Scanderbeg (Turkish, Iskander Beg), an Albanian prince, whose true name was George Castriota, born in Croia about 1410, died in Alessio, Jan. 17, 1467. He was the fourth son of John Castriota, a Christian prince of a small district of Albania, of which the capital was Croia. Prince John, having been made tributary by Amurath II., was obliged to deliver up his four sons as hostages. The three elder died young, and George was educated as a Mussulman, became a favorite with Amurath, received the name of Iskander (Alexander), and was made sanjakbeg or commandant of a district, with a force of 5,000 horse. On the death of his father in 1432 his principality was made a province with a Turkish governor, and from that time Scanderbeg resolved upon its recovery. He served for several years in the Turkish armies, and commanded the force sent against Servia in 1439. In 1443 he was second in command of the army sent into Hungary, and in a battle on the Morava purposely gave the victory to John Hunyady. In the confusion of defeat he extorted a firman for the government of Albania from the sultan's chief secretary, whom with his attendants he immediately afterward slew.
Hastening with a few hundred followers to Croia, the gates of which were opened to him, he assumed his hereditary sovereignty and abjured Islamism. The Albanians rose at his call, and in 30 days he had become master of all the fortresses in the country, giving the Turkish garrisons their choice between massacre and baptism. Being appointed generalissimo, he soon collected an army of 15,-000 natives, French, and Germans, with which he defeated one of 40,000 under Ali Pasha. He overthrew three other large armies, and in 1449, and again in 1450, worsted Amurath himself, compelling him in the latter year, though his army numbered 100,000 men, to raise the siege of Croia and retreat. Mohammed II. continued the war with energy but without success, though Scanderbeg was sometimes defeated, and was harassed by internal dissensions and treason. Peace was concluded in 1461 at the suit of the sultan, leaving Scanderbeg in full possession of his territories. At the solicitation of Pope Pius II., he then went to Italy to support Ferdinand of Naples against John of Anjou, and secured the victory of Troja, Aug. 18, 1462, which drove John out of Italy. The pope, at the instance of the Venetians, having proclaimed a crusade against the Turks in 1463, Scanderbeg broke the truce, renewed the war, defeated the Turks in several battles, forced Mohammed with an army of 100,000 to retreat in 1465, drove another army of 80,000 from before Croia, and during three days massacred its remains in the defiles of Tirana. He successfully resisted his enemies to the last, and it was not until after his death that Albania was reduced by the Turks. He was buried at Alessio, and when the Turks took the town soon after, the janizaries disinterred his bones and used them as amulets.
He left a young son to the guardianship of the Venetians, whose descendants held a Neapolitan dukedom. His life has been written in Latin by his friend Marinus Barletius (Frankfort, fol., 1537; translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and German); in French by C. Paganel (1856); and in English by Dr. C. C. Moore (New York, 1850).