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The ethnic composition of medieval Epirus. 
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Old 04-29-2011, 08:25 PM   Post #1
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Default The ethnic composition of medieval Epirus.

Τοσοῦτον δ’ἀπολέλοιπεν ἡ πόλις ἡμῶν περὶ τὸ φρονεῖν καὶ λέγειν τοὺς ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους, ὥσθ’ οἱταύτης μαθηταὶ τῶν ἄλλων διδάσκαλοι γεγόνασιν, καὶ τὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὄνομα πεποίηκεν μηκέτιτοῦ γένους, ἀλλὰ τῆς διανοίας δοκεῖν εἶναι, καὶ μᾶλλον Ἕλληνας καλεῖσθαι τοὺς τῆς παιδεύσεωςτῆς ἡμετέρας ἢ τοὺς τῆς κοινῆς φύσεως μετέχοντας.

[So far has our city surpassed the rest of mankind in thought and speech, that her pupils have become the teachers of others, and she has brought it about that the name ‘Greek’ no longer connotes the race but the mental attitude, and men are called ‘Greeks’ when they share our education rather than merely our common blood]. Isocrates, Panegyric, §50
Medieval Epirus was the melting pot of many migratory influxes, whether Slav, Vlach,Jewish, Albanian or Italian. Some Greek refugees also found asylum in this province during hard times. The best documented period is that from 1200 onwards. During the last three centuries of the middle ages, we see a sense of coexistence developing between the various nationalities which was not always pacific. Ideas of nationality, however,were different then from now, and we may also observe that the different military conflicts of the period were not ethnic ones. The Greeks despised some of the other groups, but this was mainly for social reasons. At the least, we may say that armies and aristoc-racies – those fields which we know best, thanks to our sources – were predominantly mixed.
F.e. the Epirote-Italian contacts :

The Italian contacts between Epirus and Italy were ancient and strong, since Italy, or at least part of it, was a province of the Byzantine until the mid-10th century. The relationship then continued at different levels, one of the most important being the artistic links between them. But, focusing on the Italians who settled in Epirus, we must first mention the Normans, who, after their installation in Sicily and southern Italy, quickly tried to invade the Balkan Peninsula, capturing Ioannina in 1082. Some of them passed to the service of the Byzantine emperor and were integrated into the Byzantine aristocracy, since the cultural gap between Greeks and Latins was still thin enough. That is why Theodora Petraliphas, wife of Despot Michael II and descendant of Peter of Alifa, Norman chief of the expedition of 1082, was not considered a foreigner, and after her death she was revered as Saint Theodora, and became protector of the city of Arta.

The Normans again attacked the region in the late 12th century: in 1185, the Ionian Islands were annexed, while Ioannina was pillaged. Later, Manfred Staufen, king of Sicily and heir of the Normans, landed in 1257 and took several places on the mainland, and then his Angevin successors alternatively took and lost different strongholds on the coast, mainly in the north, at Valona and Butrinto, and in the south, almost all Etolia and Acarnania (Naupaktos, Vonitsa, Angelokastron and Agrinio). The Angevins finally failed to annex Epirus, but their vassal, Nicholas Orsini, count of Cephalonia, became the first became Despot in 1318, but he was to lose power as he had taken it: his brother John assassinated him and become Despot in 1323, ruling until his death in 1336/37. But if the father of Nicholas and John was Italian, their mother was Greek and they lived in Greece all their lives, so were familiar with Byzantine traditions and easily assimilated: they became Orthodox, renouncing their loyalty to the Kingdom of Naples. Our sources do not mention any massive Italian immigration in Epirus during their rule.

The case of Carlo Tocco and his successors is better documented, and we know more about the Italians who followed them into Epirus. Carlo was also count of Cephalonia, and his country was the base for expansion on the mainland, which he undertook in order to stop Albanian raids on his island of Lefkas. Because of his successes against the Albanians, Ioannina chose him as the city's Despot, and he then became master of all Epirus. But he and his successors never solved the political links with the Kingdom of Naples. Their state nevertheless was not wholly under Italian domination, and there was no massive immigration. The authority of the Tocco was not uniform all over Epirus. In Ioannina, a city which called them to be their Despots, and in the north of Epirus, the Tocco were not really powerful and we know of few Italians in this region. In Etolia and Acarnania, which they conquered military, their authority was stronger: many Italians came and settled there. They were relatives of the dynasty, military officers, aristocrats who received properties, but also administrators, notaries, and merchants. They constituted a kind of elite built up by the Tocco to help them organize their state. Italian soldiers, whose number is impossible to determine, are also reported among the Tocco troops, but also among those of the Albanian Despot of Arta, Gjin Spata. There is, by contrast, no trace of Italian peasant settlement. The progressive Ottoman conquest and the subsequent destruction of the Tocco State (Ioannina in 1430, Arta in 1449, Angelokastron in 1460, Vonitsa in 1479) perhaps prompted an exodus of their servant. Unfortunately, we know little about their matrimonial habits, nor whether they stayed in Epirus.

The Venetians dominated commerce, exchanging merchandise in the different harbours of the Ionian Islands and of Epirus. At least as early as the time of Emperor Manuel Komnenos (1143-1180), they had the right to travel for commercial purposes in Epirus and to have specific buildings in some unknown town of Epirus: these rights were confirmed by Michael I of Epirus in 1210. Despite their sometimes difficult relationship with the political authorities of Epirus, their activitiy continued throughout the middle ages, and even beyond. Their need for security nevertheless led them to seize (1401) and Naupaktos (1407). They shaped the economy of the region, but probably rarely ventured to the mainland. A lot of Greeks and Albanians emigrated to Italy through their territories, but there was no migratory movement from Venice to Epirus, except to the Venetian strongholds.

The Italian powers were therefore visible in Epirus, mostly in the last three medieval centuries, and many Italians went there to make a career in this territory that was seen as something like a colony, but not in sufficient numbers to influence predominantly the demographic composition of Epirus.
Ellis & Klusáková (2007)

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