for it caused other Kelts to aim their spears at him from the right. The spear points, thrust towards his right side, suddenly straightened him and kept him in equilibrium. It was indeed an extraordinary sight. The enemies on the left strove to push him off; those on the right plunged their spears at his flank, as if in competition with the first group, opposing spear to spear. Thus the emperor was kept upright between them. He settled himself more firmly in the saddle, gripping horse and saddle cloth alike more tightly with his legs. It was at this moment that the horse gave proof of its nobility. Under any circumstances, it was unusually agile and spirited, of exceptional strength, a real warhorse (Alexius had actually acquired him from Bryennius, together with the purple-dyed saddle cloth when he took him prisoner during the reign of Nicephorus Botaniates). To put it shortly, this charger was now spirited by Divine Providence: he suddenly leapt through the air and landed on top of the rock I mentioned before as if he had been raised on wings - or to use the language of mythology, as if he had taken the wings of Pegasus. Bryennius used to call him Sgouritzes (Dark Bay). Some of the barbarians' spears, striking at empty air, fell from their hands; others, which had pierced the emperor's clothing, remained there and were carried off with the horse when he jumped. Alexius quickly cut away these trailing weapons. Despite the terrible dangers in which he found himself, he was not troubled in spirit, nor was he confused in thought; he lost no time in choosing the expedient course and contrary to all expectation escaped from his enemies. The Kelts stood open-mouthed, astonished by what had happened, and indeed it was a most amazing thing. They saw that he was making off in a new direction and followed him once more. When he was a long way ahead of his pursuers he wheeled round and, coming face to face with one of them, drove his spear through the man's chest. He fell at once to the ground, flat on his back. Turning about, Alexius continued on his way. However, he fell in with several Kelts who had been chasing Romans further on. They saw him a long way off and halted in a line, shield to shield, partly to rest their horses, but at the same time hoping to take him alive and present him as a prize of war to Robert. Pursued by enemies from behind and confronted by others, Alexius despaired on his life; but he gathered his wits and noting in the centre of his enemies one man who, from his physical appearance and the flashing brightness of his armour, he thought was Robert, he steadied his horse and charged at him. His opponent also levelled his spear and they both advanced across the intervening space to do battle. The emperor was first to strike, taking careful aim with his spear. The weapon pierced the Kelt's breast and passed through his back. Straightway he fell to the ground mortally wounded, and died on the spot. Thereupon Alexius rode off through the centre of their broken line. The killing of this barbarian had saved him. The man's friends, when they saw him wounded and hurled to the ground, gathered round and tended him as he lay there. The others, pursuing from the rear, meanwhile dismounted from their horses and recognized the dead man. They beat their breasts in grief, for although he was not Robert, he was a distinguished noble, and Robert's right-hand man. While they busied themselves over him, the emperor was well on his way...

After this, the Kelts went on their way to Robert. When the latter saw them empty-handed and learnt what had happened to them, he bitterly censured all of them and one in particular, whom he even threatened to flog, calling him a coward and an ignoramus in war. The fellow expected to be put to horrible torture - because he had not leapt onto the rock with his own horse and either struck and murdered Alexius, or grabbed him and brought him alive to Robert. For this Robert, in other respects the bravest and the most daring of men, was also full of bitterness, swift to anger, with a heart overflowing with wrath. In his dealing with enemies he had one of two objects: either to run through with his spear any man who resisted him, or to do away with himself, cutting the thread of Fate, so to speak. However, the soldier whom he accused now gave a vivid account of the ruggedness and inaccessibility of the rock: no one, he added, whether on foot or on horseback, could climb it without divine aid - not to mention a man at war and engaged in fighting; even without war it was impossible to venture its ascent. "If you can't believe a word I say," he cried, "try it yourself - or let some other knight, however daring, have a go. He will see it's out of the question. Anyway, if someone should conquer that rock, not only minus wings but even with them, then I myself am ready to endure any punishment you'd like to name and to be damned for cowardice." These words, which expressed the man's wonder and amazement, appeased Robert's fury; his anger turned to admiration. As for the emperor, after spending two days and nights in travel through the winding paths of the neighbouring mountains and all that impassable region, he arrived at Achrida [Ohrid]. On the way, he crossed the Charzanes and waited for a short time near a place called Babagora [Krraba mountains between Tirana and Elbasan] a remote valley. Neither the defeat nor any of the other evils of war troubled his mind; he was not worried in the slightest by the pain from his wounded forehead; but in his heart he grieved deeply for those who had fallen in the battle and especially for the men who had fought bravely. Nevertheless, he applied himself wholly to the problems of the city of Dyrrachium [Durrës] and it hurt him to recall that it was now without its leader, Palaeologus (for he had been unable to return - the war had moved so fast). To the best of his ability he ensured the safety of the inhabitants and entrusted the protection of the citadel to the Venetian officers who had migrated there. All the rest of the city was put under the command of Komiskortes, a native of Albania (τῷ ἔξ Αρβανῶν ὁρμωμένῳ), to whom he gave profitable advice for the future in letters.

It was generally agreed and some actually said that Robert was an exceptional leader, quick-witted, of fine appearance, courteous, a clever conversationalist with a loud voice, accessible, of gigantic stature, with hair invariably of the right length and a thick beard; he was always careful to observe the customs of his own race; he preserved to the end the youthful bloom which distinguished his face and indeed his whole body, and was proud of it - he had the physique of a true leader; he treated with respect all his subjects, especially those who were more than usually devoted to him. On the other hand, he was niggardly and grasping in the extreme, a very good businessman, most covetous and full of ambition. Dominated as he was by these traits, he attracted much censure from everyone. Some people blame the emperor for losing his head and starting the war with Robert prematurely. According to them, if he had not provoked Robert too soon, he would have beaten him easily in any case, for Robert was being shot at from all directions, by the Albanians (•ἀρβανιτῶν) and by Bodinus' men from Dalmatia. But of course fault-finders stand out of weapon range and the acid darts they fire at the contestants come from their tongues. The truth is that Robert's manliness, his marvellous skill in war and his steadfast spirit are universally recognized. He was an adversary not readily vanquished, a very tough enemy who was more courageous than ever in his hour of defeat.



[Extract from: Anna Comnena, The Alexiad, IV 7-8, Bonn 1836, p. 215‑221 and p. 293-294. Translated from the Greek by E. R. A. Sewter in: The Alexiad of Anna Comnena, London 1969, p. 149‑153 and p. 195. Reprinted in Robert Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th-17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 6-9.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:37 pm

Muhammad al-Idrisi:
The Book of Roger

Muhammed al-Idrisi was a celebrated Arab geographer. He was born in Ceuta in North Africa and is said to have studied in Cordoba, travelling widely throughout Andalusia and North Africa. For reasons which are unclear, he settled at the court of King Roger II of Sicily (r. 1105-1154), for whom he compiled a geography of the known world. This work, known as the 'Book of Roger', is divided into seven climate zones. It was completed in 1154 and provides some useful information on Albania and Macedonia.


We can state that Venetian territory, the land of the Slavs and, in general, everything bathed by the Adriatic Sea is surrounded as a zone on the eastern side by a chain of mountains which begins 30 miles from Adrianople (Edirne). These mountains are called Lessû (Lezha) and at the top of them there is a town of the same name. They stretch northwards up to Kastoria and there is also a chain of them across from Drast (Durrës) through which the road leading to that town and elsewhere passes. There, the mountain range is called al-Tamûra (Tomor). Three rivers which flow towards Lablûna (Vlora) and Durrës take their sources there. The first river, that of Vlora, is called the Shuzza (Vjosa), the second is called the Dâblî (Devoll) and the third is called Istrîna (Drin). This chain then stretches from the Durrës road 40 miles up to Jâdhra (Zadar). From the point nearest to Adrianople and the town of Janina there is a mountain range which stretches to the gulf of the Peloponnesian Sea and ends 80 miles from Thebes. Naupaktos is on the coast at the foot of this range.

As to the mountain of Lezha, to which we have referred, it is situated 15 miles from Durrës. It is 30 miles from the town of Lezha to Duljîna (Ulcinj) on the Adriatic Sea. And from there to the mountain it is 12 miles.

This mountain range stretches firstly to near Antibra (Bar), a fair town built on a hillside 3 miles from the sea, as is the mountain; secondly to Qadara (Kotor), a place situated 3 miles from the mountains at the edge of one of the mountain ranges; and thirdly to the town of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), which is also situated at the edge of the mountains.

Across from the town of Kotor, of which we have spoken, and beyond the mountains at a distance of 15 miles is Qâmyû (1), a flourishing town situated near a range of mountains which surrounds it in the form of a kâf (2) such that one can only reach it from one side.

The mountain range continues towards Stagno (Ston) where a huge and lofty range stands out, on which the town is situated. Then on to Asbâlatû (Split)...
Between the Adriatic Sea and the straits of Constantinople there are numerous famed sites, towns and capitals. We intend, with the help of God, to refer to them in detail and in order. As such, we say that the road from Durrës to Akhrisopoli (Chrysoupolis) is as follows.

From Durrës on the banks of the Adriatic Sea, journeying by land in the direction of Constantinople, one first of all reaches Petrela, situated on a promontory at a distance of two days. From there, it is a distance of 4 days to Okhrida (Ohrid). This town is remarkable as to the significance of its prosperity and its commerce. It is built on a pleasant promontory not far from a large lake where they fish on boats. There is much cultivated land around the lake, which is to the south of the town. Its circumference is slightly more than 3 days.

It is a distance of 2 days from here to Bûlghû (Polog / Tetovo), a fair town situated on the summit of a lofty mountain. At one day's distance from here, travelling to the northeast, is Asqûfia (Skopje), a large town surrounded by contiguous cultivated land, by many vineyards and field.



(1) Unidentified.
(2) 22nd letter of the Arabic alphabet.

[Extract from: H. Bresc & A. Nef (ed.): Idrîsî, la première géographie de l'Occident, Paris 1999, p. 401-403; and E. Cerulli, F. Gabrieli, G. Levi della Vida, L. Petech, G. Tucci (ed.): Al-Idrisi, Opus Geographicum, Fasc. V, Naples & Rome 1975, p. 792-793. Translated by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 21-22.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:38 pm

George Acropolites:
An Albanian Uprising

Historian George Acropolites (1217-1282) was the tutor of Emperor Theodore II Lascaris (r. 1254-1258) and later became rector of the university in Constantinople. His 'Chronicle' of the Nicaean Empire, based to a good degree on first-hand information and personal observations, covers the years 1203-1261.


The Emperor (1) therefore departed for the East and I remained in the western part of the Empire. After setting off from Thessalonika, I arrived in Berrhoia (Veria). The emissaries of the Pope were waiting there, whom I was to send back home on order of the emperor. I remained there for a short time to discharge the papal emissaries and to deal with other business and then, leaving that town, I set off for Albania. Passing through Serbia, Kastoria and the Achrida (Ohrid) region, I arrived in Albania and from there, reached Dyrrachion (Durrës) with the notables of that region. There I remained for eight days and then departed, having given orders as I deemed fit and having made all necessary preparations for the trip, including orders for the city of Durrës itself. I then left Durrës and, passing through Chounavia, crossed the mountain range known as 'Kake Petra' to reach Mate (Mat) and from there, Debre (Dibra). I met all the officials who were on my route: city regents, heads of local military camps and officials of the government administration. From there, I reached Prilep via Kytzabis. The journey from Thessalonika to Prilep I covered in three months during the winter (2). It was December when I left Berrhoia and the end of February when I reached Prilep.

Upon my arrival there, I received word of a most distressing event, i.e. the following: Constantine Chabaron, who had been given supreme command over Albania by the emperor, had been taken prisoner by the Despot Michael, and this, due to the intrigues of Maria, his wife's sister, who had been married to a certain Sphrantzes and was by this time a widow. With her female wiles, she wrapped Chabaron around her finger and won him over with love letters. He was all too susceptible for such things, though he was otherwise a good soldier. Now he was snared in that woman's trap. In view of this fact, Michael now defected openly. I received word of this dramatic turn of events while I was in Prilep. In much distress, I sent a letter to Michael Lascaris, explaining the whole situation to him and telling him that the rebel was nearing Pelagonia. I also asked him to hasten there himself so that we might join forces and decide on a course of action. We thus met in Pelagonia together with Scuterius Xyleas, whom we regarded as a good soldier well disposed to Byzantium. The Emperor Theodor also thought highly of him since the latter had much military experience. He found the emperor's favour not only as a person but also because of his favourable opinions about Byzantine rule. At our meeting we decided upon the following: Michael Lascaris was to set off from Berrhoia where he had pitched his camp, taking all of his army with him, both the Byzantine and Scythian (3) divisions, march to Pelagonia and prepare his forces there. Scuterius Xyleas was likewise to assemble his whole contingent of soldiers, which was even greater in numbers, and meet up with Michael Lascaris. They would then do battle together in the region of Pelagonia. This location was suitable not only for a battle against the Despot Michael, but also for fighting against the Serbs, who, as we learnt, had pledged their military support to Michael.


When the two promised to carry out our decisions, I left them and hastened to Ohrid with my retinue to find out whether I would be able to put the situation in Albania back in order. I resolved to send the imperial sewer, Isaac Nestongus, to Albania and gave the usual orders for him to assume the supreme command. I was well aware of the fact that I could make such decisions without the slightest danger, i.e. that I could replace any of the regional tax and government officials, military commanders or local authorities at whim. I then decided to set off for Albania myself to bring the situation in that country back under control and to find out what the sewer had actually accomplished. On my departure from Albania, I took the sewer and all the forces with me because the Albanian people had acted in advance and had already carried through with their uprising. They had all defected to the turncoat Despot Michael. Since I could see for myself that everything was in turmoil, I left Dibra, where I had spent more days than necessary and where the enemy had encircled us, and took Ohrid by storm with several members of my retinue. In Ohrid I left the sewer to guard the castle and, marching through Prespa and a place called Siderokastron, reached Prilep. There I had the impression of having arrived in a safe haven.



(1) Emperor Theodore II Lascaris.
(2) December 1256 to February 1257.
(3) here probably meaning Slav.

[Extract from: Georgii Acropolitae: Opera, Leipzig 1903, p. 140 143. Translated by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 10-11.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:40 pm

George Pachymeres:
An Earthquake in Durrës

Historian and scholar George Pachymeres (1242- ca. 1310) was born in Nicaea and held high office in Constantinople. His 'History' covers the reigns of Michael VIII Palaeologus (r. 1261-1282) and Andronicus II (r. 1282-1328) and constitutes the main source for the period. In it is a moving description of the terrible earthquake which struck the city of Durrës. French historian Alain Ducellier dates the tragic event to July 1267.


After some time, a pitiful and tearful event took place in Durrës. In the course of the month of July, unusual noises caused the earth to tremble continuously, noises which we would normally call a groaning. They portended that something dreadful was about to occur. One day, the din echoed more continuously and more forcefully than it had done previously. The fear which took hold of some people caused them to go and find shelter outside the city, as they were afraid that things would get worse. Night fell upon the groaning din of the previous day and with it, a strong earthquake took place, more violent than any other in living memory. It was not, as one might describe it, a trembling of the earth moving crosswise, but rather a repeated thumping and swaying such that in no time at all, the whole city was turned upside down and was razed to the ground. The houses and tall buildings, resisting not for a second, gave way and tumbled, burying their inhabitants within them. For there was nowhere for the people to escape because the buildings were constructed one beside the other. Indeed, much greater was the chance of survival for those who stayed indoors than for those who ran out of the houses which had been partially spared. None of the buildings survived intact. They collapsed onto one another, and any edifice which happened to have been spared the fate of destruction, was crushed in the collapse of the others. The catastrophe was too sudden and overwhelming to allow anyone to survive by fleeing. For many people, it was like a dream; they never found out in what event they perished. Small children and babies, not understanding what had happened, were buried in the rubble. The din and the tumult were such that the survivors, finding themselves before the frothing surge of the sea, imagined this to be not only the beginning of more agony but indeed the end of the world. As the city was at the seaside and the dreadful quake had taken place so suddenly, those who found themselves outdoors and who had been virtually deafened, confronted as they were by such a tumult and by the din of houses caving in one after the other, could envisage nothing other than the destruction of the entire universe.


The earthquake lasted for quite some time until nothing was left standing. Everything within the city had collapsed and engulfed the inhabitants, with the sole exception of the acropolis which stood fast and survived the quake. When day dawned, the inhabitants of the surrounding area rushed into the city at once and began digging, using everything they could get their hands on: pickaxes, pitchforks and any other tools they could find. Down on all fours, they began excavating, endeavouring of course to rescue any unfortunate victim who might still be alive, but what is more, looking to get their hands on all manner of wealth they could extract from the ruins. As it happened, with the property of the dead, perished the heirs, too, and there was no one left to claim his rightful property. Thus, having burrowed among the ruins for days and, with pitchforks in lieu of sickles, having reaped a harvest of gold, the Albaniansand those living nearby eventually abandoned this ancient city to its solitude, a city now only vaguely recognizable, counted among existing cities not for its existence, but simply for its name alone. Its bishop, Nicetas, who had been there at the time, survived, though he was to bear the wounds of the disaster all over his body. At the sight of such a calamity, which no one would ever have thought possible, he panicked and fled, leaving the metropolis deprived not only of his person, but also of its inhabitants, of the splendour of its buildings and of its one-time hustle and bustle.



[Extract from: Georgii Pachymeris: Relationes historicae, Bonn (1835), V. 7, p. 456-461. Translated by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 12-13.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:41 pm

Description of Eastern Europe

The so-called 'Anonymi Descriptio Europae Orientalis' (Anonymous Description of Eastern Europe) (1) is a mediaeval Latin text from the year 1308 which contains a survey of the lands of Eastern Europe, in particular the countries of the Balkans. Its anonymous author is thought to have been a French or French-educated cleric, most likely of the Dominican order, who was sent by the church to Serbia where he gained much of his information on the Balkans. The manuscript was edited in Kraków in 1916 by Olgierd Górka. In addition to sections depicting the various regions of Byzantine Greece, Rascia, Bulgaria, Ruthenia, Hungary, Poland and Bohemia, it contains a section on Albania, one of the rare descriptions of the country in the early years of the fourteenth century. We know that the Dominicans were active in Durrës from 1304 onwards when the town fell to the West after twenty years of Byzantine rule. In a letter dated 31 March 1304, Pope Benedict XI had asked the head of the Dominican Order in Hungary to send to Albania some of his subordinates of 'good moral character, active and eloquent' for missionary activities. With the support of the Holy See, the Dominicans thus had full power to set up a Latin hierarchy of their own liking on the Albanian coast to replace the Orthodox church which had been forced to abandon position.


Now we come to speak of Albania, which, on its southern side, is right next to Greece and is situated between Rascia and the land of the Despot (2). Albania is a rather extensive and large region. It has warlike inhabitants indeed, for they make excellent archers and lancers. This whole region is fed by four large rivers: the Ersenta (Erzen), the Mathia (Mat), the Scumpino (Shkumbin) and the Epasa (Osum). The land is productive in meat, cheese and milk; it is not very abundant in bread and wine, though the nobles in particular have enough. They do not have cities, camps, fortifications and farms, but live rather in tents and are constantly on the move from one place to another with the help of their troops and relatives. They do have one city called Duracium (Durrës) which belongs to the Latins and from which they get textiles and other necessities. The Prince of Tarento, son of the King of Sicily (3), now holds sway over part of this kingdom including the city of Durrës. It was the free will of the landowners who, on account of their natural love for the French, spontaneously and freely received him as their lord (4). From Apulia and the city of Brindisi one may cross over to Durrës in one night, and from Durrës one may travel on through Albania to Greece and to Constantinople much more easily and without all the road difficulties and perils of the sea. The Roman emperors of ancient times used this route (5) for it is excessively tedious to transport a large army in such a period of time by sea and by such long roads. The said kingdom of Albania now has no king, the land being divided among the landowners who rule it themselves and who are subject to no one else. This province is called Albania because the inhabitants of this region are born with white (albo) hair. The dogs here are of a huge size (6) and are so wild that they kill like lions. As Pliny mentions, the Albanians sent such a dog to Alexander the Great, which vanquished lions, elephants and bulls in the stadium. They have painted eyes, greyish in the pupils, such that they can see better at night than in the daytime. There are two Albanias, one in Asia near India of which we are not speaking here, and the other in Europe which is part of the Byzantine Empire and of which we are speaking here. It contains two provinces: Clisara (Këlcyra) and Tumurist (7). In addition to these two provinces, it has other provinces next to it: Cumania (8), Stophanatum (9), Polatum (Pult) and Debre (Dibra) which are provinces tributary to the Albanians and more or less subjected to them, for they are active in farming, tend their vineyards and take care of the necessities of life at home. The inhabitants of these provinces do not move from place to place as the aformentioned Albanians do, but live rather in solid mansions and towns, nor are they entirely Catholic or entirely schismatic. Should anyone preach the word of God to them, they would pretend to be true Catholics for it is reported that by nature they have a liking for the Latins. The aforementioned Albanians have a language which is distinct from that of the Latins, Greeks and Slavs such that in no way can they communicate with other peoples. This is enough on Albania.



(1)cf. Elsie, Albania in the 'Anonymi Descriptio...', 1990.(2)i.e. the Despot of Epirus.(3)Philip, Prince of Taranto.(4)cf. Du Cange, Hist. Const. I. 102.(5)Reference here is to the Via Egnatia, the main road of ancient communication between Rome and Constantinople, passing through Durrës, Elbasan and Ohrid.(6)Half a millennium later, the English painter and poet Edward Lear (1812-1888) was to make the same discovery on his travels down the Himaran coast in 1848. In his 'Journal of a landscape painter in Greece and Albania' (London 1851), he records on 22 October 1848 being attacked by "some thirty immense dogs, who bounced out from the most secluded corners and would straightway have breakfasted on me had I not been so aptly rescued; certainly the dogs of Khimára are the most formidable brutes I have yet seen."(7)Probably in the Myzeqe region around Kavaja. The chronicle of John Musachi speaks of a locality called Tomorista.(8)No doubt Chounavia, formerly the site of an Orthodox diocese, somewhere between Durrës and the Mat region, perhaps on the Ishëm river.(9)No doubt Stephanatum, a diocese of the time somewhere near Durrës.

[Extract from: Olgierd Górka (ed.): Anonymi descriptio Europae orientalis. Imperium Constantinopolitanum, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ruthenia, Ungaria, Polonia, Bohemia. Anno MCCCVIII exarata, Kraków 1916, p. 25 29. Translated from the Latin by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 23-25.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:43 pm

Simon Fitzsimons:
Itinerary from Ireland to the Holy Land

Narratives of pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land provide a primary source of information for much of the eastern Mediterranean in the first half of the second millennium, and in one such narrative (1) dating from the year 1322, we find a passage about Albania. Although many pilgrims showed no more than a passing interest in the lands they visited en route to their goal, two Anglo-Irish pilgrims of the Franciscan Order, Symon Semeonis and Hugo Illuminator, whom we may refer to in English as Simon Fitzsimons and Hugh the Illuminator, were impressed by their short stopover in Albania, and the former vividly recorded what he saw, a rare glimpse of the Albanian coast in the first half of the fourteenth century. The 'Itinerarium Symonis Semeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam' (The Itinerary of Simon Fitzsimons from Ireland to the Holy Land) contains a wealth of information on matters as varied as customs inspections and procedures, costumes, coinage, raw materials and products of the countries he visited and of course on churches and holy sites. It is apparent from the narrative that in 1322 the port of Durrës had not recovered entirely from the disastrous earthquake which had struck it half a century earlier. The original population of the city was replaced to a certain extent by an influx of Albanian nomads from the countryside. That Albanian must now have been widely spoken on the coastal plain and in the mountain regions at the time can be inferred from Simon's initial observation that the province had a language of its own, i.e. Albanian. Within the city of Durrës, however, the 'barbaric Albanians' are referred to only fourth, after the urban Latins, Greeks and Jews, an indication that they had not yet formed the majority group. Interestingly enough, Simon refers to the Albanian 'barbarians' in Dubrovnik, too, noting: "In eadem dominantur Veneti, et ad eam confluunt Sclavi, Barbari, Paterini et alii scismatici negotiatores qui sunt in gestu, habitu et lingua Latinis in omnibus difformes" (The Venetians dominate in it (Dubrovnik) and Slavs, Barbarians, Paterines and other schismatic merchants frequent it, who are entirely different from the Latins in their customs, dress and language).


And then after spending a few days, we passed through the city of Ulcinj, which belongs to the king of Rascia (2), and sailed to Durrës, a city once famous and mighty by land and sea, subject to the emperor of the Greeks but now belonging to the prince of Romania (3), the brother of the aforementioned king of Jerusalem (4), (this city) being in the province of Albania. It should be noted that Albania is a province between Slavonia (5) and Romania, having a language of its own and which the aforementioned schismatic King of Rascia has subjected to his rule. For the Albanians themselves are schismatics, using the rites of the Greeks and are entirely like them in their dress and manner. For like the Greeks, they rarely if ever wear the cowl, but rather a white hat lowered almost flat to the front and raised at the back so that their hair, the length and beauty of which they are extremely proud, may appear more attractive to the eyes of the beholder. The Slavs on the other hand, of whom mention was made above, wear a white hat, oblong and round, on the top of which their nobles stick a long feather in order to be distinguished and recognized more easily by the peasants and common people. The city itself is very extensive in the circuit of its walls, but small and unpretentious in its buildings because it was once razed to the ground in an earthquake (6), and in the destruction, its wealthiest citizens and inhabitants were buried beneath their own palaces and indeed a good 24,000 are reported to have died. It is now sparsely populated and divided in religion, customs and language. For it is inhabited by Latins, Greeks, perfidious Jews and barbaric Albanians. In use among them are small tournois coins of which eleven are worth one Venetian grosso. They are in use at this rate in all of Romania. This city is two hundred miles from Dubrovnik. And then, taking advantage of favourable winds, we continued on to Vlora, a fortress of the Emperor of the Greeks, and to the island of Corfu on which there is a city called Corfu belonging to the aforementioned King of Jerusalem, this place being two hundred miles from Durrës.



(1)cf. R. Elsie: Two Irish travellers in Albania, in: Albanien in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Internationales Symposium der Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft..., Munich 1991, p. 24-27.(2)Stephan Urosh III (r. 1322-1333).(3)Romania refers here to territories in the possession of the Byzantine Empire, in particular the Morea, and has nothing to do with modern Romania. The Prince of the Morea at the time was John, Count of Gravina (r. 1316-1335).(4)Robert the Good (r. 1309-1343).(5)The term Slavonia refers here to the Slavic territories of Dalmatia and Croatia.(6)The earthquake referred to Byzantine historian George Pachymeres probably occurred in July 1267.

[Extract from: Mario Esposito (ed.): Itinerarium Symonis Semeonis ab Hybernia ad Terram Sanctam, Dublin 1960, p. 36 40. Translated from the Latin by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 26-27.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:45 pm

1328, 1332, 1336
John Cantacuzene:
Unruly Nomads Pay Homage to the Emperor

Typical of the many short references to the Albanians in Byzantine chronicles is the following text by the Emperor John VI Cantacuzene (r. 1347-1355), whose 'History' covers the years 1320-1356. Here as in other texts, the Albanian tribes are described as wild and unruly nomads living in mountainous regions in the summer months and migrating to the lowlands in the winter months.


While the emperor was spending about eight days in Achrida (Ohrid), the Albanian nomads living in the region of Deabolis (Devoll) appeared before him, as well as those from Koloneia (Kolonja) and those from the vicinity of Ohrid (1). They paid homage to the emperor and willingly offered him their services. Those who lived farther away on the borders of the Byzantine Empire were commanded by letters from the emperor to hasten to Thessalonika in order to pay homage, which they did a short time later.


While the emperor was staying in Thessaly (2), the unruly Albanians living in the Thessalian mountains appeared before him who, according to their tribal leaders, are called Malakasians, Buians and Mesarites and whose numbers reach 12,000. They paid homage to the emperor and promised to serve him, for they were afraid of being annihilated by the Byzantines at the onset of winter, living as they do, not in towns, but in the mountains and in inaccessible regions. Since they must abandon these regions in the winter due to the cold and snow, which falls in incredible amounts in such vicinities, they believed that they would easily fall prey to them.


A short time thereafter, it was reported by the governors of the western parts of the empire that the Albanians nomads from Balagrada (Berat) and Kanina (3), who are quick to rise to arms and are restless by nature, had violated the treaties with the emperor, attacking and pillaging the towns there in a savage manner. They had ventured to do the same thing earlier when a good number of the rabble banded together and pillaged the towns until the emperor despatched an army against them, forcing them to settle down and not to cause any further injustice to the inhabitants of the towns of the west. But when summer came, as soon as the emperor's army had been disbanded and the soldiers sent back home, they were no longer to be kept under control, and ravaged the towns there with their pillaging and open incursions. Now, many of them had banded together and wreaked great destruction upon Berat, Kanina, Kleisura (Këlcyra) and a fortress called Skreparion (Skrapar). After repeated attacks, they also took Timoros (Tomor), a fortress in the west of the country not far from Berat and entrenched themselves in it. For these reasons, the emperor resolved to lead a campaign against them (4). Since the Dux John (5), ruler of Acarnania, was already dead at this time, the emperor hurried to reach the west for he hoped to bring Acarnania under his control. During preparations, he thought it a good idea to bring in an auxiliary force of Turkish infantrymen from Ionia to put down the Albanians. Since the latter live in high and inaccessible mountain regions with numerous secret paths and hideouts, they cannot be overcome by horsemen, in particular since they take to the mountain peaks in the summer where, in view of the natural environment, even infantrymen have no easy task because the defendants can shoot at them from above. As such, he sent an emissary to Umur and requested an auxiliary force of infantrymen. Umur received the emperor's representatives with pleasure since he regarded it as an honour to do something for him, and sent the troops to Thessalonika right away. Soon thereafter, the emperor arrived there himself with his Byzantine forces, took the Turkish allies with him and marched through Thessaly against the Albanians. Ravaging their land, he advanced right through to Epidamnos (Durrës) and many Albanians were slain. When they received word of the advance of the emperor, assuming his army consisted of Byzantine cavalry alone, they took to the mountains and to their inaccessible regions, believing in this manner to have escaped annihilation. They were nonetheless attacked by light-armed Turkish forces and archers, who operate admirably in inaccessible regions, and were easily overcome, not only because they were unarmed, but also because they were thrown into a panic by the unexpected attack of the barbarians. Many Albanians were killed or taken prisoner. Those who managed to escape, left behind their wives, children and possessions, and took refuge in remote regions. The Turks enslaved their wives and children, although other members of their tribes, who maintained good relations with the emperor, managed to ransom some of them from the Turks. The emperor himself also allowed many of them to be ransomed when their relatives came to him and begged for their release. Indeed, he would have let even more of them, or indeed all of them, be ransomed, had their relatives approached him in time while the Turks were still under his command. Since, however, the petitioners came to him after the departure of the Turks, he could only ransom a portion of the prisoners. Most of them were sent to the east as slaves. The Byzantines themselves do not enslave people. They are not allowed to, unless they are barbarians who refuse to believe in the redemption of Christ, our Saviour. They did, however, take possession of countless herds of animals, not to mention much household equipment and other objects. It was even said, and the reports proved to be true after those affected by the disaster approached the emperor and gave him an account of their losses, that Byzantine forces had captured three hundred thousand head of cattle, five thousand horses and one million two hundred thousand head of sheep. The soldiers were of course not in a position to take that many animals back with them so they simply chased the owners away and left the animals to their own devices without shepherds. The inhabitants of the towns which had earlier been ravaged by the Albanians then came out and took possession of as many animals as they wanted without anyone stopping them. The former owners, too, once they had pledged submission and allegiance to the emperor, were allowed to take back many of the animals which they found wandering freely in the gorges and valleys. They also bought many animals back from the soldiers, who demanded one piece of gold for every five hundred head of sheep or one hundred head of cattle. Although among the troops it was formerly the custom to put aside one-fifth of the booty, be it great or small, as a tribute for the emperor, and an equal proportion for the Grand Steward (Domestikos), who was commander-in-chief of the whole army, hardly anyone bothered about this custom and no one forced the soldiers to put aside one-fifth of the gains. They were all allowed to take as much of the booty as they wanted, as if it flowed freely in immeasurable quantities.

Such were the outrages committed earlier by the Albanians against the inhabitants of the west and such was the punishment for their injustices. The towns which had formerly suffered from them benefited, to their great joy, doubly. On the one hand, they were freed from Albanian incursions and, on the other hand, they were able to take pleasure in the presence and provident care of the emperor. As such, they were all the happier and celebrated as never before. From the time of Emperor Manuel Comnenos (6) to that of Emperor Andronicus Palaeologus (7), no other Byzantine emperor had ever visited them and expressed his provident care for them to such an extent. While he was there, they therefore regarded the emperor as a supernatural being.

After the Albanians were defeated, the emperor sent home his Turkish allies, who proceeded through Thessaly and Bottiaea to Thessalonika and sailed from there back to Ionia.



(1) The meeting is estimate to have taken place about February 1328.
(2) Probably in the late autum of 1332.
(3) The fortress of Kanina is a few kilometres above Vlora on the southern Albanian coast.
(4) The expedition probably took place in the spring of 1336. cf. J. Cantacuzenus 1986, p. 232.
(5) Giovanni Orsini.
(6) Manuel I Comnenus (r. 1143-1180) visited Vlora in the summer of 1149.
(7) Andronicus III Palaeologus (r. 1328-1341).

[Extract from: John Cantacuzenus: Geschichte, Stuttgart 1982, I, p. 190 = Book 1, 55, p. 279, lines 22sq.; II, p. 107 = Book II, 28, p. 474, lines 9-19; II, p. 120-123 = Book II, 32, p. 495-499. Translated by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 14-17.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:47 pm

Edward Lear,
"The Acroceraunian Mountains,
the Coast of Albania,"
oil painting, 
private collection, USA.

Initiative for Making the Passage

The 'Directorium ad passagium faciendum', which can be translated as 'Initiative for making the passage', is a mediaeval Latin manuscript (also available in an early French translation) attributed alternatively to a monk called Burcard (Brocardus Monacus / Frère Brochard) or to one William Adam (Guillelmus Adam / Guillaume Adam) (1). The author was at any rate a Dominican priest and Latin prelate in the Byzantine Empire and Armenia, whose aim was to persuade the Catholic armies under Philip VI of Valois (r. 1328-1350) to embark upon a holy crusade and conquer Serbian-occupied Albania, thus restoring the Catholic Church to its former power there and taking revenge upon the Orthodox Greeks for having destroyed the Latin Empire of Constantinople. In the text, the author makes reference to the Albanians as the majority population in Albania. It is also in the 'Directorium' that a much-quoted phrase about the existence of books in Albania occurs: 'licet Albanenses aliam omnino linguam a latina habeant et diversam, tamen litteram latinam habent in usu et in omnibus suis libris' (The Albanians indeed have a language quite different from Latin, however they use Latin letters in all their books). Though the reference to the existence of the language is clear, that to writing in Albanian is ambiguous. It cannot be said for certain whether the author meant Albanian-language books written in Latin script or simply books written in Latin. The former possibility has of course captured the imagination of subsequent generations of Albanian scholars and the text is often quoted to this end in histories and studies of Albanian literature as evidence that Albanian-language books existed long before the so-called Missal of Gjon Buzuku (1555).


On the Kingdom of Rascia and how it could easily be conquered

I would like to come back to the Kingdom of Rascia to show how it could be conquered. Indeed, the desire to invade is all that is needed for the country to be taken. In order to make this clear, I would like to present a number of brief suggestions for an invasion and a number of easily fulfilled conditions for a conquest.

The said kingdom has few if any fortifications at all. All that exists are farmhouses and cottages devoid of moats and outer walls. The buildings and palaces, both of the king and of the nobles, are made of straw and wood. I have never seen a palace or home there made of stone or of brick except in the coastal towns of the Latins. The said kingdom is rich in grain, wine, oil and meat. It is a pleasant place with water from springs and rivers flowing through it, a delightful land with woods, meadows, mountains, plains and valleys full of various species of wild beasts. In short, everything that grows there is of choice quality, in particular in areas along the coast. In the said kingdom, there are indeed five gold mines and an equal number of silver mines in which expert miners toil without interruption. There are also mixed deposits of silver and gold, which have recently been discovered at various and sundry sites, and huge dense forests. Whoever owns this kingdom will have a veritable jewel in his possession, select and precious for all times.

One factor, among others, which makes this kingdom easy to conquer, is that it is inhabited by two peoples, i.e. the Albanians and the Latins who, in their beliefs, their rites and their obedience, both abide by the Roman Catholic Church. Accordingly, they have archbishops, bishops and abbots, as well as religious and secular clerics of lower rank and status. The Latins have six towns with bishops: firstly Antibarum (Bar), the seat of the archbishop, then Chatarensis (Kotor), Dulcedinensis (Ulcinj), Suacinensis (Shas) (2), Scutarensis (Shkodra) and Drivascensis (Drisht) (3), which are inhabited by the Latins alone. Outside the town walls, the Albanians make up the population throughout the diocese. There are four Albanian towns: Polatum Maius (Greater Pult) (4), Polatum Minus (Lesser Pult), Sabatensis (Sapa) (5) and Albanensis (Albanopolis) (6) which, together with the towns of the Latins, are all legally subject to the Archbishop of Bar and his church as their metropolitan. The Albanians indeed have a language quite different from Latin. However they use Latin letters in all their books (7). The sway of the Latins is thus confined to the limits of their towns. Outside the towns, they do possess vineyards and fields, but there are no fortifications or villages actually inhabited by the Latins. The Albanians for their part, the larger of the two peoples, could assemble over fifteen thousand horsemen for warfare according to the custom and manner of the country, who would be courageous and industrious warriors. Since the said Latins and Albanians suffer under the unbearable yoke and extremely dire bondage of their odious Slav leaders whom they detest - the people being tormented, the clergy humiliated and oppressed, the bishops and abbots often kept in chains, the nobles disinherited and held hostage, episcopal and other churches disbanded and deprived of their rights, and the monasteries in decay and ruin - they would all to a man believe that they were consecrating their hands in the blood of the aforementioned Slavs if a French prince were to appear before them whom they could make leader of their war against the said evil Slavs, the enemies of our true faith. With the help of the aforementioned Albanians and Latins, one thousand French knights and five or six thousand foot soldiers could without a doubt easily conquer the whole length and breadth of this kingdom.



(1)On the authorship of the 'Directorium', cf. M. Šufflay, Pseudobrocardus..., in: Vjesnik kraljevskog hrvatskog slavonskog dalmatinskog zemeljskog archiva, Zagreb, 13 (1911), p. 142-150; A. Atiya, The Crusade in the Later Middle Ages, New York 1965, p. 95 106, 65 67.(2)Settlement near the river Buna, on the Montenegrin side of the present border. At its zenith during the Middle Ages it was known as Suacium, Italian Suazzo, Sfazzi, French Soans, and now in Albanian as Shas and in Serbo-Croatian as Šas. The town was first documented in 1067 and began to decay around the end of the 14th century.(3)Village on the river Kir, northeast of Shkodra.(4)Pult (Polatum) is a region on the river Kir extending beyond Drisht to Prekal.(5)Saba or Sapa was in the Zadrima region east of Shkodra, later to be part of the diocese of Sapa and Sarda (Sapatensis et Sardensis).(6)Albanopolis has been traditionally identified with the village of Zgërdhesh, south of Kruja.(7)For an interpretation of this sentence, cf. I. Zamputi, in: Hylli i Dritës, 1-2, 1995, p. 14-51.

[Extract from: Recueil des historiens des croisades. Documents arméniens. Tome second. Documents latins et français relatifs à l'Arménie, Paris 1906, p. 478 485. Translated from the Latin by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 28-30.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:48 pm

Fior Jonima:
A Ravaged Land

Much of northern and central Albania was under Venetian control before the Ottoman conquest of the fifteenth century. The Ottoman military campaigns of 1466 and 1467 ravaged most of the country. It was the sultan’s policy to empty the land of its native inhabitants, should they put up resistance. Fior Jonima of Shkodra, scion of the noble Albanian Jonima family that owned much land between the Mat and Ishëm rivers, wrote this response to the Venetian tax authorities who had inquired of him as to why so little revenue had been arriving from Albania. The short chronology of cataclysms that Jonima provides here shows that much of Albania was a wasteland at the time. It is the earliest personal account given by an Albanian about the state of his country.


I, Fior Jonima, citizen of Skutari [Shkodra] and presently ambassador of this community, was asked, on the orders of the Magnificent Lord Administrator of Revenues, what I knew about the deeds of the Turks in this part of Albania for the years 1466 and 1467.

I can state that around the end of April 1466, the Grand Turk arrived in this country in person and sent his captain forth who scoured the country and pillaged it. He stole many animals and kidnapped many people.

When he departed, Ballaban arrived to besiege Croia [Kruja]. He too robbed and pillaged the towns of the Signoria, and kidnapped many people.

Soon thereafter, Sinan Bey arrived, who brought about even greater ruin and destruction. He had animals and people kidnapped and put the country to the torch.

After this came the Voyvod of Serbia, called Amur Bey, who caused great destruction. Not only did he steal endless numbers of animals, he also put the country to the torch and kidnapped quite a few people.

Then came Lord Progon Dukagjin, who also robbed and put to the torch whatever was left over.

The Grand Turk came back to this country in 1467 and sent the Pasha of Romania [Roumeli] out with a strong army [to subdue it]. He robbed, pillaged and took endless numbers of people off with him. When he had had his fill of robbing and pillaging, he continued on to the region of Skutari where he came to blows with the people. He finally got into the open town outside the fortress, which he robbed and pillaged.

Then came a Voyvod called Feriz Bey who also robbed and pillaged.

Then came Nikola Dukagjin, who also robbed, pillaged and kidnapped many people.

After this, the Voyvod of Serbia came back a second time to rob and pillage and kidnap more people.

Then came the Voyvod of Dibra who robbed, pillaged and kidnapped many people.

In conclusion, I can say that in the period in question, this country was turned into a wasteland. It has remained as such up to the present day. Gone are not only the settlements, but also the people, with the exception of those few villages that have been rebuilt. It would thus be necessary for prisoners who have been convicted or banned to be pardoned and sent to this country [to repopulate it].

28 December 1470


[from: Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Governatori delle pubbliche entrate, registri multorum B. 145 (vol. 35), 13r-v; reprinted in Oliver Jens Schmitt: Das venezianische Albanien (1392-1479), Munich 2001, p. 646. Translated from the Venetian Italian by Robert Elsie.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:16 pm

George Merula:
The Siege of Shkodra

The Italian humanist and historian George Merula (1430-1494), also known as Georgius Merula Alexandrinus or Giorgio Merlano di Negro, was born in Alessandria in northern Italy. He studied in Milan under Francesco Filelfo in 1444-1446 and later in Rome, Padua and Mantua. From 1465-1482, he was professor of rhetoric in Venice. Invited back to Lombardy by Ludovico il Moro of the powerful Sforza dynasty, he taught in Padua (1483-1485) and finally at the Accademia in Milan (1485-1494). Aside from his editions and commentaries of many Roman authors, Merula is the author of a moving description of the Turkish siege of Shkodra (Bellum Scodrense), composed in Latin in September 1474. The fortress of Shkodra finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in January 1479.


George Merula of Alessandria conveys his greetings to Jacob Merula and Francesco Gambarini.

I assume you are all waiting anxiously to find out what the savage and mighty enemy of Christianity (1) has been preparing to do against us, in particular if we take account of what he accomplished this summer. Had he attained his objectives, he would easily have committed the greatest massacre planned for many years.

Initially, he intended to attack Italy and to plunge the country into strife, just as our forefathers had suffered severely, who, like beasts, spent centuries hiding in the most isolated recesses of the mountains and in the depths of caves (2). In fact, the Turk initially beat the King of Persia, (3) soundly defeating a good portion of his army by the favourable position he had taken and by means of the military equipment he had. The Persian cavalry, trounced and scattered by the attack and all the commotion, abandoned the battlefield and fled. Then he decided to attack that part of Macedonia which is situated along the Adriatic coast, and turned his attention to the region now called Albania. Had he taken that country, all the coastline including Dalmatia and Liburnia (4)would have fallen immediately under his sway, and, using the workforce there, at very little expense, he would have built a great naval fleet. Then, using his fleet to protect the Adriatic, he would have taken Apulia and Calabria since the distance across the sea from one side to the other is not great, and would thus have secured himself a means of penetrating further into Italy. He was waiting for a favourable moment to let his whole army feed on enemy land.

It was thus at the very time when the harvest was drawing near on the fields of Epidamnus (Durrës) and the other coastal regions, that he summoned his general, whom the Turks in their language call the Pasha of Roumelia, to his headquarters in Moesia, in order to muster an army. This man, having gathered there over one hundred thousand soldiers, and with no one knowing what he intended to do, i.e. whether he intended to attack Pannonia or to cross over to Asia, he pretended to return to Thrace and Adrianople but, after marching for two continuous days, he turned back, traversing in one night the road he had been travelling along. About the middle of May, sending sixty cavalrymen as an advanced guard, he suddenly, without warning, attacked and routed the Macedonians. Then, having taken prisoner all the scouts on the road before word could spread of his unexpected victory, he advanced and set up camp near Shkodra, which was once a Roman city.

Shkodra, situated on the border with Dalmatia and Macedonia, is a well-fortified city, virtually on all four sites, both from its natural position and because of its constructed fortifications. Around the fortress are high cliffs and from up top, one can observe all the plains below. On one side there is a more gradual slope which leads one up to the fortress. The waters of the Buna River flow by, right past the bottom of the hill. Along this river, the waters of a lake, of recent formation, flow into the sea. The river is slightly larger than our Tanaro (5). Do not be surprised that I claim the lake is of recent origin, since it is not mentioned by the Greek writers Strabo and Ptolemy, nor by the Roman authors Pomponius Mela and Pliny. When they mention the region, they refer only to the Drin River. This river flows past Lissus, now called Lezha, which separated Dalmatia from Macedonia. We may assume that, had the lake existed in ancient times, the said, well-known geographers would not have been silent about it. And indeed, islands and boulders from it have found their way into the sea, and other rivers and springs erupt from the earth there, new ones every day, so that one is led to the conclusion that the lake in question was formed a long time after the above-mentioned writers. It has a circumference of one hundred thousand paces and is no smaller than Lake Como and Lake Garda, two well-known lakes of our Cisalpine Gaul.

The local people call the town Shkodra in their language and the language of their forefathers, whereas the Italians have now given it a new foreign name, Scutari. The ruler of this town was Antonio Loredano (Antonius Lauretanus), a man who would have been the pride of his grandfather Petrus, and who was a worthy son of Jacob. It is to him that go the honour and glory of saving the town, or better said, of defending Christianity. In addition, he paid honour to his lineage because he managed to do something quite extraordinary by defeating such a savage enemy.

When he learned that such a huge army was about to attack in the land of Moesia, Antonio Loredano, worried for himself and for his town and knowing the strategic importance of Shkodra for the Turks, gave orders that all grain, wherever it could be found, be gathered and stored within the walls. On the day before the arrival of the barbarians, he summoned and gathered around him in the fortress some of the young men of the countryside who had come down from the mountains. He then gave orders that water be carried up to the town by means of beasts of burden, as much as would be needed for a long siege.

On June 4th, while lightly armed soldiers were surrounding the town with a vanguard and many men were running in all directions to loot and plunder, and while volunteers were making themselves ready for war, the (Ottoman) commander himself made his appearance with the other part of the army. This man, if we can call a man someone who was a eunuch and who once guarded the sultan's harem, is said to be healthy, robust, and more courageous than clever as a soldier in carrying out his duties. The sultan had promoted him to this level of merit for his achievements in war. He brought with him men skilled in the martial arts, strong of body and courageous. They were followed by equipment and one thousand camels loaded with bronze for casting cannons which are usually used to batter and knock down ramparts.

When this huge army arrived, the whole coastal region was terrified. Even the inhabitants of the coastline of Illyria and Macedonia were petrified, fearing that they would fall prey to the barbarians. Some of them fled into the rugged mountains, while others, having escaped the town, took refuge on the islands with the women, children and cattle. Some had made their way to the mouth of the river and were waiting for ships to take them anywhere, wherever fate should wish.

When the Senate received the news, the fine and noble leaders of Venice recruited new soldiers and gathered a great deal of money without any difficulty. They did not hesitate in giving generously to provide all material necessary to repulse the enemy. They sent money and help in particular to those leaders who were ruling over large parts of the lakeside so that they might be able to resist barbarian attacks in perilous gorges and canyons.

In addition to him was Triadano Gritti (Triadanus Grittus), commander of the fleet and an octogenarian, who despite his advanced age, showed fine resistance and was well concentrated on carrying out his task as best he could. No one believed that he could do it because it was a singular feat. At that time, he was travelling in the Aegean Sea, checking up on the islands thereabouts, and had just arrived at Chios when he heard that Shkodra, a town of great strategic significance, had been surrounded. Turning back, he set off for the Adriatic Sea, gathered his naval forces and entered the mouth of the Buna River, giving orders that his triremes and biremes should sail up the river, using oarsmen, because, in addition to the current of the river, the winds were blowing in the opposite direction. When he arrived at a certain spot where stone embankments had been built out into the water to slow down the current and where fishermen had constructed little huts to catch fish, he realized that the boats could go no further. He decided, in order to be on the safe side, to spend the night near the old church of Saint Sergius (Shirq), which is situated about five miles from the town. He intended the next morning at the break of dawn to embark upon caiques and small boats to see if he could find some route so as to come to the assistance of those under siege. When the enemy found out about the plan from some escaped oarsmen, and realized that the whole fleet could be blocked by them throwing logs into the river at the point at which it was at its narrowest, and thus stop the triremes from advancing, orders were given without delay that all other activities be suspended, that trees be cut down, and that most of the army cross over to the other side of the river so that our soldiers could be attacked from both banks with all sorts of missiles and weapons.

In the midst of such preparations, and while all paths were being strictly guarded to prevent the Venetians from using their spies and escapees to find routes in, a Greek fellow, once taken prisoner by the Turks and forced into servitude, but later appointed by the pasha as a high-ranking official of the region, reflecting on the religion in which he had been raised and educated, jumped onto the pasha's steed, stole his lance and galloped off to the place where the ships were anchored. He asked to speak to the commander of the fleet and, having boarded one of the triremes, he revealed the enemy plan and informed the Venetians that they were in great danger. As soon as the Venetians heard this, orders were given that the whole fleet be armed and made ready for battle. Ropes were unfastened, anchors were weighed and the sterns of the ships were turned around. The triremes were positioned in a line so that, at an appropriate distance from one another, they could advance against the current. But the moment the sun came up, they could hear from all sides the neighing and galloping of horses, the firing of military equipment and arms glimmering in the distance, and such was the din and clamour that anyone not used to it would have been crippled by fear. The Turks then began shooting arrows and slinging stones at the fleet wherever they could reach it, some using their bare hands, others using equipment. Nonetheless, the fleet advanced, but so great was the amount of stones and missiles hurled at the ships that it seemed that a hailstorm had broken out and covered the vessels. Those who were further away and could not shoot, urged their comrades on with screams and shouts. The Venetians for their part, seeing that they were in a difficult position and were being shot at from both sides, began to attack the enemy with scorpions and rifles and other pieces of invented recently equipment, called bombards and spingards.

The enemy attack was thus repulsed. They landed on the riverbank and chased the foe for over ten thousand paces, breaking their force. Both sides hastened to gain control of a certain site where the river flows through a narrows between two hillocks. There, the two banks are so close to one another that a trireme can hardly get through. The barbarians, with their remaining forces, endeavoured to arrive there first and take up position. They realized full well that they could impede the advance of our ships by throwing logs and harpoons into the water. The Venetians for their part, with the oarsmen rowing as fast as they could, sailed forth with their biremes and triremes, hoping that their great efforts would pay off once they passed the narrows, upon which the barbarians had set their stores. However, whether it was the will of God or it was due to the virtue and courage of the two sides, both the Venetians and the barbarians arrived at Scala (this is what they called the narrows between the two prominent hillocks) at almost the very same time, and a terrible battle took place there. But our men survived the peril. None of their ships - not even one caique - was impeded or caught. This enraged the barbarians all the more because they had already suffered one defeat. Our forces were heading towards the mouth of the Buna and they began attacking the last trireme with rocks and other projectiles, using in their fury whatever they could find. Now the Turkish horsemen, having regrouped, rode right into the river and attacked the oarsmen by seizing the oars with their bare hands. They would not let go of them for dear life except when our men chopped off their hands or threw some very heavy object at them.

Finally, without any of our men being taken prisoner, the fleet sailed and reached a safer location, though five hundred men had been wounded and eighteen had been killed. The Turks themselves had suffered a massacre. This became clear the next day when, following the barbarian withdrawal, our men returned to the church of Saint Sergius so that those under siege realized that they occupied a lofty position. They wanted to make it known to the enemy that they had withdrawn for tactical reasons and not out of fear. There, along the riverbanks, they came across great numbers of bodies of men and horses, some of them floating in the water. Our men, unable to endure the stench, returned to the mouth of the Buna. In the meantime, the enemy had built a bridge, connecting the two banks. They then set up tents along the river and left some ten thousand horsemen there to guard them. Then they departed to plunder all those prosperous reaches and loot the villages, setting fire to homes and destroying fields of grain.

At the same time, the Venetians were transporting wooden planks covered in pitch to Acruvium. Acruvium is a town now known as Kotor. From there, all the material was to be transported by men and beasts of burden over the rugged and pathless mountains and was to be unloaded at the lakeside. There, carpenters were to construct lake boats, more for the war than for the needs of transportation. In addition, over one thousand sailors were then seconded to guard the lake in light boats and dugouts. They were to pursue and harass the enemy which had set up tents along the banks of the river. Although they did their utmost to come to the assistance of those under siege, they did not succeed. This was, firstly, because the barbarians held guard day and night at a narrow gorge between the mountain and the river, the site only five hundred paces wide. The guards did not move from the site, even when shot at from the mountain and from boats at the same time. Secondly, a treacherous vojvode, to save his possessions, took a bribe and did not give our men the support they needed. Because they no longer trusted this fellow and because their tents along the lakeside were unprotected, our men out on their boats abandoned their strategy of direct attack and limited themselves to small guerilla actions, yet never leaving enemy forces a moment's peace. The latter could not even go out to fetch drinking water without placing themselves in mortal danger. Once, when the barbarians were out looting like thieves and searching for local villagers hiding in the dense forests, some three hundred of them went down to a spring to drink water. There, they were attacked by the local inhabitants, assisted by our soldiers. Our men surrounded them and chopped them to pieces. Unaffected by the fighting were several rocks and islands in the lake where beautiful monasteries had been constructed by Greek clergy. All these people would otherwise have been heartlessly ravaged.

Meanwhile, the enemy made ready some cannons of enormous proportion. They were of such a calibre that, when shot at, the ramparts of the fortress shuddered and most of them collapsed. Nevertheless, those under siege had stored enough material to defend themselves and to repair the fortifications, which proved to be necessary now that the town was without walls. They took a pile of beams and nailed them together, erecting them with earth and mud and thus creating an improvised barrier, like strong ramparts, to fend off the enemy attack. The barbarians then began to launch cannonballs with their bombards, indeed one thousand nine hundred times, destroying both the ramparts and the houses, and believing that their army would now have no problem conquering the city. Orders were given that all iron tools, wooden instruments and other material used for repairing walls and homes be made ready for the attack, so that when their forces took the city, they would at least be sure to reap the benefits of the victory after so much trial and tribulation.

The assault began with piercing shouting, the beating of drums and the blowing of trumpets. Bonfires were lit on all four sides of the fortress. Then they stopped for prayer, adoring the new moon as they lay on the ground, as is their custom. One must know that the Ottomans never engage in a full battle before the new moon, which they greet with great devotion. As such, on August 15th, the pasha promised great reward to those who would could climb the slopes to the fortress, mustered his army, and with two shots from the cannons, gave signal for the attack. The moment he gave the sign, they all rushed out of the camp and ran forth. With great din and clamour, taking with them movable mantlets, beams and poles with hooked prongs, they clambered swiftly up the mountain, rock by rock, path by path.

According to a plan he had prepared before the start of the siege, Loredano, who was second to none in bravery and the martial arts, deployed his forces in such a way that the townspeople, together with the Italian garrison and the young men from the countryside, would be in position, but that they would keep silent and hidden. In this manner, the enemy would not hesitate to approach the base of the fortress. He then chose three hundred men who were to wait at the open square of the fortress, arms in hand, to fend off anyone who attacked them.

Most of the archers were then positioned around the ramparts and a signal was given, a great cry, to call the population out to the walls. The Turks then began their advance on the walls against which they placed their ladders, and in fury started to attack from all sides, such that those within the city did not know which side needed the most attention and where to deploy emergency reinforcements. It was in this strategy that the barbarians had placed their hopes. With a hail of missiles and cannonballs engulfing the fortress, the forces under siege rushed forth with all the arms at their disposal and began to attack the enemy which had already reached the top of the hill. Some of those on the ramparts began hurling huge torches and sharp javelins down at them, whatever they could find, but, where they were able, the Turks held their ground and replaced one another. Nearby was the pasha giving orders, urging his men on, praising the most courageous of them and cursing the cowardly and the lame. Whenever he saw any men retreating, he menaced them with his sword and sent them back into battle, threatening otherwise to execute them on the spot. Thus, although most of the Turks were unable to fend off the stones and missiles being hurled at them from above, and many of them were struck dead and fell to the ground, no one dared to retreat or move from the spot. The people of Shkodra, for their part, prepared kegs full of stones which they hurled down the cliffs on the steepest sides. These struck the Turkish fighters swarming below. They also hurled baskets of sticks and rushes dipped in pitch and set them on fire. The conflagration lit up the area and made it highly visible, to the great assistance of those under siege. Who knows how many enemies were burned and consumed by the flames? For the Turks had begun their siege in the dark of night in order to cover up their dastardly plan and tactics. The savage fighting continued all night long. Those under siege did not have a moment's rest.

The next day, the attack grew even stronger. The barbarians believed that they had already gained a victory. Therefore, midst the wounded and the missiles, they advanced, trampling over bodies until they reached the edge of the fortifications themselves. In the sections where the ramparts had been knocked down, they brought forth poles with sharp metal hooks which they fixed against the walls. By using those sharp ends, they struck and wounded the defendants, even pulling some of them off the ramparts. But the men of Shkodra were not frightened and held their ground, fighting off the enemy with swords and axes, chopping them to bits on the spot. The defendants from above were slaughtering so many of the enemy with all sorts of weapons and missiles, defending the town with all their courage and with all the strength they had in them, and the battle had reached its zenith. Then, behold!, the barbarians on all sides of the fortress began to withdraw.

The sun had been up for three hours and the ladders of the attackers with the men still on them plunged to the ground. Then the Turkish army began to show weakness and lose courage. The townspeople were heartened by this. Their courage and morale had reached a new height. They sprang over the ramparts and leaped to set upon the fleeing enemy forces who were running back towards their tents. They kept at them right until they reached the enemy encampment, where a savage and bloody battle took place between the two sides, and the tents were shredded and destroyed. Beams and logs were set on fire and, as the wind was blowing against the Turks, some of them were burned and consumed by the flames, while others choked in the smoke and ran away in flight.

The men of Shkodra returned to the town with the banners of the enemy army and the heads of some of the commanders killed during the attack, and exposed them on the ramparts. Brandishing their shining swords, they made great fun of the enemy, challenging them back to battle.

The pasha had been struck on the thigh by a boulder and was wounded. As far as could be learned from letters from princes in the region and from the narratives of those who had escaped the fighting, about seventy thousand men, indeed the majority, were wounded in the battle. There were hardly any fighters who returned to camp without having been wounded. There were no tents in which one could not hear the moaning and groaning of the injured. The fighting had indeed been so savage that the pasha wrote to Sultan Mehmed and reported of the valiant courage of those under siege and of the great damage they themselves had suffered.

In addition to all these events, in the months of August and September, the region is so pestilential that the local people can barely endure the debilitating climate, not to speak of the foreigners there suffering from the deprivations of military life and living outdoors under appalling conditions. For this reason, many of our men as well as the Turks who survived the carnage, perished of fever caused by the bad air and stagnant water of the marshes. When the Ottomans realised what was happening, they gave orders for the siege to be lifted, although they knew that their authority would be weakened if they withdrew their forces.

Thus, at the break of dawn on August 17th, the Turks, after setting fire to their tents, withdrew from the region of Shkodra in complete silence. This was either, as mentioned above, because they were racked with disease and unable to deal with the virulent climate, or because another enemy was attacking them, or, more likely, because they had lost all hope that they could take the city, in view of the fact that those inside the town would resist all the more and would put up with all manner of suffering. Perhaps they were also unnerved by the arrival of Italian cavalrymen on ships, who had landed in Durrës, because they would soon arrive to support the neighbouring army and would utterly destroy the Turkish forces, weakened as they already were.

At any rate, fate was with us. Had the Turks taken Shkodra, it would have given them a base for crossing over to Apulia and advancing in the direction of Rome. There is no man on earth more ruthless than that tyrant. His objective is to occupy Rome. This is shown by the fact that, while they were attacking Shkodra, one could heart voices shouting: "To Rome! To Rome!" They believed that by taking Shkodra, there would be no one left to stop them on their advance to seize the Roman Empire. Once Italy had been conquered, they would be masters of both Romes, i.e. the old one which had once ruled the globe, and the new one which Constantine, one thousand two hundred years ago, having expelled the Romans from Thrace, renamed Constantinople.

I have no words to describe the bravery of the people of Shkodra, and their steadfastness and patience in the face of all these adversities. They achieved what the people of Saguntum in Spain failed to achieve at the time, or what the people of Cassilina failed to achieve in Italy when they were surrounded by Hannibal, as history tells us. Six thousand souls had gathered in the narrow confinements of that fortress - men, women and children - whereas those able to defend the town were not more than two thousand. The rest were not able to bear arms for war.

During the siege, water began to be scarce. The people in the fortress started to drink rainwater collected in holes and to eat partially scorched grain. Not much time passed before they were completely devoid of water, or had very little (because no rain had fallen for a period of fifty days). Those who were not fit for fighting were not given any water at all. Thus, not being able to moisten their parched lips and to slake their hunger, about three thousand people died in appalling and inhuman conditions: women in their husbands' arms, babies in front of their parents, sisters and little brothers in view of the elder brothers. The people were so resolved and tempered by the difficulties they were in, that the remaining food was reserved only for those who were able to fight. In the end, even the water which had been rationed, began to run out (each man received only two cupfuls a day). Once the thirsting masses had emptied the stagnant dregs remaining in barrels and could no longer endure the siege, having abandoned all hope of salvation, they resolved, following the example of brave men, to set upon the enemy in a lightning attack, either to breach a path for themselves or to die fighting like men.

Loredano, who had prepared a plan for all eventualities, with prudence and incomparable humanity, managed to calm the masses down, who in their despair had taken such a dire decision. He was not ashamed to beg and appeal with words of humility to those affected by extreme tribulation. Falling to his knees before them and with tears streaming down his face, he flung open his arms and told them he was willing to give them the blood of his veins to drink and his heart to eat if they would only hold out another two - at the most three or four - days amidst the calamity of war and siege. Since requisite help was on its way, the enemy would be repulsed and our men's name would be revered for many generations to come. Though they might have lost hope in assistance coming, they ought still to place their faith in our Lord on the cross, who would save them from that perfidious and inhuman tyrant. And thus it happened. Almighty God in his mercy, taking pity on the people's great suffering, came to their assistance in a most unexpected way.

As I subsequently learned from letters, Blessed Christ saved his people from the clutches of the infidel because, in all the fighting only fifty persons were killed by the siege and less than one hundred were injured. Two cannonballs of the enemy fell right in the midst of a large mass of people gathered together, and yet only two of them perished. This is tantamount to a miracle. So strong was the assistance our Lord provided to his flock that he saved them from the enemy and all those weapons. 
During the war, disease, caused by the unwholesome atmosphere in the marshes, killed others among our men, including two captains, Lodovico Bembo (Ludovicus Bembus), the Venetian ambassador, and Triadano Gritti (Triadanus Grittus), the commander of the fleet. In lieu of them, Antonio Loredano was appointed as the new Venetian ambassador and later as prefect of Shkodra. Everyone rejoiced at this appointment because they all felt that under the leadership and bidding of this man, the Turkish advance would be broken and the Turks would be routed completely. As in ancient times when the Scipio family subjected Carthage to the rule of Rome, thus ridding the latter of its rival, the new leader, Loredano, would sap Ottoman power and return triumphant over such a savage enemy.

The Turks are now constructing a great fleet in Constantinople, as has been reported recently by those who have come from that port. And the city is being revived and fortified as much as possible. All manner of material is being gathered, and skilled experts have been summoned from all corners to carry out fortification and armament activities. Great threats are to be expected from that powerless though haughty tyrant, whose plans this year turned into a disaster. To his great disgrace, he lost over twenty thousand men in the Shkodra campaign alone.

When his youngest son, out leading the elite of his forces in the territory of Cilicia against the Persians, heard of the perdition of the army, he fell ill and died. The sultan then had Mehmed Pasha strangled, one of his advisors and comrades in arms who had taken Euboia and defeated the Persians in battle, either because he feared some treachery or because he wanted to avenge the death of his son who, it is said, was poisoned by Mehmed because the young man had been pursuing his wife and had taken her from her husband. And, as if that were not enough, he had his brother impaled, killing him under the cruelest of torture. He even killed his wife and children by such means.

Our horsemen in the Peloponnesian war took the Turkish pasha and two thousand horsemen prisoner and put them all to the sword. In addition to this, they seized the invincible fortress of Rampani, after taking it by surprise and killing the guards.

By prayer and worship, we may beseech the help of the Almighty, by the grace of whom things are going better and better, that he avert that plague and calamity from his people. If our profanity and evil deeds do merit punishment, let him chastise us with another curse and further affliction, given that many are the scourges of sinners and that God is not lacking in the means of avenging crime. Be of good health.


Venice, 10 September 1474


(1)The reference is to the Ottoman sultan, Mehmed II the Conqueror (reign 1451-1481).(2)The reference is here, no doubt, to the Germanic invasions of the Italian peninsula in the early Middle Ages.(3)The battle of 1473 in which the Ottoman sultan defeated Uzun Hasan of Turkmenistan.(4)Ancient term for northern Dalmatia.(5)River flowing through the author's native Alessandria in northern Italy.

[Georgius Merula Alexandrinus, Bellum Scodrense. Translated by Robert Elsie.]
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:17 pm

Arnold von Harff:
Pilgrimage from Cologne

Arnold von Harff (1), a German knight, traveller and writer, was born in about 1471 into a noble family of the Lower Rhineland (Harff on the Erft, a village northwest of Cologne). In the autumn of 1496, he set out on a journey, ostensibly a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which took him to Italy, down the Adriatic coast to Greece, Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, Asia Minor, and then back through central Europe to France and Spain. He returned to Cologne in the autumn of 1498 or 1499 and died in 1505. The account of his journey was published by E. von Groote in 1860 and is considered one of the best examples of the period of this genre of travel narrative, which was very popular at the end of the Middle Ages. The text of the narrative is in Ripuarian (Lower Rhine) German and suffers from the usual erratic orthography of the time. During his travels, von Harff was not only a keen observer of his environment, but was also interested in the languages he encountered. In the course of his narrative, he gives short lexicons of words and phrases in Croatian, Albanian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Hungarian, Basque and Breton. These constitute what one might call essential pocket vocabularies for travellers, usually including items of food, household and travel necessities and useful phrases such as: 'Good morning', 'How much does this cost?' and 'Woman, may I sleep with you?' The latter question is, incidentally, missing from the Albanian lexicon for one reason or another. It was thus on a stopover in the port of Durrës in the spring of 1497 as he was sailing aboard a merchant galley from Venice to Alexandria, that he jotted down twenty-six words, eight phrases, and twelve numbers in Albanian, which constitute one of the earliest records of the Albanian language.



From Dulcina (Ulcinj) to Duratzo (Durrës) we travelled with a bad wind. This is a great city ruined by the Turks, and is now subject to the Venetians. This city lies in Albania where they also have their own language which cannot be written well, as they do not have an alphabet of their own in this country. I have noted down several words of this Albanian language, which are written below in our letters:




ake ja kasse zet ve
kess felgen gjo kaffs     
do daple 
laff ne kammijss
ne kaffs
a chicken
to eat
to drink
a tavern
a man
a woman
the devil
a candle
a horse
to sleep
good morning
good night
good day
what do you have that I like
how much does that cost
I'll buy it
wash my shirt
what is that called

We sailed from Durrës to Sazan in five hours. This is a very fine harbour. Sazan is a small island belonging to the Turks. There are two little Greek chapels on it, one to our Blessed Lady and the other to Saint Nicholas. At the present time, the great lord of the Turks has some very fine stallions grazing on this island. To the left side of the harbour, on the mainland is a very fine, large village called Velona (Vlora), which has two thousand homes. This village is able to provide the Turkish emperor with seven hundred horsemen for war, not to mention foot soldiers. Above this village is a fine castle called Kano (Kanina), in which the Turkish emperor has an official in residence. Here in Vlora is a large river of fresh water called the Buyona (Buna) (2), which flows from Turkey from the north and enters the sea here. It comes from Sckuterym (Shkodra), a large fortified town which the Turkish emperor took from Venetian rule a few years ago. Here in Sazan there is a large harbour in which the Turks always have many vessels. Fourteen years ago, the Turks sailed across the gulf from this harbour fifty Lombard miles in some six hours to Apulia and Calabria, which belong to the King of Naples. They captured the fine and large town of Idrontum (Otranto) and many other towns, which they held for a year and a day. In this region there is a large, high mountain. From Sazan to Corfoin (Corfu) we sailed with a good wind. This island is subject to the Venetians and is about one hundred and eighty Italian miles wide. On this island is the town of Corfu and a good harbour, which we sailed into. Above the town there are two castles which protect it. The Greek language is spoken in this town.



(1)cf. V. Honemann, Zur Lieferung der Reisebeschreibung Arnold von Harffs. in: Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur, 107 1978, p. 165-178; A. Hetzer, Wie ist Arnold von Harffs Wörterverzeichnis (1496) zu lesen? in: Balkan-Archiv, Neue Folge, Hamburg, 6 (1981), p. 227-262; R. Elsie, The Albanian lexicon of Arnold von Harff, 1497. in: Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung, Göttingen, 97,1 (1984), p. 113-122; H. Beckers, Zu den Fremdalphabeten und Fremdsprachproben im Reisebericht Arnold von Harff (1496-1498). in: Collectanea Philologica. Festschrift für Helmut Gipper, vol. 1, Baden-Baden (1985), p. 73-86; E. von Groote, Die Pilgerfahrt des Ritters Arnold von Harff von Cöln durch Italien, Syrien, Ägypten, Arabien, Äthiopien, Nubien, Palästina, die Türkei, Frankreich und Spanien, wie er sie in den Jahren 1496 bis 1499 vollendet, beschrieben und durch Zeichnungen erläutert hat. Cologne (1860); and M. Letts, The Pilgrimage of Arnold von Harff... Translated from the German and edited with notes and an introduction by Malcolm Letts, London 1946, reprint 1947.(2)The Buna, flowing from Shkodra, is of course nowhere near Vlora. The author may have meant the Vjosa river.

[Extract from: E. von Groote (ed.): Die Pilgerfahrt des Ritters Arnold von Harff von Cöln durch Italien, Syrien, Aegypten, Arabien, Aethiopien, Nubien, Palästina, die Türkei, Frankreich und Spanien, wie er sie in den Jahren 1496 bis 1499 vollendet, beschrieben und durch Zeichnungen erläutert hat, Cologne 1860, p. 64 66. Translated from the German by Robert Elsie. Published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 31-33.]
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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history


Post by Zeus10 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:28 pm

John Musachi:
Brief Chronicle on the Descendants of our Musachi Dynasty

The chronicle or memoir of John Musachi (Ital. Giovanni Musachi) constitutes the oldest substantial text written by an Albanian. Musachi, despot of Epirus, was of a noble, ruling family from the Myzeqe region of central Albania. He was forced to abandon his land and take flight to Italy when Albanian resistance to the Ottoman conquest collapsed and the country was occupied by the Turks. The prime objective in his chronicle was not to provide a history of his times, but simply to prove to his descendants that they were of an important, landowning family so that they did not forget their origins and property rights. While the chronicle is no work of great scholarship and may prove confusing to students of history, it is nonetheless an important source not only for late fifteenth-century Albania, but also for Albanian toponyms and the names of local Albanian rulers. Indeed it is significant as proof of the rise of the Albanians as a distinct ethnic group.

Appendixed to the chronicle, though not included here, is a text by John's son, Constantine Musachi, dated 1535, in which the latter states that his father "was buried in the large church of Francavilla in the country of Otranto in a marble grave where mass is conducted three times a week. On it is an inscription reading: Almighty Jesus, this is the grave of John Musachi, the son of Gjin the Despot, Lord of Epirus and of Myzeqe, who stemmed from the city of Byzantium and bore the double headed eagle as his emblem. To him was dedicated this wreath in the year of our lord 1510." For this reason, the following chronicle is traditionally dated 1510. A reference in the text to the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 proves, however, that John Musachi cannot have died before 1515.




I, Lord John (Giovanni) Musachi, Despot of Epirus, having been expelled from my home by the Sultan and having been deprived of the said country, arrived in the Kingdom of Naples where King Ferdinand (1) of Aragon, caring for my essential needs and those of my family, promised to assist me and give me land in Apice as well as other things. He also accepted us at his court. It was my misfortune, however, that he perished and that unexpected wars began. I was left like a ship without a rudder in the midst of a great storm, not even knowing the Italian language. But as it please God, I was able to raise you and ensure that you were nourished in that country, you my children, Lord Theodore, Lord Adrian, Lord Constantine and your two sisters Lady Helena and Lady Porphida, though this was not accomplished without trial and tribulation. When I arrived in this country, you, Lord Theodore, were one and a half years old, and you, Lord Adrian, were one and a half months old, whereas you, Lord Constantine, were born in this kingdom.

I wish you to know that the destruction of the Byzantine Empire, which also meant our own destruction, began with a disagreement between Palaeologus (2)and Cantacuzene (3). This led to Palaeologus asking assistance from Murad I, the King of the Turks (4). The latter set foot in Europe, it is said, in 1363.

Passing through all these countries, he occupied much land, among which was the city of Adrianopole (Edirne). When Murad the Second (5) took power, he seized Serbia and Bulgaria in a huge onslaught. Lazar (6), the Despot of Serbia, and King Marko of Bulgaria and Theodore Musachi, the second-born of our family, and the other Lords of Albania united and set off for battle, which the Christians lost (7). It was there that the above mentioned Theodore, who had a large band of Albanians with him, was slain. The said Lazar of Serbia was taken prisoner and later slain. Now began a period of continuous warfare with the Turks in Albania, in which many lords and gentlemen gave their lives. As mentioned above, it was a lack of courage among them that caused them to lose their states. The city of Croya (Kruja) fell during the reign of Bayazid (8) the First, as later did Velona (Vlora), although we defended them without interruption. Nonetheless, the power of the sultan continued to grow and our power continued to diminish.

After a fierce attack by Bayazid, my grandfather, Lord Andrew Musachi, was dispossessed of a part of Devoli (Devoll) and Musacchia (Myzeqe), which he recuperated. He never lost any other part of the country. My father and your grandfather, Lord Ginno (Gjin), reigned over the country of our forefathers and, though he lost part of Myzeqe, he was able to retrieve it.

All the young lords of Albania thus died in battle. Only the following lords remained alive: Lord Arianiti Comnenus, Lord Coico (Gojko) Balsha, Lords Nicholas and Paul Dukagjini, my father Lord Gjin Musachi, Lord Andrew Thopia and Lord Peter Spani. They all lived to an advanced age and most of them reigned long. They had other children, too, but few in number because they were tied down by continuous warfare. Nonetheless, they defended the land as best they could, although they did lose much of the country.

Later, during the reign of Murad the Second, Scanderbeg arrived, the son of Lord John Castriota, who ruled over Matia (Mat) in Albania. His father had given him and his two brothers as hostages to the said Murad when they were all small. The other two died. When he turned Turk, the one called George Castriota became known as Scanderbeg, meaning Alexander and Bey, which is a ruler. When he grew up, he managed to gain influence and was clever and courageous. When his father died, he escaped from the sultan. It is said that when the sultan sent the Pasha of Roumelia to fight against the Hungarians, he sent Scanderbeg with him. The said pasha was defeated, the Turkish army routed, and the said Scanderbeg took flight with the others. As fate would have it, the chancellor of the pasha happened to be with him. Scanderbeg took him prisoner and forced him to issue a decree in the name of the sultan for the governor of Kruja to cede that territory to him. The chancellor finally agreed to sign the decree, although against his will. So he then slew the said chancellor so that nothing of the matter would ever be revealed. He then took to the road with a number of Albanians who were with him and, having arrived in Albania, entered Kruja. He presented the decree to the governor and the governor turned the place over to him. He thus became Lord of Kruja, a mighty fortress. All the rulers of Albania rejoiced at the event and Scanderbeg immediately became a Christian.

He then summoned the said rulers of Albania to a meeting at Alessio (Lezha) (9). Some came in person and others sent their representatives. Thus the said Scanderbeg became their commander-in-chief in Albania and each of them donated either men or money according to his capabilities. Other sons of these noblemen also served under his command, taking part in the war and defending their country.

The said lord was skilled and courageous in warfare and became commander-in-chief, and everyone obeyed him.

The said Scanderbeg married the daughter of Lord Arianiti Comnenus and this lord sent my father, Lord Gjin, as a matchmaker because the said Lord Arianiti was the brother in law of my father. He was married to Maria Musachi, the sister of my father, by means of whom, as I said, the marriage was concluded. He took Lady Andronica Comneniates for his wife, who was my cousin, and she adopted the surname Scanderbeg from her husband. Later, the said lord, by means of his virtue, his courage and with assistance from these other lords, carried out many an onslaught against the Turks and won many victories, though not without losses on the part of our lords and cavalrymen.

But in the end, the forces of the sultan increased and when Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, the Morea and everything else that remained of these countries were taken, we were no longer able to resist.

They also took away from us Myzeqe and Belgrado (Berat), the aforementioned capital thereof. My father died a little earlier, not only of old age, but also of suffering and despair. His brother in law Arianiti Comnenus also perished.

Lord Scanderbeg, realizing that he was being overwhelmed by the enemy and that there was little hope left, fell sick with a fever in Lezha and died in 1466 (10) at the age of sixty three. You can imagine how much land was lost with [the death of] such a commander. There were few sons of noblemen left alive after such long and bloody battles. Almost all the old men had perished, either of old age or out of despair.

Lady Scanderbeg, his wife, departed for the Kingdom of Naples when her husband died. With her were their young son, Lord John, and my two sisters, whose husbands had been slain in fighting. One of them was Lady Maria who is the wife of Lord Musachi Comnenus, commonly known as Dangelino. The other one was Lady Helena who was married to Lord George Carles.

The aforementioned Lady Maria took with her only her grown up daughter Lady Porphida. Helena also had a daughter with her, called Voisava. Other women arrived, too, and were well received by the said king.

I stayed behind in our country and the other noblemen remained on their land for a short time, for as long as the Venetians remained to support us. We were constantly wearied and were under attack for about six years. I had very little of the country under my control, for the other part of it had been captured.

I was still in our country, in Lesser Myzeqe, also known as Tomonishta, when King Frederick of Aragon, who was crown prince at the time, proceeded with the army of King Ferdinand, his father, to take Durazzo (Durrës) from the Venetians. I was called to assist by the proveditor of the Venetian government, which was situated in the said city of Durrës. I arrived in support of the Venetians with good troops, both infantry and cavalry, and freed Durrës from the said prince, Don Frederick. But the Venetians later made peace and I did not want to be part of it. Indeed they treated me as if I had been defeated. Such was my recompense.

Meanwhile, Mehmed (11), the prince of the Turks, had written me many letters and stated in them that in case I wanted to go over to him, taking you, my sons, with me, and would swear to abide by his faith, he would make me governor of the whole country and would keep us at his court and would make you great rulers. But at no time did I wish to abandon my true and holy faith, nor did I wish to inform you of his offer. I did not want to give way to greed and honours, despite the arguments he utilized to persuade me. Indeed, this very sultan later made peace with the Venetians when they gave him Scutari (Shkodra).

Not only did I refuse to have anything to do with this affair, but they wanted to hand me over to them. Because of this, some of the gentlemen of Durrës advised me to take flight immediately. I was obliged to dress up in the night and, thus disguised, set off on a boat which departed, without anyone knowing who I was. I arrived in this country in about the year 1476 (12). Such was the situation of the other rulers of Albania. Some departed and others turned Turk. All of them were ruined. My wife, your mother, Maria Dukagjini, was in her last month of pregnancy with Lord Adrian when we were in flight in the city of Durrës, and hid at the home of some noblemen, who were friends of ours. It was there that the aforementioned Lord Adrian was born. He was taken to be baptised as if he were a baby of a peasant found somewhere, so that no one would know whose son he was and who his godparents were. Lord Theodore and Lady Helena found refuge with other noblemen, without betraying who they actually were. But subsequently, when suspicion arose, the Turks came and searched the town for your mother and her children. Your mother hid in the headboard of a bed under a feather mattress and the bed was made up so that no one would notice her. When the Turks searched the house, they were unable to find her, thanks to God in His mercy. In this manner, she and her children were saved from the wrath of the Turks and were not delivered into their savage hands. The aforementioned noblemen and some other good people, who were our vassals, managed within a month to lease a boat and send her and her children secretly to Apulia, where they arrived safe and sound.

For this reason, I beg you, my children, to fear and to love God, and I appeal to you to be good Christians, if you wish to have my blessing, for it was the sins of the rulers of the Greeks, and indeed our own ones, too, which first plunged us into this abyss of pain and suffering. Be humble and devout and always avoid sin. Have faith in the Holy Trinity and in the Most Sacred Mother of our Saviour, who will save your souls and give you good health. Take to heart Christian teachings, do good and righteous deeds and return to your homeland.

I am leaving you with this brief chronicle, so that when God in his mercy should deign to return you to your homeland, you will at least know some details of your country and of your forefathers. From the little information I have, I would like to inform you of the names of your forefathers, who held sway and who were expelled from your land and country by the sultan. Alas, I cannot tell you anything of the first ruler in ancient times because the chronicles of this country have been lost, but I do wish to bring to light the little I know and what people have told me.

They say in fact that our dynasty stems from the city of Constantinople and came to rule over Epirus in Albania.

From the start, it is important that you learn our family name, and what the reason was that we are called Molosachi. You should know that our family name comes from the land of the Molossi, known as such since ancient times. We were rulers of that land and thus they called us. The word Molosachi was then corrupted into Musachi.

You should also know that the emblem of our dynasty since ancient times has been a flowing fountain which flows in two streams, one on each side. This is the fountain of Epirus about which many authors have written that it extinguishes a lit torch and lights an extinguished torch. Later, we also had a two headed eagle crowned with a star in the middle, and as you know, we have cherished this fountain ever since that time for undertakings and ceremonies.

These arms of ours are ancient, and both the arms and the family name come from that country.

The emblem of your mother's dynasty is a white eagle. She comes from the Dukagjini family, a noble dynasty, so do not forget where you come from.

I can confirm to you that Andrew Molosachi or Musachi was the sebaston cratos and ruler of Epirus, which in Albanian is called pylloria. He ruled all of Myzeqe and other districts.

This Myzeqe is the country of the Molossi and was thus named after them. We have been the rulers of that country from ancient times to the present day and took on the family name Molosachi, but the word Molossia was corrupted and is pronounced Mosachia and in Albanian it is called Myzeqe. This Molossia is in actual fact Epirus, as was mentioned above. It is a part of the whole land to be described below, which today is part of Epirus as far as I remember. I am telling you what I know and what I have heard.

May you know that sebaston cratosmeans commander-in-chief of the emperor. It is one of the five titles which the emperor accorded. Lord Andrew Musachi (13) held this title.

When you come upon the city of Belgrade (Berat), you should know that it is the one in Epirus and in Myzeqe, and not the one in Hungary.

When you come upon the name Theodore Musachi Chiscetisi (Kishetisi), know that Kishetisi means long haired. And indeed they wore their hair long. In Albanian, the word 'kishet' (gërshet) means 'braids' and that was the way they were accustomed to wearing their hair, as far as I remember. Even in our times, they usually wore their hair down to their shoulders in our principality. This is why I mention this.

And when you come across the term despot, be aware that this means prince and is the foremost title given by the emperor.

I must explain in particular what this post or title means, which in spoken Greek is called sevastocrator. In written Greek, they say sebaston cratos. The meaning is as follows: sebaston means 'consecrated, honourable, venerable, worthy of honour, reverence and respect', in Latin augustem et venerabilethus sebasto civitas Augusti nomine dedicata, cum antea Samaria diceretur(Strabo, book 16). The word cratos means 'power, government or reign', in Latin potentia, imperium. Such is the meaning of the title sebaston cratos. This is explained in the dictionary and the Greeks have explained it in the same way. Thus, as I have stated, sebaston cratos or in the spoken language sevastocrator, has the significance of the aforementioned dignitary, being a combination of two words, sebaston and cratos.

As far as I remember and have heard, the forefathers of our Musachi dynasty are the ones referred to here below:

Lord Andrew Sevastocrator, and after Andrew comes

Lord Theodore Kishetisi, and after Lord Theodore comes

Lord Andrew the Despot, and after Lord Andrew the Despot comes

Lord Gjin, and after Lord Gjin comes

Lord Andrew, and from Lord Andrew comes

Lord Gjin, my father, and from Lord Gjin I come

myself, Lord John, and from me come

you, Lord Theodore, Lord Adrian and Lord Constantine, my sons.

I have informed you in this written chronicle of the forefathers of our family in direct lineage. Now I would like to make known what regions they governed, as far as I am aware.

Lord Andrew Sevastocrator possessed and ruled over the regions referred to below:

The town of Berat which is the capital of Myzeqe, i.e. the whole region of Myzeqe beginning on one side at the border with a village called Carugua (Garunja), and at another side with the village of Giossi (Gosa), and at another side with one called Basti (Bashtova) and on another side with one called Miliota where the river Shkumbin flows, and all of Myzeqe from the town of Berat down to the river Vjosa, to a place called the Two Stones.

He also possessed and ruled over the other part of Myzeqe, near the aforementioned town of Berat, at Tomonishta, which is in Lesser Myzeqe.

He also possessed and ruled over the region of Selenizza (Selenica) right down to the coast, which has many villages.

He also possessed and ruled over the region of Tomorniza (Tomorica) with all the villages in the valley and on the mountainside of Thomorri (Tomor). These are about sixty villages in all, beginning with Dardasi (Dardha) and all the others at Tercotigue (Tërrova).

He also possessed and ruled over the region of Sclepari (Skrapar) with eighteen villages. He also possessed Serchi, Midegni, Sereci (Zerec) and Duscari (Dushar).

He also possessed and ruled over the region of Opari (Opar) which is inhabited by Slavs, with the hamlets of Festazzi (Peshtan), Beci, Maserecchi (Mazreka), Lodari (Lavdar), Mariani (Marjan) and Ceriasceli (Çemerica?), all of which are inhabited by Albanians.

He also possessed and ruled over the region of Greater Devoll. It should be noted in this respect that there is a place there called Vescop (Voskop), which is in ruins.

He also possessed and ruled over the town of Corizza (Korça) up to a village called Savoiana (Sovjan) and also the village of Viola, where they catch many big fish and eels.

He also possessed and ruled over the region of Lesser Devoll up to Nestramo, a town which is in ruins.

He also possessed and ruled over the town of Costurri (14), including all the surround-ing villages. He took this town by force of arms from King Marco. I would like to stress in this respect that the said town of Costurri or Castoria is a fair town with a broad plain leading to it.

From this Lord Andrew Molosachi was born Theodore Musachi Kishetisi who possessed all the above mentioned lands.

From this Lord Theodore was born the second Lord Andrew Musachi, who was sevastocrator and who fought with King Vukashin. Vukashin was the king of Bulgaria who ruled land almost all the way to Adrianopole and who was always among the great enemies of the emperor of Constantinople.

The king had made ready a great army and had arrived to attack Epirus, which was under the rule and reign of the aforementioned Lord Andrew. The aforementioned Lord Andrew, getting wind of the activities of the said king, assembled a great army from his country. He took with him all the barons and nobles and indeed his relatives and friends, and set out to meet the said king. They met at a place called Mount Peristeri where there is a spring called Dobrida which is the border between Albania and Bulgaria. And as the day dawned, the said king was vanquished in those cliffs. He was taken prisoner, as was a son of his called Duslandi. When he received word that Lord Andrew had won such a victory, the emperor of Constantinople rejoiced, since Lord Andrew had removed his greatest foe almost from under the walls of Adrianopole. As a token of his delight and pleasure at such a great victory, the said emperor bestowed upon him his coat of arms, that is, the two headed eagle crowned with a star in the middle, this being the imperial coat of arms, and gave him the title Despot of Epirus, and with it, a golden seal as a sign of authority. He also sent him a despotic throne into which the above mentioned eagle was wrought in pearls. He was also invested with the town of Castoria, which Lord Andrew had taken by force from King Marco. In this undertaking, he had called upon the assistance of his son in law, King Balsha, who was married to Lady Comita Musachi, his first-born daughter.

He had also called upon the assistance of his other son in law, Lord Groppa, ruler of the town of Ocrida (Ohrid) which included much surrounding land belonging to him. The town of Ohrid is situated beside a lake from which the river Drin springs and in which many carp, trout and other fine fish are caught. This Lord Groppa of Ohrid was married to Lady Chiranna, his second daughter. Thus he subjugated the said town of Castoria which remained under the rule of our family.

From the said Lord Andrew Molosachi the Despot were born three sons and two daughters. The first born was called Lord Gjin, the second Lord Theodore and the third Lord Stoya. Of the daughters, the first one was called Lady Comita Musachi and the second Lady Chiranna. He left all of his land, with the exception of Berat, Myzeqe and Castoria, to his first-born son, Lord Gjin Musachi. To his second son, Lord Theodore, he left Berat and Myzeqe, and to his third son, Lord Stoya, he left Castoria with all the villages and estates belonging to it.

His first daughter, the above mentioned Lady Comita, was married to the said King Balsha who held sway in Shkodra, Bar, Kotor, Šibenik, Trogir and much other land. His second daughter, Lady Chiranna, was married to the said Lord Groppa, Lord of Ohrid or Debria (Dibra).

The first born, the said Lord Gjin, had five children, the first of whom was called Andrew Molosachi, the second Lord Materango, the third Lord Blaise, the fourth Lord Bogdan and the fifth Lord Laldi.

To this third Andrew Musachi was born Lord Gjin, my father, and to Lord Gjin, were born me, Don John, and my brother, Lord Andrew, as well as six girls.

I myself, Don John Musachi, had three sons and two daughters. The first one was Don Theodore, the second Don Adrian and the third Don Constantine. My first daughter is Donna Helena and the second Donna Porphida, who is staying with Queen Joan, sister of the Catholic king, who is Queen of Naples and the wife of King Ferdinand the Elder. To my brother Lord Andrew was born Lord Gjin.

This second Lord Andrew, who captured the said King Vukashin, King of Serbia and Bulgaria, was married to the daughter of Lord Paul Sevastocrator. His wife was called Euthymia, meaning 'honoured'.

This Lord Paul ruled over a province called Ghora (Gora) which is near Lake Ohrid. Lord Andrew Musachi, the said second despot, and his wife, Euthymia, as she was called, were buried in the town of Durrës, within the church of Saint Anthony, to the right side of the main altar, in a beautiful grave made of marble and containing the following epitaph: 'Here lies Lord Andrew Molosachi, Despot of Epirus.'

To the said Lord Andrew, the second, was first born the said Lord Gjin, who married Lady Suina, the daughter of Lord Materango Arianiti Comneniates.

The son of the said Lord Gjin was Lord Andrew the third and was married to Lady Chiranna who was the daughter of Lord John Sarbissa (Zenevisi), lord of the town of Ariocastro (Gjirokastra) and Evaguenegiana (Vagenetia), an extensive territory. This lady received as her dowry a territory called Grabossa.

This Lord Andrew the third had two sons and two daughters. The first son was called Lord Gjin the second, and the second one Lord Theodore Musachi. The first daughter was called Lady Maria and the second Lady Helena. This Lord Gjin the second was married to Lady Chiranna, who was the niece of Lord Paul Sevastocrator, and to the said Lord Gjin, I was born, Lord John. The aforementioned second son, Lord Theodore, his brother, was slain in warfare with the aforementioned sultan and left no direct heirs. My father, the said Lord Gjin, became his heir. The said Lady Maria, the sister of my father, was married to Lord Arianiti Comnenus, Lord of Cerminica (Çermenika) and of Mochino (Mokra) and Spatennia (Shpat) up to the river Devoll, which divides his land from ours and constitutes the border. The second daughter, the said Lady Helena, was married to Lord Philip who had a large estate in Ragusa (Dubrovnik).

The said Lady Maria and Lord Arianiti Comnenus had eight daughters. The first was called Lady Andronica, the second Lady Voisava, the third Lady Chiranna, the fourth Lady Helena, the fifth Lady Despina, the sixth Lady Angelina, the seventh Lady Comita and the eighth Lady Catherine.

The first daughter, Lady Andronica, was married to Lord Scanderbeg Castriota, who was Lord of Dibra, Mat and Kruja down to the sea, and of Deberina, also called Randesio (Renc?), and of the province of Guonimi (Gjonëm).

This Lady Andronica and Lord Scanderbeg gave birth to Lord John Castriota who was Duke of Saint Peter in Galatina, and this Lord John was married to the lady Donna Erina Palaeologus, who was the daughter of Lord Lazar, Despot of Serbia. They had many children who died. Only two of them survived: a boy and a girl, Don Prince Ferdinand Castriota who is Duke of Saint Peter, and a girl called Donna Maria Castriota.

The second daughter called Donna Voisava was married to Lord John Cernovichi (Cernojevic), Lord of Montenegro and Zeta, and they had two sons. The first one was called Lord George and the second one was Lord Scanderbeg.

Lord George married and had two sons. The first one was called Lord Solomon, the second Lord Constantine, as well as three daughters. Two of the latter married in Hungary and the third one in Venice. The said Solomon died and Constantine married in Venice.

The second son, the said Lord Scanderbeg, turned Turk and now rules the land of his brother, which was given to him by the sultan for his having turned Turk.

The third daughter, Lady Chiranna, was married to Lord Nicholas Dukagjini. She was the only daughter among brothers, and gave birth herself to two sons. One died and the other turned Turk and became a pasha and a great commander of the sultan.

The fourth daughter, Lady Helena, was married to Lord George Dukagjini, to whom many children were born and all turned Turk. One called Scanderbeg is still alive and is a sanjak bey.

The fifth daughter, Lady Despina, was married to Lord Tanush Dukagjini. They had two children: a boy and a girl. The boy died. The girl, Lady Theodora, was married to [...] and had two sons, Lord Blaise and Lord Jacob.

The sixth daughter, Lady Angelina, was married to Lord Stephen, son of the Despot of Serbia called Lord George. The said Lady Angelina and Lord Stephen had two sons and one daughter. The sons died. The daughter was called Lady Maria and married the lord Marquis of Monferrato. They had two sons. The first one was called Lord William who married the sister of Monsignor d'Alençon, who is now the dauphin of France. This nobleman had two children: a boy and a girl. The boy is now the Marquis of Monferrato and the girl married Lord Frederick, Duke of Mantua. The other brother, Lord George, died without children.

The seventh daughter, Lady Comita, married Lord Gojko Balsha who is Lord of Misia. They had two sons and one daughter. The sons died in Hungary. The daughter, Lady Maria, married the nobleman, Count of Muro, and had two daughters. The latter were called Donna Beatrice and Donna Isabel. The first lady, Donna Beatrice, married Prince Ferdinand Orsino, Duke of Gravina, and the other one, Princess Isabel, married Lord Louis of Gesualdo, Count of Conza.

The eighth daughter was Lady Catherine who was married to Nicholas Boccali. They had two sons, Lord Manoli and Lord Constantine Boccali, and two daughters.
Now let us turn to the five brothers who are as follows: Lord Andrew Musachi, Lord Materango, Lord Blaise, Lord Bogdan and Lord Laldi.

I have already told you about Lord Andrew. As to Lord Materango, I can tell you that he was the father of Lord Gjin Molosachi Materango. To this Lord Gjin was born Lord Andrew who turned Turk, and the father, Lord Gjin, was slain by the Turks. Their domain was known as Gora and as such, he was called Lord of Gora.

The third brother, Lord Blaise, had five sons. The first one was Lord Bogdan, the second Lord Gjin, the third Lord Constantine, the fourth Lord Theodore and the fifth Lord John. He also had two daughters. The Turks captured all the five sons and murdered them by breaking their bones with hammers. One of their sisters was married to Lord Constantine Miserri who was Lord of Guasciti and who was also slain by the Turks. The sultan made his son Pasha of Romania and gave him his daughter for wife. Another daughter was called Lady Theodora who was married to Lord Paul Zardari who was the son of Congo Zardari and ruler over a land called Zardaria. The said Paul had another brother called Caragnus begla (Karagush Bela?), who had two children. One of these was called Hasan Bey and the other Avar Bey, both of whom are now in Turkey. From this Lady Theodora and the said Lord Paul was born Lady Maria who was married to Lord Brana Conte (Vranakonti), Duke of Ferrandina.

To the fourth brother, Lord Bogdan, was born a boy called Gjin Musachi Bogdan. Bogdan died and was survived by his son Gjin Bogdan who had a barony in Tomorica called Merlona (Milova).

Lord Laldi, the fifth brother, had a son called Lord Andrew Musachi, and this Andrew married Lady Theodora, the sister of Lady Comita who was married to Lord Andrew Musachi the Blind, Lord of Copes and of other villages.

Lord Andrew, my grandfather, had two sisters. The first was called Lady Helena and the second Lady Condisa. The said Helena was married to Lord Ajdino Clopes who was Lord of Vresda (Vreshtas?) and had two sons. One of these was Lord Haxhi Bey and the other one was Lord Hasan Bey. He also had a daughter called Lady Despina who was married to Lord Ali Bey, a Turk from the sanjak of Ciorno. The said Lord Haxhi Bey had sons, one legitimate called Hajdin and the other a bastard called Agu Bey. Four children were born to the said Lord Hasan Bey. The first one was called Andri Bey, the second one Cler Bey, the third one Ali Bey and the fourth one Murad Bey.

The aforementioned Lady Condisa, the second daughter, was married to Suleyman Bey, to whom two sons were born: the first one was called Andri Bey and the second one Ali Bey.

Lord Petro Musachi was the cousin of my father. He was married to Lady Angelina and had a son called Hasan, whom the sultan made Pasha of Romania and who was slain in Persia during a war at the time against the Sofi (15). You should know that you have a relative in Turkey called Hajdar Bey, who was Lord of Svernia (Zvirina) near Sovjan. He was married to a blood cousin of mine called Lady Chiranna, the daughter of Lord Andrew Musachi the Blind. To the two of them was born a son called Hasan Bey. The said Lord Andrew the Blind was a blood cousin of my father and was married to Lady Comita, the sister of my mother, to whom three sons were born. The first was called Mighiria, the second Lord Paul and the third Lord Blaise.

I, Lord John, had six sisters. The first one was called Lady Suina, the second one Lady Maria, the third one Lady Helena, the fourth one Lady Comita, the fifth one Lady Condisa and the sixth one Lady Theodora.

The first one, Lady Suina, was married to Lord Musachi Comnenus, the son of Lord Comnenus Arianiti who ruled over a land covering part of Çermenika and part of Mokra. The main village there is called Liborasi (Librazhd), the other villages are called Drago, Stugna (Dragostunja), Dorisa (Dorëz), Zuchisi (Qukës) and Guri (Gurra), in addition to other hamlets. The said Lady had two sons. One was called Comnino and the other Arianiti. She also had three daughters. Two of these died and the third one, the youngest, was called Lady Yela, who was married to the son of Lecca (Lekë) Dukagjini, called Cola (Kolë) Dukagini. He was killed and the sultan married the said Lady Yela off to Sinan Bey, who was the son of Bogdan Musachi. With him she had two sons, who are Turks.

The second daughter, Lady Maria, was married to Lord Musachi Comnenus, commonly known as Dangelino, who had a manor called Biesca (Bjeshka?) and quite a number of other hamlets in Çermenika and Tamadia. There are four Marguesi (Murras?) villages which are near Paglola (Pajova). The said Lady Maria had one daughter called Donna Porphida Comneniates who was raised at the court of Queen Joan, sister of the Catholic king, who is Queen of Naples and the wife of King Ferdinand the Elder. The said Princess Porphida was married to Lord Giulio of Valignano, a baron in the Abruzzi region, who was the great esquire of the said queen. Her children live in the town of Chieti. With her husband, she had two sons and two daughters. The first son was Lord Giovanni Giacomo of Valignano and the other one was Lord Geronimo who died leaving no heirs. The first daughter was called Lady Hipolita Maria and was married to the nobleman Baron della Tolfa, the son of Lord Gentile della Tolfa. The other daughter, Lady Joan, was married to Lord Giovanni Vincenzo Brancazzo, a Neapolitan nobleman, and had no children. The said Lord Giovanni Giacomo had two sons. The first one was called Lord Anthony and the second one Lord Julius Caesar, who are in the town of Chieti, as I have said.

The third daughter, Lady Helena, was married to Lord George Blandisi, or Carles, who owned Lower Dibra, Postea, Bellechi and many other villages. To him was born the lady Donna Voisava whom the said queen raised at her court and married to Lord Francesco Martino in Teano. She had many children: three sons and three daughters.

The first, Lord Frederick, had three children and then died. Lord Giovanni Ferrante died without sons. Lord Alphonso is in Teano and has children. Lady Porphida had one daughter by her husband, Lord Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, and died without sons. Lady Giovanna became a nun. Lady Andronica the third was married to Lord Giovanni Antonio Ayno, with whom she had one son.

The fourth daughter, Lady Comita, was married to Lord Arianiti, the son of Lord Musachi Arianiti, who owned a fine barony in Çermenika. All of their sons were killed and only one daughter remained, who was married to the son of Lord Helichis, the ruler of the land of Montenegro.

The fifth daughter, Lady Condisa, was married to Lord Duche, the son of Ajdin, who ruled over Neppe and many other villages in Shpat.

The sixth daughter, Lady Theodora, was married to Lord Voisavo Balsha or Basscichi (Balsic), who had a fine territory. The said lord was the brother of the father of the lady Countess of Muro and was called Gojko Basha. The said Lord Voisavo died without children and the said lady later married Lekë Dukagjini, but had no children.

Let me also tell you that Lady Chiranna, my mother, had two brothers. The first one was called Lord John and the other one Lord Balsha. To Lord John was born Lord Paul and Lord Gjin, who turned Turk, and to Lord Balsha was born one son called John, who turned Turk, too, and one daughter who was married to the son of Lord Zorca.



I would also like to inform you, my sons, that in Albania there are some regions which do not have rulers or even heirs at the moment. Among them is a place known as the region of Prespi (Prespa) and Torrichi, his son, whose country has now fallen to us because it belonged to our lineage.

There is also another region, the town of Gjirokastra and Vagenetia and Paracalo (Parakalamo). In this region, there is a castle called Ostravilla which is now in ruins. This place belonged to Lord Simon Sarbissa (Zenevisi) who is the cousin of my father because Lady Chiranna, my grandmother, was the daughter of Lord Giovanni Sarbissa, Lord of Gjirokastra and of the aforementioned region. He was the nephew of my grandfather. Therefore, this land belongs to us, together with a place called Grabossa, which the said Lady Chiranna Sarbissa, my grandmother, received as her dowry.

There is another place called the town of Ohrid which is also called Dibra and which is an archbishopric. This town of Ohrid has a fine countryside, which earns it well over twelve thousand ducats of gold. This region belonged to Lord Groppa who was married to Lady Chiranna, the second daughter of Lord Andrew Muzachi the Despot, and since he had no heirs, it belongs to us.

Be aware, my sons, that on our land in Tomorica there is a hamlet called Orchova at the side of a mountain, and a river flows past the said hamlet from the other side. Between the said hamlet and the mountain flows a torrent and near the said torrent, on the mountain side of it, there is a vein of gold. Do not forget this, because it is our land.
Know also that the said country of Prespa, with all the land which was under the rule of Lord Comnino Prespa and of Torrichi, his son, are part of this inheritance from your grandmother, Lady Chiranna, as their closest relative. I also wish to tell you that within this region there is an island on which there is a place with a monastery and the body of Saint Archelao (Achilles).

I would also like to inform you that Vlora and the town of Canina (Kanina) with all their estates were part of our dynasty in ancient times and belong to you. If anyone should oppose you, asserting that they were ruled by Mark, King of Serbia, reply that this is true, but only in the following manner. You should know, my sons, as I mentioned earlier, that King Balsha was married to Lady Comita Musachi, the daughter of Lord Andrew Musachi the Despot. To him she bore a daughter called Regina who was married to Marko, King of Serbia. Gjin Molosachi, the brother of the said Comita, bequeathed to the said Regina, his niece, the said towns of Vlora and Kanina with all their estates as a dowry . However, the said niece latter died without leaving behind any heirs by her husband. Nor did her mother, Lady Comita, leave any heirs by her husband, King Balsha. And since they now have no heirs, the said land returns to its bequeathers and, as such, it belongs to you and thus returns rightly to the domains of the Musachi dynasty.

You should also know that the town of Castoria which was formerly ruled by King Marco, from whom it was taken by force of arms by Lord Andrew Musachi the Despot, is a beautiful town with a broad entrance. The said Lord Andrew left it to his last son called Lord Stoya, who died leaving no heirs. It thus fell to his brother called Lord Gjin, your great-grandfather, so it has always been part of our dynasty, until it and other land fell to the sultan.

It must be noted, as I have said above, that the real name of Lady Scanderbeg was Andronica, from the house of the Comneniates or, more exactly, Comnenus, but she was called Scanderbega after her husband. She is my first blood cousin and was the daughter of Lady Maria Musachi, the blood sister of my father. She was married to Lord Arianiti Comnenus. Thus we are blood cousins, born of brother and sister.

May you know that Lady Maria of Balsha, now Countess of Muro, is my second cousin because she is the daughter of the aforementioned lady Donna Comita Comnenus, the sister of Lady Scanderbeg, who was the daughter of Lady Maria Musachi, my aunt. And the Duke of Saint Peter was also my second cousin because he is the son of Lady Scanderbeg, who is my cousin in flesh and blood.

You should also be aware that the Marquise of Monferrato is my second cousin, as she was the daughter of Lady Angelina, the sister of the said Lady Maria Musachi, both these women being daughters of Lady Maria Musachi, my blood aunt, the sister of my father.

And the great lady Donna Porphida of the Comneni is my blood niece, as she is the daughter of the lady Donna Maria, my sister. The said Donna Porphida was married to the aforementioned Lord Giulio of Valignano.

And the said lady Donna Voisava Carles who was married to Lord Francesco Martino, was my niece because she was the daughter of the lady Donna Helena, my sister.

It would also seem essential for me to inform you in this chronicle about the family of your mother, where she comes from and in what manner. I mentioned to you that she was of the house of Dukagjini and you should know why they were the ruling dynasty in Albania. It is said that they took their origins in ancient times from the Trojans and then moved to France. They had two sons who returned to Italy at the time when the King of France and other Christian princes were undertaking a campaign to conquer Jerusalem. Having thus arrived in Italy, one of the said brothers took up residence there and became Lord of Este and later, with time, of Ferrara, as they are now. The other brother, who was called Dukagjini, took part in the said campaign to conquer the Orient and then he returned to Albania. He took over an area called Sadrima (Zadrima) and villages called Fanti (Fan) and villages called Montenegro and another region called Paliti (Pult) and Flati (Flet). There he built a castle called Flet and had a small town called Sati (Shat) which is now destroyed. All the places which we mentioned above are now known as Dukagjini territory, named after their rulers, the lords of Dukagjini. The first Lord Dukagjini was slain by his vassals in the villages of Elefanti (Ndërfanë) because the bishop of that diocese had looked at his wife in a dishonourable way and the said lord slew the said bishop in the church of Saint Mary of Ndërfan. For this reason, the said lord and all of his household were slain. No one survived, with the exception of one little child who had hidden and was spirited off by one Stephen Progano of the village of Calameri (Kallmet). When the boy was old enough, the said Stephen gave him his daughter for wife. With the advice and assistance of the said Stephen, he took over the possessions of his original father and took on his name, i.e. Dukagjini. To this son were born many other children in direct lineage, many descendants whom I cannot remember, except for one George Dukagjini. He had two brothers, one called Tanusso (Tanush) and one called Dukagjini. The first brother, George, was Lord of Zadrima. The second one, called Tanush, was Lord of Fan and the rest of the country. The third brother, Dukagjini, had as his part of the country, eight villages in Zadrima. He married and set up house in Shkodra. They had children and from this third brother was born the dynasty of the Dukagjini which was in the said town of Shkodra and which is now in Venice where they are barons, as I have said.

To the first-born son, the aforementioned George Dukagjini, was born Nicholas Dukagjini the Elder, and other brothers. To the second son, Lord Tanush, was born a second George and other brothers, of whom many other heirs would later stem and rule over the land. Some of them died natural deaths and others in battle. Few of them survived, and finally there remained only one Paul Dukagjini who was married to the sister of Lord Arianiti Comnenus, the father of Lady Scanderbeg. When the said Paul and his sons perished, the dynasty of the true Dukagjinis died out. No one was left of this actual dynasty. There are only, as I have said, the ones in Venice, who stem from the last brother, the aforementioned Dukagjini.

Do not forget that Lord Gjin Musachi, my father and your grandfather, died in Sereziabunga and was buried at the church of Saint Mary which he himself had built in Bunga. His grave is just outside the church on the south side. My mother and Lady Chiranna, my grandmother, the mother of my father, also lies buried at the said church, on the west side. The said lady, my grandmother, built the church of the Holy Trinity in Laudari (Lavdar) near Ceria (Xerje) and, in the same fashion, our descendants built the church of Saint George in Erosto.

I am dividing my principality among you, my sons. God in his mercy has left it in your hands.

To you, Don Theodore, who were born first, I leave Berat and all its possessions, all of Myzeqe and the town of Kanina and its possessions and Sclipario (Skrapar).

To you, Don Adrian, I leave Tomorica together with all its villages and hamlets: Serchi, Midigni, Zerec, Dushar, Opar, Lavdar, Marjan and Vescopebeci. In addition, as I said, I leave to you the region of Opar and Lavdar up to the said hamlet of Marjan. I also leave you the region of Greater Devoll with the town of Korça and the hamlet of Sovjan.

To you, Don Constantine, I leave the whole region of Lesser Devoll and the town of Castoria together with all its villages up to Nostramo which is a ruined city.

I would also like you to know the titles of the Byzantine Empire. There are five major titles. The first title is that of emperor. The second title which has been accorded is despot which is the same in Greek as the Latin word for king. It is unique and sacred, similar to the status of a king. The emperor was wont to bestow this title upon his brothers, his sons-in-law, his brothers in law, his sons and other great nobles seen to be worthy of this title. It was accorded also in inheritance to their descendants, as it was to us in perpetuity. The third title was sevastocrator. The fourth title was magacissate (megas domestikos). The fifth title was pagnipersevastos (panhyper-sebastos). These, after the despot, are high courtly titles, as I have said. Those who held any of these five titles were also addressed with the title 'holy majesty' (sacra maestà). They all had the right at receptions to bear their double headed eagle in various forms and colours, as can be seen clearly in the seal of the pope, devised by a Greek called Gemisto.

In the Byzantine Empire, there were the following despots. The first one was the Despot of Serbia who was called Despot Vuk Vukovic. He was succeeded by the Despot George, and George was succeeded by the Despot Lazar with his two brothers, but this despot did not survive long because his country was overrun by the sultan and their lineage was wiped out with his death. The second one was Despot Codrilli, the Despot of Sagorana. The third one was the Despot of Nicopolis and of Adrianopole. The fourth one was the Despot Andrew Musachi, Despot of Epirus. The fifth one was Despot Charles Tocco, Despot of Larta (16), the first despot of this family. From him stems Lord Charles who resides in Rome, the son of Leonard, who was the grandson of the said first Despot Charles. He had no legitimate children and his inheritance was taken over by the said Lord Charles the Second.


Despots of the Palaeologus dynasty

The sixth one was Lord Andrew, Despot of Risa. The seventh one was Despot Andronicus, Despot of Salonika. The eighth one was Despot Theodore, Despot of Silvera. The ninth one was Despot Demetrius, Despot of Mistra. The tenth one was Despot Thomas, Despot of Patras.

The first five aforementioned despots were the sons of the Emperor Emanuel of the house of Palaeologus. Thereafter came John Cantacuzene and there were other despots, too, but I don't remember their names.

Know also that Lord John Castriota, the father of Lord Scanderbeg, was married to Lady Voisava Tribalda, with whom he had four sons and five daughters.

The first son was called Repossio, the second Stanisso (Stanisha), the third Constantine, and the fourth George. The said Repossio was a religious man and journeyed to Mount Sinai where he became a monk and died. The other three were given by their father to the sultan, as you learned earlier.

The first daughter was Lady Maria, the second Lady Yela, the third Lady Angelina, the fourth Lady Vlaica and the fifth Lady Mamiza (Mamica).

The first daughter, Lady Maria, was married to Lord Stephen Cernojevic. The second, Lady Yela, was married to [...]. The third, Lady Angelina, was married to Lord Vladino Arianiti Comnenus. The fourth, Lady Vlaica, was married to Lord Balsha, and the fifth, Lady Mamica, was married to Lord Musachi Thopia.

To the said third daughter, Lady Angelina and the said Lord Vladino Comnenus or Comneniates was born the aforementioned Musachi Comnenus, commonly known as Dangelino. He was the nephew of Scanderbeg. He was married, as I have said, to my sister Maria, and from them was born Donna Porphida Comneniates who, as noted above, was with the queen. For this reason, she was called the Great Donna Porphida.
To the fourth sister, Lady Vlaica, who was married to Lord Balsha, was born John and Coico Balsha. This Lord Coico was the father of the lady, Countess of Muro.

The fifth daughter, Lady Mamica, was married to Musachi Thopia after Lord Scanderbeg forced him to divorce his first wife called Lady Zanfina or Suina Musachi and to marry Lady Mamica, his sister, as you will see later. The father of Lord Moses Comnenus Arianiti was Musachi, the brother of Lord Arianiti Comneniates. His mother was called Lady Voisava and this Lord Moses was married to the said Lady Zanfina or Suina Musachi, who had been the wife of Lord Musachi Thopia, whom the said Scanderbeg caused to be divorced. To Lord Moses and Lady Zanfina was born the father of Lady Joan Comneniates who is in Naples, married to Lord Paul Brancazzo. This Lord Moses was a courageous man.

I would like to add that our land in Tomorica had four barons whom I know of. One of them was Gjin of Bogdan who ruled over Barlois and five other villages. The other one was Bardi Fachiemiri (Bardh Faqëmiri) who had two other villages called Barci (Barç). Then there was Joan Visagni (Vishanj) and a Duke of Dobril (Dobrenj?) who had Gurisciti (Gurishta). Another was Basan Bilochisi who had only Disguimari, and there was another one who had only one hamlet called Aidin. There were also two others from the Cervota lineage. One was John Cervota and the other Martin Cervota. There was also a Count Balguri (Ballguri) who had a village called Guerbisi (Gjerbës) and who was the voyvode of Tomorica.

As I have stated, the said region of Tomorica belonged to our family and the said barons were subject to us, and the said voyvode was appointed as governor by our family. The word voyvode means the same as a captain or governor.

May you also know that Nicholas Saccati was baron in two villages in Sendia and had three daughters. The first one was married to Lord Comnenus Arianiti, the second one did not marry, and the third one was married to the father of Lord Domenico Sati. Lord Domenico was married to Lady Philippa Ivana and to her was born Lady Andronica, the wife of Lord Gjin, who resides in Misagne (Miza?).

I would like to add that the said Lord Musachi Comnenus, the father of the great Donna Porphida, and the aforementioned Moses Comnenus and another lord, Gjin Musachi, were all excellent horsemen and vanquished the Turks in a battle which they fought. Seeking victory with a vengeance, they cut many Turks to pieces who fled from them into the middle of the Valcha (Vajkal) valley (17). But the Turks were lying in ambush and they all turned against these lords and horsemen who fought on courageously in the middle of the valley and fled up onto a certain hill. At the top of the hill, there were Turkish infantrymen, and the said horsemen, not knowing who they were and believing them to be Christians, were taken prisoner and sent to Balaban Bendera, their commander who dispatched them forthwith to the sultan. Lord Scanderbeg sent a request to the sultan for the return of the prisoners, promising Turkish prisoners and some money in exchange. But advised by the said Balaban of their importance, he refused to free them. Indeed he skinned them alive one by one for a period of fifteen days and they died from this gruelling ordeal.

The said Musachi Comnenus was the nephew of Lord Scanderbeg and was called Dangelino because Angelina was the name of his mother, the sister of the said Lord Scanderbeg. The said Lord Musachi was married to the lady Donna Maria, my sister, to whom was born the said lady, the great Donna Porphida.

I wish to inform you that the town of Durrës belonged to Lord Andrew Thopia. You should also know that King Robert (18), who was the King of Naples, sent one of his bastard daughters to the Prince of Morea for wife, but a great storm rose at sea and drove her ship towards the said town of Durrës where she remained for several days. During this time, Lord Andrew fell in love with the said lady and she with him, and they agreed to live together. And so they did, and had two sons. The first one was called Lord Charles and the second one Lord George. You should also know that at this time King Robert invited his daughter and his son in law to Naples and murdered the two of them for what they had done.

The aforementioned sons fled back to their country. Later on, the said Lord Charles married Lady Voisava, the daughter of Lord Balsha, and had one son called George. This George pledged Durrës to the Venetians but he died without leaving heirs. The second son, Lord George, i.e. the brother of the said Lord Charles, married and had children, from whom the Thopia family descends.

You should know that Lord Musachi Thopia, otherwise known as Charles Musachi, was married to Lady Zanfina, otherwise known as Suina, with whom he had two children, a boy called Andrew and a girl called Yela. The said Lady Yela was married to Lord George Cernojevic, and I have told you that Lord Scanderbeg broke up the marriage of the said Lord Musachi and Lady Zanfina Musachi, against the wishes of God and everyone and against the wishes of the children they had had, and forced him to marry his sister Lady Mamica. This lord had four sons and two daughters by his second wife. The sons turned Turk and the one daughter, Lady Yela, married Lord Andrew Musachi.

Lord Charles Thopia ruled over both Scurias, Fiisina and Blevisti in Taransa Minore (Lesser Tirana), Canabi (Krraba) and Fuorcha (Farka). And King Balsha, as I have said, held sway over Shkodra, Bar, Kotor, Šibenik, Trogir , Misia and much other territory and, in the end, the Balsha dynasty came to rule over the land of Misia.

The heads of the Dukagjini dynasty ruled over a region called Zadrima, together with the villages of Fan and some villages called Montenegro, as well as another region called Pult and Flet. All of this is now called the region of Dukagjini, including Lalla and the river Drin.

Lord John Castriota, the father of Lord Scanderbeg, ruled over the region called Mat. Later, Lord Scanderbeg became not only Lord of Mat but also Lord of Kruja, of Dibra and of Birina, i.e. of Randisia, Tomorista, Misia and the Gjonëm country down to the sea.

And Lord John Cernojevic was lord of the region called Montenegro and Zeta.

Lord Arianiti Comnenus was lord of a part of Macedonia, i.e. of the region of Çermenika, Mokra and Shpat extending to the river Devoll which divides our land from his land and marks the border.

Lord Lecca Zaccaria (19) was lord of a town called Dagno (Deja) near the river Drin.

Lord John Sarbissa (Zenevisi) was lord of the town of Gjirokastra and the region of Vagenetia and Paracalo (Parakalamo). This then passed to the son of Lord John, called Lord Amos Sarbissa (Zenevisi) and, as I have said, it belongs to us.

Lord Paul Zardari was the son of Lord Drugo Zardari, who was lord of a region called Zardaria.

Lord Groppa was lord of the town of Ohrid or, more precisely, Aeleria which belongs to us, as I have said.

Lord Ercecho was Lord of the Duchy of Saint Sava which was situated in the Kingdom of Bosnia in the direction of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and borders on Ragusan territory and Castelnuovo (Hercog-Novi), which belongs to him. Thus this Duke of Saint Sava was commonly known as Chercecho. One person from his family lives in Venice and is married.

Lord Scanderbeg died on the 4th of December of the year 1466. He lived for 23 years after his return and conversion to Christianity. When he returned, he was about forty years old, so he lived to about the age of sixty three. The war between the sultan and Lord Scanderbeg went on for about twenty four years, and after his death, it continued with other lords of Albania for about another seven years. The said Lord Scanderbeg was intelligent and courageous and inclined to do good. He was the greatest ruler from among all his predecessors. After taking Mat, the principality of his father, he took possession of the town of Kruja, which his father had not owned, and later became commander-in-chief of the lords of Albania. After a short while, he aimed at ruling the whole country. He captured Lord John and Lord Coico Balsha, who were brothers, and sent them to King Ferdinand the Elder of Naples. The latter kept them in prison and he took over their principality which extended between Kruja and Lezha, the so called the land of Misia. He also took the principality of Lord Moses Comnenus away from him, which was situated in Dibra, This Moses was a hearty man of strength and courage. As he was not able to put up such an act of violence as had been perpetrated against him, he fled to the sultan. The sultan made him commander of one of his armies and sent him to do battle against Scanderbeg. But later, Scanderbeg sent him a message begging him to return home, adding that he would treat him as a brother. Moses did return, realizing that he was not safe with the sultan and not wishing to waste any more Christian blood. When my father died, he also took Tomonishta away from us, i.e. Lesser Myzeqe. He did the same to other lords, too, taking away the lands of Commi (Koman?) and Randisia which could not be defended because he had raised an army of warriors, and the sultan was threatening to invade at any time. Great expectations were raised when Pope Pius II announced the formation of a crusade, but later, when the said pope died, the expectations began to wane and in the end, the sultan expelled us for our sins, as was the will of God, because we were simply in his way.

Be aware, my sons, that on our land in Tomorica there is a hamlet called Horcova (20) at the side of a mountain, and a river flows past the said hamlet from the other side. Between the mountain and the said hamlet flows a torrent and near the said torrent, on the mountain side of it, there is a vein of gold. Do not forget this, because it is our land.
Note also that the other Dukagjinis do not stem from the dynasty in direct lineage, but have appeared on the scene recently to their good fortune. Among them is Paul Dukagjini who appeared with Lord John, the father of Lord Scanderbeg. To this first Paul were born Nicholas Dukagjini and Lekë Dukagjini, and two brothers called George and Progan Dukagjini, who died. To their brother Lekë was born Stephen Dukagjini who is now in the Marches of Ancona. Of the said Nicholas, one child has survived called Progan, who has now turned Turk and has become the Pasha of Romania. In the Marches are the descendants of the said Stephen, i.e. Lekë and Paul Dukagjini.

You should know that the grandfather of Lord Scanderbeg was called Lord Paul Castriota. He ruled over no more than two villages, called Signa (Sina) and Gardi Ipostesi. To this Lord Paul was born Lord John Castriota who became Lord of Mat. And to him was born Lord Scanderbeg. The mother of the said Lord Scanderbeg, i.e. the wife of the said Lord John, was called Lady Voisava Tribalda who was of a noble family.

You should also know how they were related to the Marquis of Tribalda. Let me inform you that they were related to them through his wife. As you know, to Lord Blaise Musachi was born Lady Theodora who was married to Lord Paul, the son of Lord Vugo (Vuk) Zardari. This Lord Vuk was himself ruler over a land called Zardaria. And to the said Lady Theodora and Lord Paul was born Lady Maria who was Duchess of Ferrandina.

So that you understand properly, let me tell you that to Lord Musachi was born Lord Andrew, my grandfather, and Lord Blaise. To the said Andrew was born Lord Gjin, my father, and Lady Maria, who was the mother of Lady Scanderbeg. To the said Lord Blaise was born Lady Theodora who was married to Lord Paul Zardari. To them was born the aforementioned Lady Maria who was Duchess of Ferrandina. I myself, Lord John Musachi, was born the son of Lord Gjin. Lady Chiranna, my mother, was the daughter of Lady Maria, the sister of Lord Vuk Zardari. My lady mother and Lord Paul, the father of the said Duchess of Ferrandina, were thus blood cousins. But the marriage of the said Lady Maria with Lord Vranakonti took place at a time when almost all the lords of Albania had been defeated by the sultan. The said lady was young at the time and disposed of no riches because her family had also been defeated and most of them had been slain in the said warfare with the sultan. In order not to fall into the hands of the Turks, they formed an alliance with Lady Scanderbeg. She, too, had been constrained into exile to this region. Before leaving the area, Lady Maria married the said Vranakonti who was later to become the Duke of Ferrandina and was to be accorded the titles of knight and baron.

I would like you to know who the father of the lady Donna Joan Comnenus was and where the mother of Lord Thomas Minutolo came from. I have already told you that Lord Scanderbeg broke up the marriage of Lady Zanfina Musachi and Lord Charles Musachi and gave to the said Charles his sister Yela. The said Lady Zanfina married Lord Moses Comnenus, to whom was born a Lord Comnenus otherwise known as Caesar Comnenus, and Lady Despina. To Lord Caesar was born the lady Donna Joan Comnenus, who is the wife of Lord Paul Brancazzo, a nobleman from the seat of Nido. Lady Despina was married to the Duke of Ferrandina and bore him two daughters. One was Lady Andronica, who went to Milan with the Duchess of Milan. There, she married a gentleman from Pavia of the house of Corte who had two castles and she became rich. The other daughter married Lord Charles Minutolo, to whom Lord Thomas Minutolo, a gentleman of Capua, was born ...




Ferdinand I of Aragon, King of Naples (r. 1458-1494).


John V Palaeologus (r. 1341-1347).


John VI Cantacuzene (r. 1347-1355).


Actually Sultan Orkhan (r. 1326-1359), as Murad I only began his reign in 1359.


Meant here is Sultan Murad I (r. 1359-1389).


Lazar, King of Serbia (r. 1371-1389).


The Battle of Kosovo Polje in June 1389.


Sultan Bayazid I (r. 1389-1403).


On 2 March 1444.


Scanderbeg actually died on 17 January 1468.


Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1451-1481).


He is more likely to have arrived in 1479.


Andrew Musachi I (1280-1319).


Kastoria, now in northern Greece.


Persian Shah Ismail I Safawid (r. 1499-1524), known as the Great Sufi, was defeated by Sultan Selim I (r. 1512-1520) at the Battle of Chaldiran near Lake Van in August 1514. This fact would indicate that our author, John Musachi, did not die in 1510, but was still alive until at least 1515.


Also known as Charles Tocco, Despot of Cephalonia (1381-1429).


The Battle of Vajkal took place in April 1465.


Robert the Good (r. 1309-1343), King of Naples.


d. 1447.


Referred to above as Orchova.

[Extract from: Breve memoria de li discendenti de nostra casa Musachi. Per Giovanni Musachi, despoto d'Epiro. Published in: Chroniques gréco-romanes inédites ou peu connues publiées avec notes et tables généalogiques, ed. Charles Hopf, Berlin, 1873, p. 270 340. Translated from the Italian by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 34-55.]
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

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