Albanian slaves

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Albanian slaves (Alb: skllevërit Shqiptare) were the slaves of Albanian origin who were captured, purchased and sold through out the Ottoman Empire, Venice, Crete, Genoa and the Republic of Ragusa between 1300-1800s, with a declining tendency the 1880s. Although illegal, it involved children and women, but also men who became servants of local nobles. In 1380, Venice was engaged in the Albanian slave trade from Durrës, and they were charged six ducats for their passage, and if they could not pay, they worked for six years before being released.[1]

After the fall of Shkodër in 1479 Albanian refugees poured in Ragusa and the Senate made it clear that any purchasing of Albanian slaves would be severely punished.[2] Catholic slaves tended to be freed when the Rector of Ragusa found out about their origin. The Bishop of Barcelona Ramon d'Escales preached against slavery and sought the support of the local nobility in setting Albanian slaves free.[3] As the supply of Black Sea slaves dried up in the late 15th century, Italian slave traders purchased Ottoman slaves (mainly Albanians). Purchase contracts between 1390 and 1490 shows that 12 Albanian slaves were sold in Genoa.[4] In Ottoman markets, Albanian slaves were difficult to sell as there was a wide spread understanding that "an Albanian could not be made slave".[5]

In 1386, Venice ruled against the important of Albanian children who "can be sold and treated as slaves, which is done wrongly and against God and the honor of our dominions" with the justification that they were Christians.[6] In the 15th century, the Venetian crusade strategist Emmanuel Piloti considered Albanians to be worth 70-80 ducats. In 1455, Venice forbade the purchase of Albanian slaves, but in Kotor and Dubrovnik, the slavery continued with mostly young girls captured from the mountains or sold by their own families.[7]

Slaves were necessary for the Papal fleet and the Vatican was skeptical of purchasing slaves, but after some time, new laws were implemented in 1674 allowing the purchase of Albanians, among other groups, with the reason of them being schismatic and Ottoman subjets, thus, not deserving of freedom.[8]


Albanian peasants went to Venice to seek work, as a result of the plague in 1348-1350, but also the fall of Shkodër, and upon arrival, they fell to the status of a slave or servant, though some had already been bought in Albanian lands.[9] The majority of those who fled Albania to Sicily were armed and poor workers which enabled slavery. Although Ragusa welcomed Albanian workers, craftsmen and soldiers, the Albanian slavery continued into the 15th century.[10] When the Ottomans invaded Albania, thousands were captured as slaves for the Janissary corps.[11] In 1881, Ottoman authorities in Larissa liberated three Albanian slave girls hiding in the British consul who had been captured in Epirus.[12]

Reports of Albanian slaves in Venice[edit]

In 1388, there was a maid named "Menega de Durazzo", a servant of a Venetian noblewoman. In 1391, the Venetian Senate demanded payment of 250 dukats from the ruler of Pesaro for a certain "Anthonio de Duclgino" (Anthony of Ulcinj). The reason was that 3 years earlier, Anthony had transported 100 Albanians from Durrës to Venice, and the guards of the ruler had freed the slaves from the ship, and Anthony arrived in Venice with no slaves. On February 1418, Albanian slaves attacked the fortressess and suburbs of Koron and Modon and kidnapped civilians, where the pretext seems to have bene the brutal behavior of the Venetian provost Bernabo Loredan towards the Albanians. In 1421, Alexius de Tarvisio, a local of Venice, sold an Albanian 19-year-old man to a Venetian girl and the salesman reserved the right to re-purchase the slave within 15 years with the same price. In 1428, Bortalano Nicholai sold a female Albanian slave named Filippa, age 22, "de genere Albanensium", to Troilo Superancios. In 1441, Venetian reports mention an Albanian prostitute named Anjeza. In 1448, a Venetian trader applied to Paolo of Treviso for the purchasing of an Albanian 13-year-old boy named Eudoksi for the price of 32 dukats.[13]

In 1462, an Albanian slave who belonged to the Turkish commander of Athens escaped to Coron having taken 100,000 silver aspers with him. In Venice, he secured asylum at the house of the Venetian council Girolamo Vallaresso, who received some of the money.[14] The Ottomans send a delegate to Venice demanding that the money and the slave be returned, but Venice denied the request as the Albanian had converted to Christianity.[15]

Albanian slaves in Crete, Sicily and Firence[edit]

In the Venetian archies of "archivio notarile) there are reports of Albanian slaves in Crete noted by Manoli Bresciano from 1359-1388. The majority of Albanian slaves from Epirus (de partibus Despotate) were called "Greeks". Bresciano also mentions the village of "Podogo" which according to scholars may be modern day "Polog". On February 7, 1382, a noted act of merchandise mentions, in the index 6, the agreement to sell slaves from Skopje (Scofia), Debar (Debro), Ohrid (Locrido), Prishtina, Bitola and Prespa.[16]

In a document dated 1274, Charles I of Anjou of Sicily demanded from the council of Bari that the Albanian slaves be liberated, the purpose being to gain the support of the Albanian locals. In 1349, Nicolas de Lubisio sold an Albanian woman named Milika to a citizen of Camerata named Giullaume de Arcudio. In 1353, Passatutto de Gambolino de Castronuovo sold a slave to Iganzio de Auria. During the migration of Albanians to Sicily, many turned to slavery, which is supported by Milanus Kapunigru, an Albanian at the time.

In Florence, a provision of the municipality permitted the importation of slaves on March 8, 1364. Ottoman activity affected the slave traffic and financial incentives seemed to have been the main driving factor. If a slave was bought by the Ottomans from Italian or Dalmatian merchants, the slave remained as such even if he or she was Christian. Such was the case in 1421 when Benedetto di Matteo Schiro of Prato sold a 10-year-old girl from Prishtina called Milica to Florentino Giorgio, who had been previously purchased by Ragusan Nikola Glavic, who had bought the girl from an Ottoman showing that the majority of Albanian slaves came from the Ottoman activity.

Genoa, Ragusa, Spain and Egypt[edit]

Albanian slaves were present in Genoa to a lesser extent. D. Gioffré found five Albanians trafficked between 1400 and 1450, three from 1451 and 1475. In 1443, the Genoese union received a request of liberty from a slave named Sofia, an Albanian born to free parents from Ragusa. A trial was arranged and in her defense, it was emphasized that her captivity was unfair as the woman was Albanian and Catholic, which resulted in her release.

In Ragusa, there were very few Albanians who owned slaves. In 1283, a Basil Bonakose from Durrës bought from a certain Muscus Petrarius a slave named Simon de sora at a price of 8 soldes. Another case was an Albanian named Spandensia Albanensis, who in 1352 sold his daughter Donika (Dominica) to a Ragusan jeweler on the sole condition of feeding, wearing and running. The council of Ragusa decided on July 26, 1388, that Albanian slaves were to be released, but in 1416, the ban was lifted as pressure rose from neighboring princes.

In Spain, the Catalonians included slave trade from Greece who had fallen into the hands of the Great Catalan Company. In Barcelona, at the end of the 14th century, an agreement was supported by the church where all Albanian and Greek slaves were to be released. This led to a conflict between representatives and authorities, and in 1396, the conflict between the bishop of Bareclona, Ramon de Escales, and the bailiff Sabatista of the city council reached a climax. The bishops proposition was strongly opposed by the municipality as slave traders profited from slavery. King Martin of Aragon decided in 1403 that the ban of slavery would be lifted, resulting in the bailiff of Barcelona ordered that slaves hiding in the house of the Bishop were to be forced out. The Bishop responded by excommunicating the bailif. In 1413, a Barcelona trader sold a 44-year old Albanian convert. In 1458, an Albanian named Elena, aged 45, whose owner Pere Donadeu sold her to a man named Ambros Serra.

In Egypt, there were Albanian slaves as well. According to a treatise written by Emmanuel Pilot in 1420, Genoese and Christian merchants were enslaved not only by their Black Sea colonies but also from Ottomans. In Cairo, the Sultan requested slaves specialized in certain skills, such as the Tartars, who were most valuable. Albanians were worth 70 to 80 ducats.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Winnifrith, Tom (1992). Perspectives On Albania. Springer. p. 69. ISBN 9781349220502. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  2. ^ Pinelli, Paola. FROM DUBROVNIK (RAGUSA) TO FLORENCE: OBSERVATIONS ON THE RECRUITING OF DOMESTIC SERVANTS IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. Dubrovnik Annals 12 (2008): 57-7. p. 7. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  3. ^ Constantelos, Demetrios J. (1992). Poverty, Society, and Philanthropy in the Late Medieval Greek World. Aristide d Caratzas Pub. p. 111. ISBN 9780892414017. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  4. ^ McKee, Sally. Domestic Slavery in Renaissance Italy. pp. 6–7. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  5. ^ Konica, Faik (1957). Albania: The Rock Garden of Southeastern Europe, and Other Essays. VATRA. p. 99. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  6. ^ Barker, Hannah. Egyptian and Italian Merchants in the Black Sea Slave Trade, 1260-1500 (PDF). COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. pp. 23, 345. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  7. ^ Stoianovich, Traian (2015). Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe: The First and Last Europe. Routledge. p. 198. ISBN 9781317476153. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  8. ^ The role of money in wartime. Second Conference of the Museum of the Bank of Albania (PDF). Tirana. 2018. p. 102. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  9. ^ Crouzet-Pavan, Elisabeth (2005). Venice Triumphant: The Horizons of a Myth. JHU Press. p. 170. ISBN 9780801881893. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  10. ^ Muhaj, Ardian (2017). Skllavëria ndër shqiptarë gjatë Mesjetës (in Albanian). pp. 61–81. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  11. ^ Zhelyazkova, Antonina (2016). Albanian Identities (PDF). International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations (IMIR). Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  12. ^ Erdem, Y. (1996). Slavery in the Ottoman Empire and its Demise 1800-1909. Springer. p. 62. ISBN 9780230372979. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  13. ^ Muhaj, Ardian. Slavery among the Albanians during the Middle Ages. pp. 67, 68, 69, 70. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  14. ^ Setton, Kenneth Meyer (1976). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571: The fifteenth century. American Philosophical Society. p. 241. ISBN 9780871691279. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  15. ^ Duducu, Jem (2018). The Sultans: The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Rulers and Their World: A 600-Year History. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 9781445668611. Retrieved 17 November 2019.