By (author) Nicol, Donald M.
The district of Epiros in north-western Greece became an independent province following the Fourth Crusade and the dismemberment of the Byzantine Empire by the Latins in 1204. It retained its independence despite the recovery of Constantinople by the Greeks in 1261. Each of its rulers acquired the Byzantine titles of Despot, from which the term Despotate was coined to describe their territory. They preserved their autonomy partly by seeking support from their foreign neighbours in Italy. The fortunes of Epiros were thus affected by the expansionist plans of the Angevin kings of Naples and the commercial interests of Venice. Until 1318 it was governed by direct descendants of its Byzantine founder. Thereafter it was taken over first by the Italian family of Orsini, then conquered by the Serbians, infiltrated by the Albanians, and appropriated by an Italian adventurer, Carlo Tocco. Like the rest of Byzantium and eastern Europe it was ultimately absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. The Despotate of Epiros illuminates part of Byzantine history and of the history of Greece in the Middle Ages.