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Skanderbeg versus Ali Pasha: An Albanian army under Skanderbeg awaits a confident Ottoman army under Ali Pasha in a narrow valley. Will Skanderbeg’s ambush overcome Ali Pasha’s Ottomans?
In the grand scheme of Ottoman domination of the Balkans during the 14th to the 19th centuries, the battle is of little significance; it was only a matter of time before the Ottomans overwhelmed Albania even without Skanderbeg’s death. However, the battle is a chapter in the near-mythical legacy of the great Albanian hero, Skanderbeg. It seems as if most European nations (especially in the more eastern and Balkan regions) have their own medieval hero to canonize, be it John Hunyadi for Hungary, Stefan Lazerevic for Serbia, Dimitri Donskoy for Russia, and the list goes on. Given the preponderance of such heroic figures, it is clearly important to these nations’ narratives of themselves. What seems to endure and proliferate in these national myths is the theme of a strong leader keeping a country or state together.
The result of the battle was usual result when you have skilled maneuvering on one side and overconfidence on the other. Skanderbeg lured Ali Pasha into a trap by making it appear he was at a terrain disadvantage and exploiting his disdain for the Albanian army. The main lesson from the battle however, is that a commander must also ensure proper reconnaissance and overall intelligence and of your enemy and the battlefield. Hamza sprung the Albanian ambush a little prematurely (Moore, 1850: 49) but it was enough to dislocate the Ottoman attack and concentrate superior force at a specific point on the battlefield. A proper reconnaissance screen would have prevented such a shock.
I finally animated this battle following a promise I made about five years ago to one of my early fans so I really hope they enjoyed it. A promise is a promise, even to strangers over the internet.
I did the best I could given the scarcity of sources and had to fill in some gaps with some logical assumptions based on knowledge of the two armies’ typical composition and tactics. There was no map to base my work off of for this animation, but I think the general terrain turned out to depict the battle pretty well.
– Jonathan Webb
Heath, Ian. Armies of the Middle Ages Vol. 2: The Ottoman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Near East, 1300-1500. Sussex: Flexprint, 1984
Hodgkinson, Harry. Scanderbeg: From Ottoman Captive to Albanian Hero. London: Centre for Albanian Studies, 1999.
Moore, Clement Clarke. George Castriot: Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albanian. London: D. Appleton & Company, 1850.
Albanian cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_177_figure_1.htm
Albanian infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_177_figure_1.htm
Map of Southeastern Europe: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/se_europe_1444.jpg
Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections
Ottoman cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_160b_figure_1.htm
Ottoman infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_160b_figure_1.htm
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