Byzantium and the Medieval Period

Goth invaders raided the lands that became Albania throughout the early Medieval period. Over the course of centuries these raids weakened the Byzantine hold on the land, and the province became susceptible to rebellions and secessions. Thus, the Medieval history of modern day Albania is complex, as different areas of the former Roman province reacted differently to the knotted political climate of the Middle Ages.



In the ninth century, the eastern part of Albania came under the rule of the First Bulgarian Empire and remained so until the Bulgarians were reconquered by the Byzantines in the tenth century. Similarly, a different part of the country came under the rule of Charles of Anjou King of Sicily in 1258. Charles’s conquest of the region, and subsequent reorganization of it in 1272, led to the development of the Kingdom of Albania, the first recorded use of the word Albania. Though both regions were later reconquered and reincorporated into the Byzantine Empire, these different political entities demonstrate the difficulty the ancient Empire had in controlling the remotest areas of its domain. 

As Byzantine influence over the region continued to weaken, most of modern day Albania came under control of the Serbian Empire. The Serbian Empire in the region dissolved over the course of a century into the Albanian principalities, a military alliance of feudal lords in the region. This military alliance arose around the time the Ottoman Empire was expanding into southeastern Europe. 



Under the leadership of George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, an Albanian national hero, the Albanians resisted the advance of the Ottomans for over 25 years. Backed financially by the kingdoms of Hungary, Naples, and Venice, Skanderbeg led the Albanians—routinely winning battle after battle against the better equipped and superior forces of the Ottoman Empire. He garnered renown throughout Europe and came to be seen as an example of the prototypical Christian ruler. Skanderbeg’s death, following prolonged illness with malaria, in 1468 at the age of 62 marked the end of significant Albanian resistance to the Ottoman Empire. Less than a decade later, after the Siege of Shkodra in 1478, modern Albania came completely under Ottoman rule. However, despite his failure to keep the Ottomans out of Albania, Skanderbeg’s efforts led to increased solidarity and national identity in Albania.