William Martin Leake:
Travels in Southern Albania
William Martin Leake
British writer, topographer and diplomat William Martin Leake (1777-1860) received his training at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich (London). In 1799, he was sent to Constantinople and served with the Ottoman army in Egypt. In September 1804, Leake returned to the Ottoman Empire, this time to assist the provinces of European Turkey in defending themselves against French attacks from Italy. In this connection, he was given instructions to survey the coast of Albania and the Morea (Peleponnese) and to pay particular attention to the general geography of Greece. Of major interest for Albanian studies is his four-volume work "Travels in Northern Greece," London 1835, reprinted in Amsterdam in 1967, which records his extensive journeys not only of Greece proper, but also of southern Albania. Leake’s first trip to the region was in December 1804 when he journeyed through southern Albania, describing Vlora, Kanina, Saranda, Delvina, Gjirokastra, Tepelena, Kardhiq, Finiq, Himara and Ksamil. The second great Albania trip, in June 1805, took him from Macedonia to Devoll, Korça, Voskopoja, Berat, Apollonia, Këlcyra and Përmet. He continued touring Albania and Greece until February 1807. Given here are the excerpts from his book (Chapters 1, 2, 7 and 8) that deal with what is now Albania. The modern place names have been inserted in this text in square brackets.
Arrival on the coast of Albania — Avlóna, Aulon — Kanína — Erikhó, Oricum — River Celydnus — Sázona Island, Sason — Acroceraunia — Palása, Palaestus — Aspri Ruga — Corfú —Forty Saints, Onchesmus or Anchiasmus — Nívitza — Délvino — Morzená — Theriakhátes — Arghyrókastro —Valiaré Khan — Lábovo — Tepeléni — Aoi Stena — Bantza — Courseof the Viósa below Tepeléni — Family and Court of Alý Pashá.
Dec. 9, 1804. — Aulon [Vlora], which preserves its ancient name in the usual Romaic form of Avlóna, converted by the Italians into Valona, is about a mile and a half distant from the sea-beach, and has eight or ten minarets. On the sea side there is a tolerable wharf, with an apology for a fort, in the shape of a square inclosure of ruinous walls, with towers and a few cannon. The town occupies a hollow thickly grown with olive trees, among which are some gardens of herbs mixed with cypresses, poplars, and fruit trees. Beyond, are rugged hills entirely covered with olives, and to the northward a woody plain extending for a considerable distance, and forming a low shore except just at the northern entrance of the gulf, opposite to the island Sázona [Sazan], where are some white cliffs of small elevation separated from the plain by a lagoon, containing salt works and a fishery.
View of Vlora (Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
Two miles southward of the town rises a steep hill, on the summit of which is the ruinous castle of Kanína [Kanina], and on a ridge branching from it to the southward the scattered houses of a Turkish village of the same name overtopped by two small minarets. Kanína is a name which occurs in the Byzantine history. It was built upon a Hellenic site, as appears by some remains of masonry of that age among the walls. Not far to the southward of the height of Kanína, begins a range of steep mountains separated only by a narrow valley from the Acroceraunia, which mountain presents the same forbidding aspect on this side as towards the sea, and forms a narrow steep ridge, woody, rocky, and terminating in a sharp summit which closes the valley about ten miles from the extremity of the gulf. This valley is a part of the district of Khimára [Himara], and contains a large village named Dukái [Dukat], in Greek Dukádhes, below which at the southern extremity of the gulf is the harbour named Pashalimán by the natives, and Porto Raguséo by the Italians, near the mouth of a river which flows from the peak of the Acroceraunia through the valley of Dukádhes. Eastward of the mouth of the river is a succession of lagoons, in the midst of which are the ruins of Oricum, on a desert site now called Erikhó — the last syllable accented as in the ancient word, and E substituted for O, which was not an uncommon dialectic change among the ancients. The river of Dukádhes would seem from Ptolemy to have been the Celydnus, although its position does not exactly agree with his order of names, which places the Celydnus between Aulon and Oricum. Porto Raguséo I take to be the Panormus which Strabo describes as the port of Oricum.
The so-called Marble Church (Kisha e Marmoroit)
near Orikum in the Bay of Vlora
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
The gulf of Avlóna being surrounded, for the most part, by high mountains, is subject to sudden and violent squalls. When the wind blows strong from the westward, the road of Avlóna is not considered safe, and the usual anchorage is under Sázona, the ancient Sason, notorious among the Romans as a station of pirates. This island is most conveniently placed to shelter this great bay just at the mouth of the Adriatic, and affords a safe entrance on either side into the bay; for the cliffs in front of the lagoons of Avlóna, the island itself, and the cape which forms the extreme point of the Acroceraunian ridge, are all equally bold. The latter remarkable promontory is now called Glossa (perhaps its ancient name), and by the Italians Linguetta. The depth of the gulf between Sázona and Avlóna is from 10 to 15 fathoms, and towards the southern extremity much greater, except near Oricum, where, as well as near Avlóna, the depth is from 2 to 4 fathoms. Every where the bottom is a tough mud, deposited from the surrounding mountains.
Among a few ships now lying in the road of Avlóna, is a Ragusan vessel loading fossil pitch from the mine mentioned by Strabo. The mountain, at the foot of which this mineral is found, is about three hours to the eastward of Avlóna, and being conspicuous from off the coast, is marked in the Italian charts under the name of Montagna della Pegola. Its real name is Kúdhesi [Kudhës]. Another ship is from Constantinople, bound to Palermo with corn; a third, which has been three months from Venice, is of the species of Adriatic vessels called a Pielago, which differs not much from the Manzera and Trabaccolo. It has a main-mast of a single stick from Fiume, almost as large as the main-mast of our ship, and twice as long. These vessels make quick passages with a fair wind, but are very unfit to contend with the Etesian breezes of summer, and still less with the equally obstinate and much more violent southerly gales in the autumn and winter. In the month of October, 1802, I made a passage of ten days in one of these vessels, from Corfú to Trieste, through the Dalmatian islands, touching at several of them in the way. In the present season it is not uncommon for them to be four months in making the passage in the opposite direction between the two ports. During the Etesian winds in summer, instances often occur of these vessels putting into the Rhizonic Gulf, or Bocche di Cattaro, with a contrary wind, when the masters proceed to Venice by land, make an agreement for the disposal of their cargo, and return to the Bocche before the ship has sailed. In the winter the Bocchesi seldom pass their gulf, but leaving a man and boy aboard, join their families on shore, and there remain till the spring.
View of the coast of Himara
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
Dec. 10. — Having sailed out of the gulf in the night with a light breeze at north, we speak a vessel from Alexandria bound direct to Tunis, with pilgrims returning from Mecca.
Dec. 11. — At noon at the foot of the Acroceraunian peak, on the slope below which stands the village Palása [Palasa], a name resembling that of the place where, according to Lucan, Caesar landed from Brundusium previously to his operations against Pompey in Illyria, but which Caesar names Pharsalus. There can be little doubt that, in this instance, the poet is more correct than the great captain, who was so negligent of geography, (in Greece at least), that he has not named the place in Thessaly, where he gained the greatest of all his victories: so that this is the only passage in the commentaries where the word Pharsalus occurs. Caesar's chief consideration in selecting his place of debarkation on this coast, was to avoid the harbours likely to be in the hands of the enemy, and to make himself master of Oricum, Apollonia, and Dyrrhachium [Durrës], before Pompey could arrive from Macedonia. Trusting, therefore, to his protecting fortune to carry him through the perils both of the enemy and the season, he embarked seven legions and six hundred cavalry at Brundusium, in ships of burthen, for want of any others, arrived on the day after his departure at the Ceraunia, where he found a quiet station for the ships in the midst of rocks and dangerous places; and having immediately landed his troops, sent back the ships to Italy the same night. By this promptitude, Pompey arrived from Candavia in time only to save Dyrrhachium. Appian, though he does not specify in what part of the Ceraunian mountains the landing was made, shows that it was very near to Oricum, for he agrees with Caesar representing Oricum to have been taken within a day from the time of the landing: he adds that Caesar marched by night; that on account of the rugged and difficult country, he divided his forces into several bodies, which were reunited at daybreak, and that the Oricii having declared their unwillingness to resist the Roman Consul, the commander of the garrison delivered up the keys to Caesar. The distance of the site of Oricum from the shore below Palása, seems perfectly to agree with these circumstances; and there is in fact a small harbour below Palása, though it seems rather diminutive for the force which Caesar disembarked.
The Strada Bianca, so called in the Italian charts, and known to the Greeks by the synonym Aspri Ruga, is a broad torrent-bed very conspicuous at sea, which, originating in the summit of the mountain of Palása, descends directly to the sea to the northward of that village. To the southward of Palása is a succession of villages on the side of the mountain, as far as the entrance of the Channel of Corfú, all formerly belonging to the Khimariote league; but these, from Port Palérimo [Palermo] southward, are now in the hands of Alý Pashá. Khimára, which now gives name to the Acroceraunian range, is a town, a little to the northward of Port Palérimo, the ancient Panormus, described by Strabo as a harbour in the midst of the Ceraunian mountains.
Village on the coast of Himara
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
The great summit at the northern end of Corfú, named Pandokrátora, and by the Italians Salvator, is now a conspicuous object to the south by east, and a little to the eastward of it the northern Cape of Corfú, named St. Catherine. Masléra and Salmastráki are in a line off the north west Cape of Corfú, and farther eastward Ὀθωνοὺς (Ital. Fanu), forming an equilateral triangle with the two former. Othonus, or Othronus, is an ancient name, and appears from Procopius to have been applied in the plural number to all the three islands.
Dec. l3th to 20th. — In quarantine at Corfú, in consequence of the fever at Gibraltar. The quarantine ground is a small level space on the shore below the gate of the City, which still bears the French inscription Porte d'Epire, but by the Greeks is called the gate of St. Nicolas, from a small church which, with an adjoining apartment, is the only building on the ground. St. Nicolas is the patron of sailors, and his churches are often found near the shore. His feast-day being on the 18th, the priest and his deacons were employed for two or three days previously in weaving garlands of myrtle to adorn the pictures, and in preparing branches of bay and myrtle to stick about the walls of the church.
Dec. 20. — From the quarantine at eleven A. M. I cross over to the Forty Saints [Saranda], a harbour on the Epirote coast, in an open boat, which carries a cargo of oranges and lemons; these fruits, with figs, rice, and oil, form the export trade of Corfú with the Skala of the Forty Saints, from whence are brought in return, grain, fish, botargo, cattle, and wood. We row over in six hours, against a light adverse air.
Kyr G. Z., to whom I have a letter of recommendation from our minister, is collector of the customs of the Forty Saints, which is the chief port of Délvino [Delvina] and its district. Having a share also in the fishery of Buthrotum [Butrint], he sells fish, both fresh and salted, and retails wine and other commodities imported from Corfú. All these affairs are transacted in a small stone building: three-fourths of the space within the walls are destined to the shop and store which are on the bare ground, the remaining fourth, in which he dwells, is separated from the rest by a floor half way up the wall, and a wooden partition in front, having two windows looking down into the store. Around the apartment are ranged trunks and shelves containing the collector's property and domestic utensils. Among them are some boxes full of salted κεφαλοὶ or grey mullets, making a powerful addition to the various odours, none of them very agreeable, which are diffused through the apartment. At one end is a hearth, but no chimney, the smoke serving, as it effects its escape through the tiles, to cure the botargo, or roes of the mullet, which, enclosed in the natural membrane as extracted from the fish, are suspended to the rafters, and after the smoking will be dipped in melted wax. The kefalós is produced in abundance in all the lagoons and lakes of Greece, which like that of Buthrotum have a communication with the sea; and the botargo is a great resource to the Greeks during the severer fasts, when only a bloodless fish diet is allowed.
Dec. 21. — On the north-western side of the harbour of the Forty Saints are some extensive ruins, situated on a gentle slope by the sea side, at the foot of the bare rocky hills of which all this part of the Epirote coast consists. The ruins are those of a town of the better times of the Lower Empire. The walls forming an exact semicircle, the diameter of which is the sea beach, are flanked by about twenty towers; and contain within them the remains of churches, cisterns, and houses. At present the inclosure serves as a fold for the flocks of some Albanians, who have left their native mountains, now covered with snow, in search of pasture, and who are accompanied by their families; some living in tents, others in καλύβια or huts of light materials. This is the common practice of the mountaineers of northern Greece, the far larger proportion of whom are Christians, either of Albanian or Vlakhiote rate, but the present party are Musulman Liape [Lab], from the mountains near Tepeléni [Tepelena].
Between the walls of the ancient town and the modern houses of the Liméni, Skala, or Skáloma, are the remains of a suburb of the ruined town, and close to the houses of the Skala those of a large church, which has long been in ruins, but still retains the name of its saint, St. Basil. On its southern side are the ruins of a smaller church of the same date, sacred to St. Nicolas.
The summit of the hill which rises at the back of the Skala is crowned by the ruins of the church of the Forty Saints, which gives to this place the name of στοὺς Ἁγίους Σαράντα. A village on a height, separated only from that of the church by a hollow, through which leads the road to Délvino, bears the same name, as well as a small square white-washed fort to which there is a paved zig-zag path leading up the mountain from the Skala. The village was built three years ago by Alý Pashá, and is peopled by the cultivators and pastors of the neighbouring plain, from the former of whom, Alý having lately made the land his own, receives a third of its produce. The fortress was added this summer: it has two round towers at two of the opposite angles, and within the walls a dwelling for the bulu-báshi. The church of the Forty Saints is said to have been part of a monastery, but nothing more remains at present than the ruined church, of the annexed form, which was covered with three domes and seven semi-domes.
It was evidently coeval with the town below; though part of the materials of the church; particularly in the round arches of the windows, are Roman tiles, derived probably from some town of an earlier age, which stood on the site of the existing ruins on the shore of the harbour. At Kassópo in Corfú, nearly opposite to the Forty Saints, are similar ruins of a town not so large as that of the Forty Saints, with those of a castle, irregular in shape, and having no ruined buildings within its inclosure, and which stands on the summit of a hill rising from the shore of the harbour of Kassópo.
The heights of the Forty Saints are rugged, sharp, honey-combed rocks of brown marble, with a little soil in the intervals, which bear squills and other plants usual on similar sites in Greece. At the Skala, a rough mole incloses a little cothon or basin sufficient for the use of the small boats which alone frequent the harbour, though it would be both secure and convenient for large vessels, were the commerce of this part of Epirus sufficient to require them, as the bay has good anchorage and is well protected both from south-easterly and north-westerly gales; in the latter direction, by a remarkable cape called Kefalí, which with Cape St. Catherine, or the northern extremity of Corfú, forms the entrance of the channel from the northward; in the opposite direction the harbour is protected by the projecting coasts both of the continent and island. To-day, though it blows a gale of wind from the southward, there is no sea in the port.
As there is nothing between the Forty Saints and Port Palérimo deserving the name of a harbour, though there are creeks under the villages of Nívitza [Nivica], Lúkovo [Lukova] and Pikérnes [Piqeras], where small vessels take shelter and are drawn up on the beach, the Forty Saints can alone correspond to the ancient Port Onchesmus, which was the next to the southward of Panormus, according to Ptolemy as well as Strabo. It would seem from Cicero that Onchesmus, in his time, was a place of some importance, and that it was the ordinary point of departure from Epirus to Italy, the south-easterly breeze which was favourable for making the passage, having been called an Onchesmites. Under the Constantinopolitan emperors the name Onchesmus assumed the form of Anchiasmus, which probably obtained the preference over Onchesmus in consequence of a tradition noticed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, that the town was named after Anchises, father of Aeneias. Anchiasmus was a city of the government of Old Epirus, together with Phoenice and Buthrotum; the signature of the bishops of Anchiasmus is found to the acts of the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon in the fifth century. The other bishops of Epirus whose names are annexed to the acts are those of Dodona, Nicopolis, Eurhoea, Phoenice, Hadrianopolis and Corcyra.
Dec. 22. — A Scirocco, which detained me yesterday, still continues, but though the gale has abated and the rain ceased, the Agoiátes, (Italicè vetturini,) are unwilling to go, and my host will not take upon himself to oblige them, until some person arrives from Délvino, who will report the rivers practicable. The consequence is, that I am not only detained this day, but the 23d Dec. likewise; for although some horsemen arrived yesterday, about 3 P.M., who had crossed the river, it was then too late to depart, and at night the rain set in again in torrents with thunder and lightning, penetrating the bare tiles of the collector's roof, and pouring down all night a black stream from the smoky tiles. The tempest continues the greater part of the day, but the wind having come to the north promises a change of weather.
The feasts, the fasts, and the fears of the Greeks, are a great impediment to the traveller. During their feasts they will not work; the fasts, when prolonged and rigidly observed, render them unequal to any great exertion, while timidity is the necessary consequence of the Turkish yoke following long ages of the debasing tyranny and superstition of the Byzantine empire. But through this unamiable covering the ancient national character continually breaks forth; to which, in this mountainous part of the country, is added a considerable portion of the industry and activity of a northern race. Every traveller will occasionally be disgusted with the meanness, lying, and cowardice of the people, in the towns and in the parts of the country most frequented by travellers; but it should be remembered that their vices arise from their condition, that deceit is the only defence which their tyrants have left them, and that such defects are greater in proportion to that natural genius which is indisputably inherent in the race. They have a proverb, that the sweetest wine makes the sourest vinegar, which is well exemplified in their own character by means of a most corrupt despotic government acting upon a fine natural genius.
Dec. 24. — At 10 A.M., we set out in the rain from the Liméni, cross the hollow between the monastery and the village of the Forty Saints, and at the end of three quarters of an hour ford a small stream descending from Nívitza into the Pavla [Pavlla], which is the principal river of the plain of Délvino. The passage of this tributary is so difficult in consequence of the rain, that there seems little chance of the main stream being passable. Our conductors, moreover, are ignorant of theπέραμα, or proper ford of the latter river; we are obliged therefore to follow its bank upwards, until immediately below Nívitza we meet a party of horsemen, who have been making an attempt to cross without success. We retire, therefore, for the night to Nívitza.
The mountain on the mid-slope of which this village stands, is separated on either side by a valley from the rest of the maritime range, and is fortified to the eastward as well by the steepness of the mountain as by the rapid river at the foot of it. So rugged is the ascent, and so bad our cattle, that we are two hours in reaching the village from the river, the mules having fallen several times under their loads. The Vezír's Bulu-báshi, a rough Albanian Musulman, receives us kindly as the friends of his master, and we take up our lodging at the best Greek house in the place. Many of the soldiers and inhabitants speak Italian; one of them is son of a major in the Reali Cacciatori Albanesi of Naples, in which corps he himself served many years.
Nívitza was once a large and flourishing town, and the most important of the independent Christian communities, which then extended along the whole coast from Buthrotum to Aulon. By means of the strength of its position it resisted all the attempts of Alý Pashá to reduce it, until the year 1798, when he persuaded the French to connive at his conveying a body of Albanians in his own vessels through the Straits; an operation which had constantly been interdicted by the Venetians on the strength of their treaties with the Porte, but which was conceded on this occasion by the French, as they were then anxious to conciliate Alý with a view to their designs upon Turkey, and little suspected perhaps the use which he intended to make of their permission. He landed his troops at the Skales of Nívitza and the Forty Saints; and the better to ensure success, made choice of the morning of Easter Sunday for the time of attack, when the inhabitants were all disarmed and engaged in prayers. He thus made an easy conquest, not only of Nívitza, but of two other villages to the northward, the possession of which has now given him all the coast as far as the town of Khimára. Nívitza and the two villages are now little better than ruins; their lands, divided into portions, are numbered among the Pashá's tjiftliks; and it is for the use of those who cultivate them that the Pashá has built the new village of the Forty Saints, while many of the inhabitants of Nívitza have been sent to labour on his farms near Tríkkala in Thessaly.
Dec. 25. — A mile to the northward of Nívitza, on the same mountain, stands Aio Vasíli [Shënvasil], one of the villages which shared the fate of Nívitza: a little below it a ridge which connects the mountain with the range to the northward, is occupied by a small square fortress, similar to that of the Forty Saints, and which was erected by the Pashá soon after he had obtained possession of Nívitza. About a mile below this castle is the Skala of Nívitza and St. Basil, called Spiliá [Spileja]. The rugged hills below Nívitza, to the eastward, are planted with olives and vines: the plain produces mesíri (maize), kalambókki (Guinea corn), fasúlia (kidney-beans), rizi (rice), wheat, barley, and tobacco. Having descended the mountain, we cross the river at the extremity of the plain, near the opening where it issues from the mountains: it is not very deep, but extremely rapid, and the stony bed is such an insecure footing for the horses, that they tremble in crossing it. Both horse and rider must trust to the guide who walks on foot beside them, supports both, and repeats his recommendation to the rider to look at the bank, and not at the water, which causes giddiness. I did not experience that effect, but the illusion of appearing to remain stationary, while really moving, was perfect. The sources of this river are in the mountains eastward of Khimára, and its course, for the most part, is through a narrow valley, in which is situated Kaliása. Half an hour beyond the river, we cross the torrent of Délvino, and at noon enter the pass of Délvino, from which the torrent flows. Kyr Khrísto Kanáki, to whom I had letters, happens to be in the country, superintending his vineyards, but I am received in his house, and he returns home in the evening. Dhélvino, or Délvino, is situated in an opening of the lower ridges of a high range of mountains which have a S.S.E. direction. The town is chiefly inhabited by Musulman Albanians, who have eight or ten small mosques. Of Greeks who occupy only the eastern suburb called Láka, there are about thirty families, ten of which bear the same surname as Kyr Khristo. The Bishop and K. are the chief men; the former, who is now absent, styles himself Bishop of Khimára and Délvino; and is a suffragan of the Metropolitan of Ioánnina. The Turkish houses occupy the sides of the hills on either side of the torrent, for a distance of two miles, being situated as usual in Albanian towns, at great distances from one another, with a view to the frequent quarrels and wars among the φάραις, or family alliances, into which all Albanian communities are divided. The effects of these, and of a war between the Pashás Alý and Mustafá, which lasted seven years, have left many of the houses in ruins. The war ended by putting Alý in possession of Délvino, and sending Mustafá to take shelter in Tjamuriá, where he now resides at Vakalátes [Vagalat], a small town two or three hours eastward of Buthrotum.
At the entrance of Délvino, on a conspicuous height, stands the deserted serái of Selím Bey Koka, a connection of Alý Pashá, but who, having taken part with Mustafá, has not thought himself safe here, and has retired to Koníspoli [Konispol], where, however, he still enjoys the revenue of his landed property in the district of Délvino. A little within the opening of the hills, a conical rock, projecting over the ravine, is crowned with a small castle in bad repair. The ground on either side of the ravine abounds in springs and streamlets falling down to the torrent, and although the most uneven imaginable, bears olives and other fruit trees. The Pashá's palace is a heap of ruins, but there still remain in the same quarter, on the northern side of the town, some good houses, pleasantly situated among gardens, in which are orange-trees, cypresses, and poplars. The Christians of Délvino make wine, and comb and spin some imported hemp into yarn, from which they manufacture shoes. Swords too, such as the Albanians wear, are made here, and every part of their muskets except the barrels. Below the castle there is a miserable bazár.
On account of the difficulty of passing the river, I had no opportunity of examining a Paleó-kastro at Finíki (Φοινίκη) [Finiq], of which I received information. The name, however, is sufficient to show it to be Phoenice of Strabo and Polybius, which the former describes as being near Buthrotum, and which the itineraries place exactly in this position between the Acroceraunia and Buthrotum: it stood on an insulated hill, in the middle of the plain between the river of Kaliása [Kalasa], and another, named Vistrítza, which flows from the northeast, and beyond Finíki pursues a course nearly parallel to the former river, as far as the lake, into which they separately fall.
The ruins of Finiq (Phoenice)
(Photo: Robert Elsie, May 2000).
My host complains to me, in the usual style, of the hardships which his nation suffers from the Turks, and asks why the great powers of Europe, but particularly the English, will not assist in liberating their fellow-Christians. It is not a very agreeable task to explain, that nations seldom act but from self-interest, that we have a cruel war on our hands, and that our present policy is to support the Turkish empire. The poor Greeks have not much more to hope for at present from any other nation. If either French or Russians, in their military occupation of the country, were obliged to derive their resources from it, the Greeks might find the necessities of a French or Russian general not less fatal to their liberty and property than those of Alý, whose officers are kept in the best possible order, however relentless his own extortion may be. The sentiments of the Greeks, as well in this as in other parts of Greece which I have visited, show that the conduct of the Russians in the Greek expeditions of Catherine, as well as in the administration of the Septinsular Republic, has left a very unfavorable impression: so far from desiring the presence of these brethren of their church, as might have been supposed, they much more commonly bestow upon them the appellations of Κλέφτες and Ζῶα. On the other hand, they seem quite ready to hail the arrival of the French, though they are cautious of giving utterance to these sentiments, not so much from any fear of their own government, for at this moment they have perhaps more liberty of speech upon such subjects than any people on the continent of Europe; but from doubts lest they should give offence to European governments or their agents, whose influence with the Turks might be fatal to an offending individual. My host admits, that were any pretended deliverers to land, there would hardly be the Greek who would venture to furnish them provisions, much less to join them, so much do they dread the Turkish sabre, and so little energy have they to act in their own behalf.
Dec. 26. — At half past eight this morning we begin to ascend the mountain at the back of Délvino. Its sides are covered with extensive vineyards, yielding a light pleasant wine, but which generally turns sour before the summer. The pass leads between rugged and barren hills, two of the highest summits of the range, until, at half past ten, we arrive at the little village of Kardhikáki [Kardhikaq], where are the sources of one of the streams which contribute to form the Vistrítza. Here we fall in with some Musulman Albanians, hunting hares with greyhounds of a large breed. The peasants are ploughing the round, with a light plough drawn by two oxen; they afterwards break the clods with a hoe. At 1.10 a hollow country is on our right, four or five miles in diameter, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, and watered by several streams, which unite to form the Vistrítza. The slopes, although intersected and broken by the torrents in the most rugged, and wildest manner, are well clothed with vineyards and olive-trees.
Having skirted the edge of this basin as far as the village of Morzená [Muzina], we there join the road from Vutzindró, which is hardly passable at this time on account of the rivers. A little beyond Morzená is a Dervéni, or guard-house, in a spot here the road begins to descend into the plain of Arghyrókastro [Gjirokastra] through a narrow opening between two very steep and lofty summits. The descent is long and rugged; and it is not until 2 P.M. that we arrive in the plain at the Dervéni [Derviçan] of Garbítzi, or Grábitza, so called from a small neighbouring village. Here the opening is no more than a torrent-bed between lofty rocks. The wretched mules which we took from the Forty Saints move so slowly that the horizontal distance from Délvino to this place is probably not more than 9 geographical miles. Nothing can be less inviting or picturesque than the present appearance of the valley of Arghyrókastro, though undoubtedly it presents a very different appearance in spring, as its numerous villages and extensive cultivation show that it is one of the most flourishing districts in Albania. Those parts which are now little better than a marsh in consequence of the perfect level, are in summer richly covered with corn, maize, and tobacco. Opposite to Garbítzi the plain is about five miles broad, bounded by two parallel mountains of varied surface, woody, and studded with villages in the lower parts, and rising above to steep ridges of calcareous rock, the summits of which are now covered with snow, and the bare sides furrowed with white charadrae, or beds of winter torrents: along the middle of the valley flows a river in a direction from south to north. Our road on emerging from the pass, changes from an eastern to a north-western direction, along the foot of the mountain; and at the end of three miles we halt for the night, at the little village of Theriakhátes [Terihat]. The Papás, in whose house I lodge, is a cultivator of land, holding it of the Musulman lord of the village, who supplies seed and cattle, and takes half the produce. He asserts that in summer, not only the plain is quite dry, but the river also, and that the air is not unhealthy. This perhaps is chiefly owing to the situation of the villages on the sides of the hills. They are for the most part surrounded with vineyards and a few olives. Opposite to Theriakhátes is the town of Libókhovo [Libohova], situated, like Délvino, in an opening through which appears a parallel range still higher than that which borders the plain, and with a greater quantity of snow upon it. This high ridge is called Nemértzika [Nemërçka]. The pass of Libókhovo leads to Perméti [Përmet], or Premedí, which stands on the eastern foot of Mount Nemértzika, in the vale of the Viósa [Vjosa]. In the hollow country between the two ranges behind Libókhovo, and extending from thence along the mountains towards Tepeléni, is the Albanian district of Lientja [Lunxhëria], in Greek Λιουνταριὰ, the country of the Λιούντζιδες. These people are noted for their skill in the irrigation of land, and the management of aquaducts, and in that capacity obtain employment at Constantinople, and in other distant parts of the Turkish empire. To the south of the Liúntzidhes is the district called Pogóniani, or Pogóyani, of which Dhelvináki is the chief place; and to the north-eastward, that of Zagoriá. The Zagoriáni inhabit the banks of a stream, which joins the Viósa between Klisúra [Këlcyra] and Tepeléni.
Below Libókhovo, on the skirts of the plain, are seen some buildings where the snuff is made for which this valley is celebrated; and in the mid plain, which is here about four miles across, the Papás points out to me a mound near the left bank of the river, which by the description seems to be a small theatre. It is now inaccessible, the plain being a marsh quite up to the rocks of Theriakhátes. The whole valley is called by the Greeks Derópoli [Dropull], which the Albanians pronounce Derópugl: the river is named Dhryno [Drino], or Dryno, or Druno, or river of Derópoli. Arghyrókastro, the chief town, contains about 2000 Musulman families; Libókhovo half that number; in each are about 100 Christian houses.
The road to Ioánnina from the dervéni of Grábitza follows up the plain of Derópoli to the southward. At a quarter of an hour it crosses a branch of the Dryno, half an hour further another branch; and a quarter of an hour beyond, the main stream of the river. The road soon afterwards ascends the eastern hills, from which many torrents descend into the river, after having turned some more snuff mills. It then enters Pogóyani, leaves Dhelvináki on the left, crosses again to the left bank of the Dryno, which originates in the mountains around Dhelvináki, passes through the valleys of Xeróvalto and Tzerovína, crosses the Kalamá near its sources, and from thence proceeds into the plain of Ioánnina.
View of Gjirokastra
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
Dec. 27. — At half-past seven this morning we continue to skirt the foot of the mountain in a northerly direction, advancing very slowly through rocky ground, or along the edge of the marshy plain, and leaving several small villages on the heights above us, until ten, when we arrive at the point of a low projecting ridge, where the river, wide, deep, and rapid, approaches so near to the heights as to leave only a passage for the road. On the point stands the village of Kulorítza, and on a similar projection, two miles further, the town of Arghyrókastro.
Not thinking it right to visit this place, as Alý Pashá and the Kastrítes, or rather a powerful party in the town, are at present in a state of mutual observation, we leave it on the left, and crossing a high narrow bridge of four arches below the town, halt a little beyond it for twenty minutes at a fountain. The plain here is not more than a mile and a half in breadth, and is all in pasture. Arghyrókastro occupies a large space of ground, being divided into separate clusters of houses, which are defended from one another by deep ravines. The mountain on which it stands is bare and deficient in water, and it is difficult to imagine a more disadvantageous situation, except with a view to the interminable disputes among the Albanian fáres, for here the hostile families, separated from each other by rocks and ravines, may cherish their quarrels for years together without any effectual result.
In the plain between Libókhovo and Arghyrókastro, the Dryno is joined by the Sukha, which rises in Mount Nemértzika, and after watering the fertile valley of the Liúntzidhes, to the eastward of Libókhovo, enters the plain through a narrow opening on the northern side of that town. Having reached a projection of the eastern hills, we coast them for two or three miles, strike again across a part of the plain, and at 1.15 arrive at a Khan called Valaré [Valareja], or in the Albanian pronunciation, Valiaré, situated on the right bank of a torrent which descends obliquely from the mountain into the Dryno. The Khan is reckoned five hours from Tepeléni; the road thither lying along the foot of the mountain, and over some low heights which project from it. Finding it impossible, with such cattle as we have, to reach Tepeléni to-night, we follow the torrent at the foot of the eastern mountain, which here projects considerably into the valley, and forms a variety of lower heights.
Kordhoca Bridge in Lazarat near Gjirokastra
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
Instead of stopping at Gariani [Karjan], which is at the entrance of these hills, we are induced, in search of better accommodation, to proceed to Lábovo [Labova], which is asserted to be only half an hour higher on the mountain. We ascend accordingly by a winding path, which is not the better for being paved, as half the stones have been displaced by the torrents, but see nothing of Lábovo for two hours, nor until we had entered the clouds, which have settled upon the hills with a southerly wind, and brought on rain.
Λάμποβος, vulgarly pronounced Liábovo, according to the guttural sound of the l in Albanian, is situated not far below one of the highest summits of the range, but in a situation where a more gradual slope than that which we ascended admits of space for the scattered houses of the village, and for some vineyards and fields of kalambókki. It is entirely Christian, and there are eight or ten churches, besides those in the detached quarters, for, like the larger Albanian villages in general, Lábovo consists of several detached makhalás. They suffered last year from a deficient harvest, and derive no advantage from being near Tepeléni, as the Vezír Alý, when he visits his native place, calls upon Lábovo among other neighbouring places to furnish him with provision for his household, particularly eggs, poultry, and wood. On the summit of the ridge above Lábovo stands Tjaiúbe, in a situation so exposed to storms, that it is necessary to pile stones and earth upon the roofs to prevent them from being blown away, although composed of heavy masses of stone. From a peak of this ridge, called Strakavétzi, the monastery of Aghio Naúm, near Bitólia, is said to be visible.
Dec. 28. — Very soon after quitting Lábovo, (at half-past eight,) the town of Kardhíki [Kardhiq], or Gardhíki, appears over the northern extremity of the range of Arghyrókastro, on a height surrounded by a valley through which the Bélitza [Belica] river takes its course to join the Dryno. The junction of these two streams occurs a little below the Khan Valiaré, between it and a bridge over the united river.
The slopes of the mountain of Lábovo, as far as the river Viósa, are well cultivated, and contain many villages. One of the largest of these, named Khórmovo [Hormova], resisted for a long time the growing power of Alý Pashá, when at length, about nine years ago, he took it, murdered the male inhabitants, and burned alive the Prift, who commanded the village, in revenge for the ill-treatment which Alý’s mother and sister had suffered from this man and others, when they were made prisoners, by the allied forces of Khórmovo and Gardhíki, soon after the death of Alý’s father.
In something less than two hours we arrive at the foot of the mountain, on the right bank of the Dryno, which, between the bridge of Arghyrókastro, where we crossed it, and this place, has received, besides the Bélitza and torrent of Valaré, a contribution much larger than either from a source at the foot of the mountain about midway between Arghyrókastro and the Bélitza, so that here the river is almost twice as large as at the bridge of Arghyrókastro. The great source just mentioned is said to be the only portion of the river permanent in very dry seasons. The stream now enters a narrow vale between two mountains; that to the west is united with ridges which inclose on every side the valley of Gardhíki; the eastern, on which stands Khórmovo, is a westerly projection of the mountain of Lábovo. We cross the river by the bridge of the Subáshi, so named; which has three arches resting upon piers, with arched openings in them. The middle arch, which is much the largest, is pointed at the top, and its height is equal to about two thirds of the span. The roadway is so narrow and roughly paved, and the structure so high, that it is scarcely ever passed but on foot. From the bridge to Tepeléni, the distance is about six miles — two thirds along the Dryno, and the remainder on the bank of the Viósa after it has received the Dryno. The road has been paved, but as the mountain rises immediately above it, the torrent has carried away the pavement in many parts, and left a track just passable.
The fortress and serái of the Vezír, standing on a tabular projection, surrounded by cliffs towards the river, have an imposing appearance at a distance, and are quite in harmony with the sublime scenery around. The village of Tepeléni, indeed, which consists of not more than eighty or ninety Musulman families, with a small detached suburb of Christians, is no great embellishment to the scene; but upon the whole, the palace is one of the most romantic and delightful country-houses that can be imagined. The height is the termination of one of the counterforts of a snowy range of mountains, bordering the vale of the Viósa to the west, and is defended on the northern side by the ravine of a stream called Bantja [Bënça], which, though sometimes dry in summer, now pours a large supply into the Viósa. The village is surrounded by vineyards which produce a poor red wine; beyond which, wheat and barley are the produce of the higher lands around; and kalambókki that of the low level on the banks of the river.
Immediately above Tepeléni, the piers of a ruined bridge stretch across the Viósa, the arches of which were carried away three years ago by an inundation, and are now supplied by a temporary wooden communication. From the opposite bank of the river rises a steep and lofty mountain, named Trebushín [Trebeshina]; on the side of which are a Tekiéh, or convent of dervises, and a village named Petzísti [Beçisht].
Walls of the Fortress of Tepelena
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
Mount Trebushín is separated only from the similar mountain of Khórmovo by the Viósa, which at two miles above Tepeléni emerges from a bogházi, or narrow gorge, between the two mountains, and joining the Dryno, spreads over a space of near half a mile where the river is divided by sand-banks into several streams now deep and broad, but some of which have no existence in summer.
Mount Trebushín sends forth a branch to the northward, which extends to the Illyrian plains, between Berát and Avlóna, bounding the vale of the Viósa, below Tepeléni, on the eastern side, opposite to the parallel ridge before mentioned, of which the highest summit (not seen from Tepeléni), is named in Albanian Griva (grey) [Griba], from its being constantly covered with snow, except for a short time in the middle of summer. The southerly and westerly winds, which have now prevailed for a fortnight, have melted the snow on the western side of all the mountains, but have left it in considerable quantity on the opposite face of them.
The narrow ravine between Trebushín and the mountain of Khórmovo, from which the Viósa emerges, is called τὰ Στενὰ τῆς Βιώσας or the Straits of the Viósa. It extends four hours to the eastward, throughout which distance the river flows between two high mountains, every where steep, and in some places perpendicular. The Stená terminate at the village of Klisúra‚ above which the valley widens, and from thence continues to be nearly of the same breadth for a considerable distance beyond Premedí. At Klisúra Alý has built a fortress, in a lofty situation, above the right bank of the river, and is thus master of both ends of this important defile.
There can be little doubt that this pass is the celebrated Fauces Antigonenses, or Aoi Stena, near Antigoneia, in which Philip, son of Demetrius, attempted in vain to arrest the progress of the Roman consul, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, through Epirus.
The Gorge of Këlcyra (Klisura)
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
Dec. 31. — The road from Tepeléni to Nívitza [Nivica] leads along the river Bantza [Bënça] (in Albanian Benja), through a hollow in the range of Griva, from which that river descends. This pass conducts to Pregonáti [Progonat], situated at the head of the valley of the Sútzista [Shushica], which descends to Nívitza, and joins the Viósa in the plain of Apollonia. Thus Tepeléni, in all the four quarters, is approached by a narrow valley; from the east and north by that of the Viósa, from the south by the valley of the Dryno, and from the west by that of the Bantza. On the left bank of the Bantza, three or four miles above Tepeléni, is a ruined castle, bearing the same name as the river. It occupies the summit of a height, and incloses about two acres. Nothing is left but the foundations, except at the upper end, where are some remains of a round tower, of very thick and regular courses of masonry, cemented with a great quantity of mortar. The shape and position of the castle, and its citadel at the round tower, incline me to think that the fortress is ancient, although no part of the masonry resembles the massy and beautiful constructions of the southern Greeks. On the opposite bank of the river, not a mile above the ruins, is the small village Bantza, which is said to have been built about thirty years ago by one of the fáres, or family alliances of Pregonáti, which, in consequence of the internal disputes of that town, and the superiority acquired by their opponents, had been obliged to leave it. Several other small villages were founded at that time in the country around Pregonáti from the same cause. It may be thought, perhaps, that Bantza is a corruption of Amantia, and that it proves that ancient city to have stood either at Bantza or at Tepeléni, but Amantia was certainly much nearer to Aulon, and Bantza may, perhaps, be the ancient name, with scarcely any change. Below Tepeléni the Viósa continues to flow for twelve hours between the two ranges of mountains already mentioned, as far as Grádista [Gradishta], sometimes closely confined between rocky banks, at others leaving small plains, or cultivated open heights, on either side, and thus the country is divided by nature into districts, each of which contains several villages, generally small. The first of the plains below Tepeléni is that of Lópesi, pronounced Liópesi by the Albanians, of which the village is named Dukái, in Greek Dukádhes. Here is a ruin on the left bank of the river, similar to that of Bantza. Opposite to Lópesi, a quarter of an hour from the right bank of the river, stands Vásari, or Váshari [Vasjar], according to the usual Albanian and vulgar Greek pronunciation of the sigma. On the opposite side, one hour from Dukái, is Saralí [Salaria], distant half an hour from the left bank of the river, from whence there is a road across Mount Griva to Nívitza, by a ravine called Gróbate Pliákes, or the vale of the old woman, so called because a woman was once frozen to death in passing. Continuing from Saralí on the way to Avlóna, occurs, at the end of an hour and a half, Dhumbliáni [Dhëmblan], containing three hundred houses, and situated at the same distance from the Viósa as Saralí; three hours beyond it is Kúdhesi [Kudhës], of five hundred houses, the chief town of a district containing several villages, and situated on the mountain, which commands the fork of the rivers Viósa and Sútzista.
On the river side, below Lópesi, is the district of Kalútzi, separated from that of Lópesi by a rocky shore, on which stands another ruined fortress, near the village of Lunji, which is about half way between Tepeléni and Grádista. Another rocky shore terminates Kalútzi on the left bank, beyond which the country begins to open towards the plain; then occurs Karvunári [Karbunar], a town of Kúdhesi, then Grádista, on the right bank, and Selenítza [Selenica] on the left, where are the mines of fossil pitch described by Strabo; and then the junction of the Viósa with the Sútzista, or river of Nívitza.
From all I can learn, the most considerable Hellenic cities in this part of the country were at Grádista and Nívitza. If the latter was Amantia, as I can hardly doubt from the strong testimony of the ancient authors, the former was probably Byllis, or Bullis, for Byllis, Amantia and Apollonia were the three principal cities in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aulon.
This evening the Dervises mount to the top of Mount Trebushín; and on their return declare the new moon visible, though the sky is so clouded that the sun could not have been seen, had it been above the horizon. Several guns are then fired at intervals of five minutes, and the rioting of the Bairam begins.
Knowing how little the Musulman Albanians care for the ceremonies or the doctrines of their religion, I was surprised to find them, on my arrival, keeping the Ramazán so correctly. Not a pipe was to be seen till the muezzín had called the evening prayer from the minaret of the Pashá's mosque. But the Vezír, though he generally drinks wine openly at table, seems to think it right to set a good Musulman example to the wild Tóskidhes and Liápidhes of his native mountains, whose ancestors probably adopted the fast the more readily from its resembling one of the observances of the church from which they apostatized, without being so severe a penance as the Christian Lent. In fact, the Ramazán is no mortification at all in winter, when the short days leave the Musulmans at liberty to feast as early as five in the evening.
Alý’s sons, Mukhtár and Velý, were born by a daughter of Kaplán Pashá, of Délvino. His third son, Salíh, who is only three or four years old, was by a slave. It does not appear that the sons have been educated in such a manner as can adapt them for preserving the power which the father has founded, or that he himself looks much farther in this respect than other Turks. Indeed, a Turk, or Musulman Albanian, not short-sighted, avaricious, or intent upon momentary advantages, would be a rarissima avis. Alý is his own Kehayá and Hasnadár, trusts not even his own sons, and transacts every thing himself, except where writing is required, when he dictates to a Turkish or Greek secretary. His own writing is execrably bad, and his Greek orthography worse; the little that he learnt when a boy having been almost lost by that want of practice caused by the custom common in every part of the east among the great, of always employing a secretary. Turkish he can read, but never attempts to write, though it formed a part of his education: in fact it is not much wanted, except for some formal letters to the Porte, to some of the Pashás of Rumilí; his communications with the government being chiefly carried on in Greek by means of his Kapi-Tjokhadár, or acknowledged agent, residing at Constantinople. With the Albanians his written correspondence is in Greek, except perhaps in a few rare cases where he wishes his missive to be publicly read in Albanian, in which case it is written in that language with Greek characters.
The person of most importance under the Vezír is Sulimán, the Seliktár Agá, now absent. It is said that his influence in southern Albania is such, that in the event of the Pashá's death, he might place himself at the head of a party at least equal to those of Mukhtár or Velý, for little doubt seems to be entertained that the two brothers will be opposed to each other. Already the symptoms of this future civil war are apparent. Mukhtár, knowing that by money he can always command the affections of the Albanians, is a thesaurizer, while his brother, who is a mere sensualist, but with much more talent than Mukhtár, is much less provident.
Another person in whom the Vezír places great confidence, is Yusúf Agá Arápi, nominally His Highness's Hasnadár, in whose house, now occupied by his son, Bekír Agá, I am lodged. He has always been employed by the Vezír in the management of the Dervénia, and hence is thoroughly acquainted with the country, from the frontiers of Dalmatia to the isthmus of Corinth. He is described as a man of talent and activity, extremely attached to his master, brave, ferocious, active, and cruel. Two other officers, whom the Vezír generally keeps near him, are Tatza Bulubáshi, a Musulman, and Athanási Váia, a Christian, the ready instruments of many an atrocious act of cruelty. All these persons, including the Pashá's sons, are usually dressed in the Albanian fashion, with a coat or jacket covered with gold lace, and a shirt falling down in folds over the drawers, resembling the drapery of the Roman statues. When new and clean it is a beautiful costume; but a clean shirt is not a weekly luxury even with all the higher classes; and among the soldiers it is sometimes worn out without ever being washed, though occasionally taken off, and held over the fire, that the animals contained in it, intoxicated by the smoke, may fall into the fire, when a crackling announces the success of the operation. Sometimes during the first two or three weeks of a new shirt or waistcoat, or when particularly desirous of making a favourable appearance, they wear a collar of cotton, impregnated with oxyde of mercury, which forms a barrier to the more aspiring natives, and keeps them out of sight. The same want of cleanliness pervades every class in proportion, in all their domestic arrangements. Alý himself has been so accustomed to the rudest Albanian life in his youth, that the dirtiness of his people gives him little disgust, and as policy obliges him to receive the lowest Albanian with familiarity and apparent confidence, to allow them to approach him, to kiss the hem of his garment, to touch his hand, and to stand near him while they converse with him, his dress is often covered with vermin, and there is no small danger of acquiring these companions by sitting on his sofa, where they are often seen crawling amidst embroidered velvet and cloth of gold.
A Diván Efféndi and a Turkish Secretary, both πολίταις, or natives of Constantinople, form a part also of Alý's court. They preserve the Turkish costume, and look upon the Albanians with that mixture of fear and contempt, which is the general feeling of the Turks towards this nation. Through the medium of the Constantinopolitans residing with him, and that of his own resident at the Porte, Alý manages the good understanding, which he has the policy to keep up with the supreme government. He makes frequent presents to the Validé Sultána, and her powerful Kehayá Yusúf. He has augmented his dominions as much by the intermarriages of his family with the chieftains around him, as by his military or political skill. Arghyrókastro and Libókhovo have been brought under his influence chiefly by the marriage of his sister, Khainítza, with Sulimán, of Arghyrókastro, sometime Pashá of Tríkkala, whose son, Adém Bey, now resides with his mother, as Governor of Libókhovo, under the orders of the Vezír, having succeeded in this post to his brother, Elmás Bey, who died not long since at Ioánnina.
Alý has no other relatives except his grandchildren. His sister, before she married Sulimán of Arghyrókastro, was the wife of Sulimán's brother, Alý, by whom she had a daughter married to Velý, Bey of Klisúra. It is said that Alý, of Arghyrókastro, was murdered by his brother, in concert with Alý of Tepeléni, and his sister: it is certain, at least, that Sulimán, very soon after his brother's death, married the widow. Eight years ago Alý obtained possession of Klisúra, by murdering his nephew-in-law, the Bey, together with his younger brother, whom he had enticed to Ioánnina, to assist at the nuptials of his son Velý with the daughter of Ibrahím Pashá, by which alliance the peace between the two Vezírs was ratified. Alý pretended to have discovered that not only the Bey, but his brother, who had accompanied him, had been engaged in a plot against the Vezír. By this act Alý cleared away all the claimants to Klisúra: a most important point, which secures Tepeléni and Premedí, and opens the road to Berát.
At Arghyrókastro, as in other independent towns of Albania, the power was formerly divided among several leagues, whose chieftains were continually at war. At present, Mortezá Bey, brother of Sulimán Pashá, chiefly by his alliance with Alý, is at the head of the strongest party.
Mutja Hushúf (Albanian for Musa Yusúf, or Moses Joseph) was the name of Alý's great grandfather, from whom the family are called in Greek οἱ Μουτζαχουσσάτες. My host, Bekír Agá, asserts, that Hushúf conquered all Albania with his sabre, which, though a mere amplification, shows that his power was considerable. His son, Mukhtár, accompanied the expedition of Kara Mustafá, the Seraskier of Sultan Hamíd III., in union with the fleet of the Kapitán Pashá Djanum Khodja against Corfú, in the year 1716, when the island was defended by Marshal Schulemberg, whose statue still remains in the Citadel, erected by the Venetian republic, in gratitude for this defence of the island. Mukhtár was killed in the siege, having fallen in the assault of the fortress; and it is believed in Albania that his sword is still kept at Corfú, among the trophies of that expedition. Ve1ý, the father of Alý, was the youngest of three brothers, or half-brothers, but having succeeded in destroying the two elder, became the head of the house. He died at an early age, leaving Alý a child in the care of his mother Khanko, daughter of a Bey of Kónitza, who was of the same family as Kurt Pashá of Berát, at that time the most powerful chieftain in Albania. Alý has now been a Vezír for about four years, and is not a little proud of the third tail, which the Porte has generally been very unwilling to confer upon Albanians. Having bestowed it upon Alý, they gave it also to the two Ibrahíms, in order to keep the balance of power even.
Alý disgusts all the Franks who come to seek their fortune in his service, by his parsimony. He scarcely ever gives them any fixed pay, whatever he may have promised, but confines himself to making them presents in clothes and money, when they perform any particular service. If they are not married, he is always anxious to provide them with wives, that he may have hostages to prevent their leaving the place. Those who have to provide for the different departments of his household, are said to be the only persons who enrich themselves in his service.
The Franks at present in the Vezír's service are a Milanese, who had previously been employed by the Pashás of Berát and Skodra, and who has undertaken to complete a foundry at Ioánnina: there are also a French engineer, a carpenter, who makes gun carriages, a Dalmatian watchmaker, and an Italian smith. These people, though really able men in their professions, will soon be forced to leave his service from the want of encouragement.
Plutarch informs us, that Pyrrhus was an assiduous courtier, and studious when young of acquiring the friendship of powerful persons. This is generally the Albanian character. They are anxious to secure the favour of their superiors, and faithful to them while regularly paid. Their revolts which so often occur, are generally caused by the ill-faith of the employers, who often begin an enterprize without sufficient pecuniary means, trusting to success for an augmentation of them.
The Albanians, being generally poorer than the Turks, are more moderate in their expectations, more patient and persevering, more familiar with hardships from their infancy, but equally greedy of money, and much more saving. The Albanian soldier will either plunder or live on the hardest fare, as circumstances may require, to save his pay; his prime object being to return home with a well-filled girdle; for the zone, as among the Romans, is the treasury of the Albanian. Their military qualities are rather shown in the ὁδὸν ἐλθέμεναι than in the ἄνδασιν ἶφι μάχεσθαι, and their wars consist entirely in stratagem, rapine, and ambuscade, though few of them are deficient in personal courage, when the occasion calls for it. One of the advantages of the Albanians is their independence of other countries for the greater part of the manufactures of that rude kind with which they are content. Their arms are all made in Albania, with the exception of the gun-barrels, the greater part of which are from the north of Italy, though an inferior kind both of musquet and pistol-barrels are made at Skódra [Shkodra], Prisrend [Prizren], Kalkándere [Tetova], Prístina [Prishtina], and Grevená: gun locks are made both in Greece and Albania; some I have seen from Karpenísi, in Aetolia, which have a polish (if that be any merit) equal to those of England. The kind of musquet, however, which the Albanians use is very inconvenient, and is adapted only to their own irregular discipline, being long and heavy, without any balance of weight in the stock, which is particularly thin and light, and the piece is thus incapable of an aim without resting.
The coarse woollen cloth used for the outer garments of the Albanians is chiefly made at Skódra. It is a thick white coarse cloth, which wears well, and when adorned with a broad lace, forms one of the handsomest national costumes in Europe. It is much superior in quality to that of the black kapa, or outer cloak, made in all the mountains of Northern Greece, and which is very generally worn by the shepherds, peasants, and lower orders both of Greece and Albania, as well as by the mariners of the Greek and Adriatic seas.
The Pashá asserts, that in the country, of which Tepeléni gives him the command, there are not less than 16000 men armed with musquets, who are considered among the best soldiers in Albania. However correct this numeration may be, it is certain, at least, that Albania is better peopled than any equal portion of European Turkey, that notwithstanding the great number of the soldiery employed abroad, it maintains its population, and that every male, from his infancy, is familiar with the use of arms. The Vezír describes Albania as 200 hours in length; in one half of which his own influence predominates, while the remainder is about equally divided between Ibrahím Pashá of Berát [Berat], and Ibrahím Pashá of Skódra. He admits, however, that there are still some chieftains who do not acknowledge the authority of the three. Nor is it likely that the country will ever quietly submit to a single hand, although this is evidently the object of all the Vezír's actions. The quarrels of the chieftains are the delight of the inferior classes, and a constant source of profit to them. As the former are of every degree of power, the minor agree with the more powerful for the hire of their service, and that of their followers. When the hostile parties are persons of great authority, one of their first considerations is the employment of skilful agents to treat for the services of the inferior chieftains, or to make any other bargains useful to the cause.
It often happens in the course of a campaign, between two contending powers, that a village, a single house, a tábia, a meterís, or an occupied position, is bought from the possessors by the opposite party, and though the villages on the hostile frontier generally suffer, yet, as Albanian houses are quickly constructed, such injuries are often unworthy of consideration compared with the advantage which the inhabitants derive from their purchase by the contending parties. Sometimes the head of a family, who is known to be able to command a certain number of tuféks, privately meets the emissary of the chief who wishes to engage his services; he endeavours to raise the lufé, or daily pay, of each man as high as possible; next requires so many lufés for those whom he is to engage to take care of his house in his absence; then a farther acknowledgment, perhaps, to enable him to raise a meterís in some important spot for the defence of the house, or any other pretext of the same kind. When the bargain is finally made, he ties round his waist all the money paid in advance, makes the best provision he can for the care of his family, and comes into the field with half, or at most two thirds, of the men whom he is paid for, and remains, perhaps, only until he can make a new bargain with the opponents. Such treachery, however, although not uncommon among the poorest tribes of Albania, is not held in estimation, unless upon a very large scale, and for some great object. It may easily be conceived, that with such customs the Albanians have a particular objection to a muster. I have seen a Grand Vezír attempt it, when, instead of effecting his object, he had the upper part of his tent perforated in a hundred places with musquet-shot. The operations of Albanian warfare in the field being chiefly confined to dodging behind trees and firing at long distances from cover, and few but the chiefs being in earnest, their campaigns are tardy and expensive, and their wars seldom of any great duration, or productive of decisive results. Ultimate success, of course, is sure to attend the treasury which is the best provided.
The Albanians are fond of the chase, and almost every man of landed property keeps greyhounds for coursing the hare, which is their favourite sport. The Vezír has an establishment here, and a few days ago brought home six hares and a fox. He sent me his horses and dogs one day, with an order to Bekír Agá to accompany me, but the weather prevented us from going. There is no want of red-legged partridges on the hills, but netting is the only mode by which they are taken.
The greater number of Alý's subjects being Christians, he is very watchful over the bishops, often employs them as instruments of extortion, and is careful that every act of theirs shall tend to the stability and extension of his own power. He often requires their attendance at Ioánnina, or wherever he may happen to be, and shows them favour, so far as to support their authority over the Christians, and sometimes to assist them with a little military force if it should be necessary for the collection of their dues, which consist chiefly in a fixed contribution from every Christian house. They are not exempt, however, from those occasional calls upon their purses, from which no man within his reach is free whom he considers capable of paying. The most important of his ecclesiastical ministers is the metropolitan bishop of Ioánnina, a Naxiote by birth, whose diocese comprehends the greater part of Epirus. I overtook him at the bridge of the Subáshi, on his way to court.
His ἐπαρχία or province, contains four subordinate sees; namely, 1. Velá, Βελᾶς; 2. Dhrynópoli, Δρυϊνοπόλεως; 3. Delvino and Khimára, Δελβίνου καὶ Χειμάρας; 4. Vuthrotó and Glyký; Βουθρωτοῦ καὶ Γλυκίως. Of these, Delvino and Khimára only remain, the two others being traceable only by their ruins; of the first the residence is Kónitza; of the second, Arghyrókastro; of the fourth, Paramythía. The northern limit of the bishopric of Drynópolis, or Arghyrókastro, is the bridge of Tepeléni. To the eastward it comprehends Zagoriá, and borders upon the province of Κορυτζὰ, a town situated a day's journey from Premedí, to the north-eastward.
In the episcopal province of Ioánnina the number of Musulmans bears a small proportion to that of the Christians, but in that of Korytzá there are many villages entirely Mahometan; in some, Mahometans are married to Greek women, the sons are educated as Turks, and the daughters as Christians; and pork and mutton are eaten at the same table. The province of Beligrád, or Berát, borders on that of Korytzá to the westward; its metropolitan is styled bishop of Velágrada, the form which the Greeks have given to the Sclavonic word Beligrád. In the provinces of Korytzá and Velágrada, as well as further north, the Musulman faith is supposed by the bishop of Ioánnina to be rapidly increasing. Instances have occurred of the apostasy of whole villages at a time. This happened in particular among the Karamuratátes, who inhabit Mount Nemértzika, and the neighbouring valley of the Viósa.
Such examples, with the advantages, which a nation of mercenary soldiers cannot but find in belonging to the dominant religion, instead of one which renders them objects of contempt and ill-treatment to those in power, are powerful motives to a rapid increase of apostasy. Meantime, the Christians who are employed in a larger proportion than the Musulmans, in pursuits of agriculture or trade, have a tendency to retreat from the oppression of their countrymen of the adverse faith, or to occupy lands in Greece or elsewhere, where labour is wanted; and thus there is every prospect of Albania, once a Christian country, becoming, at no distant period of time, almost entirely Mahometan. Apostasy has had similar effects among the Sclavonic nations of European Turkey, extending from Greece to the Danube, but by no means in the same proportion, unless it be in Bosnia.
The bishop relates to me that the Khormovítes were notorious robbers before they were reduced by the Vezír. Their favourite place of action was the Pass of Tepeléni, where one of their priests used to enter a hollow tree which stands between Tepeléni and the bridge, while others lay in wait by the side of the road, and stopped the passengers until this Dodonaean Oracle was consulted. If the passenger was a Mahometan, the oracular voice generally ordered him to be stripped and hung upon the tree; if he was a Christian, belonging to a hostile village, he was perhaps dragged through the river. In other cases the Oracle was generally satisfied with sending the unlucky wight forward on foot, after his horse or ass had been taken from him.
Jan. 2, 1805. — In consequence of a violent rain last night, the Bantza and Viósa have swelled to a great height, so that the former occupies the whole of its bed, which at the mouth is three or four hundred yards across, and the Viósa, which is nearly half a mile broad below the junction, pours even above it such a flood of water against the bridge of Tepeléni, that it has almost over-topped the old piers, and threatens with ruin some masses of masonry which the Pashá has erected on the piers to support the wooden planks, now serving instead of the four arches which were carried away. Passengers still continue to cross from either bank, but the Vezír, fearful not so much for their safety perhaps as for that of the bridge, sits all the afternoon in a kiosk at one corner of his harem, looking towards it with anxiety. A Dervish observing him, goes out and dances upon the bridge, harangues the trees brought down by the stream as they pass through it, and at last makes a kurbán, or sacrifice, of a black lamb and two white ones, pouring the blood upon one of the piers. After this ceremony the populace seems satisfied that the safety of the bridge is insured, and in fact no accident occurs.
Both the ruined work and the temporary repair were erected by a Greek engineer who is building, with better success, a massy tower at the Serái. The piers have openings, with pointed arches and large spurs opposed to the current, but the whole work is obviously deficient in solidity, and the Aous will probably continue to be indignant of a bridge, until it has a master more liberal of expence, and who will employ an architect better acquainted with modern improvements in this branch of his art. The Albanians endeavour to supply the place of solidity by making the arches of their bridges of an excessive height, which method they allege is subject only to the inconvenience of obliging the traveller to dismount, while it admits of a great economy of materials, the breadth of a bridge being of little moment in a country where there are no wheel carriages. The Vezír expresses great disappointment at the failure of his attempts to establish a bridge at Tepeléni, as it causes a detour by that of the Dryno, and by another in the Stená, in order to reach the opposite bank when the river is not fordable; and, moreover, obliges his Highness on these occasions to enter the Pass of Klisúra, where, if the stout Tóskidhes of the neighbouring villages should prove rebellious, he might find himself in danger.
Adjoining to a mosque which he built near his palace some years since, is a garden, which was then laid out for him by a Frenchman. On the wall which bounds it towards the river three guns are mounted, and two small kiosks are built. The garden is now in a neglected state, serving only to include the poultry which the Pashá obliges the villages around to supply. There are now between five and six hundred fowls in the garden, forty or fifty of which die every day in consequence of exposure to the rain, and want of food; not because there is any deficiency of barley or kalambókki, but because the purveyor sells it, laying the fault upon the weather and want of shelter, and knowing that as fast as the fowls die, the deficiency will be supplied by the villages.
It is said, that Tepeléni once formed an alliance with two other villages; namely, Dámesi [Damës], two hours to the north-east, on the direct road to Berát, over Mount Trebushín; and Dragóti [Dragot], which stands a little within the Pass of the Viósa above its right bank, and that at the head of the league was a woman named Helen. May not Tepeléni be τάφος Ἑλένης? The Turks call it Tepedellen; the Albanians, Tebelen. There is a superstitious belief, that the houses in the village can never exceed one hundred. The Greek suburb, at the western extremity of the promontory on the edge of the hill over the Bantza, had lately so increased as to approach the Turkish quarter, and to give hopes that the spell would be broken; but last year a plague, which swept off whole families, put a stop to the increase of houses, and has left its marks in numerous recent graves, some of which have been opened by the late heavy rains.
Jan. 4. — Many Albanian chiefs have arrived here within these few days to pay their homage to Alý; among others Abdullá Pashá of Elbassán. They all come attended with followers armed to the teeth, in numbers proportioned to the power and rank of the chiefs. Their array in approaching, and their introduction to the Vezír, afford some fine pictures of feudal life, which carry one back in imagination to Europe in the tenth century; for the Turkish conquest of Albania has not merely prevented this country from partaking in the improvement of the rest of Europe, but has carried it in manners some centuries further back than it was at the time of the conquest, and, with the extension of the Mahometan religion, will render it every day more savage, and less capable of improvement.
Among other persons who have arrived, is Mehmét Efféndi, Alý's secretary for foreign affairs. This Mehmet is a Roman, whose name was Marco Quirini. He was a member of the inquisition at Rome, lived six years at Aleppo as a missionary of the Society de Propaganda Fide, and would have succeeded, so he says, to the bishopric of Bombay, had he not, in a fit of ennui, left Aleppo a year before the term of his residence expired. Happening to be at Malta at the time of the arrival of the French expedition to Egypt, he was appointed by Buonaparte, in consequence of the knowledge of Arabic which he had acquired at Aleppo, his secretary-interpreter, but becoming tired of his situation at the end of three months, he sailed for Europe, was taken by a Dulciniote cruizer near Cape Stylo, and brought prisoner to Ioánnina. Here, in despair of acquiring his liberty, and having persuaded himself that the Turkish religion would suit him, or at least recommend him to the Pashá, whose service he was tempted to enter, he renounced the errors of his youth, became a true believer, and now argues, with much Italian eloquence, that the Islám is the only reasonable faith existing. At Aleppo he acquired a little English, together with his Arabic. He is a man of acuteness, sense, and learning, and assuredly will most bitterly deplore the impatience of temper which has caused him to exchange such inconsiderable privations as he met with at Aleppo, or in Egypt, for the hard service of an Albanian master, among comrades with whom he can scarcely exchange an idea. The Pashá has, according to his usual policy, already persuaded him to take a wife, and now that he has him in his power, scarcely gives him the means of existence.
Return from Tepeléni — Lizáti — Stepézi — Dhrynópoli — River Bélitza — Kardhíki — The Gulimidhes — Zuláti — Pass of Skarfitza — Sénitza — Paleavlí — Délvino — Finíki, Phoenice — Capture of Phoenice by the Illyrians — Helicranum — Antigoneia — Phanote — Elaeus — Hadrianopolis — Dryinopolis — The Argyrini — Sail from the Forty Saints to Port Palérimo — Lúkovo — Pikérnes — Sopotó — Kieperó — Khimára, Chimaera — Khimáriote towns; their troops, manners, &c. — Return by sea to the Forty Saints — Hexamíli — Tetránisa — Cassiope — Posidium — The Livári or fishery — Buthrotum; port Pelodes — Lake,river, bay, and district of Vutzindró — Lake Riza — Geography of the coast of Epirus opposite to Corfú.
Jan. 6. — This afternoon I return from Tepeléni, by the same road as far as the bridge of the Subáshi. The village of Dragóti being only hid from Tepeléni by a projection of Mount Trebushín, soon becomes visible, and opposite to it Kotra [Kodra], on a height above the junction of the Viósa and Dryno; then farther southward, on the western face of the same mountain, Lekhlí [Lekël]; and then Khórmovo [Hormova]. Opposite to Lekhlí we pass under the village of Lizáti [Luzat], of two hundred houses, and meet Aidín Agá of Kaliása with a long suite of palikária on foot, on their way to court. A little short of the bridge of the Subáshi is the hollow plane-tree where the robbers of Khórmovo formerly lay in wait for travellers. Here, on both sides of the river, the space is very narrow at the foot of the mountain, and on both sides there is a road; that which proceeds from the bridge along the foot of the mountain of Khórmovo and Lekhlí enters the Stená, and follows the left bank of the Viósa as far as the vale of Kieperí, which is watered by a tributary of the river. The bridge over the Dryno was formerly below Khórmovo, but having been swept away by the river, it was replaced higher up by that of the Subáshi, which has now resisted the floods for several years.
Leaving the bridge to our left, we proceed in the direction of Arghyrókastro. On the face of its mountain, nearly opposite to Karianí [Karjan], is seen Maskolúri [Mashkullora], a large village, and above it the monastery of Trypi, just below the summit, which terminates the mountain at the opening of the valley of Kardhíki [Kardhiq]. A small village called Tzepo [Cepo] stands more to the northward in the middle region of this mountain, and below it is Khumelítza [Humelica] opposite to Stepézi [Shtëpëz], which latter stands on the northern side of the opening leading from the valley of Derópugl into that of Kardhíki. The Bélitza, which waters the vale of Kardhíki, flows in a ravine through the opening, and joins the Dryno in the plain as already stated. At Stepézi we halt for the night. At first the people were not willing to receive us; and when the Bulu-báshi who accompanies me threatened them, "We are poor," they replied, "and have nothing; we can but lose our lives;" but soon change their tone on learning, that contrary to the remonstrances of the Bulu-báshi, I had given directions to pay for every thing, and declare that if the King of England wants soldiers, the whole village, to the number of three hundred, is ready to enter into his service. "It would be easier," observes one of them, "to maintain fifty Albanian soldiers than one English." My konák is a hut which, like most of the houses in the Albanian villages, has no chimney, the fire being in the middle, and the smoke, after circulating for a while about the hut, finding its way out through the crevices of a roof covered with rude unformed tablets of calcareous stone, called πλάκες, anglicè flakes. These being large and thick, are for the most part held in place by their own weight alone, but sometimes great stones are laid upon them. The rafters within are generally hung with the store of maize, here called mesíri, in the state in which it is brought from the field. Above Stepézi, near the top of the mountain, is seen the small village of Petzarí [Picar]; besides which, there are two or three others on the mountain not visible, so wretched as to be described in terms of compassion even by the Stepeziotes.
Below in the plain, about half-way between Stepézi and the Khan Valiaré [Valareja], perceive the ruins called Dhrynópoli, written in Greek Δρυϊνούπολις, which appears to have been a fortress, or small fortified town of the time of the lower empire. It stands nearly opposite to the junction of the Bélitza with the Dryno, and close by a ruined bridge over the torrent, which descends from the mountain of Lábovo.
Jan. 7. — I had intended to proceed from Stepézi by land to Palérimo [Porto Palermo], halting this evening at Kaliása, but the weather obliges us to alter our route. Soon after setting out, at 8.40, a distant movement in the plain towards Libókhovo announces the approach of Velý Pashá, who is coming to visit his father at Tepeléni. We cross over the heights forming the lower part of the mountain of Stepézi: the land is little cultivated, but we pass some large flocks of sheep and goats, the shepherds bear staves headed with hooks of copper. Woods of oak diversify the scene, but there are no trees of any great size. At the end of three hours we arrive on the Bélitza, in the valley of Kardhíki, which is inclosed on every side by steep and lofty mountains.
Kardhíki, or Gardhíki, is situated on the side and summit of a steep hill, on the right bank of the Bélitza, at the junction of a torrent flowing from the south-west through a ravine which forms a precipice on that side of the town. The situation of the place is one of the wildest that can be conceived, and its appearance is rendered more so by the season of the year. We are no sooner arrived, than a heavy fall of snow puts an end to our day's journey, and makes me well satisfied with a lodging in the house of Demír Agá till the morrow. Demír, commonly called Demír Dost, enjoys a degree of power such as few Albanian chiefs possess, and Kardhíki has the consequent advantage of internal tranquillity; for in general power is so nearly balanced between the leading parties in Albanian towns, that no one chief has sufficient influence to establish order. The unlimited power of Demír over the district of Kardhíki is at present chiefly owing to his good understanding with Alý Pashá. His government, he tells me, contains twenty villages, of which there are only three or four Greek. One of these is Khumelítza, famous for its tobacco, from which a snuff is made at Kardhíki, much esteemed by the Albanians, who, among other points in which they resemble the Highlanders of Scotland, are great snuff-takers. There are eight hundred Musulman families in Kardhíki, and twenty or thirty Greek houses on the opposite side of the ravine.
The mountains to the westward and northward of the district, as far as Khimára, Demír describes as inhabited by half-naked wretches living in villages, one of the hardiest and poorest races in existence: he calls them Gulimídhes [Golem], they form a subdivision of the great tribe named Liape, in Greek Liápidhes, a colony perhaps of the Lapithae of Thessaly. One of the villages of the Gulimídhes, called Polióna, and exactly resembling Petzarí, is in sight from Kardhíki to the north-west, near the summit of the mountain.
The Musulmans of Kardhíki are not less anxious to serve the king of England, than the Christians of Stepézi; they observe that the use of the musket is their only art and their only property. The care of their fields and flocks they leave to the Christians.
Demír gives me a very particular and undoubtedly accurate account of the general topography of Albania, and of the divisions of its tribes; of which the following is the substance:
Rejecting the political chorography which has arisen since the Turkish conquest, the only important divisions of the Albanians are four: the Ngéghe [Gheg], Tóshke [Tosk], Liápe [Lab] and Tjame [Çam], in Greek Γκέγκιδες, Τόσκιδες, Λάπιδες or Λάμπιδες, and Τσάμιδες: their respective countries are in Greek written Γκεγκεριὰ, Τοσκεριὰ, Λιαμπουριὰ and Τσαμουριὰ. The Ngéghe possess the districts of Skodra, Kaváya, Króya, Týrana, Duras [Durrës] (in Italian Durazzo), Pekín [Peqin], a part of the district of Elbasán, the two Dibras, and Djura on the Drin, Kúrtzova [Kuçova], Kalkándere, and Prístina. There is a large proportion of Latin Christians of this tribe, called Merdhítes, in the district of Skodra, who pay sixty paras a house to the Pashá of Skodra. They are considered as good soldiers as any of the Ngéghe. The Toshke extend northward from the frontier of Délvino [Delvina]to that of Pekín and Elbasán, bordering to the west upon the Liápe, and possessing Gardhíki, Arghyrókastro, Libókhovo, Premedí, Danglí [Dangëllia], Kolónia, Skrapári, Berát, Malakástra, Mizakiá [Myzeqeja], Avlóna. The Liápe inhabit the entire maritime country to the southward and westward of the boundaries of the Toshke, and as far south as Délvino, where begin the Tjame, who occupy all the maritime country, as far as Suli inclusive, and inland to the Greek districts of Pogóniani and Ioánnina. Thus it appears that Tepeléni is in Liaburiá, and Alý Pashá a Liápe; but as the whole of this tribe is in disrepute among the other Albanians for their poverty and predatory habits, he thinks proper to consider Tepeléni a part of Toskeriá, and who dares dispute his geography?
Demír Agá has a khódja in his house, as preceptor to his family, who has learned Arabic at Cairo, Turkish at Constantinople, and Greek at Agrafa. Demír takes no pains to conceal his dislike and suspicions of Alý, though he has always been on good terms with the Pashá, made war in conjunction with him against Khórmovo, and is still nominally his ally. By these means he maintains his authority at home, and hopes to save his country from falling entirely into the hands of the Vezír. Alý, he says, has a Jew now in prison at Joánnina, from whom he has already extracted one hundred and forty purses, by threatening him with the loss of his head. But this mode of refreshing a treasury is no novelty in any part of the east; and I well remember the noseless and one-eyed victims of Djezzár to be seen in the streets of Acre. The Pashá never loses an opportunity of gratifying his resentment against those who took part against him in the war of Khórmovo. Only two days ago, on the representation of some person that a certain Labovite had been active against him on that occasion, he sent for the man and his son and put them both to death. The son received the order after the imprisonment of his father, and obeyed it, though he might easily have escaped, and was fully persuaded of the Vezír's intention.
At Kardhíki are some ruins of a castle, said to have been built by Sultan Bayazíd, when he conquered this country, but which is probably more ancient. There can be little or no doubt of its having been an Hellenic site, though I cannot find any remains of those times. The heights around the town are, for the most part, clothed with vineyards, producing a pleasant light wine, almost colourless, and which the Musulmans of the place have no scruple in drinking. Some wheat and barley are grown on the lower heights; the bottom of the vale produces scarcely any thing but kalambókki, the soil being poor and stony, and subject to be overflowed by the river. Such situations are well adapted to that kind of grain which requires much moisture to feed its large succulent stems, and succeeds best therefore in levels which are either inundated by nature in the winter, or capable of artificial irrigation in summer; the abundant return of the grain also is very acceptable to a poor and numerous population like that of Albania. It is to the culture of maize and tobacco that some of the Albanians chiefly owe that skill in the conducting of water, for which they are noted in other parts of Turkey, and by means of which, as I have before remarked, the Liúntzidhes in particular obtain employment at Constantinople and other places.
Jan. 8. — At 8.30 we move from Kardhíki in the direction of an opening in the mountains to the south-west, called the Pass of Skarfítza; and at 9.45 arrive on the bank of the Bélitza, here flowing to the north, but which, after making the half tour of the hill of Kardhíki, has an eastern course through the opening of the valley between Khumelítza and Stepézi. Zuláti, which stands on the left bank of the river, on the lowest heights of the mountain, is on the road from Kardhíki to Bordji, a castle and village on the sea-coast between Nívitza [Nivica] of Délvino and Khimára. In approaching the pass of Skarfitza, we have a summit on the left, which lies between Arghyrókastro and Délvino, and near which is the village of Sopotí [Sopot]. A torrent descends from thence through a woody valley called Skotiní (dark), which is the resort of numerous flocks in summer. Having crossed two streams which join the Bélitza to our right, we begin soon after ten, the snow falling very thick, to ascend the mountain called Pilo-vúni, which bounds to the east the vale of Kaliása [Kalasa]. The mountain is clothed with oaks, beeches, and planes, and many paths are seen, made by the shepherds and the cutters of timber and fire-wood: the oaks are not large.
The pass of Skarfítza separates the summit called Pilo-vúni from the mountain of Sopotí, the name Skarfítza is specifically applied to a Turkish fountain on the summit of the ridge, where the road begins to descend towards the plain of Délvino. At 10.45, not far from that fountain, we join the road from Khimára by Zuláti [Zhulat] to Délvino, and then descend by a very difficult passage over rocks covered with snow, and along torrents bordered by planes, until we arrive in sight of Nívitza, and soon afterwards of Kaliása, in a vale to the right. The river Pavla [Pavlla], which enters the plain of Finíki [Finiq] below Nívitza, leaves Kaliása on its right bank above the opening.
At 1 P.M. we come suddenly upon Sénitza [Senica], a Greek village on the side of the mountain of Sopotí, divided only by a ravine from the Turkish village Vergo [Vergo], and looking down upon the plain of Délvino. The lower parts of the hills under these two planes, though worn into the most rugged forms by the torrents, are richly covered with vineyards, mixed with poplars, olives, and cypresses. In the descent, Paleavlí [Palavlia] (old court), a Turkish village, remains to the left, and above it the ruins of Kamenítza [Kamenica], which has been in the same state beyond the memory of the present rate. Then turning still more to the eastward we arrive, at 4.15, at Délvino, where I reoccupy my lodging in the Greek quarter, sending the Albanian soldiers and suridjís (postillions), with their horses, to find a konák, according to the tenor of the Vezír's letter.
Jan. 9. — When preparing to set out this morning for the Forty Saints [Saranda], the Bishop of Délvino comes to express his regret at my not having made his house my lodging, but was not sorry probably to escape the inconvenience attending the Turk and the horses. The bishop is of opinion, that in the district of Délvino, as in most other parts of Albania, the Musulmans are nearly equal in number to the Christians.
Sending forward the baggage to the Forty Saints, I proceed to Finíki, which lies to the left of the direct road, about seven miles from Délvino, and do not arrive at the Skala until 4 in the afternoon. The entire hill of Finíki was surrounded by Hellenic walls. At the south-eastern extremity was the citadel, 200 yards in length, some of the walls of which are still extant, from twelve to twenty feet in height. The masonry is of the third kind, that is to say, it is laid in courses, but which are not very regular or equal, nor are the stones all quadrangular, although fitted to one another with the same nicety as in the second, or polygonal, and in the fourth, or most regular kind of Hellenic masonry. A stone in one of the fragments of wall is eight feet by six on the outside, and appears to be nearly as solid. In no part are there more than four or five courses remaining.
The modern village of Finíki, consisting of a few huts, lies directly under the citadel to the south-west. About the middle of the height is the emplacement of a very large theatre, the only remains of which are a small piece of rough wall, which encircled the back of the upper seats: at the bottom in the place of the scene is a small circular foundation, apparently that of a tower, of a later date. The theatre looked directly towards the village of the Forty Saints and Corfú. Between it and the north-western end of the citadel are the remains of a Roman construction, built in courses of tiles, alternating with a masonry formed of rough stones, mixed with a great quantity of mortar, and faced with square stones laid regularly in the mortar, but with the angles instead of the sides uppermost: this mode of building was not uncommon in the decline of the Roman empire, and the beginning of that of Constantinople. There are some ruins of houses also of a still more modern construction, showing that Phoenice continued to flourish to a late period, when the chief part of the town appears to have been towards the river Vistrítza, which defended this height to the eastward, as the Pavla, or river of Kaliása did to the west.
In agreement with these appearances we find Phoenice to have been one of the cities of the government of old Epirus, under the successors of Constantine. It was among the places of this province, repaired by Justinian, who, as it had suffered inconvenience from the lowness of the situation, placed the new constructions on a neighbouring height. On the hill of the Acropolis I find accordingly some remains of columns in situ, of that polygonal, instead of circular shape, which exactly marks the taste of the age of Justinian.
About the time when the Romans first gained a footing in Greece, Phoenice was the strongest, most powerful, and richest city in Epirus; notwithstanding which, it was taken without a blow by the Illyrians, in the year B.C. 230. The ships of Agron having gained a victory over the Aetolians on the coast of Acarnania, and brought back a rich booty to Illyria, the king, in the height of his exultation, indulged to such an excess in the pleasures of the table, that his death was the consequence. His widow, Teuta, who to the inheritance of his authority added a feminine disregard of consequences, ordered her officers to plunder all the ships which they should meet, and thus commissioned them to make war on all the world. Their first object was a descent on Elis and Messenia; but the fleet having previously anchored on the coast, near Phoenice, for the purpose of obtaining a supply of provision, the commanders there entered into a conference with some Gallic mercenaries, who, to the number of 800, were employed by the Epirotes to garrison Phoenice, and by their assistance made themselves masters of the city.
The Epirotes seem to have been quite prepared to receive the Roman yoke; for their imprudence in trusting an important charge to a people notorious for perfidy, was not more remarkable than their defective discipline in some of the transactions which followed, though their first operation was well judged. Having collected their forces, and taken up a position on the bank of the river which flowed by Phoenice, they removed the planks of a bridge which communicated with the city, with the view of securing their camp against the Illyrians within the walls, and then sent a reinforcement to Antigoneia for the defence of the passes of the Aous against Scerdilaidas, a prince of the royal family of Illyria, of whose approach with 5000 men they had received information. Too well satisfied with these precautions, they neglected all further vigilance, and indulged without caution in the plenty which the rich district of Phoenice afforded. The Illyrians in the city soon took advantage of their fault: issuing at night from the town, they replaced the planks of the bridge, drove the Epirotes from their position, and the next morning beating them in the field, killed and captured many, and forced the remainder to retreat into Atintania. Soon afterwards Scerdilaidas arrived at Phoenice, apparently without having encountered the enemy's forces at the pass of Antigoneia. The Epirotes meantime obtained succour from the Aetolians and Achaians, and again marched toward Phoenice. The opposing forces met at a place named Helicranum, but no action ensued, partly in consequence of the difficulty of the ground, and partly because Teuta, alarmed by a defection of a part of the Illyrians to the Dardani, had sent orders to recall her forces from Epirus. Scerdilaidas, therefore, retraced his steps through the pass of Antigoneia, after having made a treaty by which Phoenice, together with the free prisoners, were restored to the Epirotes, and the slaves and plunder were embarked in the Illyrian ships. So great was the booty, and such the encouragement which it gave to Teuta, that she thought of nothing but plundering the cities of Greece, while the ungrateful Epirotes soon afterwards joined the Acarnanes in an alliance with Illyria against their benefactors of Achaia and Aetolia. It is probable that the route of Scerdilaidas, both in coming and returning, was by the way of Gardhíki and the pass of Skarfitza, and that the Epirotes retreated as well as returned by the pass of Morzená [Muzina] or Délvino, that having been the route from Phoenice towards Atintania. Helicranum I take to have been the modern Délvino, for the castle hill at the entrance of a very important pass is such a position as could hardly have been left unoccupied by the ancients; and the rugged ground about it accords exactly with the words of the historian.
The ascertaining of the position of Phoenice is extremely useful in illustrating the topography of all the adjacent part of Chaonia, and greatly assists in forming an opinion on the difficult question of the site of Antigoneia. How it happened that Scerdilaidas met with no opposition at the Antigoneian passes, the historian has not stated, but he expressly asserts that the prince took this road both in going and in returning. As Scodra was the royal residence, we cannot doubt that, after crossing the open maritime country of Illyria, he entered the mountains of Epirus near Bullis, now Grádista, and followed the valley of the Aous to Tepeléni. The only other road he could have taken was by the modern Berát to Klisúra, which was not only more circuitous, but more dangerous, since it would have obliged him to traverse the defile of the Viósa in its whole length, and afterwards that of its tributary the Dryno, above the junction, or in other words, the passes both of Klisúra and of Tepeléni. In the other case he not only avoided the pass of Klisúra, but followed a shorter road. It can hardly be questioned, therefore, that the Stena of Antigoneia intended by Polybius, was the pass to the southward of Tepeléni which leads from that town along the left bank of the Dryno towards Arghyrókastro.
But this could not have been the same pass where Philip, son of Demetrius, was defeated by the Romans under Quinctius, though Livy describes it as being at Antigoneia, and applies to it the same Greek word Stena, which Polybius employs on the former occasion; for Philip was not defending the approach to Illyria, but that which led from the western coast of Epirus through the interior of this province into Upper Macedonia and Upper Thessaly, whither the Romans proceeded in pursuit of the enemy after having forced the Stená.
It is evident, therefore, upon examining the places themselves, that there were two passes, or rather a pass with two branches, one of which communicated from the maritime parts of Epirus in a northerly direction to the maritime plains of Illyria, the other leading eastward from the same country towards Upper Macedonia and Thessaly. The first is that which I have called the pass of Tepeléni; the latter is the Stená itself, as the defile is still called, which conducts along the Viósa from Tepeléni by Dragóti and Klisúra into the valley of Premedí. Antigoneia having given name to both passes, can only be sought for near their junction, where Tepeléni is the only place which has the appearance of an ancient site. We can arrive therefore at no other conclusion than that here stood Antigoneia. It may be admitted that in this case Antigoneia was too distant from the entrance of the Stená effectually to command that pass, but it entirely obstructs the other, and standing on a commanding height at the junction of a tributary, with the Aous, just at the point where the straits expand into a more open and fertile valley, it has all the requisites for the situation of a town of that importance which, from the ancient authorities, we may presume Antigoneia to have been.
The next question in the comparative geography of this part of Epirus is the situation of Phanote. In the winter of the year 170-169 B.C., Appius Claudius, anxious to repair the effects of his defeat in Illyria, marched from thence into Epirus, and laid siege to Phanote. But hearing soon afterwards that Perseus had entered Aetolia, and attacked Stratus, which was then defended by Popilius and his Aetolian allies, he raised the siege of Phanote, and began his retreat towards the plain of Elaeon. Clevas, the officer of Perseus, who with a strong garrison defended Phanote, followed the Romans, and, attacking them on a difficult road, by which they were obliged to pass along the foot of the mountains, killed 1000 and took 200 prisoners. Clevas, concerting operations with Philostratus, one of the Epirotes, who had endeavoured to betray Hostilius into the hands of Perseus in the preceding year, then crossed into the district of Antigoneia, and began to plunder the country, with a view to draw the garrison of Antigoneia into a valley, where Philostratus was placed in readiness to fall upon them. The stratagem completely succeeded, and the garrison of Antigoneia sustained a loss almost as great as that of Claudius. Clevas then moved towards the camp of Claudius in the plain of Elaeon; but the latter had no inclination to engage, and finding that nothing was to be gained in Epirus, he dismissed his Epirote allies, and returned with the Italians into Illyricum.
Every circumstance in these transactions tends to show that Gardhíki was the site of Phanote. The strength and remarkable situation of that town, in the midst of a valley surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, through which there are only two narrow passes, are a sufficient presumption that it was the site of one of the principal fortresses of Chaonia, and the position midway between the channel of Corcyra and the Antigoneian passes would render it particularly important to the Romans advancing from Illyria; and naturally the first object of Claudius, Antigoneia being already in the hands of the Romans or their allies.
The name of Phanote again occurs in a transaction which took place a few months earlier, and from which we learn that the most important military point on the Aous, in the line of communication between Macedonia and Epirus, was a bridge across that river, which, as Antigoneia is not mentioned on this occasion, would seem not to have been at that place or commanded by it. The consul, A. Hostilius Mancinus, proceeding to assume the command of the Roman armies in Thessaly, had arrived from Italy at Phanote, when the Epirote faction, adverse to the Romans, thought the time and place favorable to a design which they conceived of betraying Hostilius to Perseus, whom they urged by letters to hasten his march towards Epirus. But the Molossi, who were well disposed to the Romans, seized the bridge of the Aous, with the determination of preventing the Macedonians from crossing the river. Meantime the conspiracy was discovered, and revealed to Hostilius by his host, Nestor, of Oropus, upon which he returned to the sea-coast, embarked from thence for Anticyra, in the Corinthiac Gulf, and by that route proceeded into Thessaly.
Applying this narrative to the country along the banks of the Viósa, and to the general geography of Northern Greece, there can scarcely be a doubt that the bridge alluded to by Livy was in the Stená, about midway between Klisúra and Tepeléni, where the communication is now carried on by means of two bridges.
The Church of Mesopotam east of Saranda
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
The route from Kardhíki towards Arghyrókastro, along the foot of the mountain, by Khumelítza, corresponds exactly to that in which Claudius was attacked by Clevas, if we suppose the plain Elaeon to have been that between Arghyrókastro and Libókhovo, and Claudius to have pitched his camp about midway between those two towns. The name of the plain Elaeon seems to show that a city Elaeus, which Ptolemy classes with Phoenice and Antigoneia among the interior cities of Chaonia, occupied a position in this valley; and the name is the more remarkable, as we may suppose it to have been originally derived from the abundance of olive-trees in the district, in which respect it is well adapted to this valley of the Dryno; for although surrounded by lofty mountains covered with snow during a great part of the year, and one of the coldest parts of Epirus, the valley itself is one of the few situations in Greece or Albania, distant from the sea, where olive-trees are now found. The town of Elaeus was probably situated on the heights, opposite to Arghyrókastro, where it is said that some remains of Hellenic walls still exist. The small theatre, and other ancient vestiges in the plain below Libókhovo, being of Roman construction, could not have existed at the time of the transactions related by Livy. They mark probably the position of a city which was founded by Hadrian and repaired by Justinian; and thence named first Hadrianopolis, and afterwards, but probably for a short time, Justinianopolis. Mention of Hadrianopolis occurs only in some authorities of the Byzantine empire of the sixth and seventh centuries, at which time it was one of the cities of the government of Old Epirus, as well as the see of a bishopric. The only authority which gives any indication of its exact situation is the Tabular Itinerary. In this document there are two roads from Apollonia to Nicopolis: one (noticed also in the Antonine) which led near the sea-coast by the Acroceraunia, Phoenice, and Buthrotum; the other by Amantia and Hadrianopolis, which last is placed about midway between the two extremities of the road. One route, therefore, passed through the plain of Délvino; the other, if Amantia was at Nívitza, ascended the vale of the Sútzista to that position, and from the head of the valley crossed by Pregonáti, into the plain of Arghyrókastro, which it followed in its entire length. It would, therefore, have passed exactly by the theatre, which stands not very far from the middle distance between Apollonia and Nicopolis. No great accuracy is to be expected on this point, as several of the distances in both the Itineraries are obviously erroneous.
The only objection to this position of Hadrianopolis is, that ten or twelve miles lower down the river are the ruins called Drynopolis, which name may easily be taken for a corruption of Hadrianopolis. These remains, however, and the theatre, are productions of two very different periods of time. The latter is a work of the Pagans during the Roman empire. Drynopolis was a fortress or small town of the Byzantine empire; the probability, therefore, is, that when Hadrianopolis fell to ruin, Drynopolis was built upon a different site, and became the see of the bishopric, first named from Hadrianopolis, then from Drynopolis, and which, after the ruin of the latter, was transferred to Arghyrókastro. Nor is Drynopolis a corruption of Hadrianopolis, but taken from the river on which it is situated, still called Dhryno, or Drino, or Druno, which may possibly be the ancient name still preserved of this branch of the Aous, and derived either from δρῦς or from some native word which has given name also to another large river of Albania, the Drin, which flows from the Lake of Akhridha into the Adriatic. As to Derópoli, or Derópugl, although this appellation is sometimes applied to the river, it belongs properly to the whole valley, and may perhaps be a corruption of Hadrianopolis, to which all this extensive plain probably belonged when the city was in its most flourishing condition.
Although Arghyrókastro has no very marked appearance of an ancient site, the name may possibly be derived from that of the Argyrini, whom Lycophron, and two Greek authors cited by Stephanus, show to have been an Epirote people, and whom Lycophron leads us to look for in the northern part of Epirus, as he couples them with the Acro Ceraunii: in fact the word Ἀργύρινος is still sometimes applied to a native of Arghyrókastro.
Jan. 10. — The scirocco has been constant at the Forty Saints since my departure, and the boat in which I crossed the channel was not able to return to Corfú till four days ago. Having prevailed upon the crew of another Corfiote boat, which had just arrived in the harbour with a lading of vallonéa for Corfú, to defer their passage thither until they have taken me to Palérimo and back, we sail for that port at 9.30 A.M., and arrive there at 2. The distance is about eighteen miles; the wind was a gentle Onchesmite, like that which carried over Cicero to Brundusium.
Between the Liméni of the Forty Saints and Spiliá, or the Skala of Nívitza, there are several small creeks where boats may find shelter. Spiliá is a creek at the mouth of a glen, where stands the ruin of a magazine which was destroyed by Alý Pashá, when at war with Nívitza. Beyond it is Lúkovo, a small village on the side of the mountain, surrounded with terraces of vines and corn; two or three miles beyond which is Pikérnes [Piqeras], somewhat larger; and two miles further Sopotó. Below Lúkovo and Pikérnes are sandy beaches, where boats anchor, and may be stranded in bad weather. Sopotó stands in a glen, and has a castle named Bordji [Borsh], on the top of a steep rock commanded by Hadji Beddó Agá, a partizan of the Vezír. Here are the only Turkish families on this coast. Behind Sopotó a river descends in a very deep and rocky ravine. A little farther north is Kieperó [Qeparo], on the edge of a steep precipice, below which are a few fields, terminating in a beach which is separated from Port Palérimo only by the point which shelters that harbour to the southward and eastward. Palérimo, the ancient Panormus, which Strabo describes as a great harbour in the midst of the Ceraunian mountains, and thus clearly distinguishes from the Panormus of Oricum is divided into two bays by a rocky peninsula, projecting into the middle of it, nothing more than a small square enclosure containing a house, a church, and two four-pounders. Having brought a letter to the Bulu-báshi, or commandant, I land as soon as we arrive, and take shelter from the rain in his small apartment, which is the only one in the place having a chimney. On the side of the hills bordering the southern division of the port are a few cornfields and vineyards, which, together with some sheep on the hills, are tended by the ten soldiers who garrison the fort. Five of these are Musulmans, including the Bulu-báshi and his son; the others are Greeks. At the extremity of the northern harbour the hills are well cultivated, but these form part of the territory of the town of Khimára, which possesses the exclusive right of fishery in that division of the bay.
A gale accompanied with rain, which comes on at night from the south-east, brings a ship of Dultjúni [Ulqin/Ulcinj], in Italian, Dulcigno, into the harbour, bound to that place from Alexandria. As the Dulciniotes have the reputation of being inclined to piracy, the garrison is alarmed, and prepares for defence. Indeed they had already been put upon the alert by our arrival, for our boat being from Corfú, the governor suspected some Russian treachery, and before my cot was conveyed into the castle, it was searched, lest it should contain concealed arms.
Mosque in the Fortress of Borsh,
also known as the Fortress of Sopot
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008)
Last summer a French pirate boat, which was afterwards destroyed at Fanú by one of the British ships of war on this station, put into Palérimo, after having plundered some Maltese vessels under English colours; the Khimariotes formed a design of attacking it, on the plea of its being a pirate, but probably with a view of plunder; not agreeing however among themselves, the project failed.
Jan. 11. — The wind shifts to the westward, and the weather clears up at noon. At 1, accompanied by a servant, and preceded by one of the Corfiote boatmen and a guard from the castle, I proceed on foot to Khimára, no beasts of burthen being procurable, and the road scarcely admitting of their being employed. The captain of the Dulciniote, a bearded Turk, about seventy years of age, had offered to land me in the Bay of Khimára, and thus to save the detour along the side of the mountain; but when we came alongside his ship, his authority proved insufficient to obtain a party to row the boat. It appears that they are afraid of the Khimariotes. After crossing the ridge at the extremity of the northern bay, and climbing along the side of the hills which overhang the sea beyond it, we arrive at the end of an hour's walk from the castle, upon a little valley and beach where are some flocks. To the right, the sides of the mountains are grown with velanidhiés, or oaks, which produce the vallonea; they still preserve their last year's leaves, but can hardly be called evergreens. We meet some shepherds to whom the sailor, with a few words of greeting, presents his snuff-box, the common compliment in Albania, and in these independent districts a necessary propitiation. In return the shepherds call off their dogs, which had made a general charge upon us.
We soon arrive in sight of Khimára, situated on the top of a pointed hill, and enter upon the cultivated land which surrounds it, consisting of extensive vineyards, some fields of wheat just springing up, and others of barley, which the peasants are ploughing, and will sow as soon as they can catch a short interval of fair weather. On a high summit under the mountains on the right is a monastery of the Panaghía, on the left the port of Khimára, near the shore of which are some water-mills, turned by a rivulet from the mountain. The harbour is exposed to the west, but affords good shelter to small vessels from any other wind, and has a fine beach. There is another more open spiaggia, two miles farther to the north, immediately below the town, where boats are hauled up on the beach. Here is a small plain which, with the side of the hill between this plain and the village, is the best cultivated part of the territory of Khimára. Immediately below the village are some gardens, containing vines, olives, cypresses, and fruit-trees.
At half-past three we arrive at the house of Capt. Zakharías, the son of George, vulgarly called Zakho-Ghiórghi, for whom I have a letter of introduction from Z. the collector, my host of the Forty Saints. The house is as humble a dwelling as any captain's in Albania. In the inner room a fire in the middle of the floor, and a mattrass spread by the side of it, are the luxuries speedily arranged for me. Capt. George, who has attained the ordinary bounds of life, and has never been absent from his native village except three years passed in the Neapolitan service, expresses his delight at seeing an Englishman here for the first time. Two Germans some years ago, calling themselves Englishmen, left a certificate with Capt. Constantine Andrútzi, which proves the imposture. Capt. Z.'s family consists of a son, the widow of another son killed in the service of the King of Naples, and two or three of his children. All are employed in preparing supper, but principally the widow. The dishes are baked, and a dingy towel spread close to the cinders, serves both for table and tablecloth. The Captain, and the sailor from the boat, who is honoured as a guest, are the only persons who join the table.
After supper all the heads of houses friendly to Zakho-Ghiórghi come in and seat themselves cross-legged around the fire. They relate their adventures in the Neapolitan or other services, for most of the Khimariotes seek a livelihood as soldiers abroad. One states that he was in the war of Italy with Buonaparte, who made many inquiries of him concerning this part of Albania, and told him at Trieste, that he meant to send 40,000 men to Corfú, and as many more to Avlóna. They all speak with pride of their liberty, meaning their exemption from Turkish oppression, at the same time that they lament their own interval anarchy and dissensions, and agree that they should be happy to receive the blessing of good government from the hands of any sovereign in Europe except the Turk, whom they are always determined to resist. They neither pay the kharátj nor any other tax, except a contribution of thirty parás a head per annum to Ibrahim Pashá of Berát, for the liberty of trading to his ports. The right of pasturage on the lands of the town of Khimára, that of gathering velanídhi on the mountains, and that of fishing in the northern bay of Palérimo are enjoyed in common by all the inhabitants. Maize is grown in the plain adjacent to the northern beach, where the two torrents, which embrace the town, overflow in the winter, and prepare the land for receiving that grain. Wheat is produced within the territory, more than sufficient for the annual consumption of the place in favorable seasons; but for two or three years past they have hardly reaped enough for six months. Velanídhi, a small quantity of wheat in good years, and sometimes a little wine, which is of a dry kind and without flavour, are the only exports. The mountain behind Khimára is said to abound in firs suited for masts, which might be brought down at a small expense, and would be a profitable undertaking, if poverty and dissension admitted of it.
The village, or city as the natives are pleased to qualify it, of Khimára, more commonly pronounced according to the Italian κακοφωνία Tjimára, contains 300 families: divided into five principal alliances called parentie in Italian, and in Greek φρατρίαις, a classical word which I hardly expected to find in Albania. With one or other of these, all the inferior families are in alliance. The fratríes are, 1. The Lyganátes, consisting of sixty or seventy houses, at the head of which is Alexódhemo, son of Alexi; 2. The Tzakanátes, of which my host Zakho-Ghiórghi is the πρῶτος: it has upwards of eighty houses; 3. The Koykádhes, of which Zakharías Andrútzi is the chief: of these there are about forty-five houses; 4. The Mazátes, of whom John Tragýnus is the chief; and, 5. The Κοκουρτάδες, of whom Andrew Polus is the head. The first and second are the only families, at present, who are not on speaking terms, but last August there was a scuffle with sabres between Constantine, the brother of the chief of the third family, and Alexódhemo, the head of the first, in which some wounds were received before the quarrel was adjusted, and the contending parties restored to an exchange of words. Another brother of the Andrútzi is now lieutenant-colonel of one of the regiments of Cacciatori Albanesi in the Neapolitan service. His major is a native of the town of Vunó [Vuno]. Constantine Andrútzi informs me that he was twenty-eight years in the Neapolitan service, that he deserted to the French when they took Naples, but that not obtaining any employment or encouragement from them, he returned to his native country. When General Villettes was raising a corps of Albanians for the British service, Andútzi was sent for to Corfú to agree upon the terms on the part of the Khimariotes. He speaks and reads Italian and French, is tolerably informed on the history and antiquities of this country, wishes much to enter the English service, and asserts that we may easily raise a body of 800 Khimariotes from the free villages of Khimára, and, with the permission of the Turks, twice that number in the neighbouring districts.
There are about 100 pensioners of the King of Naples in the town, officers included, who are paid by Capt. Zakho, for which purpose he visits Corfú very year to receive the pay from the Neapolitan consul, whose agent he is. He receives a pension of twelve ducats a month for his own military services, four more for the consolato or agency, and eight ducats for the widow of a son who fell in the service. So handsome a provision after a short personal service can only be considered as intended to secure an influential agent in the place, for Zakho-Ghiórghi is looked up to as the chief man in Khimára by all except those who side with the Lyganátes, and who, of course, consider Alexódhemo the chief. The feud between the two parties is of long standing; the most remarkable contest occurred ten or twelve years ago, when many lives are said to have been lost. The heads of the fratríes are those who possess the largest proportion of vineyards, cornfields, and flocks; and they form the council of the family league. Between friendly fratríes disputes are easily made up, though even among them the foundation and last resource of the law is the lex talionis. As in Arabia, a murder may be acquitted for money. At Khimára 2000 Turkish piastres are the usual price of blood; at the next village of Vunó it is 1000. Until this be paid the retaliation goes on. The power of the heads of families, Capt. Zakho observes, is merely the influence of property and character, and is neither asserted nor acknowledged. "That man," pointing to an attendant, "though he receives his pay from me, will do nothing I order unless he pleases." He shows, however, at the same time, that he can desire the man to bring his kapa and lay it on his shoulders. There are several soldiers here on leave of absence, during which they receive their pay. One has a twelvemonth's leave. The pay of a private is 28 grani per diem; that of a serjeant-major 34; of a captain 80 ducats a month; of a lieutenant-colonel 110; but they find their own arms and clothes. A Neapolitan soldier has not half as much. There are three or four Khimariote captains now recruiting here for their corps at Naples.
The Khimariotes often intermarry with the people of Vunó, the territory of which is separated only from that of Khimára by the crest of the ridge to the north-westward, which looks down upon Vunó. But notwithstanding these alliances, the two towns are generally on terms of suspicion, and often in open hostility. This, indeed, is the ordinary condition of two neighbouring towns in Albania, and, by a natural consequence, those which are separated from one another by a third territory are generally in alliance, which in fact is not uncommon on a larger scale in other parts of the world.
The name of Khimára is generally applied to the whole of the ancient Acroceraunian ridge, from Cape Kefalí to Cape Glossa, including the valley of Oricum. The towns are in the following order from south to north: Nívitza, Lúkovo, Pikérnes, Sopotó, Kieperó, Khimára, Vunó, Dhrymádhes, Palása, and Dukádhes. All these places stand on the western slope of the Acroceraunia, except Dukádhes, which looks to the Gulf of Aulon. There are also a few smaller villages in Khimára, one of which, named Píliuri [Pilur], is in sight from the town of Khimára to the eastward, towards the summit of the mountain, in a pass leading to the Turkish village of Kutzi [Kudhës?]. At Corfú I met a certain Count Gika, of Dhrymádhes, who described that place as very picturesque, with a river running through it; and added, that near Dukádhes are forests of fine oaks and pines, furnishing timber which might easily be brought down the hills at the lagoon of Erikhó. All the towns have early the same semi-barbarous manners and customs. The Greek language is spoken by almost all the men, and the Italian by those who have lived abroad; but the women in general know little of any language but the Albanian.
Khimára being situated on a steep rocky height, protected on either side by the ravine of a torrent, and having all its exterior houses prepared for defence, has by its strength hitherto served as a barrier to all the northern part of the district against the arms of Alý Pashá. Three or four years ago, the Khimariotes fought with his troops on the hill above Palérimo. More recently, on visiting the latter place, he proposed to purchase a piece of land from the Khimariotes, for the purpose of building a castle, which they wisely refused. He has often recommended this harbour to the use of British ships; his principal object in which, as he confessed to me, is that by this appearance of support from us, he may find it more easy to bring the Khimariotes under his yoke. It was in a manner somewhat similar that he obtained Nívitza and Aio Vasíli [Shënvasil]; and thus it is that he always endeavours, in his transactions with the powers of Europe, to convert them into instruments of his own aggrandizement. From Khimára to Tepeléni is reckoned a four days' journey in this season, though the direct distance is not more than 20 G. miles: the first day is to Kutzi, the third to Nívitza on the Sútzista, which, like the other streams of this country, is difficult to pass in seasons of rain. Nívitza is inhabited by Musulman Liape, and is described as situated on a peaked rock, surrounded by deep ravines and torrents, where considerable remains of ancient walls are preserved, and in the castle particularly an entire door. It is agreed by all who have seen these walls, that they exactly resemble some pieces of Hellenic work, which now serve as foundations to several of the modern houses of Khimára. The masonry approaches to a regular kind, not any of the blocks of stone having more than five sides. These relics, together with the name, leave no question that Khimára stands upon the exact site of the ancient Chimaera, which I believe is noticed only by Pliny. I was informed of an inscription in a private house, but as it belonged to one of the adverse faction, I could not obtain permission to see it.
Jan. 12. — As neither the season, nor the engagements of the boat in which I came to Palérimo, nor the doubtful politics and civilization of the Ceraunians, will admit of my exploring Khimára any farther, still less of being able by this route to examine the topography of Amantia, Oricum, Bullis, or Apollonia, I am under the necessity of returning to Palérimo and Corfú. The people of Dukádhes, who possess the valley above Oricum, are the principal difficulty, having a reputation something like that of the Kakovuliotes of Mani.
Though the wind is favorable this morning for returning by sea to the Forty Saints, and the weather delightful, Captain Zakharías, pushing the laws of hospitality to a semi-barbarous extent, will not allow me to walk back to Palérimo, until a lamb, which he sends for from the hills, has been baked and served up on the floor.
After this Homeric breakfast we descend to Palérimo, accompanied for two miles by Captain Constantine Andrútzi: two guards, formerly Neapolitan soldiers, armed with musquets, walk with us as far as the boundary of the territory, between the northern Bay of Palérimo and the isthmus of the castle. Here, having received a present, they fire off their musquets and return. We embark at 2 P.M. with a light northerly breeze, which soon falls to a calm; and, rowing all the way, arrive at half-past nine at the Forty Saints by a fine moonlight.
In all this part of Albania it is a prevailing idea, not uncommon also in many parts of Greece, that the country formerly belonged to the Spaniards, and that all the ruins are the work of that people; those at the Forty Saints, the castle of Délvino, the ruins in the plain of Derópugl, the remains of an old Turkish castle at Tepeléni, and even the Hellenic walls of Phoenice are supposed to be of Spanish construction. It is difficult to understand how this opinion originated, for the Catalans, the only Spaniards who made any permanent settlements in Greece, were not in this quarter, nor can any one of the ruins in Epirus with any probability be ascribed to them.
I had made an agreement with the Corfiotes to proceed to Vutzindró, and Parga, and from thence to Corfú, but this being the Greek new year's day, and feast of St. Basil, the sailors get drunk and insolent, and the bargain breaks off.
Jan. 14. — Having found another vessel, we sail along the coast to the Bay of Buthrotum, passing between the two rocks off Kassópo, which are such a dangerous impediment to the safe navigation of this channel. They lie midway between the castle of Kassópo and a wide bay on the shore of Epirus, which is separated only from the Lake of Vutzindró by a long ridge of land, not broader in some parts than a mile. The bay is called Examíli [Ksamil], in allusion to the isthmus, that name being often attached by the modern Greeks to an isthmus, whatever may be its breadth. It is thus applied to the Isthmus of Corinth, and to that of the Thracian Chersonese, near Cardia. The Bay of Examíli is open and exposed to the west, but the southern part is well sheltered by four islets, which have given to the anchorage within them the name of Tetránisa. Beyond this there is a rugged coast, parallel to the eastern extremity of Corfú, and forming with it the narrowest part of the channel. The most projecting point on the continent is probably the Cape Posidium of Ptolemy and Strabo. Between Onchesmus and Posidium, Ptolemy places a Cassiope, which he clearly distinguishes from the Cassiope of Corcyra, by describing the former as a harbour, the latter as a town and promontory. Cassiope of Epirus, therefore, if Ptolemy is correct, would seem to have stood in the harbour of Tetránisa. It is on the strength of this evidence of Ptolemy, that Strabo has been supposed to allude to a Cassiope on the coast of Epirus, in stating that the distance from port Cassiope to Brundusium was 1700 stades. I have little doubt, however, that he intended the harbour of Cassiope in Corcyra, from whence it is more probable that vessels should begin their passage to Italy, than from any port on the Epirote coast to the southward of Onchesmus. If Strabo did not intend a place in Corcyra, why should he have described Phalacrum, (which we know from Ptolemy and Stephanus to have been a promontory of that island), as lying to the southward of Cassiope; or why should he have returned to Onchesmus before he described the ports of Posidium and Buthrotum? This seems clearly to show that all which occurs between his first mention of Onchesmus, and his return to it, relates to Corcyra only; that his Cassiope was the modern Kassópo, and his Phalacrum the north-western point of Corfú. It is true that this cape is nearly due west of Kassópo, instead of being to the south; but errors of bearing are among the most common of ancient inaccuracies. Strabo's distance of 1700 stades cannot assist in deciding the question, because the difference of distance from Brindisi to Kassópo in Corfú, or from Brindisi to any point on the Epirote coast, is too small on so long a line to lead to any certainty, especially in reference to so incorrect an authority or text as those of Strabo.
His imperfect knowledge of the general form of these coasts is shown, not only by his mistaken bearing of Phalacrum from Cassiope, but by his statement also that the distance from Phalacrum to Tarentum is equal to that from Cassiope to Brundusium, there being a great excess in the former line whether the latter be measured from the coast of Corcyra, or from that of Epirus. As to the mention supposed to have been made by other authors beside Ptolemy, of a Cassiope in Epirus, it is clear that they all, without exception, intended the Cassope, of which the territory bordered on the Ambracic Gulf.
The triangular Venetian fortress at Butrint
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
If Phalacrum was the north-western cape of Corfú, the southern extremity, or Cavo Bianco, was probably the Amphipagus of Ptolemy; for although the words Leucimne and Bianco have a similar import, the modern name Aléfkimo is a much stronger proof of the identity of the ancient Leucimne with the low cape advancing into the channel of Corfú, eight miles to the northward of Cape Bianco. The name Amphipagus corresponds to such an abrupt and rocky height as Cavo Bianco, and with the more propriety, as it is a contrast to the low sandy promontory of Aléfkimo. It is observable also, that the placing of Amphipagus at Cavo Bianco agrees with the order of names in Ptolemy, which is as follows: Cassiope (Kassópo); Ptychia (Vido); Corcyra (Corfú); Leucimne (Aléfkimo); Amphipagus (Cavo Bianco); Phalacrum (Cape Drastí, or the N.W. Cape). The only remarkable promontory in Corcyra, which seems here omitted, is that at the southern entrance of the Channel of Kassópo.
As we approach Vutzindró, the water becomes muddy, and in the bay is almost fresh. This bay is very shallow on the northern side, and the bar at the mouth of the river will even now, when the water is at the highest, but just admit of the entrance of καΐκια, or small coasting vessels. We row three or four miles up the river, through a plain once perhaps the property of Atticus, the friend of Cicero, and now peopled with horses from the neighbouring villages. We then arrive at the Vivári, or more vulgarly Livári; that is to say, the principal fishery, which is on the left side of the river, at its exit from the lake, nearly opposite to the peninsula which was anciently occupied by Buthrotum. The only buildings at the Livári are a ruined house of Venetian construction, and near it an old triangular castle, occupied by a dirty bilibásh of the Vezír, and fifteen or twenty soldiers. The place is called Βουτζιντρὸν, vulgarly pronounced Vutjindró: the territory comprehends all the lake, and a part of the surrounding hills. In the house live the superintendent of the fishery and fourteen Greeks, who are employed by him. The fish are caught by means of a strong permanent dam, made of large beams, crowned with a palisading of reeds. At intervals are small chambers in the dam, where the fish are taken in passing out of the lake. A man who is on the watch, gives a signal for shutting the door as soon as the chamber is full. There is a second dam above the first, for the purpose of breaking the force of the water, but the late violent rains have carried away great part of it, and injured the fishery for the remainder of the season, which usually lasts from September to March. The yearly average quantity of fish caught is 350,000 litres, or Greek pounds, which are the same as the Venetian. This year, though the season is only half over, they have caught 400,000. The fishery is farmed from the Vezír for fifty-five purses by N. Y. of Kalarýtes, the bishop of Ioánnina, and G. Z. of the Forty Saints. In the same farm is included the fishery of a smaller lake named Riza, to the south-eastward of the great lake; that of a lagoon called Armyró on the northern side of the mouth of the river, the pasturage of the marshy land near the river and lake, and the privilege of cutting wood (but not construction timber) in the forests and marshes of the territory of Vutzindró, as it was defined by treaty between Venice and the Turks. Beyond that line the wood-cutters pay for the privilege to Koníspoli [Konispol], which possesses all the south-eastern part of the fine plain, extending from the southern extremity of the lake to the foot of the hills which border the Channel of Corfú in face of the city.
The right of fishing with nets in the lakes, lagoons, and river, is underlet by the farmers to Corfiotes, who employ many boats in this manner. The fish are salted on the spot, and the greater part sent to Corfú, which depends upon Vutzindró and the Gulf of Arta for its supply of fish during the long fasts of the Greek church; the rest are sold in the villages around for a great distance. From hence also Corfú is chiefly furnished with firewood, and with staves to make casks for its oil and wine. These circumstances explain the importance which Venice always attached to the possession of Bucintro. The wood is chiefly procured on a mountain rising steeply from the eastern side of the lake and plain, and called Miliá-vuni, from a little village near the summit, which is in sight from Corfú. The French are said to have formerly procured from thence some good timber for shipbuilding. Under its south-eastern extremity, between it and another mountain, is the lake Riza, which is three or four miles long, and sends forth a stream which enters the lake of Vutzindró, nearly opposite to the ruins of Buthrotum. Along the eastern side of the lake Riza passes the direct road from Délvino to Mursiá, a village at the southern extremity of the plain, from whence it continues to Koníspoli and Filiátes. The road from the Livári to Délvino follows the western side of the same lake, and joins the former road at the upper or northern extremity of the lake, near a source of salt water. On some low eminences rising from the southern bank of the lake Riza are the villages Zara [Xarra] and Zarópulo, which are comprehended in the district of Vutzindró. The fishery of this lake, as I before remarked, forms a part of the farm of the great livári, but is subject to the payment of one hundred and eighty okes of fish to Selím Bey Koka, who owns the neighbouring land.
Koníspoli is a scattered town of four or five hundred Albanian families, conspicuous from Corfú by its situation on the summit of the maritime ridge, which stretches from the plain at the mouth of the Kalamá, as far as the bay of Vutzindró. Inland the plain extends southward from Vutzindró behind this ridge, for a distance of about five miles, and a river flows through it into the lake. The southern part of the plain belonged to a Hellenic city, of which remains are found on the edge of the plain, to the northward of Koníspoli; the other end was obviously a part of the territory of Buthrotum.
About twenty days ago there was a battle at Koníspoli, between the two parties which divide the town; at the head of one is Mahmúd Daliáni, whoseniece was married to Mukhtár Pashá some time ago, but divorced by him and then married to Selím Bey, of Délvino, who now resides at Koníspoli. The other chief is Ismaíl Agá, a friend of the Vezír, whose assistance he demanded; but before it could arrive Ismaíl had made up matters with his adversary. The Vezír's party at Koníspoli and Filiátes are called Jacobins by their opponents, in imitation of the party appellations of the Corfiotes. Alý was displeased with Ismaíl for not allowing time for his interference; but still hopes, by his means, to obtain possession of Koníspoli, which would be a great step towards his object of subjugating the whole of Tzamuriá [Chameria].
Wild swine are very numerous among the thickets along the edge of the lake, particularly in the peninsula of Buthrotum; and the place is infested with jackalls, which at night make as hideous a noise as those in the plains of Palestine. Woodcocks are very numerous, and the lake is now covered with ducks.
A Greek of Ioánnina, who is employed at the Livári, had established, at the expence of six hundred piastres, a small shop and wine-store, which was totally carried away by the late inundations. Of the two years he has dwelt here, he has been ill the greater part of the last. In summer the air is extremely unhealthy; and there is no drinking water, but that of the river, which in winter is extremely turbid.
As one of the states of Epirus, Buthrotum has not received any more notice from history than the cities of this province in general. It was occupied by Caesar soon after he had taken Oricum, and before the time of Strabo had become a Roman colony. Virgil had a most imperfect idea of the place, when he applied to it the epithet of lofty; and its resemblance to Troy is very like that of Monmouth to Macedon. It would be difficult even to find the dry torrent to which the followers of Helenus had given the name of Xanthus. The words which the Latin poet applies to the Phaeacian citadel are better chosen, and exactly describe the two rocky summits or κορυφαὶ, which have given its modern name to Corcyra.
Strabo was so far acquainted with the site of Buthrotum, as to know that it stood on a chersonese; but in placing it at the mouth of the harbour Pelodes, he was either greatly misinformed, or the word λιμένος has been improperly substituted in his text for λίμνης, and the name Pelodes belonged to the lake as well as the harbour; for Ptolemy, Plutarch, and the word itself, sufficiently identify Pelodes with the muddy bay of Vutzindró. Ptolemy, indeed, distinguishes between the Βουθρωτοὺ κόλπος and the Πηλώδης λιμήν; placing the former next to Cape Posidium: possibly port Pelodes was the modern Armyró, which may have been converted in process of time by the deposit of the river, from a well-sheltered harbour into a lagoon on the northern side of the river's mouth. The ruins of Buthrotum occupy a peninsula which is bounded on the western side by a small bay in the lake, and is surrounded from the north to the south-east by the windings of the river just above its issue. The walls of the Roman colony still exist in the whole circumference, which is about a mile, and are mixed with remains both of later and of Hellenic work, showing that the city always occupied the same site. Within the inclosure are the ruins of a large church, of two or three small ones, and of some cisterns, baths, and houses. There are also some fragments of granite columns and of other marbles. The towers which flank the walls were built with a salient angle, and some of them were of this form. The citadel was towards the bay of the lake, where the side of the peninsula is the highest and steepest. Of the Hellenic remains there is a very perfect piece of wall on the south-eastern side, which, as it consists of regular courses, is probably not much older than the time of Pyrrhus. There is also a fine remnant on the western side, of which the courses are nearly equal and parallel, and appear entirely so at a distance; but on a nearer inspection, few of the stones are found to be quadrangular, nor the courses regular. Immediately opposite to the house of the fishery are some other ruins which appear to be Venetian; among them is a tower resembling those on the coast of Malta. There is a similar one in the pass behind the Liméni of the Forty Saints.
Jan. 15. — A rocky summit on the western side of the ruins commands a fine view of the Epirote coast, from the cape near Palása to the islands of Sývota, as well as of all the eastern side of Corfú. The plain of Délvino is seen beyond the lake, together with the surrounding mountains. On the narrow ridge which separates the lake from the bay of Examíli, stands the monastery of St. George, surrounded with gardens, olive-grounds, and vineyards; it is now occupied by Alý as a military post. A little beyond the southern point of the bay of Vutzindró is a small port called Glyfa, a little within Cape Stilo; then occurs the harbour of Fteliá, or Afteliá, which is well sheltered, and though small is a good anchorage for ships of commerce; then Kataitó, a little open port, then Baganiá, a good harbour for merchant ships. Beyond Baganiá, the villages, Koníspoli, Liópesi, and Saiádha, crown the hills which border the coast. Under Saiádha is a sandy shallow bay, exposed to the north-west, in which is a skala called Kerasiá, which is the ordinary landing-place from Corfú on the way to Filiátes and Ioánnina, and from whence the island is usually supplied with cattle, sheep, hogs, and other provision.
At the mouth of the river Kalamá, the ancient Thyamis, there is an island or peninsula affording good shelter, immediately beyond which is the bay of Gomenítza, a fine harbour for ships of any size and number; the entrance is narrowed by the shoals formed by the Kalamá, which extend from Kerasiá all the way round to the bay of Gomenítza. Close to the mouth of the river, on the north, is the insulated mountain called Mavronóro, which seems once to have been an island, as all around it are low sandy points. It seems to be the projection which Ptolemy entitules the promontory or promontories of Thyamis; the low promontories around it would justify the plural number. Five or six miles to the southward of Gomenítza are the islands Sybota, which still bear the ancient name. They shelter a small bay, where on the shore of the main land stands a village of Musulman Albanians named Vrakhaná or Murto. Strabo has not noticed any place between Buthrotum and Sybota: an unfortunate omission, as there must have been anciently some important towns in the rich districts near the mouth of the Thyamis, concerning which no author has left us any precise information. Torone would seem from Ptolemy to have stood in one of the bays between the mouth of the Kalamá and Sývota.
The country which lies to the southward of the districts of Vutzindró and Délvino, as far as the Kalamá, is called Parakálamo. Φιλάτες, pronounced Filiátes by the Albanians, is the principal town of Parakálamo. With the exception of a few Christian artisans and shopkeepers, it is entirely inhabited by Musulman Albanians, contains several handsome mosques, and about 2000 houses, which, as in the generality of Albanian towns, are dispersed over a great space; the ground is hilly, and the place is situated at a distance of some miles from the plain of the Kalamá. Ibrahím Demis and Ibrahím Stambúlis are the two principal chieftains, and can bring two or three thousand armed Musulmans into the field.
Plessarítza is a large Greek village on a rocky hill to the northward of Filiátes, and situated above the western side of a valley which forms the natural communication between the vale of the Kalamá and that of Délvino. Beyond Plessarítza, towards Délvino, are Kótzika and Verva, in the narrowest part of the valley abovementioned: this pass, and that of Neokhóri, in the mountains which separate the valley of the lower Kalamá from the districts of Paramythía and Margaríti, are the only two entrances into that valley on the land side, except the difficult route which leads into it along the river from the north-eastward. Hence Parakálamo, Daghi, to the south of the Kalamá, Margaríti, and Paramythía, have hitherto remained independent of Alý Pashá.
Jan. 16. — Return this morning to Corfú, in a boat of that island with a gentle scirocco. At two thirds of the distance down the river stands a house built by a Corfiote, who owns also part of the plain; but his speculation having failed, the house is now in ruins. Alý Pashá having already made so much progress in gaining possession of the Ex-Venetian places, is desirous of purchasing this property from the Corfiote.
[...] Bíklista — klisúra of Tzangón — Pliássa — Korytzá — Candavia — Votskóp — Moskhópoli & Lávdhari — Rivers Khelidhóni and Devól — Mounts Ostrovítza, 'Opari, Lénia — Dúshari — Komméno-lithári — Dombréni — Mount Tomór — village of Tomór — Tomorítza — Descent to Berát — River Uzúmi — Berát, or Beligrád — Vezír Ibrahím — Mount Spirágr — Antipatria.
After following for a short distance the foot of hills on our right, we arrive at 8.40 at a khan situated on the road side below Biklista [Bilisht], a Mahometan village with two large seráis belonging to Alý Bey, who owns the neighbouring lands.
Biklista may be considered the frontier village of Albania, as the inhabitants speak that language. The valley, like most of those in Albania, is chiefly cultivated with maize. Near the town are a few gardens of melons and pumpkins. The vale is three or four miles in width, bounded to the westward by hills of no great height, but connected with the high range.
Sept. 9. — At 6 this morning I proceed from the khan to the Bogház or pass of Tjangón [Cangonj], situated at the extremity of the vale of Biklista, to the N.N.W. of that town. In three quarters of an hour a narrow glen opens on our right, from which issues a small river, said to originate in a lake in the district of Prespa, called Ventrók. At the mouth of the glen is a narrow level, on which stands the village of Tren [Tren]. A high mountain is seen through the opening, having a direction of north and south. The plain is now three miles in breadth. Leaving several small villages to the right at the foot of the mountain, we cross at 7 the river Devó1 [Devoll], which, not having yet received that of Tren, is still very small. At 7.40 Tjangón, a small Moslem village is on the left, on the foot of the heights, which form the pass on the southern side. Here we halt eighteen minutes, then proceeding, arrive at 8.15 at the narrowest part of the pass, where the river, now greatly increased in size, occupies all the space. Here they are building a new bridge.
The Pass of Tjangón, or Klisúra of Devól, as it may be called, and probably would be if the Greeks were more numerous in this part of the country, is a remarkable feature in the geography of Upper Macedonia. Like the Klisúra of Siátista, it is a natural gate of communication from the champaign country of the Haliacmon into other extensive plains, and it is moreover the only break in the great central range of Pindus, from its southern commencement in the mountains of Aetolia, to where it is blended to the northward with the summits of Haemus and Rhodope. The pass is not as strong as it is narrow, the hills which immediately border it on either side being not very abrupt. But they soon become steep and lofty, and the great rocky summit to the north called Kurúdagh, Graece Xerovúni [Mal i thatë], is a suitable link to the chain, formed by the great summits Ghrammos, Russotári, and Smólika. Beyond the bridge we turn immediately to the south, enter the great plain of Korytzá [Korça], and pass along the foot of some hills connected at the back with the central ridge. On our right in the plain are several Albanian villages, situated between Xerovúni and the Devól. The largest is Poyani [Pojan], on the right bank of that river, which flows from thence to the north-west, enters a large lake towards that extremity of the plain, and on emerging from it, begins to wind through a succession of narrow valleys among the great range of mountains which border the plain of Korytzá on the west. In its progress through them, the Devól receives several large tributaries, and finally joins the Beratinós, or ancient Apsus, two hours below Berát, in the great maritime plain of Illyria.
At 8.55 we pass through Pliássa [Plasa], a small village at the foot of the mountain, remarkable for a very large serái, which was built here not long ago by one Mehmét Pashá, an Albanian of large possessions in the neighbouring plain, whose family is connected by marriage with that of Alý of Tepeléni. Mehmét died suddenly last winter at Ioánnina, where his son Velý is still detained by the Vezír Alý: the other sons are here. Continuing along the foot of the hills, we arrive at 10.20 at Korytzá, which is situated entirely in the plain, though separated only by some vineyards from a projection of the mountain, which is crowned by a ruined castle. It is a structure probably of the Bulgarians, though vulgar report attributes it to the Spaniards.
As there are some doubts whether the plague, which broke out here about eight months ago, has entirely ceased, I pitch my tent on the outside of the town, but on receiving, after the delay of an hour, an assurance from the Bey that the Greek quarter is entirely free from suspicion, remove to the metropolis. The bishop returns to town in the evening from the village of Bobushtítza [Boboshtica], on hearing of my arrival, but not before I had taken possession of his apartment, the only comfortable one in the metropolitan palace; the others, which are inhabited by the archdeacon and deacons, being all ruinous, exposed to the weather, and covered with smoke and dirt. The bishop's closet, which measures ten feet by six, has two small glazed windows, a sofa on two sides, a shelf in one corner piled with ecclesiastical books, and other shelves on which are ranged plates made of pewter, or of German earthenware. Affixed to one wall, as customary in Greek houses, is a deal case, containing a picture of the Virgin, with a lamp perpetually burning before it. A German clock, the pastoral staff, and a Ξύστρι, or scratching machine made of hard wood scored with furrows, complete the list of furniture.
Sept. 10. — Korytzá, vulgarly pronounced Gortjá, or Gkiortjá, and by the Albanians Ghiórghia, contains about 450 houses, of which more than a half are Christian. The filthy streets and comfortless habitations proclaim the Albanian town. Its artizans manufacture most of the articles of Albanian dress and furniture; and the snuff of Korytzá, which is made chiefly from the tobacco of Arta, is in good repute.
One of the most ordinary causes of delay to the traveller in Turkey, which I experience to-day, is the want of horses, generally caused by the insufficient capital of the farmer of the post, so that whenever there is an uncommon influx of tatárs, or a Pashá passes through, the traveller who follows has no alternative but to wait for the return of the horses. Abdulláh Pashá passed through Korytzá two days ago on his way to Okhri. He is a pretender to the Pashalík of Elbassán, and is supported in his pretensions by Alý Pashá, but he has no less than three rivals, two of whom are from the northern part of Albania, where the Skodrian has the chief power: the third Ibrahím is in actual possession of the place, and is supported there by the troops of the Vezír of Berát, after a war between Berát and Skodra, which has ceased now that the Beratinós has gained his object. But as Alý has an interest in reviving the contest, it will not be long, probably, before hostilities recommence.
At dinner, the bishop not being able to resist the Frank cookery of my servant, breaks the fast, but sets the archdeacon at the door to prevent intruders. He has a plate of octapódhi, or salted starfish, set before him, and takes care neither to change his plate, nor to allow more than one excavation to appear in the pudding and piláf. He produces from his cellar a light dry wine, which is made from the vineyards on the hills near the town, and is not inferior to the wine of Siátista. His all-holiness, or high priestship as a metropolitan bishop is styled, was a deacon for many years at Kastoría, and purchased his present dignity from the Porte in the usual manner. On appointing a Bishop, or rather on approving the recommendation of the Patriarch, the Porte gives a seal, in the centre of which is written the name in Turkish, of the mansúp, or office, and round its edge the Greek Title. The bishop found his see burthened with a debt of 50 purses, bearing an interest of 12 per cent., which, on account of the growing poverty and depopulation of the country, his province will scarcely ever be able to pay. The metropolitan bishopric of Korytzá and Selásforo [Zvezda] comprehends the country to the westward of Korytzá half way to Berát, includes Premedí [Përmet] and Tepeléni to the southward and westward and in the opposite direction Devól. Selásforo now a village by the Turks called Svesde, situated at the foot of Mount Xerovúni, 3 hours north of Korytzá. There is a remark in the Notitiae Episcopatuum Graecorum, of the date of the 13th century, that Selásforo was then better known as Deabolis; Devól is the modern form, or rather, perhaps, Devól was always the local name and Deabolis the Greek version of it. In the eleventh century, Anna Comnena described Deabolis as a town situated at the foot of a mountain, (thus agreeing with Selásforo,) and informs us that Alexius frequently occupied it in his campaigns against the Normans, when the latter first obtained a footing in Illyria. It is evident from Anna's narrative, that Achris and Deabolis were then the two places of chief importance to the eastward of the Candavian range, but though many other names, still existing, or slightly corrupted, occur also in that part of her history, there is no trace of that of Korytzá. A bishop of Deabolis was instrumental in having first invited the Normans into this country from Italy.
There are 80 villages and 2800 Greek houses in the episcopal province of Korytzá; as the bishop receives 8 parás from each house, his regular income is between five and six hundred piastres, or about 36 1. sterling. His other emoluments consist in customary presents of provisions, and in fees which are chiefly for the arrangement of disputes among the laity. In the larger sees, such as Lárissa and Ioánnina, where the clergy are more numerous, and there are Greek families of opulence, the bishop demands a portion of the profits derived by the former from the confessions, domestic services, and the ἐφημερίαις, or daily prayers, which are read in many families by a priest. But Korytzá produces very little to its bishop in this way.
In common with many of the Greek clergy, my host is desirous of an union of the Greek and Latin churches, entertains a very indifferent opinion of his own countrymen, but ascribes the ruin of the country principally to the Musulman Albanians, whose power and tyranny have arrived at such a height, that Turks and Christians agree in wishing for the arrival of a Frank conqueror. Hence he has always considered Bonaparte deficient in policy, in having gone to Egypt instead of coming here, where the consequences would have been much more important, and from whence he could not have been driven out. The bishop admits, however, that the three Vezírs of Ioánnina, Berát, and Skodra, could collect 50,000 men in a short time, and that an army landing at Avlóna, and advancing as far as Berát, would be unable to proceed from a want of provisions, Albania producing nothing but men, and this fine looking plain returning very little to the cultivator. It is said that the fig, which so near as Premedí ripens at the usual time, here seldom comes to perfection; from the present appearance of the vines, indeed, it is evident that the climate is that of a much more northern latitude, and the soil may be less fertile, than that of Anaselítza and Kastoría; but a want of security, industry, and good agriculture, are probably the chief causes of the scanty harvests; for we learn from Livy, that these plains furnished an abundance of forage to the Roman army, under the consul Sulpicius, in the campaign of the year 200 B.C.
The bishop's geography and history ascend no higher than the Bulgarian conquest of this country, which he considers as a part of Παλαιὰ Βουλγαρίά, or Old Bulgaria, subdued and in part peopled by Albanian freebooters. As a proof of this fact, he instances some Bulgarian names, such as Belovóda (white water), a village and river in the neighbouring mountain, — Bushigrád and several others. But names of Illyric origin are found in every part of Greece. A stronger proof is the use of the Bulgarian language, which is still spoken in some of the villages of this district. The plain of Korytzá is about 20 miles long, and from 6 to 10 wide, terminated at either end by hills of no great height, of which those to the northward furnish an easy passage into the great valley of 'Akhridha, which is occupied in great part by the lake anciently named Lychnidus. The town of 'Akhridha lies nearly due north from hence, distant twelve hours near the northern extremity of the lake. Southward of the plain of Korytzá are hills forming a district called Kiári, beyond which is Kolónia, and the sources of the branch of the Apsus, which flows by Viskúki [Vithkuq] and Skrepári [Skrapar] to Berát. The district of Kolónia begins on the other side of Mount Pepélas [Pepellash], which branches from the mountain of Grámista in a south-western direction, and falls to the southern end of the plain of Korytzá. From the western and north-western side of the plain rises a range of very lofty mountains, on the sides of which are seen villages, and cultivation on the middle and lower slopes, and behind them towering summits, known by the names of Lénia [Lenias] and 'Opari [Opar]. Farther south other lofty ridges are in sight, as far as the great serrated mountain near Premedí, named Nemértzika, which bears from hence S. 49 W. by compass. The hills are lowest to the northward beyond Selásforo, where appear some very high and distant mountains beyond 'Akhridha, between which and Mount Lénia is seen the mountain of Elbassán, which I take to be the proper Candavia; it bears N. 23 W. by compass. The bogház, or gorge through which the river Devól enters the mountains, after emerging from the lake, bears N. 11 W.
Sept. 11 — This morning at 7.35 I set out for Berát in the rain, with a wretched set of horses procured from the menzíl, and crossing the plain directly in its breadth, and nearly in a due westerly direction, arrive at 8.45 at Votskóp [Voskop], which name is now applied to two small villages on the last root of the mountains. They are the remains of an old Wallachian colony, which at the time of the Turkish conquest possessed the circumjacent district, and was very populous, but in consequence of that event was dispersed. A part of them retired to a situation in the neighbouring mountain, where they founded the town of Voskópoli [Voskopoja]; the security of the situation attracted thither numerous settlers from Greece and parts of European Turkey, who having traded to Germany and rendered the place opulent, became ashamed at length of inhabiting the city of the Shepherds, and changed the name therefore to Moskópoli, or Moskhópoli, which, meaning city of Calves, seems no great improvement. I have frequently heard the assertion, that the town once contained eight or ten thousand houses, but have great difficulty in believing even the smaller of these numbers. Its greatest prosperity was about a century ago; for seventy years it has been declining, and for the last ten so rapidly, that at present there are only two or three hundred inhabited houses in the place. After ascending the hills for three quarters of an hour from Votskóp, we enter open cultivable hills and downs, which, compared with the steep ascent from Votskóp, and the abruptness of the mountains around, may be almost termed a plain. At the end of it, at 10.45, we arrive at Moskópoli, situated at the foot of a very lofty summit. Whatever it may once have been, Moskópoli now presents only the appearance of a large village surrounded with gardens, in which the Lombardy poplar is very frequent, — a tree common in these mountains, but apparently not indigenous, as it is found only near the villages.
Church of Saint Athanas in Voskopoja
(Photo: Robert Elsie, October 1997).
For a considerable distance round the town are seen the ruins of houses, most of which were of small dimensions, and altogether cannot have amounted to more than a thousand. It is very possible, however, that these ruins are much posterior to the great decline of the place. Among them are several small tents and temporary coverings, tenanted by families which have been obliged to retire out of the village, under suspicion of being infected with the same contagious disease which raged at Korytzá. The disorder, however, is not the proper plague, or it has been unusually mild in its effects, for not more than forty have died at Korytzá in eight months, and here about fifty in the last two months, at the beginning of which time the disease first made its appearance.
Having lost a quarter of an hour by a circuit, to avoid passing through the village, we regain the direct road, cross some barren heights grown with brushwood and wild strawberries, and at about 12.30, having gained the highest part of the ridge, descend to a stream flowing from the left towards the west, over a wide stony bed between steep mountains, whose sides are well peopled with small villages. We descend by a zigzag path, and cross the river at 1.25; then, ascending the mountain of 'Opari, at 2.30 arrive at Lávdhari [Lavdar], a small village of Greeks, or rather Christian Albanians, and the ordinary residence of Shemseddín Bey, son of Mehmét Pashá, of Fráshari [Frashër], which place is under the authority of Alý Pashá. After a long delay, caused by the conduct of the tatár, who, instead of searching for a lodging for me, demanded a contribution of money for himself, I obtain admission into a long apartment, open to the roof, and belonging to the Papás, who is likewise Proestós of the Greek community. At one end of the room is a ladder descending to the ground floor, which is a stable, and at the other end a fire place. The dispute between the tatár and Proestós continues after our arrival; the former asserting that the Papás has a better house, the latter swearing that he has not, by the Christ, by the Cross, by the Bread, by the Virgin, which is the orthodox ascending climax of Greek asseveration.
The summit rising immediately above Lávdhari is here known by the name of Ostrovítza [Ostrovica]: from Korytzá it bore N. 86 W. by compass. The river Devól at the foot of Mount Lénia, which appears before us to the north-west, and is not much inferior to the great Tomór [Tomor] in its height and imposing appearance; the latter mountain is hid from us by the range of 'Opári, or Khópari, nor was it visible from Korytzá. Mount Khópari is a westerly continuation of Mount Ostrovítza, and closes the hollow watered by the Khelidhóni. Both these summits, as well as Lénia, are thickly studded on their lower slopes with villages surrounded by cultivation, so that the mountains seem to be inhabited beyond their powers of production, while the plains are deserted, — a circumstance to be ascribed to the bad government of the Turks, and to the difference between their military character and that of the Albanians. Inferior as horsemen, the latter are unable to maintain themselves in the plains, while their hardiness, activity, and greater skill in the use of the musquet are well adapted to the defence of their mountains.
The villages on either side of the hollow which we have crossed, form the district of Khópari; with the exception of Lávdhari, they are principally inhabited by savage Musulman Albanians, of the Toshke tribe, the Christian houses not amounting to more than 230 in thirty villages. In these, though the ordinary language is Albanian, many of the men speak Greek, because the Papádhes are in general from Greece, and because many of the male inhabitants find that language necessary in their employment, as carriers, or keepers of flocks in the neighbouring parts of Greece. Like the Greeks of Asia Minor, and of other parts of Turkey where they are greatly in the minority, they seclude their women. The Wallachian language is partially used also in these mountains, being spoken by some remains of the Wallachian immigration which preceded the rise of the Albanian power; and thus within a short distance the traveller may hear five tongues, Turkish, Albanian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Greek, all radically different, though from the long mixture of the people they have many words in common. The Turkish is much the most rare. It is a melancholy reflection that all the Mahometans of these mountains, and who now form the majority of the population, have become apostates from Christianity since the reign of Mahomet II., in which they have been imitated by many of Vlakhiote or Bulgarian race.
My host the Papás complains of having to pay 300 piastres a year in contributions. The great staff of life, maize, is produced in the Mizakía [Myzeqeja], of which the market is Berát.
Sept. 12. — At 6.40 we leave Lávdhari, pursue the side of the mountain, and, in the neighbourhood of two or three small villages, pass through several gardens, where the cornell and walnut are mixed with pear, apple, and some other fruit trees, which, being the growth of colder climates, are either not found or rarely found in Southern Greece and the Morea. Having then descended, we cross at 7.45 a branch of the Khelidhóni, coming from the south, and from thence ascend to Protopápas, which, notwithstanding its name, is now entirely Musulman, and has a mosque with a minaret, a distinction proper to be mentioned, as this picturesque adjunct of the mosque is by no means general in Albania. The road in many places is destroyed by the late rains, and in all parts is so extremely bad that our pace is very slow. The tediousness, however, is in great measure compensated by the beauty and sublimity of the prospect. Though the sky still lowers, the weather is less threatening, and admits a view of the great summits at intervals. Occasionally they are illuminated by the sun, while fleecy vapours are seen settling on the ravines and vallies. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of these vapours unable to see more than a few feet before us, until suddenly the mist clearing away, shows the highest mountains in that partial manner which never falls to augment their apparent height and magnitude. Continuing to ascend over rugged hills, we halt for 15 minutes at 10.45 at Dúshari, situated under a woody peak called Bófnia, the continuation of the Khópari range: half an hour before Dúshari we crossed a stream from the south, which unites with the Khelidhóni near its junction with the Devól, of which the previous course was from the north-eastward, but which, after the junction, flows along the south-eastern side of Mount Lénia.
At 12.45, after a continual ascent from Dúshari, we arrive at the Komméno Lithári, or Cut Rock, in Albanian Guri Prei. This is a small rock rising from the crest of a ridge which ranges with Mount Lénia, and divides the hollow of the river Khelidhóni from that of another principal branch of the Devól, which flows along the eastern side of Mount Tomór. The ridge being exactly at this point lower and more accessible than in any other part, the "Cut Rock" is the natural point of communication from the one valley to the other, and for that reason has been occupied by a castle which surrounds the rock. Komméno Lithári was taken from the Pashá of Berát, about seven years ago, by Alý who now holds it with a garrison of a dozen dirty half-starved Albanians. The fort is nothing but a thin wall, surrounding a quadrangular space, in the centre of which rises a kula, or small keep, standing upon the lithári or rock itself: this tower was formerly the only fortress. The poor soldiers have a few chambers with fire-places in the tower, but so dirty and miserable that I prefer remaining on the flat roof of the tower in the midst of fog, rain, and wind; doubly chilling after the late sultry weather in the plains. The soldiers complain of the cold in winter, when the snow lies on the ground for several months; but still more of the wind, which rushes through this lofty opening in the ridge, in concentrated blasts from whatever quarter it may come. Mutton they contrive to obtain occasionally, as even in winter some sheep remain in the sheltered vallies, and sometimes a little kalambókki, but neither wine nor spirits, their taim consisting only of koromána, or black bread: and having never yet received any pay, they must rob, starve, or desert, but for the contributions of passengers.
After dining on the roof of the tower we quit Guri Prei at 8.15, and soon exchange its fogs and cold for the sunshine of a sheltered valley; in descending to the bottom of which, we pass at 2.45 through Dombréni [Dobrenj], a Mahometan village with mosque and minaret, pleasantly situated among gardens and fields of maize, but bearing marks of the late war between the two Vezírs in a ruined kula belonging to the Bey, who resides in the village. All this valley, with the including slopes from Guri Prei to the crest of Tomór, is called Tomorítza [Tomorica]. From Dombréni there is a descent of another half hour to the branch of the Devól last-mentioned, which we cross at 3.15; then, after riding for a short distance along the bed, begin to ascend from its left bank the lower declivity of Mount Tomór. In the ascent, one of the horses, mounted by a postillion, falls to rise no more. Continuing through a very uneven and woody region, we arrive at length at the foot of the stupendous cliffs and forests of the great summit, from which many fragments loosened by the rains have recently fallen into the road. At the end of two hours from the river we have made the tour of the northern end of the summit, and are beginning to proceed along its western face just under the highest cliffs, which are entirely hid from view by the vapours.
View of Berat (Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
As we advance along the western side of the mountain, the sun becomes visible at short intervals, and lights up portions of the great plain of the Mizakía with the sea beyond it, but these views are soon shut out again by interposing clouds and rain. Just as it becomes dark we obtain a sight of the village of Tomór or Domór in the highest habitable part of the mountain, and perceive on our right, at the extremity of the long rugged slope of the mountain, the Castle of Berát, and the valley of the river Uzúmi [Osum]. At 7 we arrive at the village, and as the rain is falling heavily, I am not sorry to obtain speedy admittance into a tower belonging to the family of a Papás recently deceased, who was the Proestós of Tomór. The village which is situated immediately under the immense cliffs, which surround the summit of the mountain, is built amidst a great number of walnut trees of native growth: in other parts of the mountain beeches and pines are the most common trees, The village is inhabited entirely by pastors of the Mizakía, who remain here during the months of June, July, August, and September, old style, and then return to their pastures and winter villages in the plain. Some of these persons possess several thousand head of cattle and sheep, from which butter and cheese are made, and labouring oxen reared for the supply of Rumilí, Albania, and Greece. The butcher has scarcely any demand for the oxen, as beef is not much eaten by Turks or Christians either in these or any other parts o Turkey, and is seldom to be seen but in the Frank or Jewish houses of the great towns. The Illyrian plains are subject to inundations, which sometimes deprive the cattle of wholesome pasture in the spring, and generally cause a mortality, as happened this year, and rendered necessary a large importation of beasts from the Ultra-Danubian provinces. The pastors of the Mizakía are chiefly of Vlakhiote descent, and speak both Wallachian and Albanian. A Bolu-báshi, appointed by the Pashá of Berát, resides at Tomór, but has no power independent of the primates, the chief of whom, now present, is one Demetrius, who has a tolerable house as compared with the generality of the miserable huts. He is one of the few persons in the community who can speak Greek, which he has learned by having travelled in the prosecution of his trade into several parts of Greece, particularly Acarnania and Aetolia, great feeding countries. I find him a well-informed man for his station, and anxious to supply me with every thing which the village can afford, nor can I prevail on him to accept payment for the provisions consumed by us. In truth, it is by no means uncommon to find not only more hospitality, but more information among the simple shepherds and husbandmen of Greece, than among the inhabitants of the towns.
Demetrius describes to me a Hellenic fortification on the summit of a height rising from a steep slope, which half an hour to the southward of the village of Tomór is surrounded at the back with precipitous cliffs, separating it from the upper heights of the mountain.
Sept. 13. — The mountain of Kúdhesi [Kudhës], to the south-eastward of Avlóna, is conspicuous from Tomór, and to the left of it, more distant, is seen that of Dukái, Romaicè Dukádhes, in Khimára.
At 7 A.M. we begin to descend this mountain in Berát. Its immense declivity is interrupted by very uneven ground and numerous ravines. Sometimes the road leads over sloping strata of bare limestone rock, rendered slippery by the rain, which still continues to fall, and in some places is so narrow and muddy that it could not be more difficult in the middle of winter. Several small villages appear on the right and left, chiefly Mahometan. Little cultivation is seen, but there are many large flocks of sheep and goats in the open pasture. In other parts the hills are covered with small trees, principally oaks, mixed with brushwood, consisting chiefly of pirnári, ilex, and lentisk. At 8.40, passing along the side of a precipice where the narrow path has been rendered still narrower by the late rains, two of the loaded horses fall over, roll down for about fifty feet, and would have been precipitated to the bottom of the ravine, but for the trees and bushes which arrested their fall; neither baggage nor horses were hurt. This causes a delay until 9.
At 11 we arrive in a narrow valley, where the river Uzúmi flows from the south, inclosed on the other side by a long mountain of no great height. Here the road turns to the westward with the castle of Berát in front, joins the Ioánnina road at the river side, and follows the right bank. As we approach Berát the valley widens, and then again becomes narrow, until, at the Castle Hill, there is space only for the river between the precipices of that hill and the point of the opposite range.
View of the Gorica neighbourhood of Berat
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
The Kassabá, or town, is divided into two parts by the gorge at the Castle Hill. Gorítza, on the opposite side of the river, inhabited solely by Greeks, forms a third makhalá; and the castle itself, which is occupied only by the Pashá's palace and some houses of Christian Toshke, is a fourth. I enter the Kassabá at 12, and in half an hour more, in passing the castle gate, to the Greek quarter, observe in the wall adjacent to the outer and inner gates, particularly at the latter, some small remains of a massy Hellenic wall. After some difficulties, produced by the folly or roguery of the tatár, whom I discharge immediately, I obtain a lodging in the house of the principal Greek merchant, which by no means resembles the houses of the same class in Greece. Even in the best apartment there are neither glass windows, nor a ceiling, nor furniture to the diván, and the light appears through the shutters, floor, and tiles. It is rather a bad omen to find three physicians residing here. Two are Corfiotes, living wretchedly; the third is Dr. G. Sakellários, of Kózani, who was happily settled at Ambelákia, on Mount Ossa, when, at the request of Ibrahím, he was obliged by Alý to change his situation from a place which enjoys the comforts of civilized Europe more than any other in Greece, for the centre of Albanian barbarism. Dr. S. is well acquainted with German, Italian, French, Latin, and ancient Greek, has translated (in company with some others) the four first volumes of the Voyage d'Anacharsis into modern Greek, and has printed the first and fourth; but has given up the work, lest suspicions should attach to him, because a part of the translation was made by Riga, and because the first volume was printed by another of the conspirators of Vienna, who were betrayed by the Austrian government to the Porte. Dr. S., anxious to benefit his countrymen, and sincerely attached to letters, is now engaged in translating into his native language the general history of Greece, by Cousin Despréaux, and is already advanced as far as the seventh volume.
The character given of Ibrahím Pashá., even by those not attached to his service, is favourable. He is said to be a humane and lenient governor, and in many respects a favourable contrast to the Tepeleniote. He is desirous of peace, but his two enterprizing neighbours will not permit him, particularly Alý, who will probably be satisfied with nothing short of his destruction. Ibrahím, however, is himself an usurper: he was son-in-law of his predecessor Ismaíl, at whose death he seized the castle, battered the palace, where Mehmét Pashá, the son of Ismaíl, had taken refuge, and drove him out. Mehmét is now living in poverty at Lúsnia [Lushnja]. Ibrahím has lately finished, or rather has not quite finished, a lofty building at one corner of the castle, consisting of three or four stories, to which a palace in the usual Turkish taste is attached. Here he constantly resides, scarcely ever moving from his diván but once in two or three months to some neighbouring village and very seldom entering even his harém, unless it be that part where his treasures are deposited: he has only one wife, the mother of a son, who though only six or eight years old, is already styled pasha, and has an establishment of officers.
Sept. 14. — This forenoon I visit His Highness, for being a vezír he is styled by the Greeks ὑψηλότης like Alý. Nothing is here to be seen of the crowd, and noise, and multitude of dirty Albanian soldiers, which give such an air of business or confusion to the palace of Alý Pashá; only a few tatárs, or other persons silently seated, in attendance in some long passages which lead to the Pashá's apartments. After passing through an anti-chamber, in which several handsome youths with pallid countenances are reading the Korán aloud, I find the Pashá stretched out at full length in one corner of his sofá in a small apartment, neat, but quite deficient in the magnificence which is often overdone in Alý’s palaces. The latter, on a first visit, is generally found walking about the room; after a few words of salutation, he immediately asks his guest to be seated, more polite in this than Russians in authority, whose interviews with persons of inferior rank are on foot. Alý seems to have adopted his method as a compromise between the ordinary European custom and that of the Turks on these occasions. But Ibrahím has made no such advances in civilization: he does not move from his posture when I enter, but merely makes a motion for me to be seated. No pipes or coffee are handed: he speaks very little, and shows nothing of the curiosity, shrewdness, or engaging manners of his brother of Ioánnina, as the latter styled him in the letter of introduction which I brought. In manner and conversation, he is neither rude nor haughty. He invites me to visit any part of his territories I may wish, and has no recollection of having seen an English traveller here before, though captains of English ships have not unfrequently visited him, both here and at Avlóna; and not long since, on the occasion of a shipwreck near Apollonia, he clothed and fed a part of the crew and sent them to Constantinople. Some attempts to raise the ship are now in progress.
The dominions of this Vezír extend to a distance only of four hours to the south, having been reduced to that limit by Alý Pashá, who had before conquered the country as far as Paleó Pogóghiani inclusive, from Kurt Pashá, the predecessor of Ismaíl. To the north Ibrahím commands as far as Lúsnia, distant six hours on the road to Duras [Durrës]. He has lately acquired the district of Elbassán, and in that direction his dominion extends farthest into the mountains. Týrana [Tirana] and Kaváya [Kavaja] are an appanage of the Sultan Mother, and are his boundaries in the maritime plains. At Lesh [Lezha], inclusive, begins the government of the Vezír of Skódra. Ibrahím's brother was Pashá of Avlóna; since his death the government has been filled up with Ibrahím's name in the yearly nomination of the Porte; and last year that of his young son Sulimán was inserted, the Porte having been willing to augment his power as a counterpoise to that of Alý.
The Beratinós, to use the familiar Greek expression, is at present greatly in want of money, and, having gained his ends at Elbassán, has been glad to put an end to the war with him of Skódra. Ibrahím's necessities obliged him last year to oppress some of the villages, but he was checked by the Turkish beys of Berát, who own many of them, and whom he has not mastered so completely as has been done at Ioánnina by Alý. He possesses a considerable landed property, having, when he succeeded to the Pashalík, purchased the malik-hiané, or farm, for life, of all the Beylíks, which had been held by Ismaíl Pashá. As the annual payment to the Porte was calculated by the relative value of corn and money, when he obtained the grant, he has been a great gainer by the debasement of the Turkish coinage; and although the Porte will probably make a demand upon him in consequence; such demands are not very quickly complied with in Albania, when the persons upon whom they are made have the means of avoiding them.
Corn-lands in the adjacent plains generally pay half the produce to the owner: farther north, in the proportion of three to the cultivator and two to the owner; but in the latter case the farmer bears a greater share of the expences. Corn is measured here by the Bara of eight Kiasé, each of which is 100 Λίτραις, or Greek pounds, which are the same as Venetian. The crop of the rice grounds, watered by the river in the plain of Berát, is divided into three parts; one of which goes to the Pasha for mirß, and the expence of keeping the channels in order, the other two to the owner and the cultivator. Wheat in the plain of Berát and in the Mizakßa is sown at two seasons, October or November, and February. The latter bears a small hard grain, and makes excellent flour: it is called Kutzéli. Barley is also sown in February. The last harvest was very bad from the same cause which produced mortality among the cattle, — the excess of rain during the winter and spring. Flax is sown at the present season. Kalambókki (which is chiefly arabosíti or maize) in May: it is not .watered, except near the river or near the canals derived from it. No Christian has any landed property in the Mizakía, but the pastures are open to the public on paying a moderate κεφαλώτικο, or tax on each head of cattle.
Berát, in vulgar Greek τὸ Μπεράτι, is named by the writers of the Lower Empire Βελάγριτα, or Βελέγραδα, which latter is still the title of the bishopric. It is nothing more than the Greek form of the same Sclavonic word, Beligrád (white fortress), of which Berát is the Albanian corruption. The name shows that the place was a part of the Bulgarian conquests, and long in possession of that people.
The castle is defended by a strong battlement in the Turkish style, raised on a wall which is flanked by square towers, but armed with only two or three small pieces of ordnance. The greater part of the inclosed space slopes in such a manner as to be entirely exposed to another height now covered with vineyards to the north-east, where the Pashá has lately constructed a small square castle. At the foot of this hill is the principal Turkish quarter, which extends from thence up to the cliffs of the castle-hill, and is pervaded by a long bazár from one end to the other. The extremity near the castle is the only part of it inhabited by Greeks. In Gorítza, or the quarter on the left bank of the river, there are about sixty houses, which, added to those in the castle, make the Christian families amount altogether to four hundred. In the Kassabá, there are about six hundred Mahometan houses. Just below Gorítza the river is crossed by a handsome bridge which was built by Kurt Pashá. From the left bank of the river rises a long and lofty ridge named Spirágri [Spirag], beautifully clothed with wood on the slope. At the foot of it stands a palace which was built by Ismaíl Pashá, and which, having been much injured by the shot from the castle in the war which followed that Pashá's death, has since been neglected. Below Berát the Uzúmi winds to the N.N.W. through a valley called Topaltí, which expands to a breadth of three miles between the parallel ranges of Tomór and Spirágr, and at the end of eight or nine miles opens into the great maritime plains or champaign country which anciently belonged to Bullis, Apollonia, Dimallum, Dyrrachium, and some other cities of minor note. The Uzúmi, soon after entering the plain, makes a turn to the left, and then receives the Devól, not far from the place where the latter emerges out of a narrow gorge in the mountains to the eastward.
The castle of Berát, although a lofty point, is situated too far in the valley to command an extensive view: the sea is not visible. To the north the mountains near Króia [Kruja] and Týrana are pointed out to me; and in the opposite direction in a line with the Uzúmi, the hills near Skrepári and Dúsnitza, above which rises the great serrated crest of Nemértzika. The range of Tomór shuts out all view to the eastward, and the parallel range almost equally in the opposite direction.
The Hellenic remains in the castle wall, and their situation on a precipitous height overhanging the river, at the entrance of a valley leading from the plains of Illyria into the strongest parts of Epirus, afford indubitable proofs that Berát stands on the site of an ancient city of some importance. But there is no evidence in history sufficiently precise to afford any certainty as to its name. The probabilities are in favour of Antipatria, which was certainly hereabout, and is described by the historian [Livy] as a great city strongly fortified, and situated in a narrow pass. It was taken in the year B.C. 200, by L. Apustius, who was detached by the consul Sulpicius from his camp in the neighbouring plain, with directions to lay waste the Macedonian frontier. In strictness, indeed, this country was a part, not of Macedonia, but of Atintania, Dassaretia, or Illyria; but nothing is more likely than that the kings of Macedonia had added it to their dominions when their power was at its height, in the ages preceding the Roman wars, and when a new name may have been given to this place in honour of Antipater.
From Berát to Apollonia — Plain of Topaltí — Vakopóli — Donafrós — Lúari — Stafíri — River Iénitza — Radostín — Monastery of Póllina — Poghianí — Apollonia — Amantia, Byllis, Oricum — Rivers Aous, Celydnus, and Polyanthes — Nymphaeum — Return to Berát — and to Ioánnina — River Uzúmi — Tótjer Venakós — Mount Trebusín — Klisúra [...]
Sept. 21. — The route from Berát to Avlóna [Vlora] after descending into the plain follows the course of the Beratinó, or Uzúmi, at a small distance from the river, and sometimes passes along the bank itself. The road is wide and rendered very dusty by cars, which we meet, drawn by buffalos. These beasts are entirely covered with dried mud, a consequence of the habit which they have in the summer, of rolling or immerging themselves up to their necks, and even to their nostrils, in the mud and shallow water of the rivers, lakes, or ponds. There they remain enjoying the coolness, free from the torment of insects, many hours at a time, and when they emerge, obtain in the dried mud an armour against the flies. The carts are loaded with wood, hay, and other commodities for the use of the town. The wheels have spokes and very broad fellies, narrowed at the edge, but are so loosely and clumsily fixed to the axle as to sway about at every step with an incessant creaking. At the end of 1 hour and 50 minutes we cross the river at 5 P.M. by a handsome bridge, which was built by Kurt Pashá. Near it we meet the metropolitan bishop of Velégrada, or Berát, coming into town from his residence at Kolkóndasi [Kolkondas], and accompanied by two priests with yatagháns in their girdles and pistols in their holsters. The bishop's house in the castle of Berát is occupied by the Pashá's Grammatikós, a Greek who manages all the money concerns of the lazy Ibrahím, making good use of the favour he enjoys for his own advantage, and affecting such pride in his official station as to be above visiting the Pashá's physician, the learned Sakellário. Half an hour beyond the bridge the road ascends the hills which bound the plain of Topaltí on the west, and at 6 we arrive at Vakopóli [Vokopoja], a village of 25 Greek houses in a retired situation among the hills, surrounded with gardens, and an extensive tract of vineyards. There are two papádhes in the village, with one of whom I lodge in a ruinous cottage, but the best in the place. He informs me that at Pakhtós, a village among the hills, an hour and a half to the left of Lúari [Luar], which is on the road from hence to Avlóna, there is a fountain ἄσφαλτον, which rises like water out of the ground. Strabo describes a fountain of warm water mixed with asphaltum at the Nymphaeum of Apollonia where a bituminous substance was extracted also in a solid form. But the latter mine, which is still wrought, is at Selenítza [Selenica], near the Viósa [Vjosa], much nearer to Aulon and Apollonia. The fountain of pitch at Pakhtós, therefore, is different from that of Strabo, and shows the great extent of the subterraneous riches of this quarter of Greece.
The same papás describes a place near a village called Ekáli [Hekal], where are two Paleá Kastra, one on a peak above the other, and the latter immediately above the river Viósa, or Vuísa, as he pronounces the name; they are in a hilly district on the right bank of that river, not far from its entrance into the plains. He measured one of the stones in the castle wall, and found it 14 σπιθαμαὶς or spans long, and 4 high. Here also, he adds, is a great rock, inscribed with φραγκικὰ γράμματα, or Frank words, which nobody can read; perhaps they are Latin, though I have often heard the same description given to Hellenic inscriptions by half educated Greeks. The ruins are the same as those which were described to me at Tepeléni. There is a small village on the site named Grádista, a Slavonic name analogous to the Greek Kastrí. The two castles probably belonged to the same Greek city, the upper having been the Acropolis. Ekáli is reckoned 7 hours from Vakopóli, 6 from Avlóna and 5 from Apollonia; but being inhabited by wild Tóskidhes, not in the government of Ibrahím nor controlled by Alý, whose authority does not extend along the Viósa, below Liópesi, it will, I fear, be inaccessible to me. The Greeks of Vakopóli, in common with those of all the villages which lie on the great routes, suffer extremely from the Albanian soldiers who quarter upon them.
Sept. 22. — At 7 this morning we begin to cross a ridge which separates Vakopóli from a southerly branch of the great plain of Mizakié, by the Greeks called Mizakía, or Mizakiá. At 8.30 we arrive at Donafrós [Donofroza], a small Musulman village with mosque, situated in a retired valley among heights, which are the last falls of Spirágri, and the hills of Dúsnitza. This is the frontier of Mizakía and Malakástra [Mallakastra], which last district begins from the western side of the plain of Topaltí, and, skirting the roots of these hills, extends to near Avlóna. Leaving Donafrós, we have a large opening of the plain of Mizakía on the right, and one hour and a half distant in that direction, the large village of Dronovítza [Drenovica], inhabited by a mixed population of Mahometans and Christians. At 9.30 Kervél is on our left, a scattered village occupying two summits, between which is a cultivated hollow. One of the summits is crowned with a church, the other with a mosque. At 10.20, crossing an extremity of one of the heights, we pass through the skirts of Lúari, a small village; the hills towards Pakhtós are chalky or gypsous. At Lúari, one of my servants being seized with a violent fit of the intermittent fever, we are obliged to remain at a khan, a quarter of an hour beyond the village, till 4 P.M. We then cross a large branch of the plain, to the projection of a low root of the mountain which bounds it to the westward, and having turned the extremity, arrive at 5.35 at Stafíri, where a large church and a bazár show that it is a Christian village of relative importance, though the houses are mere huts of wicker and mud, without chimneys, and the bazár a row of miserable shops. The cultivation of this noble plain, capable of supplying grain to all Illyria and Epirus, with an abundance of other productions, is confined to a few patches of maize near the villages. Nevertheless the Mizakía is as well peopled as most of the great plains, either of Asiatic or European Turkey, and better than many of them. This part of it is well wooded; the hedges and great trees are festooned with wild vines, which produce a small grape of excellent flavour: and the villages in general are embosomed in clusters of trees, the huts standing far apart, each with its piece of garden ground. At Stafíri we cross a stone bridge over a lazy rivulet, named Iénitza, flowing from the heights on our left towards the Apsus, and here inclosed between high banks.
At 6.50, after having traversed another bay of the plain to another point of the hills, we arrive at the large scattered Turkish village of Radostín [Radostina], agreeably situated at the foot of low woody hills above a grove of fine oaks. Some of the inhabitants show an inclination to insult us as we pass, until they espy a negro tatár, a favourite servant of the Vezír Ibrahím, who accompanies me, and who is well known throughout his dominions. The burying-ground of Radostín is full of pieces of fluted columns, and other fragments of the good times of antiquity. Having crossed a height beyond it, and descended a little of its western slope, we arrive at a quarter past 7 at a monastery, of which I take the correct name to be ἡ παναγία τῆς Ἀπολλωνίας, as standing upon a part of the site of Apollonia, but which the ignorant monks have been pleased to convert into the ridiculous title of ἡ παναγία τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος the vulgar name of the place is Póllina, or Póllona. A small village named Poyani [Pojan] lies at the foot of the hill to the north; and nearer to the monastery, in the opposite direction, a few labourers' huts called τὰ Καλύβια, in a narrow vale lying between the hill of the monastery and a parallel low ridge, clothed with small beeches. Behind the monastery, towards the summit of the hill, are some gardens and vineyards in a ruined and neglected state, (like the greater part of the extensive lands of the monastery,) the cause of which is the exposed situation of the place on a route much frequented by the Albanian soldiery, and so convenient as a halting place that parties of them often remain here for two or three days for the sake of the free quarters, and in the course of these unwelcome visits have ruined all the cells and other apartments of the building. The best lodging I can find is the cell of the Igúmenos, a little chamber perfectly Albanian as to dirtiness, and of which the thick stone walls are gaping open at one corner. Only two monks now reside here. The church has been built and repaired at different periods, but is chiefly composed of Roman tiles, and of ancient squared stones of a large size taken from the ruins of Apollonia; some of these have been carved into monstrous ornaments of the lower ages. There remain the sepulchral monuments of two Ἡγούμενοι of the ninth century. The monastery contains some fine pieces of sculpture, which having been found, for the most part, in ploughing the fields on the ancient site, have been fixed into the walls in the room of other stones displaced for their reception. It is to this custom of adorning their convents and churches, which still generally prevails among the Greeks, that we are indebted for the preservation of the greater part of existing inscriptions and remains of art. Of those in the walls of the monastery of Apollonia the most remarkable are as follows: C l. The bust of a matron with the veil thrown over the hair, and then passing under the breast. This bust the monks say was quite perfect, until some soldiers of Berát thought proper to amuse themselves by firing their musquets at it, which has destroyed the nose and chin. 2. The bust of a young man, with curled hair, and a short thick beard covering all the lower part of his face; the breast and right shoulder are bare, and a loose garment hangs over the left shoulder and under the breast. Both these busts are of the human size, and of white marble, apparently Italian. The nose of this last bust was destroyed by the plough when it was discovered. 3. A small mnema or monumental stone, representing in relief two young persons in loose garments with the right hands joined, and the left hand of the female upon the left shoulder of the man. The face of the man is perfect, that of the female is destroyed. Her name was Prima, as appears by the letters ΠΡΙΜΑΧΑΙΡΕ over her head. 4. A very spirited Paniscus or Satyr seated on a rock, with his goat's legs crossed, grinning and blowing on the pan-pipe, which he holds with both hands. 5. A fragment of a frize, representing the lower part of the drapery, and part of the wing of a female figure flying, together with a man's front face upon a shield; around the face are locks of hair, twisted upon the forehead. 6. Another similar fragment representing in low relief a man setting one foot on the hip of a woman, and dragging her by her arms, which are passed over her head. Behind him is a warrior with a shield and flying robe, in the attitude of combat: the very common subject probably of the Greeks and Amazons. Underneath the figures is an Ionic border, which is continued round one of the other sides of the stone: there are some other figures hid in the wall. This fragment and the preceding appear to have been parts of the frize of the same building. 7. A sepulchral stone, with a man on horseback: very good. 8. Another mnema, bearing the figure of a bearded old man with a long staff in one hand; below is the head of a greyhound looking up at the man. This is roughly wrought, but in good design. 9. A dog seizing an ass, both animals on full stretch: an Ionic border below shows that it was part of a frize. 10. Another piece of frize too high in the wall to be seen; it seems to be a man on horseback opposed to a lion, while behind him another wild beast seizes an ox. 11. Two front faces with locks of hair hanging down on either side; part of a frize. 12. The head of a lion, which anciently served for a spout.
There are only three inscriptions, and all merely sepulchral, but curious as all containing Roman names, and thus according with the known fact of Apollonia having been much resorted to by the Romans, who sent hither their youth to study the literature and philosophy of Greece. Augustus had thus passed six months when the death of Caesar called him to Rome. One of the inscriptions is in memory of Lucius Licinius Tere(ntius), who died at the age of 65; another was in honour of Titus Julius Clemens, who died at 45, and whose wife's name, Claudia Therine, was only half Roman. The third is the monument in honour of Prima.
The ruins of Apollonia
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008).
It was at the end of the seventh century before the Christian aera, that this fertile part of Illyria first received the laws and customs of Greece. Dyrrhachium and Apollonia were then colonized by the Corcyraei, who, according to ancient custom, placed at the head of each colony a leader from Corinth, as being the metropolis of Corcyra itself. The northern colony was named Epidamnus, the southern Gylacia, from Gylax, the Corinthian leader, but neither appellation continued long in use, those of Dyrrhachium and Apollonia having prevailed. Apollonia is described by the ancient authors as situated at a distance of ten stades from the right bank of the Aous, fifty or sixty stades, or four miles, from the sea, two days' journey to the south of Dyrrhachium, twenty-five Roman miles from Aulon, and three hundred and twenty stades, or thirty Roman miles, from Amantia. There are some traces of walls close to the monastery on the north, extending from thence upwards to the summit of the hill, and along that summit in a northerly direction. Below the monastery they followed the crest of the ridge to the plain, where their traces are lost. There is also part of a transverse wall which, a little below the monastery, branches from the main wall to the northward. To the southward of the hill of the monastery are the remains of two temples, one in the valley at the Kalývia, the other beyond that valley, at the extremity of the heights which rise from that side of it. The former temple appears from some fragments to have been Ionic. The low situation and deep loam of this valley seemed to promise, that some considerable remains of the temple might still be concealed below the surface; but on inquiring of the monks, I was informed that no less than seventy cart loads of materials had been taken from thence to build the new serái at Berát. Similar spoliations have been committed at the western temple, and so recently that the excavation made to carry away the foundations, of which not a single stone is left, affords a very tolerable measurement of the length and breadth of the building. One column standing in solitary grandeur is the only part of it which has been spared by the Pashá's masons. The length of the temple was about 135 feet, the breadth 55; the column, which has 20 Doric flutings, with a capital more spreading than in the Parthenon, and probably more ancient, is 14 feet in circumference at its base, and consequently 4½ feet in diameter, which, compared with the dimensions of the ground plan, and supposing an intercolumniation of 5½ feet, would lead to the belief that the temple was a hexastyle with 14 columns on the side. The extant column is composed of 12 pieces of stone, and the height is about 22 feet, including the capital and plinth, which are of a single stone, and together about 2 feet 9 inches high. The material is a dull white limestone, hard, but nevertheless much injured by time and the effect of the sea air. At Kalývia there is a fountain, perhaps the ancient Cephissus which was near the gymnasium. These are the only vestiges I can find of the great Apollonia. The existing line of walls meeting in an angle at the summit of the hill behind the monastery, and diverging from thence to the north, tends to show that the city faced the north-west, and that two temples and gymnasium were without the walls, which would have been very far from a singularity. It is possible, at the same time, that the present remains of walls may not be of Hellenic times, as there are no certain marks of such antiquity in them. If the woody height to the southward were explored, some other vestiges might perhaps be found, which would give a clue to the dimensions and general plan of the city.
The hill of Apollonia is not of sufficient height to command a very extensive prospect, or to afford very advantageous geographical station, though by no means useless in this respect. To the south-westward is seen the island of Sázona [Sazan], twenty degrees to the right of the northern end of which is the mouth of the Viósa, and seventy-two farther to the right that of the river of Berát, forming a long promontory. The farthest part of the shore to the north is the hill of Kaváya, appearing as an island. A little to the left of Sázona is seen Cape Glossa, or the Acroceraunian extremity, between which and the island is the southern entrance into the Gulf of Avlóna. That town is not visible, being hidden by some heights on the eastern side of the lagoon, which extends along the shore at the northern entrance of the gulf. To the left of Glossa occurs the Acroceraunian ridge, separated bythe valley of Nívitza from the range of Griva, which bounds the valley of the Viósa to the westward. At the northern extremity of this range is the district of Kúdhesi, containing twenty villages and a lofty summit, forming a conspicuous termination to the range of Griva. To the left of the mountain of Kúdhesi appears that of Skrepári, to the south-east of Mount Tomór, then the gigantic Tomór itself, occupying eight degrees of the horizon. The hill of Spirágr, which bounds the plain of Berát, extends several degrees to the northward of Mount Tomór, and in the midst of the plain watered by the Apsus, or river of Berát, is seen the height of Ardhenítza [Ardenica], so called from a monastery on the summit.
The valleys of Dukádhes and Nívitza formed anciently the territory of the Amantini, or Amantienses, or Amantes, the last of which forms was preferred by the people, and was employed by them on their money, in memory of their origin from the Abantes of Euboea, who settled near the Ceraunian mountains after the war of Troy, and possessed Oricus and Thronium. That the district of Amantia lay in that direction from Apollonia and Oricus is confirmed by Caesar, while the distances afforded by Scylax and the Tabular Itinerary, added to the evidence of Hellenic walls at Nívitza, show that place to have been the site of the town of Amantia. The only objection which can be made to this conclusion is, that according to Ptolemy both Bullis and Amantia were on the sea-coast between Aulon and the mouth of the Celydnus, in which he seems to agree with Caesar, who just before he quitted this quarter for the siege of Dyrrhachium, left a detachment of his fleet under Laelius to prevent supplies from being thrown into Oricus from Amantia and Bullis. The only mode of reconciling the apparent inconsistency is to suppose that Amantia, Bullis, and Apollonia, possessing all the country adjacent to the Gulf of Aulon, and being all situated at some distance from the coast, had each of them a port or maritime dependency on the gulf. It was probably to these maritime places that Ptolemy alluded, and towards them that the vigilance of Laelius was chiefly directed, in order to intercept supplies intended for Oricus.
The branch of the Aous, which irrigated the valley of Amantia, would seem from Lycophron to have been named Polyanthes. As to Thronium, it appears to have stood at the northern extremity of the Amantine territory, on the borders of that of Apollonia, for it was reduced by the Apollonians and added to their district in an early age, as appears by an epigram annexed to a group of statuary at Olympia, which the Apollonians had dedicated on that occasion from the tenth of the spoil.
It is remarkable that the Roman road from Apollonia to Nicopolis by Hadrianopolis, in the valley of Arghyrókastro, ascended the Amantine valley, and not that of the Aous, although the latter is at least as direct, and there was a continuity of plain or valley from Apollonia to Hadrianopolis without any intervening mountain; whereas, on the former route, some high ridges are interposed between the head of the valley of Amantia and the plain of Hadrianopolis. Possibly there were some rocky projections on the banks of the Aous, which it would have required great labour to render passable, or frequent ferries or bridges, which it was desirable to avoid.
Selenítza, where the mines of pitch mentioned by Strabo are found, is about four hours to the north-eastward of Avlóna, near the left bank of the Viósa, not far above the junction of the river of Nívitza, and a little below Grádista, which is on the opposite side of the river. The asphaltum is dug out of the earth in large masses, mixed with a considerable quantity of earth. Ibrahím Pashá farms the mine from the Porte, and is said to receive from those to whom he underlets it 120,000 piastres a year. It is a hard black resin, and when mixed with vegetable pitch is much used in the Adriatic in the careening of boats. Strabo, or rather Posidonius, whom he cites, had an idea that earth thrown into the mine was converted into pitch: the fact, perhaps, is, that the asphaltum, liquified by subterraneous heat, flows in that state into the cavities of the earth, whether natural or formed by the excavations from which asphaltum had been already extracted, and that it there hardens, whence the mineral may appear to be continually renewed in the same cavity. Near the mine a gaseous effluvia on the surface of the ground sometimes takes fire, and maintains a flame for several days. This is evidently the celebrated Nymphaeum of Apollonia which is recorded on the coins of that city by the type of three nymphs dancing round a flame.
Sept. 27, 28, 29, 30. — Instead of exploring Illyria and Chaonia any farther, I was obliged to employ these four days in returning to Berát, in consequence of a violent fever which assumed an intermittent form. Being unable to sit upon a horse for more than half an hour at a time, I was under the necessity of performing the greater part of the journey in the arabás of the Mizakía. The first day I halted at Kalkóndasi, and lodged in the house of the Bishop of Velégrada (Berát). In the walls of the church are several fragments (brought probably from Apollonia) of sculptures in low relief, and of architectural ornaments, and there is a tomb-stone with an inscription of lower times, but not Christian. The next day I crossed over the hill of Ardhenítza, which stands in the middle of the Mizakía, and in a great monastery on the summit found the Bishop, whose house he had quitted in the morning, together with his aged predecessor, who had resigned in his favour, and the venerable Igúmenos of the convent, all of whom were extremely kind to me. Our progress was the slower, as I found it impossible to hire a car for the whole journey, and was obliged to change it frequently. On the third day we crossed the point of the hill of Spirágr into the plain of Topaltí, and at night I lodged in a store-house among casks, baskets, and bags of corn. Here the fever, not having been improved by the jolting of an Illyrian cart for three days, with intervals of riding in the sun, assumed a form which is not uncommon in Italy and Greece, and is called by the Italian practitioners a doppia terzana, because the fever returns daily, but with increased violence on the alternate days. These alternate fits were accompanied by delirium, and on the second occurrence by complete insensibility.
Oct. 14. — Having been restored by the good care and judicious treatment of my friend Sakellário, to a state just equal to travelling, I quit Berát this day for Ioánnina, being, in consequence of the delay that has occurred, under the necessity of giving up the intention of visiting Dyrrhachium, and tracing the operations of Pompey, Caesar, and Brutus. This has been doubly unfortunate, because having intended after visiting the maritime Illyria, to follow the entire Egnatian way to Saloníki, I had preferred the direct road from Korytzá to Berát across Mount Tomór to the circuitous but much more interesting route by Akhridha and Elbassán, which was a part of that Roman road.
At 1 P.M. we cross the Bridge of Berát, pass through the small Greek quarter called Gorítza [Gorica], at the foot of the opposite hill, then skirt the river for a quarter of an hour, and enter a valley which branches to the right of the main vale of the Uzúmi. Here the road in many parts passes along the bed of a torrent, and at other times over branches of rugged barren hills, which exclude the prospect on both sides, except that sometimes the rocks of Tomór appear on the left. The Uzúmi is at no great distance in the same direction; one of the roads leading from Berát to the southward passes along its banks, but that which we travel is the most frequented. After an hour's riding the rain begins to fall, and continues, with short intermissions, until at 5.30 we arrive at the Khan of Tótjer [Tozhar], so called from a village of that name, half a mile distant, in the steep hills to the right, and consisting only of a mosque and three or four large Mahometan houses. The latter part of our road was over a very steep branch of the hills, and was, for the most part, paved. These heights are cultivated only near several dispersed hamlets of three or four houses, situated generally on steep summits. The vegetation bears all the marks of an advanced autumn. The Khan of Tótjer, which stands in a narrow bottom between rugged hills, has been lately improved by Ibrahím Pashá. Though the doors and windows have no security to prevent their being blown open by the wind, which perhaps might be too much to expect in an Albanian khan, the floor at least is much more compact than that of the Πρωτο-πραγματευτὴς, or first merchant of Berát, and the roof a better defence against the rain C a fortunate circumstance, as in consequence of a deluge which falls all night.
Autumnal view of the Dhëmbeli mountains near Përmet
(Photo: Robert Elsie, November 2010).
Oct. 15. — The torrents are reported impassable, until the afternoon, when it is too late to reach Klisúra, the nearest place where any provender for the horses can be obtained.
Oct. 16. — At 7.45, continuing our course along the ravine, bordered as before by rugged hills, we arrive, in less than three quarters of an hour, at a stream which flows to the left through a gorge into the Uzúmi, and from thence, for near half an hour, we ascend the bed of this torrent, which is now but just safe for the baggage horses. We then turn into the channel of a branch of the same river, and at 10, crossing a height, descend, in half an hour, into a vale watered by a stream which flows to join the Viósa near Klisúra. The hills are of the same description as those mentioned on the 14th, but the cultivation and the hamlets are more thinly dispersed. One small village only with a mosque was in sight, in a lofty situation on the right. As we advance, the great ridge of Trebusín, which appears higher on this side than from Tepeléni, stretches in a direction parallel to the valley we are following, which becomes a little broader as we descend it, and is covered with fields of arabosíti, not yet gathered in. From 11.30 until 1 we halt at the khan of Venakós, so called from a village of that name situated a mile on the right, amid rugged hills at the foot of Mount Trebusín. On proceeding, our road, every where extremely bad, often crosses the river, and then pursues, for a short distance, the course of its stony bed: the valley is still narrow and grown with maize. On the left are hills more rugged, but in other respects of the same description as before. Behind them rises a lofty range, but not so high as Trebusín.
View of Përmet
(Photo: Robert Elsie, November 2010).
Thus we continue our route till 3.45, when we find ourselves opposite the village and castle of Klisúra, at the entrance of a valley which is here about a mile in width. Instead of following the direct road, which ascends the Viósa to Premedí, we turn to the right, and in eight minutes begin to mount a steep slope at the foot of the eastern extremity of Mount Trebusín, which rises bare and precipitous above it, and soon arrive in the scattered village of Klisúra, containing about one hundred and fifty houses of Musulmans, who for the most part speak only Albanian. A little beyond the village an immense edge of rock descends from the summit of the mountain to the river, and forms, together with the opposite mountain, which is separated from it only by the river Viósa, the eastern entrance of the celebrated pass anciently called the Fauces Antigonenses, or Stená of the Aous, and now the Stená of the Viósa. Klisúra has obviously received its name, which is analogous to the Latin Clusium, and other similar appellations, from its situation. It is mentioned by Cantacuzenus in the fourteenth century, together with other places which are still to be recognised as having been the chief strong-holds in this part of Greece. The river, after having followed a north-western direction from its sources, here suddenly turns a little to the southward of west; and having pursued this course for twelve miles, between two high mountains of extreme steepness, then recovers its north-western direction, which it preserves to the sea. Above the village of Klisúra, at an elevation of about one-third of the summit of the mountain, the Vezír Alý has constructed a castle, consisting only of a square white-washed inclosure of a single wall, with a tower at each angle, but perfectly commanding the only road into the pass which leads along a cornice over the right bank of the Viósa. The castle occupies the site of an ancient fortress, as appears from some remains of a Hellenic wall near the entrance. Half way between the castle and the river stands a serái lately built by Alý Pashá.
The mountain on the opposite or left bank of the river, is the northern extremity of the great ridge of Nemértzika, much lower than that summit, but nearly equal to Trebusín in height. At the top it is a bare perpendicular precipice, but the steep lower slope, unlike that of its opposite neighbour, is clothed with trees quite to the river. Through the opening between them is seen a magnificent variety of naked precipices and hanging woods, inclosing the broad and rapid stream of the insinuating river.
[excerpts from William Martin Leake, Travels in Northern Greece (London 1835), volume 1, pp. 1-105, 363-384. For Leake's footnotes (omitted here), readers should consult the original text.]