Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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resolution to abide in the ship, to say that we have landed at free
Corfu, that we shall land at recovered Antivari, but that we will not
betweenwhiles set foot on any soil where the Turk still reigns. And
the time of distant gazing is not wasted. Without risking ourselves
either on Turkish ground or on the rough waves of the Epidamnian bay,
a fair general view of the city may be had from the steamer. The wide
curve of the bay has for the most part a flat shore, with a background
of mountains in the distant landscape. Towards the north-west corner,
a promontory of a good height, backed by a comb-like range of peaks,
rises at once from the water. This is the peninsula of Dyrrhachion,
once crowned by the Epidamnian city. The modern town is seen on a
small part of the tower slope of the hill. The walls can be traced
through the greater part of their circuit; a huge round bastion by the
sea, more than one tower, round and square, teach us that Durazzo has
been strongly fortified. If we may eke out our own distant
impressions by the help of an old print showing what Durazzo was in
times past, we see that it was fortified indeed. We can recognize in
the picture most of the towers which we have seen with our own eyes,
and there is shown also another tower far greater, a huge square tower
of many stages, which no imagination of the artist can have devised
out of anything which now comes into the sea-view of the city. But
that view enables us to trace out a few buildings within the wall. We
mark the distinctive symbols of the two stranger forms of worship,
from the East and from the West, which have, each in its turn,
supplanted or dominated the native Church. The Latin church, with its
conspicuous bell-tower, carries on the traditions of Angevin and
Venetian rule; the mosque, with its more conspicuous minaret, speaks
of the more abiding dominion of the representative of the False
Prophet. The native church meanwhile lurks significantly unseen in the
general view. Our teacher on board our ship assures us that Durazzo is
not without an Orthodox place of worship; but he cannot point out its

And it may be that it is no common anniversary on which we look out on
the land which has passed into bondage. Looked at by the evening light
of the twenty-ninth day of May, the group of buildings at Durazzo,
alike by what is present to the eye and by what is absent, brings to
the mind the fate of a greater city than Durazzo was in its proudest
day. It makes us muse how, after four hundred and eight and twenty
years, we have still to repeat the Psalmist's words: "O God, the
heathen have come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they
defiled, and made Jerusalem an heap of stones." Durazzo has not
indeed, like some other cities under the yoke, sunk to a heap of
stones; but it is easy to see how the Turkish town has shrunk up
within the Venetian walls, and again how narrow must be the circuit of
Venetian Durazzo compared with the Epidamnos of the days of
Thucydides, or even with the Dyrrhachion beneath whose walls our
banished kinsmen so well maintained the cause of the Eastern Augustus.
For the church that they so stoutly defended we need not say that it
is vain to look in such a Pisgah view of the city as is all that we
can take. But to the left of the present wall, where the hill soars,
one stage upon another, far above the height of Durazzo that now is,
we must surely place the site of the akropolis of the old Korkyraian
settlers. Such a post, looking over the wide bay and commanding its
mouth, would be just what would commend itself to the Greek colonists
for the site of their new stronghold, while the lower city would
naturally be spread over the more sheltered ground which holds all
that is left of Durazzo under the rule of the Turk. Pausanias indeed
implies that there had been a change of site before his time, that the
Dyrrhachion of his day did not stand on exactly the same ground as the
elder Epidamnos. No doubt the loftier site was the older; men came
down from the hill-top as they did at Athens and Corinth. Thus much
the passing stranger can see of this historic spot, even without
setting his foot on the soil which the barbarian has torn away from
Christendom. His course will bear him on to the place of his next
halt, to the spot which, only a few months back, was the last soil
which Christendom had won back from the barbarian. Since then, if
another land has been denied the promised freedom, in a third the boon
has been actually bestowed. And we may comfort ourselves by thinking
that, while the shame of what is left undone belongs to others, the
praise of what is done belongs to our own land only. We may comfort
ourselves too by further thinking that right and freedom are powers
which have an awkward way, when they have taken the inch, of going on
to take the ell. The wise men whose wisdom consists in living
politically from hand to mouth, are again crying out against
"re-opening the Eastern question." In sailing along the shores, in
scanning their history in past and present times, we feel how deep a
truth was casually uttered in the shallow sneer which called that
question "eternal." We feel how vain is the dream of those who think
that this or that half-measure has solved it. As we gaze on enslaved
Durazzo, with free Greece behind us, with free Montenegro before
us - as we run swiftly in our thoughts over the long history of the
spot - as we specially call up the deeds of our own countrymen on the
shore on which we look - we feel that something indeed has been done,
but that there is yet much more to do. Before us, behind us, are lands
to which England, and England only, has given freedom. A day must come
when, what England has done for Corfu, for Arta, and for Dulcigno, she
must do for Jôannina and for Durazzo.



We wind up our course with one more of the once subject cities of
Venice, one where we can hardly say that we are any longer following
in Norman footsteps, but whose history stands apart from the history
of Dalmatia and Istria, while it has much in common with our last
halting place. But here the main interest belongs to our own day. It
is with new and strange feelings that we look out on a land which,
when we last passed by it, was still clutched tight in the grasp of
the barbarian, but to which we can now give the new and thrilling name
of the sea-coast of Tzernagora. And yet it is with mingled feelings
that we gaze. We rejoice in the victories, in the extension, of the
unconquered principality, the land which has shown itself a surer
"bulwark 'gainst the Ottomite" than Hungary or Poland, or even Venice,
ever proved. We rejoice that the warriors of the mountain, long shut
in by force and fraud, have again, with their own right hands, cut
their way to their own sea. And yet we feel that, though the sea to
which they have cut their way is truly their own sea, their own
ancient heritage, yet the coast and the havens which they have won are
not the coast and the havens which they should have won. If all had
their own, Dulcigno, Antivari, and the ewe lamb which the rich man
stole at Spizza, would be the havens of the free Albanian, while the
free Slave would have his outlet to the Hadriatic waters at his own
Cattaro and at Ragusa too. In such an ideal state of things, the
present lord of Cattaro and Ragusa might reign peaceably and
harmlessly in the duchy of his grandmothers, happy in deliverance from
the curses of those whom he now keeps back from union with the
brethren whom they love and with the one prince whom they acknowledge.
The Montenegrin, in short, kept back by wrong from winning his way to
the sea by peaceful union with those who yearn for his presence, has
been driven to win his way to the sea by the conquest of lands which
were once the heritage of his race, but from which his race has now
passed away. Forbidden to be the deliverer of the Slave, he has been
forced to be the conqueror of the Albanian. The Albanian Mussulman
himself has practically gained by being conquered; still, as we said,
if every one had his own, arrangements would be different. The blame
indeed lies, not with the people who extend their borders when to
extend their border is a matter of national life, but with those who,
not in the interest of any people, nation, or language, but in the
private interest of their own family estate, sit by to hinder them
from extending their borders in the right way. We rejoice then as we
look for the first time on the sea-coast of Montenegro; but we mourn
that the sea-coast of Montenegro lies where it does and not elsewhere.
We mourn too that the enlargement of Christendom, the falling back of
Islam, has been bought only by the destruction of an ancient and
beautiful city from which the memorials at least of Christendom had
not wholly passed away.

Antibaris, Antivari, in the tongues of the land, _Bar_ and _Tivari_,
is perhaps rather to be understood as meaning "the Bari on the other
side" than "the city opposite Bari." But there is no doubt that its
name contains, in one way or another, a reference to the more famous
Bari, "Barium piscosum," on the other side of the Hadriatic. And
Antivari is the opposite to Bari in a sense which was certainly not
meant; no two sites can well be more unlike one another than the sites
of Bari and of Antivari. The Apulian Bari lies low on a flat shore,
with not so much as a background of hills; the Albanian Bari crowns a
height, with a wall of more soaring heights on each side of it. The
Apulian Bari had no chance of occupying such a position as this; the
marked difference between the two coasts of the Hadriatic forbade it.
But the site of Antivari is hardly less unlike most of the other sites
on its own coast. Zara, Salona and its successor Spalato, Epidauros
and its successor Ragusa, Cattaro, Durazzo, and a crowd of others of
lesser name, are none of them placed on heights. Some of them nestle
immediately at the foot of the mountain; some have thrown out their
defences, older or newer, some way up the side of the mountain; in
none is the city itself perched high on the hills. For a parallel to
Antivari on this coast we have to go back to the mountain citadel of
Aulona. The position and the name of Antivari seem to point to a state
of things differing both from the days of the Greek and Roman
foundations, and from the days of the cities which arose to shelter
their fugitives in the day of overthrow. Long Salona stood low on the
shore; the house of Jovius stood low on the shore also; it did not
come into the head of the founders of either to plant city or palace
on the height of Clissa. When Antivari arose, it would seem that men
had gone back to that earlier state of things which planted the oldest
Argos, even the oldest Corinth, on mountain peaks some way from their
own coasts. The inaccessible height had again come to be looked on as
a source of strength. Antivari may take its place alongside of the
mediæval Syra, the Latin town covering its own peaked hill - a _mons
acutus_, a Montacute, by the shore - while the oldest and the newest
Hermoupolis lies on the shore at its feet. The town does not even look
down at once on the haven; it has to be reached in a manner sideways
from the haven. It is true indeed that the sea has gone back, that the
plain at the foot of the mountains between the town and the shore was
smaller than it now is, even in times not far removed from our own.
But Antivari was never as Cattaro; it always stood on a height, with
some greater or less extent of level ground between the town and its
own haven.

The city thus placed has gone through its full share of the
revolutions of the eastern coasts of the Hadriatic. Once a
commonwealth under the protection of the Servian kings and tzars, it
came late under Venetian rule. But it remained under that rule down to
a later time than any other of the possessions of the Republic on this
coast, save those which came within the actual Dalmatian border and
those detached points further to the south which have a history of
their own in common with the so-called Ionian Islands. It was for a
while in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, what Budua was for so
long afterwards, the furthest point of the continuous rule of Saint
Mark, a city which remained part of Christendom after Durazzo and
Skodra had passed into the hands of the infidel. In earlier times,
when Antivari had a separate being, its tendency was rather to a
connexion with Ragusa than with Venice. Ragusa, though the nearer of
the rivals, was the weaker, the less likely to change alliance or
protection into dominion. Antivari too, like most other
city-commonwealths, had its patricians and plebeians, its disputes
between the privileged and the non-privileged order. As the justice of
either side at home was distrusted, it was agreed that the decision of
some classes of causes should be referred to the courts of Ragusa.
Such a settlement, though taking another and more dangerous form, is
the same in principle as the favourite Italian custom of choosing a
foreign _podestà_, as the earlier usage by which cities which had won
their independence in all other points were still willing to receive a
criminal judge of the Emperor's naming. In all these cases alike, the
stranger is looked on as more likely than the native to deal out
even-handed justice amid the disputes and rivalries of persons and

Though Antivari stands on a hill, it does not crown any such height as
those of Cortona or Akrokorinthos, nor does it call for any such
journey as that which leads to the spot which masters of the
high-polite style will now doubtless call its "metropolis" at
Tzetinje. It stands on an advanced point among the mountains, one
easily commanded from higher points, as was soon found in the siege
of 1877. A road of no astonishing steepness leads us up to the
town - or more strictly to its ruins. We look down on a church in the
valley, whose air proclaims it as belonging to the Orthodox communion;
and that church seems to be the only untouched building within sight.
It is not till we get within the walls that we take in the full
measure of the destruction which has been wrought; but the first
glance shows that Antivari has suffered not a little from the warfare
of our own times. The walls and towers are there; but we see that they
fence in only roofless buildings; the mosques, with their minarets,
several of them shattered, remind us that we are drawing near to a
city which has been won for Christendom from Islam, as a nearer view
reminds us that it is a city which had before been won for Islam from
Christendom. We halt at a small _café_ outside the walls, where we
receive a friendly greeting from the representatives of Montenegrin
authority in the new conquest. Here too is the club and reading-room
of Antivari, supplied with newspapers in the Slavonic, Italian, and
Turkish tongues; the really prevailing speech of the district, the
immemorial Skipetar or Albanian, hardly boasts of a representative in
the press. Here too are gathered a few fragments from the ruins, a few
capitals, sculptures, and inscriptions, all or most of Venetian
times. Among them is the winged lion himself, and the epitaph of a
local dignitary who bears the very English-sounding title of "justitia
pacis." Even among ourselves embodied righteousness sometimes takes
the same abstract form, instead of the more mortal and fleshly
"justitiarius." A slight descent and a steep ascent leads us through a
rebuilt suburb, which now forms the only part of Antivari which serves
as a dwelling-place of man. A line of shops, or rather booths,
supplies the needs of the neighbouring people, among whom Christians
and Mussulmans, Slaves and Albanians, seem pretty equally mingled. A
Montenegrin sentinel, whose national coat must once have been whiter
than it now is, guards the gate, a Venetian gate where inscriptions in
the Arabic character record the dominion of the late masters of
Antivari. We enter, we gaze around, we climb a tower for a better
view, and we look on a scene of havoc which is startling to men of
peaceful lives, and which, one would think, must be unusual even in
the experience of men of the sword. We believe that we are speaking
the truth when we say that every building within the enclosed space
has become uninhabitable; certainly not one seemed to be inhabited.
This destruction is indeed not wholly the immediate result of the
siege. A powder-magazine was afterwards struck by lightning, and its
explosion destroyed whatever the siege had spared. But the havoc
wrought by the siege itself must have been fearful. Antivari is as
strictly a collection of ruins, and of nothing but ruins, as Ninfa at
the foot of the Volscian hills, looking up at the mighty walls of
Norba. But Ninfa was simply forsaken some ages back. Its inhabitants
fled from an unhealthy site, and left their houses, churches, and
military defences, to crumble away. But at Antivari we see the work of
destruction in our own day, almost at the present moment. Four years
back, the traveller passing along the Albanian coast was shown where
Antivari, then an inhabited town, nestled among its rocks. The war was
then raging inland; the Montenegrin was then defending his own heights
against Turkish invasion; he had not yet come down to win back a
fragment of his ancient coast from one of the two intruders who kept
him from it. The traveller comes again; this time he does not only
look from afar, but examines on the spot with his own eyes. But he
finds only the shattered fragments of what four years before was a
city of men.

And, small as Antivari must have been even in its most flourishing
times, it is no mean city that it must have been. It must be
remembered that Antivari, though it was a Mussulman town under Turkish
rule, was never in any strict sense a Turkish town. Its history is
that of Albania generally, as it is the history of large classes of
men in Bosnia. Antivari was easily won by the Turk, and it remained in
the hands of its old inhabitants, Christian Albanians and Venetian
settlers. Gradually, for the sake of their temporal interests, they
conformed outwardly to the religion of their conquerors, and so passed
from the subject to the ruling order. At first, this was a mere
outward conformity for worldly ends; men still hoped that some chance
of warfare would bring back the rule of Saint Mark. If so, they were
ready to return to the faith which they still secretly held. But the
happy revolution never came; new generations sprang up with whom Islam
was an hereditary creed, and Antivari became a Mussulman city. But it
never became a Turkish city. The descendants of the once Christian
inhabitants lived on in their fathers' houses, and worshipped in the
same temples as their fathers, though they were now turned to the use
of another faith. Each church had a minaret added, and it became a
mosque. In most cases of Mahometan conquest, the conquerors took the
head church of the city as a trophy of their own faith, but left the
subject Christians in possession of one or more of the lesser
churches. So, in this same region, it was at Durazzo; so it was at
Trebinje; in both there was a church, or more than one, within the
walls. Here at Antivari, as the inhabitants gradually embraced Islam,
all the churches became mosques; and thus, for the very reason that
there was less of violent disturbance than in most cases of Turkish
conquest, Antivari, while never becoming Turkish, became more strictly
Mussulman than most cities under Turkish rule. The churches, or rather
their ruins, still stand, examples of the usual churches of the
country, none of them remarkable for size or antiquity or
architectural splendour; but still essentially churches, with their
fabrics untouched, save only the inevitable addition of the minaret.
Some of them even keep memorials of their earlier use of which one
would have expected Mussulman zeal to wipe out every trace as
monuments of idolatry. Intruding Turks or Saracens would doubtless
have done so; but the Mahometan descendants of the Christian citizens
of Antivari still felt a tenderness for the works of their
forefathers. Even pictures of Christian subjects have been spared. In
one case especially, in a church which does not seem ever to have been
a mosque, but, as having perhaps been a private chapel, to have formed
part of a private house, among other kindred pictures, the baptism of
our Lord in Jordan is still almost as clear as when the painter first
traced it on the wall. Old ancestral memories, perhaps the vague
feeling that after all a day of change might come - the feeling which
led Bosnian beys, while holding their Christian countrymen in bondage,
to keep Christian patents of nobility and even concealed objects of
Christian worship - were clearly stronger in Antivari than any strict
regard to the Mussulman law.

And as it was with the churches, so it was with the houses. Antivari
never became, like Trebinje, a tumble-down Eastern town, nor, like
Butrinto, a collection of beggarly huts, not fit to be called a town
at all. It was a small, but well-built city, after the pattern of the
other cities on the eastern coast of the Hadriatic. There was clearly
no moment of general havoc; the Mussulman lived on in the house of his
Christian father. Some of those houses must have been still almost new
when their owners embraced the faith of their conquerors. At every
step we see among the shattered houses some pretty scrap, door or
window, of the style which we commonly call Venetian; we see some too
which belong to the confirmed _Renaissance_, and which can hardly be
older than the sixteenth century. One stately building indeed seems to
have perished. An old print of Antivari, in a book called _Viaggio da
Venetia a Costantinopoli_, a book without date but which has an air of
the sixteenth century, shows what is plainly meant for a municipal
palace, after the same general type as the bigger one at Venice and
the more beautiful one at Ragusa. It has arcades below and windows
above. Still as we tread, even in their state of ruin, the streets,
the little _piazze_, of what once was Antivari, we see that the city
perched on its Albanian height must have been no unworthy fellow of
its neighbours on the Dalmatian shore.

It is sad that the enlargement of Europe and of Christendom, the
winning back of their ancient coast by the valiant warriors of the
Black Mountain, should have been bought only at such a price as the
destruction of this interesting and really beautiful little city. The
loss, it may be feared, cannot be repaired. A gently working hand
might possibly set up again the ruined houses and churches nearly as
they once were. Or it might at first sight seem a more obvious work to
forsake the ruined hill-town, and to build another by the haven, a new
Montenegrin Cattaro, to make up as far as may be for the city by the
_Bocche_ so cruelly torn away from its free brethren. But either
scheme seems to be forbidden by the growing unhealthiness of the spot.
The place has been for some while getting more and more
fever-stricken, and the disease has now - seemingly since the
siege - spread upwards to the hill-town itself. It is for medical
knowledge to judge whether, as is said to be the case in some parts
of the Roman _Campagna_, sudden colonization, the settlement of a
large number of new inhabitants at once, could do anything to check
the evil. Failing this chance, it would seem as if Antivari was doomed
utterly to perish. A new Montenegrin town and haven may arise, but not
on the site of the ancient town and haven of the eastern Bari.

On whom rests the blame? Surely not on the conquerors, whose warfare
was waged in the noblest cause for which man can fight, for their
faith, their freedom, their national life, the extension of freedom
and national life to their brethren under the yoke. Nor can we say
that it rests with the men who fought against them, who, from their
own side, were fighting for faith and freedom and national life fully
as much. It rather rests with the dangerous neighbour of both, whose
very existence is founded on the trampling down of freedom and
national life among all its neighbours. It rests with the power which
takes care to strike no blows itself, but which knows how to suck no
small advantage from the blows which are struck by others on either
side. The ruin of Antivari is in truth the work, though the indirect
work, of the power hard by, the power which was not ashamed to stretch
forth its hand for such a spoil as Spizza, the hard-won earnings of

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 22 of 23)