John Spata


John Spata (Albanian: Gjin Bua Shpata)[a] (fl. 1358 – 29 October 1399) was an Albanian ruler in western Greece with the title of Despot. Together with Peter Losha, he led raids into Epirus, Acarnania and Aetolia in 1358. He was recognized as Despot by titular Eastern Roman Emperor in the early 1360s and ruled Aetolia (1360s–?), Angelokastron (?–1399), Naupactus (1378–99), and Arta (1370s–99).

Gjin Bua Shpata
BornFirst half of the 14th century
Died29 October 1399 (1399-10-30)
Noble familySpata family
Despotate of Arta, c. 1390


The word spata, in Albanian shpatë, pl. shpata, 'sword'.[1] According to Orel (1998), the word was borrowed from Latin spāta.[2] Hammond thus believes that he was called "John the Sword".[3]


Karl Hopf's genealogy of the Spata family is "altogether inaccurate";[4] according to it, his father was Pietro, the lord of Angelokastron and Delvina (1354)[5] during the reign of Serbian emperor Stefan Dušan (r. 1331–55). It is known that Spata had a brother, Sgouros Spata.

In 1358, some Albanian commanders overran Epirus, Acarnania and Aetolia, and subsequently established two principalities under their leaders, John Spata and Peter Losha.[6]

Nikephoros II Orsini launched a campaign against the invading Albanians,[7] and also faced with the threat of Radoslav Hlapen to the north, he negotiated with Simeon Uroš, presumably to prevent Simeon's Albanian allies from supporting the Albanians in Epirus.[7] The negotiations were thwarted by Nikephoros' death fighting the Albanians at Acheloos (1359).[8]

Map detail of magnate provinces in c. 1360.

In 1360, Simeon Uroš, the titular Serbian Emperor, in an attempt to avoid conflict with the Albanians and as an acknowledgment of their military strength decided to the leave the areas of Arta and Aetolia to Shpata and Losha.[9][10]

The Despot of Ioannina, Thomas Preljubović, had betrothed his daughter to Losha's son in 1370, satisfying the Albanians and ending the conflict between them.[11] In 1374, however, Peter Losha died of the plague in Arta, after which John Spata took the city. At this time he was not bound by agreement to Thomas, and so he laid siege to Ioannina and ravaged the countryside by defeating the forces of Preljubovic. Thomas brought peace when he betrothed his sister Helena to John Spata the following year.[11] Attacks on Ioannina continued, however, by the Malakasioi, who didn't succeed to take Ioannina in 1377 and 1379.This tribe acted independently and nor under the order of Spata.[11]

In 1376 or 1377, Spata conquered Nafpaktos; by this time he controlled Arta and much of southern Epirus and Acarnania.[12] The Achaean Knights Hospitallers of Juan Fernández de Heredia began their invasion of Epirus, moving onto John Spata, capturing Nafpaktos, and then Vonitsa in Acarnania (April 1378). However, Spata managed to capture to defeat and capture Heredia as a hostage, ending their campaign; he was again master of Nafpaktos by 1380.[12] In May 1379, John Spata again devastated the countryside of Ioannina.[13]

In 1380, Thomas made an offensive with the help of Turks reaching up to the upper Kalamas River, where however, the Albanians, in particular the tribe of Mazaraki held their defensive position and defeated again Thomas.[14]

In 1385 Thomas Preljubović was killed by some of his bodyguards.[1] John attacked Ioannina, but was unsuccessful in cracking the defense set up by Esau de' Buondelmonti.[15] The two made peace, but soon returned to conflict.[15] In 1386, Esau gained Ottoman military help.[15] The Ottomans were, after the Battle of Kosovo (1389), unable to assist Esau, thus, the Albanians seized the opportunity and raided the environs of Ioannina in the summer by defeating Esau and forcing him to stay inside the city.[15] The Malakasioi then raided into the territory, after which they concluded alliance with Spata.[15] Esau then allied himself with the caesar of Thessaly (either Alexios Angelos or Manuel), who defeated the Albanians, presumablythe Malakasioi, later that year, but not Spata.[15]

In January 1396, Esau married John Spata's only daughter, Irene.[15] The marriage was part of a deal which the archons of Ioannina enforced on Esau in order to make peace with the Albanians.[16]

Spata died on 29 October 1399, under the continuous pressure of Tocco. John Spata's son would become the next despot of Epirus and Aetolia for the next decade.


The Albanian academic Gjergji Shuka distinguished the origin of some South Slavic (Jovan i divski starešina, Marko Kraljević i Đemo Brđanin, Jana i Detelin voyvoda) and Albanian and legends and epic songs, such as Zuku Bajraktar, Dedalia dhe Katallani, Çika e plakut Emin agë vret në duel Baloze Delinë, and in the poem regarding Spata and the battle of Arta in 1378. The two enemies of John, Juan Fernández de Heredia and queen Joanna I of Naples, are remembered in Balkan collective memory.[17]


Possessions of Spata.


His genealogical tree is not well documented. It was first outlined by Karl Hopf in his Chroniques Greco-Romanes (p. 531) and by K. Sathas in the 19th century but a newer study finds that those works have many mistakes and gaps.[18] Hopf's genealogy of the Spata family is "altogether inaccurate".[19]

G. Schiró studied the genealogy of Spata based on the original sources, i.e. the "Chronicle of Ioannina" and the "Chronicle of Tocco", but also on the Venetian archives. He proposed that Pietro Bua had not only three sons but four and that John had only daughters. His daughter Irene married three times. He believes that the family was extinct with the death of Yaqub in 1416. Other people, mainly condottieri, with the name "Bua" are not blood relatives of this family but this name was used by many as first name since it became famous.[20]

He was married to a woman who is unknown in historical record.[21] He had an only daughter, Irene who was married (before April 1381 ) to a Marchesano of Naples, Morean baron, baillie of Achaea[22] and Esau de' Buondelmonti in 1396.[19] Esau was the Despot of Ioannina.

Among his grandchildren were brothers Maurice Spata and Yaqub Spata, claimed to have been sons of Eirene.


  1. ^
    In modern Albanian historiography[citation needed], his name is spelt Gjin Shpata or Gjin Bua Shpata, the latter being incorrect as the Spata and later Bua family were not kin (blood relatives).[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Hammond 1976, p. 59.
  2. ^ Orel 1998, p. 428.
  3. ^ Hammond 1976, p. 62.
  4. ^ Anthony Luttrell (1982). Latin and Greece: The Hospitallers and the Crusades, 1291-1440. Ashgate Publishing, Limited. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-86078-106-6.
  5. ^ Istituto di studi bizantini e neoellenici 1968, p. 69.
  6. ^ Hammond, 1976 & ps:It was in this period that the flow of immigrants from the northwestern area began (see Maps 11-13). It became a flood in the fourteenth century. They went as mercenaries, raiders and migrants. The great majority of them were speakers of Albanian, but others joined the movement. Thus the Vlach-speaking Malakasii, who invaded Thessaly in 1334 were described as 'Albanoi' by Cantacuzenus 1.474 no less than the evidently Albanian speaking 'Albanensium gens' which raided Thessaly in 1325. (..) In 1358 the Albanians overran Epirus, Acarnania and Aetolia, and established two principalities under their leaders, John Spatas (shpate in Albanian meaning a sword) and Peter Leosas (lios in Albanian meaning a pockmark), Naupactus fell into their control in 1378., p. 59.
  7. ^ a b Fine 1994, p. 348.
  8. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 348–349.
  9. ^ Nicol 2010, pp. 142, 146–169.
  10. ^ Sansaridou-Hendrickx, 2017 & ps:In 1360, avoiding con:ftict with the Albanian forces and admitting thus their military superiority, Symeon Uros left in their hands Aetolia, which was divided between two rulers belanging to theAlbanian race (genos), namely Gjin Bouas Spatas, who became Despot of Acheloos and Angelokastron, and Peter Liosas who was made Despot of Arta, Rogoi and the region of Amphilochia, p. 292.
  11. ^ a b c Nicol 1984, p. 146.
  12. ^ a b Fine 1994, p. 401.
  13. ^ Nicol 1984, p. 147.
  14. ^ Hammond, 1976 & ps:The Albanians and in particular the Mazarakii of the Kalamas valley held firm against him. In 1385 he was assassinated by some of his own bodyguards (Epeirotica 2.230), p. 59.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Fine 1994, p. 355.
  16. ^ Sansaridou-Hendrickx, 2017 & ps:Esau, who under the pressure of his archontes and the prelate of Ioannina in order to mak.e peace with the Albanians, got engaged to the daugbter ofGjin Bouas Spatas, Irene, wbom he married in January 1396, p. 290.
  17. ^ Shuka, Gjergji, "Tridhjetë këngë dhe legjenda ballkanike: Studim mbi origjinën historike", Botimet Naimi, Tiranë, 2015, pp. 19-110
  18. ^ Schiró Giuseppe, La genealogia degli Spata tra il XIV e XV sec. e due Bua sconosciouti, Rivista di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici, Universita di Roma, Roma, 1971-1972, pp. 67-85.
  19. ^ a b Anthony Luttrell (1982). Latin and Greece: The Hospitallers and the Crusades, 1291-1440. Ashgate Publishing, Limited. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-86078-106-6.
  20. ^ Schiró G. p. 81
  21. ^ Sansaridou-Hendrickx 2017, p. 299.
  22. ^ Nicol 1984, p. 148.
  23. ^ Schirò, Giuseppe; Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (1975). Chronikon tōn Tokkōn tēs Kephallēnias. Rome: Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. p. 81.


  • Sansaridou-Hendrickx, Thekla (2017). "The Albanians in the Chronicle(s) of Ioannina: An Anthropological Approach". Acta Patristica et Byzantina. 21 (2): 287–306. doi:10.1080/10226486.2010.11879131. S2CID 163742869.
  • Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994) [1987]. The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08260-4.
  • Hammond, Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière (1976). Migrations and invasions in Greece and adjacent areas. Noyes Press. ISBN 978-0-8155-5047-1.
  • Istituto di studi bizantini e neoellenici (1968). Rivista di studi bizantini e neoellenici. Vol. 5–9, 15–19. Istituto di studi bizantini e neoellenici, Università di Roma.
  • Nicol, Donald MacGillivray (1984). The Despotate of Epiros 1267–1479: A Contribution to the History of Greece in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-13089-9.
  • Orel, Vladimir (1998). Albanian etymological dictionary. Brill. ISBN 9004110240.
Preceded by
Post created
Despot of Angelokastron and Lepanto
Succeeded by
Post abolished
Preceded by Despot of Arta
Succeeded by