Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion is computed at 40,000; and their men at only one fourth, or 10,000. They cherish an implacable hatred to the Turks, and an ardent predilection for any nation, whether French or Russian, of whom they hear as taking part in hostilities against the Ottoman empire. It is in vain to beset their defiles, or to attempt to subdue them; they are animated by an unconquerable spirit, and never fail to make their assailants repent the invasion. He who travels in the plain by night sees proofs of their vigilance, in the fires which are lighted along their stations on the mountains. Their chiefs are chosen by the public voice, and owe their elevation to the splendor of their exploits :

The young Mainotti, accustomed from their infancy to the use of arms, inured to fatigues, familiarised with dangers, are always ready to measure their strength against that of the Turks. The very name, indeed, of a Turk inspires them with fury. Their courage, or perhaps it may be called temerity, is doubtless increased by the perfect knowledge they have of the natural strength of their country, of the advantages it possesses in its defiles, where an enemy very much superior in numbers to themselves may be effectually resisted, A stroke has not unfrequently been suddenly planned at a meal, and executed at the same moment, almost always with complete success. The innate love of rapine, the image of poverty, the exaggerated ideas they form to themselves of the riches of the Mussulmans, and the profound hatred they bear them, are amply sufficient to urge them on, when their imaginations are the least exalted, to any undertaking.'

So far we recognize the commendable characteristics of a people determined to be independent: but an additional inquiry exhibits the unpleasant side of the picture :

. By an unfortunate fatality, these chiefs, always restless and ambitious, keep their cantons in a habitual state of discord. It is only when their common danger unites them that the Mainotti appear in a favourable point of view : in their ordinary habits they must be objects of aversion to every one who has the happiness of having been born in a civilized country.'

• United among themselves when they have a foreign enemy to combat, the Maïnotti as soon as the danger is past are seen to aban.' don themselves to dissensions at home, which often terminate in dyeing their hands with blood. Implacable in their hatred as in their vengeance, they are only brought to relinquish the one or the other by the voice of the most respectable old men in the canton.'

Unhappily for the navigator, the inhabitants of the coast of Laconia partake largely of the bad features of their countrymen in the interior. Speaking of Kolokina or Kolokythia, the place at which the Eurotas empties itself into the sea, Dr. P. remarks ;

• The

* The entrance of the river is navigable at all times for pretty large barks, and they should follow the right bank in going up the stream. The bay of Laconia is dangerous to European vessels that are not very much upon their guard, as it is the usual retreat of the plunderers which this cape sends forth. These marauders set sail at the close of day from some of the ports of this inhospitable coast, and rove abont in the neighbourhood of Cerigo to seek for their prey. Woe to those navigators who are without arms, or who, indulging in a deceitful tranquillity, suffer themselves to sleep! they are massacred without pity.

"A Greek vessel of Cephalonia, carrying the Russian flag, and having on board the contributions of the Morea for the combined armies before Corfu, was overtaken by a tempest in the latitude of Cerigo. No longer in a state to keep the sea, it was constrained to run into Porto Vitilon on the western coast of Maïna. It had no sooner entered here than it was assailed by the Mainotti, and every passenger on board, to whatever nation or sect he belonged, was completely plundered. The very women swam up to the vessel to partake in the spoils, and some were even drowned in returning, from the weight of the booty they were carrying away. The Turks who were on board were worse treated than the rest ; for the Mainotti, after having destroyed the vessel, exposed them to sale : the Greek3 got off only with the loss of all their property. I was some time after in a vessel where one of them was among the number of the sailors, and he was still so terrified with the recollection of the adventure, that he scarcely could give me the account of it.'

The natives of the southern shores of Laconia, who commit these robberies, are distinguished by the significant name of Cacovouniotes, and are a distinct tribe from their inland neighbours, the Mainots. A third class, considerably less ferocious, inhabits the town of Mistra and the adjacent vallies. Mistra, which contains 15,000 inhabitants, is situated at the distance of a mile and a half from the spot on which Sparta stood, and is formed from the ruins of that far-famed city. The streets of Mistra are narrow, dirty, and built on uneven ground: but the trees surrounding the houses have a pleasant appearance. The Eurotas is between 100 and 200 feet wide, and is crossed here by a stone-bridge of six arches. In summer, it almost hides itself among the reeds growing on its banks : but in winter, on the melting of the snow in the mountains, or on the occurrence of heavy rain, its bed is soon filled, and it rushes down with a grand and impetuous torrent. The lofty chain of Taygetus supplies the streams which feed the Eurotas, and may be considered as the great natural bulwark of Laconia on the west. This ridge, in its whole length from the centre of the Peloponnesus to Cape Tenarus or Matapan, extends nearly, seventy miles. The modern Greeks give it the name of Penredaktylon, from the conspicuous appearance of five particular B 4

summits.

summits. Two leagues south of the site of Sparta, is a cele. brated defile or passage called “ The Gates," by which the Lacedæmonians were accustomed to march their troops to the invasion of Messenia ; and a pass, 'somewhat similar, divided on the north the respective territories of Tegea and Sparta. Both defiles were known by the name of Hermeum, from a statue of Mercury which was placed in a central part of each.

The people of Mistra and the neighbourhood, though not quite so independent as their countrymen on the hills, are much less in a state of subjection to the Turks than the Greeks to the northward :

· They are tall in stature, their features are masculine and regular; they are the only Greeks of the Morea who look up to the Turks with an eye of manly confidence, as if feeling themselves their equals ; nor can this be otherwise, as they are brave even to rashness. Why am I obliged to add that they have an innate inclination to rapine, which, joined to a sort of natural ferocity, renders them extremely vindictive and dangerous?!

• The Laconians differ as much in manners as in dress from the Arcadians their neighbours. The latter carry the scrip and the crook, and lead a perfectly pastoral life; the inhabitants of Sparta, on the contrary, sing of combats, are of a lively and restless character, and easily irritated. The Arcadian, attached to his valleys and his rivulets, sees nothing beyond his own horizon; the Laconian, more haughty, endowed with greater energy, has no wish so dear to his heart as to see the Turks humiliated. The one, clothed in white woollen spun and wove by the hands of his wife and daughters, makes mats, draws the oil from his olives, presses the juice from his grapes, milks his ewes and his goats, brings the produce of his industry to sell in the town, and, content with the little gains that they procure him, returns peaceably and contentedly to his bowers. The neighbour of Taygetes manufactures arms, clothes himself with stuffs, the dark colours of which are emblematic of his character, handles the ax, mingles with caravans, goes on military expeditions, seeks dangers, and in them seems to find his true element."

Argolis. - In the course of his progress eastward, Dr. P. visited Argos, Mycenæ, and the site of Lerna. Of these, Argos is at present the only considerable place; and an attentive search would probably be rewarded by the discovery of several interesting reliques. On the side of Argos that looks towards the forest of Nemea are a number of mounds, where fragments of bas-reliefs are occasionally discovered. To the east of the town flows the Planizza, the antient Inachus; and, as the town stands on the declivity of a hill, it commands a noble view over the gulf which once bore its name, but which is now called the Gulf of Nauplia. The population of Argos is nearly 10,000, of whom three-fourths are Greeks; and the chief trade,

as in former days, is in horses. Mycenæ is only a few miles from Argos, and retains enough of the remains of antiquity to mark its site. Lerna is distant about six miles from Argos, and is at present a mere village to the northward of its cele. brated marsh or lake. The soil around this marsh is a sort of peat, covered with reeds, so that it is dangerous to approach the water, and difficult in fact to determine at what part it acquires a depth sufficient to intitle it to the name of lake. In breadth, it is inconsiderable, not exceeding a hundred yards. It is evidently formed by the waters from the neighbouring mountains, and is kept at a level by a rivulet which flows out of it, and soan falls into the bay of Argos. The village of Lerna is a place of some trade, but is afflicted with all the unhealthiness of a marshy district; the inhabitants having a sallow look, and being subject to intermittent fevers.

Manners and Character.--After these topographical remarks, the author proceeds to delineate the character of the Greeks, at least of those of the Morea, to whom indeed his observation was chiefly confined. Here he appears to hold a proper medium between the unfavourable reports of M. de Pauw, and the too flattering opinion of M, Guys, who imagined that he had found antient Greeks in the abodes of their forefathers. In point of personal appearance, the Moreans are well made, robust, distinguished by animated features, gay, fond of amusement, and make themselves agreeable companions, their conversation abounding with ornament and metaphors. On the other hand, they have no regard to veracity, and perjure themselves without scruple for a triling advantage in trade or otherwise. They express their hatred to the Turks in a strain of great exaggeration, and they affect to talk in a similar manner of their love of liberty : but the fact is that they are strangers to zeal of any kind, except in behalf of their religion. Believing, like their Mohammedan oppressors, in predestination, they are ready to sacrifice the Turks without scruple in a moment of success; and, when fortune becomes unfavourable, they bow their own necks to the slaughter, in the full assurance that they are earning a crown of martyrdom. Such was the case throughout the Morea, during the unfortunate invasion of the Russians in the war of 1770. — With all this hatred of the Turks, they bear a still greater jealousy and dislike to the Catholics; a jealousy most assiduously cherished by their priests, who are continually alarming them with the maledictions that are uttered by the Pope against all who are not of the number of his disciples. The community of religion may be at a future time a considetable bond of union between them and the Russians, since we

may

may take it for granted that the triumphs of their church will be always their chief incitement to insurrection.

A great obstacle to the improvement of this country consists in the unfortunate circumstance that the instruments of exaction for the Turks, the Codja-bachis, are generally selected from the Greeks, which has the effect of creating division among themselves ; and if to this we add the spirit of intrigue and quarreling, which seems to be innate in the Greeks, we must entertain but very limited hopes of their acting with union. Dr. Pouqueville is somewhat more courteous to the Morean females, among whom he was able to trace several of the models which called forth the powers of Apelles and Phidias. The portion of labour to which they are subjected is moderate, and the climate of the Morea is pure and vivifying. Rarely, he says, does a widow think of contracting a second engagement. The Greek women, however, he admits, are miserably destitute of knowlege, and keep up conversation only by a natural vivacity of imagination. They believe almost invariably in sorcery, and pay money to gipsey fortune-tellers, with as much credulity as if these impostors were the oracles of fate. They are unacquainted even with the proper method of house-keeping, being much sequestered from society after they are grown up. — The men retain most of the exercises of antiquity, with the exception of the discus: they practise wrestling exactly in the manner described by Homer; and the rage for dancing is almost universal. Rhapsodists still exist among them, who celebrate the exploits of warriors in songs, accompanied by the lyre : but several of their airs are borrowed from the Italians. The Albanian Greeks, too, have their music, but it is wild and barbarous, like the people by whom it is used. One of its favourite subjects is the expression of contempt for the Turks ; since, though the Albanians have professedly adopted the Mohammedan mode of worship, they take every opportunity of shewing their alienation from their Ottoman brethren.

M. Pouqueville devotes a chapter (p. 163.) to the modern Greek language, and to the present state of knowlege among those who speak it. He is less hostile to the accent of the present day, than those whose taste is formed on the pronunciation which is acquired at our schools and colleges. Many persons, and we confess ourselves to be of the number, have experienced mortification on hearing the sonorous diphthongs of the Greeks stripped of their melody in the mouths of the present inhabitants of the country : but Dr. P. maintains that the accent is still pleasant and harmonious. Every man with an unprejudiced mind and a musical ear would turn away,' he says, "from the scholar, to indulge in the delight of hearing the orations of

Demosthenes,

« PreviousContinue »