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politics, and electioneers vigorously for his friends at
Thebes, cherishing aspirations for the mayoralty of the
Boiotian Karditsa for himself.

Near Moiilki, close to the ancient Haliartds, we visited
another Wallach chieftain, who is less advanced and of
an older generation than Akrivakes. Kolovos (' lop-
tailed '), as he is called, is a fine old fellow of about
eighty, who lives in houses, as he proudly told us, at his
summer quarters near Karditsa, in Thessaly, and who
descends to Boiotia, a journey of from eighteen to twenty
days, with all his belongings, in winter. When I saw him
he was suffering from the cold, for he had chosen an
exposed place for pitching his tents ; and the huts, in
which he passes the winter, were not yet up, for he had
only just arrived, and a hut takes from three to four days
to build. We sat in a row under his tent, drinking coffee
and rum, and eating walnuts, while the old man spoke
with animation about the times of Otho, and the lack of
pasturage nowadays, owing to the increase of cultivated
land. He was looking forward, he said, to the com-
pletion of the railway, when he could go to Karditsa in a
day, and he asked about politics in Athens, and what the
Ministry was doing. Like all the Wallach chiefs, he is an
hereditary official, and looked a veritable patriarch of the
Old Testament, with his three sons and numerous grand-
children. Though not so rich as Akrivakes, he gave us
water in a silver cup, which was a marvel of art. The
Byzantine double-eagle, two snakes, a lion, and other
emblems were embossed round the rim and on the

in Town and Country

bottom, while the antlers of a stag rose up out of the
centre through the water. He told us that he had three
of these cups, very inferior examples of which I have
seen in the silversmiths' shops of Hermes Street.
Kolovos, Akrivakes, and the latter's brothers all spoke
excellent Greek, but no Wallach, which in Greece is
spoken only by the Koutso-Wallachs about the Aspro-
potamos and in the prefecture of Trikkala.

The most primitive conditions of society are still to be
found in Mane, the central of the three prongs of the
Southern Peloponnesos. The Maniatai boast that they
are the descendants of the ancient Spartans, and during
the Turkish times their submission to the Sultan was
merely nominal, their tribute consisting of as much
money as would lie on the flat blade of a sabre, and
being always presented in that way. Mane, like Zante
and Corsica, still preserves the vendetta ; but in both the
latter cases the custom was introduced by colonies from
Mane, and under Venetian and Corsican influence it
has been altered, and the Maniatai consider that the
Zantiotes do not play this savage game according to the
time-honoured rites which still obtain in the country of
its origin. No Maniate will kill his enemy without
notice, while in Zante it is not considered unsportsman-
like to shoot him at sight and sa7is phrase, M. Kyria-
koiiles Mavromichales, head of the leading family of
Mane, has kindly explained to me the elaborate usages of
the vendetta in his native district, and they have certainly
changed but little since Lord Carnarvon visited Mane in
1839. The vendetta was the unwritten law of the land
at a time when no written law existed, and, as embodying
primitive ideas of revenge as ' a wild kind of justice '
(to use Bacon's phrase), it had at that period its good as
well as its evil side. It is still the duty of a murdered
man's whole family to take the law into their own hands,
and they always endeavour to kill the best member of
the murderer's family. ' The murderer,' as the local
saying has it, ' owed blood.' Under no circumstances

Greek Life

are women killed; not only so, but M. Mavromichales
tells nie that he remembers being in Mdne during a great
feud, which lasted for months, when the towers in which
the people dwell were shut up closely, and the shutters
fastened, so that only the loopholes were left open for the
inmates to fire out of. Yet all the time the women went
in and out to get water and other necessaries for their
male relatives inside. Nor are the women the only
individuals who enjoy special protection during a blood-
feud. If two families are at war, a third person, in no
way related to either of the hostile clans, but whom both
respect, may freely accompany any member of either of
them, and this person, called xcvgdltes from the verb xcvgdzo
(* I accompany '), confers immunity upon his comrade,
even though the latter be the murderer himself. More-
over, if a member of one of the belligerent families comes
out of his abode to conduct a guest, he is allowed to
return unmolested. Nor may a Maniate kill his enemy
outside Mdne. When, on one occasion, a Maniate broke
this unwritten law of the vendetta by stabbing his foe in
Stadion Street, the whole of the murderer's family came
specially to Athens and apologised profusely to his
victim's relatives for what their kinsman had done. The
end of a blood-feud is called an Agape. In order to
bring about a reconciliation it is necessary that every
member of the murderer's clan must come and beg
forgiveness. When they are all assem.bled, their chief
kneels down, and the injured person asks him the
questions : ' Will you do what I say ? Will you throw
yourself into the sea if I ask you ? ' After the reconcilia-
tion, the mother of the last murdered man must adopt
the murderer as her own son. An instance of this
extraordinary practice, which to civilised nerves would
seem to provide a skeleton at every feast, occurred not
long ago ; indeed, the murderer in such cases promises
to be more to the poor mother than her own son. This
solemn Agape is never broken ; once, indeed, it is said,
a man disregarded it, and from that day the Maniate


in Town and Country

expression for Punic faith, ' the treachery of Michalaki,'
has been taken from the name of the treacherous one.
Terrible as the laws of the vendetta are, they have had
the effect of rendering attacks and insults rarer in Mane, so
M. Mavromichdles tells me, than elsewhere, because the
people know the awful consequences. So the vendetta
has been a conservative measure for the preservation of
order. Even now, though it is legally forbidden, it con-
tinues ; happily, it is no longer as common as it was,
but it still has the result of placing distinguished Maniate
statesmen in difficult positions when they are responsible,
as Ministers, for enforcing the law of the land upon their
primitive countrymen who have been guilty of enforcing
that of Mdne.

Like the Albanians, the Maniatai have many chivalrous
qualities. A woman can travel all over Mane, and will be
sure of her countrymen's respect. Indeed, the bloody
annals of Mane's struggles against the Turks show that
the fine Maniate women have proved themselves as
courageous as the men, and have always been well able to
defend themselves. Hospitality has always been a Maniate
trait. If a stranger appeals to a Maniate for protection,
his host will allow himself to be killed rather than break
the code of honour by giving up his guest. Clannishness
is naturally characteristic of such a people. A corporal in
the army tells me that he once had a Maniate soldier
with him who fell ill, and who was supported by the
other Maniates in the regiment as if he had been their
brother. This spirit distinguishes them in politics also ;
they will log-roll for each other, and thus, as they hang
together, they usually manage to obtain good posts in the
Civil Service. But they would not be Greeks if they
were not divided into political factions — that of the
Mavromichalai, who support M. Delyannes, and that of
the Koumoundouroi, who are for M. Theotokes. At
elections, whether municipal or political, they are
fanatical partisans, and I remember the warm advocacy
of the Maniate colony of the Piraeus on behalf of their

Greek Life

fellow-countryman, M. Kritsiles, at the last election for
the mayoralty there.

Mdne is the poorest part of Greece, a land of stones,
like Montenegro ; indeed, the Maniatai have the Mon-
tenegrin legend that, when God was creating the world,
the bag containing the stones burst over their country.*
Owing to the poverty of the soil there is little work to be
had, and that little is mostly done by the sturdy women,
for the men, though of fine physique and not unlike the
Cretans in stature, will only consent to labour with their
hands if they are very poor. Some go to the Piraeus,
where they condescend to work in the factories, or to
Lavrion, where they find employment in the mines ;
others, but these are chiefly drawn from two out of the
five districts which compose Mane, try their fortune in
America. But place-hunting is the favourite profession
of the male population. Not a few Maniatai become
officers in the army, and the Maniate soldiers are among
the few Greeks who remain on after their two years of
compulsory service, and qualify as non-commissioned
officers. A special reason for this is that many are sent
from Mane to the Piraeus when they are very young, and
therefore lack the incentive of most other Greeks to
return to their native villages, especially as the latter
offer so small a chance of a livelihood. Moreover, like
all mountaineers, they like fighting as a profession.

The only products of this sterile, treeless land are oil
and quails. The former is of good quality, and is sent
to the Piraeus by the merchants of Areopolis, or Td Koind,
as it used to be called, the capital of Mane. The quails
are caught in only two or three places — one of which,
Porto Quaglio, has received its name from the bird — at
a certain season of the year, and are sent to Marseilles,
and the natives often have to live on the lupins which
grow among the rocks of their bleak country. Mdne has
still preserved several fiscal privileges. It pays no taxes

* The Kephallenians have the same legend ; only in their case
the bag contained not stones, but lies !


in Town and Country

on professions or buildings ; indeed, the only tax levied
there is a duty on the oil exported. Owing to the
poverty of the inhabitants the costume has disappeared ;
but every house still has its rifle, the men always go
about armed, and, despite the destruction of towers by
order of the Bavarian Regency, many of those curious
fortifications still remain. The home-keeping Maniatai,
who have been little contaminated by the outside world,
have a different accent from the rest of the Greeks, and
use many foreign words ; but in Mane, as elsewhere, the
schoolmaster is abroad, the natives are keen about learn-
ing, and the natural result will be the gradual assimilation
of their tongue to the Greek spoken in other parts.

Corfiote life and society differ greatly from that of the
mainland. Corfu has been blessed with the fruits of the
earth and the beauties of nature since the time when
Homer placed there the marvellous gardens of Alkinoos,
yet in few parts of Greece does such general poverty
prevail. Alike under Venetians and British, posts were
created for the Corfiote aristocracy in the town, which
was also the centre of social life and amusements, and
thus a general distaste for country pursuits was produced.
At present, I believe, only four of the Corfiote land-
owners live on their estates, and absenteeism has had its
usual bad results. The smallness of most of the pro-
perties in the island makes the profits exiguous, and the
system of paying in kind makes them hard to realise.
The landlord or his agent must go in person to assess
the amount of the produce, usually one quarter, due to him,
and has then to sell it, as best he can, in the market at
Corfu. Besides, the island has only two main products,
wine and oil, and when these fail there is nothing upon
which to fall back. In addition to the uncertainty of the
olive-crop, which is not annual, the size of the Corfiote
olive trees, which renders them so beautiful to the tourist,
increases the difficulty of gathering the olives, and the
lack of pruning diminishes their productive power. The
peasants lack capital for improvements, and, if they

Greek Life

borrow money from the locol usurers, have to pay the
ruinous rate of i dr. per month for every 5 dr. lent, or
240 per cent, per annum ! There, as elsewhere in Greece,
there is need of a Land Bank, from which they could
borrow at a more reasonable rate ; for the very lowest
interest in other parts of the country at which they can
obtain a loan is 20 per cent.

Besides, in the case of wine-producing districts, such
as Corfu, the national outlet of which is the south of
Italy, the export to that district has been recently much
diminished by Italian custom-house regulations • Ger-
many, however, now takes by far the largest quantity of
Corfiote wine. In the Ionian Islands, as in Mane, there
is a special system of taxation, which has survived the
union with Greece, and which, though often impugned
by deputies from the mainland, still remains the law.
By this system, which was introduced in 1803, during the
brief Russian protectorate of the Seven Islands, and was
maintained during the long British supremacy, the only
tax is a duty of 22*2 per cent, on all wine and oil ex-
ported. One curious result of this arrangement is that
the Jews, of whom there are about three thousand in
Corfu, not being engaged in the cultivation of land, but
in trade, pay no taxes to the State at all. It is said in
favour of the system that there is no leakage in the
collection of the duty.

The Corfiotes, and the lonians generally, resemble
the Italians more than the Greeks in many ways. They
cling to their Venetian titles, they have more aristocratic
ideas and more Western polish, and they are not regarded
with universal favour by the men of ' old ' Greece, who
apply uncomplimentary names to them. The Corfiotes
are fond of the drama — they have two theatres, one of
them perhaps the finest in Greece, and erected at huge
expense, — they delight in music, and they like show. On
a fine summer evening the parade near the water's edge
will be covered with smartly dressed ladies, who spend
little on their houses, and reserve their finances for the


in Town and Country

promenade. The Corfiotes have a grievance against the
King for so rarely visiting their beautiful island — in my
opinion the most lovely spot in Europe — and many
profess to regret the material losses which they have
sustained since the departure of the highly paid British
officials, who spent money so freely there. At present
Corfu is very poor ; it is one of the few places in Greece
where beggars abound, and I once counted seventy
mendicants assembled outside the British parsonage to
beg for alms. Occasional visits from the British Mediter-
ranean Fleet enable contractors and tradesmen to make
money, and there is talk of growing cotton on the re-
claimed land in the centre of the island ; but the usual
cry is that it is neglected, and of late times there has
been talk of converting it into a second Monte Carlo,
if the Greek Government will give its consent. The
Athenian Press has been markedly hostile to this scheme,
but in Corfu there seems to be a general desire, with
some notable exceptions, for the roulette. At present
a casino is being erected on land adjoining the old
British cemetery, which has been transformed into a

The life of the Greek sponge-fishers is more dangerous
than that of their fellow-countrymen. They all come
from the islands of Aigina, Hydra, and Spetsai, from the
picturesque little town of Trikeri at the entrance of the
Pagasaian Gulf, and from Hermione and Kranidi in
Argolis, Hydra supplying the largest number, and Aigina
the next largest. Those from Hermione and Kranidi
use the harpoon, or a species of drag-net fastened on to
a sharp iron instrument; the others employ a diving
apparatus, which is made in France or at the Piraeus,
and costs about 2000 dr. for each complete suit.
Aigina, where the sponge-fishing has been established
for about forty or fifty years, and where the International
Sponge Importers' Company has an office and an
English manager, sends out every season some forty-five
boats provided with diving apparatus, and carrying from
225 Q

Greek Life

nine hundred to a thousand men, the average being
about twenty to each boat. They always start on ' Clean
Monday,' and usually return about the end of October ;
but some come back on the feast of the Holy Apostles
(June 29, O.S.), and then go out again. The boats are
of three classes — the first class having ten divers each,
the second six, and the third three or four. The business
is managed on the profit-sharing principle. The boats
of the first class are divided into ninety shares, of which
thirty belong to the captain, five to each diver, and one
to each sailor ; those of the second class have from
seventy to seventy-five shares ; those of the third from
forty-five to sixty. The divers usually receive part of
their money before they start. Exceptional arrangements
are also sometimes made, and the proportion of shares
occasionally varies ; thus a diver sometimes has six
shares instead of five, or he may receive a regalo, or
special gift, and a sailor may have two-ninetieths instead
of one-ninetieth of the profits of a first-class boat.

During the season the divers on the best boats make
about p^75 net, on those of the second class about
jQS^ ^^'^) ^'"'cl on those of the third class from £^0 to
;;^5o. Most of them save money, with which they buy
plots of land and plant vineyards ; some of them become
captains, and have laid by a capital of ;^iooo. One
former diver, now living at Aigina, has saved as much as
^3^3000, and is building two new boats. But there is
also the reverse of the medal. Owing to the careless
use of the diving-dress, numbers of the divers are afflicted
with paralysis, and so rendered unfit for any other occu-
pation. Much difference of opinion exists as to the
statistics, as is naturally the case where vested interests
are concerned. The version of those pecuniarily inter-
ested in the fishery is, that among the men who go out
from Aigina the deaths from paralysis are five or six a
season ; on the other hand, a naval officer, who read a
paper on this subject last year, and who has studied it
on the spot, has stated that 85 per cent, of the divers are


in Town and Country

more or less paralysed. No less than thirty-six deaths
are said to have occurred last season. It is certainly
astounding, when the dangerous nature of this occupation
is considered, that no doctor goes out with the boats,
and that there are no Government regulations for the
control of the fishery. All that is done is to send a
couple of vessels belonging to the Navy, the Krete and
the Fdralos, fitted up as hospital ships, to the north coast
of Africa during the season.

The Queen, whose heart is always open to the cry
of the suffering, intends to build a hospital at Tripoli for
the disabled sponge-fishers. She is also anxious to save
them from the hands of usurers, who advance the money
required for fitting out and provisioning the boats,
usually ^1200 for a boat of the first class, and who levy
interest at the rate of 24 per cent. With this object she
has asked the National Bank to lend the requisite amount
at 4 per cent. According to present arrangements, the
divers are to remain under water for 15 minutes at a
depth of 20 fathoms, for 10 minutes at 25 fathoms, for 6
minutes at 30 fathoms, and for 4 minutes at 35 fathoms.
The divers generally begin their arduous profession be-
tween the ages of eighteen and twenty, and go on to about
forty-five, in one or two cases even longer than that. It
is perhaps not to be wondered at that theirs is not a
hereditary profession. Yet the diver is regarded as a
good match, and the name of ' mechanician,' which is
bestowed upon him, is said to be an attraction to the girls
of the sponge-fishing islands.

The fishery grounds are mostly off the coast of Tripoli,
but the Turkish Government does not permit fishing
within'the three miles' limit — a prohibition little regarded
in practice. They extend as far west as Tunis, but the
best sponges come from the African coast west of
Alexandria. Fishing also goes on in the Gulf of Taranto,
and off the coasts of Sardinia, Sicily, and the Lipari
Islands. Only the third class of boats fishes off the
Greek coast, for Hellenic waters have been dragged

Greek Life

again and again, so that the sponges are almost exhausted

The regulation of the sponge-fishery is not easy ; for
the very class whom it is desired to aid, the divers, does
not desire the abolition of the diving apparatus, because
it would mean the loss of its livelihood. About three-
fifths of the population of the places whence the divers
come support themselves by this traffic, and their repre-
sentatives in Parliament naturally view Government
interference with suspicion. But, under proper control,
it is believed that the diving-dress could be rendered

/ Emigration is rapidly draining the resources of many
country districts, and it is difficult to see how it can be
diminished. It is calculated that one-half of the male
population of Arkadia has emigrated, and some villages
in the districts of Gortys and Mantineia are consequently
quite deserted. M. Phikiores, a Spartan deputy, recently
told the BoJile that emigration to America had made
labour very scarce in his constituency. From Kalamata
comes the same story. When I was there the British
Vice-Consul informed me that he could not get men, even
at high wages, to work on his land, and more than 6,000
left his district in one year, most for America, some
for the Transvaal ; yet both the Eurotas valley and the
Messenian plain are very fertile, and the latter may be
called the Garden of Greece. The mania for emigration
has also spread to Elis and the rest of the Western
Peloponnesos, so that the richest parts of Greece are
those which furnish most emigrants. Many of the miners
of Lavrion have gone to the United States. In Euboia
I found that the best part of the population had left, or
was leaving, for the El Dorado of America. One village
in that island, I was told, would be abandoned by its
inhabitants as soon as spring came and they could start
for the United States, and about ten peasants were
embarking every week at the port of Limne alone. So
keen are the people of Euboia about emigration, that

>_ •«*?.■ ■ * . it'', tn ,

in Town and Country-
one man, who had been prohibited from landing in
America owing to lack of the necessary funds, returned
to his native island, borrowed the amount, and prepared
to start again for the United States. It must be con-
fessed that the Greek peasant has a strong motive for
emigration across the Atlantic. For a man who, in
Euboia, for example, earns only 3 or 4 dr. a day, can
command $2 (or 16 dr.) a day in the United States.
Being a Greek, he is extremely frugal, and is able to
save a large proportion of his wages. In America his
food costs him only i^ dr. a day, and he is thus able to
remit a considerable balance to his family, which he
almost invariably leaves behind him. His prosperity
becomes known at home, and his fellow-villagers are
kindled with the desire to go and do likewise. The
usual practice is to send one son first, and, as soon as he
has made enough, he sends money home for the next
son's fare out. In this way many villages are com-
pletely stripped of their young men. There are, however,
few emigrants from Thessaly and the district round
Naupaktos, for there the people are more conservative
in their ideas ; the Thessalians wish their children to
cultivate the great plain, as they have done. From the
Cyclades the emigration is not so much to America as to
Smyrna and Constantinople ; and from the so-called
' Frankish villages ' of Tenos, while the women go as wet-
nurses or cooks to those towns or to Athens, returning,
however, and marrying in their native island, the men
emigrate as marble-workers to Alexandria or to Turkey
and Roumania at the rate of at least five hundred every
summer, coming back at the end of two or three years.

Among the Ionian islanders there is a great difference
in regard to emigration. The Corfiotes prefer to starve
at home rather than grow rich abroad ; while the Kephal-
lenians, who have a less fertile island, are bold seamen
and ready to go wherever money can be made ; and the
Ithakans have furnished a contingent of emigrants to

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Online LibraryWilliam MillerGreek life in town & country → online text (page 19 of 26)