Gjergj Arianiti

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Gjergj Arianiti or George Aryaniti (1383–1462) was a formidable Albanian lord who led several successful campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. He was father of Donika, the ally of Skanderbeg, as well as great uncle of Moisi Arianit Golemi. Gjergj Arianiti is enumerated in Albanian folk tellings. Gjergj Arianiti was Skanderbeg's ally within League of Lezhë only for a short period of time because he abandoned their alliance after the defeat in Berat in 1450, to return back after a while.[2] Robert Elsie emphasizes that Arianiti was often Skanderbeg's rival who allied with the Kingdom of Naples in 1446, left his alliance with Skanderbeg by 1449 and allied with Venice in 1456. However his daughter married Skanderbeg and he remained officially as part of the League of Lezhe and continued fighting Ottomans successfully up to his death in 1462[3]

Gjergj Arianiti
Full name
George Aryaniti Thopia Comneni
Noble familyArianiti.svg Arianiti
SpousesMaria Muzaka
Pietrina Francone
FatherKomnen Arianiti
Occupation1423—27 hostage at Ottoman court
1431—35: Leader of the revolt against Ottomans[1]
1444—50, 1456-1462: Member of the League of Lezhë
1451—?: Napolitan ally


His name is most commonly known in the Albanian form, Gjergj Arianiti, in English George Aryaniti or George Aryaniti.[4][5] His full name in English is spelled George Aryaniti Thopia Comneni in Fan Noli's translated work.[5] He calls himself "Komninovic" in a letter to the king of Naples.[6] His name appears in Slavic form as "Golem Arianit Komnenovic" (Golemi Arenit Cominovich),[7] and a 1452 document referring to him as "Golemi Arenit Comninovich de Albania".[8] The word golem is Slavic and means "large".[9] Another form of his surname, Haryanites, was used in a French document of the Charles VII era.[7]

Origin and early lifeEdit

Epitaph of Gllavenica was commissioned by the Albanian ruler Gjergj Arianiti in 1373.

His father was Komnen Arianiti, whose domains were in the vicinity of Durrës (in partibus Durrachii).[10] Gjergj was the oldest of three sons, his two brothers being Muzaka and Vladan.[10]

He married Maria Muzaka, and from this he acquired a territory from Mallakastra to south of Vlorë. His territories eventually reached northwards to Debar and later were expanded to Monastir. The center of his dominions were located between Librazhd and Elbasan. Since 1423 he fell under Ottoman political influence and probably resided at the sultan's palace as hostage to secure loyalty of his tribesmen. In 1427 he returned to Albania to govern his lands.[1]

Campaigns against the Ottoman EmpireEdit

Revolt of 1432–36Edit

A map of the military activities during the Albanian Revolt of 1432–6

The Ottoman conquest of certain parts of southern Albania brought Ottoman legal, political, and economic systems into the country, influencing all nobles and threatening to destroy the feudal system and autonomy of the nobles. These reforms took away much of Gjergj's power, but he still remained a ruler of his lands , eventhough as a vassal of the Sultan. These drastic changes encouraged revolts against the Ottomans, of which Gjergj Arianiti was one of the main leaders.

In the spring of 1432, after the first phase of the reforms ended, an Albanian revolt erupted which spread to much of Albania. The first revolts began in central Albania when Andrea Thopia revolted against Ottoman rule and defeated a small Ottoman unit in the mountains of central Albania. His victory inspired other chieftains to revolt, especially Arianiti. Gjergj was at first apprehensive, but saw an opportunity to save the dominions left to him by his father. Upon hearing of the rebellions, many Albaniab political enemies of Gjergj, who had become sipahi returned from Edirne to Albania. Upon reaching Albania, Gjergj immediately banished them. He was to lead the armed rebellion, which was started by the peasants. Durrës, the Tirana region, and Nicholas Dukagjini in the north joined the revolt. Although Skanderbeg was summoned home by his relatives when Gjergj Arianiti and other chiefs from the region between Vlorë and Shkodër had organized the rebellion, Skanderbeg did nothing, remaining loyal to the Sultan.[4] The Porte responded by sending an army of fresh troops in Albania under experienced commanders. Dagno in northern Albania fell, while the Thopias were returned to their former state. After a strong counterattack by Arianiti, the Ottomans were soon defeated. This victory strengthened the revolt in southern Albania, especially in Kurvelesh. Murad II headed for Albania and chose to camp at Serez[where?] in Macedonia, from where he sent out a force of 10,000 into Albania under Ali Beg. The army of Ali Beg, in the winter of 1432–33, went through the tight valleys of the Shkumbin; near Buzurshekut (Bërzeshtës), the Albanians ambushed the Ottoman army. Arianiti observed and maneuvered against the Ottomans while also encouraging his men, eventually leading to an Ottoman rout. This victory further strengthened the Albanian cause and gave hope to the Europeans who feared a major Ottoman invasion. The Byzantine chronicler, Chalcondyles, wrote: "In this battle, Arianit Komneni won a glorious victory." With these victories Gjergj Arianiti expanded his domains up to the city of Manastir.

Arianit used the classic tactic of "Pulling the enemy in, preparing the trap and striking suddenly." Arianiti also destroyed a second army sent by Ali Beg, leaving hundreds dead in the valleys of Kuç all the way to Borsh. The failure of the second Ottoman expedition became known throughout Europe, which was used to hearing about Christian defeats in the East. The joyful states of Europe - Pope Eugene IV, Alfonso V, Emperor Sigsimund, Venice and Ragusa - promised aid. In his third battle (1434), in order to recapture Vlorë and Kanina, Arianiti used numbers, expediency and his tactics. Arianiti was known as the "protector of freedom" throughout the European kingdoms. During the Ottoman campaigns of 1435 and 1436 Ali Beg, together with Turakhan Beg, effected a partial submission of the Albanians, Arianiti retreated to the area of Skrapari and Tomorica, where he continued his war against the Ottoman Empire. Murad II felt compelled to tacitly grant him the area between Shkumbin and south of Vjosa river as his dominions and have a truce with him.


In August 1443 Arianiti again rebelled against Ottomans, probably urged by pope Eugene IV or instigated by the news of defeat of Sihàb ed-Dîn Pasa.[11] During the fall of 1443 and the winter of 1444 he led an army deep into Macedonia.[clarification needed] During the same time, the Ottomans were routed at Niš and Skanderbeg deserted the Ottoman army and began another rebellion. Skanderbeg eventually allied with Gjergj Arianit and some other nobles from Albania and Zeta through the League of Lezhë.In may-july 1435 bulgarian prince Fruzhin visited Albania and meat Arianiti the leaders of the revolt, on a sicret diplomat mission of emperor Sigismund.


At the beginning of 1449, Skanderbeg and Arianiti approached the Venetians requesting their protection from the Ottomans. Venice opted for neutral approach, not to jeopardize peace with Ottomans, and refused their request.[12] By 1449 Gjergj Arianiti left his alliance with Skanderbeg.[3]

When Krujë was besieged by the Ottomans, the sixty-seven-year-old Gjergj Arianiti joined the battle and fought fiercely. Along with 3,000 warriors, he joined the anti-Venetian force which eventually defeated the Venetian army at Drin. He was one of the main commanders during the short siege of Durrës and the siege of Dagno. Some of his troops went as far as the gates of Shkodër. Thus, his interests were not harmed by Venice, who wished to incorporate the bay of Vlorë into its dominions.

Arianiti supported the recapture of Svetigrad with 4,000 men. During the two main engagements of the siege, Arianiti showed great bravery. During the siege, his brother was killed. The experience of Arianiti convinced Skanderbeg to marry Donika, Arianiti's daughter. The strong connections between the Kastrioti and Arianiti families were of great benefit to the Albanian cause.

In 1451 after Alfonso signed the Treaty of Gaeta with Skanderbeg, he signed similar treaties with Gjergj Arianiti and other chieftains from Albania: Ghin Musachi, George Strez Balšić, Peter Spani, Pal III Dukagjini,[13] Thopia Musachi, Peter of Himara, Simon Zenevisi and Carlo Tocco.


He brought together his last resistance force between 1460 and 1462. In an open front, Mehmet II ordered movements into Albania to engage a group of Arianiti's warriors. He then surrounded Gjergj Arianiti by moving through the valley of Furka all the way through Shushicë. Fierce engagements began, but Sopoti was not captured and the Ottoman encirclement failed. The people compared Gjergj Arianiti to Skanderbeg. To celebrate this victory, the army was taken to Galigat after the Ottomans had fully left Albania. However, when the Ottomans heard of this, they traveled back to Albania at night. The fortress of Sopot, left with a garrison chosen by Arianiti, still could not be taken. Only through bribery and treachery was it possible for the castle be taken. The Ottoman commander, took advantage of Arianiti's absence by launching a large attack with his main army. The Ottomans soon entered the castle, and in revenge for the defeats they had suffered, the entire population was massacred.[clarification needed]


Arianiti was the only Albanian leader to have two capitals; one near the coast in Kanina, and another near the eastern mountains in Sopot. His dominions acted as the first defense against many of the Ottoman expeditions and served as one of the main centers of the League of Lezhë. The union between the Kastrioti and Arianiti did not have much effect due to the exposed territories of Arianiti.


With the death of his first wife Maria Muzaka, Gjergj married Pietrina Francone, an Italian aristocrat. His two wives bore him ten children, three of which were boys.[14] With his first wife, Maria, Gjergj had eight daughters.[15]

  • The first daughter, Andronika (or Donika), was married to Lord Scanderbeg Castriota,[16] who was Lord of Dibra, Mat and Kruja down to the sea, and of Deberina, also called Randesio (Renc?), and of the province of Guonimi (Gjonëm). They had many children, only two of which reached adulthood.[14]
  • The second daughter, Voisava, was married to Lord Ivan I Crnojević of Zeta, and they had two sons.[14]
  • Lord George married and had two sons and three daughters.[14]
  • The second son, the said Lord Scanderbeg, turned Turk and now rules the land of his brother, which was given to him by the sultan for his having turned Turk.[14]
  • The third daughter, Chiranna, was married to Lord Nicholas Dukagjini. She was the only daughter among brothers, and gave birth herself to two sons. One died and the other turned Turk and became a pasha and a great commander of the sultan.[14]
  • The fourth daughter, Helena, was married to Lord George Dukagjini, to whom many children were born and all turned Turk. One called Scanderbeg was still alive (1515) and was a sanjakbey.[14]
  • The fifth daughter, Despina, was married to Lord Tanush Dukagjini. They had two children: a boy and a girl. The boy died.
    • Theodora, was married to [...] and had two sons.
      • Blaise
      • Jacob
  • The sixth daughter, Angelina, married Stefan Branković of Serbia, son of Despot Đurađ. Angelina and Stefan had two sons and one daughter.
    • Their son Đorđe Branković was the titular Despot of Serbia from 1486 until his monastic vows in 1496.
    • The daughter was Maria, who married the Marquis of Monferrato. They had two sons.
      • William, married the sister of Monsignor d'Alençon, the dauphin of France. This nobleman had two children: a boy and a girl.
      • George, died without children.
  • The seventh daughter, Comita (or Komnina), married Gojko Balšić, Lord of Misia.[17] They had two sons and one daughter. The sons died in Hungary.[14]
  • The eighth daughter, Catherine, married Nicholas Boccali. They had two sons and two daughters.[14]
    • Manoli
    • Constantine

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Jefferson, John (17 August 2012). The Holy Wars of King Wladislas and Sultan Murad: The Ottoman-Christian Conflict from 1438-1444. BRILL. p. 109. ISBN 90-04-21904-8.
  2. ^ Pipa, Arshi (1978). Albanian literature: social perspectives. R. Trofenik. p. 49. ISBN 978-3-87828-106-1. Retrieved 17 February 2012. AryanitesComnenius, Scanderbeg's father-in- law, was his ally and friend only for a short time. After the battle of Berat, Aryanites abandoned the Albanian league, dealing with Naples and Venice independently until his death in 1461
  3. ^ a b Robert Elsie (24 December 2012). A Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History. I.B.Tauris. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-78076-431-3. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b Fine 1994, p. 535

    In 1432 Andrew Thopia revolted against his Ottoman overlords ... inspired other Albanian chiefs, in particular George Aryaniti ... The revolt spread ... from region of Valona up to Skadar... At this time, though summoned home by his relatives ... Skanderbeg did nothing, he remained ... loyal to sultan

  5. ^ a b Noli 1947, p. 10
  6. ^ Schmitt Oliver Jens, Skandermbeg et les sultans, Turcica, 43 (2011) p. 71.
  7. ^ a b Studia Albanica. University of Tirana. 1964. p. 143. Retrieved 26 May 2011. April 1452 aus Neapel an Skanderbeg gerichtetes Schreiben, das abschriftMch fùnf weiteren Adligen Albaniens, darunter 'Magnifico viro Golemi Arenit Cominovich [...] Auffallend ist hier die slavische Namensform Golem Arianit Komnenovic
  8. ^ Constantin Marinescu 1994, La politique orientale d'Alfonse V d'Aragón, roi de Naples (1416-1458). Institut d'Estudis Catalans, p. 176
  9. ^ Edward Stankiewicz (1 January 1993). The Accentual Patterns of the Slavic Languages. Stanford University Press. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-0-8047-2029-8.
  10. ^ a b Shuteriqi 2012, p. 97.
  11. ^ Jefferson, John (17 August 2012). The Holy Wars of King Wladislas and Sultan Murad: The Ottoman-Christian Conflict from 1438-1444. BRILL. p. 109. ISBN 90-04-21904-8. In August of 1443, perhaps at the instigation of Eugene IV, or Sehabeddin's defeat, Arianiti took up arms again.
  12. ^ Bešić, Zarij M. (1970). Istorija Črne Gore, Volume 2, Part 2 (in Serbian). Titograd: Redakcija za istoriju Črne Gore. p. 219. Retrieved 10 January 2014. Млечани су заузимали неутралан став према догађајима у Албанији да не би изазвали Турке. Одбили су Аријанита и Скен- дербега када су тражили млетачку заштиту,
  13. ^ Noli 1947, p. 49

    Later on Alphonse concluded similar treaties with George Aryaniti, Ghin Musachi, George Stresi Balsha, Peter Spani, Paul Ducaghini,...

  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brief Chronicle on the Descendants of our Musachi Dynasty by John Musachi (1515) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2011-11-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Arheografski prilozi. Narodna biblioteka Srbije, Arheografsko odeljenje. 1997. p. 136. Био је ожењен Маријом из моћне ал- банске породице Мусаки. Са њом је имао осам кћери.
  16. ^ Robert Elsie. A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology and folk culture.[page needed]
  17. ^ Slijepčević 1983, p. 40: "Комнина за Гојка.Балшића"


  • Noli, Fan Stilian (1947). George Castrioti Scanderbeg (1405-1468). International Universities Press. OCLC 732882.