Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg (6 May 1405 – 17 January 1468) (Albanian: "Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu", widely known as Skanderbeg, Turkish "İskender Bey", meaning "Lord or Leader Alexander"), or Iskander Beg, is probably the most prominent historical figure in the history of Albania and of the Albanian people. He is also known as the Dragon of Albania1911] and is the national hero of the Albanians. Through the work of his first biographer, Marin Barleti, he is remembered for his struggle against the Ottoman Empire, whose armies he successfully ousted from his native land for two decades.Marin Barleti, 1508, "Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis"]

ervice in the Ottoman Army

Born in Kruje Albania, Skanderbeg was a descendant of the Kastrioti family.

According to Gibbon,Edward Gibbon, 1788, "History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", [ Volume 6, Scanderbeg section] ] Skanderbeg's father, was Gjon Kastrioti (John Castriot), lord of Middle Albania, that included Mat, Krujë, Mirditë and Dibër. His mother was VojsavaM. Barleti, ibid.] from the Tribalda family,Camille Paganel, 1855, "Histoire de Scanderbeg, ou Turcs et Chrétiens du XVe siècle"] (who came from the Pollog valley, north-western part of present-day Republic of Macedonia), or from the old noble Muzaka family [cite book|last=Hodgkinson|first=Harry|title=Scanderbeg: From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero|page=240|publisher=I. B. Tauris|id=ISBN 978-1850439417] , an Albanian Princess [Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition] . Gjon Kastrioti was among those who opposed the early incursion of Ottoman Bayezid I, however his resistance was ineffectual. The Sultan, having accepted his submissions, obliged him to pay tribute and to ensure the fidelity of local rulers, George Kastrioti and his three brothers were taken by the Sultan to his court as hostages. After his conversion to Islam, [cite book|last=Rendina|first=Claudio|title=La grande enciclopedia di Roma|page=1136|publisher=Newton Compton|location=Rome|year=2000|id=ISBN 88-8289-316-2] he attended military school in Edirne and led many battles for the Ottoman Empire to victory. For his military victories, he received the title "Arnavutlu İskender Bey", (Albanian: "Skënderbe shqiptari", English: "Lord Alexander, the Albanian") comparing Kastrioti's military brilliance to that of Alexander the Great.

He was distinguished as one of the best officers in several Ottoman campaigns both in Asia Minor and in Europe, and the Sultan appointed him General. He even fought against Greeks, Serbs and Hungarians, and some sources say that he used to maintain secret links with Ragusa, Venice, Ladislaus V of Hungary, and Alfonso I of Naples.Noli, Fan S.: "George Castrioti Scanderbeg", New York, 1947] Sultan Murat II gave him the title Vali which made him General Governor.

Military campaigns in Albania

On November 28, 1443, Skanderbeg saw his opportunity to rebel during a battle against the Hungarians led by John Hunyadi in Niš as part of the Crusade of Varna. He switched sides along with 300 other Albanians serving in the Ottoman army. After a long trek to Albania he eventually captured Krujë by forging a letter from the Sultan to the Governor of Krujë, which granted him control of the territory. After capturing the castle, Skanderbeg abjured Islam and proclaimed himself the avenger of his family and country. He raised a flag showing a double-headed eagle, an ancient symbol used by various cultures of Balkans (especially the Byzantine Empire), which later became the Albanian flag. The Governor was killed as he was returning to Edirne, unaware of Skanderbeg's intentions...

Skanderbeg allied with George Arianitecite book|first=John V.|last=Fine|year=1994|title=The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest|id=ISBN 0-472-08260-4] (born Gjergj Arianit Komneni) and married his daughter Andronike (born Marina Donika Arianiti). [ Titolo pagina ] ]

Following the capture of Krujë, Skanderbeg managed to bring together all the Albanian princes in the town of LezhëMinna Skafte Jensen, 2006, " [ A Heroic Tale: Marin Barleti's Scanderbeg between orality and literacy] "] (see League of Lezhë, 1444). Gibbon reports that the "Albanians, a martial race, were unanimous to live and die with their hereditary prince" and that "in the assembly of the states of Epirus, Skanderbeg was elected general of the Turkish war and each of the allies engaged to furnish his respective proportion of men and money". With this support, Skanderbeg built fortresses and organized a mobile defense force that forced the Ottomans to disperse their troops, leaving them vulnerable to the hit-and-run tactics of the Albanians.cite book|first=L.S.|last=Stavrianos|year=2000|title=The Balkans Since 1453|id=ISBN 1-85065-551-0] Skanderbeg fought a guerrilla war against the opposing armies by using the mountainous terrain to his advantage. Skanderbeg continued his resistance against the Ottoman forces until his death, with a force rarely exceeding 20,000. He won 13 major battles against the Turks, and only lost 2, both by betrayal.

In the summer of 1444, in the field of Torvioll (literature says it happened at Vaikal), the united Albanian armies under Skanderbeg faced the Ottomans under direct command of the Turkish general Ali Pasha, with an army approximately 25,000. Skanderbeg had under his command 7,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry. 7,000 cavalry were hidden behind the enemy lines in a nearby forest under the command of Hamza Kastrioti and Moisi Golemi. At the given signal, they descended, encircling the Turks and giving Skanderbeg a much needed victory. About 8,000 Turks were killed and 2,000 were captured. [Hodgkinson, Harry. Scanderbeg: From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero.] His victory echoed across Europe because this was only the second time an Ottoman army was defeated in a set place battle on European soil. In the coming years, Skanderbeg defeated the Turks two more times, once in 1445 in Moker (Dibra), and once more in 1447 in Oranik (Dibra).

Although it is commonly believed that Skanderbeg took part in the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448, he actually never arrived. He and his army were en route to reinforce the mainly Hungarian army of John Hunyadi, but the Albanians were intercepted and were not allowed passage by the forces of Dan II of Wallachia and Đurađ Branković of Serbia, as the latter had agreed that while he would aid Skanderbeg against the Venetians, he would not against the Turks. About the time of the battle, Mehmed II also launched an invasion into Albania in order to keep Skanderbeg busy. Although Hunyadi was defeated in the campaign, Hungary successfully resisted and defeated the Ottoman campaigns during Hunyadi's lifetime.

In June 1450, an Ottoman army numbering approximately 150,000 men led by Sultan Murad II himself laid siege to Krujë. [Logoreci, Anton The Albanians, London, 1977] Leaving a protective garrison of 1,500 men under one of his most trusted lieutenants, Vrana Konti (also know as Kont Urani), Skanderbeg harassed the Ottoman camps around Krujë and attacked the supply caravans of the sultan's army. By September the Ottoman camp was in disarray as morale sank and disease ran rampant. Murad II acknowledged the castle of Krujë would not fall by strength of arms, and he lifted the siege and made his way to Edirne. Soon thereafter in the winter of 1450–1451, Murad died in Edirne and was succeeded by his son Mehmed II. Mehmet sends 12,000 horse under Amesa to approach Modrissa. Skanderbeg attacks from the mountains with 3,000 foot and forces the Turks to surrender. 7,000 Turks are killed, while the Albanians lose only 30. [ [] ]

For the next five years Albania was allowed some respite as the new sultan set out to conquer the last vestiges of the Byzantine Empire. Christianity in the Balkans was dealt an almost fatal blow when the Byzantine Empire was extinguished after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. The first real test between the armies of the new sultan and Skanderbeg came in 1455 during the Siege of Berat, and would end in the most disastrous defeat Skanderbeg would suffer. Skanderbeg had sieged the town's castle for months, causing the demoralized Turkish officer in charge of the castle to promise his surrender. At that point Skanderbeg relaxed the grip, split his forces and left the siege location. He left behind one of his generals and half of his cavalry at the bank of the river Osum to finalize the surrender. It would be a costly error.

The Ottomans saw this moment as an opportunity for attack. They sent a large cavalry force from Kosovo Polje to Berat as reinforcements. The Albanian forces had become overconfident and had been lulled into a false sense of security. The Ottomans caught the Albanian cavalry by surprise while they were resting in the shores of the Osum. Almost all the 5,000 Albanian cavalry laying siege to Berat were killed. A reason of this defeat of Skanderbeg's army, was the betrayal of his nephew, Hamza Kastrioti who was an officer of Skanderbeg's cavalry that passed on the Ottoman side with other Albanian forces and gave the Ottomans important information about the location and the organization of the Albanian troops. Later Hamza Kastrioti was captured in the battlefield by Skanderbeg himself, and imprisoned in the castle of Krujë. [Logoreci, Anton: The Albanians, London, 1977]

In 1457, an Ottoman army numbering approximately 90,000 men invaded Albania with the hope of destroying Albanian resistance once and for all; this army was led by Isa beg Evrenoz, one of the only commanders to have defeated Skanderbeg in battle, and Hamza Kastrioti, Skanderbeg’s nephew. After wreaking much damage to the countryside the Ottoman army set up camp at the Ujebardha field (literally translated as "Whitewater"), halfway between Lezhë and Krujë. After having evaded the enemy for months, Skanderbeg attacked there and defeated the Ottomans in September.

In 1461, the Sultan proposed terms of accommodation with Skanderbeg and a peace was concluded between them on June 22. In the same year, Skanderbeg launched a successful campaign against the Angevin noblemen and their allies who sought to destabilize King Ferdinand I of Naples. For his services he gained the title of Duke of San Pietro in the kingdom of Naples. After securing the Neapolitan kingdom, a crucial ally in his struggle, he returned home. In 1464 Skanderbeg fought and defeated Ballaban Badera, an Albanian renegade who had captured a large number of Albanian army commanders,John Musachi, 1515, " [ Brief Chronicle on the Descendants of our Musachi Dynasty] "] including Moisi Arianit Golemi, a cavalry commander; Vladan Giurica, the chief army quartermaster; Muzaka of Angelina, a nephew of Skanderbeg, and 18 other noblemen and army captains. These men were sent immediately to Istanbul and tortured for fifteen days. Skanderbeg’s pleas to have these men back, by either ransom or prisoner exchange, failed.

In 1466 Sultan Mehmed II personally led an army into Albania and laid siege to Krujë as his father had attempted sixteen years earlier. The town was defended by a garrison of 4,400 men, led by Prince Tanush Topia. After several months, Mehmed, like Murad II, saw that seizing Krujë by force of arms was impossible for him to accomplish. Shamed, he left the siege to return to Istanbul. However, he left a force of 40,000 men under Ballaban Pasha to maintain the siege, even building a castle in central Albania, which he named "El-basan" (the modern Elbasan), to support the siege. Durrës would be the next target of the sultan, in order to be used as a strong base opposite the Italian coast.cite book|first=Franz|last=Babinger|year=1992|title=Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time|id=ISBN 0-691-01078-1] The second siege of Kruja was eventually broken by Skanderbeg, resulting in the death of Ballaban Pasha from firearms.

A few months later in 1467, Mehmed, frustrated by his inability to subdue Albania, again led the largest army of its time into Albania. Krujë was besieged for a third time, but on a much grander scale. While a contingent kept the city and its forces pinned down, Ottoman armies came pouring in from Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Epirus with the aim of keeping the whole country surrounded, thereby strangling Skanderbeg’s supply routes and limiting his mobility. During this conflict, Skanderbeg fell ill with malaria in the Venetian-controlled city of Lezhë, and died on January 17 1468, just as the army under the leadership of Leke Dukagjini defeated the Ottoman force in Shkodër.

Papal relations

Skanderbeg's military successes evoked a good deal of interest and admiration from the Papal States, Venice, and Naples, themselves threatened by the growing Ottoman power across the Adriatic Sea. Skanderbeg managed to arrange for support in the form of money, supplies, and occasionally troops from all three states through his diplomatic skill. One of his most powerful and consistent supporters was Alfonso the Magnanimous, the king of Aragon and Naples, who decided to take Skanderbeg under his protection as a vassal in 1451, shortly after the latter had scored his second victory against Murad II. In addition to financial assistance, the King of Naples supplied the Albanian leader with troops, military equipment, and sanctuary for himself and his family if such a need should arise. As an active defender of the Christian cause in the Balkans, Skanderbeg was also closely involved with the politics of four Popes, including Pope Pius II, who hailed him as the Christian Gideon.

Profoundly shaken by the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Pius II tried to organize a new crusade against the Ottoman Turks, and to that end he did his best to come to Skanderbeg's aid, as his predecessors Pope Nicholas V and Pope Calixtus III had done before him. The latter named him captain general of the Holy See. They gave him the title "Athleta Christi", or "Champion of Christ".

After death

The Albanian resistance went on after the death of Skanderbeg for an additional ten years under the leadership of Dukagjini, though with only moderate success and no great victories. In 1478, the fourth siege of Krujë finally proved successful for the Ottomans; demoralized and severely weakened by hunger and lack of supplies from the year-long siege, the defenders surrendered to Mehmed, who had promised them to leave unharmed in exchange. As the Albanians were walking away with their families, however, the Ottomans reneged on this promise, killing the men and enslaving the women and children.

In 1479 the Ottoman forces captured the Venetian-controlled Shkodër after a fifteen-month siege.loc] Shkodër was the last Albanian castle to fall to the Ottomans and Venetians evacuated Durrës in 1501. Albanian resistance continued sporadically until around 1500.

The union which Skanderbeg had maintained in Albania did not survive him. Without Skanderbeg at their lead, their allegiances faltered and splintered until they were forced into submission. The defeats triggered a great Albanian exodus to southern Italy, especially to the kingdom of Naples, as well as to Sicily, Greece, Romania, and Egypt. Following this, most of its population was forced to convert to Islam. Albania remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912.

Effects on the Ottoman expansion

The Ottoman Empire's expansion was ground to a halt during the timeframe in which Skanderbeg and his Albanian forces resisted. He has been credited with being the main reason for delaying Ottoman expansion into Western Europe, giving the Italian city-states time to better prepare for the Ottoman arrival [ [,M1] ] . While the Albanian resistance certainly played a vital role in this, it was one piece of numerous events that played out in the mid-15th century. Much credit must also go to the successful resistance mounted by Vlad III Dracula in Wallachia, as well as the defeats inflicted upon the Ottomans by Hunyadi and his Hungarian forces.


Skanderbeg’s family, the Kastrioti Skanderbeg, [ Edward Gibbon, 1788, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 6, Skanderbeg section] were invested with a Neapolitan dukedom after the Turkish pressure became too strong. They obtained a feudal domain, the Duchy of San Pietro in Galatina and County of Soleto (Lecce, Italy). [The fall of Costantinople 1453, Cambridge University Press] Two lines of the Castriota Skanderbeg family live onwards in Southern Italy, one of which descends from Pardo and the other from Achille, both being natural sons of Duke Ferrante, son of John and Skanderbeg’s nephew. They are part of the Italian nobility and members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta with the highest rank of nobility. [ Archivio del Gran Priorato di Napoli e Sicilia del Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, Napoli] The only legitimate daughter of Duke Ferrante, Erina, born from Adriana Acquaviva, inherited the paternal estate, bringing the Duchy of Galatina and County of Soleto into the Sanseverino family after her marriage with prince Pietrantonio Sanseverino.


His names have been spelled in a number of ways: George, Gjergj, Giorgi, Giorgia, Giorgio, Castriota, Kastrioti, Castrioti,James Emerson Tennent, 1845, "The History of Modern Greece, from Its Conquest by the Romans B.C.146, to the Present Time"] Castriot,Catholic World Encyclopedia VOL. XXIII, Number 134, 1876, [ Scanderbeg entry] ] Kastriot, Skanderbeg, Skenderbeg, Scanderbeg, Skënderbeg, Skenderbeu, Scander-Begh, Skënderbej or Iskander Bey.

The name, Skanderbeg (pronounced "skander bei") has the following explanation: The name which can also be written "Skenderbeu" is the Albanian way of writing the Greek name Alexander (Skender or Skander from Turkish and Arab "Iskander") and the Turkish Bey (Lord or prince). The last name Kastrioti refers to a toponym in northern Albania called Kastrati in Dibra, where Skanderbeg was born. Because the Albanian language was not written at that time, the written and used languages were Latin and Greek. His name was Gjergj Kastrioti and "Skander Bey" was not part of his name, "Skender" was given by the Sultan and he later also gave him the "Bey" title as he was awarded by the Turkish Sultan, meaning Lord Alexander, referring to the likeness to Alexander the Great, also a great warrior. Thus his name was Gjerg Kastrioti and his title was "Lord Alexander".

eal of Skanderbeg

A seal ascribed to Skanderbeg has been kept in Denmark since it was discovered in 1634. It was bought by the National Museum in 1839. The seal is made of brass, is 6 cm in length and weighs 280 g. The inscription (laterally reversed) is in Greek and reads


Several words are abbreviated, but an English translation might be: "King. Alexander. By the grace of God. Emperor of the Romei (Romans, probably meaning Byzantine Greeks). The Great. Ruler of the Turks. Albanians. Serbs. Bulgarians.

If this seal is authentic, it indicates that George Kastrioti declared himself king, using the name Skender in its Greek form. (Greek or Latin were the customary languages for royal inscriptions in the Middle Ages.) The titles highly exaggerate his actual power, but this was often the case for Medieval rulers. Skanderbeg is apparently seen as a successor of the Byzantine emperors, as shown by the title and the double-eagled crest, during this period a symbol of Byzantine power. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD, such claims were made also by the Russian Czars.


As part of his internal policy programs, Skanderbeg issued many edicts, like census of the population and tax collection, during his reign based on Roman and Byzantine law.Fact|date=February 2007When the Ottomans found the grave of Skanderbeg in Saint Nicholas, a church in Lezhë, they opened it and made amulets of his bones, believing that these would confer bravery on the wearer.

Skanderbeg today is the national hero of Albania, a source of national pride. Many museums and monuments, such as the Skanderbeg Museum next to the castle in Krujë, have been raised in his honor around Albania and in predominantly Albanian-populated Kosovo. Skanderbeg's struggle against the Ottoman Empire became highly significant to the Albanian people, as it strengthened their solidarity, made them more conscious of their national identity, and served later as a great source of inspiration in their struggle for national unity, freedom, and independence.

Skanderbeg in literature

Skanderbeg gathered quite a posthumous reputation in Western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. With virtually all of the Balkans under Ottoman rule and with the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683, nothing could have captivated readers in the West more than an action-packed tale of heroic Christian resistance to the "Moslem hordes".

Books on the Albanian prince began to appear in Western Europe in the early 16th century. One of the earliest of these histories to have circulated in Western Europe about the heroic deeds of Skanderbeg was the "Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi, Epirotarum Princeps" (Rome ca. 1508–1510), published a mere four decades after Skanderbeg's death. This "History of the life and deeds of Scanderbeg, Prince of the Epirotes" was written by the Albanian historian Marinus Barletius Scodrensis, known in Albanian as Marin Barleti, who after experiencing the Turkish occupation of his native Shkodër at firsthand, settled in Padua where he became rector of the parish church of St. Stephan. Barleti dedicates his work to Donferrante Kastrioti, Skanderbeg's grandchild, and to posterity. The book was first published in Latin and has since been translated in many languages.

The work was widely read in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was translated and/or adapted into a number of foreign language versions: German by Johann Pincianus (1533), Italian by Pietro Rocca (1554, 1560), Portuguese by Francisco D'Andrade (1567), Polish by Ciprian Bazylik (1569), French by Jaques De Lavardin, also known as Jacques de Lavardin, Seigneur du Plessis-Bourrot ("Histoire de Georges Castriot Surnomé Scanderbeg, Roy d'Albanie", 1576), and Spanish by Juan Ochoa de la Salde (1582). The English version, translated from the French of Jaques De Lavardin by one Zachary Jones Gentleman, was published at the end of the 16th century under the title, "Historie of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albinie; containing his Famous Actes, his Noble Deedes of Armes and Memorable Victories against the Turkes for the Faith of Christ". Gibbon was not the first one who noticed that Barleti is sometimes inaccurate in favour of his hero; [see also Chalcondyles, l vii. p. 185, l. viii. p. 229] for example, Barleti claims that the Sultan was killed by disease under the walls of Kruje. [Gibbon, ibid, [ note 42] ]

Skanderbeg's posthumous fame was not confined to his own country. Voltaire starts his chapter "The Taking of Constantinople" with the phrase

A number of poets and composers have also drawn inspiration from his military career. The French 16th century poet Ronsard wrote a poem about him, as did the 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863, ""] Antonio Vivaldi composed an opera entitled "Scanderbeg" [] . For Gibbon, "John Huniades and Scanderbeg... are both entitled to our notice, since their occupation of the Ottoman arms delayed the ruin of the Greek empire."

In 1855, Camille Paganel wrote "Histoire de Scanderbeg", inspired by the Crimean War.

In the lengthy poetic tale Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812–1819), which Byron had begun writing while in Albania, Scanderbeg and his warrior nation are described in the following terms:

Canto II, LXV.George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania. [La personnalité, la pensée, l'oeuvre littéraire. (Didier, Paris 1963) 463 pp]

Monuments outside Albania

*The palace in Rome in which Skanderbeg resided in 1465–66 still bears his name. A statue in the city is dedicated to him. The square where the statue resides is named "Piazza Albania".
*In 2006, a statue of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg was unveiled on the grounds of St. Paul's Albanian Catholic Community in Rochester Hills, Michigan, the first Skanderbeg statue in the United States. [cite web
url =
title = Welcoming Skanderbeg — Cd. Maida, Albanian president unveil statue of Albanian hero
last = Delaney
first = Robert
date = Date|2006-09-29
work = The Michigan Catholic
publisher = Archdiocese of Detroit
*Monuments or statues of Skanderbeg have also been erected in: Skopje, Debar, Priština, Geneva, and various locales throughout southern Italy where the Arberesh community dominates.Fact|date=February 2007

List of Skanderbeg's battles

Skanderbeg fought 25 battles and 24 of them ended with victory. The one loss was a battle in Berat.
*Siege of Petrela
*Siege of Stelluzi
*Siege of Sfetigrad
*Battle of Vaikal
*Battle of the Drin
*Battle of Oronik
*Battle of Mokra (Dibër)
*Battle of Lower Dibra
*Battle of Ujebardha
*Battle of Kumaniv
*Battle of Pollog I
*Battle of Pollog II
*Battle of Ohër
*Siege of Berat
*First Siege of Krujë
*Second Siege of Krujë
*Third Siege of Krujë

See also

*Arms of Skanderbeg
*History of Albania
*History of Ottoman Empire




*A. Laporta, "La Vita di Scanderbeg di Paolo Angelo (Venezia 1539), un libro anonimo restituito al suo autore", Congedo (2004), ISBN 8880865714.

= Additional sources =
*Adapted from Fan S. Noli's biography "George Castrioti Scanderbeg"

External links

* [ I Castriota Scanderbeg] it icon
* [ Scanderbeg's expedition to Italy]
* [ Heraldic Source on Scanderbeg]
* [ A Brief History of Albania]
* Benjamin Disraeli, 1833, " [ The Rise of Iskander] ", (Note this is historical fiction)
* [ Analysis of literature on Scanderbeg]
* [ Scanderbeg: Warrior-King of Albania] — trailer of a documentary

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