George Castriota Scanderbeg
Gjergj Kastrioti (1405 January 17, 1468), better known as Scanderbeg, was an Albanian prince who united the Albanian tribes of Epirus , Albania and a Slavic tribe from Montenegro in resisting the expanding Ottoman Empire for 25 years. Today he's considered a national hero of Albania.
Obliged by the Ottomans to pay tribute to the Empire, and to ensure the fidelity of local rulers, Gjon Kastrioti's sons were taken by the Sultan to his court as hostages. In 1423, Gjergj Kastrioti and his three brothers were taken by the Turks. He attended military school and led many battles for the Ottoman Empire. He was awarded for his military victories with the title Iskander Bey (Albanian transliteration: Skenderbeu, English transliteration: Scanderbeg, In Turkish this title means Lord or Prince Alexander, in honor of Alexander the Great). Scanderbeg soon switched sides and came back to his native land to successfully defend Albania against the Ottoman Empire until the time of his death.
Gjergj Kastriot's Legacy
After his death from natural causes in 1468 in Lezhe, his soldiers resisted the Turks for the next 12 years. In 1480 Albania was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire. When the Turks found the grave of Scanderbeg in Saint Nicholas church of Lezhe, they opened it and held his bones like talismans for luck. The same year, they invaded Italy and conquered the city of Otranto. Scanderbeg's posthumous fame was not confined to his own country. Voltaire thought the Byzantine Empire would have survived had it possessed a leader of his quality. A number of poets and composers have also drawn inspiration from his military career. The French sixteenth-century poet Ronsard wrote a poem about him, as did the nineteenth-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Antonio Vivaldi composed an opera entitled Scanderbeg. Scanderbeg today is the National Hero of Albania. Many museums and monuments are raised in his honor around Albania, among them the Scanderbeg Museum next to the castle in Kruje. Scanderbeg is founder of Castriota Scanderbeg family which is today part of Italian nobility.
Seal of Scanderbeg
A seal ascribed to Scanderbeg 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:ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ.ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ.ΕΛΕΩ.ΘΥ. ΑΥΤ.ΡΩΜ.ΟΜΕΓ. ΑΥΘ.ΤΟΥΡ.ΑΛΒ. ΣΕΡΒΙ.ΒΟΥΛΓΑΡΙ.
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. Scanderbeg 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.
Success in the Ottoman army
He earned distinction as an officer in several Ottoman campaigns both in Asia Minor and in Europe, and the Sultan appointed him to the rank of General. He fought against Greeks, Serbs and Hungarians, and he maintained secret links with Ragusa, Venice, Ladislaus V of Hungary, and Alfonso I of Naples.
Fighting for the freedom of Albania
In 1443, Scanderbeg saw his opportunity to rebel during the battle against the Hungarians led by John Hunyadi in Nis. He switched sides along with other Albanians serving in the Ottoman army, leading an Albanian resistance. He eventually captured Kruje, his father's seat in Middle Albania, and he raised the Albanian flag above the castle.
Scanderbeg'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. Scanderbeg managed to arrange for support in the form of money, supplies, and occasionally troops from all three states through his diplomatic skill.
The Castriota Family
The Kastrioti or Castriota family, of Albanian origin, begins with certainty with John Castriota, lord of Mat and Vumenestia, who died in 1443. He resisted Turkish attempts at conquering the Albanian region. At one point, he had to give his four sons as hostage to the Turks.
I have not brought you liberty, I found it here, among you. - Scanderbeg