Henry Fanshawe Tozer.

Researches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) online

. (page 12 of 31)
Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

arch of brick springing from piers cased in white marble,
which are ornamented with an elaborate cornice, and
below with sculptured representations of a triumphal
procession. This has been thought to have been erected
in honour of Constantine, who visited this place after
subduing the Sarmatians ; but from the very debased
character of the sculpture, Leake is disposed to attribute
it to the time of Theodosius, whose victories over the
Goths were a common subject on the monuments of his
age. The other and smaller arch is situated just inside
the western wall, close to the Vardar gate, as the mo-
dern entrance is called, from its leading in the direc-
tion of that river. It is massively built of stone, but the
construction is rude, and hardly worthy of a monument
erected in commemoration of the battle of Philippi, as
Beaujour supposed it to be. Another argument against
its being of so early a date, is the occurrence in an
inscription on one of the piers of the names Flavins
Sabinns as belonging to one of the magistrates of that
time ; from which we may infer that it is later than
Vespasian's age, as those names must have been adopted
from his family.^ On the outer side of the arch, under
the capitals of both pilasters, is the figure of a horse
with hogged mane, and by its side a man wearing a toga.
But the principal interest attaching to it is owing to the

^ Boeckh., 'Corpus Inscriptionum,' No. 1967, note.

Chap. VII. Salonica.


name of " Politarchs," which is given in the inscription to
the chief officers of the city, thereby confirming the
passage in the Acts (xvii. 6), where the magistrates of
this 2^1ace are called by the same unusual name. In
fact, this title does not occur again, except in one other
inscription, also referring to Thessalonica, which is
mentioned by a French writer of the last century.- They
seem to have been seven in number.

The day after our arrival we paid a visit to Mr. Wilkin-
son, at the British Consulate, and there made the
acquaintance of Mr. Crosbie, the Scotch Presbyterian
missionary, who is well known for the attention which he
shows to visitors to Salonica. Under his auspices we
visited the ecclesiastical antiquities of the place; and as
the ancient churches have all been converted into
mosques, the assistance of one who is acquainted with
the Mahometan guardians was of great service in pro-
curing a speedy admittance. Two of these were ori-
ginally Pagan temples, and several others, which are of
Byzantine construction, are of the greatest value for the
history of art : in this respect, Salonica is only second to
Constantinople. As full details and illustrations of these
buildings have been lately published in Texier and
Pullan's magnificent work on Byzantine architecture,
which is principally devoted to this city and Trebizond,
there is no need for me to say anything further about

- The Abbe Belley, in the 'Academic des Inscriptions,' xxxviii. jj. 125.
All attempts to recover the original of this inscription have been unavail-
ing. The inscription on the gateway has often been copied, but the only
accurate reproduction of it is that given by Mr. Vaux of the British Museum
in the 'Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature,' vol.viii., new series.
Since this was written, my friend Mr. Curtis, of Constantinople, has found an
inscription at Monastir, brought from a place twelve miles distant from that
city, in which the magistrates are called Politarchs. This shows that the
title was not confined to Thessalonica, but was found elsewhere in Mace-
donia. See Appendix B.


146 Salonica to Moiiastir. Chap, VII.

them. But as we shall return more than once to this
city in the course of our travels, it may be well for me to
give some information as to its population and history.

Of the sixty thousand inhabitants of Salonica two-
thirds are Jews, the rest being Turks and Greeks, together
with a few Wallachs, Armenians, and Franks. The
number of Jews is at first sight surprising, and the
variation of numbers in the computations of different
travellers is so great as to suggest doubts on the subject.
Thus Leake estimates them at only 1 3,000 ; Cousinery
at 20,000 ; the 'Jewish Intelligencer' for 1849^ at 35,000;
Miss Mackenzie at 40,000. These differences illustrate
the difficulty of arriving at accuracy in matters of sta-
tistics in Turkey, while in the present case the question
is more than usually involved by the Jews having con-
trived, in order to avoid taxation, that their numbers
should be returned ofificially at a very much lower figure
than the reality. But when we find that Paul Lucas,
writing in 17 14, estimates them at 30,000, and remember
that they have always been highly favoured in this place,
and that no cause has operated to check their increase,
we see no reason to doubt the correctness of the state-
ment given above. From early times the Hebrew race
seems to have been attracted by the commercial advan-
tages of Salonica. Thus when St. Paul preached there,
he found a considerable Jewish community. And in the
twelfth century the traveller of that nation, Benjamin of
Tudela, speaks of them as amounting to five hundred.
But by far the larger proportion of the present Jewish
population are descended from those who were expelled
from Spain and migrated hither in the reign of Ferdinand
and Isabella, as is proved by their still speaking among
themselves a debased form of Spanish. A large number

In Conybeare and Howson's 'Life and Epistles of St. Paul,' i. p. 383.

Chap. VII. History of the City. 147

of them are rich merchants, and a great part of the
wealth of the place is in their hands.

To turn now to the history of Salonica, The Greek
city of Therma, which first occupied this site, though a
place of some consideration, did not give promise of its
future greatness. It was not until Roman times, when,
under its new name of Thessalonica, it became an im-
portant point on the line of communication between
Rome and the East, that it came to be regarded as a
centre, and was acknowledged as the chief city of
Macedonia. From the establishment of the Imperial
power to the building of Constantinople it was the capital
of the whole country from the Adriatic to the Black Sea ;
and the position of the two gates now existing, together
with the Roman work found in the modern walls, prove
that its extent could not have been very different then
from what it is at present. After the founding of the
new seat of empire it retained its importance as a strong-
hold of resistance to the barbarians, who now began to
inundate the neighbouring countries. From the fourth
to the end of the eighth century it succeeded in repelling
the invaders ; first the Goths, and then the numerous
Slavonic tribes who descended from the Danube. But it
is from the calamities that have befallen it at various
times that Thessalonica is principally known in history.
The fearful massacre of the citizens by the order of
Theodosius, which has been rendered famous by the ex-
communication of that emperor, and his exclusion from
the cathedral of Milan by St. Ambrose, was the first in
this list of tragedies. It was occasioned by the murder
of the emperor's lieutenant by the populace ; on hearing
the news of which, in an access of fury, Theodosius sent
word from Milan, where he then resided, that the inhabi-
tants should be gathered together into the hippodrome

L 2

148 Saloiiica to Monastir. Chap. VII.

on pretence of a spectacle, and there slaughtered by his
soldiers. A memorial of the scene of this event still
remains in a handsome white marble portico near the
centre of the town, which was probably the entrance to
the hippodrome. It is called by the neighbouring Jews,
in whose quarter it stands, Las Incantadas, or " the en-
chanted women," from the eight caryatides which stand
in the upper part of the structure, and were supposed to
have been petrified by the effect of magic. Subsequently
to this, the city was three times besieged and captured.
In the year 904 a Saracen fleet appeared before it, and
after storming the sea-wall, pillaged the whole place, and
butchered the citizens without respect of sex or age. A
large number of those who were spared were carried off
and sold as slaves in various parts of the Mediterranean.
Again, in 11 85, another enemy arose from a different
quarter. The Normans of Sicily, under their commander
Tancred, having landed at Dyrrhachium, marched across
and gained possession of Thessalonica after a ten days'
siege. An account of the barbarities that were perpe-
trated on that occasion, and the wanton insults offered
by the Latins to the Greek rite, has been left us by
Eustathius, the celebrated commentator, who was Arch-
bishop of that city at the time. Still later, in 1430,
occurred the final siege by Sultan Amurath II., which
has already been referred to in connection with Mount
Athos. Since that time it has remained in possession of
the Turks, and has continued to be a place of import-
ance ; though, if Mr. Finlay is right in estimating its
population at 220,000 at the time of the Saracen siege, it
must have greatly declined since the Middle Ages. But
from its fine harbour and admirable commercial position
relatively to the interior of European Turkey, it can
hardly fail at some future time, under more favourable

Chap. VII. The Egnatian Way. 149

auspices, to regain a considerable portion of its former

After remaining two days at Salonica, we were pre-
pared to start afresh, and penetrate once more into the
interior ; our object being now to make for Corfu, which
was the next stage in our journey. There are two routes
by which that place may be reached from Salonica ; the
one by Larissa and Joannina, the other through Central
Albania, by Monastir, Elbassan, and Berat. The former
of these is in some respects the most interesting, as it
comprises, besides the two cities already named, the Vale
of Tempe and plains of Thessaly, the monasteries of
Meteora and Zitza, and the gorge of the Acheron. This
route we had taken on a former occasion, and I hope to
irive some account of it later on. We now determined
to follow the more northerly course, which gives you
unusual opportunities of studying the various races of
European Turkey, especially the wilder tribes of Alba-
nians. Besides this, as far as Elbassan, it corresponds
in great measure, if not entirely, to the line of the
Egnatian Way, which for many centuries was the great
artery of communication between Rome, Constantinople,
and Jerusalem ; and again, during the Middle Ages, it
was on two occasions the route by which the Normans
made inroads into the Eastern empire, and was the
scene of many important conflicts in later Byzantine

During the two days that we remained at Salonica the
weather had been cloudy and stormy, and I then realised
what I had never felt before — the pleasure of pale colours.
After the glare of sunshine and bright tints to which we
had been accustomed, the cool greys and browns of the
sky and mountains were quite a relief to the eye. When,
however, on the 27th of August, we left Salonica by the

150 Salonica to Monastir. Chap. VII.

Vardar g:ate, we were unpleasantly reminded of England
by a driving rain and northerly wind. The first part of
the way we rode along the remains of a wretched road,
full of ruts and mire, the history of which is worth
relating, as a specimen of the way in which things are
done in Turkey. The authorities determined that a
Route Impcriale should be made from Salonica to Mo-
nastir ; the Pasha fixed a day for the inauguration ; all
the foreign consuls were requested to appear, each with
his spade ; the Turkish engineer also came with a theo-
dolite, which he did not know how to use ; the ceremony
was celebrated with great pomp ; and the result is — that
from Salonica to Vodena, the most important part of
the way, almost the only approach to a road is this
wretched piece, which has now been allowed to fall into
decay. Escaping from this we entered on a sandy plain,,
which reaches for sixty miles westward from Salonica,
and is bounded on three sides by mountains of consider-
able height ; in this part it is tufted by numerous tamarisk
bushes, and bears many large tumuli. The only persons
whom we met on the way were a few traders with pack-
horses. Throughout the whole distance, at intervals, we
found two parallel trenches cut, about twenty yards apart,
being the commencement of the route, but there were no
signs of the road being in course of making. The need
of means of communication is the first obstacle in the
way of improvement in Turkey at the present day, nor
does there seem any prospect of a change for the better
in the condition of things in this respect. Now-a-days the
cause is rather the inertness of the Government, and
the peculation which pervades every branch of the public
service ; but in former times there was a rooted dislike of
any attempt to facilitate locomotion on the part of
Turkish politicians, and this in all probability survives

Chap. VII. The Vardar. 15 1

among a certain class of them even now. M. Kinneir has
pertinently remarked on this subject, in his ' Memoir of
the Persian Empire,' that " It is a favourite idea with all
barbarous princes that the badness of the roads adds
considerably to the natural strength of their dominions.
The Turks and Persians are undoubtedly of this opinion ;
the public highways are therefore neglected, and particu-
larly so towards the frontiers." *

We had been late in starting from the city, in conse-
quence of the kharidji, or carrier, whose horses we had
hired for the journey, refusing to go, on account of the
bad weather. We had neglected to take from him the
caparra, or deposit, which may always be required when
an agreement of this kind is made, until the horses are
forthcoming : thus we had no means of holding him to
his bargain, and were forced at the last moment to look
out for another man. In consequence of this we were
unable to reach the town of Yenidje, as we intended, and
were forced to stop at a country khan, or inn, on the
banks of the Vardar or Axius, whose red muddy stream
is here crossed by a long wooden bridge. The turbid
water of this river is mentioned by Strabo,^ who finds a
difficulty in reconciling it with the Homeric descrip-
tion, " the fairest stream that flows on earth." The un-
healthiness of the neighbourhood was shown by the
appearance of the kJianji, or innkeeper, a young Greek,
with a yellow face and swollen legs. In like manner
Salonica, from the proximity of marshes and undrained
land, has a bad name for fevers throughout the Levant ;
and though the English residents there combat this state-
ment, yet it was confirmed by the numerous Italian
commis voyageurs who occupied the same locanda with

■* Kinneir's 'Persia,' p. 43. ^ vii. Fragm. 21, 23.

152 Salonica to Monastir. Chap. VII.

ourselves, almost all of whom were suffering from malaria.
As the general features of most khans are the same, I
will describe our resting-place. It is a square enclosure,
on one side of which are haylofts and stables, while on
the opposite side are a number of small chambers, des-
tined for the human part of the company, with clay floors
and walls, and a thatched roof, through a hole in which,
in the absence of windows, ventilation is conveniently
carried on. The only furniture is a rush mat for each
person. In one of these unpromising abodes, if there are
neither rats nor scorpions (we heard of the latter, but
never saw them), you can make yourself fairly com-
fortable. I used to have a quantity of hay brought in to
serve as a bed ; on this were spread railway rugs, of
which we had a plentiful supply ; and over all the
Icvinge^ or sleeping-bag, within which the traveller is safe
from all kinds of vermin. A knapsack or air-cushion,
with a great coat, used to serve as a pillow. No doubt a
tent and mattresses will ensure you greater comfort, but
apart from the expense and delay inseparable from a
number of extra baggage-horses, there is one fatal objec-
tion to tent-life in these countries — it separates you from
the people, and prevents you from seeing their life and
habits. The khans in the towns are somewhat less
simple in their arrangements than what I have described,
but the quantity of vermin that breeds in their wooden
floors will soon make you wish yourself back in the
country again.

On starting the next morning, I asked our host the
name of a mountain to the south-west, whose broad base
alone was visible beneath a dense mass of cloud. " Elym-
pos," was his reply. It is remarkable that the great

^ A description of this inestimable contrivance is given in Murray's
' Handbook for Greece.'

Chap. VII. Site of Pdla. 1 5 3

centre of Homeric mythology should have retained its
name to the present time, — alone, I believe, of all the
Greek mountains ; unless, perhaps, Liakura, the modern
name of Parnassus, is a corruption of Likorea, the former
name of one of its summits. Athos also must be ex-
cepted, but there the name has been preserved by the
monks ; possibly the existence of the name Olympus
may be due to the same cause, for there are several very
ancient monasteries on its sides. But, at all events, it is
not a mere revival of the classical name, as is the case
with so many places in free Greece, for it occurs in some
of the Romaic ballads. Further to the south the conical
peak of Ossa was visible, separated from Olympus by a
depression which marked the position of Tempo, and
beyond all rose the broad hump of Pelion. The northern
continuation of the range of Olympus, which is called the
Bermian chain, lay in front of us, forming the western
limit of the plain. After crossing another branch of the
Axius by a ferry, we rode on for some distance, passing
on the way numbers of four-wheeled carts of very simple
construction, drawn by oxen or blear-eyed buffaloes,
and driven by peasants with long lance-like staves. The
country population throughout the whole district is Bul-
garian. At last we reached a khan by the road-side,
opposite which is a spring of water issuing from a ruined
mass of Roman masonry. The ruins are called "The
Baths " (ra Xovrpd) by the people of the country, and are
probably the same baths which, in classical times, are
alluded to as producing bilious attacks;'^ the khan and
its vicinity bear the name of Pel. This name, together
with some pieces of pottery and marble blocks in the
fields and Turkish cemeteries, and a number of large

'' See the stoiy in 'Athenxus,' viii. p. 34S.

154 Salonica to Monastir. Chap. VII.

tumuli on the low hills to the south, in the neighbourhood
of the village of Alaklisi, are the only remains of what
was once Pella, the birthplace and capital of Alexander
the Great. It is not a striking position for a great me-
tropolis, but its nearness to the sea must have been its
chief recommendation. We are now entering the land of
the two Iskanders : in this neighbourhood our thoughts
are all of Alexander the Great, and before long we shall
be passing the country of

<' his namesake, whose oft-baffled foes

Shrank from his deeds of chivalrous emprise—"

the heroic Scanderbeg. We halted about noon at the
town of Yenidje, the views of which, as we approached,
were backed by a fine mountain ridge, the Peik Dagh. In
the neighbourhood of this place and of the khan of Pel
there extends to the southwards a dull green marsh, and
beyond it a lake, though this is not visible from the
plain: we were told, however, that a fish which was
brought us for our dinner had been caught there. A
canal, which ran in this direction in former times, formed
a communication between Pella and the sea. The fish
of this lake were also famous among the ancients, and
were said to be particularly fat in summer.^ The marsh
used to bear the unprepossessing name of Borboros, or
" Mud," as we learn from a satirical epigram directed
against Aristotle, in which that philosopher is attacked
for preferring the company of Philip and Alexander to
that of the Athenians : he is there said to have " pre-
ferred the mouth of the Borboros to the Academy.'"^

8 « Tbv xp<5;Uji' iv TleWri X-fi^r; /xeyav fcrri Se Triwp,
hv Bipos y." — ('Athen.,' vii. p. 328.)
5 In Pkitarch, 'De Exilio,' eYXero valeiv avr' 'AKaSrifilas Bop^6pov iv

Chap. VII. Vodcna. 1 5 5

From thence pursuing our course along the plain, later in
the day we forded the broad shallow stream of the Mogle-
nitiko, which was probably called Lydias in ancient times.
The stream which carries the waters of the lake of Pella
into the sea was certainly called by that name, and as the
Moglenitiko flows into that lake, and is its principal
feeder, it probably bore the same appellation, and was
regarded as passing through it. In the lower part of its
course it seems to have changed its direction since the
time of Herodotus, who speaks of it as joining the Ha-
liacmon,^° whereas now it flows into the Vardar, just
before that river reaches the sea : but in a wide extent
of plain, intersected by several large rivers, such a change
is easily explicable." In the neighbourhood of the Mogle-
nitiko we passed some scenery of a very English character
— an open common, with cattle grazing, near which was
a Bulgarian village in the midst of trees. At sunset we
entered a narrower plain, which forms an offset from the
great plain of Salonica. The stream which waters this is
a tributary of the river just mentioned, and leads up to

This city stands in a singular and most beautiful situa-
tion. Below three ranges of mountains, which, when seen
from a distance, seem to rise one behind the other, a
valley descends, about a mile and a half wide ; nearly
half-way down it is filled up from side to side by a level
table of land, the base of which projects towards the
plain with a gradual curve, like the side of an amphi-
theatre, and then falls in precipices of some two hundred
feet in height. The town lies on the level, and some of
its houses overhang the edge of the precipice, which is

" 'Herod.,' vii. 127.

" The statement of Strabo (vii. Fragm. 20), that the lake of Pella was
formed by a branch of the Axius, is undoubtedly erroneous.

156 Salonica to Monastir. Chap. VI L

further diversified by poplars and other trees, and in one
or two places by the tall minarets which rise behind.
The precipices themselves, which consist of conglomerate
rock, are picturesquely ornamented with bushes, while
the well-irrigated plain below is covered with fruit-trees,
and crops of maize, often rising to the height of ten feet.
But the most marked feature of all are the cascades ; for
the clear river, which descends from the upper part of the
valley, divides into a number of smaller streams, which
pass through the town, and plunge at various points
down the steep rocks, forming an exquisite addition to
the view, wherever a number of them can be seen
together. The view from the city, especially that from
the Archbishop's palace, which is situated on the verge
of the cliff, is not less fine. Beyond the orchards and
maize-grounds, which are below you, you look over the
narrow plain hemmed in by mountains, and beyond this
the wide plain, only bounded, at a distance of sixty
miles, by the heights beyond Salonica ; a bright stripe of
sea also appears, and the lake of Bella, which from its
marshy character we had not seen when crossing the
plain : on both sides are fine mountain ranges, and to the
south the chain of the long, inany-crcstcd, snowy Olympus
{lxaKpo<^ irokvZeipm a'ydvvL<^o<; "OXu/xtto?). As it is seen
from this point, all the Homeric epithets are strikingly
applicable ; even at this season the northern slopes were
thickly patched with snow in consequence of the late
storms. The position of this city is not less remarkable
in a geographical point of view, commanding, as it does,
the principal pass, which leads from the plains into the
upper regions of Macedonia ; it was this which caused it
to be selected early as the site of Edessa, the original
capital of Macedonia, before the seat of government was
removed to Bella by Bhilip of Macedon. Even after

Chap. VII. The Ancient Edcssa. 157

that time it continued to be the national hearth of the
Macedonian race, and the burial-place of their kings. It
may in every respect be truly called a magnificent nursery
for a magnificent kingdom.

The interior of the place presents few objects of in-

Online LibraryHenry Fanshawe TozerResearches in the highlands of Turkey; including visits to mounts Ida, Athos, Olympus, and Pelion, to the Mirdite Albanians, and other remote tribes (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 31)