In 1258, the Sicilians took possession of the island of Corfu and the Albanian coast, from Dyrrhachium to Valona and Buthrotum and as far inland as Berat. This gave Manfred a strategically vital beachhead in the Balkans, controlling the western terminus of the great Via Egnatia, the main overland route to Constantinople. Already in the 11th and 12th centuries, the same area had been the target of the Normans of southern Italy in their attacks on the Empire. After overthrowing Manfred, in the Treaty of Viterbo (1267) Charles secured his recognition as Manfred’s heir. In 1272, the Latin notables who had held the fortresses of Valona, Kanina, and Berat for Manfred surrendered them to Charles, and soon afterwards Charles’s troops took Dyrrhachium too. Having secured the support of many Albanian chieftains, Charles proclaimed the establishment of the Kingdom of Albania in the same year.
Michael VIII countered the emerging threat by a diplomatic mission to the Papacy, which in the Second Council of Lyon (1274) agreed to the union of the Orthodox and Catholic churches, estranged after the Great Schism of 1054, and thereby placed Michael and his empire under papal protection. Taking advantage of Charles’s entanglement in the conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy, in spring 1274 Michael launched an attack against Angevin holdings in Albania. Berat and Buthrotum were taken and Charles’s troops were pushed back from the hinterland to the two ports of Valona and Dyrrhachium. Although these were assaulted several times in 1274–1275, they remained in Angevin hands.
By 1279 however, Charles had established his control not only over the Latin states of Greece (after 1278 he was the Prince of Achaea), but also received the submission and vassalage of Nikephoros I, Despot of Epirus. In August 1279, in preparation for resuming his offensive against Michael along the Via Egnatia, Charles appointed as his vicar-general in Albania the Burgundian Hugo de Sully. Over the next year, Sully received a steady flow of supplies, siege equipment and reinforcements.
Meanwhile, the siege of Berat continued through the winter of 1280/1281. By early December, the Angevin forces had seized a number of outlying forts around the city and penetrated its suburbs. Charles, however, remained anxious to take the city before the Byzantine relief force arrived. He ordered his governors in Albania to direct all their resources towards the siege, and displayed his close interest by a series of letters to Sully, instructing him to take the city by assault if necessary. The Byzantine force advanced cautiously, and arrived in the area in early spring 1281. The megas domestikos Tarchaneiotes avoided a direct confrontation and relied on ambushes and raids instead. He also managed to resupply the besieged fortress with provisions, which were loaded onto rafts and then left to float down the river Osum which flows by the citadel.
The besiegers became aware of this, and, unlike the Byzantines, the Angevin commanders were eager for a decisive confrontation. At this point, Sully resolved to reconnoitre the area personally, accompanied only by a bodyguard of 25 men. As he approached the Byzantine camp, he fell into an ambush by Turkish mercenaries serving in the Byzantine army. The Turks attacked the small troop, killed Sully’s horse, scattered his guard, and captured him. A few of Sully’s guards escaped and reached their camp, where they reported his capture. Panic spread among the Angevin troops at this news, and they began to flee towards Valona. The Byzantines took advantage of their disordered flight and attacked, joined by the troops in the besieged citadel. Many Latins fell, many others were captured as the Byzantines aimed their arrows at the less well-protected horses of the Latin knights, unhorsing them. The Byzantines also took an enormous booty, including all the numerous siege machines. Only a small remnant managed to cross the river Vjosë and reach the safety of Kanina.
- Fine 1994, pp. 156–170, 184–194; Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 47ff., 139ff., 189–190.
- Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 49–50, 235; Setton 1976, pp. 81, 109–110.
- Fine 1994, pp. 184–185; Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 233–234.
- Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 279–280; Nicol 1993, p. 58; Fine 1994, p. 187.
- Nicol 1993, p. 63; Fine 1994, pp. 185–186.
- Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 329–330; Setton 1976, pp. 135–136.
- Setton 1976, pp. 135–136; Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 330–331; Nicol 1993, p. 65.
- Nicol 1993, p. 65; Geanakoplos 1959, p. 331.
- Setton 1976, pp. 136–137; Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 331–332.
- Geanakoplos 1959, p. 332; Nicol 1993, pp. 65–66.
- Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 332–333; Nicol 1993, p. 66; Setton 1976, p. 137.
- Setton 1976, p. 137; Geanakoplos 1959, p. 333.
- Nicol 1993, p. 66; Setton 1976, p. 137; Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 333–334.
- Geanakoplos 1959, p. 334; Nicol 1993, pp. 66–67.
- Geanakoplos 1959, pp. 335ff; Setton 1976, pp. 138f
- Bartusis, Mark C. (1997). The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204–1453. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1620-2.
- Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08260-4.
- Geanakoplos, Deno John (1959). Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the West, 1258–1282 – A Study in Byzantine-Latin Relations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
- Nicol, Donald MacGillivray (1993). The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43991-4.
- Setton, Kenneth Meyer (1976). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204–1571: Volume I. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The American Philosophical Society. ISBN 0-87169-114-0.