Of the Albanians or Skipetarians - Albanian History & Culture

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Of the Albanians or Skipetarians

Of the Albanians or Skipetarians

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ne: 17-09-2011, 16:06:53
Researches into the History of the European Nations.

Paragraph 3. – Of the Albanians or Skipetarians*.

The people generally known in Europe by the name of Albanians, by the Turks called Arnauts, and by themselves Skipetares, which means in their language “mountaineers” or “dwellers on rocks,” inhabit a greater part of ancient Illyricum and Epirus. They are hardy and warlike people, and they pay only a nominal obedience to the Ottoman Porte. They have a peculiar language, and constitute, as we have observed, a particular race, which is very distinct from the Slavonian inhabitants of the country which borders on them towards the north, as well as from their Turkish and Greek neighbors, and they are now generally supposed to be the descendants of the Ancient Illyrians and Epirots. The ancient writers, as we have already observed, distinguished the nations thus named from each other, and have left us no intimation that they were in any way connected.

But the Albanians who inhabit both Illyricum and Epirus are one people, whose language is only varied by slight modifications of dialect. We must either suppose that the ancient were ignorant of the relation between the Epirots and the Illyrians, and that the nations so termed were one race, – which is very unlikely, since the first would probably have been known to Scylax, and Strabo, and Pausians, – or that the Illyrians, who were the most considerable nation, have swallowed up the Epirots, and have extinguished their language.

The Illyrians appear to have been pressed southwards by Slavonian hordes, who settled in Dalmatia, forming a part of the Illyrian territory; and they hence extended themselves towards the south, where they now inhabit many districts which never belonged to them in the ancient times. The eastern coast of the Adriatic, from the gulf of Drino to the bay of Arta, is the extent of proper Albania from north to south; but the Albanian people are speread much further. They reach not only all over Epirus, but through the northern provinces of Greece, Thessaly, Aetolia, Boetia, and Attica, and are found in many of the Grecian islands; likewise in in Romelia, Servia, and to the very gates of Constantinople. There are also very considerable colonies of the Albanian race on the coast of Calabria and in Sicily, whither they have fled from the arms of the Turks when the latter conquered the Albanian coast, and where they preserve their proper language and religion, which is that of the Greek church.



Ptolemy is the earliest writer in whose works the name of the Albanians has been distinctly recognized (Pliny mentions a people termed Albonenses among the fourteen petty tribes of the Liburni). This writer mentions a tribe termed Albani, and a city of Albanopolis, in the region lying to the eastward of the Ionian Sea; and from the names of places with which Albanopolis is connected, it appears clearly that to have been in the southern part of the Illyrian territory, and in the modern Albania. How the name of this obscure tribe came to be extended to so considerable a nation, we have no means of even forming a conjecture.



The Albanians are mentioned under the name of Albani and Albanites by some of the late Byzantine historians (Anna Comnena). Malte-Burn has cited passages from the life of Michael Paleologus by Pachymerus, and from Cantacazenus, in which they are describes as a wild and independent people, living in mountains to the northward of Acarnania and to the borders of Thessaly.



Though the name of the Albanians was formerly confined to a comparatively small part of Illyricum, it cannot be supposed that the people who spoke the Albanian language were, at the period referred to, so restricted in their extent. This language is spread through all the country from Arta to Scutari. It is the idiom of all the oldest cities of Albania, and is spoken at Scutari, the ancient Scodra, which was a principal town of Illyricum in the time of Livy, and is still, by the Albanians, called by its ancient name; at Dulcigno, the Olchinum of Pliny; at Dibria, Corona, Durazzo, Chimera, and Dremas, and in Pelagonia, several of which places, as Masci has indicated, were known by the name to Strabo, and the writer immediately following his age.



The Skipetarian race is divided into four principal stems, distinguished by differences of dialect. They are the following: 1. The Guegues and Mirdites, two tribes who speak one dialect, and must be accounted for one branch of the nation. The Guegues inhabit the country of Budua, on the border of Cataro (Kotor), and from Montenero (Montenegro) to the limits of Herzegovina and the Antivari on the Adriatic: The Mierdites (Al. Mirditasit), who are a brave people, and adhere to the Roman Catholic religion, live in the Paschalik of Croia. 2. The Toxides (Gr. for Tosks – Al. Toskët) inhabit the country to the southward of Guegaria (Al. Gegëria), on the right bank of the Genussus. 3. The Jagys (Al. Labët) in the district of Berat and Delvino. 4. The Chumis (Chams – Al. Çamët), on the banks of Acheron, to whom the Souliotes (Al. Suliotët) and Parginotes (Al. Pargjinotët) belong. All the four dialects have the same origin, but each has a character of its own, and is distinguished by particular words and peculiar a sound. This language is said to resemble the French in sound, but not in words.



The history of the Albanian language has long been a subject of curious inquiry among philologers. A collection of Albanian words was made by Leibnitz. In 1635, Bianchi published at Rome a meager vocabulary of his language, entitled “Dictionarium Latino-Epiroticum; and in 1716 a grammar of the same idiom by Da Lecce appeared, which Professor Vater republished in 1822 in his “Vergleichungstafeln der europäischen Stamm-Sprachen.” These, and a vocabulary of 1200 words by Kawallioti, were all the sources of information that were accessible to Thunmann, whose “Untersuchungen über die Geschichte der östlichen europäischen Völker” opened the way to a series of curious researches, which have been pursued by ethnological students of later times. Thunmann was, I believe, the first who advanced the opinion, already adverted to, that the Albanians are the descendants of the ancient Epirots and Illyrians. The same hypothesis was supported by Masci, and by Malte-Brun, who translated the memoir of Masci on the Albanian race. The subject has been further elucidated, and the principal facts have been finally established on a firm basis, by a recent author, F Ritter von Xylander, whose work entitled “Die Sprache der Albanesen oder Schkipetaren,” published in 1835, has put us in possession of the most important information of this subject.



Note: F. Ritter von Xylander’s work contains a complete grammar of Albanian language, with a copious vocabulary of Albanian and German, and of German and Albanian words, together with a translation of considerable portions of the New Testament into the Albanian language, and some fragments of national songs. To these are added several parallels between the language and various other European idioms, calculated to illustrate their mutual relations. It is from these data that the conclusions stated in the text result. We may observe that many parts of the grammatical inflexion are strikingly Indo-European, and the personal pronouns, and the declensions of nouns. We find “s” the sign of the genitive, “n” of the accusative; “era”, “er”, “ora”, the plural endings, like the “er”, “ar”, “or” of the Northern German. In the genitive and dative pl. “abet”, “ebet”, and “ibet”, come near to the “abhyus” of the Sanskrit, and “abus” of the Latin dative. The following are some particular words corresponding in Sanskrit and Albanian: S. nri, nara, A. nieri, “man”; S. mahat, A. madh, “great”; S. gau, A. kau, “ox”; S. krimi, A. krimpi (or krimi, krimbi depending on dialect), “worm”; S. asthi, A. eshtë, “bones”; S. druh, A. dru (spoken the same way: drou or druh), “tree”; S. pa, A. pi, “drink”; S. para, A. parë, para, “first”; S. mala, A. mali, “hill”; S. stira, A. sterë, “land”; S. purusha, A. purrë, “man”. (V. Xylander, 298.)

I shall not attempt to review the opinions of former writers on the Albanian language and its relations. Suffice it to say that the work of Xylander appears to have demonstrated certain positions in regard to it, which may briefly be stated as follows:

1. That the language of the Albanians is not, as it was once supposed to be, a mere jargon, compounded of elements derived from a variety of different sources, namely from a mixture of the idioms of surrounding nations, but that it is a peculiar and distinct language, having regular grammatical forms, and an essential character of its own.


2. That it is proved by the evidence of its grammatical inflexion, as well as by the structure and derivation of its vocabulary, to belong to the class of Indo-European languages.

3. That it does not belong to any particular group of these languages. It is neither German nor a Slavonian idiom, nor does it bear any very close and peculiar resemblance to the Greek or Italic dialects.

4. This refutes, as far as it concers the Illyrian race, the opinion of those who, with the learned author of the Mithridates, suppose all the idioms of nations to the southward of the Danube to belong to one group of languages, including Illyrian, Thracian, Pelasgian, and Phrygian dialects, and regard all the tribes who spoke these dialects as branches of one stock, which may be termed indifferently Thracian or Pelasgian. The bordering nations on the northern frontier of Greece, if we may for an estimate from the Albanian language of the idioms of the Epirotic nations and Illyrians, were not related by any ties of near consanguinity with the Greeks. The Illyrian and the Greek are kindred languages, but are not more closely allied than are the Greek and Slavonic, or the German and Celtic dialects.



It must be observed, that this observation does not apply with full force to the Thracians and their language, since we have no proofs that the languages of the Thracians and Illyrians were connected. We have already adverted to come considerations which render it probable that the Thracians were more nearly allied to the Hellenic race.

*Section 5. Further inquires into the history of the Thracian and Illyrian races. Of the nations who are supposed to be descended from them, namely, the Wallachs and the Albanians or Skipetares

Taken from: James Cowles Prichard, RESEARCHES INTO THE PHYSICAL HISTORY OF MANKIND, Third Edition, Vol. III

P.S: Just for kicks. The opening of the first paragraph “Of the Hellenic Race” states:

Paragraph I. – Of the country and people of Greece.

“A line drawn from the Ambracian to the Maliac gulf, separates the primitive land of the Greeks from the countries immediately to the northward of it, namely, from Epirus and Macedonia“.

source : http://www.albpelasgian.com/uncategorized/of-the-albanians-or-skipetarians.html

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