Part 5 - SKANDERBEG EXPEDITION IN ITALY
(fnl)........As soon as the storm ceased (m2) the fleet turned its course again toward Italy. A favorable wind filled their sails, and the
following day at the first rays of the sun the coast of Puglia and a very high mountain appeared. It was the part of Italy that stretches out along the Adriatic. It is Puglia that divides it in two parts, one Greek and the other Italian, and it includes Mount Gargano too. Skanderbeg, knew that Mount Gargano (Mount S. Angelo) was noted for the appearance of Saint Michele shouting out “God be praised”. Ahead, the warlike Archangel was in such great credit, that the prince (Skanderbeg) kneeled, imploring his intercession to God that he would have success in his undertaking.
When the fleet landed, Skanderbeg sent men out to scout the land. Informed by his courriers that the enemy was not far away, they re-boarded their ships and set sail for Bari. It was just in time because Ferdinand had been cornered by the Duke of Angio and the famous Count Piccinino and had no alternative except to surrender or be taken by the sword of the hand. But at the happy appearance of Skanderbeg’s ships he and his forces hastily pulled back ten (leghe?). Then free, Ferdinand went to meet with Skanderbeg. The meeting was quite affectionate, and after the first effusion of mutual recognition, the two princes set out together toward Bari.
All along the way people rushed up eagerly to gaze at the hero Skanderbeg whose name was so renowned. The air resounded with their acclamation mixed with the roar of artillery that had been brought up to form a field of operations. The question was whether to set it up around Bari or near Abruzzi where they could open a passage way so that confederates Ferdinand expected could join them, and they could advance at the head of a re-united force against the enemy. This last opinion prevailed.
Leaving a garrison in the city, the rest of the army left with provisions for five days. Favored by deep darkness, passing near the enemy, the enemy did not attack them. When they arrived in Abruzzo they threw themselves down unexpectedly on the guard posts, which, after (di avere dispersi, si mise) in communication with allied generals Frederico dOUrbino and Allesandro Sforza. Thus having re-united all their forces, they set up a position near Ursara, a small town in Puglia loyal to Ferdinand.
Learning that Count Piccinino was heading for Bari, Skanderbeg and his Albanese soldiers took responsibility for this expedition. They had scarcely arrived there when the enemy appeared, but without starting any action. Days passed with skirmishes and despite the fact that the albanesi were outnumbered, they always were victorious. A battle was inevitable and, doubtful of the outcome, Piccinino asked to see Skanderbeg. This (non si fece) to wait, and separated from the troops the two leaders met in a place that was open on all sides.
When Piccinino, who was thin and small in stature, saw the athletic figure (fn3) of his enemy Skanderbeg in front of him he was disconcerted and was silent for a few moments. When he recovered from his excitement/emotion the wily Count entered into a discussion of the matter at hand. (A sentirelo), thanks to his (whose??) skills and mysterious ways, the Kingdom of Naples soon would be assured to Ferdinand; and the Duke of Angio and the French would have to withdraw. And since settling such an important question as this required much time, it was agreed that they would meet again the following day, Piccinino proposing a temporary postponement of fighting between the two armies that soon would be only one.
The following day Skanderbeg and the fair and honest aAbanesi set out to the meeting with only seven cavalry men. On the way they met a soldier from the enemy camp who, charmed by the admiration that Skanderbeg inspired in all good people, revealed that the road ahead of them was sown with traps, and that if they continued on they would fall into the hands of the enemy. Skanderbeg ordered a platoon of cavalry to reconnoiter and they confirmed the soldier’s story. Indignant at such treachery, Skanderbeg resolved to punish Piccinino the next day. His officers and soldiers shared his resentment.
After this Piccinino wanted less than ever to risk battle with troops so angry and fanatic, so that night he set out in the direction of Lucera. Calculating the advantage that the enemy had over him, Skanderbeg decided not to pursue him. Instead, he took his army to Ursara again where Ferdinand waited for him with the Italian division. It was there that the great battle took place on 18 August 1461.
Six leagues separated Ursara from Lucera, and although Mount Sejano (fn4) and the city of Troja (Troia) were between them, the armies soon would find themselves against each other. The mountain became the strategic point. Piccinino wanted to take possession of it, but Skanderbeg had already anticipated that and took control of it. Piccinino positioned all his artillery at the head of the battle corps that stretched out on three lines. Skanderbeg and Ferdinand drew up their army, all Albanese and Italian infantry, into two lines.
The Albanese-Italian army hurled itself onto the enemy, and the impetuosity of their attack was such that PiccininoOs artillery had no time to fire. As it began to recover from the first attack, a strong Albanese charge scattered it. Skanderbeg, the Duke of AngioO and Piccinino fought fiercely for victory, and as the artillery tried to escape it found itself attacked from all sides. Pursued, the Duke of AngioO made it to the walls of Troja and would have been taken prisoner if the inhabitants there had not hauled him inside with the help of a rope. After that he left for Genoa and embarked for France.
After the victory, Ferdinand, together with Skanderbeg, set out straight for Naples where without any difficulty he was proclaimed King with the enthusiastic support of all the cities of the Kingdom of Naples. Only one city in Puglia,Trani, continued to resist, because the governor, Fusiani, had been profitting by the absence of Ferdinand and did not give up his power. But he was alienated by Skanderbeg and even this city came to recognize Ferdinand as its king.
The albanese army stayed in Italy for a year. The war won and Ferdinand restored to the throne, Skanderbeg thought about leaving. The great prey of Constantinople, or rather his wish to quench the thirst of the insatiable Sultan Maometto, had him greatly irritated. Master of the Morea, the Turkish sultan had conquered all of the Greek continent, from many of the archipeligo islands to Serbia. With all its struggles Albania could still respect itself, content that its hero Skanderbeg would live to keep the faith of its forefathers alive and to make the country free.
When Skanderbeg announced that he wanted to return to Albania the King Ferdinand showed his deep gratitude in the presence of his entire court, and afterwards overwhelmed him with gifts of land including the cities of Trani, Monte Gargano and S. Giovanni Rotondo. These three cities of Puglia one day might become valuable as a refuge in the event that Skanderbeg finally had to succumb to the implacable conflict against the Turks. (fn5)6
FOOTNOTES - Part 5:
(fnl) This entire Part 5 was originally written in French by Pagnel, a writer in the XV century in his publication entitled “THE TURKS AND THE HISTORY OF SKANDERBEG”. [NOTE: It was translated into Italian (perhaps by Conforti?) and then I translated this draft from Italian to English. - Dick Vara, 1997]
(fn2) After the death of Alphonso I of Aragon, Ferdinand his natural son claimed the crown by virtue of a will. But several ambitious princes formed an alliance to drive him from the throne, offering the Kingdom of Naples to the Duke of Angio. In vain Pope Pio II tried to convince them to abandon such an unjust undertaking.
Ferdinand, seeing that he was unable to resist the fury of his enemies with his own forces, decided to call for the help of a friend of his father, the Albanese hero George Castriota Skanderbeg. He sent a letter asking for help on 31 October 1450. Skanderbeg at once arranged to make an agreement with the Turks so as not to leave his state without defense and his subjects exposed to their inroads, sack and plunder. Pretending that he was annoyed by the war, he finally accepted the truce that Maometto II (Murad II?) had proposed to him for many years. Leaving the princess, his consort, as state regent, he went down to Ragusa where with the Neopolitan navy (mise?) in march toward Italy.
According to contemporary historians the army that Skanderbeg led to Italy to aid Ferdinand of Aragon, numbered up to about seventy-two hundred infantry soldiers and another twenty-two hundred cavalry, made up of chosen and experienced soldiers who were accustomed to victory.
As proof of the rudeness in the hearts of the baronial conspirators against Skanderbeg and his Albanese, here is a letter full of distortions that the Prince of Taranto wrote to Skanderbeg; and the dignified answer given by the Albanese hero.
The letter to Skanderbeg:
Giovanni Antonio, Prince of Taranto, to Georgia Albanese, greeting.
(Conveniva a te?), that the luck you had shown in the war with the enemies of the Christian religion, which sometimes had forced combat, then leaving that field, you came to Italy to drive your armies against Christians? What cause do you hold against me? What have I done against you? What controversies do they make between us?
You have spoiled my territories and are crudely giving vent against my subjects, and first you have (mosso?) the war that (proposta?). You boast that you are a great warrior for the Christian religion and (pur?) yet you persecute this (geate?) which for every reason is called Christianity. You have turned your iron against the French of the Kingdom of Sicily. Perhaps you have thought to take the army against the effeminate Turks that you are accustomed to wounding in the back.
You will find other men who all support your proud appearance (?) and no one will avoid your face. Our Italian soldiers will challenge you very well and have no fear of the Albanese. We already know your generation and respect the Albanese like sheep, and it is an embarrassment to have such cowardly people for enemies; (ne?) would you have embarked on such a business if you had stayed to dwell in your house.
You have avoided the onslaught of the Turks, and not having the power to defend your own house, have thought to invade other peopled s. You are deceitful. Instead of a new house you are looking for your grave.
Letter from Skanderbeg to the Prince of Taranto:
Giorgio, gentleman of Albania, to Giovanni Antonio, Prince ofTaranto, greeting.
Having made a truce with the enemy of my religion I have not wanted that my friend remain (fraudato) of my aid. (Spesse?) times, Alfonso, his father, invited my help while I waged war against the Turks. Therefore I would be very ungrateful if I had not resisted (lOistesso?) service to his son. I remember what your king did because now (non deve vedere succedergli?) this who is his son? You adored his father, and why now do you try to throw out his son? Where did this power come from? Who has the power to setup the King of Sicily, you or the Roman Pontiff?
I came to aid Ferrante, son of the king and seat of the Apostolica. I came opposing your unfaithfulness and innumerable great betrayals in this kingdom. (Ned?) will you ever be unpunished for your perjury. This is the reason for my war against you. I merit this no less than I merited making war against the Turks, nor are you less Turk than them. (Imperocche vi sono alcuni?) that guide you in a straight line not to be of some sect. You my opponents the French and the names of those people, and those for the religion wage grand war.
I do not want to dispute ancient matters with you, matters that perhaps were much less than what was told about them. Certainly in our times the Aragonese armadas have often coursed the Aegean Sea, have plundered the Turkish coasts, have (riportata?) the prey of the enemies; and even today the Aragonese armies defend Trojafrom the jaws of the enemy. Why do I remember the old things and leave the new parts? If they change the family costumes and the plowmen of the kingdom, and the kings of the plowmen return? (Ne troverai nobilita piu antica della virtu.)
Nor can I deny that you are not with the obnoxious French nation, (imperocche) you being mainly in aid of King Alfonso, you hunted the French of this kingdom. I do not know now what new virtue shines in this. Perhaps it is some new star that you have now seen among the French?
Moreover, you scorned our people, and compared the Albanese to sheep, and according to your custom think of us with insults. Nor have you shown yourself to have any knowledge of my race. My elders were from Epirus, where this Pirro came from, whose force could scarcely support the Romans. This Pirro, who Taranto and many other places of Italy held back with armies.
I do not have to speak for the Epiroti. They are very much stronger men than your Tarantini, a species of wet men who are born only to fish. If you want to say that Albania is part of Macedonia I would concede that a lot more of our ancestors were nobles who went as far as India under Alexander the Great and defeated all those peoples with incredible difficulty. From those men come these who you called sheep. But the nature of things is not changed. Why do your men run away in the faces of sheep?
In the past the Albanese have (fatto?) experience if the Pugilese were armed; (neO) I would again find some who would have been able to aspired to my nature. I have well noted from the back how many of your soldiers are well armed but have never been able to see their helmets or (tanpoco?) the face except those that have become prisoners. (NeO?) I seek your house (Bastandomi?) my own. Besides, it is well known that you often would have shot your neighbors for their possessions, as now you would force out the king of your house and your kingdom.
(Che se?) If I fall in the difficult task I have embarked on I will be buried as (mivai?) wishing in your letter, will bring back my soul as a reward from the Chancellor of the universe, of God. Not only will I have perfected my intention, but also I will have planned and attempted some distinguished deed.
(fn3) - Piccinino was very small in stature, and when they met, Skanderbeg took him by his arms and lifted him in the air like a child.
(fn4) - With reference to the place where they had the above mentioned battle, the eminent (am?) Terlizzi gave me the following: OReferring to the battles of 1461 in which the angioini were trying to regain the Kingdom of Naples, I have not been able to learn if in (agro?) of Troja there is a place called Mount Sejano, where according to Paganel (from whom you have received the piece of information) the rout of the Angioni took place; but I would have to believe that it referred to mount Magliano or Montemaggiore which are two vast holdings in the territory of Orsara, exactly half way on the road toward Troja. Most likely it was mount Magliano because I remember reading that one of the armies was camped onVerditello, which is a separate mountain that dominates the road between Orsara and Troja near Magliano and Montemaggiore.
Besides, Lago di sangue, near Terrastrutta (Ripalonga), as we know, is found below Crepacore at the beginning of the Sannoro river. ItOs name certainly indicates that there had to be some fighting here. But this happened in 1461 and I indicated the extermination of the angioini already beaten and put to flight. Or perhaps it refers to yet another defeat of the angioini that took place twenty years earlier when Alfonso I of Aragon defeated the last resistance by his adversaries in Orsara and assured the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples? Or not referring to this but rather to some other even more ancient encounter between armies?
Professor Flammia in his history of the city of Ariano, on page 117, says that a concave place near Castiglione is called Lago di sangue because in 1461 Ferdinand of Aragon came to hunt for Giovanni of Angio of Orsara, followed him and caught up with him here, slaughtered his enemy so much that blood ran in a (fossatello?) and remained for a long time as a horrible spectacle for visitors.
However this version recorded by Flammia is unlikely or at least greatly exaggerated. At the end, I remember that the first battle in which the angioini were beaten mainly by the operations of Skanderbeg and the Albanese, had took place at Mount Arato which is a hill situated between Lucera and Troja.
(fn5) - To honor Skanderbeg, who in restoring the legitimate sovereign to the throne, restored peace in all of Italy, the Pope came to Naples accompanied by various princes and offered him riches and grand gifts. Several European countries promised to cooperate with him and send large armies to help him fight the Ottomans, but unfortunately the western peoples had faint enthusiasm for the (prischi?) crusaders, and after the death of its hero Skanderbeg, Albania still fell under the subjugation of the Turks.
Returning to Rome, the Pope was accompanied by Skanderbeg to whom he granted as a gift a palace on the side of the Quirinale on the road that still today carries the name of Ovia Skanderbeg. Today everyone can admire a magnificent portrait of the Albanian hero engraved and well preserved on the pediment of this palace, in the wall at the top of the entrance.
At the same time, the above mentioned pontiff, not being able to offer anything else, gave him ten thousand shields for the cause of his country. Skanderbeg returned them to him courteously however, thanking him and suggesting that with the money he might say a mass for the walled-in Albanese.
It is also recorded that when Skanderbeg left Naples he left his sword there on the hilt of which is inscribed his portrait. It is still preserved in the royal palace of Capodemonte along with the swords of Charles V and Ettore Fieromosca .
Skanderbeg died in 1467 and was buried in the S. Nicolo Church in Alessio. However, this church was transformed into a mosque by the Turks who, (per altro?) (ne facero?) of the talisman, believe that in the bones of this hero, like in the hair of Sansone, was reposed a divine force.
Translation Draft by Dick Vara - 4/12/97