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Original scientific paper

Albanian Soldiers in the Venetian Land Army across the Adriatic (18th Century)

Lovorka Čoralić orcid id

Full text: croatian pdf 399 Kb

page 183-213

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During the Early Modern Period and especially the Venetian-Ottoman wars in the 17th and 18th centuries, the axis of the Venetian land army across the Adriatic were the troops known as Fanti oltramarini and Croati a cavallo (Cavalleria Croati). They were primarily manned with soldiers and officers originating from the Venetian lands, from Istria to Albania and Greece, but there were also many soldiers from other areas, mostly those bordering on the Venetian territories. This paper focuses on the soldiers from Venetian Albania (Albania Veneta) and their role in these troops. It is based on an analysis of original documents preserved at the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, more precisely the collection of Inquisitori sopra l'amministrazione dei pubblici ruoli – a magistracy in charge of recruiting soldiers and sending them to the wider area controlled by Venice, from Veneto to Greece. The documents include lists of officers, commanders, and common soldiers, made at regular intervals during the recruitment or supervision of troops. At this stage of research, 75 Albanian soldiers have been identified in the Venetian infantry and cavalry during the 18th century. The sources refer to them as d'Albania or Albanese, only rarely mentioning their exact place of origin. Albanians were present in infantry and cavalry throughout the 18th century (especially its first half) and mostly served in infantry troops. A considerable number occupied prominent posts (colonels, lieutenants, captains, and so on), but in most cases they were common soldiers. The regiments and companies manned by Albanians were primarily under the command of officers from Dalmatia and Boka (occasionally by Albanians), mostly from noble families that had been supplying high officers to the Serenissima for generations. The troops were stationed along the Venetian territories in the Eastern Adriatic (Dalmatia, Boka Kotorska), in the cities and fortresses all over Veneto, as well as in Greece. According to the available documents, an average Albanian soldier in the 18th-century Venetian army was a foot soldier, 26 years old, or a cavalryman in his mid-forties; in a number of examples, there were officers and common soldiers from the same families (Ginni, Giuroi, Mirdita, and others). Their military service could last for several decades. As for their physical features, which are occasionally mentioned in the lists, Albanian soldiers were mostly of a middle stature and brown-haired, which is a stereotype used to describe most soldiers originating from the Eastern Adriatic. It may be concluded that the total number of Albanian officers, commanders, and soldiers in the Venetian army was considerable, and that their role in the military history of the Eastern Adriatic and the Venetian Republic as a whole was appreciated and acknowledged. This paper is an attempt to use the unpublished and so far barely analysed archival sources to present the relevant evidence and arguments to the scholarly community and the broader public. Although it may be expected that some future research will add new names to the list of Albanian soldiers serving in the Venetian army, it will probably not significantly change the picture outlined here.


Venetian Albania; Albania; Venetian Republic; military history; 18th century

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