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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Albanians (West-South-West Indo-Europeans)

Following the collapse of Europe's Neolithic Farmer cultures, the early Balkans were heavily infiltrated in the second millennium BC by Indo-Europeans of the Yamnaya horizon. Initially they followed the Danube towards Hungary, but there was a long gestation period here before they began to fan out across southern and Central Europe.

Climate-induced drought in the thirteenth and early twelfth centuries BC resulted in tremendous political instability in the entire eastern Mediterranean region, destroying the Hittite empire in the process and wreaking havoc in the Near East states of ancient Syria and Canaan. It also triggered further migrations by West Indo-European settlers along the Danube, and by South-West Indo-European settlers who now flooded the Balkans.

Today's Albania itself began with this migration. Its people - seemingly the tribal Albanoi - and related groups such as Illyrians and Epirotes occupied much of the Illyrian coast during their initial settlement here. The Albanoi settled on the southern flank of the far more numerous Illyrians, although their precise relationship is still open to much debate and some disagreement. Ptolemy in the second century AD thought of them as Illyrians.

In the first millennium BC the southern part of what would become Albania fell within the northernmost borders of the ancient Greek kingdom of Epirus, while various Illyrian tribes continued to dominate to the north until they were gradually conquered by Rome. During the Roman imperial period, much of Albania (apart from the northernmost and southernmost sections) formed the province of Epirus Nova (Illyria Graeca).

That province was subsequently transferred to the Eastern Roman empire and remained a Roman possession - despite the brief formation of the principality of Arbër (or Arbanon) - until imperial fragmentation in the thirteenth century AD gave rise to the '(First) Kingdom of Albania' and then the Albanian League. This period saw the first mention of recognisable Albanians as the term would be understood today, having given them around two millennia to develop that identity.

Illyrian warriors

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from European Dictatorships: A Comparative History of the Twentieth Century, Gerhard Besier & Katarzyna Stokłosa, from Denkschrift über Albanien, Wilhelm zu Wied (Berlin, 1917, in German), from Geography, Ptolemy, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Celtic Encyclopaedia, Harry Mountain, from The Osi of Tacitus - Germanic or Illyrian?, from The Illyrians, John Wilkes (Blackwell Publishers Inc, 1995 & 1996), from Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum Principis, Marinus Barletius (Bernardinus de Vitalibus, 1508, in Latin), and from External Links: Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and The Illyrian Wars, Appian (Livius.org), and Hellenica World, and The Late Medieval Balkans A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, John V A Fine Jr (John Van Antwerp Fine, 1994, and catalogued by Google Books).)

c.150

The Greek historian, Ptolemy, who writes within the mid-second century Roman empire, mentions the Albanoi, usually to be linked with today's Albanians. He classes them as a branch of the much more numerous Illyrians to their north, which the Roman republic had taken considerable efforts to conquer.

Roman silver dinarius
Pictured here are both sides of a Roman silver dinarius from the official mint, dated to around 146 BC - the mounted attacker on the reverse accompanied by his dog is fairly typical as Roman troops would often bring their mastiffs along with them so that, while the soldier was fighting the enemy above with spear and long knife, their dogs would be biting the enemy's legs from below

1190

Having long been a territory within the Eastern Roman empire, later Roman fragmentation now allows the formation of the principality of Arbanon within modern Albanian borders. This is sometimes claimed as the first Albanian state.

1272

The Albanian '(First) Kingdom' is established, but its founding coincides with a turbulent period in Balkans history as the Eastern Roman empire is gradually collapsing. The Ottomans and various European interests are fighting over the scraps, especially the Bulgarians, Croatians, and Serbians.

1392

The '(First) Kingdom' of Albanians has gradually lost its territory and has become weaker. Now it surrenders to Venice. Thereafter the Balkans are increasingly and generally a possession of the Ottomans (with Venetian Albania falling in the mid-fifteenth century).

Gjergj Kastrioti 'Skanderbeg' of the Albanian League of 1444-1479
Gjergj Kastrioti, usually known as 'Skanderbeg', was an Albanian lord who was initially subject to Ottoman overlordship before he rebelled in 1443

1444 - 1479

The Albanian League, or 'League of LezhLezhë', is formed by the Albanian aristocracy as a military and diplomatic alliance. Named after the city of Lezhë in which it is created on 2 March 1444, in part it reforms the '(First) Kingdom' territory during its brief existence. Peace being agreed between the Ottomans and Venice in 1479 largely signals its end.

Albanians serve in the Ottoman empire, and Albanian units are part of Muhammad Ali's grab for power in Egypt in 1805 (Muhammad Ali himself is Albanian).

1912 - 1914

One of Europe's poorest regions, Albania becomes unexpectedly independent following the 'Albanian Uprising' of 1912 and the First Balkan War (1912-1913). The Ottoman empire is rapidly losing ground in Europe, and various new states are emerging from the turbulent collapse.

King Wilhelm of Wied of Albania
William of Wied was a prince of northern German extraction from Neuwied on the Rhine, a cousin of Germany's Emperor Wilhelm II and with several other relations in positions of high nobility in Europe

Following the war it is decided that the newly formed kingdom of Yugoslavia will not take control of this Balkans coastal territory. Instead the '(Second) Kingdom of Albania' is declared, with Wilhelm of Wied as its monarch. Modern Albania will largely remain independent thereafter.

 
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