Despotate of Arta
Despotati i Artës (Albanian)
Δεσποτάτο της Άρτας (Greek)
Map of the Despotate of Arta in 1390
Map of the Despotate of Arta in 1390
Common languagesAlbanian
Eastern Orthodoxy
• 1367–1374
Pjetër Losha
• 1374–1399
Gjin Bua Shpata[1]
• 1400–1401
Sgouros Shpata[2]
• 1401–1415
Muriq Shpata
• 1415–1416
Yaqub Shpata
Historical eraMedieval
• Established
April 1359
• Unified with Angelokastron and Lepanto
• Disestablished
4 October 1416
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Angelokastron and Lepanto
Despotate of Epirus
Today part ofGreece

The Despotate of Arta (Albanian: Despotati i Artës; Greek: Δεσποτάτο της Άρτας) was a despotate established by Albanian rulers during the 14th century, after the defeat of the local Despot of Epirus, Nikephoros II Orsini, by Albanian tribesmen in the Battle of Achelous in 1359 and ceased to exist in 1416, when it passed to Carlo I Tocco.[3][4][5][6]



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.

By the late 1360s, two Albanian principalities had emerged: the first with its capital in Arta under Pjetër Losha, and the second, centered in Angelokastron, under Gjin Bua Shpata. After the death of Pjetër Losha in 1374, the Albanian despotates of Arta and Angelocastron were united under the rule of 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 Shpata 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.[2]

The territory of this despotate at its greatest extent (1374–1403) was from the Corinth Gulf to Acheron River in the North, neighboring with the Principality of Gjirokastër of Gjon Zenebishi, 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 Shpata. In 1375, Gjin Bua Shpata started an offensive in Ioannina, but he could not invade the city. Although Shpata married with Thomas' sister, 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 the 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's victory over Carlo in 1412, the Albanians failed to take Ioannina. On the contrary, not long after killing Muriq in battle in 1414–1415, Carlo advanced on Arta. In 1416, he defeated Jakob 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 seems to have changed in Arta and the Albanian and Greek population coexisted peacefully in the city.[7]


Losha Dynasty

Shpata Dynasty

See also


  1. ^ Served firstly as Despot of Angelokastron, became despot of Arta and Angelokastron after the death of Peter Losha.
  2. ^ a b Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest[permanent dead link]. John Van Antwerp Fine. University of Michigan Press, 1994 ISBN 0-472-08260-4
  3. ^ History of Albanian People. Albanian Academy of Science. ISBN 99927-1-623-1
  4. ^ Fine, John. The Late Medieval Balkans. Ann Arbor, 1987.
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, p. 191
  6. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, p. 53
  7. ^ Imagining frontiers, contesting identities. Steven G. Ellis, Luďa Klusáková. Edizioni Plus, 2007. ISBN 978-88-8492-466-7, p. 138-139.