Travels in Epirus, Albania, Macedonia, and Thessaly
F. Pouqueville
 

TRAVELS IN MACEDONIA

CHAPTER XII.
Return from Castoria to Janina. Chatista. Servia. Route to Larissa. Sources of the Rhodias or Venetico. Roman way across Pindus to Apollonia.
 

Having no prospect of making any other excursions from Castoria, I arranged my remarks and prepared to return to Janina. I had no presents to offer to the governor; my favour was consequently bow at an end; and it was no small


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consolation, that even my application for post-horses was immediately successful. To enlarge, however, my survey of the highly interesting, and in a manner unknown country where I was placed, I resolved to vary my route back to Epirus, as much as circumstances might render practicable. Among the observations I had made, one was curious and important. I had fallen among the Bardariotes, or Vardariotes, (for in Greece these initials are confounded,) the descendants of the ancient Guebres of Persia, a class of men who directed their devotions towards the Sun, and fo the fire as his representative, and to both perhaps as the emblems of the vivifying cause of nature. The Bardariotes seem to Imve been settled on the banks of the great river Axius in Macedonia, from them called the Vardar in the time of the Greek emperor Theophilus, who reigned from A. D. 829 to 842. Fourteen thousand Persians, as is stated by Leo the grammarian, or 30,000 according to Zonaras, abandoned their native land, to escape from the intolerance of the Mahometans. Being received into the Greek empire, and employed in the army, they after some time schemed to place on the throne of Constantinople Theophobus, under whom they served. Their project was however disconcerted by that general, who, although descended from the Sassanides of the east, had been educated as a Christian in the imperial palace. He withdrew to the emperor's camp, and prevailed on him to forgive the insurgents; which was done on this condition, that they should be distributed in small bodies in various parts of the empire. In my excursions around Castoria, it was my fortune to have frequent intercourse with the Bardariotes; and I could not avoid remarking, after an interval of 1,000 years, their mild and reserved but hospitable demeanour, when contrasted with the rude intractable behaviour of the Bulgarians. The Persian and the Sarmatian seemed still to preserve their original distinctive characters.

My project being to follow for some time the descending course of the Haliacmon, I went back from Castoria to the bridge of Smighi, where I had crossed that river on my way to that town, and turning eastward on its left or north bank, proceeded along the verdant base of Mount Bermius, for four leagues, to Bogotzico, a large village where I took shelter from an approaching thunder-storm. In conversation with the people, I learned that they were of the Bardariote race, and had still retained their Christian profession. From father to son also the men are all masons, who travel about to practice their business in Constantinople, and all the other principal towns of the empire; whither they are frequently commanded


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    Arrival at Chatista, &c.

to repair, by high authority, in the same way with the water-engineers of Londgiaria formerly mentioned. As an effect of their travels, many of the Bogotzicans speak different languages. My landlady, the wife of a mastoras, or mason, conversed with me in French, which she had learned in a family of Pera of Constantinople, where she had been nursery-maid before she married her Bogotzican husband. Our route led along several promontories of Mount Bermius, lowering-southwards towards the Haliacmon; having on our left Selitza, a town of 300 Greek families, annexed as a tchiftlick or manor to the estates of Aly of Janina. Farther on we forded the Vilaine, a river from the northward, and followed its left bank down to ifs junction with the Haliacmon. Another league brought me to the foot of a rapid ascent, which in half-an-hour conveyed me up to Chatista. My astonishment I cannot express, when in passing through the bazaar, I saw it filled with handsome shops, the houses well built, and to find myself in a town wholly Greek, with an appearance of neatness and prosperity, such as can be seen in no other part of Turkey. Nor was I less pleased with the reception bestowed on me by the archons or chiefs of the people, among whom I found one of my countrymen, an agreeable and well-informed man, who, although now settled in Chatista, has not forgotten his native land. A lodging was prepared for me in the town-house, the place appointed for the accommodation of messengers from court traversing Macedonia.

Chntista (Siatista as it is writren in Greek,) was founded in the twelfth century, by a body of Valachian shepherds, attracted by the excellence and the extent of the pastures of Mount Bermius. Of the origin of the name, and of many wonderful occurrences connected with the early history of the place, abundant anecdotes were produced; but how the Valachians came to be superseded by a Greek population, no man could give any information. The town is situated on the middle region of Mount Bermius, on a slope surrounded by four little eminences, crowned with churches embosomed in trees. It contains 700 houses, besides a number of huts in the outskirts. The civil Turkish tribunal being established in Alassona, in Thessaly, eighteen leagues to the southward, and the greater part of the merchants of the town having traded or resided in Vienna, Leipsick, and other parts of Germany, they have made a valuable exchange of Greek artifice for German probity. Their disputes are therefore arranged by the authority of their archbishop; and consequently, excepting in their mercantile transactions, they have little to do with the Turks.


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The higher range of hills, nearly three miles east-southeast from Chalista, is called Gerbena. The vallies of that range, rich in pasture, swarm with deer, roe, and other game of various kinds. Beyond this first range, appears Mount Bourenos, on the opposite slope of which, at the distance of a league and-a-balf, are seen the remains of a Hellenic town, probably Galadræ, mentioned by Stephen of Byzantium, by Tzetzes called Chaladra. By Lycopbron Alexander the Great is styled the lion of Charadræ. The ruins furnished nothing noticeable; but the existence of such a town is, I apprehend, new to the world.

While in Chatista, or Siatista, I endeavoured to learn the course of the roads between the Vardar, or Axius, and Larissa, in the centre of Thessaly, necessary for the due comprehension of many parts of ancient history. Proceeding from Chatista for a league southwards, I travelled along the flank of Mount Bourenos, across a rocky country covered with vineyard, but not a single village in sight. The want was, however, more than compensated by the reflections naturally suggested by the scenery around me, memorable for the important events, of which, at various periods, it has been the theatre. At that distance begins the defile of Caraiani, formerly the great road to Pella, the celebrated capital of Macedonia: but now a dangerous pass beset by robbers. After two leagues of this narrow valley you descend into the plain of Caraiani, of great extent, destitute alike of water as of wood: a village may, however, now and then be discovered at a great distance. Travelling two leagues on this plain you reach Cojani, where an agreeable alteration occurs. Cojant, a town of 2,500 inhabitants, affords nothing remarkable relative to antiquity. From thence turning south-south-west for four leagues, you arrive at Vanitchés, chiefly inhabited by kiradgis, employed in providing horses for the carriage of goods. A mile below this place, you come on the river Indgé-Carasou, which is crossed by a ferry; and from thence you ascend by a rugged path over steep banks, in succession, for a league to Servia, the see of a bishop under Thessalonica, and the chief town of a department of the government of Monastir. To the east-south-east lies the district of Delvendos, formerly Bottiaca, situated between the Haliacmon and Mount Olympus. By following the course of that river, first east and then east-north-east to its mouth, on the Thermaic gulf, one would be led to discover the position of Dium, behind which town on the side of Olympus was said to be the monument of Orpheus.

Servia might be considered the natural boundary between


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    Route to Larissa, &c.

Macedonia and Thessaly, with more propriety than the Haliacmon; although that river was so considered by the ancients. From thence you descend for a league and a half to arrive at the defile of the Saranta-Poros. This must have been the route by which Pompey, having passed over the Candavian mountains, traversed Elimea, and crossed the Rhedias, penetrated into Thessaly, to encounter Cæsar in the plain of Pharsalus. The river Saranta-Poros, probably the Titaresius of antiquity, waters that dangerous defile; rushing through rocks and woods, where the stream is often seen only by its vapours, for two leagues. The river bends southward; but the road goes down into a plain, and in four hours carries the traveller to Alassona, formerly Oloosson, inclosed by the Saranta-Poros on the south side. From that town to Tcheritchani, along the plain, the distance is three leagues; then two to Tournovo, and three more to Larissa. This is the route followed by caravans; but as it is often laid under water in winter, they then ascend Mount Milonas, a circuit which lengthens for about a league the course to the bridge in front of Larissa.

Having obtained these notices, I proceeded on my way for Epirus, following the course of the Rhedias or Venetico up to its springs in Mount Pindus. Leaving Chatista, I took tfce road for Greveno, through the broad tracts of vineyard, which cover the left bank of the Haliacmon; and at the end of two leagues and a quarter we crossed that river on a stone bridge of five unequal arches. It it is called the Pasha's bridge; having been erected by a Romili-Valessi, one of whose female relatives had nearly perished in passing the river. Soon afterwards we halted at a khan, near which, in a cave, were a number of gypsies busy in washing and separating the gold-dust which they had gathered out of the Haliacmon. From their information, although they were very reserved, it appeared to me that, with a little trouble, the mines might be discovered from which the gold found in the sands is carried down by the current.

Proceeding on to Greveno, I there obtained fresh horses and Greek guides, the best acquainted with the country through which I intended to travel. From Greveno we went west for an hour and a quarter, over rising grounds, amidst groupes of full grown oaks, towards Mavroneos or Maroneia, having on our right Mavronoros, already mentioned, noted for its fair. Six miles north-west I saw the Two Brothers, remarkable rocks, which pornt out the entrance of the great pass over Pindus, beyond the Rhedias. Traversing a forest upwards of a league in extent, we came on that river, which we forded. In winter the caravans make a circuit to pass by a stone bridge of one arch, of Roman construction. From the


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ford we travelled for half-an-hour up to Tista, on an ancient way, called by the peasants Vasiliki strada (the royal road) also of Roman workmanship; belonging it would appear to the route laid down in the Theodosian or Peutingerian table. That route proceeded from Apollonia by Bullis, up the valley of the Aous by Fourca Conitza and Avdela; crossing Pindus into Macedonia it went towards Trikala, in Thessaly. Two miles beyond Tista, on the right bank of the Rhedias, I observed a monastery near the remains of an ancient, but unknown city. From this position the height of Mount Spileon (of the caves) seemed to be about 1,900 feet. Higher up in the mountains we saw Voidinico, a large village of Albanians and gypsies, who have established iron forges, in which they manufacture locks for guns and pistols, horse-shoe nails, &c. All the streams from that quarter fall into the Venetico. Entering a valley between the west side of Mount Spileon and the east side of the Liak mountains, we met many peasants on their way for Crania, on the road over Pindus from Metzovo to Greveno. Farther on was a monastery, now deserted, as we were told by women at a fountain, because the good fathers had all been devoured by the bears. We passed several bridges on the Venetico, and at last arrived at Perivoli, where we lodged for the night.

Next morning we set out very early, in company with a band of hunters, in quest of bears. The summits around us were still cloaked, or capped with snow; and half a league beyond Perivoli we arrived on the most elevated point of the route over Pindus, an open plain, from which I was able to recognize and determine the bearings of some important summits. Tchepel-Ovo, a lofty peak, invested with glaciers, six leagues north-west, enabled me to connect my topographical observations with those formerly made from the vicinity of Conitza. We now began to descend on the western side of Pindus, through a pine-wood, by a stream which made its way towards the north-west, to join the Aous, for we had now passed the point of separation of the waters. Here the peak of Smolika bore north seven leagues. Continuing still to descend, we crossed the Aous, and arrived at Boboussa, the first village of Zagori on that quarter. The inhabitants of this village, notwithstanding their Alpine position, were robust and active. The Aous rolled along with a murmuring noise by the village. The current was not so strong as to prevent us from fording it; and then we entered the great valley of Zagori, in which we travelled six miles, before we cleared a thick forest of cedar and fir. As we approached the springs of the Lacmic branch of the Inachus, however, the woods disappeared.
 

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