In the late Byzantine period, the region of Epirus was beset by successive military conflicts as Byzantines, Italians, Albanians, Serbs, and Ottomans claimed their own share of its territory. Minor lordships became the dominant type of political entity from the fourteenth century onward and were heavily dependent on a “sophisticated” system of fortifications, consisting of larger and smaller fortresses, castles, forts, and towers. These fortifications were of vital significance for the control of strategic points of interest. But the lack of manpower remained a significant problem; this meant that during serious conflicts, the standing forces were bolstered by civilians or mercenaries.

This article describes the conduct of warfare in relation to the fortifications and the defensive structure of Epirus in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Moreover, it examines available information on manpower (captains, crossbowmen, archers, soldiers, etc.) drawn from the sources, which are scarce, fragmentary, and incomplete. Thus, this piece of information allows us to shed light only on the castle of Riniasa on the northwestern coast of Epirus. Its study may offer a clearer image of other similar castles in the region and their role in medieval warfare.

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