Epiros, Despotate of

   Greek state in Epiros (q.v.) established after the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople (qq.v.) in 1204 and divided up Byzantium (q.v.). Until 1230 it appeared to have a much better chance of restoring the empire than the other two Greek states, namely, the Empire of Nicaea and the Empire of Trebizond (qq.v.). The pedigree of its founder, Michael I Komnenos Doukas (1205-1215), was impeccable, including a connection to the Angelos (q.v.) family. His half-brother Theodore Komnenos Doukas (q.v.), who succeeded him, captured Ohrid in 1216, Thessalonike in 1224, and Adrianople (qq.v.) in 1225, by which time his empire extended from the Adriatic to the Aegean (qq.v.). Crowned emperor (q.v.), and refusing to recognize his rival John III Vatatzes (q.v.) as emperor at Nicaea, Theodore had every reason to expect that he would recapture Constantinople. But that hope was dashed at the battle of Klokotnitsa (q.v.) in 1230, where the Bulgar Tsar John Asen II (qq.v.) captured Theodore, defeated his army, then occupied Macedonia (q.v.) as far west as Dyrrachion (q.v.). In 1246 Thessalonike, which had eluded John Asen II, was captured by John III Vatatzes. By this time the former empire was reduced to calling itself a despotate, and its fortunes declined further after Michael II Komnenos Doukas (ca. 1230-ca. 1266) was defeated at the battle of Pelagonia (q.v.) in 1259. In the 14th century, the despotate effectively ceased with its occupation by the Orsini family from 1318-1337, then by Serbs (q.v.) under Symeon Urosh in 1348. The Ottomans (q.v.) conquered the region piecemeal in the first half of the 15th century. Arta (q.v.), the former capital of the Despotate of Epiros, fell to the Ottomans in 1449.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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