Heir of Skanderbeg!

by wjw on September 15, 2009

So it turns out that my wife, at least on her mom’s side, is a descendant of Albanian patriots and heroes. Who knew?

The person who knew was her cousin Jan, who was one of our dinner guests the other night, and who brought with her a history of the Italian Albanians, otherwise known as the “Arberesh.”

During the 15th Century, Albania was preserved as a territory by the great hero Skanderbeg (short for Iskander Bey, Turkish for “Lord Alexander”), whose real name was actually Gjergi Kastrioti. During a truce with the Turks, Skanderbeg sent Albanian troops to Italy in 1448, and to Sicily in 1450, to help King Alfonso suppress rebellions. The troops arrived with their families and stayed behind in military colonies, twelve towns in the mountains around Naples and three towns near Palermo.

In 1461 Skanderbeg arrived in person to help Alfonso’s bastard son Ferdinand against rebels, and the troops were given another ten villages in which to settle. Skanderbeg had to dash home to fight the Turks, but died of malaria. Albania was gradually conquered over the period of a couple decades, resulting in many Albanians fleeing to their Italian villages. Further reinforcements came from the Peloponnese (known in that time as “the Morea”), which fell to the Turks after 1500. The Greek element were gradually absorbed by the Arberesh.

The Albanian identity is preserved in these villages, which continued to provide soldiers to Neapolitan and Venetian armies through the Napoleonic wars. The villages continue to speak Albanian rather than Italian.

Apparently Kathy’s ancestors came from San Costantino Albanese, which is somewhere near Naples.

Maybe she’s a descendant of Skanderbeg. Maybe she can return to the motherland and bring peace and prosperity to her people. (They could use some rational management, that’s for sure.)
Foxessa September 16, 2009 at 12:30 am

All of it, including Kathy's connection, is interesting! Thanks.

Um, would Kastrioti have anything to do with the castrati?

Probably not.

Love, C.

dubjay September 16, 2009 at 1:17 am

Probably not. "Kastrioti" was a noble Albanian family, and "Castrioti" seems to be a fairly common Italian name. I doubt anyone with that many descendants was lacking any of his parts.

dubjay September 16, 2009 at 1:24 am

A further check reveals that Kathy's ancestor's home village, San Constantino Albanese, is known to its own inhabitants as Shen Kostandini.

Anonymous September 16, 2009 at 3:11 am

For another, more troubling take on Skanderberg'line, see Edward Whittemore's wonderful "Jerusalem Quartet".
Jean-Daniel Brèque

dubjay September 16, 2009 at 3:40 am

People keep telling me to read the Jerusalem Quartet, and I have the books here waiting, but every time I start, something happens to interrupt me.

I think I no longer have the liesure to read a four-book series in one go.

Anonymous September 16, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Hmm. I wouldn't advise reading the Quartet in one sitting.
To help you, here is a timeline:
But you'd better read at least the first book before you try to make sense of Whittemore Time.

Ralf the Dog September 16, 2009 at 5:59 pm

"I doubt anyone with that many descendants was lacking any of his parts."

The "Kastrioti" could be the snippers not the sniped.

Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm

KASTRIOTI derives from Romans military words "castrum" and "castra", which is assumed to have taken from Ethrusts.

Today this word you find in different countries and languages as Caster, Castro, Castra, Castle (eg. Newcastle), Chester (eg Manchester).

As for hundred other words I am not clear did Albanians imported or have this word in their native language (Albanian Geg dialect is a gem of World heritage, heavily ignored by scientists), or had it -exported it – lost it – imported later in new version.

While "Castrati" were initially called the kids that were castrated by the Church, to become future male singers of the Church by female voice.

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