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

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carefully replaced. It is remarkable to find that in a
country where human life is held so very cheap the
common interest should cause men to regard water with
almost religious respect. Besides this. Orientals generally
are very curious on the subject of the quality of their
water ; indeed, they are as great connoisseurs of water as
any Western epicure can be of wine. Both in Albania
and elsewhere I have heard one spring distinguished as
light (iXacfipov), and another as /leavf {/3apv), where the
traveller can distinguish no difference in the taste. No
one can doubt, after observing this, that it requires no
refinement of criticism to understand Pindar's meaning
when he says, "Water is the best of things."

At no great distance from this fountain we arrived at
a small village, which forms the boundary between the
Gheg and Tosk tribes : here it may be convenient to
rest awhile, and before we proceed take a survey of the
Albanian nation, and the elements of which it is com-

The Albanians call themselves Skipetar, and there is
considerable evidence to show that they are a nation of
great antiquity. The name Arnaout, which is given them
by the Turks, is in reality only a corruption of " Alba-
nian." The process of change is distinctly traceable in
modern Greek, where the original Albanitcs (pronounced


2IO Ochrida to Elbassan. Chap. IX.

Alvanites), by a change of liquids becomes Arvanites, and
thence by a transposition of letters, A rnavitcs, from which
the passage is easy to Arimoiit. Their language, which
for a long time was a puzzle to philologists, has of late
years been carefully examined by Professor Bopp, who
pronounces it to be an independent branch of the Indo-
European family. Much of the system of inflexions and
many of the words are strikingly similar to Latin and
Greek, yet not in such a way as to render it supposable
that they have been borrowed from either. In most
points, according to Bopp, it can be explained more
readily by Sanscrit than by those languages. Dr. Von
Hahn, who resided several years among the Albanians, and
from whose learned work, ' Albanesische Studien,' many of
these remarks are drawn, believes them to be the nearest
existing representatives of the Pelasgians. He considers
that the great similarities which exist in customs, national
constitution, and other points, as well as language, between
the Albanians and the early Greeks and Romans, are
most naturally accounted for by the supposition that they
were all originally of the same race, and that the Alba-
nians, having been little civilised, and from their position
little interfered with, have kept these original institutions.
The Pelasgians, it is true, have so often been made to
serve as the basis of untenable ethnographic theories, that
the mention of them is apt to raise a smile ; but here
there really seems much more to be said than in other
cases. For the accounts given us by ancient authors
seem to show that the present inhabitants are the same
race who held the country in classical times, and imply a
close connection between these Epirotic and Illyrian
tribes and those of Macedonia, &c. ; these statements,
taken together with the existence of the great Pelasgian
oracle of Dodona in this country, and other facts of the

Chap. IX. Albanimi Riddles. 211

same nature, seem to lend probability to the theory.
There also exists among them an alphabet, apparently
of great antiquity, which Hahn believes to have been
derived by some of the Pelasgians from the Phoenicians
— perhaps from the Phoenician settlements in the north of
the .^gean — and to stand in the relation of a sister to
the Greek alphabet. But, whatever may be thought
of these views, and whether they are reconcilable or not
with the results of philological investigation, the subject
is one that deserves more attention than it has yet
received ; and I cannot but believe that a careful study
of the language might throw considerable light on the
classical languages.

In respect of character they are described by Finlay ^"^
as proud, insolent, turbulent, and greedy of gain, but
honest and truthful. They are shown to be a clever and
imaginative people by their poems and stories, and still
more by their riddles, of which Hahn has made a large
collection. The following may be taken as favourable
specimens ; they are generally propounded in the form of
similes, and introduced with the question, " What is this ?"

The field is white, the seed is black ; it is sown with
the hand and reaped with the mouth } — A letter. (How
curiously this last clause illustrates the way in which
half-educated people spell out a manuscript !)

The father is green, the son is red 1 — The blossoming

The monkey dances, while the white cow is milked .'' —
The spinning-wheel.

Though it is not an ox, it has horns ; though it is not
an ass, it has a pack-saddle ; and wherever it goes it
leaves silver behind .'' — A snail.

" ' History of the Greek Revolution,' i. p. iZ.

P 2

212 Ochi'ida to Elbassan. Chap, IX.

What is that which wears the wool inside and the
flesh outside ? — A tallow candle.

Among the many superstitions which exist in the
country, none is more curious than that which relates to
men with tails. Of these there are two kinds, one with
goats' tails, the other with short horses' tails. Persons
endowed with such appendages are always short-made
and broad-shouldered, great walkers, and extremely
strong.^' The evidence for their existence is so con-
vincing that even the critical German who mentions the
belief, is half inclined to think it true. His account is
so curious as to be worth extracting :

" This belief," he says, " is, perhaps, more than a popular supersti-
tion. One of my cavasses at Yanina (Soliman of Dragoti) maintained,
that in his part of the country tailed men of this sort were not un-
common, and that he himself had a tailed cousin, whom in his youth
he had often pulled by this gift of Nature when bathing. A much more
trustworthy man, Theodoris, who when young had been a cleft on
the Pindus, related that in his band there was for several years a short-
sized, broad-shouldered man of a very fair complexion, called Captain
Jannald, who was reputed to have a tail. In order to convince them-
selves of this, once when he was asleep in the middle of the day six of
them fell upon him at once, for he was uncommonly strong, and he
himself had taken part in this ocular inspection. He distinctly remem-
bered to have seen a goat-like tail about four fingerbreadths long,
covered on the outer side with short red bristles. My endeavours to
see such an object were in vain ; and all the Turkish military surgeons
to whom I spoke about it declared the thing to be fabulous, because in
their yearly inspection of so many recruits from all parts of the
country no such liuus nature had ever come before them." '^

Mr. Baring Gould, in his ' Curious Myths of the Middle
Ages,' has shown that this superstition was once widely

'• This attribute is connected, I suspect, with the idea of their possessing
something of the nature of a brute; for in the Popular Tales of many
countries, immense strength is supposed to be the inheritance of a child
whose father is a bear.

'^ Hahn, 'Albanesische Studien,' i. pp. 163, 164.

Chap. IX. Ghegs and Tosks. 2 it,

spread throughout Europe, though now it has almost
perished. He is also sensible enough to remark, that
whatever the evidence, such a conformation of the human
body is physiologically impossible.

The total number of Albanians in Turkey, according
to the most trustworthy computation, amounts to one
million souls ;^^ to these must be added 200,000 in the
kingdom of Greece, forming no inconsiderable part of
the population of that country ; and 85,000, who have
settled in the south of Italy and Sicily. The Albanian
nation is divided, as I have already mentioned, into the
two great tribes of Ghegs and Tosks, the Ghegs inhabit-
ing the country to the north, the Tosks to the south, of
the point where we are supposed to be stationed. The
name Tosks belongs properly only to the inhabitants of
the north bank of the lower Viosa, and is not acknow-
ledged by the other inhabitants of South Albania, to
whom it is applied to distinguish them from the Ghegs ;
until we discovered this we were puzzled by an Albanian,
who accompanied us during one part of our journey,
describing himself as neither a Gheg nor a Tosk. How-
ever, as all who are called by this name belong to the
same tribe and speak the same dialect, it will be con-
venient to use it. Strabo '"* represents the Egnatian Way,
which followed the course of the Genusus (Skumbi), as
lying on the borders of the Epirotic tribes to the south,
and the Illyrian to the north. This division corresponds
so closely to the modern line of demarcation of the two
tribes, that it seems highly probable that the same races
inhabited the country then as now, and that the Tosks
correspond to the Epirots, the Ghegs to the Illyrians.
The difference between the Gheg and Tosk dialects is as

" Hahn, ' von BelgraJ nach Salonik,' p. 210. '■* Strabo, vii. 4.

214 Ochidda to Elbassan. Chap. IX.

great as between German and Danish ; they do not un-
derstand one another, or, at most, can only hold com-
munication in the simplest things, and that with difficulty.
The distinction of dress is not as marked as has some-
times been represented. The red jacket is generally
peculiar to the Ghegs, the white capote to the Tosks ;
the Ghegs also frequently wear the short white trouser,
which the Tosks do not ; but none of these rules are of
invariable application. Another difference also exists in
respect of the form which Christianity takes in the two
tribes ; speaking roughly, the small number of Ghegs
who have maintained their allegiance to the Christian
religion are Roman Catholics, while the Christian Tosks
are of the orthodox communion. It is probably a con-
sequence of this that the Ghegs, in writing, use the Latin
letters, the Tosks the Greek ; for the national alphabet,
which I have mentioned above, does not seem to be
much used. The hereditary opposition between the
tribes is so strong, that when they are serving together
in the Turkish army feuds will break out among them,
and the Turks have at times turned this animosity to
their own advantage, by employing them to put down
insurrections in one another's country.

The historical heroes of Albania are Alexander the
Great, Pyrrhus, and Scanderbeg ; and in modern times,
if it is allowable to mention one so mean in connection
with those great names — Ali Pasha. All that is inte-
resting in the history of the country gathers round
them ; the rest is a series of temporary conquests and
barbarian inroads, the effects of which were transient,
and have not permanently influenced either the people
themselves or the neighbouring races. Alexander was
connected with Albania through his mother Olympias,
who was an Epirotic princess : his exploits, however,

Chap. IX. Scanderbeg: 215

belong to universal history, as those of Pyrrhus do to
that of Rome. Of the third, Scanderbeg, it may be
well to give a brief account, for few warriors have left
behind them a fame as lasting, or an admiration as
enthusiastic, as that with which this hero is still regarded
by his countrymen. George Castriote, for that was his
real name, was born in the north of Albania in the year
1404, and as his father had been forced to become
tributary to the Turks, he was sent with his three
brothers as hostages to Sultan Amurath II. They were
lodged in the palace of that prince, and, contrary to an
express stipulation made by their father, were educated
in the Mahometan religion. The other brothers died
early, but George rose in favour with the Sultan, who
enrolled him among his guards and appointed him to an
important command : his ability and valour were con-
spicuous at an early age, and in consequence of this he
received from the Turks the name of Iskender Bey, or
Lord Alexander. After his father's death, when his
family possessions were seized and appropriated by
Amurath, and a Turkish officer sent to govern them,
Scanderbeg conceived the design of regaining them and
asserting the independence of his native Albania. He
carried out his scheme in the following manner. When
engaged in a campaign against Hunniades he entered
into a secret correspondence with that commander, and
by deserting, at a critical moment, contributed to the
defeat of the Turkish army on the plain of Nissa.
During the confusion that followed he extorted from the
Sultan's secretary a firman, by which the governor of
Albania was ordered to surrender to him Croia, the
capital of that country, with the command of the neigh-
bouring district. Armed with this mandate he hastened
.to the spot, and w'hen he had by this means got the

2i6 OcJirida to Elbassan. Chap. IX.

power into his own hands, he threw off the mask,
declared himself the enemy of the Mahometans, and
was acknowledged by his countrymen as their leader in
the struggle for independence. For the remaining
twenty-three years of his life he was engaged in almost
unceasing hostilities with the Turks, and was renowned
for his skill as a general, for the discipline he maintained
among his soldiers, and for the prodigies of valour he
performed with his own hand. On more than one
occasion his enemies penetrated to Croia, but they were
as often repulsed, and when Sultan Amurath himself laid
siege to that place in 1450, he was forced to retire, and
his death, which occurred in the following year, was
attributed by some to the mortification caused by that
defeat. At one period Scanderbeg retired from the
scene, when, having concluded a truce with Mahomet II.,
he passed over into Italy, at the solicitation of Pope
Pius II., to assist the King of Naples against his oppo-
nent the Count of Anjou. In consequence of the services
which he rendered on that occasion he received large
grants of land in Italy, which were occupied in 1460 by
a body of immigrants, the first of the numerous colonies
which have passed over from Albania into that country.
Towards the end of his life he was again engaged in
hostilities w^ith his former enemies, and again came off
successful. He died at length at Alessio in the 63rd
year of his age, and with him the hopes of his country-
men were extinguished. He does not rest among them,
for, after he was buried, the Turks tore up his body, and
out of his bones constructed amulets, which were sup-
posed to inspire courage into the wearer on the battle-
field ; so great was their superstitious reverence for the
man who during his long life had kept them at bay and
repeatedly defeated them ! But his name is familiar

Chap. IX. Ballad on Jiis Death. 217

throughout Albania ; and even among the Albanians of
Southern Italy, the descendants of those who left their
country after his death, he is still the hero of popular
songs, of which the following is a specimen : —

"When Scanderbeg departed for the battle, on the road that he
pursued he encountered Death, the ill-omened messenger of melan-
choly fortune. ' My name is Death : return back, O Scanderbeg, for
thy life approacheth its end.' He hears him and beholds him: he
draws his sword, and Death rema:ns unmoved.

" ' Phantom of air, dreaded only by cowards, whence knowest thou
that I must die ? Can thy icy heart foretel my death ? Or is the book
of heroes' destiny open unto thee ? '

" ' Yesterday in heaven were opened before me the books of destiny,
and cold and black, like a veil, it descended on thy head, and then
passed on and fell on others also.'

" Scanderbeg smote his hands together, and his heart gave vent to a
sigh. ' Ah ! woe is me ! I shall live no more.' He turns to contem-
plate the times that must come after him ; he beholds his son fatherless,
and his kingdom filled with tears. He assembles his warriors, and says
to them : —

" ' My trusty warriors, the Turk will conquer all your country, and
you will become his slaves. Ducadjin, bring hither my son, my lovely
boy, that I may give him my commands. Unprotected flower, flower
of my love, take with thee thy mother, and prepare three of thy finest
galleys. If the Turk knows it he will come and lay hands on thee, and
will insult thy mother. Descend to the shore ; there grows a cypress
dark and sad. Fasten the horse to that cypress, and unfold my standard
upon my horse to the sea breeze, and from my standard hang my
sword. On its edge is the blood of the Turks, and death sleepeth
there. The arms of the dreaded champion— say, will they remain dumb
beneath the dark tree ? When the north wind blows furiously, the
horse will neigh, the flag will wave in the wind, the sword will ring
again. The Turk will hear it, and trembling, pale and sad, will
retreat, thinking on death.' " '°

^* ' Revue des Deux Mondes,' vol. liii. p. 404.

( 2i8 )



Eerat — Mount Tomohr — Local Chieftains — Castle of Berat — Siege
under Scanderbeg — -Malaria Fever — A Mountain Residence — Sla-
vonic Names — Pass of Glava — The Viosa — Tepelen — Ali Pasha's
Palace — Argyro-Castro — Albanians and Greeks — Pass of Mount
Sopoti — Delvino — River Vistritza — Lake of Butrinto — Departure for

When we had reached the summit of the hills which
separate the valley of the Devol from that of the Usumi,
we obtained a view to the west over the winding course
of the Beratino, which is formed by the combined waters
of these two rivers ; and, again descending, caught sight
of the white walls of the Castle of Berat, situated on a
lofty pyramidal rock. A level plain intervenes, at the
commencement of which lies the village of Fendroudi, a
picturesque place intersected by a stream and shaded by
magnificent plane-trees. Not far off, on the hill-side,
was a Christian church of some pretensions. We rode
across the plain to the foot of the castle-rock on the
north side, but did not come in sight of the city until we
had made our way round to the opposite side. Here
the River Usumi is hemmed in between the castle-rock
and another still loftier height ; the city nestles at the
foot of the former, and spreads itself along the sides of
the wooded heights to the east, where the gorge opens
out, while on the other side of the river is the suburb of
Goritza, the dwelling-place of the Christians, joined to
the town by a well-built bridge of several arches.

Chap. X. Berat. 219

Looking upwards the eye is attracted by a quaint little
Byzantine chapel, niched in the side of the castle-rock at
a considerable height above the town, in a position
difficult of access. Berat is a better looking place than
any we had seen since leaving Monastir ; many of the
wooden houses have an imposing exterior, and a cleanly
habitable look about them. A splendid sight awaited
us as we passed through the city, for at the end of the
gorge in which it lies appeared the vast flank of Mount
Tomohr, closing the vista at a few miles' distance, and
flushed with rose-tints by the setting sun. This mountain,
which when seen thus from the west is no longer triple-
crested, but strongly resembles the Acro-Corinth, is said
to have perpetual snow upon it ; and, as a proof of this,
we had frozen snow brought to us as a substitute for ice
at our meals. This luxury is almost one of the neces-
saries of life, for the water-supply of the lower town
seems to be entirely derived from the turbid river, and
the drinking-water is consequently so full of sediment as
to be hardly palatable without some admixture.

The khan at which we lodged occupied an agreeable
position, overlooking the Usumi, from which a refreshing
stream of cool air passed into our apartment. In the
adjoining room, separated only from us by a thin parti-
tion of laths with widely gaping interstices, was a large
party of Gypsies, men, women, and children, who made
merry with the violin and tambourine, to the accompani-
ment of which they sang in nasal and squeaky tones.
They were a merry set, and kept up their performance
till late at night, and their instrumental music was by no
means inharmonious. These wanderers are to be found
in great numbers in Turkey. More interesting to us
were the local chieftains from the country districts, who
swept in and out of the courtyard during the day with

220 Bcrat to Corfu. Chap. X.

their escorts of mounted retainers, gaily dressed, and
betraying haughtiness in their countenances and restless-
ness in their movements. Their appearance suggested
to the imagination a lively picture of the state of things
when the country was only half-subdued, in which clan-
feeling was the first motive to action, and feuds were
universally rife. The condition of Albania at this period
is well described by Mr. Finlay in a passage relating to
that country in his ' History of the Greek Revolution.' ^

" The peculiarities of Albanian society," he says, " are most marked
in the manner of life among those who are the proprietors of the soil-
All of this class consider that they are born to carry arms. The great
landlords are captains and leaders ; the peasant proprietors are soldiers
or brigands. Landlords, whether large or small, possess flocks, which
supply them with milk, cheese, and wool; olive-trees, which furnish
them with olives and oil ; and fruit-trees, which enable them to vary
their diet. Every landlord who was rich enough to lay up consider-
able supplies in his storehouse, expended them in maintaining as many
armed followers as possible ; and if his relations were numerous, and his
phara or clan warlike, he became a chieftain of some political im-
portance. Every Albanian who can avoid working for his livelihood
goes constantly armed, so that whenever the central authority was
weak, bloody feuds were prevalent. And at the commencement of the
present century, anarchy appeared to be the normal condition of
Albanian society. Gueghs, Tosks, tribes, septs, pharas, towns, and
villages, were engaged in unceasing hostilities ; open wars were waged,
and extensive alliances were formed, in defiance of the power of the
Pashas, and of the authority of the Sultan.

" Most of the towns were divided into clusters of houses called
makhalas, generally separated from one another by ravines. Each
makhala was inhabited by a phara, which was a social division resem-
bling a clan, but usually smaller. The warlike habits of the Albanians
were displayed even in their town life. Large houses stood apart,
surrounded by walled enclosures flanked by small towers. Within
these feeble imitations of feudal castles there was always a well-stocked
magazine of provisions. Richly caparisoned steeds occupied the court
during the day; lean, muscular, and greedy-eyed soldiers, covered with

» Vol. i. pp. 44, 45.

Chap. X, Its Castle. 221

embroidered dresses and ornamented arms, lounged at the gate ; and,
from an open gallery the proprietor watched the movements of his
neighbours, smoking his long tchibouk amidst his select friends. The
wealthy chieftain lived like his warlike followers. His only luxuries
were more splendid arms, finer horses, and a longer pipe. His pride
was in a numerous band of well-armed attendants."

The population of Berat is reckoned at 6500, the
greater proportion of whom are Mahometan Tosks ;
the rest are Christian Albanians, Wallachians, and Bul-
garians, all belonging to the Greek Church. The history
of the name Berat is instructive. It is a corruption of
the Slavonic Beligrad (Belgrade), which signifies "white
or beautiful castle," and this again, according to Schafa-
rik,^ is nothing but a literal translation of the earlier
Byzantine name Pulcheriopolis. The castle, to which
we ascended in the morning, is entirely occupied by
Christians, with the exception of a few Turkish soldiers,
who serve to guard the powder-magazine ; probably
because here, as at Ochrida, the Bishop's palace is situ-
ated in this, the oldest part of the city. On our way up
we met the Bishop himself, clothed in purple robes, and
mounted on a donkey. The castle is defended by two
circuits of walls, now in ruins : at the summit stands a
mosque and broken minaret, which are conspicuous ob-
jects from the plain below ; and at the south-west angle,
leading down to the river, is a covered stone staircase,
also partly ruined, similar to one of the same kind at
Nauplia in the Morea. Within the precincts there is an
excellent cistern of pure water. In the outer wall, near

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 17 of 31)