Gjon Kastrioti - Life

Life

Like other noblemen from Albania, Gjon also became Ottoman vassal after 1385. In 1402 together with other Ottoman vassals from Albania he supported Bayezid I in the Battle of Ankara. Gjon Kastrioti accepted the suzerainty and was made a citizen of Venice in 1413, along with his inheritors. Kastrioti maintained good relations with Venice after becoming an Ottoman vassal between 1415 and 1417, and was not likely to endanger the relations by seizing the Cape from Venice. The Venetians tried to bribe Kastriotis and Dukagjinis to fight against the Zeta in 1419, but it seems without success.

In the period 1419—1426 Gjon was an ally of Serbian Despot Stefan Lazarević, who was also an Ottoman vassal. Lazarević had been ceded Lordship of Zeta from Balša III in 1421, but the Venetians did not recognize him, holding on to the occupied Zetan coast and Bojana, including Drivast. In August 1421, Lazarević led armies into Zeta and took Sveti Srdj, Drivast and Bar; the Venetians concluded a truce and now held only the towns of Skadar, Ulcinj and Budva; when Lazarević demanded the surrender of these towns, Venice refused and war resumed. A number of Gjon Kastrioti's Albanians led by one of his sons joined Lazarević immediately upon the arrival of the latter in Zeta. According to Fan Noli it was Stanisha who was sent by his father, together with auxiliary forces, to help Serbian despot to capture Scutari from Venetians. Lazarević besieged Scutari, probably in June 1422, and for a year, it seemed that Venice would have lost their possessions, however, supported by some local Albanians, Venice managed to break the siege in December 1422. In January 1423, Venice bribed and won over the Pamaliots on Bojana, and then bought over several tribal leader in or near Zeta: the Paštrovići, Gjon Kastrioti (who had extended to the outskirts of Alessio), the Dukagjins, and Koja Zaharija. Though none of these were mobilized militarly by Venice, they left the ranks of Lazarević's army, thus became a potential danger to Lazarević. Although Venetian admiral Francesco Bembo offered money to Kastrioti, Dukagjins and to Koja Zaharija in April 1423 to join the Venetian forces against Serbian Despotate (offering 300 ducats to Gjon Kastrioti), they refused.

From time to time one or more of Gjon's sons were sent as a hostages to Ottoman court. In 1428 Gjon Kastrioti had to seek forgiveness from the Venetian Senate because of Skanderbeg's participation in Ottoman military campaigns against Christians. At the beginning of the 15th century Šufaday (important former marketplace on the Adriatic sea, near Lezhë) was a possession of Jonima family and in 1428 it was under Gjon's control. At that time region of Šufadaj was rich with forests and the wood was transported trough its port to Ragusa.

In attempt to relieve Ottoman pressure during the Siege of Thessalonica Venice inspired Gjon to rebel against Ottomans in 1428. In April 1430, after Ottomans captured Thessalonica, they captured most of Gjon's land. Ottoman forces were led by Isak-Beg who was a sanjakbey of the Sanjak of Skopje. He positioned Ottoman garrison in two Gjon's castles and destroyed rest of them. Only small part of Gjon's former territory remained under his control.

In 1430's Gjon Kastrioti joined an unsuccessful uprising against the Ottoman Empire led by Gjergj Arianiti. Gjon was again defeated by the Ottoman forces of Isak-Beg.

Gjon died in on 4 May 1437. The territory previously controlled by Gjon Kastrioti was annexed by the Ottomans and listed in their registers as land of Yuvan-ili (Yuvan was Gjon's name on Turkish language). Until 1438 a part of Gjon Kastrioti's estates comprising nine villages was awarded to Skanderbeg as his timar and in May 1438 those nine villages had been awarded to André Karlo. The granting of these villages to André Karlo must have upset Skanderbeg who requested to be granted with control over the zeamet in Misia consisting of his father's former domain. Sanjakbey (probably of the Sanjak of Ohrid) objected Skanderbeg's request.

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