L’acquisto e l'occupazione del litorale meridionale dell’Albania da parte di re Carlo I d’Angiò (1279–1283)


After the death of king Manfred of Hohenstaufen in the battle of Benevent (26 February 1266) the famous dowry of his widow Elena Angelina Doukaina was divided: The Northern coastline of Albania (from Durrës to Vlorë) and the island of Corfu fell under the rule of king Charles I of Anjou, whereas the Southern Albanian shoreline (from Himarë to Butrint) was recovered by the despot Michael II Angelos of Epiros. The result was a “cold war” in the years 1266–1279 between the kingdom of Sicily and the despotate of Epiros. Under military pressure from the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Paleologos (who occupied in these years the lion’s share of the possessions of the rulers of Epiros in Southern Albania) and after an exchange of a number of envoys, the despot Nikephoros (the son and successor of Michael II) was forced to conclude in April 1279 a formal treaty with Charles I of Anjou. As a consequence, Nikephoros was forced not only to declare himself the vassal of Charles I in the first days of June 1279, but also to cede five different castles, situated on the coast of Southern Albania, namely Butrint, Sopot (Borsh), Palermos, Himarë and Delvinë. This finally guaranteed the Angevins the complete control of the Albanian shoreline from Durrës in the North to Butrint in the South. Especially Butrint and Sopot played a significant role in Charles’ I plans to attack the Byzantine Empire by land via the Via Egnatia. The importance of the two castles is emphasized by the fact that they were manned by strong garrisons of 60 and 30 sergeants (servientes), composed only of French and Provençals, who were regarded as especially loyal to the Angevin Crown. After the failed siege of Berat by Angevin troops under the command of Hugues “le Rousseau” de Sully from autumn 1280 to spring 1281, Charles I realized that an attack on the Byzantine Empire by land would not stand a real chance of success. As a consequence the five castles, located in Southern Albania, lost some of their strategic importance. Symbolism of this decline of Angevin influence in Southern Albania is a certain decay in the discipline of the garrisons in Butrint and Sopot. However, the true death knell for Angevin rule in Southern Albania was brought about by the Sicilian Vespers in spring of the following year (31 March 1282). The king of Sicily was now in urgent need of every soldier for the re-conquest of the island of Sicily, and so the five castles, with the only exception of Butrint, were evacuated and surrendered probably by the garrison or the inhabitants to the Byzantines without fighting. Butrint remained instead under the Angevin rule until 1386 (when the town was occupied together with Corfu by the Venetians), mainly because of its strategic importance for the defence of the island of Corfu.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22804250v4i1p255

Keywords: Charles I of Anjou; king of Sicily (1265–1285); Southern Albania; Butrinti; Sopot; despotate of Epiros.

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