Epirus, despotate of. When, in 1204, the army of the Fourth Crusade set up the Latin Empire of Constantinople on the ruins of the Byzantine Empire, an independent Greek state emerged in Epirus under Michael I, a member of the Angelus family. It stretched from Durazzo (Durrës) in the north to the Gulf of Pátrai in the south. In 1222 the despot of Epirus took Salonica (Thessaloníki) from the Latins and claimed the title despot of Thessalonica. For a time the despotate of Epirus was a rival of the Greek empire of Nicaea (see Nicaea, empire of) in the struggle for the restoration of the Byzantine Empire. It accepted, however, a status of semivassalage to Nicaea (c.1246) and was united (1336–49) with the restored Byzantine Empire. The Serbs and Albanians then assumed control of the vassal state. In the 15th cent. the Ottoman Turks took over, and the state disappeared. The despotate of Epirus played an important role in the preservation of Hellenism in W Greece.
See study by D. M. Nicol (1957).
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