LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XVIII

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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Cogiabashi—Macri—His character—Description of Cerasovo—Death of Draco.

No government would have been, comparatively speaking, more wealthy than the Greek, if its resources had been properly applied. Without entering into minuter details, it will suffice to say, that the richer districts of Morea had not suffered in the least during the war of extermination that succeeded the insurrection in 1822. Dramali devastated only those of Argos, Corinth, and Sycyon; but the province of Gastorini, the fertile plains of Arcadia, Messenia, Mistra, &c., never resounded with the din of war. The Greeks became possessors of every object, belonging to the enemy, as peaceably as if they had been yielded up to them by voluntary concession. The mountain districts were, if possible, still less disturbed: the revolutionary blaze burst out there so suddenly into general conflagration, that, so to say, every Turk was smothered by the flames, before he could think of escape. In the districts of Calavuta, Phanari, Caritena, Leondari, Zakounia, Bardounia, not an armed Mussulman remained alive five days after the unfurling of the standard of the cross. In continental Greece, the insurrection was so sudden and unforeseen, that the Turkish population had no time to take measures, but, like men buried in sleep, were exterminated without resistance.

The produce of the above districts may be valued at twenty millions of francs. Continental Greece and
the islands might give half that sum. This certainly might have supplied all the wants of the state; and once secured by interior force against every possible aggression of the enemy, the prosperity and wealth of the country would daily have increased to such a degree as to render it an object of envy to the surrounding nations.

A baron, in the feudal ages, could not more absolutely lord it over his vassals, than Gligori, the Cogiabashi of Cerasovo, over the inhabitants of his village. Not satisfied with the tenth of every produce, he obliged the peasants, by turns, to work during a certain number of days in the year, on his properties, Djeremè and angàr (fines, and contributions of labour) were terms hourly in his mouth. In case wood, or materials to build his house, were wanted, he forced as many peasants, as were necessary, to leave off their occupations and go, gratis, with their own beasts of burden, to find and bring whatever he might stand in need of. Every one trembled before him; and sought, by oblations, incense, and the most submissive appearance, to dissipate the frowns of this angry divinity. And unfortunate was he, who unable to satisfy his pride or his avarice, did not succeed in gaining his good graces. He became instantly the object of his constant, petty, vexations.

The cogiabashi of the neighbouring villages once passed through Cerasovo. They remained one day at Gligori’s, who regaled them with a splendid picnic entertainment, of which, however, every one but the contributors partook. He knew who had the largest turkeys, kept register of the age of capons, was informed where the fattest lambs, the best honey, the oldest wine, could be had: and, in virtue of an
order published by the crier, all the good things of the village, shortly after, decorated his board. Their revels continued till late in the night; and every time they drained the overflowing goblet, the kettledrum and shrill trumpet of the gipsies (the itinerant musicians of Levant) brayed out the triumph of their pledges.

The capitano of this province (Ζυγός) was the renowned Demetri Macri; a herdsman by birth, who, forced in his youth to fly from his village, where he had perpetrated a murder, volunteered under the orders of Catzantoni, Lepeniolachi, Kleissonra and other kleftes, who, for many years, had been the terror of continental Greece. It has been a very general cant with travellers who have written on Greece, to represent the kleftes as heroic sons of liberty, who, impatient of the Turkish yoke, preferred abandoning their homes, and leading an independent though miserable existence in caverns and on mountain tops, trusting for their subsistence to the spoils of the enemy. In a few rare instances this was the case—in that of Bouccovala for instance; but, in general, the Greek kleftes are in their origin and every other respect exactly similar to the banditti, who infest the kingdom of Naples, and almost all the high roads of Italy. In the exercise of their honourable profession, these men spared neither Greek nor Turk. If they lived on good terms with the inhabitants of villages, it arose merely from the circumstance, that their own existence depended on preserving the peasantry’s friendship. Unfortunate the village, which failed in punctually remitting the provisions, ammunitions, or other object which their rapacity demanded. It might rely on having its houses, or its harvests, burned, or suffering a thousand vexations. On this account Gli-
gori’s father was killed by Macri’s band; and, a few days after his death, the house, inhabited by his family, was completely destroyed. Sirsta, a neighbouring hamlet, became, on another occasion, the theatre of their excesses. The situation of the peasantry, already so miserable throughout Greece, was rendered still more so by the kleftes. They were between anvil and hammer; being equally obliged to maintain the thieves and the bands of Armatolis employed in their pursuit; and as much exposed to the vexations of the Turk, if he detected them supplying the thieves with provisions, or sending them information, as to the resentment of the latter, should they omit doing it. In case any depredation was committed in a district, it unavoidably brought loss upon loss; and the contributions, raised to apprehend the robbers, might, many times over, have bought the objects, carried away.

Macri was a man guilty of every crime. Frequently have I heard him relate some of his exploits with the greatest sang-froid; though the slightest word of his bloody narration harrowed up the hearer’s soul! Compared to him, Turpin and Cartouche were as innocent as babes. By remaining so many years among the woods, these men had gradually become as savage as the wild beasts, their only companions. Closely pursued by the Armatolis, Macri, as he once related to us, lived during six weeks entirely on raw herbs, and now and then raw meat. He dared not light a fire, lest its smoke or flame should lead to his detection. He at last entered a poor cottage, the tenant of which was an old woman, whom he found busy in preparing a fire to bake some Indian corn bread. His hunger was such, that, unable to stay any longer, he seized the dough out of her hands, and in a few moments
devoured the whole. Never in his life, according to his confession, did he eat any thing, howsoever dainty, with such a relish.

When the revolution happened, the population of Etolia gathered around his standard. He rushed without delay on the populous town of Vrachori, where he engaged the Turks to surrender, under a solemn promise of allowing them and their families free passage to Prevesa. But, once possessor of their wealth and arms, he put them all to death; and similar horrors were perpetrated in every part of Greece. The Jews, who were here in considerable numbers, underwent the same fate as the Mussulmen*.

If any thing could palliate the conduct of the Greek, it might be said, that he was acting against the oppressor of his nation for centuries, the ravisher of his children; the persecutor of his religion; and that retaliation justified every blow. Those, that

* A Turkish man-of-war ran foul on the sandbank near the mouth of the Phidari. It had on board several of the wealthiest agas of Morea, who had in time fled to Patras, and thus escaped the fate of their countrymen. They had embarked with their families and the whole of their property, and were proceeding to Patras. After reiterated but vain attempts to extricate the vessel from its position, they sought to escape in the boats, but saw themselves surrounded by so many misticoes and gun-boats belonging to the Mesolonghiots, that they deemed the execution of their purpose impracticable. Proposals of surrender were made to them by Razi Cotzica, a Mesolonghiot, who, with an eloquence more artful even than Sinon’s, succeeded so fully in beguiling them, that, on condition of life, they delivered their arms and wealth into Macri’s hands, who ironically assured them he would not fail to send them with the same escort to Prevesa, as he had given to the Mussulmen of Vrachori. He kept punctually his promise. The wealth which on this occasion fell to his lot could not amount to less than eighty thousand dollars; but as his mind was so brutish as not to know the value of money, he buried all in the mountains and impenetrable woods with the rest of his treasures, and continued to live as economically as the poorest peasant.

condemn them so freely, should look into the history of their own country, and recollect the more recent revolutions of France and the rest of Europe, the bloody murders of the Protestants by the Catholics, the thirty years’ war in Germany, or the cruelties practised in our own country during its civil wars, when the strongest natural ties were broken asunder, and the warmest friends became the bitterest enemies. And yet the cause of all the horrors, then committed, was little better than a childish play about words.

Whatever judgment may be pronounced on the conduct of the Greeks towards the Turks, one good consequence arose from their cruelties. A line of demarcation was, thereby, established between the two nations; a barrier of blood, which rendered all future approximation impossible. The Christian felt he could no longer rely on pardon; he distrusted the enticing promises of his enemy; and looked on his moderation and assurances of clemency, as snares, laid only to ensure his revenge. How often has the affrighted Greek been ready to lay down his arms’, and implore mercy! but as often, seeing no alternative between death and resistance, despair has inspired him with fresh resolution, and fear, supplying patriotic virtue, has maintained him independent. On the other hand, however, had the Greeks showed more humanity towards their oppressors, and observed more scrupulously the faith of capitulations, every fortress in Peloponnesus would have been yielded up into their hands by their garrisons, which, more than once, were reduced to the last extremity. The reader will judge from the report of the siege of Coron, such as I gathered it from the mouth of Mousa Bey and its principal inhabitants, during my stay in that fortress, that no other consideration than the certainty of undergoing the same lot as their
countrymen after the surrender of Navarino and Monemvasia, prevented their giving it up to the besiegers.

To return to Cerasovo: Nature had surrounded the inhabitants of this village with all the means of procuring themselves the most comfortable existence with very little trouble. Their woods contained the finest timber; and the prodigious quantity daily demanded for the construction of houses, and of the fortifications at Mesolonghi, kept the Cerasoviots employed through the greater part of the year. The produce of their chestnuts was considerable; and they loaded, every season, numerous Ionian boats with that fruit, which fetched on an average one dollar and a half per horse-load. The poorest peasant realized then no less than forty dollars; some upwards of two hundred. Cherry and mulberry trees beautified the outskirts of the village. The leaves of the latter tree served to the nourishment of the silkworm; and the fruit of the cherry (black), after undergoing the necessary fermentation, affords by distillation the most agreeable spirit. In the vicinity of the houses lay the gardens, and fields for the cultivation of Indian corn. But the principal properties of the peasants were in the plain, a league distant from Cerasovo.

The road to this town is highly romantic. There every one has his vineyard, olive-trees, and a house, which is inhabited only when the season for making wine and oil is at hand. Few of the fields were cultivated; and these few produced, for the moment, corn, tobacco, and cotton. The most luxuriant imagination of the poet cannot conceive any thing more beautiful and rich than this immense plain. It is on all sides bordered by mountains, which, in this country throughout, but here especially, present the
boldest and most picturesque outlines; the relievo of which is strikingly embellished by the ever-varying hues of the atmosphere, and the gorgeous tints of an eastern sky. A thousand rills, descending from the hills, distribute beauty, verdure, and fertility, to the plain; and terminate in three broad lakes, named by the country people Nezèrè; which, during the ardours of summer, serve as inexhaustible reservoirs; renewing by the abundant dews, their evaporation produces, morning and evening, the freshness of the thirsty plants, and serving the purposes of the agricultor in the cultivation of rice, cotton, Indian corn, &c. The ancients, who displayed in general so much taste in the choice of situations for their cities and buildings, could not be otherwise than struck by the beauty and advantages of these regions: hence we find every position in the surrounding hills, that admits of defence, occupied by ruins.

Above the modern village of Papadodes exist the walls of a very extensive city. The acropolis, the semicircular seats of the theatre, the foundations of a temple, are quite distinct. I visited, also, the ruins of another large city, on the north side of the plain; within whose walls are the remains of a church built during the lower empire. My friend, Mr. Finlay of Glasgow, accompanied me in this excursion. This young gentleman, the lively qualities of whose mind are equalled only by the amiable dispositions of his heart, escaped only by miracle the fatal tribute, paid by most Europeans for their Philhellenism, or classical curiosity. On his return to Cerasovo, he was attacked by a most severe gastric fever, which soon brought on most alarming symptoms; and as it was attended also by the baneful influence of nostalgia, the most sedulous care would have proved unavailable, had he not in time been removed to Zante.


On my arrival here, I found a Prussian, named Rosener; one of the many, whom crosses in love rendered Philhellenes. Treiber had advised him to repair, during his convalescence, to this spot for change of air. Two years had he been in Greece; and after the defeat of the Philhellene regiment at Petta, driven by necessity, he inlisted as private palichari, under the orders of Stornari, capitano of the district of Arpropotamo; a man who, after the revolution, possessed himself of immense wealth. Like the generality of Greek chiefs, who, in this respect, perfectly resemble the Albanian, his egotism neutralized his courage. Nicitas and Marco Bozzari, the only capitani who, on every occasion, exhibited unquestionable proofs of courage, were equally distinguished by their disinterestedness. How can an individual, who is governed by the love of gold, and who, above all things, regards personal safety, be capable of encountering danger? If he ever ventures on an undertaking, risk must be out of the question; and the certainty of booty must allure him. Honour, that talisman which amongst us renders the most cowardly capable of the noblest actions, is entirely unknown in the Greek armies. The instinct of self-preservation so much preponderates above every other sentiment, that they consider running into danger a folly; and the idea of devoting one’s life for the general weal, the height of folly. When informed, that in engagements between European civilised nations, entire regiments allow themselves to be mowed down, sooner than flinch from their position, the Greek soldier would contemptuously shrug up his shoulders and exclaim: “Μά! τί κοντόι ειναι τούτοι οι ϕράγγοι!” “Oh! what a stupid set are these Franks!” If ever Greek or Philhellene, transported by martial ardour, ventured on any valorous undertaking, he invariably be-
came a victim to his imprudent courage, and was abandoned by his followers at the most critical moment. Thus fell the eldest of the Petimesas, in attempting to repulse a sortie of the Turkish garrison of Corinth; thus the heroic
Draco was allowed to fall alive, in the cruel hands of Omer Pasha; and thus failed the glorious attack of Marco. While spreading death and terror around him, he vainly cried out for Stornari and Caraiscachi to arrive and sustain his small band, thus to achieve his victory. Unmindful of their oaths, they basely kept aloof, till, overpowered by numbers and fatigue, the only great man, Greece had produced in these her bastard days, received his fatal wound, and expired in the very tent of the terrified Pasha.