Helmet of Scanderbeg
in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
History of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg
Historian Marinus Barletius (ca. 1450-1512), known in Albanian as Marin Barleti, is thought to have been born in Shkodra where he vividly experienced and survived the second siege of the city by the Turks in 1478. When Shkodra was finally taken, Barletius, like many of his compatriots, fled to Italy and settled in Padua, where he became rector of the parish church of St. Stephan. His experience inspired him to document Albania’s turbulent history during the Turkish invasion and its national resistance under Scanderbeg (1405-1468) in the book “Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi, Epirotarum Principis” (History of the Life and Deeds of Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus), Rome, ca. 1510. Barletius’ history of Scanderbeg was widely read and translated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and constitutes a basic, if not entirely satisfactory source of our knowledge of Scanderbeg and fifteenth-century Albania. The Latin original of the book was translated into French by Jaques de Lavardin as “Histoire de Georges Castriot, svrnommé Scanderbeg, roy d'Albanie” (Paris 1576), and from French into English by Zachary Jones under the title “The Historie of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albinie, containing his famous actes, his noble deedes of armes and memorable victories again the Turkes for the faith of Christ” (London 1596). Strongly influenced by the Roman historians, in particular by Livy, and with the declamatory style of the period, more rhetoric than reliably historical, Barletius captured the imagination of the sixteenth-century reader who, with the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1529, was becoming increasingly obsessed by the prospect of a Turkish conquest of Western Europe. He also laid the foundations for what can only be called the cult of Scanderbeg among the Albanians at home and in the diaspora, an almost saintly veneration of the Albanian national hero as the symbol and quintessence of resistance to foreign domination. The following is the final (twelfth) chapter of the book on the death of Scanderbeg, with the text left in its original sixteenth-century language and orthography.
Mahomet enraged for the discomfiture of Ballaban and Jagup, prepareth to come into Epire in proper person: and Scanderbeg provideth to receive him. Mahomet conspireth the death of Scanderbeg by treason: which is discovered, & the traitors executed. Croy is besieged by Ballaban, Mahomet him selfe comming to the siege, and being out of hope to cary the towne by force, returneth towards Constantinople, and leaveth Ballaban to continue the siege of Croy. Mahomet in his returne surprizeth Chidna by treason, & infidelity, putting the inhabitants to the sword. Scanderbeg maketh a journey to Rome, to get aide of the Pope and the Christians for the reliefe of Croy, but returneth with small comfort: he is succoured by the Venetians. Jonima the brother of Ballaban, with his sonne Heder, comming to the aide of Ballaban, are surprized by Scanderbeg, and both of them taken prisoners. Scanderbeg invadeth the Campe of the Infidels: a sallie is made by the Croians upon the Turkes, wherein Ballaban is slaine. The Turkes breake up their siege before Croy: and depart out of Epire. Chidna is recovered, and Epire cleansed of the Infidels. Mahomet maketh a second journey into Epire: buildeth Valure, and besiegeth first Duraz, and after Croy: but he raiseth his siege from both of them. Chiurill a towne newly builded, and unfinished by Scanderbeg, is razed by Mahomet, who returneth to Constantinople. Alibeg and Aliazbeg are sent with an army to safeguard the Turkish frontiers. Scanderbeg preparing to recover Valures from the Turkes, sickeneth: he disposeth and ordereth his affaires. Ahamat with an army of fifteene thousand Turkes, invading and spoiling the Venetian territories flieth out of Epire, and is defeated by the Epirots. Scanderbeg dieth and is buried, his dead body is honoured and reverenced by the Turks. Certaine memorable acts done by Scanderbeg in his lifetime.
The haught exploit, and the mortall accident happened to the armies of Ballaban and Jagup, being published and spred abroad over all places: the fame thereof (like a flying Post) came with wonderfull speede to the eares of the Ottoman, whose heart was replenished, and well neare overcome with extremity of griefe and incomparable astonishment. Wherefore being afrayed least that fortune would now prove a stepdame unto him, & crosse him in his attempts, and that (after so many prosperities and continuall favours, shee would now in the end revolt and fall away from him, and retiring unto his fiercest enemy, would entertaine him for her favorit, and oppose her selfe against him, he began to grow into a most strange passion, afflicting and tormenting his mind with extreame care and melancholy. And being thus perplexed, irresolute & distracted within him selfe, he caused all his chieftaines and councellours to be called and assembled together, to the intent he might consult with them, and devise upon some remedy agains the mischiefe. Now when they were all of them gathered together and set in councell, the tyrant giving the bridle to his passion and choller, did breake forth into most bitter invectives and injurious reproachfull tearms against Scanderbeg, and he used this or the like speeches unto them.
Scanderbeg Monument in Prishtina
(Photo: Robert Elsie, February 2008)
“You are not ignorant (my good friendes) how that I never made any spare of my travell and paines, nor of any hazardes or daungers, but that I have bene alwaies prodigal of my proper life and safety, for the increase of the faith of our chiefe Prophet: for the augmentation of the name and Empire of the house of Ottoman: for the surety and safety of you and your families: and to make this estate of ours peaceable, quiet, and florishing. In all our actions and expeditions wherein we our selves have beene present, and which have bene undertaken by us in proper person, we have found Fortune friendly and favorable unto us: and yet at this time I know not what to say, of this petty Province of Epire, and of this petty Prince Scanderbeg; as often as I consider the infamous death of so many excellent chieftaines and generals of our hoasts, and the totall discomfiture or shamefull captivity of so many flourishing armies: nor can I tell what to make of it, unlesse it be that the Demon or Angell of this Apostata, and rebellious renegado doe fight for him, and do surmount the Demon of all those who are opposed against him. We may see then that this businesse doth require the rigour of a more furious and violent hand, and of some Chieftaine who is more happy and fortunate in his enterprises. I am determined (my good friends) and in my opinion it is the best and most convenient course, that we take this warre into our owne hands, and that we make a journey into Epire in our proper person, with more puissant and solemne preparations than Amurath our father did at his going against the Albanois. Then shall that fugitive and traitour Scanderbeg well perceive, even with the losse of his hatefull head, that it is nothing to have a Bassa, a Saniacke, or an Aga to beard him, but that it is another manner of matter, to be invaded with the presence and majesty of a most mighty, puissant, and fortunate Monarch, that shall employ his whole power, and bend the fury of all his forces against him. And although the glorious memory of our deceased father, did not cary away the entire honour of this voyage, but did yeelde up his ghost in the pursuite thereof, yet ought not the honour and praise of that journey, be attributed to the vertue or prowesse of that slave, or his Christians: but rather to the imbecillity of his age, and the infirmity of his decaying yeares, as shortly also we shall see the like to befall and betide even to Scanderbeg him selfe, who is now upon the declining of his age, and will even in a moment finde his fortune to waxe old and faint: and that same vivacity and livelines of his spirit, and the vigorous disposition of his lims and members will faile and forsake him: so as in the end he will sinke under the burden of his affaires. For the nature and property of Fortune, is to delight in the flourishing time of youth, and shee seeketh out and desireth to be resident with those, whose minds are transported with swelling ambition, & with stirring thoughts: and as the heat of bloud waxeth coole, & as this vigour of the mind groweth to be weakned: so doth fortune likewise wax cold, & doth use to discontinue her favors: and therfore I make no doubt but that in the instant, I shal utterly confound this unhappy Christian, together with his people and posterity: who being become more arrogant by the happy successe of so many good encounters, doth daily molest my subjects, overrunning and destroying all my Province of Macedonie. And if it happen that he fall into my snares, and that I can get him within my reach, I will execute upon his wretched body, (being the subject of all vice & wickednesse) all kindes and examples of extreme crueltie: because, besides the displeasure done me in the death of my father, this Hydra, this monster of all mischiefes, hath infinitly provoked against him my just wrath and indignation. But foolish man as he is, let him take his pleasure for a time, let him hold on his course yet a while, let him glory in his goodly realme, and in his ambitious poverty, whilest the destinies do permit and suffer him: it shall not be long, ere I will swallow him up in endlesse ruine and perdition. This therefore is my advise, that we goe right on to Croy, the capitall and chiefe city of that Province, with so great forces and puissance, that it shall not be able to hold out against us. For when Croy is overcome and conquered, all the other places and strong holds of this countrey will be soone reduced to the same estate and condition.”
This matter being propounded by Mahomet, and approved by the generall consent and voices of his Visits and Captaines: infinite commissions were granted forth, and publike proclamation was made throughout all the territories and dominions under the Turke his obeysaunce: that all men which were apt to beare armes, should repaire to the Commissioners, and cause their names to be enrolled: insomuch that innumerable forces were leavied, and in the meane time, provision was made of munitions, instruments, engines, and other necessaries for the Campe, all which being in a readinesse, the Turkish Monarch with a most proud and glorious traine, tooke his way towards Epire.
Upon these troubles and tumults approaching, Scanderbeg wanted not his intelligencers, and ordinary spies, but that they gave him sure and speedy advertisements of all things, which was the occasion that he assembled all his friendes and nobles, and amongst others, Paul Angell Archbishop of Duraz, unto whom he imparted his most secret counsels: and to them he adjoyned also Josaphat Barbare the Venetian Ambassadour, a worthy personage of great judgement and experience, and singularly zealous of the Christian religion, who together with the Archbishop, was seldome or never from the side of the Prince of Albanie. By the generall advise and consent of this assembly, it was ordained, that all the townes, places, and fortresses of the realme, should be diligently furnished and provided with victuals, and other necessary provisions, and fortified with good and faithfull garrisons; especially Croy, the principall bulwarke, and stay of all the estate of Albany, and whereuppon all the rest depended. He provided therefore, and stuffed it with good store of souldiers, part of them Albanois, and part Italians, all of them of approved loyalty and resolution: and he made choise of an Italian Gentleman to be governour of the towne, and Balthasar Perduce, a man highly esteemed for his prudence, judgement, and resolution.
But before I passe any further, it shal be requisit, that I recount unto you one plot or devise forged and framed in the shop or store house of the Ottomans trecherie and infidelitie, the invention and practise whereof as it was suttle and devilish, so was it miraculously discovered and avoyded: by the knowledge whereof you may easily conjecture, how greatly they redoubted and stood in awe of Scanderbeg, whom they could not suffer and endure, no more then a thorne sticking in their foot. The Turkish Monarch perceaving that the Prince of Epyre was now growen to that height of honour, that his name began to be fearefull and terrible unto all the Mahometistes, was in great feare least that by reason of this exceeding fame and renowne of the Epyrots, his owne people and subjectes should take an occasion to grow mutinous & to raise some sedition, and so taking armes against him, should either seeke to murder him and to cut his throat, or else might chase and expell him out of his seate and throne Imperiall, and bestow the same upon the king of Albanie, for he was not ignoraunt that his notable crueltie had made him most hatefull and odious unto all men, whereas this is not the meane to reigne long and happily, but clemencie and justice are the firme pillers of each estate and Empire: for this cause did he imagine and determine to surprise Scanderbeg by deceipt and trecherie, whom he saw he was not able to destroy by force and violence: he procured therefore and provided him selfe of two men practised and expert in most languages, (as it is commonly seene that Princes and great personages doe never want ministers to execute their dissolute and unlawfull passions,) and having corrupted them with great giftes and bountifull rewardes, and assuring them that he would continually and dayly heape upon them greater and better benefites, he perswaded and instructed them to fayne and dissemble them selves to be fugitives from the countrey and dominions of the Turke, and that for the zeale of Religion, they were come to offer their service unto Scanderbeg and to pray him to have pitie and compassion of their estate, and that they might be received and admitted to the holy Sacrament of Baptisme as good Christians, the which after they had perswaded him according to their desires, that then they should finde the meanes to worke his death, either by poyson or otherwise. These wicked wretches had no sooner presented them selves to the presence of Scanderbeg, but that both of them were baptised and (as the common report is) were enrolled and admitted to be of the garde and to wait upon him for the ordinarie safegarde of his person. Within a while after, it pleased God (who had this Prince in his especiall protection) to reveale their pernitious attempt & conspiracie, such was his good pleasure that this good Prince and faithfull servitour of Christ, should not dye so miserable and unhappy a death: for the parties them selves were made the bewrayers and discoverers of their owne devilish intent and practise. For so it happened that a jarre and contention fell betweene them (and it may be it was in their cuppes, and in a dronken humour) but their choler and furie grew so outrageous and immoderat, that each upbrayding other with injurious and grosse wordes, they fell in the end to accuse and detect one an other: openly objecting, that they were purposely sent by Mahomet to empoyson Scanderbeg: whereupon being apprehended, and put to the tortures, they presently confessed the whole order of the matter, by meanes whereof, being delivered to the executioner, they were both hanged according to their desertes.
Let us now returne to the course of our discourse: The places and fortresses of Epire being carefully furnished and provided with necessaries in such sort as we have shewed; it was not long, but that often letters and messengers did arrive from all partes, giving the allarme and making report, that Mahomat with two hundreth thousand men, would be shortly before Croy, and that his light horsemen and vauntcurrours were even at hand: who accordingly did make their present entry into Albany, and for two daies were seene to course up and downe the countrey, and to put all to sword and fire: and the night following, about two houres after evening, they presented themselves before the towne, environning it on all sides round about. Ballaban Badera had the conduct and commaund of these troupes, amounting to the number of foure score thousand horse, all picked and choise men. This enemy having entrenched and fortified his Campe, did daily skirmishe with the Croians, who made many and often sallies out upon the Turkes: the event and successe whereof, was very variable and diverse. During these doings betweene the forces of Ballaban, and the besieged, the Sultan being accompanied with the grosse, or body of his maine army, arrived before Croy: and before that he attempted any thing against the towne (according to the use and custome of warre) he caused the same to be summoned uppon certaine offers and conditions. The defendants gave him such aunswer as men resolute are wont to make, namely, that they would sooner be torne in pieces then to commit any acte that should sound to their reproch, or that might violate and chaunge their faith given to God and to their Prince: or that should blemish the honour and reputation which they had gotten in his service: and with their musquets, harguebusse, & other shot they made signe unto them that they would not have them to approach neare the towne: and immediatly issuing out with great furie upon the Infidels, they came to handystrokes with them, not without a notable slaughter of the Turks, and afterward returned joyfully into the towne carying with them in signe of victorie many of the heads of these enemies. Mahomet being incensed with his bravado, caused his Canons to be planted, and to play against the walles. For he had brought thither aboundance of metals to cast artillery of all sizes: and he had provided him selfe of expert and skilfull workemen, in the making of all kindes of warlike engines, wherewith he determined to thunder against Croy, and meant to make them sing another song. But Scanderbeg with his troupes sometimes here sometimes there, by the mountaine and other places, out of the reach and accesse of the enemy, did daily vexe and trouble the army of the Infidels, not suffering them to have any space or time to breath or to rest themselves, but was continually at their backes on all sides, giving them a thousand alarums and invasions day and night, without any intermission, one while upon their foragers, and another while uppon their Campe. And like as a mighty river swelling and raging with continuall raine, doth role and tumble downe most impetuously from the tops of the mountaines, carying and drawing along with it, whatsoever it encountreth, and turning all things upside downe which it findeth in the way: in like maner Scanderbeg rushing with extreame fury & violence upon the Turkish hoast, now of one side then of another, he did commit notable slaughters of the infidelles, beating them downe on all handes, and afflicting them with all kindes of mischieves and discommodities, which was an occasion, that the Ottoman thought it high time to looke to his affaires, both in regard of the calamity of his people, which seemed likely to encrease dayly more and more, as also in respect of his owne person, which might be in evident and apparent daunger, by reason that he had no hope nor likelihood, to get any profit or honour by his voyage, (for that Croy was so far from being forceable, that it could not conveniently be made assaultable:) and therefore he determined not to make any longer abode before the towne, but to retire backe againe, to Constantinople. Notwithstanding for that he could not do it with any honestie, nor without great blemish of his honour and reputation, if at the least wise he left not behinde him some shew or token of some worthy exploit in this voyage, he determined that Ballaban should continue and hold on the siege with a strong and mightie armie over which he made him Generall: he appointed therefore until him a power of eighteen thousand horse, and five thousand foote, and besides he adjoyned until him eight Sanjackes of great account and estimate, giving unto each of them a regiment of seven thousand good and tall souldiours: all which neverthelesse were commanded to take and acknowledge him for their chief, & to be at his commandement. These things thus concluded and accomplished, Mahomet with shame enough after his short stay, trussing up his baggage in the night left Croy, and with long journeys tooke his way home to Constantinople.
Portrait of Scanderbeg,
In his passage through the countrey, he surprised certaine people of Chaonia, and certaine places called Chidna in this manner. He suborned two souldiours Albanians, promising to make them great men, and to advance them to high honour, whome he sent with instructions to lye, and to tell them of Chidna, that they were come to Croy purposly to advertise their friends, & to wish them to looke unto them selves, for feare least being ignorant of the lamentable and desperate estate of the province, they might peradventure be the cause of their owne ruine and destruction if they would carie them selves with too much obstinacie towardes the Turkish Monarch: for that Scanderbeg (as they made them beleeve) durft not abide the face of the Ottoman, nor the furie of his armes which were so terrible, that they made him to play least in sight, and that it was verely thought, that he had abandoned & forsaken Epyre, for which cause, Croy also seeing it selfe without hope of succours, was now upon termes to yeeld upon composition to Ballaban, who pressed it very hard with a wonderfull streight siege, that Mahomet for his part was now disloged from Croy with part of his armie to reduce all the province under his obeissance, and that there was scant any place or fortresse of account, but that they were at his devotion, that therefore they should looke to them selves, and that they should do well to imitate their example, chusing rather to take the benefit of his clemencie, & singular love towards them which yeelded them selves voluntarily, then to test the extreme rigour of the warre, and the miserie of bondage and servitude reserved for those persons which should be founde rebellious and obstinat: so well did these traiterous wretches play their parts, & so vehemently did their perswasions worke with those poore people being too too credulous, that (as it is ordinarily seene, that the vulgar sort do follow that side which they thinke to have the best fortune,) so these unhappy folkes at the first summons made by the Sultan, upon his fayre and smooth promises of entire and free libertie of conscience, and of their goodes, fraunchises, and immunities, did simply yeeld them selves, by the enticements of these false Synons, to the faith and fidelitie of the Turke, which they found to be such, as is usuall with one that maketh publique profession of perjurie, impietie, and disloyaltie: for which most monstrous and inhumane crueltie he caused eight thousand of them to be put to the sword, besides women and children. Thus did this hatefull tyrant upon pure rage and despight shead the bloud of innocents, because he could not execute the venome of his malice and hatred against Scanderbeg, who stood so surely upon his garde. Undoubtedly the wrath and displeasure of Princes is heavie and horrible, and (as the saying is) it is not light as feathers, but weightie as lead. Thus went Mahomet out of Epyre bathed in the bloud of innocents, and having left Ballaban behind him with innumerable troupes, he had given him streight charge to continue the siege of Croy, even to the last point of extremitie, and till such time as the inhabitants being worne out with the length of time, and being consumed and weakened with famine and calamities, should be enforced to yeeld them selves unto him, even with halters about their neckes.
All this while, was Scanderbeg very sad & pensive to see so many enemies within the hart of his Realme, but that which greeved him most was, that such a villain as Ballaban (whose parents and predecessours, had ever bene but as base varlets, and servile drudges to the house and familie of the Castriots, and to whom he had given so many overthrowes and disgraces) should yet for all this be still opposed and make war against him, and that he should dare to compare with him, and to brave him. For this cause he had an extreme desire by all meanes possible to entrappe him, and if he could by any devise in the world, to worke his confusion, but he wanted meanes and abilitie, to compasse so high and difficult an enterprise, especially since the losse of Chidna, whereof he made great reckoning, by reason of the good number of brave souldiours, which he had in that place. Wherefore by the counsell and advise of this friends and Captaines, he determined to sollicite, and presse both by letters and ambassades, all the Princes, great Lords, and peoples his next neighbours, by the spurres of common necessitie to embrace at this time especially the defence of Albanie, and the repulse of the Infidell from the siege of Croy: accordingly with great promptnes & celeritie, he put the matter in execution by men of a sharpe and quicke conceipt: shewing them first of all with what rage and brutishnesse the tyrant Mahomet had conspired to abolish the name of Christ, and the professours of his holy Religion, that his ancestours having layd Asia wast & desolate, and passing into Europe had by deceipt and other detestable meanes, destroyed and rooted out infinite Kinges & Potentats of Christendome, & that this helhound following the tract & steps of his ancestours having subdued & conquered the Greeks, the Tryballians, & the Sclavonians, & repulsed & weakened the Hungarians, did now display all his forces & powred forth the venom of his malice and furie upon him & his people, as being the last Relickes of Christendome, which he had of late made shew of upon the Chaonians his subjects, in putting to the sword, contrary to his faith, & oth 8000 men, who if they had bene now living, he should not neede to implore or desire the aide & succours of his neighbours & confederats to drive Ballaban from the siege of Croy, & to cut to peeces both him & all his forces, that they should call to remembrance, how in the former wars which he had most happely atchieved, he never had any recourse to them nor required their aide, but onely with his own men had continually (by the power & blessing of God) made resistance against the common enemy, & had gotten the victory alwayes against the Infidels, with great expence of the bloud of his Albanians, even in a maner, to the last drop thereof by the long continuance of which wars his best and most valiant souldiours were either dead, or slaine in fight, or taken prisoners, or else maimed, so that by the multitude of battels, and continuall services of so many yeares warres, his countrey was altogether drawen dry of able and sufficient forces to make resistance against the Infidels.
These reasons did easily perswade the mindes of his confederates and induce them to encline until his demaunde, but (as it is commonly seene that the face and countenaunce of a man carieth with it the chiefest power and vertue to perswade men), so Scanderbeg went unto some of them, himselfe in proper person, which was the occasion, that all of them promised and swore until him by a new league and allyaunce, that they would not make spare of their lives, nor of their best meanes to succour him against his enemyes, and from thence-forward, they began to put to their helping handes, labouring in the matter tooth and nayle, and with greater courage and forwardnesse then they had done at any time before. Neverthelesse the Prince of Albany, considering with himself that those Turkes which lay encamped & in leager before Croy were for the most part good and hardy souldiours, men of courage, and warlike, besides that being maisters of the mountaine of Cruyna, which they had excellently well fortified & rampierd, his forces would hardly suffice to remove them from thence, he having communicated his counsell and conceipt to the Archbishop of Duraz, and the Ambassadours of Venice and no other, left Tanusee Lieutenant Generall in his army, and departed secretly out of Albanie in a disguised habite towardes Italie to his holynesse, there to obtaine some further succours of the Christians.
You must give me leave uppon this voyage of the Epyrote Prince, somewhat to wander from the course of my historie. Is it not a pitifull thing, and a matter full of commiseration, that a Prince of so great merit, vowed and dedicated to the service of God, and the Christian common wealth, whose victories had sounded over the whole earth, who of late refused the peace, and scorned even the shortest truce with this great Monarch the Turke, who at the sollicitation & urgent perswasions of the Pope, of the kings & great Princes of Europe, did not long since with a might army passe the sea into Italie, for the service of the Italians, now, as a poore fugitive and exile should be constrainded in his aged yeares to abandon his countrey, covered and filled with Infidelles, his capitall and chief towne streightly besieged, and him selfe in a straunge countrey to begge for ayde, and to seeke the favour and support of others? O the inconstancie of this worldes glory! O the incertaintie of humane fortunes! O the mockerie of fortunes flatteries! Where are your eyes, o you Christians? Where are your harts? What was your devoir and dutie? And what ought you to have done in this case, seeing God presented unto you so noble, so faithfull, so zealous a Chieftaine? Was it not your dutie at the least, to have given some time of truce to your wicked rancours and cursed denisions? To have followed this brave champion, and under the happy fortune of his invincible vertue, to have joyned your armes to his armes, and your forces to his forces, that you might have chased and expelled out of Europe the cursed sect of Mahomet, and the bloudy wolfe which devoureth the holy flocke of Christ? Did it stand with your honour, or with your Religion to hold off from succoring those provinces, and to suffer so worthy and incomparable a Chieftaine, so Religious and devout a Prince, to come and seeke unto you within your owne doores and houses: but seeing such was his mishap, and your harts so impassionat, let us see what was the successe and issue of this his voyage.
The king of Albanie being come to Rome, had gratious entertainement of the soveraigne Bishop, and of the holy Senat in regard of the glory of his name, and the great and excellent majestie of his presence, and being brought into the Consistorie or Conclave before the Pope and his Cardinals, he pronounced an eloquent and vehement oration: wherein he began first with the exaltation of the holy siege Apostolicke, and his owne singular devotion and service, which he had ever borne to the same, which wrought in him an incredible contentment, in that he was so happy as to come and to kisse the feete of his holynesse, whome he reputed and reverenced as the light and singular ornament of the Church of God, being divinely chosen for the successour of the blessed Saint Peter the first Vicar of Christ, and of so many holy and Religious Pastours and excellent fathers: who being replenished with all vertues and knowledge, adorned with simplicitie, and puritie of life, had erected and raised the faith of Christ, & had beautified the world with miracles & examples of perfection: “your merites” (quoth he) “most holy Father, are in all points correspondent to those of your predecessours in all rare & divine qualities, so that it is no marvell, if every man have conceaved a singular hope of your worthinesse, the which if you do not excell and exceede, yet do you at the least in all respectes equall, well deserving the publick opinion conceaved of you, not onely for freeing and delivering your holy flocke from the bloudy jawes and throat of those hungry wolves the Mahometistes, but also for spreading and enlarging the faith and Religion of Jesus Christ, even to the extremest and farthest partes of the world. Good God that my toung and eloquence were able to recount your vertues, which do exceede farre beyond all prayses and commendations: but if I were able to do it, yet the infinit tumultes and perils, wherein, by a certaine fatall and inevitable destinie, both I and my people are plunged and drowned more then any other nation in Christendome, doe not permit nor suffer me, to enjoy the sweet pleasure and benefite of your perfections: the just griefe of my oppressed estate doth withdraw me: the Turkish Prince will not suffer me, who following the tract of his auncestours, doth every day invade your flocke, and doth dismember and persecute it, & being not satisfied with so many murthers, with so many rapines, and burnings, which he hath committed in Asia, and in Europe, & wherewith he hath polluted even the whole earth, doeth now strive with all his strength and puissance to destroy and suppresse me and my people with our poore little Realme, as being left unto him, for the last subject of his cruelty. The long continuance of the wars and the multitude of the battels, which we have had, hath worne out, eaten up, & consumed all our forces, & we are now at the last cast, in so much that there is not left in our whole body any part whole and sounde, which may receave any more wounds, neither have we any bloud left us, which we may shed or bestow for the comon weale of Christendome. Wherfore (most reverent father of all Princes Christian, & the brightnesse & glory of the Church of God), if your holinesse and clemencie do not speedely and readily helpe to withstand and prevent this mischief, the estate and welfare of Albany is for ever gone and lost. This is the cause (most reverend Father) that hath brought me hither: this is it that hath caused me to have recourse unto you, I have left a great fire kindled and flaming in my house, the enemy is even at my doores, who hath not onely destroyed and layd desolate, and wasted my province, but hath murthered and captivated my people, he holdeth Croy the key and bulwarke of my Realme, streightly besieged, & is resolved not to depart from thence, till he have brought and made it to be Turkish, and I doubt me, he will go neare to do it, if we be not succoured by your greatnesse and authoritie: whilest it is time therefore, thinke upon me (most worthy Prelates and Fathers) provide for me betimes I beseech you, it standeth you uppon to represse his violence, and to bridle his rage which is growen so strong and mightie, that it threatneth and menaceth with all extremities not onely the estate of Christendome, and the Church of God, but even the ground and foundation of our Religion also. He hath already inflicted upon the Christian people all the examples & acts of inhumanitie which can be possibly invented, in such sort that it would be no lesse difficult and troublesome for me to tell them, then it would be reprochfull for you to heare them. You see most holy Pastour, you see most reverend Fathers, not only the doubt, but even the certaintie of a most horrible ruine and calamitie? You see (most Religious Prelates) how this ambitious Prince hath already seized upon two Christian Empires: the most part of Asia is in slavery & thraldome under him, all the Greekes are in a manner destroyed, the Tryballians, the Rascians, and the Thracians are brought under his subjections, Sclavonie is subdued by his forces, Morea is in servitude, and almost all Macedonie and Epyre, is burned, sacked and made desert by his furie and outrage: you see the reliques of so many Princes, of so many Chieftaines of Macedonie and of all Greece: you have heard (most soveraigne Prelate & you most reverend Fathers) how many warres, how many travels and tedious exploits & toyles my auncestours have had against this perjured & faithlesse nation, & how my selfe after them, have not had one day, not one minute of rest & quietnes, but without ceasing for more then these 20 yeres, I have had most sharp & bloudy conflicts against this prophane people, & especially against this fierce beast Mahomet, who hath now afflicted my estate with so many ruines, & mischieves, that I have no other way but to give place unto him. I have even till this day resisted & opposed my selfe against him, & I have almost continually, by the divine bounty, gone away with the victory, but now at this time (most holy Father) being wearied with so many travels & discommodities both past & present: being wasted & consumed with so many battels: having lost so many excellent Captaines, and so many of my souldiers & subjectes being slaine and destroyed, we have no part of our auncient fortune now left us, but our generous harts, and devout soules: whereas this Barbarous Scithian (it may be our sinnes have bene the cause thereof) hath encreased his forces and hath amplified his Empire beyond all discourse of humane reason: humbly therfore (most holy father) I do prostrat my selfe, here before your holines, I do invocate & call upon your sacred name, & I do implore your aide & succour, most worthy Prelats. Consult, I beseech you, make provision, & take such order, that I may have some meanes to resist against so many tempests, & stormes of the war, & that I may with the lesse perill of my life, & prejudice of my affaires, be able to beare & sustaine the brunt thereof, & if the private miserie of your soldier do nothing move you, if the affliction of your champion do not passionate you, at least-wise let the common necessitie, the imminent perill of your flock, & the future desolation of the estate of Christendome stir you up & perswade you: is there any servitude more greevous, then the Turkish bondage? What accident can happen more bitter to godly & Christian soules, then to see their infants now united unto Christ by holy baptisme, & redeemed by the precious bloud of the son of god, to the eternall communion & societie of the faithfull, afterwards againe to be cut away and separated from him, & to be misled in the execrable blasphemies of Mahomet: to be made open, professed, & cruell enemies of Christ and his Church, to make warre against heaven, and to perish in eternall death and damnation? Is there any thing more hard, and lamentable, then to see our owne children, issued from our owne bowels to become our enemies, and to see them made the onely means and ministers to cut our throats, and to worke our ruine and destruction? It cannot be but this servitued and bondage of Christian soules is an evill much more greevous and intollerable, then death it selfe.”
This Oration of the king of Epyre, was harkened unto with no lesse attentivenesse, then accepted with the allowaunce, and good liking of the whole Consistorie, and every man sayd openly, that it was most requisite and necessarie to succour, with all speede and diligence, their Christian brethren, and not to suffer so noble a province and so vertuous a people to be devoured and swallowed up by so cruell and bloudthirsty an enemie. But all these smooth speeches, fayre wordes and goodly promises, whereof they gave him plenty, proved in the end nothing else then court favours, & vanished into smoake: what the cause thereof should be I know not, but so it happened, that at his departure from thence, (which was soone after) he had litle and very small succour from Pope Paul the Second, who (though he were a Venetian borne) yet was but badly affectioned towards his owne countrey: to the which Scanderbeg was a most inward and faithfull friend, over and besides the strict and ancient knot of friendship and confederacy, which had beene preserved and nourished with great devotion betweene him and that common-wealth. Three thousand Crownes were delivered into the hands of Demetrius Franke: who being one of the chiefe and principall citizens of Drivasta, and cosin to the Archbishop of Duraz, was treasurer to Scanderbeg: and this was all the aide that he found or had from him: yet did not this any thing trouble the Prince of Epire, neither was he discontented at the sory and simple entertainement: but praising God for all, he tooke his leave of the Pope, and returned into his owne countrey. He was once in the minde to have gone as farre as Venice: but taking advise upon the matter, and not finding it expedient, by reason of the piteous estate wherein he had left his kingdome and countrey of Epire: he contented himselfe to send thither his Secretary, to let the Senate of that city understand, the hard successe of his voyage to Rome, and to animate & perswade them to minister some aide & succours unto him: the which he obtained as you shall heare. Scanderbeg being upon the way of his return towards Epire, went first to Scutary, where Josaphat Barbare had great comand and authority, (of whom we have spoken heretofore) and there having made a notable leavy of the subjects of the Venetians, he adjoyned them to his owne forces. In like maner, Lech Ducagin and Nicholas his brother, being bravelie mounted, came unto him with 400, valiaunt horsemen, and as many footmen, all of them most expert and skilfull souldiers. To these did adjoyne them selves a hundreth men at armes armed all in white, and 500 footement Italians, being in the pay and entertainment of the Seigniorie of Venice within Scutarie, besides 1000 good horse, & three thousand footmen gathered out from amongst the Scutarians, the Drivastines, the Antivarians, the Lissians and the Dirrachians: in so much that those aides being united and incorporated all in one, did make up the full & complet number of 13400 chosen men. For you are to note that the Princes & peoples of Epyre, Macedony, Sclavony and Dalmatia, which were leagued and allyed together, did not faile to send ech of them certaine forces, all which made their rende vous at a place appointed, and were at the command and disposition of Scanderbeg, who devided them into two troupes: one part whereof he committed to the conduct and leading of Lech Ducagin above named, being a knight of no lesse policie then hardinesse in the warres: and Nicholas Moneta borne in Scutarie, the Vaivoda, or governor of that citie, being a Gentleman of great estimate and valure, had the guiding of the other part of those forces. Now it was set downe and appointed, that these troupes being dislodged from Lissa, and having cut over the plaine countrie or fieldes of Pharsalia, and the forest of Jonimes, should make their approach, and charge uppon the enemie on that side. And that the King of Epyre being accompanied with his owne bandes both horse and foote, should make towardes the mountaine of Cruyna, there to assaile and set upon Ballaban on the other side, who had enclosed & fortified himselfe exceeding strongly and conveniently upon that mountaine. But before I will leade our Christians any further into the countrie, I hold it not amisse to figure and describe unto you the site of the place where the Mahometan had entrenched him selfe, to the intent the matter may be the better represented to your sight, and made more plaine and apparent unto you.
I told you long sithence, that Croy is in Epyre, in the fields of Emathia or Pharsalia, seated upon the high crest or ridge of a mountaine: which in the circuit and compasse thereof is on all parts environed with many steepe downefals, excepting in one only place where it is very hardly to be approached, and is devided and cut off from the mount Cruyna, which being very nigh, & continuing on even close to the towne, doth seeme much higher then the same, and to have the commaund thereof. This mountaine runneth a long by the side of the Castle of Croy, where hanging over it with a deepe cliffe, after a small descent it doth devide it selfe into diverse hils or litle mounts. In this place had Ballaban placed his campe, and having drawen thither the masse or maine strength of his armie, he had gotten the possession of the mountaine of Cruyna, the which having fortified and garded with a great and strong garrison, he did presse the towne with a hard and grievous siege.
But leaving him there encamped, let us returne to our troupes. Their plot being laide as is before mentioned, and their bandes being devided, Scanderbeg with his forces went first on to visite the enemie: and being come to the saide mountaine, he received advertisement, that Jonyme the brother of Ballaban was marching on towardes his brother with a good number of Turkes: and the report went that he was alreadie past the mountaine of Bulgarie. Immediatly uppon these newes Scanderbeg with singular promptnesse and resolution, tooke with him the choise and flower of his army: and (having caused the residue to keepe themselves still and quiet) he roade all that night with extreame speede and diligence to meete with Jonyme, whom having surprised on a sudden and unprovided, he soone broke and dispersed, taking him alive with Heder his sonne likewise, and the same night with no lesse speede then he went forwarde, he returned to his companie with the victorie. The next morning he brought foorth and presented to the sight of Ballaban, his brother and his Nephew bound and tyed together. And thereupon giving a brave charge upon the garrison of the Turkes which lay uppon the mount Cruyna, he chased them from thence, and being seized of the place, he tooke up his lodgings uppon the toppe of the mountaine, giving present order that his confederates should have notice thereof out of hande. Nowe Ballaban (who promised him selfe some intelligence within Croy) was wonderfully abashed to see the Christians so suddainely to come so neere him, and to be in a manner over his head, and where they might commaunde him. Wherefore having newly encouraged and reassured part of his people who were somewhat troubled with his alarme: and letting them to understande, that the towne was surely their owne, if they would make any haste to enter it, and so provide for their owne safetie, whereas otherwise if they fayled in the enterprise, it was not for them to staie there any longer before Croie: knowing well that they should but loose their labour, that the daungers would be very great to continue there at the siege, and that it could not but cost them deare, now that he saw his brother defeated and the enemie so forwarde which could not but be an occasion of great inconvenience unto them. Thus being accompanied with a good troupe, he presented himselfe before the walles, and went on even almost to the port of the citie, perswading and solliciting them within, to render themselves unto him: and there did he continue for a while attending the issue of that which he expected. The Croians being incensed with his presumption made a brave sallie out upon him, & falling into skirmish with the Turkes, they enforced them to the retreate, and made the Chieftaine to know the vanitie of his practises. Herewithall Ballaban being enraged and even madde for anger, and making head afresh against the Croyans, thought by pure force to have driven them into the towne. But the citizens beginning to retyre in very good order, without the losse of anie one of their companie: it happened that one George Alexie an Epyrot borne, and a good harguebussier discharging a bullet upon Ballaban hit him quite thorough the throate, giving him a mortall and deadly wound. Yet did not Ballaban fall presently, but when he found himselfe shotte, he kept himselfe sure within his saddle, and setting spurres to his horse, he ranne with great speed and a swift pace even to his tents, where he was no sooner arrived, but he tumbled from his horse, and fell rudely to the ground, embrewing his countrie soyle with his owne bloud, and the destruction whereof hee had so bloudilie desired. The fall and death of the Generall put the whole campe of the Infidelles in extreame feare and terrour: in so much, that the night following, the Barbarians in great silence and secrecie abandoned the siege of Croie, and retyring themselves about eight long myles off, they encamped and fortified them selves verie diligently at Tyranna. The next morning uppon breake of day, Scanderbeg comming to take a viewe of the enemie tentes, found them voide and emptie of men, but fully furnished with baggage and provisions, so that there was no want of any thing, eyther of corne or other victuals: all which he caused to be removed and carried thence into Croie, the same being in a manner sufficient to victuall it for one whole yeare. After this himselfe entred with great triumph into the citie, where he was received with great honour and joy by the inhabitants, whome he highly commended (and that worthily) for their fidelitie and good perseverance, adding therewithall many gifts and rewards in recompence of the deserts.
Whilest these offices of civill courtesies passed betwene Scanderbeg & his citizens, there came from the campe of the Barbarians lying at Tyranna, two horsmen, seeming to be persons of good account and reckoning, who presenting themselves before Scanderbeg in the name of the Chieftains & Commanders of their armie, praied him to grant them that favour which he had never refused to men of their qualitie, namely that leaving their baggage, horses, and armour, they might be suffered to depart with their lives only. For they were sore afraid, least that the passages being forestalled and laide for them, should have beene shut up and fortified to enclose and famish them within the countrie. Hereupon the King caused his Princes, Nobles, and Captaines speedily to be assembled, that he might deliberate and determine uppon some aunswere to be given to the Turkes, and might heare the advise of everie man in particular: and he tooke order in the meane while, that those two horsemen should be conducted into a tent, and there to be well and gratiously entertayned. Josaphat Barbare was the first whose opinion was demaunded in this matter, but he excused himselfe, saying: That the Seigniorie of Venice had sent him thither to be resident neere about the person of the Prince, onely to doe what it should please him to comaund him: and therefore for his part he referred himselfe for this matter to his owne good will and pleasure. Lech Ducagin spake more liberally, and as he was a man of a fierce and forwarde disposition prompt of hande, and quicke of invention: so in one worde did he acquaint them with his minde, saying: Embetha: which in the Albanian language signifieth, to horsebacke: for he sawe no reason why anie grace or mercie should be shewed to this people, who were devoided of all pittie, and were so mightily given to bloud-thirstinesse and crueltie, but that all of them ought rather to passe under the edge of the sworde. Of the same opinion were the most part of the assembly, especially Paul Angell the Archbishoppe, who propounded and set before his eyes the example of Julius Caesar, who in times past having in those very marches broken and defeated the Pompeyans, did pursue them even to the last extreamitie: that he also ought not to forsake his owne good fortune, which oftentimes when she seeth her selfe not to be be lively and roundly followed, turneth her selfe with a contrarie byas, to favour those uppon whom she before frowned. And many other reasons did he alleage to that effect. Scanderbeg replyed unto them in this manner.
Portrait of Scanderbeg
“I knowe right well (most worthie and valiant Epyrots, and my fellowe souldiers) and I have alreadie had good experience of your singular valure, your notable resolution and the greatnesse of your courage, whereby you have alwayes terrified and discomfited your enemies: and I doe not thinke but that even now also you have both the courage and the power to breake & to trample under your feete the reliques and remainders of these amazed Infidels. Neverthelesse (gentle warriors) it behoveth us often to bethinke our selves, and to call to minde that sage sentence of the wise man. That it is the part and propertie of fooles to wish for a tempest in fayre and calme weather: but it is the guise and fashion of them that are wise, to seeke by all meanes, howe to remedie and avoide it, when the time and necessitie doe presse them to it. It hath pleased our good God, without bloud, without fight, without murthur, to sende us the victorie even from heaven: the citie is delivered, the siege is raysed, Ballaban our capitall and mortall adversarie, is nowe laide dead uppon the ground, his armie is fledde, we our selves are in rest and quiet, and all thinges doe seeme to smyle and fawne upon us: wherefore then should we seeke to have warre? Wherefore should we desire our owne torment? Why should we tempt fortune that is so blinde and variable? You are not ignorant (my good friendes) that any fault or errour committed in the warre is irreparable and unpossible to be amended. In other businesses and affaires, if a man be forgetfull of any thing, it may be amended and corrected: but the oversightes of martiall matters, and of battels are past all hope of recoverie or amends. This is the reason why those auncients and thrice renowned Captaines, did not so much esteeme and set by those armies which were great and populous, as those which were well governed with good order and discipline. For the successe of battels is doubtfull, the issue of warres is uncertaine, and doth not depend of our hande and industrie, but of the power and disposition of fortune. An enemie is alwayes to be redoubted, never to be despised, never to be disesteemed: and more then that, when the warre is ended, when the victorie is obtained, yet is there no lesse diligence even then to be used, then was at the verie first beginning of the same: and we must not any time rashly and unadvisedly come to the fight or combat with our enemie. Wherefore if we should desire to adventure the chaunce of warre, and to trie the fortune of the fielde with this enemie which is now before us, we shall endaunger and put in hazarde (which God defend) our owne safetie and our estate, which now (God be thanked) are in good case and securitie. Refraine therefore this ardent and burning ferventnesse of your courages: let the victorie which we have alreadie gotten suffice and content us: we have had manie and great triumphes uppon our enemies, and you ought to holde your selves satisfied with so many murthers, with so many overthrowes given them, and with the manifolde favours of fortune, which hath hitherto so gratiously fawned upon you. Moreover you see that the troupes of the Barbarians are excessive, and in a manner innumerable, they are not of the baser and rascall sort of people collected and gathered at adventures: but they are the flower and strength of all the Turkish forces, chosen men, stout, expert, ready provided & prepared to fight, armed with necessitie (which of all weapons is the most extreame and daungerous) and they desire not, nor seeke after any thing else but battell: eyther to revenge the death of their Generall, or to carrie home unto their Soveraigne the report of some notable and worthie exploit. This their offer of rendering themselves is but coulorable and feigned: beleeve me, it is but dissimulation and they doe make a semblance onely of feare and terrour: I am well acquainted with their cunning draughts and disguisements, I know that this is nothing but one of their subtill sleights and guilefull policies, wherein these men more then in any thing else, doe make singular profession. Assure your selves, they desire nothing so much as to come to fight with you, and to be revenged: wherefore if we be wise, let us keepe our selves from them, let us not trouble them. But let it be that they doe not intende anie malice or anie deceipt against us; yet they are enraged, they are desperate, their shame and ignominie doth presse them on against us, being affraide of all thinges, they feare nothing. Nothing is so perillous as to set uppon men whose safetie consisteth in being desperate and without hope of safetie. He commonly fighteth and combatteth outragiously, who hath no comfort left him, who relyeth not uppon hope of anie thing. And what if we doe put them all to the sworde? What if we make them to betake themselves to flight? Yet cannot this be done without your dammage, without your losse, without your bloud, without the expence and cost of many of your lives: how then can such a victorie be otherwise to me then ruefull and lamentable? Wherefore (my loving and good souldiers) if you will beleeve me, if you will be counselled and advised by me: be you assured we will have them all at our mercie without fight, without using sworde or weapon against them. For they are in great want of all thinges especially of bread, which fayling and being not to be gotten, an armie is easily vanquished without fighting. Let us shut uppe all the wayes and passages, so that no succours nor victuall may not by any meanes come unto them: let us newly fortifie and stuffe our towne with a good and strong garrison, and let us furnish it with all sortes of munitions, for the provision of many yeares: so shall we see that these our enemies being shut up and besieged within our confines shall all perish and die miserably of pure famine and hunger. And we shall see them utterly overthrowen and destroyed, without sword, without armes, and without bloudshed.”
Some there were who shewed themselves well pleased with this oration, and did allow of Scanderbeg his perswasions, but others would not be satisfied therewith, especially the common sort of souldiers, who being growen more fierce and audacious against the enemy, beganne to make a great noise not without some tumult and uproare enclyning to a mutinie on all parts within the campe of the Christians: crying out aloft with a loud voice, that they ought to march on directly and presently, and to go seeke out the Turkes who were alreadie vanquished and discomfited. That it was not expedient in this matter to yeelde unto the motion of Scanderbeg, who shewed himselfe to be growen fearefull and faint-hearted: considering that of a most fierce and furious combatant, and who had never refused any occasion of fighting in open and plaine battell, he was now become a fearefull temporizer, and would seeme to disswade them from armes who were borne and bredde to followe armes, and whose onely desire was to be doing with their enemies: that nowe the Generall did faile and was wanting to the souldiers, and not the souldiers to their Generall. Thus the heate and vehemencie of the Epyrots was scarce repressed and withhelde by the Captaines and masters of the campe, till such time as it was generally concluded and agreed, that assoone as Croy was provided and fortified with all necessaries, they should have free libertie to pursue the Infidels, and to force their campe. Wherefore Scanderbeg calling unto him the two Turkish messengers gave them his aunswere: That they should goe and tell their companions, that as they came into that countrie without his commaundement, so should they not for his part be commaunded to returne from thence. Now in this meane time, the King of Epyre had sent and dispatched away certaine forces to gaine and shut up the passages from the Barbarians, whilest that the residue of the Christian troupes by the order and direction of their Captaines did goe to the river of Isme, where certaine vessels lay at an ancker charged and loaden with corne, meale, salt-meates, and biscuit, and did unlade all, bringing it on lande, in such sort, that in three dayes Croie was well and sufficiently revictualled for sixe years space at the least. Whilest everie man was thus busied and intentively occupyed in this worke, and that everie one did set forward and hasten this prevision to the uttermost of his power: beholde newes were brought unto Scanderbeg, that the verie same night about the second watch, when that men are in their soundest and deepest sleepe, hunger and necessitie (which worketh masteries beyonde all impossibilitie) had pressed the Turkes to dislodge secretly from Tyranna, and with the hazard of their lives to make way for themselves by force, and to open the passages which were defended against them by the Scanderbegians. Howbeit they could not doe it so closely, but that those souldiers which had the guarde and custodie of the passages, and the inhabitants of the country joyned together with them, did maintaine a long and obstinate conflict with the Infidels, who with the slaughter of a great number of their companions, and the losse of the most part of their baggage, did at length by their swordes make way through the middest, and in despight of their enemies. When Scanderbeg his armie heard thereof, it cannot be expressed how extremely they were aggrieved and displeased at the matter: for their murmuring and muttering against Scanderbeg did sufficiently testifie the greatnesse of their discontentment, imputing the whole blame thereof to him, as if this evasion and escape of the enemie, had beene by his default only. But he pacified and appeased them both with his bountifull gifts, and with gratious speeches: and more then that, to content them the better, he caused them immediately to take armes, and to march with Ensignes displayed into the fielde, where he gave them the spoyles of those other Turkes and Infidels which were found in garrison within Chaonia & other places of Epyre: not suffering any one of them to escape but that they were either slaine or taken, being spoyled and stripped out of all. Thus having purged and clensed the Province of this vermine, and having settled all things in good and peaceable order, every man returned to his owne quarter loaden with the spoyles of the Barbarians, and with many commendations, presentes, and great thankes given them by the King of Albanie.
The affaires of Epyre thus standing in sufficient good and flourishing estate, we will now leave them for a while, and turne our discourse to the Turkish Monarch to shew unto you the griefe and displeasure which he conceived in his haughtie and great stomacke, aswell for the death of Ballaban, and the dishonourable and shamefull flight of his armie: as also for that the siege of Croie was raised to the great glorie and advantage of the Christians. For he did so unmeasurably afflict and passionate himselfe with the conceipt hereof, that he could not take any rest, nor eate, nor drinke: but that still day & night his spirit & thoughts were troubled beating his braine, & devising with himselfe, how he might deface and abolish the blot of this shame and ignominy, and take some notable revenge uppon Scanderbeg. In the ende his deliberation was, once againe to returne himselfe in proper person, and with more puissant forces into Epyre, that by his presence he might give the more grace & majestie to the enterprise. Hereof Scanderbeg being speedily infourmed, made no delay to prepare for the receiving of him with all the best meanes and preparations that he could possibly make: he gave the Princes, Seigniors and peoples his confederates to understand of the purpose and intent of the Turke, willing them to be in a readinesse against such time as he should send unto them: and he made good provision of all kinde of munition, victuals, and all other necessaries in all his strong holdes and fortresses: in such sort, that they needed not to be affraide of any thing that the Turke could attempt against them.
The yeare being past and spent in these preparations on both partes, now beganne the spring to come on, which being a time wherein all things beginne to budde, and grow pleasant to the eye, and most fit and convenient for warlike voyages and expeditions, Mahomat had deferred his journey to that season, and accordingly assoone as he saw that time to serve, he tooke his journey with infinite troupes, engines, and instruments for assault of all sortes, and with an incredible number of expert workemen and artificers for this end and purpose which I will shew you. Being come to a certain large and wide plaine commonly called Saura, he determined there to abide and sojourne for a while, and he encamped his armie neere to the river of Scombin, within the signiorie or principalitie of Aryamnites Comynat father in lawe to Scanderbeg. During the time of his abode in that place, the Sultan did employ not onely his artificers and workemen, but a great part also of his souldiers about the repayring or reedefying of the towne of Valmes (which at this present the Albanois do account and call a citie) and in times past was ruinated and laide even with the ground by the Gallo-Grecians and other strange Nations. It is seated in an anglet or litle corner of Epyre neere unto the peoples of the Iates, Bratescosages, Cherabes, Buserseches, and Sopotanies. Having fully ended and perfected that worke with incredible diligence, and having furnished and fortified it with able men, victuals, and such like necessaries for sure keeping and defence thereof against his enemies: he speedily dislodged from thence, and marched on with his armie towards the citie of Duras, with a determination to carrie that towne at the first assault: supposing that it had beene unprovided both of men of warre and of victuals. But he found himselfe deceived in his hope by the vigilancie and providence of the Venetians and of Scanderbeg, who had wisely foreseene and prevented that tempest, by meanes whereof it was well and sufficiently furnished and defended both by sea and by lande, in such sort, that it scorned all the power and assayes of the Infidell, who saw himselfe most rudely and bravely repulsed from thence with the notable slaughter and losse of many of his people. But for the better contentment of the reader, by the varietie of this discourse, you must give me leave a litle to wander and digresse from my matter, and to honour this towne with her due prayses and commendations.
Dirrachium, by the Italians called Duraz, was in times of antiquitie named Epydamnum: it is a towne situated within Epyre, and builded of old (as it is thought) by one Epidamnus of whom also it had her first name: and this mans nephew or grandchilde by his daughter, being named Dyrrachus did adde unto the towne the port or haven calling it Dyrrachium. But there be others of another opinion, who hold that Dirrachium (being a towne seated upon the sea coastes of Albanie, is the capitall and chiefe citie of those peoples which are called the Taulantians, Pyrreans, and Pratinians, and it lyeth betweene Lissa and Apollonia: and they say that the Romanes finding it to be called Epidamnum by reason of the unluckie sound and sense of that name which they held to be ominous and unhappie, did chaunge the same into the name of Dyrrachium, taking this terme for the Cherronese or demy Isle whereon it was seated, or rather reedified (as some doe affirme) by the Corcirians or the inhabitants of Corfu. For if we will give credit unto the common report, and to those authors that are most ancient: it hath bene numbred amongest the most auncient cities: and there are yet extant to be seene many great and goodly praises and commendations of this place. For as Lucan saith:
This towne is not a worke as others are
Of auncient structure built of lime and stone,
No worke of man, nor such as time or warre,
Can easily bring to alteration.
Great is their power and they can do much,
Yet greater is the strength of Duraz towne,
Her fortresse is so strong, her seate is such,
That mynes nore engines cannot beate her downe,
Nature it selfe hath fortified her seate,
Having enclosed it on every side,
With cliffes that breake the billows as they beate,
And with a gulfe that is both deepe and wide:
Nought but one mountaine from an isle her saves,
Rockes are her rampier threatning ships to dash,
And Cliffes her walles on which the forming waves,
In stormes doe beate and her strong buildings wash.
For this citie is environed with the sea on all sides but one, where the rocks being devided and cut asunder ech from other, doe joyne it to the firme lande. On the one side it hath a goodly haven or harbour, wherein shippes may safely lye and anckor: on the other side it hath large and pleasant fields and pastures, abounding in fertilitie and plentie of all good commodities: and within the walles, the goodly temples and sumptuous churches do make the citie much more stately and venerable: besides that it is adorned with the statues and proud monuments of sundrie Kings and Emperours: especially that of Adryan: or rather his monstrous Colossus or image of copper, which is erected in a place verie high and emminent neare to the gate Caballyn towardes the North. Besides there is to be seene his Amphy-theater made by wonderfull art and industrie. The walles of the citie are passing strong, flanked with their towers, bulwarkes and other excellent workes wherewith they are beautified and adorned. Besides this citie is very famous for the commoditie of the rare saltpits which it hath, and for the great aboundance of all kindes of marchandise which are brought unto it. To be briefe, this is that famous citie of Duras which enjoyed the presence, and with singular entertainement received the Romaine Senate, and was no lesse famous then unfortunate through the civill warres and notable slaughters and bloudshed of the Romaines. But what the estate of it may be at this instant, since it is become Turke, and that it is reduced under the servitude of so fierce and barbarous a nation who are mortall enemies to all good order and civilitie, I had rather leave it to you to imagine it, then to speake what I thinke of it. But to our matter.
After that the Sultan had bene so rudely entertained before Duraz, and that his bloudie actions and attempts proved vaine and to none effect: he conceived an opinion that Scanderbeg had put himselfe within the towne for the defence thereof: because a great number of his people were knowen and discerned to be within it. This was the occasion that he dislodged speedily from thence, and made directly towards Croy, pitching his tents before the towne in hope to astonish and appall them by the suddennesse of his comming. For experience having taught him, that the endevours and assayes both of his predecessours and of himselfe had profited him litle or nothing: he was not of the minde that he could carrie the towne by his course, but his determination was to bring them to reason by a long and obstinate siege, if Scanderbeg would permit him. Wherefore neglecting and leaving all other counselles, he summoned the Croians to yeelde themselves unto him, making them great offers of riches and inestimable honours, if they would deliver the towne into his handes. But he had no better aunswer nowe then he had the yeare before: for they gave him good store of cannon and musket shot for his good-morrow: and more then that, they issued foorth to visit him nearer home, with a furious and stout salley made upon the infidels, carying away with honour and glorie many of their heads, for an argument and proofe of their good devoire and worthie demeanour. On the other side, Scanderbeg according to his wonted and accustomed manner, keeping continually uppon the skirtes of this fearefull and huge armie, and being attended with his ordinarie forces, did uncessantly importune and endaunger the enemie by his often invasions made uppon their campe both by daye and by night: and the slaughters and butcheries which he committed upon them were notable and wonderfull, insomuch that Mahomet perceiving the small profit which he was like to purchase by this enterprise, was glad to leave the pursuite thereof, and to reserve himselfe to some other exploit which might be more for his honour and advantage. Wherefore raising his campe from before Croie, he bent his course towardes a certaine place lying on the coast of the Adriatique sea, or gulfe of Venice not farre from Duras, now called the head of Redoni, where Scanderbeg had begunne of late to build a towne which he called Chiurill. The Barbarians finding it without inhabitants and unfinished did raze it from the verie foundation. From thence he went forwarde purposing to destroy certaine peoples subject to Scanderbeg: but the armie of the Christians did followe him so close at the heeles, coasting him continually wheresoever he went: and sometimes by day, sometimes by night would be charge and set upon him, one while in the taile, another while in the flanck, and many times in the front and head of his armie: that he tooke from him all occasions and meanes to profit himselfe in that countrey: yea the inhabitants themselves dwelling in the forrestes and mountaines did so annoy and molest him, afflicting him with infinite mischieves, slaughters and discommodities: that being in utter dispaire of doing any good upon the Province, he returned backe againe to Constantinople more confounded and full of despight and griefe then he was at his coming foorth.
Neverthelesse the Ottoman was no sooner remooved out of Epire: but because he would keepe the Christians still in breath, he sent two of his chiefe Captaines, men of great renowne and reckoning Alibeg & Ajasbeg with an armie of 28000 Turks: willing them onely to looke to the safetie and defence of his owne frontiers, and not to stirre or to offer any warlike violence upon the country of the Christians. Assoone as they were come and had setled themselves uppon their borders: they fell to their wonted cunning and practises, sending unto Scanderbeg secretly and under hand certaine presents of great value and estimate, in hope to draw him to have some amity and friendship with them, and to make him secure and negligent. The King of Albanie though he were an olde Courtier, and had bene well acquainted with these kindes of dealings, so as he could not be overreached nor deceived by their sottish devises, yet he was content to accept of their presents: and he sent unto them backe againe others of no lesse value, in counter chaunging of those which they had given him. And this was all that was done betweene them, because he was too cleare sighted, and too circumspect for them to go beyond him. For notwithstanding these private courtesies and kindnesses past betweene him and them, Scanderbeg was minded to keepe them doing, and therefore caused a generall muster and leavie of men to be made throughout all his dominions, purposing to get againe from the Turkes the towne of Valmes, which had bene lately built and edified by Mahomet. But (such was the will and pleasure of the cruell destinies) that being detained with a grievous maladie, he was constrained to desist from his attempt. For after he had revisited all partes and quarters of his realme, and had caused a generall enrollment to be made of all such able men, as were fit to doe him service and to beare armes for the safetie and defence of his estate: he came to the citie of Lissa (which being under the siegniorie and government of the Venetians, he had ever loved and most dearely affected) where being determined to have called a councell and assembly of all the Princes and Lordes of the league, he was suddenly taken with a strong and violent feaver: and the force of this disease encreasing everie day more then other, he imagined that his last end began now to approach, wherefore being in doubt least that death which is inevitable, should take him away before he had disposed and set in order his affaires, he prayed the sayed Princes and Lordes his confederates to enter into his bed-chamber together with the Ambassadours of the Siegniorie of Venice, and his chiefe Captaines and officers of his campe: unto whom he framed his speech in this manner.
“The soveraigne and chiefest vertue, and the true and most perfect religion (most worthie Prince and you my beloved companions) in my opinion is this. First to reverence, to serve, and to adore God most high and omnipotent: in justice, sanctitie and pietie: and next, not onely to love deerely, and to have a continuall care and regard of the good and benefit of our countrie: but if neede be, to spend even our lives, and to shed our best bloud for the preservation and safetie of the same: for to all such as behave themselves at that sort, by the opinion of them that are wise, there is a speciall and peculiar place reserved aloft in the highest heavens. For my part, with what singular desire and affection I have alwaies sought and embraced these things, how all my thoughts have continually bene bent and emploied upon them, and how I have endevored al my forces, and to the uttermost of my power to attaine unto them. First God himselfe can witnes it with me, and next, all of you my good friends can well testifie. The three and twentieth yeare is now past and expired since that I escaped out of the impure handes of wicked Amurath King of the Turkes, and that I fledde into this realme beeing the auncient patrimonie and inheritaunce of my auncestours: ever since that time have I helde and endured the warres against a most perjured and faithlesse nation, and against the rage and furie of the Ottomans for the particular safetie and defence of our crowne and kingdome, and for the dignitie of the publike estate and weale of Christendome: in all which time (by the grace and favour of the divine clemencie) we have had most happie and fortunate success, according to our hearts desire: and you never yet saw me returne either vanquished or repulsed in true and set battell. But (if I may speake it lawfully) I had alwaies the advantage upon the enemie: and I doe not remember that I was ever hurt or wounded but only once: when being shot with an arrow in my right foote, by a Turke, yet did I presently kill him even in the head and front of the enemie, and threw downe his bloudie head at your feete. But now (according to the ordinarie course of humane things) in the three score and third yeare of my age, olde age being growen upon me, seized with a grievous sickness, and destitute of all my wonted strength and corporall forces, beholde my good friends, behold my deare companions, how I now beginne to waxe feeble, and by litle and litle I goe the way of all flesh. I perceive (my friends), I see well, that it is the will and pleasure of the divine providence (by the which I confesse and doe acknowledge, that all things are subsisting and have their being, and whereby all things are guided and governed) that it behooveth me now to lay aside this mortall and fraile burthen of my bodie, to goe to another and better place, and that I must exchaunge the brevitie and miseries of this life for the felicitie of true and everlasting joyes: and I protest unto you before God, that the thought hereof, or rather this necessitie which is layed upon me, doth not in any sort trouble nor grieve me. I do not repine against that law which the destinies did impose upon us at the time of our nativitie: for we ought not to be aggrieved or to find fault with that which we suffer according to lawe and justice: with this condition were we borne, that we should be subject to this necessitie or our mortalitie. And I know well, that whosoever is of necessitie cannot be accounted miserable to any man particularly. It behooveth us in the end to yeeld earth to earth, and to be obedient to nature: and it is required of us as our due, that we resigne up this our soule being eternall and immortall: and this spirit of ours which is heavenly and celestiall, to him which hath onely lent it us for a time. Neverthelesse (my deare friends and companions) I do not receive and embrace this fatall lot of my death and departure with such courage and cheerefulnesse: because I am willing to be freed from the perilles and dangers, or because I would eschew and shunne the travels and labours, or because I would withdraw my selfe from those mischieves and inconveniences, wherein even till this time I have consumed all my best years, and have ended my dayes for the service of God and the religion of Christ: for I am readie and could finde in my heart to expose and adventure my life continually for the same, to the like or greater hazardes: but I see, I see well, that this is Gods good will and pleasure: I perceive it is my good God that calleth me (to whom we must be obedient) and I must now retire my selfe out of this earthly and filthie dungeon, and from this miserable and wretched prison. I have followed nature long enough, I have lived long enough, I have finished the course, and I have run the race, which it pleased God to appoint for me. But yet before my soule depart from my bodie, and before I doe leave you, one thing there is of which I hold it expedient now to admonish and advertise to you, as I have alwayes used in cases of importance, when I was able in former times, and in the better yeares of my age. And that is, that as heretofore during my life time, even till now, you have endured all travels and labours even to the last gaspe, for the safetie and dignitie of the Christian religion and the Catholique faith, by meanes whereof you have made all the Princes of Christendome to favour, honour, and admire you: even so hereafter when I am dead and gone, let that be the onely and the whole desire of your hearts, let that be the onely thing that you shall set before your eyes. All things (I can assure you) will fall out easie and happily unto you, as long as you continue stedfast in concord and unitie (by which small things and contemptible do grow great and invincible) and as long as you entertaine mutuall love and fidelitie: and that you doe make litle account of all other things in comparison of the common profit and general good of all of you. For there is no Empire so puissant & so well grounded, which falleth not to present ruine and declineth not to destruction, where mutual enmities & dissentions are suffered to have an entrie, and where private profit and particular commoditie is preferred before the publique and common good. But if you shall joyne together as brethren and friendes, and shall live one with another in perfect love and amitie: no attempts nor practises of your enemies whatsoever shall be able to grieve or hurt you. Your Scepters and your crownes shall be durable and permanent, and you shall maintaine your peoples, your Provinces, your wives, your children, and your riches in quietnesse, and in perpetuall felicitie. You shall not neede to feare the furie of the Ottoman, nor the rage of the Barbarians: their fraudes, subtilties, traines, and cunning sleights shall not be able to harme you nor to prevaile against you. Doubt you not but the tirant doth seeke to disjoyne you, and to disunite your forces, he doth lay many plots and devises, he is verie watchfull and vigilant, he doth spare no paines nor labour to devide and seperate you: which if he can once bring to passe, and doe see you never so litle at variance, he will oppresse you one after another, and in the end he will utterly destroy and consume all of you. Moreover (my good friendes and confederates) there is John my sonne, whome with all possible care, affection and diligence (as hartely as a father can doe) I do recommend unto you. I doe commit, I do give and dedicate him to your faith and fidelitie, and to your singular vertue. His tender yeares and the infirmitie of his age which is yet (as it were) stuttering and stammering, do make him unfit either to foresee or to repulse the imminent calamitie, he is not able to preserve himselfe from being torne in pieces and devoured by those fierce & enraged Tigers: to keepe himself from being oppressed by that perjured & common enemy Mahomet, who is of him and his kingdome so greedie and desirous, that he ceaseth not to watch continually, how he may swallow up both in his bloudy & cruell throt. And (alas) he will worke it, he will effect it, he will oppresse him poore wretch: if your armes, if your valour do not protect and preserve him. For assoone as he shall perceive that I am dead, and cruell tirant will not make any stay at all, but he will come flying as a savage and wilde beast, to the intent he may revenge so many losses, so many outrages and calamities which he hath suffred and endured by the father, upon the poore and unhappie infant: and to the intent he may execute upon him (silly wretch) all kindes of cruelties, and whatsoever his barbarous and felonous heart can put in practise. Let me therefore (my loving friends and good companions) entreate you, to embrace his estate and his affaires with like love, fidelitie and promptnes of affection, as I have embraced your commoditie and your glorie, all the dayes of my life, if you list to acknowledge the truth of that which I now speake. For you know I have not lived to my selfe alone, but for all you and your children: I have so laboured & toyled my selfe, that day nor night I have not spared any paines or travels for your sakes. In the whole course of my life, I have not enjoyed any time or space of rest or leasure, I never had any place certaine, I never kept any houres nor time limitted to eate and drinke, or to sleep in: the nights and the dayes have bene to me all one and alike: I tooke no lesse care for the prosperitie of your estates then of mine owne: and God is my witnesse, (for now that I am fallen into speech of that matter, I will freely discover my thoughts unto you) I never dreamed nor meant any fraud or deceipt against you, but I did alwaies repute you, not as souldiers, as servants, or as subjectes, but I have ever helde and loved you as my brethren and companions. Not any one of you (as farre as I remember) was ever wronged or outraged by me in word or in deed. In all cares and services of the field, in all duties either of scouts, watches, or sentinels. I was never inferior to any of you: but I have still borne myselfe as one of the most simple and meanest of my souldiers having alwaies had a desire to be followed and imitated in my deedes and actions, and not in my wordes or speeches: and that my souldiers should learne by me, not onely good order and discipline, but the example and imitation thereof also. I never refused any labour, hazard or perill: I never made excuses by any shewes of unwillingnes or dissimulation: whensoever the onset was to be given upon the enemie (be it spoken without enuie) I was one of the foremost in going against them, and one of the last in returning from the combat. The spoiles and bootie gotten upon our enemies, I alwaies shared and devided amongst you, and never reserved any part or portion thereof to my selfe. In briefe, even my realme, my goods, my fortune, and all that I had, I held in common with you. Nothing was proper or peculiar to my selfe. I held nothing devided or in severall. And now (my companions, my friendes) behold I die, I leave you, and I must goe hence. Wherefore I pray and request all of you, I require and adjure you: that the faith, affection, and love which was never wanting on my part towards you: the same you would bestow and employ towards John my sonne, whom as the lively image and resemblance of the father, I offer and dedicate unto you, as Vicar and Lieutenant for me and in my stead.”
Portrait of Scanderbeg
Having ended this speech, he caused likewise the young Prince his sonne to be sent for: to whome being come, he used some speeches in the presence of the Queene his mother, exhorting him sweetly and lovingly in this manner.
“My sonne, John my sonne: thou seest that I now die, and that I leave thee but a child, an infant, young and tender: behold I leave thee a Realme and Kingdome, if thou be good and vertuous, stable and firme: if thou be otherwise, most weake and feeble. Studie therefore (my sonne) and strive to preferre goodnes and vertue, before all other goods whatsoever. For thereby thou shalt both maintaine & make thy estate not onely peaceable and quiet, but thou shalt encrease it daily, and make it more glorious: but for as much (my sonne) as thy age is yet weake, unapt, and unable to sway the Scepter and Crowne of this thy kingdome, for that thou hast on all partes great and mightie enemies, most fierce and savage beastes, which will seeke to dismember and to devour thee. There is Mahomet that wicked tyraunt and common enemy of Christians, who (if thou shouldest so young and weake of yeares take upon thee the managing and government of thy Realme) would presently oppresse, and utterly subvert thee: for this cause (sweete heart) assoone as thou hast closed and covered thy fathers eyes, and hast yeelded this my bodie to the sepulture, get thee presently from hence, and taking thy mother with thee: passe the seas into Apulia, and make no delay, but hasten to thy owne townes and Lordships, and see that thou continue and abide there, till such time as thou be growen to mans estate, and that thou be capable and sufficient for the affaires and governements of thy kingdome. When thou art come to be of yeares, make thy repaire to the noble Senate and Seigniorie of Venice, who will reestablish thee in the seate and throne of thy auncestors. For that now I leave and commit thee to their government, fidelitie, and tutorship to the intent they may undertake the garde and custodie of thy kingdome, and may defend it from the enemie, and may keepe it to thy use and benefite. For so are the conventions and articles of agreement betwene the Venetians and me, that they shall preserve thy estate from thy enemies, and reserve it for thee: and that when thou shalt be able to undertake the charge thereof, they shall reinvest thee in the possession of the same. I have no doubt of their diligence in thy affaires considering that they only amongst all the Princes of Christendome (be it spoken without offence) are not inferiour to any in gravitie, prudence, and worthy exploits: besides that for the excellencie of their faith and bountie they do merit and deserve to be beloved and reverenced above all others. Of the which I have had good triall and experience more then any others, during the whole time of my raigne and life, in all sorts of actions, and by the proofe of many matters: and they have beene continually leagued and confederated with me in strict friendship and amitie, and I have alwaies found them in stead of kind and loving parents unto me. Them therefore (my sonne) doe I leave to be as Parents, as Princes, as Tutors unto thee: depart not from their instructions, precepts and counsels. The Venetians only are the most just, and most religious, the most constant tutors and defenders of the Christian faith, the protectors of Orphans and widdowes, and of all weake, miserable, and afflicted persons: and therewithall, they have shewed themselves so good and assured friendes unto me, that all my life long I have had their Seigniorie in no lesse regard and recommendation then mine owne kingdome and Dominions. And they againe have had such confidence in me, and have so affected me, that they have put the whole right and full disposition of their townes and territories into my hands, and have referred the government of them to my discretion: and (I praise God) I have maintained them in good and happie estate, and have kept them to their good liking and contentment, as long as I had the charge and commaund of them. Wherefore (my good sonne) thou maiest live safe and secure under the shadow and support of their puissance, and when thou shalt be of age, fayle not to resort unto them, with a good courage and confidence. For they will gladly and willingly repossesse thee of thy crowne and dignitie, they will friendly and lovingly restore thy Realme and strong holdes unto thee, and if thou be sage, wise, and vertuous, they will continually maintaine and defende thee against all the violence, armes, and forces of any enemies: they will keepe thy estate whole & entire for thee, as most puissant, most sage, and most invincible Princes both by sea and lande, and such as never abandoned their faithfull friends and allies, nor never abused or deceived any person that put their trust and affiance in them. And whensoever (my sonne the joy of my heart) thou shalt returne and be seated in thy royall throne, and that it shall please God to give thee the quiet and peaceable possession thereof, and that thou shalt have taken upon thee the governement and managing of thy estate: principally and above all things see that thou doe administer and yeeld justice to all men indifferently, for of all vertues she is the most noble and most excellent: keepe and observe equity without any acceptance or difference of the faces of poore or rich, of the weake or mightie: use temperance and moderation in all thy actions, strengthen thy realme with friendship and amitie of good men: for neither are great treasures, nor strong armies, the garrison or fortresse of estates and Empires: but true and faithfull friends, which are not to be gotten with silver and golde, but are purchased with good offices of courtesie, kindnesse, and fidelitie. And therefore that divine speech of king Philip reprehending the great Alexander his sonne, is yet extant in record: what motion (quoth he) hath induced thee my sonne, to this vaine hope, to thinke or surmise that they will continue faithfull and trustie unto thee, whom thou hast purchased for money to be thy friends? It is love, that must yeeld true and unfeigned friendship. For as this earth on which we live, doth desire above all things the presence and comfort of the sunne, which we see in the heavens: so the life of man cannot be without friendshippe and amitie. Thou therefore my sonne shalt soone get and purchase all these things, if thou beleeve and follow my counsell: thou shalt draw until thee, thou shalt binde unto thee all the world by thy benefits, if thou observe my precepts and commaundements. For courtesie, beneficence, and bountie, are the only vertues, acceptable to God, pleasing to men, sure and secure in all places, exempted from all perils, and they doe engender and stirre up in the spirits and minds of men a wonderfull and admirable love and liking of them, easily surmounting & exceeding all other vertues, and excelling farre beyond them: they onely (by the testimonie and consent of the sage and wise) are the most necessarie vertues for all kinds, estates, and degrees of men: but especially for Princes and great personages: for they be the vertues which have the commaund and possession of the affections and humors of every man, and they onely have the disposing of the hearts of all men. Moreover my sonne, in adversitie, and in things that are high and difficult, I would advertise thee to be magnanimous and valiant: in prosperitie remember that thou moderate and temper thy good fortune with vertue. Flie sloth and idlenesse, the nurse of effeminacie: for from thence proceede all mischieves, and it is the roote of all vices. Suffer not thy souldiers to lie idle, or to be slouthfull, but exercise them in continuall travell, watchings, and daily labours. Howbeit use them not as vassals and servants, but as they fellowes and companions. In the campe and in the field demeane thy selfe not onely as a Captaine, but as a souldier also: above all things abhorre delicacie, and flie luxuriousnesse and incontinencie: for by these, the most stout and strongest men have growen faint and effeminate. Too much severitie and crueltie avoide equally and alike, for they are proper to fierce and savage beasts: be patient of labour without wearinesse, and let not any perils make thee fearefull or timorous: the varietie and change of thy affaires, doe thou moderate with prudence and magnanimitie, the crosse accidents of contrarie fortune see that thou endure and beare with that wisedome and discretion, that (dissembling and concealing they griefe) thy enemie have no cause to glorie or triumph over thee, nor to insult at thy calamitie. For what can be more unfitting and unbeseeming the constancie of a brave Chieftaine, and Generall of an armie, then that his countenance should discover the passion of his heart? Be not forgetfull but beare it alwaies in mind, that thou foresee and eschew the traines and snares of the Barbarians, whereof the Turkes make an ordinarie and principall profession: shunne the perjurie, the cautels, and guilefull sleights of this faithlesse Nation: disdaine their amitie, and let the friendshippe and societie of this disloyall tyrant be abhominable unto thee: neglect and contemne his giftes and presents, his flatteries, and his promises, for feare least in drawing and alluring thee to trust him, he doe oppresse thee unawares, and cast thee downe headlong into perpetuall and endlesse mischieves. And for this cause be thou sure to be alwaies provided of good Councellors, such as are well knowen unto thee: faithfull, and loving. These are the precepts (my sonne, the light of my life), these are the ensignments and instructions, which I heard and learned of my father, a master of no small experience, and my delight was to meditate upon them continually: by them was I instructed and taught, by them did I fashion and frame my life, and my whole age: and to be short of them have I reaped no small fruite and benefite, wherefore I doe now exhort thee, I doe admonish, and (if thou canst endure to be entreated by thy father) then I thy father do pray and request three, yea even from the very bowels and entrailes of my heart, I doe againe and againe pray and double pray thee, that thou wouldest teach thy selfe these things which I have taught thee, that thou wouldest carefully and diligently embrace, retaine, and digest them in thy memorie.”
Whilest Scanderbeg was thus speaking and perswading with his sonne, there sprang up a strange rumor throughout all the towne, and a sudden brute and tumult arose, by reason of a message brought from the fieldes, that the Turkes were neere at hand, and that they had overrunne and burned the countrie neere adjoyning. At the report of these newes, Scanderbeg although he kept his bed in great extreamitie, yet could he not represse nor refraine that auncient and invincible courage, nor that lively and martiall spirit which was wont to dwell and be resident in his noble hart. For raising himselfe up in his bed, aswell as his fainting and feeble limmes would give him leave, he called for his armour and commanded his horse to be made readie. So lively and flourishing was his spirit still remayning sound and disposed within his stomach abounding in courage and vigour. But when his members being now destitute of strength and growing weake, did beginne to yeeld and sinke downe againe into his bed: then falling and bearing himselfe forward upon his couch with his face turned towards his Captaines, he thus spake unto them.
“Foorth, foorth (my companions) issue out upon those traitors, and Infidels: goe you before, I will follow after you immediately.”
Herewithall a troupe of horses making out of the towne, went to seek out the enemie not ceasing till they had found them, who having newly sacked the territorie of the Scutarians were encamped upon the brooke Clyre neere to the citie of Scutarie. For Ahamat (the General of those troupes) was come thither with fifteene thousand horse purposely to wast and spoyle the country about Scutarie. Now assoone as the Barbarians did discover the Christians comming towardes them, imagining that it was Scanderbeg, they tooke suddenly the alarme, and being in great feare and tumult, they left the better part of their bootie and fled away in the night time over the mountaines, which by reason of their roughnesse were in a manner unpassable. For it was in Januarie at which time the Snow and the Ice did cover all places with their whitenesse. These Infidels thus retyring themselves by the toppes and craggie passages of the mountaines, and holding no certaine way nor path, did finde themselves so hardly pressed and rudely entreated by the Lords and inhabitants of those quarters, that they compelled them to yeeld a good account of their journey, and of the havocke and spoyle which they had made upon the countrie. For many of them being taken prisoners, and a great number slaine, they lost almost all their prey and bootie.
The same night that the Turkes did flie away so hastily from the Christians no man following nor pursuing them: Scanderbeg after the confession of his sinnes with great penitencie, having received the Sacraments with good devotion, according to the rites of the holy Church, and recommending himselfe and his soule without ceasing to God his creator, he gave up the ghoast, and exchanged this life, for the happie joyes of that which is eternall. The time of his departure wherein he left the world, was the 17. of Januarie in the yeare of grace 1460, and (as the report goeth) in the threescore and third yere of his age, and of his raign the foure and twentieth. The beginning of his raigne and the time wherein he recovered the crowne of Epyre was the eight and twentieth of November in the yeare of our Lord, 1443.
Lech Ducagin (of whom we have often made mention) perceiving by the exclamations and lamentable voices everywhere given out that he was dead: he made hast to the place, and in the open view and hearing of all men with a sad and sorrowfull countenance, and a voice full of confusion, pulling himselfe by the beard, and the haires of his head, he brake out into these speeches:
“Hasten you, hasten you hither (quoth he) you Princes and Lords of Albany, this day are the gates and rampiers of Epyre and Macedonie broken open: this day are our fortresses and walles fallen to the ground: this is the day wherein our strength and forces beginne to faile us: this is the day wherein our Crownes and Scepters are overthrowen: and from henceforth all our helpe, all our hope with his good Prince is quite gone and extinguished.”
His bodie was interred at Lissa in the Cathedrall Church of S. Nicholas. His funerals according to the custome of his auncestors were celebrated with great pompe, and with the incomparable sorrow and mourning both of his Captaines and souldiers, as also of all the Princes and Lords his confederates. It is a thing incredible to report the exceeding teares and lamentations made both by the Province of Albany and the countries neere adjoyning, and in diverse other places of Christendome. His bodie being there entombed, did rest in peace, till the coming of Mahomet into Epyre to the siege of Scutarie which was about foure yeares after. At which time the Turkes having gotten the towne of Lissa, did with a vehement and earnest desire search out the bodie of Scanderbeg: and having found it, they drew it foorth of the supulture, and (it may be some divine dispensation working that motion in them) they tooke a singular pleasure and contentment to see it, to reverence it, and in a manner to adore it being now dead and dissolved, which being a live they so greatly redoubted and stood in feare of, that the onely brute and sound of his name did make them to flie away confounded and astonished. They ranne thither from all the partes, flocking together in troupes and companies with so greedie and vehement a desire and longing to see his bones, that happie was he which might come to touch them, or but to have a sight of them onely: but much more glad and joyfull was he that could get or cary away any peece of his bodie were it never so litle: and those that had any part thereof, caused the same most religiously to be set and curiously enchased, some in silver, some in golde, bearing it about them upon some part of their bodies as a thing most holy, divine and fatall: and they did with singular reverence and devotion observe and keepe it very carefully: being fully perswaded, that all such as did beare those reliques about them, should enjoy the like fortune, felicitie and priviledge during their lives which Scanderbeg (by the gift and grace of God) onely and alone within the memorie of man, had used and enjoyed all his life time.
It may be, that the Turkes were induced to be of this minde, and were drawen to this perswasion, by reason of many strange and wonderfull reportes, that went of the rare strength and corporall force and vigour of this worthie personage, amongst many notable examples, making shew thereof one was, uppon a savage and wilde Bull whose extreame fiercenesse, and huge greatnesse made him fearefull to all the inhabitants dwelling in the lands and countrie of Mamisa sister to Scanderbeg, where this furious beast did a thousand outrages and dammages and committed many most pitifull and cruell murthers: insomuch that Scanderbeg coming where he haunted and setting upon him on horsebacke, with one onely blow of his Cimitarie, he cut his necke cleane from his shoulders. The like exploit was that which he did upon a mounstrous Boare in Apulia, which had made many of the Courtiers of King Ferdinand to beare his markes: neverthelesse Scanderbeg being one day on hunting with the King, in the open and plaine field encountered with this beast, where assayling him in the same sort as he had done the former, he soone parted the head from the bodie. This also is reported of Scanderbeg, that after the death of Ballaban, and the discamping of his armie from the siege of Croy: Jonima and Heder the brother and Nephew of Ballaban being brought before him streight tyed and bound together, the sight and presence of those two (putting him in remembrance of Ballaban, and the crueltie which by his meanes was executed upon the persons of Moses and his companions) did cause him to enter into so great a vehemencie of wrath and choller against him: that not staying for any other to lay hand upon them, he devided them into two pieces, and with one only blow parted both their bodies a sunder in the midst. This Cimitary was made at Damasce in Siria, it was of a most perfect goodnesse and excellent temper: and many times he would beare two of them in one scabbard both of the which sometimes he should breake in one onely battall. This weapon was generally reputed so rare and excellent, that Mahomet on a time having heard thereof, that it would cut helmets, head peeces, and powdrons cleane asunder: one day when they were in truce together he sent unto him, demaunding this sworde to be given him; which being graunted, and proofe being made thereof in the presence of the Sultan by many of the strongest & ablest men of his Court, and such as were thought to have the best arme: but perceiving none of these wonders and miracles that had bene reported of it, he sent it backe againe unto Scanderbeg in great scorne and disdaine, with this message, That he would not be beholding unto him for such a thing as he could get for his money, and which should be of much greater and better perfection: and that he did not give any credite to any of those reports that had bene given out touching the excellencie of that sword. But Scanderbeg in the sight and presence of the messenger, having made strange and admirable prooves with this same Cimitarie willed him to tell his Lord and Master what he had seene, and withall to let him know, That it was not the vertue & goodnesse of the sword which wrought such rare and extraordinarie effectes: but that it was the strength and force of his arme, which he reserved against his enemies.
But to make an ende of this worke, I could here adde many reportes of like qualitie, which are written of the force and wonderfull disposition of the bodie of Scanderbeg, exceeding perhaps the common course and law of nature, and which would hardly be credited or beleeved: but I will let them passe and not speake of them. Howbeit that we might with as good reason and aswell enlarge our consciences, and give credite unto them, as to those which are reported of elder times, and which antiquitie hath commended unto us: the which neverthelesse even at this day we doe celebrate and greatly set by; as the labours of Hercules, the adventures of Jason, of Perseus, of Castor, of Pollux, of Bellerophon, of Hector, of Achilles, with infinite other most famous and heroicall personages, whose glorie is not bounded nor confined within any straighter limits, then the large and spacious circuit and compasse of the wide worlde: and yet notwithstanding we have no other proofe of their exploites, nor any certaintie of the actes ascribed to those auncient Princes, but onely the bare prescription of the time and the tradition of our forefathers, which have admitted them for true beyond time out of memorie. But the truth of these wonderfull matters reported of Scanderbeg doth carie greater shew of likelihood and probabilitie: for (to omit those two thundering tempests of warre Hunyades and his sonne Mathias Corvinus King of Hungarie, who lived in the time of Scanderbeg, and of whom are reported as great and strange matters) we may see in Scanderbeg a pure worke of the finger of God, and the evident assistance of this divine hand and power, for the succor and reliefe of his Church and chosen people: in that it pleased him to raise uppe this worthie and Christian Prince, and to endow him with so many speciall prerogatives as another David against these two Goliaths, Amurath and Mahomet, the most cruell and bloudie persecutors of the house and Church of God that ever lived. So did God in times past provide the Israelites of a Josua against the Hethites and Canaanites, and of a Gedeon against the Medianites and Amalechites: and of a Samson against the Philistines, and of a Martell, a Pypin, a Charlemaine against the Sarracens. So will God still doe the like, and he will provide our France of another Pucell, he will never faile to raise up some one or other for the defence and deliverie of his people from their enemies: if that we with true contrition and heartie repentance for our sinnes and enormities, with a loathing and detestation of our abhominable Sects and Schismes, of our partialities and devisions, of our ambition and mortall hatreds and mutuall enmities, will beate downe that partition wall which hath separated and disjoyned us from his grace: and if we will humble our selves under his hand, and if in faith, zeale, and hope we will implore his gratious favour, to protect and assist us.
[Extract from: The Historie of George Castriot, svrnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albanie: Containing his famous actes, his noble deedes of armes, and memorable victories against the Turkes, for the faith of Christ. Comprised in twelue bookes: by Iaqves de Lavardin, Lord of Plessis Bovrrot, a Nobleman of France. Newly translated out of French into English by Z. J. [Zachary Jones], Gentleman (London: William Posonby, 1596), p. 471498.]