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
|Born||First half of the 14th century|
|Died||29 October 1399|
|Noble family||Spata family|
Karl Hopf's genealogy of the Spata family is "altogether inaccurate"; according to it, his father was Pietro, the lord of Angelokastron and Delvina (1354) during the reign of Serbian emperor Stefan Dušan (r. 1331–55). It is known that Spata had a brother, Sgouros Spata.
Nikephoros II Orsini launched a campaign against the invading Albanians, 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. The negotiations were thwarted by Nikephoros' death fighting the Albanians at Acheloos (1359).
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.
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. 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. 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.
In 1376 or 1377, Spata conquered Nafpaktos; by this time he controlled Arta and much of southern Epirus and Acarnania. 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. In May 1379, John Spata again devastated the countryside of Ioannina.
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.
In 1385 Thomas Preljubović was killed by some of his bodyguards. John attacked Ioannina, but was unsuccessful in cracking the defense set up by Esau de' Buondelmonti. The two made peace, but soon returned to conflict. In 1386, Esau gained Ottoman military help. 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. The Malakasioi then raided into the territory, after which they concluded alliance with Spata. 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.
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.
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. Hopf's genealogy of the Spata family is "altogether inaccurate".
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.
He was married to a woman who is unknown in historical record. He had an only daughter, Irene who was married (before April 1381 ) to a Marchesano of Naples, Morean baron, baillie of Achaea and Esau de' Buondelmonti in 1396. Esau was the Despot of Ioannina.