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Forum LockedSkanderbeg and the Arbresh of South Italy

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TheodoreFelix View Drop Down
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    Posted: 06-May-2005 at 21:17

The First Migration: 1448—The Reres Family of Epiros

In 1448 Alfonso of Aragon, the King of Naples, suffered a rebellion caused by certain barons in the rural areas of his kingdom in southern Italy. He needed reliable troops to deal with the uprising, so he called upon his ally, Giorgio Castriota of Kroja, military commander of the Albanian Alliance, for some assistance. Lord Castriota, known as "Skanderbeg", responded to Alfonso's request for aid by sending to Italy a detachment of Albanian troops commanded by General Demetrios Reres. These Albanian soldiers were said to have been a "diverse group", probably from several different clans of Albania, and they brought with them their wives and families.

These Albanians, known in medieval times as Arbėresh, were successful in quickly suppressing the rebellion and restoring order. King Alfonso rewarded Demetrios Reres for his service to Naples by appointing him Governor of Calabria. And his troops, received tracts of land to settle in the mountainous area of today's province of Catanzaro. The twelve towns in Catanzaro were: Amato; Andali;Arietta;Caraffa d' Catanzaro; Carfizzi; Gizzeria; Marcedusa; Pallagorio; S. Nicola dell'Alto; Vena; Zagarise; and, Zangarona.

Two years later in 1450 another detachment of Albanian troops was sent to garrison Sicily against a rebellion and invasion. These troops were led by Giorgio and Basilio Reres, the sons of Demetrios. These soldiers settled in three separate military camps in Palermo Province of Sicily and these camps later became the villages of Contessa Entellina; Mezzojuso; and Palazzo Adriano.

The Second Migration: 1462—Skanderbeg

In 1458 Alfonso of Aragon died and the Kingdom of Naples passed to his bastard son, Ferdinand. This succession of the crown of Naples was opposed by the rural feudal barons of the kingdom and soon, with military assistance from France, they once again rebelled against their Argonese ruler. With backing from Pope Pius II, Ferdinand appealed to Skanderbeg to come to the aid of Naples again, as Ferdnand's father had also appealed almost twenty years before.

In 1461 Skanderbeg landed at Brindisi, with five-thousand Albanian soldiers under his command, and raised the siege of Barletta where Ferdinand was entrapped by the Franco-Italian armies of Giovanni D'Angiņ. Ferdinand then appointed Skanderbeg commander of the combined Neapolitan-Albanian armies and on 18 August 1462 Skanderbeg's forces crushed the baronial army at the battle of Ursara to end the revolt.

Skanderbeg quickly returned to Albania after the victory because of news of a Turkish invasion attempt there. However, his troops remained in Italy and were rewarded with grants of lands east of the city of Taranto in Apulia by Ferdinand, for their service to Naples' cause. The villages they founded there were: Carosino, Faggiano, Fragagnano, Monteiasi, Monteneosola, Monteparano, Rocaforzata, S. Crispieri, S. Giorgio Ionico and S. Marzano. Skanderbeg himself was awarded large tracts of land in Foggia near S. Giovanni Rotondo, including the title to the village of Troia as a future "haven" where his family could flee should the Turks overrun Albania.

 The Fall of Albania: The Refugees 1468 - 1492

The third wave of Albanian settlement in Italy was not by soldiers but, by refugees. In 1467 the Turkish army invaded Albania and, for the first time in twenty-five years of attempts, was able to gain a foothold on Albanian soil. The Albanian leader Skanderbeg moved to the coastal city of Lezhė for safety but, was bitten by a malarial mosquito from a nearby swamp and died of a fever there in January of 1468.

Without the strong leadership of Skanderbeg, the Albanian alliance of feudal nobles and tribal chieftains began to fall apart. The fortified cities of Albania, left to the protection of Venice by Skanderbeg's will, began to fall one by one to Sultan Mehmed's armies. As each city fell, the citizens either fled into the mountains or, across the sea to Italy. Many found their way to cities in the north of Italy, especially Venice, while others settled in the many abandoned and underpopulated rural villages of the south.

Skanderbeg's wife and family also fled to Italy after his death, where one of his daughters married into the nobility of Naples to become the Princess Bisagnato. With her position of influence, she is said to have encouraged the kingdom to accept and resettle refugees from her homeland. Skanderbeg's son John Castriota, who had married Irene Palaeologus of the royal Byzantine family, also fled to Italy where he was granted a Dukedom. He continued to lead military expeditions against the Turkish occupation of his homeland for another fifteen years but only with minor success.

Venice was not able to afford to keep up her war alone against the Turks and could not find major allies to join her in the struggle. She was finally forced to sign an unfavorable treaty with the Sultan ceding away most of her ports in Albania to the Ottoman Empire. This move propelled more refugees into Italy. It was during this period that the remainder of the Albanian villages were settled, mostly in Apulia, Molise and Calabria, with one additional village in Sicily.

 1500 and after—From the "Morea"

The final migration of Arbėresh to Italy between about 1500 and 1534 was again mostly soldiers but, these were from the Southwest of Greece, and were those who had there served in the armies of various feudal lords for several centuries, until they became displaced by the Turkish invasions of the 1480s. Most fled to Venetian trading posts and fortresses on the coasts of Greece, such as Corone, Modone, and Napulia in the Peloponnese (known in Medieval times as the "Morea"). They were enlisted into the Stradiotti, the "colonial light cavalry" of Venice and were stationed on the land approaches to these forts to discourage Turkish raiding and attacks. In the late 15th and early 16th century Venice lost these mainland outposts in Greece and therefore moved her garrisons, including the Stradiotti, to new island posts in the Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean Seas.

The dawn of the Sixteenth Century brought a great new power to Europe, in the person of Emperor Charles V, to face off against the expanding Ottoman Empire. To counter a Turkish threat against central Europe Charles invaded the Greek Peloponese and recaptured the fortress of Corone as a diversion. He recruited large numbers of Albanian soldiers, including former Stradiotti because of their experience and success in fighting against the Turks. Charles ordered his Admiral, Andria Doria, to evacuate two hundred shiploads of these soldiers from the south of Greece, including those of the garrison of Corone, and resettled them in many of the existing Arbėresh settlements of Southern Italy. This action is thought to have been because of a concern that the Sultan might have been planning to invade there.

Along with the Albanian troopers, there came to Italy a small number of Greek officers of the Stradiotti. These were mostly exiled members of the Byzantine royal families of Lascaris and Palaeologus, who fled to the Peloponnese after the fall of Constantinople. Besides the soldiers, many Greek merchants took advantage of the chance to evacuate safely under protection of the fleet, rather than risk a sea crossing alone, against the threat of Turkish corsairs.

This last influx of immigrants brought a strong Byzantine Greek influence to many of the Arbėresh villages in which they settled. However, before many years, the more rural villages lost many of the Greeks who, preferring life in the larger cities, soon moved away. Most of the villages then reverted back to a predominantly Arbėresh cultural identity. Many residents of the Arbėresh villages, especially those around Calabria, continued their professions as soldiers as parts of the regiments of the Neapolitan army for several more centuries, especially during the Wars of Religion and, even into the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Venice also continued to employ Albanian cavalry units in her mainland Italian armies for many years after the fall of her overseas possessions.



Edited by Iskender Bey ALBO
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote faram Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2005 at 09:33
Great post, really interesting.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paulo Henrique Granafei Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Apr-2006 at 00:40
My family was very close to Skanderbeg and settled in Italy in one of those migrations. I know my ancestors have had once, not exactly when, been Lords of Brindisi, Lecce, and some other locations at Salentine Greece.

The history my father told me, he heard from my grandfather, is that we had some connection with Skanderbeg: indeed, Castriota was first buried at one of our ancestors possessions, Alessio, his body having been after removed.
A far relative, with whom I share a grand grandfather, told us that he is sure we are descendants of Skanderbeg somehow.
I am trying to discover what exactly do my family has to do with Skanderbeg and our past history in Albania. My father remembers vaguely hearing from my grandfather something about Granax, Granaxia or Granacce (italian pronunciation); it would be a land whose name came from a bird typical in Albania. I have also found references to my family as Greek. If anyone here could help me with any useful information, about some university department or book, or anyother way to find out I would be very grateful.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cunctator Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-May-2006 at 16:56
Very interesting. I have always wondered why there is no good modern biography of Skanderbeg in English. Given the history, its seems like a really good field for some modern scholarship.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Theodore Felix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-May-2006 at 15:23
There is one available, called Scanderbeg: Ottoman captive to Albanian hero by British historian Harry Hodgkinson. Most of the literature on him is in Italian though since they have most interest in him, followed second by German and French. A translation of an Italian biography is planned to be released in the US in October 06 called Scanderbeide : The Heroic Deeds of George Scanderbeg, King of Epirus, which was publised some 380 years ago.

Edited by Theodore Felix - 31-May-2006 at 15:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Arbėr Z Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jun-2006 at 11:14

The albanians of Italy speek a language related to the Tosk dialect. They call it Arbėrisht. The fact that this language is mostly related to the tosk tells us that the majority of them were brought in Italy by the principates of what is now South Albania. They were lead by the feudal families of Muzaka (Musachii), Topia (Thopivs) and Araniti (Aranites). The gheg albanians emigrated mostly in the venetian colonies of Lezha (Alessia) Shkodra (Scutari), Dubrovnik (Raguza), Durrės (Durazzo) and Zadar (Zara). The venetian cities restisted for another half a century to the turkish occupation, and after that most of the gheg albanians emigrated to northern italy (Venice).

The albanians of Italy (Arbėreshė) preserved their culture until modern days. They referred to their mothercountry as Epirus or Morea, and this shows why their language is part of the Tosk Dialects. By the Italians they were called Greeks, because they used byzanthine rituals in their churches. In the begining they were eatsern orthodoxes, but after some time they converted in Roman Catholics, even though their church preserved the Byzanthine rites. Until today the Italians call them Greci (Greeks), and they call themselves Arbėreshė. This should be mentioned as one historical mistake (until 19-th century they were known as greeks because of their religion, and only studies from prominent individuals proved that they were albanians).
Interesting is the fact that Epirus nowadays is inhabitated by a majority of albanians, while Mora/Morea is a land where still exists an Arvanite cultural community. According to Aristides P. Kolias (President of the Arvanites League until year 2000) the Arvanites call their language Gluhė Arbėrore, which is the same with the Gluhė Arbėrore of the Albanians of Italy. In modern Albanian that would be Gjuha Arbėrisht/Arbėrore in gheg that would be Gjuha Arbnore
Good job TheodoreFelixClap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Theodore Felix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jun-2006 at 11:43
Quote but after some time they converted in Roman Catholics, even though their church preserved the Byzanthine rites.


I dont believe they were converted. Their churches were handed over to Roman Catholic authority. At that point they became Byzantine Catholics, as they remain today.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kotsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jun-2006 at 12:47
very interesting post Theodore Felix Wink



Quote Until today the Italians call them Greci (Greeks), and they call themselves Arbėreshė. This should be mentioned as one historical mistake (until 19-th century they were known as greeks because of their religion, and only studies from prominent individuals proved that they were albanians).

yes, at first sight it seems a clumsy mistake.
But then again, there are descendants of the old Greek colonizers in the same geographical area. Many of whom initially arrived there from nearly the same area many Arberesh did, Epirus.
Maybe this -apart from religion- is another reason why italians call them like that.

Quote while Mora/Morea is a land where still exists an Arvanite cultural community.

more or less we've spread all over Greece.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Arbėr Z Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jun-2006 at 13:32
Kotsos, I am aware that you (arvanites) are spread all over greece.I just said that some of them still live in Mora/Morea.
One of the most beautiful folkloristic songs of the albanians of italy (arbėreshė) is "Moj e bukura More"(You beautiful Morea)
And of course it exists a greek comunity in Italy, but I was not referring to that people. I know that they also preserve their ethnic elements, like language and folkloristic culture.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kotsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jun-2006 at 18:12
yes

i've got these Arberesh songs, O e bukura More is included among others, is one version, i've also heard another one, of clearly South Italy's Arberesh, it's very nostalgic and beautiful at the same time.

Edited by Kotsos - 01-Jun-2006 at 18:16

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Arbėr Z Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jun-2006 at 10:08

Do you have any data regarding the arvanites?Where can I find modern data?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kotsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jun-2006 at 16:53
What modern data are you exactly interested in?

if you're asking for bibliography, interesting works are that of Kostas Biris [ "Arvanites, the Dorians of modern Greece: History of the Greek Arvanites" ], Aristidis Kollias [ "Arvanites and the descent of the Greeks" ].. there are mroe books, since a single one might have gaps/errors. i might also be able to help you out if you tell me what you're looking for, since i know some things from first hand experience Tongue








Edited by Kotsos - 02-Jun-2006 at 18:28

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Arbėr Z Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jun-2006 at 19:03
[QUOTE=Kotsos] What modern data are you exactly interested in?

if you're asking for bibliography, interesting works are that of Kostas Biris [ "Arvanites, the Dorians of modern Greece: History of the Greek Arvanites" ], Aristidis Kollias [ "Arvanites and the descent of the Greeks" ].. there are mroe books, since a single one might have gaps/errors. i might also be able to help you out if you tell me what you're looking for, since i know some things from first hand experience Tongue






[/QUOTE
 
hey kotsos, thank youSmile. I have read the book of aristides kollias, and also two other books of the same author.But i have never heard of kostas biris. Tell me, is there any cultural NGO for the arvanites?Kollias dissapeared in 2000, what about biris. I need modern data, or better say todays data.Thank you, I really apreciate it from you
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kotsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2006 at 05:22
no problem, i'll send you a pm as it's going to be off-topic Smile 

Edited by Kotsos - 03-Jun-2006 at 05:22

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote akritas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2006 at 05:43
kotsos did you read the book of Sarantos Kargakos with title "Albanoi,Arvanites and Hellenes",  edition 2005 ?
It describes  the mistakes of the Kollias work and also  has intresting thinks as about the settlements in the Italy and Greece.


Edited by akritas - 03-Jun-2006 at 05:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kotsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2006 at 06:35
i haven't read it. I know Kollias has done some errors as well, and used his own methology, but i find the sum up of his work good. I hope i'll be around for much time to get to know everybody here and discuss these and other historical\modern things and open threads about

here's the statue Italians have built in one of their squares to honour Skanderbeg and because of the presence of the south Italy's Arberesh community:

in my opinion, some statue should be built in Greece as well.


Edited by Kotsos - 03-Jun-2006 at 06:37

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Spartakus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2006 at 13:32
some statue should be built in Greece as well.
 
Why is that?
 
 
 
 Interesting is the fact that Epirus nowadays is inhabitated by a majority of albanians,
 
There are many Albanians in Epirus,yes,but they are not the majority.


Edited by Draco Valerious - 04-Jun-2006 at 13:35
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--- Joseph Alexandrovitch Brodsky, 1991, Russian-American poet, b. St. Petersburg and exiled 1972 (1940-1996)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Arbėr Z Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2006 at 15:51
Originally posted by Draco Valerious Draco Valerious wrote:

some statue should be built in Greece as well.
 
Why is that?
 
 
 
 Interesting is the fact that Epirus nowadays is inhabitated by a majority of albanians,
 
There are many Albanians in Epirus,yes,but they are not the majority.
 
 
I am talking about southern albania (northern epirus), and it is based on official data. This data is accepted from international community, and you can search on google for that. The greek government till now showed no pretence regarding this data, they are mostly focused on the rights of the greek minority. If you have better data, please enlighten us.
Regarding the province of Epirus in Greece, there is for sure a majority of greeks. But there is a community of people, that now are albanian citizens but own some original documents, old pictures etc of their homeland in greece. (you probably have heard of this people who are causing some trouble in diplomatic relations between greece and albania)They never wanted to annex some part of greece (no normal albanian would claim that), they just want to become citizens of greece and to take their own homes (they consider themselves deportated).
 
 
 
And i believe that Kotsos didn't mean that the statue of Scanderbeg should be built because of a existing majority, in Italy there never existed an albanian majority and they still built not one, but many statues, just to respect a comunity that now is part of that country.
Why not to build a monument of Kolokotronis, or Bouboulina in southern albania, they are the heroes of our neighbors, and since we have a greek comunity, it would make them feel proud. The same should be in greece, there is an albanian comunity there, as well as the arvanites as Kotsos.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kotsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2006 at 16:50
sure, why not.

Certainly, there are some descendants of survivals of Skanderbeg's soldiers live today in Greece to "legitimate" a statue of honouring, as we're not a.. completely irrelevant country.

There's no need to claim anybody (that's sick if becomes a "profession"), but just to honour someone with great ideals. It is very rare for someone to stand up against the many defending his own ideals, even if he has not at first sight as many troops as his opponents. And that's what Skanderbeg did.

Draco, we even have a statue of Truman for instance. The "Lord Alexander" offered an example for generations to come, irrespective of nationalities, whereas  the second offered money.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote akritas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2006 at 17:08
@Arber please don't start to put in the topic  the Chams issue.
 
@Kotsos who are the descendants of survivals of Skanderbeg's soldiers ?
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