LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter III

Chapter I
Chapter II
‣ Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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The author goes to Mesolonghi—Caraiscachi, a Greek chief—Secret understanding between the Turks and the Albanians—Customs at funerals—Ithaca—Hostility of Sir T. Maitland and British agents to the Greeks—Honourable exception afforded by Colonel Napier—Turkish brig attacked by the Greeks—Great sums of money on board—The crew saved.

On the 8th of December I left Argostoli for Mesolonghi, accompanied by Caraiscachi, who, regardless of the state of his health, and the danger to which he exposed it by undertaking so long and so fatiguing a journey, at the very worst period, too, of the rainy season, could no longer control his impatience of revenge; having just heard of the numerous persecutions his rival Rangos had inflicted on his adherents in the province of Agrapha. He vented the bitterest rage against the Greek government, by which his adversary had been authorised to dispossess him of a province, he considered as his legitimate conquest; as he had driven out the Turks who occupied it, long before the above power existed, with no other aid than the valour of his own followers. The chief complaint, which the government had to allege against him, and in fact against every capitano of the provinces on the borders, was their treacherous conduct towards their own countrymen, and the friendly footing on which they stood with the enemy, the Albanians. These two races of Turks having, from their youth upwards, lived in the closest intimacy, had become familiar with each other’s habits and language, and were enemies only in appearance. A tacit agreement existed between them not to oppose one another’s depredations; and in several
instances they even protected their respective properties, and gave proofs of attachment, that made them forgetful of the duties, they owed both to their nation and their religion. As one instance of this, out of many others, might be mentioned the intimate friendship, which reigned between the Governor of Prevesa, Bekir Giocadore, and
Zonga, capitani of the district of Xeromero. Whenever the Albanian wished to preserve his flocks from the rapacity of the troops encamped in the neighbourhood of Prevesa, he sent them to his friend, who never failed to receive and punctually to return them; and when the slightest apprehension of an invasion of Acarnania prevailed, Zonga placed, in the same manner, all his cattle in safety, by sending them to Vonitza, where they continued to graze undisturbed till the danger was over. Andrea Isco, Stornari, Liacata, Frankala, &c. had sold their patriotism to the enemy; so that whenever his armies prepared to invade continental Greece, or to retire after an invasion, the passes were constantly left open; and they were, for this reason, ironically denominated, by the soldiers, Dervendjees. By these acts of treachery they brought incalculable evils on their countrymen, who trusted to the fair promises they made, and which they never failed to violate.

So wonderful, sometimes, is the stimulus imparted by the passions to the body, that Caraiscachi, who, a moment before, could with difficulty crawl about his room, now mounted his horse, and was himself again. His dark scintillating eye, though deeply sunk in its socket, attested, by its fierce glances, that, reduced as he was outwardly, his mind remained the same. The folds of a yellow ceshmeere, twisted negligently, in the Albanian manner, round his head and the sides of the face, gave to his sallow and emaciated
physiognomy a grim—I might almost say, a fiendlike—expression.

During our excursion I witnessed, for the first time, a custom which I afterwards found prevalent throughout Greece. Two young women sat on a rock overlooking the road, rending the air with the most shrill and piercing screams, and each tearing her dishevelled hair, lacerating her face with her nails, and with clenched fists striking her breast. They were the very picture of despair, rendered more impressive, perhaps, by the wild and solitary scenery around. Moved as I was myself, I observed an indifference in my fellow-travellers for which I could not account. On asking the Cephaloniot, who accompanied our mules, what could occasion the cries of these unfortunate women, he coolly replied that they were bewailing the death of their mother, who had died a few days before. As long as the season of mourning lasts, custom, it seems, obliges the female relatives of the deceased to meet at intervals, which gradually become more and more distant, and thus publicly express their grief. Every district has its peculiar chant; some of which are exceedingly affecting and melancholy, while others resemble rather the yelping of jackalls than the cries of human beings. The Mainots content themselves, after approaching the corpse, with crying three times, with a loud plaintive voice, Adelphe! adelphe! adelphe! which, after a few minutes of silent contemplation, they sigh out again, and, after impressing the last kiss of friendship, depart. The Suliot women gather round the coffin, and rehearse by turns the principal actions of the life of the deceased.

On our arrival at St. Euphemia we were kindly entertained by Mr. T. Caraiscachi, who took a pleasure in relating to us how he had acquired the various rich
spoils, which he then happened to wear. His diamond ring was valued at upwards of 1500 Spanish dollars; his shawl and furred mantle had belonged to a Turkish aga, whom he had killed while returning to Larissa with the produce of the caratch and other taxes, that he had collected in the districts of Livadia, Agrapha, and Carpeniri. Far from concealing his birth, he boasted of being a bastard as of a title, giving superior claims. Possessing considerable wit and humour, he detailed, in the most ludicrous manner, the intrigues and adventures of his mother and supposed father. He had spent the earlier part of his youth at the court of
Ali Pasha, where he became an adept in all the vices of that corrupt school; and had for several years served among the Armaloles, till, tired of that, he preferred depending on his own devices; and made himself chief of a band of Kleftes, that soon became the terror of Epirus and all the mountainous districts of continental Greece. He united to courage and boldness a penetration and cunning seldom surpassed; and possessed so perfectly the talent of profiting by circumstances, that while no Kleftis was more enterprising than himself, none also was more fortunate. He had not the most distant idea of the meaning of liberty; confounding it with anarchy. He ridiculed the idea of Greeks aiming at the establishment of a regular government; and invariably spoke of it in the most scurrilous terms.

After staying here a day, we crossed over to Ithaca, and landed at the foot of a mountain called Aito. The old woman, who accompanied Caraiscachi, and who had attended him during his illness, lighted a fire, and after spreading a napkin on the pebbles, in a few minutes prepared us some food. Her withered cheeks and forbidding looks reminded me forcibly of the old hag, that Gil Blas met with in the robbers’
cavern; and her employment for many years had, in fact, been in no small degree similar.

Hardly had we terminated our meal, when the female porters, that had been sent from Valhi to convey our luggage, appeared. Proceeding on our journey, after climbing a steep woody ascent, we saw, to the left, a hill, on which are the ruins of the palace and city of Ulysses. This part of what were once the dominions of this crafty chieftain is little favoured by nature: it consists almost entirely of barren mountains, affording scarcely sufficient sustenance to a few goats. The modern capital, named, probably from its position, Valhi, is soon after seen, situate close to the beach at the end of the bay, which forms one of the best harbours in the Ionian islands. The land is cultivated with much industry, and produces currants, from which a wine is made that, in appearance and flavour, may vie with port, and is considered by the faculty, on the neighbouring continent, as excellent for convalescents. Captain Knox, the English resident, was carrying into execution the instructions, he had received, to macadamize the roads of this island; but bitter complaints on this account were made here, as in the other islands, by its narrow-minded inhabitants, who, accustomed from infancy to bad roads, preferred submitting to the greatest inconvenience, rather than pay contributions, or work for an object, of which they did not perceive the immediate necessity. Constraint alone can rouse the Ionians from the apathy and laziness, which their former rulers, the Venetians, along with their other vices, have entailed upon them.

There existed, however, it must be owned, causes of complaint, better founded than this to justify the discontent of the Ionians against the English. I refer to the hostile spirit, manifested by Sir T. Mait-
land, from the breaking out of the Greek revolution, against their brethren on the continent. The inhuman manner in which they had frequently seen them treated, and the rancour and animosity, with which he constantly spoke and acted against them, did not fail to render him still more odious in their eyes. The different residents (
Colonel Napier only excepted), the more to ensure the favour of the Lord high commissioner, servilely aped the harshness of his behaviour, or rather, “out-heroding Herod,” vied with each other which, by petty vexations, should prostitute most every honourable feeling, and give the best proof of his hatred to the Greeks. The wiser part of the Ionian population was aware of the propriety and necessity of observing in this conflict a strict neutrality, and could not but approve of many of the measures taken to restrain within proper limits the enthusiasm of their countrymen, and prevent their joining the Greeks; but when they heard the sons of liberty offering up vows for the triumph of Turkish despotism, they were unable any longer to contain their indignation.

Two days after my arrival in Ithaca, an event took place, that worked so powerfully on the islanders as to put an end to all dissimulation, and the interest they felt for the success of their compatriots at once burst forth. Before daybreak a brisk cannonade was heard in the direction of the Scrofes; and as soon as a report came that the Greek fleet had engaged some Turkish vessels, the whole population rushed up the mountain, close to the town, commanding a view of the whole coast of Acarnania, Ætolia, and the cluster of islands, down to the entrance of the Gulf of Patras. The engagement was between a Turkish brig of twenty-two guns and ten Greek vessels, which had arrived during the night off the
Scrofes, where they fell in with it. The brig was pursuing its course to Patras: it had sailed two days previously from Prevesa, and had on board the hasnè destined to pay the arrears, due upwards of two years to the garrisons of the four fortresses at the entrance of the Gulf of Corinth. The sum amounted to a hundred thousand dollars. The Turks had no hopes of escaping from so superior a force; yet though proposals of surrender were repeatedly made to them, led partly by courage and fanaticism, and partly by the little reliance, they placed on Greek faith, they continued gallantly to defend themselves, and manœuvred to work their way into the channel between Cephalonia and Ithaca; and, after a fight of nine hours, they succeeded in running the ship on the south-easterly point of the latter island, where, hoping to find an asylum on neutral ground, they effected a landing, to the amount of only fifty in number, being all that remained out of two hundred and sixty, of which the crew had originally consisted. The captain, though slightly wounded, would not quit his vessel; and fell bravely, sword in hand, when the Greeks boarded it. The Turks, who had taken refuge on the island, entrenched themselves behind the rocks, and fired on the Spezziots, who landed to pursue them. Several were killed on both sides; but the Spezziots, thinking they might employ their time more advantageously in helping their comrades to plunder the ship, at length retreated. There was not, in fact, a moment to be lost; for hardly was the money disembarked, when the ship foundered.
Captain Knox, who during the whole day had vented the bitterest imprecations against the Greeks, ordered a detachment to march to the spot where the Turks had landed, and escort them to the lazaret, where they arrived at night. Out of the fifty, thirty-five were
found wounded, and the wounds of most of them were of the most terrible description. Among the dead were several persons of distinction, of whom the most conspicuous was the Divan Effendi, or privy councillor of
Youssouf Pasha.

Early the next morning Captain Knox sent to request me to call upon him. After stating the melancholy situation of these poor wretches, he told me that, for several reasons, he could not send any of the native practitioners to attend them; and as Mr. Scott, the surgeon of the garrison, was absent, he had no resource but in me for the performance of this duty of humanity. I complied with his request without a moment’s hesitation; and having furnished myself with what would be necessary on the occasion, repaired immediately to the lazaret. Never can I forget the impression, my appearance produced on these men! The sullen gloom of despair, pictured on their countenances, gave way to the smile of hope; and subsequently, by signs more eloquent than words, they testified the gratitude they felt for the attentions, I bestowed upon them. No pleasure can surpass what is experienced by a medical professor under such circumstances.

In the afternoon a Turk of note, an emir, formerly Cadi of Tripolitza, who the day before had been left on the beach for dead, was brought into the lazaret; and the ghastly features of death seemed indeed to be portrayed in his countenance. Being seated among his countrymen, he feebly articulated the word tsiboug, a pipe; and it was no sooner brought him, than he seized it with both hands, and swallowed its smoke with the same greediness that a man, famished by thirst, would drink water. By degrees he gathered new life: the most generous cordial could not have produced a more reviving
effect. A second and a third pipe having been brought to him and smoked, he began to feel the calls of hunger and thirst, and asked for medical assistance. After securing the yet oozing arteries, I dressed his wounds; and I had some time afterwards the satisfaction of hearing, in Asia Minor, that Hussein Aga, perfectly recovered, was filling at Aleppo the same dignity he enjoyed at Tripolitza. The pipe is to a Turk a panacea both for mental and bodily sufferings; and during the several operations, I had to perform on this and other occasions on Mussulmen, the patients invariably had recourse to it as an anodyne, affording the best alleviation under whatever pain. I devoted two days to these unfortunate beings; and on the morning of the third, after I had dressed their wounds for the last time, they were embarked for Prevesa.