Despotate of Epiros
:"The Principality of Epirus can also refer to the pashalik of
Ali Pasha"Infobox Former Country
native_name = Δεσποτάτο της Ηπείρου
conventional_long_name = Despotate of Epirus
common_name = Despotate of Epirus|
continent = moved from Category:Asia to the Middle East
region = the Middle East
era = High Medieval
government_type = Monarchy|
year_start = 1215
year_end = 1479|
p1 = Byzantine Empire
flag_p1 = Flag of Palaeologus Emperor.svg
s1 = Ottoman Empire
flag_s1 = Ottoman1375.svg|
image_map_caption = The
Latin Empire, Empire of Nicaea, Empire of Trebizond, and the Despotate of Epirus. The borders are very uncertain.|
capital = Arta
common_languages = Greek
religion = Eastern Orthodox Church|
leader1 = Michael I Komnenos Doukas
leader2 = Leonardo Tocco
year_leader1 = 1205 - 1214
year_leader2 = 1448 – 1479
title_leader = DespotThe Despotate or Principality of Epirus ( _el. Δεσποτάτο της Ηπείρου) was one of the Byzantine Greek successor states of the
Byzantine Empirethat emerged in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusadein 1204. It claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Byzantine Empire,Fact|date=February 2008 along with the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond. The term "despotate" is a misnomer, as the first rulers of Epirus did not hold the court dignity of despotes, which was in any case not a hereditary title associated with any particular jurisdiction.Fact|date=February 2008
The Despotate was founded in 1205 by Michael Komnenos Doukas, a cousin of the
Byzantine emperors Isaac II Angelosand Alexios III Angelos. At first, Michael allied with Boniface of Montferrat, but having lost Morea( Peloponnese) to the Franksat the battle of the Olive Grove of Koundouros, he went to Epirus, where he considered himself the Byzantine governor of the old province of Nicopolisand revolted against Boniface. Epirus soon became the new home of many Greek 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 Laskarisin Nicaea; Michael instead recognized the authority of Pope Innocent IIIover Epirus, cutting ties to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Henry of Flandersdemanded 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 Montferratmade 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. Fact|date=February 2008 Pope Innocent III excommunicated him in response. Henry forced Michael into a renewed nominal alliance later that year.
Michael however turned his attention to capturing other strategically important Latin-held towns, including
Larissaand Dyrrhachium. He also took control of the ports on the Gulf of Corinth. In 1214 he captured Corcyra from Venice, but was assassinated later that year and was succeeded by his half-brother Theodore.
Conflict with Nicaea and Bulgaria
Theodore Komnenos Doukasimmediately set out to attack Thessalonica, and 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. In 1225, after John III Doukas Vatatzesof Nicaea had taken Adrianople, Theodore arrived and in turn took it from him. Theodore also allied with the Bulgarians and drove the Latins out of the Thrace. In 1227 Theodore crowned himself Byzantine emperor, although this was not recognized by most Greeks, especially not the Patriarch in Nicaea.
1230Theodore 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 Haskovoin Bulgaria) the Bulgarian emperor defeated, captured, and later blinded Theodore. His brother Manuel Komnenos Doukastook power in Thessalonica, while their nephew Michael II Komnenos Doukastook over Epirus. Theodore was released in 1237, overthrew his brother and set up his son John Komnenos Doukasas ruler of Thessalonica.
Nicaean and Byzantine
Thessalonica never regained its power after the battle of Klokotnitsa. Theodore's younger son
Demetrios Angelos Doukaslost Thessalonica to Nicaea in 1246 and Michael II of Epirus allied with the Latins against the Nicaeans. In 1248 John III Doukas Vatatzesof 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 Pelagoniain 1259.
Theodore II Laskarisallied 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 revolted, defeating a Nicaean army led by George Acropolites. As Michael marched on Thessalonica, he was attacked by King Manfred of Sicily, who conquered Albaniaand 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 Ioanninaand 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 Kantakouzenein 1265. Michael considered Epirus a vassalstate, 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.
Andronikos II Palaiologos, son of Michael VIII, Nikephoros renewed the alliance with Constantinople. Nikephoros, however, was persuaded to ally with Charles II of Naplesin 1292, although Charles was defeated by Andronikos's fleet. Nikephoros married his daughter to Charles's son Philip I of Tarantoand 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 took control of Epirus. He was recognized as legitimate by Andronikos, but was overthrown by his brother John in 1323. 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 but Andronikos demanded the complete surrender of the Despotate to which she finally agreed. Thus Epirus came peacefully under imperial rule.
A term of the surrender agreement was 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 titularempress of Constantinople.
In 1339, there was a revolt supported by Catherine of Valois, who was in the Peloponnese at the time, and by Nikephoros who had returned to Epirus, based in Thomokastron. At the end of 1339 the imperial army returned to the area and next 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 "panypersebastos" (πανυπερσέβαστος).
The Empire soon fell into a civil war between
John V Palaiologosand 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 died 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-SinišaPalailogos. In 1367 the Epirotan Despotate was resurrected under local Serbian nobleman Thomas II Preljubović. With much of the country under the control of Albanian clans, the area was divided between several rulers, each claiming the title of despotes. 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. By 1416 the Tocco family of Cephalonia, succeeded in reuniting Epirus, or at least in asserting their control over its towns. But internal dissention eased the Ottoman conquest, which proceeded with the capture of Ioanninain 1430, Artain 1449, Angelokastron in 1460, and finally Vonitsain 1479. With the exception of several coastal Venetian possessions, this was the end of Frankish rule in mainland Greece.
Rulers of Epirus
=Komnenos Doukas dynasty=
Michael I Komnenos Doukas(1205-1214)
Theodore Komnenos Doukas(1214-1230), emperor in Thessalonica from 1225 or 1227
Michael II Komnenos Doukas(1230-1271)
Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas(1271-1297)
Thomas I Komnenos Doukas(1297-1318) Orsinidynasty
*John Orsini (1323-1335)
Nikephoros II Orsini(1335-1337) and (1356-1359) Nemanjićdynasty
Simeon UrošPalaiologos (1359-1366), emperor ( tsar) of Serbs and Greeks
Thomas II Preljubović(1367-1384), despot
Maria Angelina Doukaina Palaiologina(1384-1385)
Esau de' Buondelmonti(1385-1411)
Giorgio de' Buondelmonti(1411)
Carlo I Tocco(1411-1429)
Carlo II Tocco(1429-1448), fall of Ioannina 1430
*Leonardo Tocco (1448-1479), fall of Arta 1449 and Angelokastron 1460
Roman and Byzantine Greece
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium", Oxford University Press, 1991.
*Donald M. Nicol, "The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261-1453", 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1993.
* [http://www.anistor.co.hol.gr/english/enback/v981.htm "The Despotate of Epirus under Michael I (13th c.)"]
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