Principality of Gjirokastër

Principality of Gjirokastër

Principality of Gjirokastër

Location of Gjirokastër
Principalities of Epirus 1370-1409
Capital Gjirokastër
Languages Albanian, Greek
Religion Eastern Orthodox
Government Principality
 -  1386-1418 Gjon Zenebishi
Historical era Medieval
 -  Established 1386 1386
 -  Disestablished 1418 1418

The Principality of Gjirokastër or Argyrokastro (1386–1418) was an Albanian principality created by Gjon Zenebishi in 1386, encompassing the area around Gjirokastër (modern southern Albania). It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1414, but Zenebishi was able to rally the local population and recover his realm before being finally defeated by the Ottomans in 1418.


In 1380, Gjon Zenebishi was appointed sebastocrator and prefect of Vagenetia near Delvinë. He was also ruler of Pyrgo and Sayada. He submitted to the Turks after a first invasion and gave them his son as a hostage to be sent to Edirne to the court of the Sultan. His son converted to Islam and became known as Hamza Bey, a military leader. Shortly after his submission however, Gjon revolted and seized the fortress of Gjirokastër, encouraged no doubt by the attack on Janina by the Albanians of Acarnania. In 1386 he officially assumed the title of Prince of Gjirokastër, a post which he held until the abolition of his principality.

Rivalry with the Despotate of Epirus

Gjon Zenebishi married Irene, the daughter of Gjin Bua Shpata, Despot of Arta. Thus he became the son-in-law of Shpata and the brother-in-law of the wife of Esau de' Buondelmonti, Despot of Epirus.

In April 1399 Esau, supported by some Albanian clans, marched against Gjon Zenebishi. Esau's army was routed and he himself captured, to be released in July 1400 after the Florentines, who benefited from his rule, paid a large ransom.[1]

In 1412, Zenebishi allied with the Despot of Arta, Maurice Shpata, and defeated the army of Carlo I Tocco, who had some months earlier taken possession of Janina, with the aid of its Greek inhabitants. Despite their victory, the allies failed to recover the city.[2]

Turkish invasion and conquest

In 1414, Zenebishi was defeated by the Turks. He fled to the Venetian-held island of Corfu, but was called back two years later by an uprising of the mountain tribes. With the support of Venice, he recovered Gjirokastër, but died on Corfu in 1418. That same year the Turks, after a prolonged siege, took Gjirokastër. Gjon's son, Depa Zenebishi, fled to Corfu. He returned to the mainland and laid siege to Gjirokastër in 1434, but was killed in battle with a reinforcing Ottoman army in 1435.