EPIRUS – OUR ANCESTRAL LAND - Balkans History

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EPIRUS – OUR ANCESTRAL LAND

EPIRUS – OUR ANCESTRAL LAND

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ne: 30-06-2010, 13:19:36
Epirus/Lower Albania, as 19th Century travelers saw it

Ali Pash Tepelena’s rise brought Albania to the forefront of attention throughout Europe and raised the question with many as to how this area would fit into the great power game. It was an opportune time for the west European philhellenes to further refocus their attention on the European Turkey and many traveled to the area and included Albania in their itinerary.


One can easily see that these travelers admired Greece and marveled with ancient Greek history. During that age of revolution many dreamed of finding the ‘Greeks’ ready to claim their history and continue their great past. But the reality on the ground wasn’t a case for optimism. Baron John Cam Hobhouse Broughton gave a reality check about the Greeks:
“A great proportion of those comprehended under the term Romaioi, or Christians of the Greek Church, and amongst whom would be found the chief supporters of an insurrection, are certainly of a mixed origin, sprung from Scythian colonists. Such arc the Albanians, the Maniotes, the Macedonian, Uulgarian, and Wallachian Greeks. And yet the whole nation, including, I presume, these Christians, has been laid down only at two millions and a half, of all ages and sexes, and consequently there is no part of Continental Greece to which a body of Turks might not be instantly brought, sufficient to quell any revolt: the Mahometans of Albania arc themselves equal to the task, and on a rising of the Giauours, the Infidels, would leave all private dissension, to accomplish such a work. The Greeks taken collectively, cannot, in fact, be so properly called an individual people, as a religious sect dissenting from the established church of the Ottoman Empire.

Any general revolution of the Greeks, independent of foreign aid, is quite impracticable; for notwithstanding the great mass of the people, as is the case in all insurrections, has feeling and spirit enough to make the attempt, yet most of the higher classes, and all the clergy, except as far as the expressions of discontent may operate, are apparently willing to acquiesce in their present condition.”1

These philhellenes gave increased attention to the restless Pasha of Iannina and crisscrossed Epirus to learn about its people. Their findings are presented in books they published upon their return to England and France.
It should be pointed out that these reports are incomplete and characterized by prejudice and inaccuracies. Many of them saw the reality on the basis of religion, that is Christian or Muslim. Then the informative details that they give are fallible. What can one make out of Cobhouse’s statement that Arta, based on a estimate by “a Greek” that “not a fourth part (of inhabitants) are Mahomrdans”. Or the statement by William Eton that “Paramathian Albanese…speak Greek and know no other language”.2*
My intention is to utilize the provided information to indicate how these travelers saw the Albanians in Epirus during the early 19th century, and thus formulate an opinion as to the ethnic character of Epirus, realistic data for which subject has been lacking and what is worse erroneous data and perceptions have been put use to the determent of Albanians. It is not an easy task and any formulation will be incomplete.
It should be made clear that these travelers were not attempting to indulge in ethnic controversies, as one would expect in a discussion of the subject today. They just wanted to see where these people fit in their scheme of things; the world was still very religious and for many, religion was important and that’s how they identified people; for others a new era was dawning and language that people spoke was given primacy. Still, whatever they said, was determined by the reality that Epirus was part Ottoman Empire towards which many intellectuals felt confrontational. The unfortunate thing was that European visitors could not be more specific and precise about the information they gave about the people because they had to rely on what their guards, village priests or other non-authoritative sources told them. Devenport alludes to the problem of collecting information about Albanians. He states:
” The Albanians speak neither Greek, nor Turkish, nor Italian ; they have a peculiar idiom, which is interpreted to us by the Corfiotes, who farm the continental domains of the Venetian government. It would be difficult to keep up the least intercourse with them by means of printing; the knowledge of reading and writing being still more rare among them than it is in the islands, where we correspond with the villages only through the medium of the priests.”3
Some of the authors as I indicated, define Albanians and Greeks on the basis of language, while others identify on the basis of Christian and Mohammedan or Turkish. I will not focus on comments that do not distinguish ethnicity from religion and concentrate on sources that attempt to make that distinction. In spite of all the shortcomings, observations provided by the west European travelers remain interesting and helpful in formulating general opinions as to the ethnic status of Epirus at the beginning of 19th century.
It is interesting to note that the authors had no doubt that Epirus was part of Albania. For example one of the earlier travelers, Baron John Hobhouse Broughton introduces readers to Albania as follows:
“The same shade which which involved this part of Europe in ancient times, seems never to have dispelled during the middle and latter ages. All that we have, till very lately, known of modern Albania is, that it is a province of European Turkey, bounded to the north and northeast by a chain of mountains called Black Mountains, dividing it partly from the country formerly called Macedonia, and partly from Servia and Dalamtia; having to the west the Gulf of Venice, to the east Macedonia, Thessaly, and Greece proper; and being terminated to the south by the Gulf of Leponto, or according to some, the gulf of Arta. This extent of the country has been divided by the Venetians, I believe, into Upper and Lower Albania, the first being supposed to correspond nearly with the ancient Illyricum, and the last with Epirus. Some writers, indeed, when speaking of Albania, have alluded only to the former, which they would bound to the south by an imaginary line separating it from the latter country…there does obtain amongst the inhabitants a notion of distinction between the northern and southern parts; but I have never seen a map in which the line of separation is distinctly marked and perhaps the whole region, even including Acanania, may be correctly denominated Albania.”4
Sir Henry Holland attempted to define southern Albania on the basis of language and other characters of the population:
“Albania, as a country, cannot be defined by any strict line of boundary; but it is rather determined in its outline by the language and other characters of the population. The country around Ioannina, and even Acarnania, though inhabited chiefly by Greeks, are often spoken of under this name; and at present, when annexed to the power of an Albanian ruler, not entirely without reason. Correctly speaking, however, according to the distribution of population, Albania occupies a tract of coast, beginning by a narrow line in the Suli Mountains, to the north of the gulf of Arta, and extending northwards, with increasing but uncertain width, to the country of the Montenegrins, a distance of nearly 250 miles. Following this boundary, Ioannina falls 20 miles to the south-east of this line; and this distinction will be found generally recognized by the Albanians themselves.”5
William Martin Leake follows the same principle and states:
“To the South, the limits of Albania upon the coast reach to within a short distance of Prevesa, and Suli is its extreme district.
The exact boundaries of Albania on the East are doubtful: the best criterion seems to be the language, but as the men, whose employments often carry them abroad, for the most part speak Greek, those places only should be included where the Albanian dialect is in common domestic use, and generally spoken among the women. The districts of Ioannina, Paleo-Pog6niana, and Konitza, must be considered as Albanian conquests…”6
It seems that the writers make a distinction between territories of historic Cameria, unquestionably assumed to be Albanian land, and territories beyond, which are considered to be Albanian conquests. Iannina and Arta are mentioned as such territories. I cannot judge the correctness of this assumption and will leave it to the historians.
Alph. de Beauchamp is more specific about the population of Epirus:
“The population of modern Epirus is not, however, wholly composed of Albanians: various tribes of Servians, Bulgarians, Valaques, Turks, and Greeks, are to be found there ; but at Joannina Greeks and Jews are the’ most numerous. It is not unusual to hear the languages of these different people, or a jargon formed from them, spoken in the same town. The Albanians, however, are the most numerous..,”7
And about the main center of Epirus, de Beauchamp states:
“Joannina contains about fourteen mosques and seven churches, and about three thousand two hundred houses, some of which are spacious and well built. The bazaar is large…. The number of inhabitants, Albanians, Turks, Greeks, and Jews, may be reckoned at about thirty-six or thirty-eight thousand, not including about ten thousand soldiers belonging to the Vizier.”8
On the basis of above observations, it is clear that at the turn of 19th century, Epirus was an Albanian inhabited area. Travelers also took note that cities of Iannina, Arta and Prevesa had Greek speaking inhabitants. Their comments on the ethnic make-up of these centers are very contradictory, most likely due to these writers’ philhellenic stands and their readiness to accept inaccurate information in support of their viewpoints.
It should be pointed out that references about respective ethnicities are not always clear. Frequently communities are described as Turkish, when everyone accepts that there were no genuine Turks in Epirus. Some escape the controversial question by describing communities on basis of religion, communities are described as either Mohamedan, Christian or Greek Christian. The difficulty of assuming ethnicities is typified by Pouquiville’s description of Konica which he states “had 600 houses, where Mohamedans constitute the larger half of the population.”9 We have to guess here that the smaller half was Christian. This type of information leaves room for speculation as to the ethnic make-up of Konitza?
Only Hobhouse understood the complexities of the question of ethnicity and attempted to deal with it. He stated:
…the appellation Romies, or Roman, (once so proud a title, but now the badge of bondage) is a religious, not a national distinction, and means a Christian of the Greek church, and as many Albanians are of that persuasion, and denominated accordingly, it is difficult to avoid confusion, in giving to the various people of the country their common name. To prevent, however, any mistake, I shall always use the words Greek and Albanian, with a reference, not to the religion, but to the language and nation of the person, whom I may have occasion to mention. At the same time, I shall indulge myself in the opposite license, of putting the word Turk as a religious denomination, which, though an undoubted vulgarism, is prevalent amongst the Greeks of the Levant, and does not, as far as I could see, give that offence to the Mahometans…”9
But, language alone was to prove a problem in identifying ethnicity. Leake indicated that:
“THE Shkipetaric, or Albanian, is not a written language: in the Southern districts, indeed, its words are sometimes represented in Greek characters, but even this does not often occur, Greek being in most places so familiar to the higher classes, that whenever writing is necessary, the Greek language is generally preferred.”10
Even the general population was faced with the necessity of knowing Greek, the effect of which was to eventually cut on the number of who was counted Albanian. Again to quoting Leake:
“The exact boundaries of Albania on the East are doubtful: the best criterion seems to be the language, but as the men, whose employments often carry them abroad, for the most part speak Greek, those places only should be included where the Albanian dialect is in common domestic use, and generally spoken among the women.”11
The common use of Greek language by many in Konitza, Iannina, and Arta would prove a good reason for the travelers to exclude from considering Albanian.
But in addition to the language and religious characteristics of the people, western travelers were impressed with Albanian character and attitudes. Hobouse noted a very interesting Albanian characteristic in midst of others:
“…it certain that the Christians, who can fairly be called Albanian, are scarcely, if at all, to be distinguished from Mahometans. They carry arms, and many of them are enrolled in the service of Ali, and differ in no respect from other . There is a spirit of independence and a love of the country, in the whole people, that, in a grater measure, does away the vast distinction, observable in other parts of Turkey, between the followers of of two religions. For when the natives of other provinces, upon being asked who they are, will say, “we are Turks” or, we are “Christians.” A man of this country answers, “I am an Albanian.”12
Here are some references as to the population of Iannina as indicated by other travelers:
Holland indicates that the population of Iannina totals “30,000 and is composed of Greeks, Turks, Albanians and Jews; the Greeks are probably in the largest proportion. He adds that there are 16 mosques and seven or eight churches in Iannina.”13 (he does not say if the Albanian Orthodox frequented Iannina mosques or churches; and then the question arises, how large the Greek element in Iannina must have been!)
In describing the ‘Turks’ he wrote:
The Turks of Ioannina form a numerous body, not to be distinguished, however, in any essential feature from the people of this nation elsewhere. Those who are immediately employed under the Vizier are excited perhaps to a greater activity by the nature of his government; but the remainder exhibit the same indolence, apathy, and prejudice, the same customs and deformities of social life, by which they have long been characterized as a community. Their national haughtiness, however, is not equally prominent here as in other parts of Turkey. It has been subdued in part by the despotism under which they live, and brought more nearly to a level with the feeling of the Greeks and Albanians around them.14
Devenport about twenty-five years later indicates that Iannina’s population totaled “35-50,000 and consisted of a heterogeanous mass of Greeks, Turks, Albanian, Franks, Jews, Arabs, Moors, and Negroes. Greeks are the most numerous.”15
Much later Murray writes:
“Joannina, the chief town of Epirus, and the residence of a Pasha and of a British consul, is most beautifully situated…No Hellenic city iB known to have existed on this site, but Leake supposes the Temple of Dodona to have stood hero. The modern name (TO ‘luimra, i.e. St. John’s town) first occurs in the annals of the Lower Empire. It is incorrectly written Janina, or Yanina. Joannina derives its fame and importance chiefly from having been tho capital of Ali Pasha, to whom it owed its prosperity and its public edifices. It formerly “contained 50,000 inhabitants (exclusive of a large garrisou), 10 mosques, 8 Greek churches, 2 colleges, the Seraglio and palaces of Ali Pasha, and strong castles and fortifications… Its present population does not amount to more than 20,000…”16
Iannina’s is known to have a relatively new history. It was for the first time mentioned in the 9th century. But contrary to this fact, philhellenes kept propping up its “Hellene” myth.
Leake thought that, due to the presence of the a Greek speaking constituency, Iannina was an Albanian “conquest”. Hobhouse maintained that:
“Greek citizens of Ioannina appear a distant race from inhabitants of the mountains, and perhaps are sprung from ancient settlers, who may have retired from time to time, before the successive conquerors of Peloponesus and Greece, into a country where, although enslaved, they were less exposed to perpetual ravages and frequent change of masters.”17
On the basis of its specific location, the latter viewpoint is hard to support. To the west the area was inhabited by Albanians, and as Holland says, “Greeks are rearly seen north of Ioannina”.18 To the east laid the ethnically mixed Thessaly. Iannina’s most likely story is that it got its population from its surrounding areas which would have been Albanian, Vlach or Greek. Hobhouse did hint to such a neighborly movement of people to he wrote about Arta. He indicated that “the town, once so considerable as to have given its name to the neighboring Gulf, has declined since Iannina had begun to flourish under Ali…”19
I will continue with the the cities on the southerly flank of Epirus, Preveza and Arta. As we indicated above Iannina was indicated to have a majority Greek-speaking population. Arta has been assumed to be in the same situation, while Preveza presents a different case.
Holland indicates that after the 1798 war, Preveza was reduced to a population of 3-4,000 Albanian peasants.20
Hobhouse indicates that Preveza contains 3,000 inhabitans of which one half are Turks. Of the Turks, the greater part being Albanian. and are to be distinguished as such by their dress, manners, and language…21
Some 50 years later, John Murray reports Preveza to have a population of 6,000, of which he estimates 1,000 to be Moslems, and the rest being Greeks and Christian Albanian.22
Pouqueville indicated that that Arta’s population did not excced 7,000 Greeks, 1000 Jews…and 800 Mohamedans. 23 (mhb: Pouqueville normally spoke on terms of Christians and Mohamedans).
Holland indicated that Arta’s population exceeded 6,000…and Mahomedans are in the same ratio to the Christians of the place24 (mhb: no distinction is made between Albanian and Greek Christians).
Holland indicated that Arta had about 1,000 houses…or between five and six thousand inhabitants in the town, of which not a fourth part are Mahomedans.25
Based on the information provided by the west European travelers which I have included above, one can clearly see that Epirus or southern-most Albania, as of the early 19th century was an Albanian inhabited area. Peripheral centers like Iannina, Arta and Preveza do reflect an onslaught of Greek influence, do still do show the existence of sizable Albanian presences.
As Greece became independent and promoted its expansionist policies, it spread its cultural influence in Epirus especially through the church. Due to the suppression of the Albanian language many Albanians found Greek language useful for schooling, trade, employment and religious reasons. One hundred years later the “genuine” Greek population of Epirus had remained marginal, and basically concentrated on southern extremities of Epirus, but there was a clear indication that Greek language had made inroads with many Albanians. Encyclopedia Britannica of 1910 was to write about this effect:
“There is a considerable Greek-speaking population in Epiros (including many Mahommedan Albanians), which must, however, be distinguished from the genuine Greeks of lannina, Preveza and the extreme south; these may be estimated at 100,000.”26
Arta is not mentioned, being that it already was included within the borders of Greece. Instead the writer included Preveza as a “genuine” Greek center. But as we indicated above, Preveza did not have a majority “Greek”, let aside a “genuine Greek” population during the 19th Century.
By the time of the Ottoman collapse, Greek diplomacy together with European philohellenes had managed to trick the European powers to believing that the Greek-speaking Albanians, which by all indications also spoke Albanian, were actually Greek and in process effected the great power decisions concerning the fate of the area.

*Paramithya was designated as Ajdonat by Turkish Defters which show that in the XVI its inhabitans bore common Albanian names (See Ferid Duka…). According to H. Kiepert, relying on information provided by the Greek Historian Aravadinos, the area was Albanian speaking in late 18th Century. See H. Kiepert’s Ethnographische Karte von Epirus.
1.   Hobhouse, J.C., Journey through Albania and other Province…, during the years 1809 & 1810, Vol. II, 1817, p. 58.
2.   Eton, W., A Survey of theTurkish Empire, 1798, p. 379.
3.   Devenport, R. A., The Life of Ali Pasha, 1837, p. 113
4.   Hobhouse, Vol. I, p. 22.
5.   Holland, Henry, Travels in The Ionian Isles, Albania, Thhessaly, Macedonia, &c., during the years 1812 and 1813, 1815, p. 98.
6.   Leake, William Martin, Researches in Greece, 1814, p. 256.
7.   De Beauchamp, Alph., The Life of Ali Pacha, of Jannina…, 1823, p. 21.
8.   Ibid., p. 51.
9.   Hobhouse, p. 71.
10.   Leake, p. 258.
11.   Ibid., p. 258.
12.   Hobhouse, p. 132.
13.   Holland, p. 135.
14.   Ibid., p.135.
15.   Devenport, p. 68.
16.   Murray, John, A handbook for travelers in Greece, 1872, p. 408.
17.   Hobhouse, p. 71.
18.   Holland, p. 114.
19.   Hobhouse, p. 47.
20.   Holland, p. 48.
21.   Hobhouse, p. 28.
22.   Murray, p. 412.
23.   Pouqueville, p. 32.
24.   Holland, p. 84.
25.   Holland, p. 67.
26.   Encyclopedia Britannica, section on Albania, 1910, p. 483.

source : http://www.albpelasgian.com/uncategorized/epirus-our-ancestral-land.html

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