John Zenevisi

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John Zenevisi
Spouse N.N. Shpata
Titles and styles
  • conte (count)
  • sevastokrator
Noble family Zenevisi family
Born 14th century
Died 1418

John Zenevisi or Sarbissa (Italian: Giovanni Sarbissa, Albanian: Gjin Zenebishi; died 1418) was an Albanian magnate that held the estates in Epirus, such as Argyrokastro (Gjirokastër) and Vagenetia.


Zenevisi can be found with different spellings in historical documents. His name in modern English is usually John Zenevisi[1][2] or John Sarbissa.[2] In Italian, his name was spelled as Giovanni Sarbissa.[3] In Albanian, his name is mostly spelled as Gjin Zenebishi (less commonly as Zenebishti), his given name scarcely spelled Gjon, as well.


The Zenevisi family was from the Zagoria region, between Përmet and Argyrokastro (Gjirokastër).[4]

In 1381 and 1384, the Catholic lords of Arta asked the Ottoman troops for protection against the invading Albanian clan of the Zenevisi; the Ottomans routed the raiders and restored order in Epirus.[5][better source needed] Zenevisi submitted to the Ottomans after their victory against Balša II in the Battle of Savra in 1385, and gave them his son as a hostage to be sent to Edirne to the court of the sultan (this son became known as Hamza, an Ottoman official).[6] Shortly after his submission, Zenevisi revolted and seized the fortress of Gjirokastër, encouraged no doubt by the attack on Ioannina by the Albanians of Acarnania. In 1386 he titled himself with the Byzantine title of sevastokrator.[7]

Zenevisi was married with an unnamed daughter of Gjin Bua Shpata, Despot of Arta, and thus became the son-in-law of Shpata and the brother-in-law of the wife of Esau de' Buondelmonti Despot of Epiros. In 1399 Esau, supported by some Albanian clans, marched against his wife's brother-in-law John Zenevisi of Gjirokastër. Now Esau was routed and captured, and much of his land was occupied by Zenevisi. The neighboring magnates determined to restore the captured despotes and secured Venetian intercession in his favor. Esau returned to Ioannina in 1400, regaining the reign from Zenevisi.[citation needed] In 1402, Esau divorced Irene Spata and married Evdokija Balšić, the brother of Konstantin Balšić, a leading Ottoman official in northern Albania.[1] After Esau's death (February 6, 1411), his wife Evdokija tried to take control of Ioannina, but the town exiled her and appointed Esau's nephew, Carlo Tocco, as lord (he arrived on April 1, 1411).[1]

Maurice Spata and Zenevisi (who was the leader of the most powerful tribe in the vicinity of Ioannina) formed an alliance against Carlo Tocco.[1] They won an open-field battle against Tocco in 1412, but were unable to take over Ioannina.[1] Tocco relied on support from the local Greeks.[1] In 1414, Maurice Spata died,[1] and Zenevisi was defeated by the Ottomans and fled to the Venetian island of Corfu where he died in 1418.


In the same year the Ottomans, after a prolonged siege, took Gjirokastër. Zenevisi's son, Thopia Zenevisi, fled to Corfu. He landed again on the mainland and laid siege to Gjirokastër in 1434, but was killed in battle with a reinforcing Ottoman army in 1435.


  • Lord (signore) of Makasi (1382)[8]
  • sevastokrator of Vagenetia and lord of Argyrokastron and Paracalo (after 1386).[9]


Zenevisi's descendants continued to live undisturbed in the mountains of Zagoria and eventually faded into history. In 1455, a certain Simon Zenevisi, who was the lord of Kastrovillari (Castro i Vivarit near Butrint) was active at the court of the king of Naples and Aragon on behalf of Skanderbeg in order to gain back Napolitan support for his land in Albania. In 1455, Venice, the only power to support his claim, reminded him of his pledge of allegiance to the them but was not able to change his political orientation, i.e. his ties with Naples. A son of this Zenevisi was also a hostage at the court of the sultan, this time of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, but fled to Naples where King Alphonso had him baptized and made him his vassal. The fate of this Alfonso Zenevisi was to be closely linked to that of Skanderbeg.[citation needed]

Zenebishi Family[edit]

John married a daughter of Gjin Bua Shpata, whose name is unknown. They had the following children:

  • A1. Anna ("Kyrianna"), Lady of Grabossa; married Andrea III Musachi (fl. 1419)
  • A2. Maria, +after 1419; married Perotto d'Altavilla, the Baron of Corfu (+1445)
  • A3. Thopia Zenevisi ("Depas", d. 1435), Lord of Argyrokastron (1418–34), deposed by the Ottomans
    • B1. Simone Zenevisi, Lord of the Strovilo (1443–61), deposed by the Ottomans
      • C1. Alfonso (fl. 1456), an Ottoman political hostage who fled to Naples and became a Napolitan vassal
      • C2. Alessandro ("Lech"), Lord of Strovilo which he then sold to Venice in 1473
      • C3. Filippo, served Alessandro
  • A4. Hamza Zenevisi ("Amos", fl. 1456-60), an Ottoman political hostage, he was converted into Islam and entered Ottoman service. In 1460 he became a sanjakbey of the Sanjak of Mezistre.[6]
  • A5. Hasan Zenevisi, subaşi in Tetovo in 1455[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fine 1994, p. 356

    ... John (Gjin) Zenevisi ...

  2. ^ a b Elsie 2003, p. 53: "Lord John Sarbissa (Zenevisi) was lord of the town of Gjirokastra and the region of Vagenetia and Paracalo (Parakalamo)."
  3. ^ Denkschriften. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. 1869. pp. 124–. Giovanni Sarbissa 
  4. ^ Elsie, Robert (24 December 2012). A Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History. I.B.Tauris. p. 501. ISBN 978-1-78076-431-3. ZENEBISI, GHIN ( -1418) Mediaeval ruler. Ghin Zenebisi, also known as John Zenevisi and by the Albanian neologism of Gjon Zenebishti, descended from a family of the Zagoria region between Gjirokastra and Përmet. In 1380, he was given the title of sevastocrator of Vagenetia, which corresponds to the region of Chameria, now in northwestern Greece. He was also known as lord of Pyrgo and Sayada. He submitted to the Turks after the initial invasion and ... 
  5. ^ TBR 6. TBR Company. 2000. p. 41. In 1381 and 1384, the Latin feudal lords of Arta asked Muslim troops for protection against the invading Albanian Zenevisi clan from Gjirokastër. The Muslim Turkish mercenaries routed the Albanian raiders and restored order in Epirus. 
  6. ^ a b Osmanlı tarihi. Türk Tarih Kurumu. 1983. p. 62. İskender'in yeğeni olan bu Hamza Kastriyota ile yine Arnavut senyörlerinden Gin Zenibisi'nin oğlu olup Osmanlı devleti hizmetinde bulunara 1460'da Mora'da Mizistra sancakbeyliği etmiş olan Hamza Zenebisi'yi birbirine karıştır mamalıdır. 
  7. ^ Bulgarian historical review. Publishing House of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. 2003. p. 164. Due to long Byzantine rule Albanian aristocracy used titles of Byzantine titulature like despot, (Balsha and Gjin Bue Shpata), sevastocrator (Gjin Zenebishi) and comes. 
  8. ^ Carl Hermann Friedrich Johann Hopf (1873). Chroniques gréco-romanes: inédites ou peu connues, pub. avec notes et tables généalogiques. Bibliopoleion. Ghin Zene- visi, seigneur de Makasi (Ma- rasak?) 1382, Sévastocrator d'Argyrocastron 
  9. ^ Carl Hermann Friedrich Johann Hopf (1960). Geschichte Griechenlands vom Beginn des Mittelalters bis auf unsere Zeit. B. Franklin. Letzterer hatte von Helena Vre« llubowna nur zwei Töchter, von denen die eine mit Ghin Zenevisi, Sevastokrator von Vagenetia und Herrn von Argyrokastron und Parakolo, vermählt war, und Irene, die, ebenso sehr durch Muth und Tugend, ... 
Preceded by
Post created
sevastokrator of Vagenetia and
lord of Argyrokastron and Paracalo

Succeeded by
Thopia Zenevisi