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Despotate of Arta

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Title: Despotate of Arta  
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Subject: Epirus, Preveza, Cham Albanians, Despotate of Epirus, Achelous River, Naupactus, Spata, Arta, Chameria, Arta, Greece
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Despotate of Arta

Not to be confused with the Despotate of Epirus.
Despotate of Arta
Despotati i Artës


Shpata Family and the Despotate of Arta

Location of Arta
Map of the Despotate of Arta
Capital Arta
Languages Albanian, alongside other languages.[1]
Religion Eastern Orthodox Church / Islam
Government Despotate
 -  1358-1374 Peter Losha
 -  1374-1399 Gjin Bua Shpata[2]
 -  1400-1401 Sguro Bua Shpata[3]
 -  1401-1410 Muriq Bua Shpata
 -  1410-1416 Jakub Bua Shpata
Historical era Medieval
 -  Established April 1358
 -  Unified with Angelokastron and Lepanto 1374
 -  Disestablished 4 October 1416

The Despotate of Arta was a despotate established by Albanian rulers during the 14th century, when Albanian tribes moved into Epirus and founded two short-lived principalities there.[4] The Despotate of Arta was created after the defeat of the local Despot Nikephoros II Orsini by the Albania tribesmen in the Battle of Achelous in 1359 and ceased to exist in 1416, when it passed to Carlo I Tocco.[5][6][7]



In the late spring of 1359, Nikephoros II Orsini, the last despot of Epirus of the Orsini dynasty, fought against the Albanians near river Acheloos, Aetolia. The Albanians won the battle and managed to create two new states in the southern territories of the Despotate of Epirus. Because a number of Albanian lords actively supported the successful Serbian campaign in Thessaly and Epirus, the Serbian Tsar granted them specific regions and offered them the Byzantine title of despotes in order to secure their loyalty.

The two Albanian lead states were: the first with its capital in Arta was under the Albanian nobleman Peter Losha, and the second, centered in Angelokastron, was ruled by Gjin Bua Shpata. After the death of Peter Losha in 1374, the Albanian despotates of Arta and Angelocastron were united under the rule of Despot Gjin Bua Shpata.

At April 1378 the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, Juan Fernández de Heredia set about to take Arta but failed and was captured in battle by Gjin Bua Shpata. Herendia was sold by Spata to the Ottoman Turks for a huge prize. Thomas II Preljubović, the Despot of Epirus offered valuable help during the battle, however this alliance didn't last for long.[3]

The territory of this despotate at its greatest extend (1374–1403) was from the Corinth Gulf to Acheron River in the North, neighboring with the Principality of Gjirokastër of Gjon Zenebishti, another state created in the area of the Despotate of Epirus. The Despotate of Epirus managed to control in this period only the eastern part of Epirus, with its capital in Ioannina. During this period the Despot of Epirus Thomas II Preljubović was in an open conflict with Gjin Bue Shpata. In 1375, Gjin Bue Shpata started an offensive in Ioannina, but he could not invade the city. Although Shpata married with the sister of Thomas II Preljubović, Helena, their war did not stop.

Fall of the Despotate

After the death of Gjin Bua Shpata in 1399, the Despotate of Arta weakened continuously, and Shpata Family was involved in civil war. Among the animosities with the rulers of Ioannina Gjin’s successor, Muriq Shpata, had to deal with the intentions of the Venetians and of Count Carlo I Tocco of Cefalonia. Meanwhile Ottoman incursions were intensified as they were occasionally called by despot Esau de' Buondelmonti of the Despotate of Epirus. After the death of de' Buondelmonti in 1411, the throne was offered to his nephew, Carlo I Tocco. Even though his gain was accompanied by a great loss that the forces of Gjon Zenebishi’s inflicted upon his army, he would later subject the leaders of southern Albania. In spite of Muriq Shpata`s victory over Carlo in 1412, the Albanians failed to take Ioannina. On the contrary, not long after killing Muriq Shpata in battle in 1415, Carlo advanced on Arta. In 1416, he defeated Jakub Bua Shpata and conquered Arta thus annexing the Despotate.

Local legacy

The city of Arta was relatively unknown during the period of the Albanian rule (1358–1416). The Albanian leaders, not accustomed to living in cities, as mountaineers, acquired legally Byzantine titles and tried to adopt Byzantine state structure. Although no architectural activity has been reported for this period, little seem to had changed in Arta and the Albanian and Greek population coexisted peacefully in the city.[8]


Losha Dynasty

Shpata Dynasty


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