LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter V

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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Effects of the victories obtained—The nation divided into two parties—Colocotrone’s letter—The author introduced to Dr. Lucca Vaya—Manner of living among the Greeks—Account of Ali Pasha, &c.—Voutier’s Memoirs.

Great as might be the satisfaction of every friend of Greece on contemplating a succession of events so fortunate for her rising liberties, we could not forbear being alarmed, on observing the evil effects, such a sudden and unexpected prosperity produced on the public mind. Instead of humbly adoring the hand, which, by blinding her enemy, had extricated the nation out of so many perils, the presumptuous Greek attributed all these wonders to his own valour and foresight. Intoxicated with vanity, he looked on himself as invincible. Instead of profiting by past errors, or being induced, by the recollection of the perils, to which his supineness exposed him, to prepare against future attacks; his thoughts were absorbed by the enjoyments and pleasures of the day, and in the pursuit of his own private interests. So strongly were even the chiefs under the influence of this delirium, that no consideration could bring them to a proper sense of their position. It was a fruitless task to enumerate the prodigious resources of their enemy; to allude to the obstinacy of his character, to show them that the day of danger was not over; that the only basis of a nation’s strength was a well-regulated administration, supported by the union of the citizens; and that improvident security in the midst of perils was like the sudden calm, which, in
some violent distempers, is the surest harbinger of death. To these and, in fact, to every other remonstrance they turned a deaf ear, and only replied to the Europeans, that the sole obstacle to the prosperity of Greece was want of money. With a Greek, advice is always listened to in proportion as it is supported by dollars.

But in truth the interior state of the nation was, at this moment, highly alarming. Government was merely nominal; and a corrupted anarchy existed. The legislative body, at variance with the executive, was without authority, or residence. After wandering, like a band of strolling players, to Salamis, Corinth, Epidaurus, Valtetzi, Astros, and Argos, the senators had just been compelled to fly to Cranidi, at the approach of the soldiers of the Moriot Capitani; who in actual possession of every fortress, every town, and every branch of revenue, had sworn the abolition of the provisional constitution.

The whole nation was divided into two parties; both actuated by the same selfish principles; viz. the division of the enemy’s property and the appropriation of the revenues, arising from their produce. The chiefs and inhabitants of Peloponnesus, who had laid the first hand on the Turkish properties, claimed them as their own; and, deaf to every remonstrance, they refused to share them with any one; while those, whose lots had been less fortunate, maintained, that, since every Greek had contributed equally to the destruction of their oppressors, the rights of each to a share of the spoils were equal; in one word, that all conquered property belonged to the nation, and should be consecrated to the maintenance of the army, navy, and indispensable wants of government.

Not only the capitani of Peloponnesus, but Odys-
seus, also, who lorded over the whole of Eastern Greece, had declared themselves leaders of the more powerful factions. Regardless of perjury, they aimed at the overthrow of the constitution, and proposed establishing among themselves a confederacy, the basis of which was not only mutual assistance against the enemy, but against every one, who should pretend to the command of a country, which, they said, belonged to them, by right of conquest, birth, and election. Fearing that the capitani of Western Greece might offer their assistance, they warned them against interfering in the affairs of Peloponnesus, which did not concern them; and they promised, in return, not to interfere in theirs. Their sentiments, however, may be best learned from the following letter from the most powerful chief in the Morea,

“Brave Roumeliot Capitani,

“In order to assert the rights and defend the interests of our country, Peloponnesus, we have taken up arms against the tyranny of a few individuals. Being patriots, we are unwilling to create a civil war. If you are Greeks and patriots, you must not interfere with the affairs of Peloponnesus; but remain neutral. If you have any claims, you will, in due time, receive every satisfaction. Should you, however, meddle with the affairs of Peloponnesus, look to the consequences; we shall be no longer responsible.

Theodore Colocotrone.”

The Moriots were the most anxious to establish a separation between their country and the rest of Greece; because, in their narrow view of things, they esteemed the assistance of the fleet and of the Rou-
meliots superfluous for the defence of the peninsula. They desired, therefore, not to be troubled by claims for pecuniary assistance from any other quarter. They asserted, that the spoils of the Turks of Continental Greece were amply sufficient to carry on the war in that country; that the revenues of the islands of the Archipelago were sufficient to defray the expenses of the fleet; and with some justice they contended, that it was very unfair, that those, who were so loud in requiring sacrifices from others, should be allowed to hoard up the immense treasures, of which several had possessed themselves after the insurrection.

The other party, which consisted of the majority of the inhabitants of Western Greece, owed their chief support to the islanders. Having no reason to be dissatisfied with the Turkish government, whose authority over them consisted merely in receiving annually the capitation-tax, they lived completely independent, governed by their own magistrates, and engaged in a lucrative commerce; yet they nobly sacrificed their interests to join their countrymen, and assist them in throwing off the yoke. After having been the principal instruments in the liberation of Peloponnesus, in the annihilation of the enemy’s attempts, in the reduction of Anapli, Navarino, Monemvasia, &c. they had assuredly some well-founded claims to share the revenues, necessary to defray the expenses of the fleet. Willing, as they had ever shown themselves, to expose their ships and lives in the defence of their country, the barren rocks, they inhabited, afforded no means of subsistence to the sailor. He could, in fact, no more exist without the pecuniary assistance of his peninsular brethren, than the latter could remain quiet possessors of their country without the presence of a vigilant navy.


In this state of discord, nothing but a fatal result could be, in any way, anticipated. For though the ignorance and indolence of the Turks proved, as on former occasions, the safeguard of Greece; yet the jealousies and rapacity of the chiefs gave rise to such a general disorganization, that, exhausted of all competent means of defence, the country fell an easy prey to the Egyptians.

Immediately after my arrival, Nothi Bozzari presented me to his nephew, Costa, brother of the famous Marco; but so far inferior to him in every respect, that one could hardly believe them to be the issue of the same parents. He received me with kindness, yet with the haughty manner characteristic of an Albanian; and engaged to provide me with lodgings, and whatever else I might require. Having sent for his friend Dr. Lucca Vaya, he introduced me to him as a Philhellene and colleague; persuaded that these titles would induce him to allow me, for a few days, to share his quarters.

During the week, I spent with the doctor, he treated me with the most cordial hospitality; yet, notwithstanding all this, I could with difficulty reconcile myself to an observable want of cleanliness and comfort. In Mesolongiot houses beds, tables, and chairs, are in vain looked for. The divan is a substitute for them all. This consists of mattrasses and pillows, stuffed with wool, arranged on a raised portion of the floor all round the room. During the day, it is used as a sofa, on which the people of the house and casual visitors sit, cross-legged, occupied, like mussulmen, in smoking, drinking coffee, or, for want of thought, playing like children for hours with the beads of a chaplet (κομβολόγι). At the time of meals, it serves as the triclinium to the ancients; the different dishes are introduced on a
copper-tray, which is laid on the divan; forks are looked upon as superfluities. At night the divan is metamorphosed into a line of beds for the whole family, and as every one sleeps with the same clothes as are worn in the day, and sheets are scarce, the capottes of the men supply the place of blankets.

Not in our house only, but in those of the most opulent primates, the windows are without glass. But let it not be supposed, that the fineness of the Grecian climate, on which such praises have been lavished by travellers, renders these means of protection against the inclemency of the atmosphere useless; for in no country can it be more disagreeable. The rains being almost incessant during three months; no alternative remains but either to brave the damp and the wind, or to shut oneself up in the dark. Chimneys, it is true, exist in most rooms; but they only tend to render the want of windows more sensible; for whilst one part of the body gets warm, the other is chilled with cold. The Greeks remedy this inconvenience by putting on their κάππα on returning home; which, being made of a stiff goat’s hair cloth, forms an excellent paravent.

During his stay at Vienna, where he was educated at Ali Pasha’s expense, Dr. Lucca had learnt to speak German fluently. He civilized himself in a great measure, but could not help now and then betraying his national habits. I found much interest in his conversation; especially when Ali Pasha became the topic. No one could give more accurate information relative to this celebrated man, whose physician he had been during many years. Athanasi Vaya, a minister worthy of a similar tyrant, was his brother. They, and Vasilikee his favourite concubine, were the only individuals, whom the suspicious Ali trusted. Never would he take a medicine, unless Lucca pre-
pared it; nor did he ever form a design without consulting the former. So well were the Turks aware of Athanasi possessing the confidence of the satrap, that, of the numerous retinue composing his court, no one but Vaya and Vasilikee were sent to Constantinople; persuaded that to them only he could have revealed where he had hidden his treasures.

Omer Pasha, being in quest of a physician, retained Lucca in his service, after the death of Ali. He accompanied him in his campaign of 1822: but not finding himself well treated, the doctor profited by the confusion, which attended the precipitate retreat of the Albanians, after the failure of the assault they attempted on the 5th of January, 1823, to escape to the mountains of Zugo, from which he descended, the next day, and presented himself at Mesolonghi. There he met several of his friends; as almost every capitano or primate of distinction in this part of Greece had been brought up at Jannina, or been employed in Ali’s service. Disciples of that school of despotism and corruption, no wonder if, during the present war, they gave so few proofs of patriotic virtue, or displayed so much ignorance of the meaning of civil liberty. From the doctor’s reports however I readily got an insight into the past and actual character of these individuals; which was the more correct, as he united to deep acquaintance with his subject, a mind, unbiassed by party feeling or personal animosity. He panted, too, only for the establishment of good order. He soon convinced me of the gross exaggerations, which had appeared in Pouqueville’s work; and did not fail to show the inaccuracies, by which it is deformed, both in respect to the latter days of Ali Pasha, as well as to the first events of the Greek revolution.

At this time, I perused the Philhellene Colonel
Voutier’s Memoirs. The best judgment on this work is contained in the following anecdote, related to me by Mavrocordato. On Voutier’s return to Greece, Mavrocordato requested him to favour him with a copy of his Memoirs. Anxious to see in what manner his conduct, during the siege of Mesolonghi, had been represented, he hastened to consult the chapter, which relates that event, when, to his great surprise, he perceived that the whole of it had been torn out. The next day, on meeting the author, he asked him why he had given him so imperfect a copy. After stammering for a while, he replied: “As there are, in the chapter you allude to, some slight exaggerations, which I thought necessary to insert, in order to place the cause of Greece under a more favourable light, I took the liberty of retrenching those leaves; fearing you might blame me for having allowed my Philhellenism to get so much the better of my veracity.” “If,” answered Mavrocordato, “your conscience has, since your return, become so sensitive; I am surprised that you have not begun to revise your work altogether. For that chapter, I am sure, could not contain more lies than the rest.”