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Albanian Stradioti at Battle of Fornovo.jpg
French painting of c. 1500 depicting stradioti of the Venetian Army at the Battle of Fornovo [1]
Active15th to 18th centuries
TypeMercenary unit
RoleLight cavalry

The Stratioti or stradioti (Greek : Στρατιώτες/stratiotes, Albanian : Stratiotët, Italian : stradioti, stradiotti) were mercenary units from the Balkans recruited mainly by states of southern and central Europe from the 15th century until the middle of the 18th century. [2]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Albanian language Indo-European language

Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. It comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language in Europe.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, and together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.



The Greek term stratiotis/-ai (στρατιώτης/-αι) was in use since classical antiquity with the sense of "soldier". [3] The same word was used continuously in the Roman and Byzantine period. The Italian term stradioti could therefore be a loan from the Greek word stratiotai (Greek: στρατιώται), i.e. soldiers. [4] Alternatively, it derives from the Italian word strada ("street"), meaning "wayfarer". [5] The Albanian stradioti of Venice were also called cappelletti (sing. cappelletto) because of the small red caps they wore. [6]

Classical antiquity Age of the ancient Greeks and Romans

Classical antiquity is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

Cappelletti Surname list

Cappelletti may be:


The stradioti were recruited in Albania, Greece, Dalmatia, Serbia and later Cyprus. [7] [8] [9] [10] Most of the names were Albanian, such as Gjon, Gjin, Merkur, Arbnor, Ilir, Agron etc., but a good number of the names were of Greek origin, such as Palaiologos, Spandounios, Laskaris, Rhalles, Comnenos, Psendakis, Maniatis, Spyliotis, Alexopoulos, Psaris, Zacharopoulos, Klirakopoulos, and Kondomitis. Others seemed to be of South Slavic origin, such as Soimiris, Vlastimiris, and Voicha. [5] Also among their leaders were members of some old Byzantine noble families such as the Palaiologoi and Komnenoi. [5] [11]

Greece republic in Southeast Europe

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, also known as Hellas, is a country located in Southern and Southeast Europe, with a population of approximately 11 million as of 2016. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.

Dalmatia Historical region of Croatia

Dalmatia is one of the four historical regions of Croatia, alongside Croatia proper, Slavonia, and Istria.

Serbia Republic in Southeastern Europe

Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe in the southern Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans. It borders Hungary to the north, Romania to the northeast, Bulgaria to the southeast, North Macedonia to the south, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the west, and Montenegro to the southwest. The country claims a border with Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo. Serbia's population numbers approximately seven million, most of whom are Orthodox Christians. Its capital, Belgrade, ranks among the oldest and largest citiеs in southeastern Europe.

Stratioti in European countries

Republic of Venice and Kingdom of Naples (Italy)

The Republic of Venice first used stratioti in their campaigns against the Ottoman Empire and, from c. 1475, as frontier troops in Friuli. Starting from that period, they began to almost entirely replace the Venetian light cavalry in the army. Apart from the Albanian stradioti, Greek and Italian ones were also deployed in the League of Venice at the Battle of Fornovo (1495). [12] The mercenaries were recruited from the Balkans, mainly Christians but also some Muslims. [13] In 1511, a group of stratioti petitioned for the construction of the Greek community's Eastern Catholic Church in Venice, the San Giorgio dei Greci, [14] and the Scuola dei Greci (Confraternity of the Greeks), in a neighborhood where a Greek community still resides. [15] Impressed by the unorthodox tactics of the stratioti, other European powers quickly began to hire mercenaries from the same region.

Republic of Venice Former state in Northeastern Italy

The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic, traditionally known as La Serenissima was a sovereign state and maritime republic in northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. It was based in the lagoon communities of the historically prosperous city of Venice, and was a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Friuli Historical region in Italy

Friuli is an area of Northeast Italy with its own particular cultural and historical identity containing 600,000 Friulians. It comprises the major part of the autonomous region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, i.e. the administrative provinces of Udine, Pordenone, and Gorizia, excluding Trieste.

In various medieval sources the recruits are mentioned either as Greeks or Albanians. The bulk of stradioti rank and file were of Albanian origin from regions of Greece, but by the middle of the 16th century there is evidence that many of them had been Hellenized and in some occasions even Italianized. Hellenization was possibly underway prior to service abroad, since stradioti of Albanian origin had settled in Greek lands for two generations before their emigration to Italy. Moreover, since many served under Greek commanders and together with the Greek stradioti, this process continued. Another factor in this assimilative process was the stradioti's and their families' active involvement and affiliation with the Greek Orthodox or Uniate Church communities in the places they lived in Italy. [5]

Hellenization historical spread of ancient Greek culture

Hellenization or Hellenisation is the historical spread of ancient Greek culture, religion and, to a lesser extent, language, over foreign peoples conquered by Greeks or brought into their sphere of influence, particularly during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. The result of Hellenization was that elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements; these Greek influences spread from the Mediterranean basin as far east as modern-day Pakistan. In modern times, Hellenization has been associated with the adoption of modern Greek culture and the ethnic and cultural homogenization of Greece.

The Kingdom of Naples hired Albanians, Greeks and Serbs into the Royal Macedonian Regiment (Italian : Reggimento Real Macedone), a light infantry unit active in the 18th century. [16] Spain also recruited this unit. [17]

Kingdom of Naples Former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.


French estradiot and his arms. Notice the short double-pointed spear ("arzegaye"). Engraving, 1724 (G. Daniel). Estradiot engraving.JPG
French estradiot and his arms. Notice the short double-pointed spear ("arzegaye"). Engraving, 1724 (G. Daniel).

France under Louis XII recruited some 2,000 stradioti in 1497, two years after the battle of Fornovo. Among the French they were known as estradiots and argoulets. The term "argoulet" is believed to come either from the Greek city of Argos, where many of argoulets come from (Pappas), or from the arcus (bow) and the arquebuse. [18] For some authors argoulets and estradiots are synonymous but for others there are certain differences between them. G. Daniel, citing M. de Montgommeri, says that argoulets and estradiots have the same armoury except that the former wear a helmet. [19] According to others "estradiots" were Albanian horsemen and "argoulets" were Greeks, while Croatians were called "Cravates". [20]

The argoulets were armed with a sword, a mace (metal club) and a short arquebuse. They continued to exist under Charles IX and are noted at the battle of Dreux (1562). They were disbanded around 1600. [21] The English chronicle writer Edward Hall described the "Stradiotes" at the battle of the Spurs in 1513. They were equipped with short stirrups, small spears, beaver hats, and Turkish swords. [22]

The term "carabins" was also used in France as well as in Spain denoting cavalry and infantry units similar to estradiots and argoulets (Daniel G.)(Bonaparte N. [23] ). Units of Carabins seem to exist at least till the early 18th century. [24]

Corps of light infantry mercenaries were periodically reqruited from the Balkans or Italy mainly during the 15th to 17th centuries. In 1587, the Duchy of Lorraine recruited 500 Albanian cavalrymen, while from 1588 to 1591 five Albanian light cavalry captains were also recruited. [25]


Stratioti were first employed by Spain in their Italian expedition (see Italian Wars). Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba ("Gran Capitan") was sent by King Ferdinand II of Aragon ("the Catholic") to support the kingdom of Naples against the French invasion. In Calabria Gonzalo had two hundred "estradiotes Griegos, elite cavalry". [26]

Units of estradiotes served also in the Guard of King Ferdinand and, along with the "Alabarderos", are considered the beginnings of the Spanish Royal Guard. [27]


  • In 1514, Henry VIII of England, employed units of Albanian and Greek stradioti during the battles with the Kingdom of Scotland. [15] [28]
  • In the 1540s, Duke Edward Seymour of Somerset used Albanian stradioti in his campaign against Scotland. [29]
  • An account of the presence of stratioti in Britain is given by Nikandros Noukios of Corfu. In about 1545 Noukios followed as a non-combatant the English invasion of Scotland where the English forces included Greeks from Argos under the leadership of Thomas of Argos whose "Courage, and prudence, and experience of wars" was lauded by the Corfiot traveller. [30] [note 1] Thomas was sent by Henry VIII to Boulogne in 1546, as commander of a battalion of 550 Greeks and was injured in the battle. [31] The King expressed his appreciation to Thomas for his leadership in Boulogne and rewarded him with a good sum of money.

Holy Roman Empire

In the middle of the 18th century, Albanian stratioti were employed by Empress Maria Theresa during the War of the Austrian Succession against Prussian and French troops. [32]


The stratioti were pioneers of light cavalry tactics during this era. In the early 16th century heavy cavalry in the European armies was principally remodeled after Albanian stradioti of the Venetian army, Hungarian hussars and German mercenary cavalry units (Schwarzreiter). [33] They employed hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, feigned retreats and other complex maneuvers. In some ways, these tactics echoed those of the Ottoman sipahis and akinci. They had some notable successes also against French heavy cavalry during the Italian Wars. [34]

They were known for cutting off the heads of dead or captured enemies, and according to Commines they were paid by their leaders one ducat per head. [35]


The stradioti used javelins, as well as swords, maces, crossbows, bows, and daggers. They traditionally dressed in a mixture of Ottoman, Byzantine and European garb: the armor was initially a simple mail hauberk, replaced by heavier armor in later eras. As mercenaries, the stradioti received wages only as long as their military services were needed. [36]

Notable stratioti


  1. Cramer’s translation of A.Noukios' work stops exactly where the text starts referring to Thomas of Argos. A Greek historian, Andreas Moustoxydes, published the missing part of the original Greek text, based on a manuscript kept in the Ambrosian Library (Milan). After Cramer's asterisks (end of his translation) the text continues as follows:
    [Hence, indeed, Thomas also, the general of the Argives from Peloponnesus, with those about him ***] spoke to them so:
    “Comrades, as you see we are in the extreme parts of the world, under the service of a King and a nation in the farthest north. And nothing we brought here from our country other than our courage and bravery. Thus, bravely we stand against our enemies, …. Because we are children of the Greeks and we are not afraid of the barbarian flock. …. Therefore, courageous and in order let us march to the enemy, … , and the famous since olden times virtue of the Greeks let us prove with our action.“
    (*) Έλληνες in the original Greek text. This incident happened during the Sieges of Boulogne (1544–1546).

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  1. Nicolle & McBride 1988, p. 44.
  2. Tardivel 1991, p. 134.
  3. Liddell H., Scott R., A Greek-English Lexicon, στρατιώτης (e.g. Herodotus 4,134, Xenophon, Cyrus An. 7, ch. 1, 4 etc.)
  4. Trecanni (ed.), Grande Enciclopedia Italiana, "Stradioti": "dal basso greco στρατιώται"; Societa Italiana di Studi Araldici 2005 , p. 3: "dal greco stratiòta".
  5. 1 2 3 4 Pappas (Sam Houston State University).
  6. Folengo & Mullaney 2008 , p. 491.
  7. Nicolle, 1989.
  8. B. N. Floria, "Vykhodtsy iz Balkanakh stran na russkoi sluzhbe," Balkanskia issledovaniia. 3. Osloboditel'nye dvizheniia na Balkanakh (Moscow, 1978), pp. 57-63.
  9. Hungary and the fall of Eastern Europe 1000-1568 by David Nicolle, Angus McBride: "John Comnenus [...] settled Serbs as stratioti around Izmir..."
  10. Nicol, Donald M. (1988). Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural relations. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 37. "Young men recruited from among Greeks and Albanians. They were known as stradioti from the Greek word for soldier."
  11. Nicolle, 2002: p. 16
  12. Setton 1976 , p. 494; Nicolle & Rothero 1989 , p. 16.
  13. Detrez & Plas 2005 , p. 134.
  14. Detrez & Plas 2005 , p. 134, Footnote #24.
  15. 1 2 English Historical Review 2000 , p. 192.
  16. Alex N. Dragnich (1994). Serbia's Historical Heritage. East European Monographs. p. 24. ISBN   978-0-88033-244-6.
  17. Modern Greek Studies Association (1976). Hellenism and the first Greek war of liberation (1821-1830): continuity and change. Institute for Balkan Studies. p. 72.
  18. Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue françoise, vol. 1
  19. Daniel R.P.G. (1724) Histoire de la milice francoise, et des changemens qui s'y sont ... , Amsterdam, vol. 1, pp. 166-171.
  20. Virol M. (2007) Les oisivetes de monsieur de Vauban, edition integrale, Champ Vallon, Seyssel, p. 988, footnote 3.
  21. La Grand Encyclopedie, Eole-Fanucci, Paris (undated), vol. 16, article "Argoulet"
  22. Hall, Edward, Chronicle (1809), p. 543, 550
  23. Bonaparte N. Études sur le passé et l'avenir de l'artillerie, Paris, 1846, vol. 1, p. 161
  24. Boyer Abel (1710) The history of the reign of Queen Anne, year the eight, London, p. 86. A list of French captured by the British at the battle of Tasnieres (1709) includes an officer of the "Royal Carabins"
  25. Monter 2007 , p. 76.
  26. Historia del Rey Don Fernando el Catolico: De las empresas y ligas de Italia, book V, p. 3.
  27. LA GUARDIA REAL Archived 2010-11-28 at the Wayback Machine
  28. Higham 1972 , p. 171.
  29. Hammer 2003 , p. 24.
  30. Nicander Nucius, The second book of the travels of Nicander Nucius of Corcyra, ed. by Rev. J.A. Cramer, 1841, London, p.90. See also Note 1.
  31. Moustoxydes Andreas (1856) Nikandros Noukios, in the periodical Pandora, vol. 7, No. 154, 15 Augh. 1856, p. 222 In Greek language.
    Andreas Moustoxydes was a Greek historian and politician.
  32. Howard 2009 , p. 77.
  33. Downing 1992 , p. 66.
  34. Nicolle & Rothero 1989 , p. 36.
  35. DeCommines, Philippe, Lettres et Negotiations, with comments by Kervyn De Lettenhove, ed. 1868, V. Devaux et Cie. Bruxelles, vol. 2, p. 200, 220: "quinze cents estradiotes grecs ou albanais, "vaillans hommes" qui recevaient in ducat par tete d' ennemi qu'ils rapportaient a leurs chefs".
  36. Hoerder 2002 , p. 63: "Throughout Europe footmen replaced knights, that is, cavalry. They used new weapons and came with regionally varying skills: English archers and crossbowmen, Swiss pikemen, Flemish burgher forces, and, later, Italian gunfighters or exiled Albanian and Greek stradioti on light horse (from Italian strada: street). Mercenaries hired on for pay under "military enterprisers" received wages only as long as work was available."
  37. Nicol 1994 , p. 104; Nicol 1992 , p. 417; Nicol 1968 , p. 231.
  38. Nicolle & Rothero 1989 , p. 16.
  39. Cronaca Cittadina II
  40. Medin, Antonio. La Obsidione di Padua del MDIX, ed. Romagnoli. Bologna, 1892.
  41. Sathas 1867 , p. 97.


Primary sources

  • Bembi, Petri (1551). Historiae Venetae. Venetiis: Apud Aldi Filios. Available online in Latin language.
  • Bembo, Pietro (1780). Storia Veneta. Venice, Italy. In Italian language.

Secondary sources

Further reading