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

TRAVELS IN MACEDONIA

CHAPTER VIII.
Janina, Valley and Lakes. Castritza.
 

Before I proceed to give an account of my tour in the antique Macedonia, a country as perilous and perplexing for the traveller, as it is interesting for the historian and the antiquary, I shall give a brief notice of the valley, lake, and city of Janina, the capital and the usual residence of Aly of Epirus.

The valley of Janina forms a plain eight leagues in extent from south to north, on a mean diameter of two leagues, inclosed on all sides by mountains and hills, of which those on the north and east are by far the most elevated. Mount Pindus rising in three successive ranges, bounds the valley on the east by the lowest range called Mitchikeli, (in modern Greek Matzukeli,) which extends from south-east to north-west, thus confining the south, east and west borders of the lake. The west border consists of hills of a very different character. Such is the country of the antique Hellopia, a name now unknown. At a greater distance on the east, is the loftiest chain of Pindus; on the north Mertchika; towards the west, the Olichinian mountains; and to the eastward of south, is the range of Djoumerka. The valley is consequently greatly elevated above the level of the sea. Excepting at the northern extremity, the lake of Janina occupies the low bottom of the valley. On the east side the shore is steep and lofty, on the south and west, much lower. About two-thirds of the length of the lake, from the southern or upper end, and nearer to the east than the west side, rises up an island of an uneven rugged surface, having at the north end a Greek village of eighty houses, inhabited by fishers and watermen. On the eminences, and in the hollows of this island, are seven chapels styled monasteries, of which the most remarkable is converted into a


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state-prison, and becomes the scene of the secret executions of those persons whom tyranny finds it necessary to remove from the world. Towards the south end of the island, which presents a perpendicular cliff on the east, are a few green and corn fields. At the opposite extremity the Janinotes assemble in summer, to amuse themselves and get a little more than merry. Half a mile north-east from the village on the island, on the border of the lake under Mitchikeli, is situated one of the principal sources of its waters, called in Sclavonian Dobra-voda, and in modern Greek Crio-nero, equivalent terms, the first name signifying goad water, and the last fresh water. The double names of all the springs which fall into the lake furnish a standing proof that the Servians, a Sclavonian nation, had been long established in the valley of Janina. Two miles north from the island, where the lake contracts into a channel bordered with reeds, is situated Parama, a villa belonging to Aly. Near it is an insulated rocky eminence, seemingly an island forsaken by the wnters; and there the lake terminates, in front of the church of St. Nicolas, at the entrance of Janina, from Delvino and the coast. From this spot a forest of reeds extends northward for six miles to the lower lake of Labchistas or Libisdas. When the rains have continued some time, this lower lake, which receives the waters of the upper, and of a number of mountain torrents, extends between north and west under the base of Mount Mertchika: it is then about a league over in all directions. But in summer, the western half of the bed becomes so dry as to be fit for raising maize. In that state the lake hidden by its reeds forms only a river of half a mile in length, which terminates towards the south-west in a bason inclosed by the rocks of Mount Tomoros. There, without boiling or whirling:, but as they subsided through a body of sand, the waters of the lake silently disappear in the ground ; again to appear two leagues to the south-west, under a precipice from which issues the Velchis, a stream which unites with the Calamas anciently the Thyamis. When we examine the valley of Janina, we are disposed to believe that it, like the central plain of Thessaly, was entirely under water, until some convulsion of the earth opened the Tempe of Thessaly, and the secret channel (for I never could discover more than one,) by which the waters of the lakes of Janina are conveyed to the Calama. The discharge of the lakes has, however, been at times obstructed; for, towards the close of the seventeenth century the lake swelled up so as to inundate the lower quarters of Janina, and to reach to the principal church, which is elevated nearly thirty feet above the mean surface of the lake,


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    Castritza. Janina.

Over the southern extremity of the lake of Janina rises an eminence a mile in length, from north-east to south-west, entirely detached from the other bills. On the slope towards the road and the lake, exists one of those inclosures of high antiquity termed Cyclopian. The rampart follows the windings and inequalities of the hill, the north front extending about 430 yards. Then running south, south-west and north, it incloses the lowest of the two summits of the hill. The rampart is strengthened by towers irregularly situated at those places only where the sides of the hill are the least accessible. The rampart, faced on both sides with irregular blocks of lime-stone without mortar, still retains a height of from four to ten feet, on a thickness of four, quite round the hill. In some places it rests on the solid rock, which has been hollowed out to secure the foundation. The towers or bastions project seventeen feet beyond the curtain of the rampart; and on the ascent on the north side to Castritza, (the present name of the work, probably a corruption of castron,) may be traced the gate of entrance, succeeded by vestiges of a stair and two other gates, although the rampart be single. The gates may however have belonged to some advanced works now effaced. Within the inclosure are many ruins of walls of dry stone, placed without any regularity. In no place, however, could I discover any appearance of a hieron, such as that of Dodona, nor of any lafer edifice indicative of the earlier or later Greeks. The prior of a small monastery in the vicinity presented to me some medals found there, representing Jupiter or Juno, with the thunderbolt inclosed in a wreath of oak, and the word .

Proceeding northwestward from Castritza, the traveller enters Janina, which covers the slope and the base of rising grounds on the western border of the lake. Part of the ground on which the lower quarters are built, advances into the lake, terminating in a double head, like the eagle of Austria, on which are constructed Aly's palace of the lake and two mosques. This peninsula, on which was situated the ancient Janina, extends from the city 640 yards, by half as much in its greatest breadth. Where it joins to the continent a ditch and rampart, mounted with cannon, separate it from the bazar, and would defend the peninsula if such a position were susceptible of defence. Inclosed by a wall and bastions, the old city comprehends the Jews' quarter, the prison, the mosque of Calo Pasha, adorned with columns of granite, removed thither from the temple of Pluto, of which the ruins still subsist near the Acherusian lake in Thesprotia. The mosque occupies the place of a Greek church, dedicated to


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the Pantocrator, (the Almighty.) The new town of Janina, like all other towns of Turkey, consists of a dirty bazar; of crooked streets, not one of which deserves notice, but that called serail-machalé; of quarters of dwellings intermingled with places of burial, sometimes inclosed, sometimes open, without even the general recommendation of a few sepulchres in good order. The castle of Lithariza, which commands the peninsula of the lake, contains Aly's new palace, round which are assembled the palaces of his sons, Mouctar and Veli Pasha. These buildings, constructed in the general mode of Turkey, have this peculiarity, that they are adorned with paintings in fresco, executed by Armenians; productions perfectly adapted by their absurdity to the taste of the princes their admirers. One, for example, over the entrance of Mouctar's palace, represents him surrounded by his guards, assisting at the execution of a man suspended on a gibbet. This piece is not, however, held in such estimation by the connoisseurs as another, exhibiting a landscape, in which his excellency appears in the midst of a groupe of horses, oxen, mules, and asses the usual society of that illustrious personage. In the palace of his younger brother, Veli Pasha, the scenes are of a different character; camps, piles of human heads, colours, sieges in which the bombs are larger than the houses. The cieling of his sleeping apartment exhibits at once the sun, the moon, the stars; a comet with its blazing tail, and the thunderbolt darting athwart the heavens. Aly's own palace is adorned in a much better style, with arabesques in good taste. Of the fourteen mosques and the seven churches of Janina, not one merits the notice of the stranger. Even the hospital and the college deserve consideration solely from respect to the generous intentions of their founders, Capelan and Sosimos, whose memory will ever be revered by the people of Epirus. These two friends of the Christians, endowed by funds deposited in the public bank of Moscow, in the college three salaried professors for the ancient Greek, the Latin, and the French; seven assistants have only their clothing and board, Some students receive a small pension; others attend, as day-scholars, the lectures, which are delivered twice a day during the college-season. In the hospital, food alone is supplied to the poor; so that the institution is rather a xenodochion or refuge for the stranger, such as were maintained in the earliest ages of Christianity, than a nosocomion or place for the treatment of the sick; for neither advice nor medicines are furnished. Out of the same beneficent establishment, portions are every year granted for the marriage of a number of young-women. Notwithstanding the barbarism which has overspread


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    State of the Arts and Sciences in Janina.

Greece, Janina can boast of still in silence preserving and cultivating a taste for letters and knowledge, driven from those parts where they received their birth. A cabinet of natural philosophy, globes, maps, a small chemical apparatus, a library of 1,500 volumes of the classic languages taught in the college, are sufficient to excite in the pupils a desire for farther progress in useful knowledge; a great deal more, indeed, than could well be expected under the prevailing jealousy and suspicion of the government. Among the remarkable persons who have appeared in Janina, since its fall under the Mahometan despotism, may be reckoned Meletius, well known by his geography and his ecclesiastical history; Balano, the author of a treatise on mathematics applied to the arts; Sokdoris, who published a grammar and art of poetry of the ancient Greek; Cosmas Balanos, quoted for his works on algebra and chronology; Triphon, the author of a grammar; Lambros Photiades, of a work on measures; Georgios, the compiler of a dictionary, Greek and Latin; and Psallida, the author of Mathematica et vera felicitas, in Greek and Latin.
 

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