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Siege of Berat (1450)


The Siege of Berat began July, 1455[3] at the Albanian city of Berat, when the Albanian army of Skanderbeg besieged the fortress held by Ottoman forces.

Background

When Skanderbeg began his rebellion, Berat belonged to the Albanian prince Theodore Muzaka. When in 1449 Theodore Muzaka was dying he sent for Skanderbeg to take over the castle in the name of League of Lezhë. Skanderbeg sent an Albanian detachment led by Pal Kuka, to claim the castle. In the meantime a force of Ottoman soldiers came from their garrison in Gjirokastër, quietly scaled the poorly guarded walls of Berat at night, slaughtered the Albanian garrison of about 500 soldiers, hanged the dying Theodore Muzaka and claimed the castle, while the captain Pal Kuka was later ransomed.[4] Berat was located on an important strategic position as it controlled much of southern Albania as well as the vital supply routes leading to southern Macedonia and Greece.

The Siege

Skanderbeg and his forces besieged the Ottoman-occupied castle and began pounding it with the help of the Aragonese artillery.[4] The commander of the Ottoman garrison then proposed to hand over the city if no reinforcements would come for a month.[4] Believing the situation was well in hand and that the castle would fall, Skanderbeg left with a sizable contingent of his army in the direction of Vlorë. Although he tutored his commanders, Skanderbeg could never bring them up to his level of knowledge in military affairs. His formal training and experience in Anatolia and his service with the Ottoman army proved to be valuable for the Albanian resistance against the Ottomans.

At the head of the remaining force he left Muzaka Thopia, his brother-in-law, since Berat was formerly a possession of Muzaka’s family. After a successful bombardment, the Ottoman commander of the garrison agreed to turn over the keys to the castle if the sultan had not sent reinforcements within a certain amount of time. This was a ploy to fool the Albanian forces into a false sense of security and delay any actions, giving reinforcements time to arrive.

Battle

The sultan sent an army of 20,000 troops led by Issa beg Evrenoz. The reinforcements surprised the Albanian army in mid-July, 1455. Only one Albanian commander, Vrana Konti (Kont Urani), managed to resist the initial Ottoman onslaught and pushed back several attacking waves. When Skanderbeg returned, however, the Ottoman relief force was repulsed and defeated. But the Albanians were exhausted and their numbers had dwindled to the point where the siege could not be continued.[2]

More than 5,000 of Skanderbeg’s men died, including 800 men of a 1,000-man-strong contingent of Neapolitans from Alphonso V as experts in demolition, artillery, and siege warfare.[5] The commander of the siege, Muzaka Thopia, also died during the conflict.[6]

The Aftermath

Skanderbeg himself was not at the battle, having moved southwest to inspect the routes to Vlorë and hinder a potential surprise attack from the garrison there. Upon hearing the news, he rushed back, but by the time of his arrival the battle was already over. Italian chronicles of the time describe Skanderbeg as performing feats of bravery “with sword and mace” and that many owed their life to his opportune intervention. The results at Berat were disastrous and badly crippled the Albanian resistance for a time. Berat remained in the hands of the Ottomans and was never again to be taken by the League.

References

  • Franco, Demetrio (1539), Comentario de le cose de’ Turchi, et del S. Georgio Scanderbeg, principe d’ Epyr, Venice: Altobello Salkato, ISBN 99943-1-042-9
  • Frashëri, Kristo (2002), Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu: jeta dhe vepra, 1405–1468 (in Albanian), Tiranë: Botimet Toena, ISBN 99927-1-627-4
  • Hodgkinson, Harry (1999), Scanderbeg: From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero, London: Centre for Albanian Studies, ISBN 978-1-873928-13-4
  • Noli, Fan Stylian (2009), Scanderbeg, General Books, ISBN 978-1-150-74548-5
  • Schmitt, Oliver Jens (2009), Skënderbeu, Tiranë: K&B, ISBN 978-9995666750

Sources

  1.  Matkovski, Aleksandar (1983). Otporot vo Makedonija vo vremeto na turskoto vladeenje: Buni i vostanija. Misla. p. 88. Овој голем пораз бил придружен и со предавството на Мојсеј Големи, кој поминал на страната на Турците.
  2. Demetrio Franco p. 318.
  3. Scanderbeg: From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero by Harry Hodgkinson, page 134
  4. Fan Stylian Noli, 1947
  5. Scanderbeg: A Modern Hero by Gennaro Francione, page 119
  6. Scanderbeg: From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero by Harry Hodgkinson, page 136
October 5, 2016
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