Albania Medieval and Modern History Part I

By | December 15, 2021

After the definitive subdivision of the Roman Empire into eastern and western parts, the region now called Albania and then, instead, divided into Praevalitana (between the mouths of Cattaro and the Shkumbî) and Epirus nova, up to the south of the Gulf of Valona, ​​it passed under the control of Byzantium, while Dalmatia, from the mouth of Cattaro upwards, remained in the West. But if nominally the region fell within the orbit of the Byzantine government, in fact it remained, over the centuries, divided into small local lordships, or united with the Serbian and Bulgarian states that arose within the Byzantine Empire itself, or aggregated to the Venetian dominions and those of the Angevins of Naples. Since, through it, on one side the Balkan states were trying to reach the Adriatic; on the other hand, Venice and the kings of Naples tended to maintain possession of the eastern coast of the Adriatic and the channel of Otranto, necessary for reasons of trade with the East and for military reasons of defense. During the sec. V, the Goths predominate over Albania: in 493 we find a Gothic king, Ostrojla, who proclaims himself king of Prevalitana. Reconquered in 535 by Justinian and thus reunited, in fact, with the Byzantine Empire, the regions that are today Albanian were soon again submerged by other waves of barbarian peoples. There was a subsequent inflow and outflow of Hungarians, Bulgarians, Avars; but most dangerous of all were the Slavic raids. Already at the end of the sixth century, the Slav Rutomir, known for persecuting Christians, ruled over the Prevalitana. The dominion of his family was truncated in 619 by an invasion of Avari; but the Slavic pressure made itself felt much more dangerously a little later, when, in 636, the Serbs were called to the Mid-Danubian regions by the emperor Heraclius himself, who wanted to oppose them to the Avars. Then several Serbian principalities were formed, nominally subjected to the Byzantium empire, in reality almost independent: important, those of Zalhum, Travunija, Konavlie and Dioklitija (today’s Montenegro, lower Herzegovina, Dalmatia), while other minor settlements took place in Prevalitana. The Byzantine dominion over Albania therefore remained limited to the coasts, divided into two parts: the Epirot and southern Albanian, included in the thema of Nikopolis; the central-northern Albanian one, from Valona to Cattaro, included in the Dyrrachion thema. But, after other events, a broader state formation had to absorb the smaller units: the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon the Great secured, in 917, the definitive possession of all central-southern Albania, with the exception of the coasts that remained in Byzantium . And first under the properly Bulgarian kingdom, then under the Macedonian or “Western Bulgarian” one (S. Gopčević, Geschichte von Montenegro u. Albanien, Gotha 1914, p. 15), Albania remained until 1019, to return later still directly dependent on Byzantium. For Albania 2019, please check philosophynearby.com.

The sec. XI was to mark a decisive moment in Albanian history. The very name of Albania was used by Byzantine writers, and also known in the West from this age. But above all, the rapprochement between the region and the West was important. Because, if on the one hand the Tuscan tribes of southern Albania adhered to the Eastern schism, on the other hand they were regaining ties with Western Europe, and precisely with Italy. Commercial relations with the maritime republics of Venice and Amalfi intensified: the Amalfitans came to found their own small lordship in Durres, and the Venetians to establish municipalities in Scutari and Alessio. And, on the other hand, the Normans advanced, who, having secured their dominion in Southern Italy, intervened in Albania by virtue of the close family ties between Roberto Guiscardo and the emperor Michele Duca. Guiscardo’s dominion then extended to Kastoria, Giannina and Skoplje (v.roberto il Guiscardo). But, against him, Alessio Comneno, who had succeeded the Duke on the throne of Byzantium, had recourse to the help of Venice; and Guiscardo, having already lost almost all the Albanian provinces, died of pestilence during the siege of Cefalonia (1085). Manuele Comneno (1143-1180) was also able to reoccupy the city of Durazzo, taken in 1110 by the Serbs. But if Guiscard’s attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, it nevertheless marked the beginning of a political action that continued for centuries: since then, in fact, the kings of Naples, to whatever dynasty they belonged to (Normans, Swabians, Angevins), they continued an Albanian policy which had the effect of making the political, economic and moral ties of Albania with Italy ever stronger and continuous.

If in that period the first links with the land of Albania were established from the south of Italy, from the north, thanks to Venice, a policy of increasingly clear penetration continued to be carried out. According to an Albanian tradition, Venice should have introduced the olive tree in Albania: of course, the Serenissima, also through Ragusa, a large emporium on the eastern coast of the Adriatic and also a center of cultural-moral life (around that diocese the Dalmatian-Montenegrin coast; in 1022 the bishopric of Antivari was aggregated to the archbishopric of Ragusa), worked strongly on Albanian history. The moment in which the influence of the republic of San Marco became more and more directly felt was the beginning of the century. XIII.

Albania Medieval and Modern History Part I