Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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shape of refugees from Parga - formed any distinct element in her
population. It is only in the nature of things that Greeks under
successive Venetian, French, and English rule should do more for their
land than Albanians under Turkish rule. But we may doubt whether any
people under any government could have made the land opposite to Corfu
like Corfu itself. Had the mainland shared the successive destinies of
the island, it would doubtless have been far better off than it has
been. But it could hardly have been as the island. One point of
advantage for the island was the mere fact that it was an island. In
all but the highest states of civilization, this is an advantage
beyond words; and the ancient colonists fully understood the fact.

Still it is a striking contrast to pass across the narrow sea from
Corfu to what was Butrinto. Buthrotum, the mythical city of the Trojan
Helenos, has a more real being as a Roman colony, and as one of those
outposts on the mainland in which Venice succeeded the Neapolitan
Kings, and which she kept down to her own fall. Butrinto was once a
city no less than Corfu; to Virgil's eyes it was the reproduction of
Troy itself. Now we cross from the busy streets and harbour of Corfu
to utter desolation at Butrinto. The desolation is greater in one way
than any that Helenos or any other primitive settler could have found,
because it is that form of desolation which consists in traces of what
has been. We enter the mouth of the river, with rich trees and
pasturage between its banks and the rugged mountains; we mark ruins of
fortresses and buildings on either side, till we come to the ruined
castle at the mouth of the lake. The lake is a carefully preserved
fishery, and permission is needed to enter it. A few dirty-looking men
assemble at the door of a tumble-down building standing against the
ruined castle. But among them are personages of some local importance.
One is the lessee of the fishery, whose good will is of special
importance. There is also a Turkish officer of some kind - more likely
a Mussulman Albanian than an Ottoman - with his small and not
threatening following. There are one or two native Christians; and it
brings the varied ethnology of the land more deeply home to learn that
they are neither Greeks nor Albanians, but that they belong to the
scattered race of the Vlachs, the Latin-speaking people of the East,
whose greatest settlement, far away from Butrinto, has now grown into
an European kingdom. It is well to be reminded at such a moment that
the Rouman principality, though the greatest, is only one among many,
and that the latest, of the settlements of this scattered people. And
it brings home the fact to us when we see here, in a land where Greek
and Albanian - that is, Hellên and Illyrian - are both at home, the
third of the great primitive races of the peninsula, the widely spread
Thracian kin, the people of Sitalkês and Kersobleptês, so far away
from the land in which alone political geography acknowledges them.

One feeling however the group, so small, but differing so widely in
race and creed, seem all to share very deeply. This is a devout
reverence for the image of George King of the Greeks, when graven on a
five- (new) drachma piece, and held up in the hand of one of the
representatives of Corfu in the Greek Parliament. We remember the
ancient power of much smaller coins - [Greek: hôs mega dynasthon
pantachou tô dy' obolô] - and we begin to doubt whether a smaller sum
might not have done the work as well. Anyhow his Hellenic Majesty's
countenance, in this attractive shape, acts as a talisman on all,
private and official, Christian and Mussulman; it buys off all
questions or searchings of any kind, and wins free access to the
beautiful scenery of the lake, full licence to poke about among what
little there is to poke about in the shattered castle. The thought
cannot help coming into the mind that those who so greatly respect the
image and superscription of King George would have no very violent
dislike to become his subjects. Still it is not without a certain
feeling of having escaped out of the mouth of the lion that we cross
once more over the channel, and find ourselves at the hospitable door
of a Greek gentleman of Koloura.



The great argument to establish the fact of a long-abiding Slavonic
occupation in Greece has always been the changes in local
nomenclature, the actual Slavonic names and the Greek names which have
displaced older Greek names. The former class speak for themselves;
the latter class are held to have been given during the process of
Greek reconquest. Nor can there be any reasonable doubt that there is
a large amount of truth in this doctrine, if only it is kept in
moderation, and is not pressed to the extreme conclusions of
Fallmerayer. But it is important to note that the change from one
Greek name to another has taken place also in cases when there has
been no foreign settlement, no reconquest, no violent change of any
kind. One of the greatest of Greek islands has lost one Greek name and
has taken another, without the operation of any of the causes which
are said to have brought about the change of nomenclature in
Peloponnêsos. Crete and Euboia, we may say in passing, seem to have
changed their names, when in truth they have not; but Korkyra really
has changed its name. It had, for all purposes, become Corfu - in some
spelling or other - till the modern revival - unwisely, we must venture
to think - brought back, not the true local _Korkyra_ ([Greek:
Korkyra]), but the Attic and Byzantine _Kerkyra_ ([Greek: Kerkyra]).
City and island alike are now again [Greek: Kerkyra]; or rather we
cannot say that the city is again [Greek: Kerkyra], as the modern city
never was [Greek: Kerkyra] at all, nor even [Greek: Korkyra]. The
modern town of Corfu - in its best Greek form [Greek: Koryphô] - stands
on a different site from the ancient town of Korkyra, and there can be
little doubt that the change of name is connected with the change of

The legendary history of the island goes up, we need not say, to the
Homeric tales. That Korkyra was the Homeric Scheriê was an accepted
article of faith as early as the days of Thucydides. His casual phrase
goes for more than any direct statement. He connects the naval
greatness of the Korkyraians of his day with the seafaring fame of the
mythical Phaiakians ([Greek: nautikô poly proechein estin hote
epairomenoi kai kata tên tôn Phaiakôn proenoikêsin tês Kerkyras kleos
echontôn ta peri tas naus]). Nearly a thousand years later Prokopios
is equally believing, though he goes into some doubts and speculations
as to the position of the isle of Kalypsô. His way of describing the
island should be noticed. With him the island is the Phaiakian land,
which is now called _Korkyra_ ([Greek: hê Phaiakôn chôra, hê nyn
Kerkyra epikaleitai]). Against this description we may fairly balance
that of Nikêtas ([Greek: hê Kerkyraiôn akra, hê nyn epikeklêtai
Koryphô]), with whom the promontory of the Kerkyraians is now called
_Koryphô_. The two answer to each other. To talk of [Greek: Kerkyraiôn
akra] was as much an archaism in the eleventh century as to talk of
[Greek: Phaiakôn chôra] was in the sixth. The everyday name of the
island in the days of Prokopios was still [Greek: Korkyra] or [Greek:
Kerkyra]. In the days of Nikêtas it was already [Greek: Koryphô].

We put the two phrases of Prokopios and Nikêtas together, because they
are turned out as it were from the same mould. But there is no doubt
that the change of name had happened a good while before Nikêtas, and
there is some reason to believe that it was the result of causes which
are set forth in the narrative of Prokopios. The earliest mention of
Corfu by its present name seems to be that in Liudprand, who calls it
"Coriphus" in the plural, the Greek [Greek: Koryphous]. The change
therefore happened between the sixth century and the tenth, the change
doubtless of site no less than the change of name. And no time seems
more likely for either than the time which followed the wasting
expedition of Totilas which Prokopios records. Then doubtless it was
that the old city, if it did not at once perish, at least began to
decay; a new site began to be occupied; a new town arose, and that new
town took a new name from its most remarkable physical feature, the
[Greek: koryphô], the two peaks crowned by the citadel, which form the
most striking feature in the entrance to the harbour of modern Corfu.

One argument alone need be mentioned the other way, and that is one
which perhaps is not likely to present itself to any one out of Corfu
itself. The local writer Quirini quotes a single line as from
Dionysios Periêgêtês, which runs thus: -

[Greek: keinên nyn Korphyn nautai diephêmixanto.]

Dionysios is a writer of uncertain date; but he may safely be set down
as older than Prokopios. If then he used the later name, and used it
in a form more modern than the [Greek: Koryphô] of Nikêtas, the whole
argument would be set aside, and the name of Corfu would be carried
back to a much earlier time. But where Quirini got his verse is by no
means clear. We have looked in more than one edition of Dionysios, and
no such verse can we find. The only mention of Korkyra is in a verse
which runs thus: -

[Greek: kai liparê Kerkyra, philon pedon Alkinooio.]

Nor does the commentator Eustathios say one word as to the change of
name. We can only conceive that the line must have been added as a
gloss in some copy, printed or manuscript, which was consulted by

We will assume then that, as far as the island is concerned, Korkyra
and Corfu - in its various spellings - are two successive names, one of
which supplanted the other, while, as far as the city is concerned,
they are strictly the names of two distinct though neighbouring
cities, one of which fell as the other rose. And now the question
comes, Is the island of Korkyra the Scheriê of Homer? Is his
description of Scheriê and the city of Alkinoos meant for the
description of Korkyra or any part of it, whether the historical city
or any other? We must remember that the general witness of antiquity
in favour of Korkyra being Scheriê loses a good deal of its weight
when we consider that the ancient writers felt bound to place Scheriê
somewhere, while no such necessity is laid upon us. Bearing this in
mind, the plain case seems to be that it is far more likely that
Scheriê was nowhere at all. In dealing with Scheriê and its
inhabitants, we are not dealing with an entry in the Catalogue of the
Iliad, the Domesday of the Mykênaian empire; we are simply dealing
with a piece of the romantic geography of the Odyssey. Everything
about the Phaiakians and their land reads as if the whole thing was as
purely a play of the imagination as the Kyklôpes and the
Laistrygones. It is indeed quite possible that, even in describing
purely imaginary lands, a poet may bring in his remembrance of real
places, just as the features of a real person may be reproduced in the
picture of an imaginary event. The poet, in painting Scheriê, may have
brought in bits of local description from Korkyra or from any other
place. But that is all. As we read the story, it seems quite as
reasonable to look on the map for Nephelokokkygia as to look on the
map for Scheriê. The thinkers of the days of Thucydides or of some
time before Thucydides, deeming themselves bound to place Scheriê
somewhere, fixed it at Korkyra. The reason doubtless was that the
Phaiakians are spoken of as the most distant of mankind, far away from
any others, and that Korkyra really was for a long time the most
distant of Greek settlements in this region. When Korkyra was once
ruled to be Scheriê, the process of identification naturally went on.
Spots received Homeric names. Alkinoos had his grove and his harbour
in the historical Korkyra. All this is the common course of legend,
and proves nothing for either geography or history. Yet the tale of
Scheriê, of Alkinoos, Arêtê, and the charming Nausikaa, is not simply
one of the loveliest of tales. Scheriê knew the use of wheeled
carriages; therefore Scheriê had roads. Alkinoos, the head king, was
chief over twelve lesser kings. Here we get real history, though
history neither personal nor local. Scheriê itself may safely be
looked for in the moon; but the roads of Scheriê and the _Bretwalda_
of Scheriê have their place in the early history of institutions.

Other names of the island are spoken of, as Drepanê and Makris,
descriptive names which perhaps never were in real use, and which, if
they were, were supplanted by the historical name of Korkyra. We must
again repeat that _Korkyra_, not _Kerkyra_, is the genuine local name.
It is the spelling on the coins of the country; it is the spelling of
the Latin writers, who would get the name from the island itself; it
is the spelling of Strabo. But it is equally plain that in Greece
generally the spelling [Greek: Kerkyra] prevailed. It is so in
Herodotus and the Attic writers; it is so in Polybios; it is so in the
Byzantine writers, who of course affect Attic forms. It must never be
forgotten that, from the time of Polybios, perhaps from an earlier
time than his, down to the present moment, written Greek has been one
thing, and spoken Greek another. Polybios wrote [Greek: Kerkyra],
while its own people called it [Greek: Korkyra], just as he wrote
[Greek: Êlis], while its own people called it [Greek: Walis]. The
difference has been thought to have its origin in some joke or
sarcasm - some play on [Greek: kerkos, kerkouros], and the like. But
the literary form may just as likely be simply a tempting softening
of the local form. One point only is to be insisted on, that the
syllable [Greek: Kor] in [Greek: Korkyra], and the syllable [Greek:
Kor] in [Greek: Koryphô], have nothing to do with one another. The
latter name is no corruption of the elder; it is a genuine case of one
Greek name supplanting another - perhaps rather a case of a Greek name,
after so many ages, supplanting a name which the first Greek colonists
may have borrowed from earlier barbarian inhabitants. In this case the
change implies no change of inhabitants, no change of language. It is
a change within the Greek language itself, which can be fully
accounted for by historical causes. It therefore teaches that changes
of name, such as the Slavonic theory insists on in Peloponnêsos,
though they do often arise from new settlements and reconquests, do
also come about in other ways.

It is for the mythologist to find out whether Homer had Korkyra in his
eye when he described the mythic Scheriê. This, be it again noted, is
a perfectly reasonable subject for inquiry, and in no way implies any
historical belief in the legend. It is simply like asking whether the
real Glastonbury at all suggested the mythic Avalon. History begins to
deal with Korkyra in the eighth century B.C., when the settlement of
the Corinthian Chersikratês added the island to the Greek world. From
that day onward the island has a long and eventful story, reaching
down to our own times. But, before that story begins, the historian
may fairly ask of the ethnologist what evidence, what hints of any
kind, there are as to the people whom the Corinthian colonists found
settled in the island. It is not likely that they found so promising a
site wholly uninhabited. Some branch of the great Illyrian race, the
race which is still so near to the island, and which still supplies
it, if not with inhabitants, at least with constant visitors, may well
be supposed to have made their way into so tempting an island. The
harbours of Corfu would surely attract the seafaring Liburnians. We
are then brought to the common conditions of a Greek colony, planted,
as usual, among pre-existing barbarian inhabitants, and, as Mr. Grote
has so strongly enforced, sure to receive a dash of barbarian blood
among some classes of its members. The _dêmos_ of Korkyra may well
have been far from being of pure Hellenic descent - a fact which, if it
be so, may go far to explain the wide difference between the _dêmos_
of Korkyra and the _dêmos_ of Athens. Since the time of the Corinthian
settlement, the island has undergone endless conquests and changes of
masters, each of which has doubtless brought with it a fresh infusion
into the blood of its inhabitants. But since the time of Chersikratês
there has been nothing like extirpation, displacement, or
resettlement. Korkyra has ever since been an Hellenic land, though a
succession of foreign occupations may have marred the purity of its
Hellenism. And one point at once distinguishes it from all the
neighbouring lands. Among all the changes of masters which Korkyra or
Corfu has undergone, they have always been European masters. It is the
one land in those parts that has never seen the Turk as more than a
momentary invader, to be speedily beaten back by European prowess.

So much for the origin and the name of the greatest of the group which
in modern geography has come by the strange name of the Ionian
Islands. The only sense in which that name has any meaning is if it be
taken as meaning the Islands of the Ionian Sea. It ought to be
needless to remind any one that the word in that sense has nothing
whatever to do with the real Ionians, with the Ionic dialect or the
Ionic order. It certainly has an odd effect when one hears the people
of Doric Korkyra spoken of as "Ionians;" and we have even seen the
whole group of islands spoken of as "Ionia," to the great wrong of
Chios, Samos, Ephesos, and others of the famous Ionian twelve. But
having said so much about names, we must in another paper say
something of the long series of revolutions which mark the history of
Korkyra under its two names, and of their effect on its present state.



We have already spoken of the singular change of name which has
befallen the most famous and important, though not the largest in
superficial extent, of the group known as the Ionian Islands. The change
of name, as we hold, followed naturally on the change of site of the
city. The new city took a new name, and the island has always followed
the name of the city. The old city and the new both occupy neighbouring
points in a system of small peninsulas and havens, which form the
middle of the eastern coast of the long and irregularly-shaped island
of Korkyra. There, to the south of the present town, connected with it
by a favourite walk of the inhabitants of Corfu, a long and broad
peninsula stretches boldly into the sea. Both from land and from sea,
it chiefly strikes the eye as a wooded mass, thickly covered with the
aged olive-trees which form so marked a feature in the scenery of the
island. A few houses skirt the base, growing on the land side into
the suburb of Kastrades, which may pass for a kind of connecting link
between the old and the new city. And from the midst of the wood, on
the side nearest to the modern town, stands out the villa of the King
of the Greeks, the chief modern dwelling on the site of ancient
Korkyra. This peninsular hill, still known as Palaiopolis, was the
site of the old Corinthian city whose name is so familiar to every
reader of Thucydides. On either side of it lies one of its two
forsaken harbours. Between the old and the new city lies the so-called
harbour of Alkinoos; beyond the peninsula, stretching far inland, lies
the old Hyllaic harbour, bearing the name of one of the three tribes
which seem to have been essential to the being of a Dorian
commonwealth. But the physical features of the country have greatly
changed since Chersikratês led thither his band of settlers twenty-six
centuries back. It is plain that both harbours once came much further
inland than they do now, that they covered a great deal of the low
ground at the foot of the peninsular hill. The question indeed
presents itself, whether the two did not once meet, whether the
peninsula was not once an island, whether the original colony did not
occupy a site standing to the mainland of Korkyra in exactly the same
relation in which the original insular Syracuse, the sister Corinthian
colony, stood to the mainland of Sicily. The physical aspect of the
country certainly strongly suggests the belief. And though Thucydides
does not directly speak of the city as insular, though his words do
not at all suggest that it was so, yet we do not know that there is
anything in his narrative which directly shuts out the idea. Anyhow,
the great change which has happened is plain when we see how utterly
the great Hyllaic haven has lost the character of a haven. It is now
called a lake, and exists only for purposes of fishing. We may believe
that these physical changes had a great deal to do with the removal of
the city to another site, with the change from Korkyra to Corfu.

The description which Thucydides gives of the great sedition brings
out a fact which we should at first sight hardly have expected, the
fact that the aristocratic quarter of Korkyra was on the lower ground
by the harbour, while the upper part of the town was occupied by the
_dêmos_. To one who thinks of Rome, Athens, and ancient cities
generally, this seems strange. But arguments from the most ancient
class of cities do not fully apply to cities of the colonial class.
These, where commerce was so great an object, were no longer, as a
rule, placed on heights; convenient access from the sea was a main
point, and we can therefore understand that the ground by the coast
would be first settled, and would remain the dwelling-place of the old
citizens, the forefathers of the oligarchs of the great sedition.
There on the lower ground was the _agora_, where the Epidamnian exiles
craved for help, and pointed to the tombs of their forefathers. The
impression of the scene becomes more lively when we see not far off an
actual ancient tomb remaining in its place, though it could hardly
have been the tomb of the forefather of any Epidamnian. This is the
tomb of Menekratês of Oianthê, honoured in this way by the people of
Korkyra on account of his friendship for their city, a plain round
tomb with one of those archaic inscriptions in which Korkyra is rich.
Archaic indeed it is, written from right to left, in characters which
mere familiarity with the Greek of printed books or of later
inscriptions will not enable any one to read off with much ease. It
formed doubtless only one of a range of tombs, doubtless outside the
city, but visible from the _agora_. An orator in the Roman forum could
not have pointed to the tombs of forefathers by the Appian Way.

The position of the quarter of the oligarchs by the modern suburb of
Kastrades seems perfectly clear from Thucydides. The _dêmos_ took
refuge in the upper part of the city and held the Hyllaic harbour; the
other party held the _agora_, where most of them dwelled, and the
harbour near it and towards the continent ([Greek: hoi de tên te
agoran katelabon, houper hoi polloi ôkoun autôn, kai ton limena ton
pros autê kai pros tên êpeiron êpeiron]). This district marks out the
haven by Kastrades, looking out on the Albanian mountains, as
distinguished from the Hyllaic haven shut in by the hills of Korkyra

But where was the Hêraion, the temple of Hêrê, which plays a part in
more than one of the Thucydidean narratives? and where was the island
opposite to the Hêraion - [Greek: pros to Hêraion] - and the isle of
Ptychia, both of which appear in his history? The answer to the former
question seems to turn on another. Was the present citadel, the true
[Greek: Koryphô], itself always an island, as it is now? The present
channel is artificial - that is to say, it is made artificial by
fortifications - but it may after all have been a natural channel
improved by art. And that is the belief of some of the best Corfiote
antiquaries. If so, this may well be the [Greek: nêsos pros to
Hêraion], and Ptychia may be the isle of Vido beyond. The Hêraion
would thus stand on the north side of the old Korkyra, looking towards
the modern city; it would stand in the oligarchic quarter on the low
ground near the _agora_. It was therefore neither of the two temples
of which traces remain. One, of which the walls can be traced out
nearly throughout, and of which a single broken Doric column is
standing, overlooks the open sea towards Epeiros. Another on the other
side overlooked the Hyllaic harbour. This in course of time became a
church, a now ruined church, but which keeps large parts of its

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 20 of 23)