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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe


Albanian League (Balkans)
AD 1444 - 1479

Much of the territory of the early Albanians (apart from the northernmost and southernmost sections) formed the province of Epirus Nova (Illyria Graeca) under the early Eastern Roman empire. It remained a Roman possession until imperial fragmentation allowed the formation of the principality of Arbanon within modern Albanian borders in 1190. This is sometimes claimed as the first Albanian state.

The Albanian '(First) Kingdom' was established in 1272, but its founding coincided with a turbulent period in Balkans history as the Eastern Roman empire gradually collapsed and the Ottomans and various European interests fought over the scraps, especially the Bulgarians, Croatians, and Serbians. The kingdom lasted until its ever-diminishing territory saw it surrender to Venice in 1392.

The death of Emperor Stefan Dušan of Serbia in 1355 allowed members of the Albanian nobility to establish independent or semi-independent dominions of their own. Unfortunately this was just as Ottoman forces were entering the local region. They found several small principalities battling furiously against one another over minor vested interests. One battle in 1385, at Savra, largely decided the initial issue, ending any significant resistance.

Some Albanian nobility revolted in 1432-1436, but it took Gjergj Kastrioti, known as 'Skanderbeg', to change matters for the longer term. He captured Kruja in November 1443 and declared its independence from the Ottomans. Under his leadership, the Albanian League, or 'League of Lezhë', was formed by the Albanian aristocracy as a military and diplomatic alliance.

It was named after the city of Lezhë in which it was created on 2 March 1444, and it came with Venetian acknowledgement via their delegates who attended its formation. Unfortunately, following the death of the highly successful Skanderberg, it was less well-led by his successor who faced several internal challenges, and it eventually faded and collapsed.

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Sofia Adventures

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, 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).)

1444 - 1468

Gjergj Kastrioti 'Skanderbeg'

Albanian league commander. 'Lord of Albania'.


Gjergj Kastrioti, known as Skanderbeg, is the league's first supreme military leader, being proclaimed 'Chief of the League of the Albanian People'. However, he always signs himself as 'Dominus Albaniae', or 'lord of Albania', and has no authority to intervene in Albanian internal affairs.

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


Skanderbeg recognises the effective sovereignty of the kingdom of Naples under the terms of the Treaty of Gaeta. This ensures that his Albania has a degree of protection whilst being able to operate in a generally independent fashion.

1460 - 1463

Lord Skanderbeg gives his physical support to Ferdinand I of Sicily and Naples. Between 1460-1461 he leads an Italian expedition against John II of Anjou. He is noted in 1463 as the chief commander of the crusading forces of Pope Pius II. The pope dies before a campaign can be undertaken.


The Ottomans conquer Argos. This marks the beginning of a difficult war for Venice against Sultan Mehmet II in the form of the First Ottoman-Venetian War of 1463-1479. Lord Skanderbeg supports Venice against growing Ottoman strength.

Fall of Constantinople
The fall of Constantinople not only ended the last vestiges of the Roman empire, now dating back almost two millennia in its many forms, but it also opened up south-eastern Europe to the Ottoman Turks

1468 - 1479

Lekë Dukagjini

Lekë III of Dukagjini. Died 1481.


The Dukagjini domain of Lekë III covers areas of today's northern Albania and southern Kosovo. Despite being involved in some serious long-running feuds with his fellow Albanians, he attempts to lead the league following Skanderbeg's death. Occasionally he links up with the Venetians whose own position is becoming increasingly vulnerable.


After the capture of Scutari, and a battle in Friuli, peace is agreed between the Ottomans and Venice. Lekë Dukagjini has not been the leader his predecessor had been. Under his command the league has fractured in places, as antagonisms and feuds have returned to the surface.

Venetian and Ottoman troops in the long-running wars between the two
The Ottomans directly challenged the most powerful of Europe's Mediterranean empires in the form of the Venetian republic, leading to a series of vicious wars over the course of three centuries which are known as the Ottoman-Venetian Wars

The league has gradually weakened until it now dissolves completely, following which submission to the Ottomans is inevitable. Albanians become heavily integrated into the empire until it weakens in the nineteenth century and itself begins to collapse in the twentieth. Only then does an independent Albanian state re-emerge, in 1914, in the form of the '(Second) Kingdom'.

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