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

TRAVELS IN EPIRUS AND ALBANIA

CHAPTER IV
Acroceraunia, or the Mountainous Region of Chimara.
 

It was already said that the state of the weather did not permit me to survey the coast of Acroceraunia from the sea, with that minute care which it was a special object of my mission to employ. After I had been fully established in my official station with Aly in Janina therefore, I obtained permission and means of protection, to enable me to visit that and other regions of his territory, hitherto very imperfectly known, and indeed scarcely accessible by strangers. My survey of Acroceraunia was not all performed at one visit. Laying aside therefore at present the correct chronological order of my observations, I shall condense the whole into one continued narrative; connecting it with my remarks during my voyage along the coast. This will be more satisfactory to the reader than to be obliged to recur to the same scenes at different


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times, in the order of the periods when my observations were made.

The Acroceraunian, or more properly the Cerannian mountains, were so named by the ancients, from the Greek term keraunos, signifying thunder; because, from their elevation, and particularly from their position on the sea, they were much exposed, and frequently observed to be struck by lightning. Their northern extremity, the proper Acroceraunium on the bay of Valona, is situated in north lat. 40 deg. 26 min. 15 sec. and in east long. 19 deg. 14 min. 30 sec. The southern extremity of the country (not of the mountains which extend towards Butrinto) is at Port Palermo, of which the entrance lies in north lat. 40 deg. 2 min. 45 sec. and in east long. 19 deg. 48 min. 40 sec. The line of coast along the Adriatic therefore extends from north-west to south-east twelve marine leagues. Ceraunia is the country supposed by some commentators to be indicated by Circe in her instructions to Ulysses, where he was to find Aornos, there to invoke the shade of Tiresias, to consult him respecting his ultimate proceedings. If Homer selected the mountains of Chimara for the scene of infernal intercourse, on account of the pestilential vapours with which, in his day, they abounded, things must have greatly changed in the course of three thousand years. For, in the present time, no part of the coast of Epirus possesses air of greater purity and salubrity than the western slopes of the mountains of Chimara. In that clear atmosphere are found examples of longevity much more frequent and remarkable than in any neighbouring districts. But the advantages of health and long life enjoyed by the Chimariotes are more than compensated by the nature and appearance of the country allotted to them. Naked mountains intersected by tremendous gulfs and inaccessible precipices announce a region of incurable sterility. But these precipices and gulfs and rocks are regarded by the natives as their main defence against all enemies. Hence the insuperable attachment of the Chimariote to his native deserts, in whatever quarter of the world his fortune may lead him to pass his days. The internal parts of Acroceraunia are of a description much more attractive to the husbandman.

From Port Palermo to the town of Chimara the natives reckon an hour's journey on foot: but the coasting-barks count five miles along the shore to the landing-place belonging to the town. At that place landed my brother when he came to join me at Janina in March 1807; and to him I owe many of the observations introduced in this work on the whole


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    Chimara. Vouno. Liates. Condami.

coast of Albania northward to Durazzo and the river Drino. From the beach he mounted for half a league, by an artificial sloping road, up to the town of Chimara, where he discovered no vestiges of antiquity: but in the neghbourhood is to be seen an inclosure, evidently of very great age, probably the remains of the Chimaæra of Homer, near which Pliny places the Royal Fountain. This ancient fortification is named by the natives "the old castle of the queen," on account of the coins frequently found in it, bearing the figure of a female, with a Pegasus on the reverse; emblems generally ascribed to Apollonia farther north on the coast. The queen alluded to by the Chimariotes was perhaps the princess Anna Comnena, who mentions Chimara in her history of the contest between her father Alexis and the Normans, in the end of the eleventh century. On the overthrow of the old city the surviving inhabitants founded the present Chimara, containing about 500 families, all Christians. Two leagues farther to the north-west is Vouno, occupied by 1,200 Christians, near to a level tract on the side of the mountain, remarkable for its fertility, the probable site of some town; but no vestiges have been discovered. An hour's journey beyond Vouno, on the left, is the village Liates, and a league and a half farther on, over a succession of torrents and ravines, is Drimadez, seated on the heights, where the inhabitants point out a well of excellent water, a valuable treasure in such a country, and which may perhaps be the royal fountain of antiquity. From the town a rapid torrent rushes down the precipices to the sea. From Drimadez to Palæassa the distance is a league, and from the latter village to the sea the distance is four miles. The name of Palæassa recalls the Palæste of Cæsar, where his troops were landed on this coast, when pursuing his antagonist Pompey. But the "quiet station for ships amidst the rocks and other dangers of the Ceraunian coast," mentioned in the Commentaries (B. Civ. III. 6.) is not so obvious: nor does Palæassa offer any antique monument. A league and a half north-west from that place is the torrrent of Strada bianca, or Rouga aspri, formerly noticed, beyond which is the bay and road of Daorso, called by the Italians Val d'Orso. On a height near the shore is an inclosure of the most remote, or what is termed Pelasgic construction: but still no rocky haven is there to be discovered. A league still farther northward, however, is Condami, a port sheltered and commodious, when once vessels have got within the shoals and sandbanks. There Cæsar ini<jl»t well have landed his troops; for during the eight years in which the French occupied Corfu, that station was constantly resorted to by their seamen, to watch


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the motions of the British cruizers in the entrance of the Adriatic. The distance from Palæassa to this haven is certainly considerable; but Cæsar may have considered the port as belonging to Palæste, as being within its territory and knowing no other designation for it.

The eastern or inland portion of Acroceraunia is now called Japoria, a corruption of the Japygia of Epirus, so named by colonies from the Japygia of Italy. In order to penetrate into this portion from Palæassa, you ascend for half a league to the summit of Mount Tchica, and then descend north-north-east for an equal distance in a valley through which runs a stream, which, passing by Ducates, falls into the bay of Valona near Porto Raguseo. The ancient proper name of this stream is unknown to me; but it is probably the Salnich of the later geographers. From thence in an hour and a half, the traveller arrives on the broad summit of the lofty stormy Mount Longara; the only vegetation consisting in a few sweet acorns, the rhamnus paliurus, and the evergreen oak, which produces the kermes used in dyeing scarlet. North from the summit, five leagues through the mountains is Ducates, the capital of a small independent tribe, wholly addicted to robbery and plunder. The inhabitants of the place, composing 250 families Christian and Mahometan, live in a state of ferocity, violence, and barbarism, of which it is impossible to form a conception. Although they pretend to certain forms and usages of religion, yet, their morals are of the most debased character. They cultivate a little maiz only; for to raise wheat or any other grain, would require more labour and time than they will bestow. Cattle also they possess; but they are ignorant of the art of separating the cheese from the butter, which they keep in skins. Necessity alone compels them to manufacture the rude coarse cloth of the natural wool, with which they are clothed; and the genius of evil has suggested to them the art of producing gun-powder, which is made in almost every family for its own use. As the Ducatians live only to rob and assassinate, so they labour the ground solely for their own consumption. Yet it is singular that they have never, like the Mainotes of the south of Peloponesus, or the pirates of the gulf of Volo in the north of Greece, ventured to extend their depredations on the sea. If ever the Ducatians turn their eyes towards the Adriatic, it is only to discover whether any vessel has been driven on their shores, that they may aid in her destruction, and plunder and massacre the unhappy crew. A league and a-haff north from Ducates are found tne ruins of Oricum, still called Ric or Deric, a place of great antiquity, and, on ac-


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    Oricum. Dragiates. Radima. La Valona.

count of its harbour, of importance in all periods of Grecian history. The inhabitants and garrison placed in the town by Pompey, voluntarily submitted to Cæsar, who, in the exercise of his characteristic celerity, traversed the rugeed Ceraunian mountains, and arrived before the place in the evening of the very day in which he landed in the bay of Palæste. A peculiar evidence of the position of Oricum still exists in the box-trees, which grow on the mountains of Ducates behind its site; the only quarter of all that coast in which that tree is found; and the box of Oricum is celebrated by various ancient authors. Although Oricum be now no more, the haven is still frequented and known among the Greeks, by the Italian name Porto Raguseo: by the Turks it is called Liman-padisha, or the imperial port. It is the most spacious and commodious in the bay of Valona, and the only station for ships-of-war between the bay of Cataro and the mouth of the Adriatic. A league north-east from Ducates, a stream crosses the path, which dries up in summer, and mounting up for a league more you come to Dragiates, a Christian village on the slope of a hill, commanding a view of the bay of Valona. The intervening ground, in breadth five miles to the sea, is cultivated and cheerful, on to the entrance of a deep narrow pass on the south-east, opening into a valley which widens in the direction of the river Voioussa, the Aous of antiquity. Going round the coast of the bay, at a league's distance north-east from Dragiates is Radima, belonging to the district of Canina, and the first village in the country of Musachia, the Taulantia of former times. A league and a-half farther is Mavrova, now rich in flocks, but formerly rich by its sea-marshes, producing salt of an excellent quality and colour. Nearly another league farther on is Crio-nero, a place so named from a noted fountain, where ships resorting to that part of the bay take in water, which is rare on that coast. Three quarters of a league beyond Crio-nero, along the plain, is the fortress of Canina, built on a rock; and half a league farther you arrive at Valona. This town, the Aulon of former times, is still called Avlon by the Greeks, whence the Italians, by prefixing their article, have formed La Valona. It is situated half a league from the shore, and by the arcades under the houses, which line the streets, and other characters, announce the residence of the Venetians in former times. Near the town are the remains of two forts, blown up when they were compelled to surrender the place to the Turks in 1691. While in the power of the Venetians, Avlon was a place of considerable trade: but now it contains only about 6,000 inhabitants, Mahometans, Christians, and Jews; the latter banished from Ancona by Pope


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Paul IV. It is no longer counted among the episcopal sees of the east. The environs of the town, covered with olives, intermingled with country-seats and sepulchres, are bounded by a range of gypseous hills, from which issues the Artatus, which, having filled the ditches of the citadel, falls into the bay on the north of the rocks and fortress of Canina. So up-wholesome are the vapours from the adjoining marshes, that the town is deserted by the inhabitants in summer; a few Jews only remaining behind; and parties of Christians in the environs, to cultivate the maize and the rice sown in the low grounds. That part of the district of Avion or Valona, which stretches for eignt miles northward to the river Aous, now Voioussa, is not less fertile nor less unhealthy than the immediate environs of the town.

Three hours' journey towards the north-east, brings the traveller from Valona into the district of Coudessi, comprehending a portion of the ancient territory of Apollonia, and the celebrated mines or quarries of bitumen, applied to all the purposes of vegetable pitch. The bitumen is found in the angle formed by the influx of the Suchista into the Voioussa, on its left or south side. The beds of bitumen seem to reach to a considerable distance towards the south-east, and might furnish a sufficiency of pitch to supply all Europe. In the environs of the mines is found abundance of sulphur, combined with various substances, never yet satisfactorily analysed. The country-people report that, almost every night, bluish flames are seen to hover on the surface of the ground; a circumstance noticed by Aristotle and other ancient writers, and indicating the Nymphæum described by Plutarch in his life of Sylla. "Near Apollonia, (six leagues south-east,) is situated the Nymphæum, a consecrated place, whence perpetual springs of fire flow forth, without consuming the herb in the midst of a verdant valley and pasture." But the streams of fire, the inflammation of the incense offered to the nymphs of the springs, the oracular responses are no longer known by the oppressed Musachians, who dig the bitumen from the ground. The Suchista, which may contend with the river of Argyro-Castron for the name of Celydnus, rises in the mountains ten leagues to the southward. Near Nivitza Malisiotes, (Nivitza of the mountains,) on the course of the Suchista, are seen the remains of the ancient Amantia; distant, according to Scylax, 320 Greek stades or thirty-two miles from Apollonia. This space agrees with the present road; for from the remains of that city, up the Voioussa to the influx of the Suchista, is a distance of eighteen miles; and thence fourteen miles along the latter river reach up to Nivitza or Amantia. Below


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    Gradista. Lunetzi. Liopesi. Tebelen.

Nivitza, on the Suchista, stands Coudessi, the chief place of the valley and district; and a league and a half south from the bitumen-mines is situated Carbonara, on a bend of the Voioussa. On the right or north-east bank of this river, nearly opposite to Carbonara, on an eminence are the vestiges of an ancient city now called Gradista; but which I am inclined to think belong to Byllis or Bullis. The remains are spread over a space of three miles in circuit. I perceived among them walls, constructed in the Pelasgian or most antique manner, but repaired with Greek and Roman work. In tracing the foundations of the suburbs, without the ramparts, I discovered the vestiges of a theatre, and the cella or body of a temple. Near this ruin, on the face of a rock, was a Latin inscription in which could be read the word BVLLIDEM, which left me in no doubt that I had found the Bullis of history; a town which, with Apollonia, Amantia, occupied by the partisans of Pompey, and the whole litoral tract of Epirus, voluntarily submitted to Cresar when he landed on the coast. Bullis is indeed styled a maritime town: but when the Voioussa is in the fulness of its stream, ancient ships might mount up so far. It is besides situated on the coast of the Adriatic, with respect to the great range of mountains which occupy the interior of the country, separating Epirus from Macedonia.

Four leagues up the left or south bank of the Voioussa, is Lunetzi, near which village are the remains of a fort, erected by the Latins in their wars with the Greeks in the middle ages. Three leagues higher up is Liopesi, and a league to the southward is the bridge over the river Bentcha, near the ruins of St. Severina, now called by the Albanians the Castle of Jarre; half a league still higher up stands Tebelen, the birth-place and favourite palace and treasure-house of Aly of Janina. In a journey undertaken by his desire, from Tebelen across Acroceraunia, in the direction of Port Palermo; a tract of country altogether unvisited by strangers, and indeed into which the people of the neighbouring tracts rarely venture to penetrate; I discovered near to Cosmari, the Roman road which led from Apollonia by Bullis and Amantia to Buthrotum. From the highest point of this road went off branches pointing towards the positions of Oricum, Palæste, and Panormus. In surveying this tract, it was Aly's purpose, to restore the Roman road, in order to obtain access to the forests of ship and house-timber in the environs of Cosmari. Circumstances however obliged me to quit Epirus before my survey was terminated. Nor could I discover the silver mines in the same district, in ancient times so rich, of which I had seen specimens in Aly's hands and had found a few in the torrents which descended


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from the mountains. To say the truth, I should have been very unwilling to disclose the situation of those mines, to add to the sufferings of the already oppressed people, by labouring to feed that insatiable desire of riches, by which Aly is incessantly agitated. The country of Acroceraunia produces wheat, barley, lupins, vetches, but in small quantities; for the inhabitants live wholly on maize. Their exports are wool, wax, kermes, fir, deals, pitch, firewood for Corfu, butter made of ewe milk; and with the money, in return, are procured the few foreign wares they need. The remainder of the money, such is the state of confidence amongt themselves, is buried in some secret place, and frequently wholly lost by the death of the owner. Along the sea-coast are found the usual vegetable productions of such a latitude; in the upper vallies, the slopes are clothed with pine and fir, maple, hasle, box: but in the plains along the Voioussa, are seen fruitful arable lands and plentiful pastures. Still the farmer, the shepherd, the peasant, have all a manifest air of misery, if not of poverty, the natural fruits of the tyrannical dominion, and the unsocial manners by which the country is borne down. The inhabitants, dreading to seem to be rich, rather than for its preservation, bury the greatest portion of their grain in ambaria or granaries dug deep in the ground. All ranks of men, without distinction, are constantly loaded with arms of various sorts; and their countenances openly declare the deplorable state of alarm and mutual distrust in which they pass their days.
 

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