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|Despotate of Epirus|
Ḗpeiros (Greek)Timeline: Principia Moderni IV (Map Game)
OTL equivalent: Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Epirus in Red
|Other cities||Igoumenitsa, Arta, Preveza, Valona, Argurokastro|
|Official languages||Greek language|
|Regional Languages||Italian languages, Albanian languages, Serbian languages, Aromanian language|
|Religion||Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianism|
|-||Total|| 21,200 km2
8,185 sq mi
The Despotate of Epirus (Greek: Δεσποτάτο της Ηπείρου) was one of the successor states of the Byzantine Empire established in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 by a branch of the Angelos dynasty. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire, along the Empire of Nicaea and the Empire of Trebizond.
The Epirote state was founded in 1205 by Michael Komnenos Doukas, a cousin of the Byzantine emperors Isaac II Angelos and Alexios III Angelos. At first, Michael allied with Boniface of Montferrat, but having lost the Morea (Peloponnese) to the Franks at the battle of the Olive Grove of Koundouros, he went to Epirus, where he considered himself the Byzantine governor of the old province of Nicopolis and revolted against Boniface. Epirus soon became the new home of many refugees from Constantinople, Thessaly, and the Peloponnese, and Michael was described as a second Noah, rescuing men from the Latin flood. John X Kamateros, the Patriarch of Constantinople, did not consider him a legitimate successor and instead joined Theodore I Laskaris in Nicaea; Michael instead recognized the authority of Pope Innocent III over Epirus, cutting ties to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Henry of Flanders demanded that Michael submit to the Latin Empire, which he did, at least nominally, by allowing his daughter to marry Henry's brother Eustace in 1209. Michael did not honour this alliance, assuming that mountainous Epirus would be mostly impenetrable by any Latins with whom he made and broke alliances. Meanwhile, Boniface's relatives from Montferrat made claims to Epirus as well, and in 1210 Michael allied with the Venetians and attacked Boniface's Kingdom of Thessalonica. Michael was excessively cruel to his prisoners, in some cases crucifying Latin priests. Pope Innocent III excommunicated him in response. Henry forced Michael into a renewed nominal alliance later that year.
Michael turned his attention to capturing other strategically important Latin-held towns, including Larissa and Dyrrhachium. He also took control of the ports on the Gulf of Corinth. In 1214 he captured Corcyra from Venice, but he was assassinated later that year and was succeeded by his half-brother Theodore.
Conflict with Nicaea and Bulgaria
Theodore Komnenos Doukas immediately set out to attack Thessalonica, and he fought with the Bulgarians along the way. Henry of Flanders died on the way to counterattack, and in 1217 Theodore captured his successor Peter of Courtenay, most likely executing him. The Latin Empire, however, became distracted by the growing power of Nicaea and could not stop Theodore from capturing Thessalonica in 1224. Theodore now challenged Nicaea for the imperial title and crowned himself emperor, founding the short-lived Empire of Thessalonica. In 1225, after John III Doukas Vatatzes of Nicaea had taken Adrianople, Theodore arrived and took it back from him. Theodore also allied with the Bulgarians and drove the Latins out of Thrace. In 1227 Theodore crowned himself Byzantine emperor, although this was not recognized by most Greeks, especially not the Patriarch in Nicaea.
In 1230 Theodore broke the truce with Bulgaria, hoping to remove Ivan Asen II, who had held him back from attacking Constantinople. In the battle of Klokotnitsa (near Haskovo in Bulgaria) the Bulgarian emperor defeated Theodore, capturing and later blinding him. His brother Manuel Komnenos Doukas took power in Thessalonica, but Epirus itself soon broke away under Michael I's bastard son, Michael II Komnenos Doukas. Manuel awarded Michael the title of Despot—making Michael the first Epirote ruler to bear the title—as a sign of his nominal dependency on Thessalonica, but Michael was de facto independent, which he demonstrated by seizing Corfu in ca. 1236. In the rump Empire of Thessalonica, after Theodore was released in 1237, he overthrew his brother, and set up his son John Komnenos Doukas as ruler of Thessalonica.
Nicaean and Byzantine suzerainty
Thessalonica never regained its power after the battle of Klokotnitsa. Theodore's younger son Demetrios Angelos Doukas lost Thessalonica to Nicaea in 1246 and Michael II of Epirus allied with the Latins against the Nicaeans. In 1248 John III Doukas Vatatzes of Nicaea forced Michael to recognize him as emperor, and officially recognized him in turn as despotēs in Epirus. Vatatzes' granddaughter Maria later (in 1256) married Michael's son Nikephoros, although she died in 1258. Also in 1248 Michael's daughter Anna married William II, Prince of Achaea, and Michael decided to honour this alliance over his obligations to Vatatzes. The allies were defeated in the ensuing conflict at the Battle of Pelagonia in 1259.
Emperor Theodore II Laskaris allied with Michael II, and their children, betrothed by John years before, finally married in 1256, with Theodore receiving Dyrrhachium in return. Michael did not accept this transfer of land, and in 1257 he revolted, defeating a Nicaean army led by George Acropolites. As Michael marched on Thessalonica, he was attacked by King Manfred of Sicily, who conquered Albania and Corcyra. However, Michael immediately allied with him by marrying his daughter Helena to him. After Theodore II died, Michael, Manuel, and William II fought the new Nicaean emperor, Michael VIII Palaiologos. The alliance was very unstable and in 1259 William was captured at the disastrous Battle of Pelagonia. Michael VIII went on to capture Michael II's capital of Arta, leaving Epirus with only Ioannina and Vonitsa. Arta was recovered by 1260 while Michael VIII was occupied against Constantinople.
After Michael VIII restored the empire in Constantinople in 1261 he frequently harassed Epirus, and forced Michael's son Nikephoros to marry his niece Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene in 1265. Michael considered Epirus a vassal state, although Michael II and Nikephoros continued to ally with the Princes of Achaea and the Dukes of Athens. In 1267 Corcyra and much of Epirus were taken by Charles of Anjou, and in 1267/68 Michael II died. Michael VIII did not attempt to annex Epirus directly, and allowed Nikephoros I to succeed his father and deal with Charles, who captured Dyrrhachium in 1271. In 1279 Nikephoros allied with Charles against Michael VIII, agreeing to become Charles' vassal. With Charles' defeat soon after Nikephoros lost Albania to the Byzantines.
Under Andronikos II Palaiologos, son of Michael VIII, Nikephoros renewed the alliance with Constantinople. Nikephoros, however, was persuaded to ally with Charles II of Naples in 1292, although Charles was defeated by Andronikos's fleet. Nikephoros married his daughter to Charles's son Philip I of Taranto and sold much of his territory to him. After Nikephoros's death in c. 1297 Byzantine influence grew under his widow Anna, Andronikos's cousin, who ruled as regent for her young son Thomas I Komnenos Doukas. In 1306 she revolted against Philip in favour of Andronikos; the Latin inhabitants were expelled but she was forced to return some territory to Philip. In 1312 Philip abandoned his claim to Epirus and claimed the defunct Latin Empire of Constantinople instead as the inheritance of his wife Catherine II of Valois, Princess of Achaea.
Collapse of the despotate
Anna succeeded in marrying off Thomas to a daughter of Michael IX, but Thomas was assassinated in 1318 by his cousin Nicholas Orsini, who married his widow and claimed to rule not only Epirus, but all of Greece; his rule was limited only to Akamania, or the southern part of Epirus. He was overthrown by his brother John in 1323, who attempted to balance submission to Constantinople with cooperation with the Angevins of Naples, who also claimed Greece as part of their domains. John was poisoned around 1335 by his wife Anna, who became regent for their son Nikephoros II. In 1337 the new Emperor, Andronikos III Palaiologos, arrived in northern Epirus with an army partly composed of 2,000 Turks contributed by his ally Umur of Aydın. Andronikos first dealt with unrest due to attacks by Albanians and then turned his interest to the Despotate. Anna tried to negotiate and obtain the Despotate for her son when he came of age, but Andronikos demanded the complete surrender of the Despotate to which she finally agreed. Thus Epirus came peacefully under imperial rule, with Theodore Synadenos as governor.
The imperials had insisted that Nikephoros would be engaged to one of the daughters of the emperor's right-hand man, John Kantakouzenos. When the time of the engagement came, Nikephoros had vanished. Andronikos learned that Nikephoros had fled to Italy, with the help of members of the Epirote aristocracy who supported an independent Epirus. He stayed in Taranto, Italy, in the court of Catherine II of Valois (Philip of Taranto's widow), the titular empress of Constantinople. The Paregoretissa Church, the new cathedral of the Despotate's capital, Arta, built in the 13th century during the reign of Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas.
In 1339 a revolt began, supported by Catherine of Valois, who had previously moved to the Peloponnese, and by Nikephoros who had returned to Epirus, based in Thomokastron. By the end of the year the imperial army returned to the area, and in the following year, 1340, Andronikos III himself arrived together with John Kantakouzenos. Nikephoros was persuaded through diplomacy to recognize the authority of the emperor. He surrendered Thomokastron, married Maria Kantakouzene, the daughter of John Kantakouzenos, and received the title of panhypersebastos.
The Empire soon fell into a civil war between John V Palaiologos and John VI Kantakouzenos, and Epirus was conquered by the Serbian King Stefan Uroš IV Dušan in 1348. Nikephoros II took advantage of the Byzantine civil war and the death of Dušan to escape and to reestablish himself in Epirus in 1356, to which he also added Thessaly. Nikephoros was killed in battle putting down an Albanian revolt in 1359, and the territory of the former despotate became a component part of the personal Empire of Dusan's half-brother, Simeon-Siniša Palailogos. Simeon was also governing Thessaly at the time, and, as the Chronicle of Ioannina shows, he left much of the territory under the control of Albanian clans establishing short-lived entities: the clan of Peter Liosha held Arta, and the clan of Muriq Shpata held Aetoloacarnania, with Angelokastron as its capital.
In 1367 a part of the Epirotan Despotate was resurrected under local Serbian nobleman Thomas II Preljubović, who kept Ioannina. After Thomas' death in 1384, his widow remarried in 1385 and transferred the Despotate to homage of Italian nobility. The state tradition was carried on by the Serbian and Italian rulers of Ioannina, who solicited aid from the Ottoman Turks against the Albanians. In 1399 the Albanian leader of Principality of Gjirokastër, Gjon Zenebishi captured the Despot Esau de' Buondelmonti and released him after 15 months, when his relatives in Italy offered a huge amount of money as a ransom.
A New Dawn
Esau de' Buondelmonti marched with his 600 troops, personally leading them against the Albanian brigand clans that rule over Arta. He also started to fortifying and improving Ioannina, its fortifications and its walls, in case he got defeated as in the past, as well as fortifying and improving Igoumenitsa and its port in order to increase trade with the Italian states. Rural populations continued to flock under the safety of the protected walls to escape the wrath of the Albanian brigand clans that lurk in the area and their savage habits of raiding, robbing and raping, as a result these safe heavens that get overcrowded by refuges. Esau de' Buondelmonti also established a new currency the Phoenix to ease trade with the Italian merchants. Being a pious Catholic he also start converting the state to Roman Catholicism, although peacefully.
In 1407 Esau de' Buondelmonti army retook the cities of Preveza and Arta once more after almost 50 years, with the help of the Genovese merc company of St. George, Esau de' Buondelmonti celebrated his victory against the Albanian brigand clans that rule over Arta, with a huge feast, which he invites the Genovese, the Rugusans, the Neapolitans, the Ottoman, the Byzantines, the Aragonese and the Kinght Hospitallers, to talk about the future. Esau de' Buondelmonti annexed the Despotate of Arta into the Despotate of Epirus, after his victory as it once was.
Esau de' Buondelmonti started a huge campaign to eliminate the Albanian brigand clans begins now after their defeat, to make the countryside safe to live, ending with most of them captured or fleeing. They were made slaves and they were sold to the highest bidder. The countryside was now safe to reside, as rural populations returned back to the countryside and leave the safety of the protected walls that they sought to avoid those monsters, as a result these safe heavens that can return to normal function and are no longer overcrowded by refuges.
With Aragonese batches of wheat and live cows arriving to ressurect the dead agriculture and stockraising now start improving. Esau de' Buondelmonti also opened mines to start mining the Pindus mountain range for metals, mostly silver and gold.
Esau de' Buondelmonti while on his way to the Pindus mines from the liberated city of Arta, to inspect how goes the construction of the mines, he stumbled upon a mignificent ruin, which he entered out of curiosity. There he found some very old scripts that he ordered to be translated. They talked about glorious men of the past. One of them although stood out for his accomplishments are unlike any other he had ever seen in his life. From a small but strong Kingdom he managed to build an empire unlike any other. His name was Alexander the Great. The scripts also talk of his successors and the tragic story of Pyrrhus of Epirus, a second cousin of this Great Emperor, the Greatest King of Epirus that has ever lived, that although he ruled almighty and he won battles against all odds, surrounded by everyone, battle after battle, victory after victory, for his story is tragic because he perished from a tile that a young soldier's old mother threw in a desperation as she watched her son dying. Esau de' Buondelmonti became fascinated with the Kings of old, which he admired very much and looked up to these Kings so much that he vowed to take vengeance for the kings of old by restoring Epirus to its glorious heyday. Immediately he ordered a construction of four royal libraries for each of the four biggest cities in his realm, to keep there the accounts of a glorious past, open for everyone to witness first hand the glory of the past.
When Esau de' Buondelmonti visited the port city of Preveza, he found the damaged Venetian arsenal to be of immense value, as he immidietely orders its reconstruction, wanting it to be operational to be able to construct new ships for his fleet with Venetian standards. He also ordered his engineers to study it and create schematics for Arsenal construction to be kept into the four royal libraries. With the Phoenix, strenghtened from recent events, Epirotan people started using it to trade with any merchants in our domain.
When the pious Aragonese missionaries arrived, to help the Despot convert the nation, were experienced from the Reconquista, lots of people choosed to convert, some even believed the ousting of the Albanian clans, from Epirus, as a sign of God to convert to the Catholic faith.
In 1408 Despot Esau de' Buondelmonti marries his lovely bribe Marietta Gattilusi in a lavish ceremony that lots of Genoese and Ragusan nobles are invited. The bishop of Ioannina Matthew, himself marries the couple. Some days later Marietta Gattilusi is announced to be pregnant. Later that year she gives birth to two healthy twins, one boy and one girl, the boy is name Pyrrhus and the girl is named Catherine. Despot Esau de' Buondelmonti starts believing more and more with each day passing that he and his successors are destined for greatness equal to the Kings of the old.
In the countryside, without the constant threat of the Albanian clans, agriculture and stockraising have a major boost. Epirus treasury fills by mining the Pindus mountain range for silver, copper and gold.
The four royal libraries located in the four biggest cities in the realm, finish construction and are now open to everyone, containing all the ancient scripts that we found in ruins across Epirus, as well as any other knowledge we have, becaming a major hub of knowledge. We continue to discover new ruins, with the scripts found inside being translated and sent into the four royal libraries across the realm. Schematics for the construction of the Venetian Arsenal are kept in a secret chamber in each one of the four royal libraries.
The Venetian arsenal in the port city of Preveza finishes reconstruction. Venetian arsenal in Preveza is then put to use, with the Despot wanting to rival the mighty Italian merchant republics, as well as seeing an opportunity due to the destruction of Venice, to fill in the gap, many merchant ships with Venetian standards are constructed. Mercantilism is also vastly promoted, by exemption from tariffs and free unrestricted access to our ports for our merchants.
Even through our previous requests to grant as our own archbishopric are ignored by the Pope and achieve little, except the Anti-Pope's response in a bid to further his own agenda, with the hope to persuade us to support him. Nonetheless our loyalty remains to the true Pope in Rome.
King Esau de' Buondelmonti marched with 1050 troops and 5 warships against his rival the Albanian Principality of Valona, to reclaim its lands and restore Epirus to its former glory. The Shqip that were captured acted as a mercenary force on the front lines. Their loyalty was guarantee by their previous transformation, as they were now shadows of their former selfs, broken into submission by systematic torture and castration to obey their masters.
With help from Ragusa and the Byzantines, the principality of Valona easily falls. After his victory over the principality of Valona the Albanian clans there are sold to the highest bidder as slaves.
Before King Esau de' Buondelmonti can't even celebrate his victory against his rival the Albanian Principality of Valona, which he annexed, he finds out that the Ottomans have started a campaign against him. He waits in the fortified castle of Ioannina with his 1.500 troops for help to arrive.
Even Naples help, along with various other states such as Aragon, Knight Hospitallers, Cyprus, many HRE states and the list goes on, wasn't enough to stop the Ottoman fury. After a siege the city of Ioannina fell to the Ottomans, followed by the other big cities in Epirus, with Arta being the last to fall.
The current Despot of Epirus is Esau de' Buondelmonti. Born in ???, took the throne in 1385 at the age of ???, when he married the daughter of the previous despot of Epirus in his captivity.
- Italian states
- Most of Europe
- Albanian clans nearby
- Albanian clans nearby
- Ottoman Empire
- Albanian clans nearby