Page images
PDF
EPUB

row commanded, with considerable success : until exhausted finances, and the dread of maritime hostilities with England, obliged the ambitious Catherine to suspend her career of aggrandizement. Next came the alarms of the French revolution, which operated for many years as an effectual protection to a state whose only security now lies in the dissensions of her neighbours. Even the invasion of Egypt by Bonaparte, while it brought to light all the weakness of the Porte, was far from accelerating her fall, because it led her to a more intimate and cordial connection with England.

This struggle was closed by the treaty of Amiens; when France chose to hold a friendly language, and to declare the indivisibility of the Turkish empire to be one of the main objects of her policy. In pursuance of this pretended cordiality, Bonaparte inserted a stipulation in the treaty of Tilsit that the 6 Russians should evacuate Moldavia and Walaehia :" but this soon proved to be merely a diplomatic artifice, as no such evacuation took place; and no doubt can remain that he obtained the acquiescence of Russia to his invasion of Spain by promising her a similar connivance in her aggressions on Turkey. The consequence of this concert was more beneficial to Russia than to France, the former acquiring Finland on the one hand and Bessarabia on the other; after which the unna, tural alliance drew to a close, and the rising animosity between the two courts led in 1812 to a pacification between Russia and Turkey, followed by the northward march of that army which made such fatal havoc of the flying French on the banks of the Berezina;

« The successive aggrandizement of Napoleon's empire; the ever increasing pressure he exercised from west to east, and which even his fatal war in Spain had never suspended; all seemed to announce that a new change in the political system of Europe was about to produce the dismemberment of the Turkish empire. Nevertheless, the conduct of Napoleon towards the Porte was uniformly dubious ; whether it was that he had not yet fixed his determination on that point, or that the time had not yet arrived for putting his plans into execution. On the one hand, he appeared to abandon that country to the discretion of Russia ; and in not insisting on the performance of an article in the treaty of Tilsit *, he seemed to consent to its depression or its destruction. On the other, he took care to ameliorate the land communications of Turkey with Dalmatia and Croatia, and to open others. He converted the custom-house of Kostainitza into an entrepot of the first rank; he re-established the fairs of Sinigaglia; in a word, he

* By this article it was stipulated that the Russian troops should evacuate Moldavia and Valachia. Tr.'

appeared

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

appeared diligent to consolidate the commercial communications, in conformity to the frontiers at that time established, as well as in accord with the prosperity and integrity of the Ottoman empire. Nevertheless, he had not neglected any of the measures capable of giving him an exact knowledge of the country, of its resources, and means of defence. Numerous connections had been formed in the provinces of Greece; the various consuls had received instructions, tending either to furnish the information wanted, or, in a secret manner, to work upon the public mind. Officers had been sent into the country under different pretexts, and all had brought back with them memoirs more or less important. The frequency of these missions had already begun to create inquietude in the suspicious character of the Turks. Ibrahim, Pacha of Scutari, on this subject observed to the author, “ Napoleon now sends one Frenchman after another; soon he will send ten, then one hundred, next a thousand, and afterwards a whole army.”

• Some persons have pretended, that without the rupture with Russia, which took place in 1812, the intention of the Emperor Napoleon was to carry his arms into Turkey. Others again assert, that this expedition was not to be carried into effect till after the campaign of Russia, and the re-establishment of Poland. The truth is, no act, no ostensible measure, authorizes the conclusion that' a war with the Ottoman empire was among the number of projects which then occupied the mind of Napoleon. In 1810 he received a project of an invasion of Turkey, founded on the facilities he might derive from his extended frontiers, and the possession of the Seven Islands. He simply caused the author to be told, that he was satisfied with his labours, without adding a word from which it might be inferred that he found them of immediate utility, or even that he intended to avail himself of them.'

We feel little disposition to enter farther on a theme which can now lead to no conclusions of practical utility; and we are, for the same reason, contented to pass over all that General de V. has inserted about the antient political situation of the Ionian islands. The grand feature of his reasoning is that the Turkish empire is easily assailable on the side of Italy; and that, were Austria in possession of the Ionian islands, she would soon attempt to stretch her sovereignty over the Morea and the north of Greece. Russia would be by no means backward in assisting her by assailing Turkey on the north; and, as ever since the second invasion of France in 1815 the cabinet of the Tuileries has had no pretensions to hold an independent language in defence of any foreign state, the result is that the preservation of peace depends at present on us, and on our adherence to that policy which recommends that Turkey in Europe should by no means be added to two already overgrown empires. How unfortunate it is that the civilized powers cannot agree on that plan of liberal

policy,

policy, which would reinstate the Greeks in their antient freedom, and remove the despotism of the Turks beyond the limits of Europe! This, however, we must dismiss as a visionary expectation ; since we can have little hope that Austria and Russia will do any thing towards the emancipation of this most interesting part of Europe without the prospect of dividing it among themselves.

We come now to the Habits of the Modern Greeks. The character of these people remains, particularly among the shepherds and husbandmen, extremely similar to that which they bore in the days of their ancestors. The Thessalians are still dexterous horsemen; the Epirots, as courageous as in the days of Pyrrhus; and the Athenians, as restless and intriguing in the nomination of the petty archonte of the day as when their choice of magistrates had an influence on one half of Greece. This resemblance of manners is particularly striking in mountainous districts, where the inhabitants have almost always succeeded in preserving their independence, and where the traveller meets with the hospitality of the days of Homer, and is welcomed to a cottage by a present of wine and fruit. In the towns, the apartment of the women is still called Gynekaios, and is separate from that of the men; the dispositions of male and female are still lively, witty, and happily adapted to the acquisition of knowlege: but unfortunately in the towns the dread and abject submission, in which the Greeks live, have often made those qualities which under better circumstances would have been called prudence and ingenuity assume the aspect of deception and dissimulation. It is a curious fact, and applicable to the modern Greeks at large, that many Pagan ideas are still mixed with their Christian worship: not a boat passes the celebrated temple of Leucadia without the master throwing a small piece of money into the sea to deprecate the rage of Neptune: the forest of Dodona is still the scene of adoration; and not a child is carried to be baptized before an offering has been made to the Mirai, (Parcæ,) or Fatal Sisters, who preside over the life of man.

The inhabitants of Epiras maintain that the antient Greek language is less adulterated among them than elsewhere; and certainly it is not there so much overloaded with auxiliaries and foreign words. The Peloponnesus has never been thoroughly subjected to the Turkish sway, and contains a population prepared, whenever circumstances shall become favourable, to rise up in the assertion of their pristine liberty. At the head of these intrepid descendants of the Spartans, Messenians, and Achaians, we are to place the Mainots, or

inhabitants

as

inhabitants of the lofty ridges of Mount Taygetus, into which no invader of the Morea has ever penetrated. Our readers will find a notice of this remarkable tribe by a reference to our report of Mr. Galt's travels: (M. R. Vol. lxxi. p. 341.) so that at present we shall only remark that the great damp on the national spirit of the Peloponnesians arises from the recollection of the disasters of the Russian invasion in 1770;

when the natives, who flocked to the standard of their new allies, were doomed to fall successively victims to the folly and inadequate means of the Russian commander. Had that General (Count Orlof) previously purchased the neutrality of the Albanian chiefs, and secured the isthmus of Corinth, he might have bidden defiance, for a length of time, to all the efforts of the Turks; instead of which he merely went so far to justify the aggression and plunder of the Albanians, who soon made their way into the peninsula, and were guilty of the most revolting outrages.

So direful is the impression of that unhappy time on the present generation, that the Moreans, though ready to join the standards of an Austrian, English, or French force, would on no account take the field to co-operate with Russians.

We have made a point of paying more attention to General de V.'s observations regarding the Turkish empire, than to his statistical and political comments on the Ionian islands. On this subordinate part of the subject, we have space only for the following extract, descriptive of the far famed but barren Ithaca, and its more important neighbours.

· Thiaki, formerly called Ithaca, is an island of about 20 miles in length, stretching from N. W. to S. E.-The island of Thiaki in reality forms two, united by an isthmus of about a mile wide. To the N. it widens between Cape Markama, standing in front of Cephalonia, and Cape St. John, about 12 miles distant from each other. The southern part, which is about five miles wide, finishes at another Cape St. John, opposite to the mouth of the Achelous. In this southern part is the village of Oxoi, situated on a mountain. In the northern part, on another mountain, is the village of Anoi, formerly Neius. These two portions of the island are separated by a bay five miles deep and two wide, and in the eastern part of the same bay are two ports. The one, called Skinon, is placed near the entrance; and the other which is that of Vathy, has a narrow mouth, but is afterwards almost two miles deep. At the bottom of this port is the small town of Vathy, containing about 3000 inhabitants and occupying the ground of the ancient Ithaca, the capital as well as the residence of the wise Ulysses, Penelope, and Telemachus. The ruins called PaleoKastro, seen to the S. E. of Vathy, must have belonged to Ithaca or the ancient palace of Ulysses. Vathy is the native place of

Senetor

Senetor Zaró, one of the most distinguished magistrates of Ionia as well for the goodness of his character as for his learning. Tradition makes him descend from Ulysses, the counsellor of Agamemnon and the friend of Nestor ; and of such an honour he is in every respect deserving.

• Cephalonia, anciently Cephalenia, the second in rank of the Seven Islands, is the first in point of size. It is 100 miles in cir. cumference from cape to cape, and nearly 150 in following the direction of the coast.The small town of Argostoli is the most considerable one of the island, although it does not contain more than 5000

souls. This place was anciently known by the name of Cranii.'

• The island of Cephalonia is not very abundant in wheat, though it produces more than the others; but it is fertile in good wines and excellent fruits, particularly melons of a very superior quality.

· Zante, formerly Zacynthus, is an island of about 12 miles în length and 30 in circumference. — The city of Zante, anciently also called Zacynthus, and having a population of 16,000 souls, is built in a line along the eastern side of the island.'

• In conformity to the returns presented to the French Governor-general in 1807, the total population of the Septinsular Republic at that period amounted to a little more than 200,000 souls, distributed in the following proportions : Corfu, 60,000; Cephalonia, 60,000; Zante, 40,000; St. Maura, 20,000 ; Cerigo, 10,000 ; Thiaki, 8000; and Paxó, 8000. From the above period, no emigrations have taken place from the continent which might have added to the population of these islands.'

We have seldom met with a book which furnished a greater variety of miscellaneous information than the present, whether we consider its geographical, its political, or its military contents. How bare and inconsiderable are the notices of passing travellers, in comparison with the long succession of local details given in the fifth, sixth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of this volume! The notices are indeed short, and as far from entertaining as the columns of a Gazetteer: but their number and rapid succession are surprizing. Our limits do not admit of more extracts: but those readers, who are desirous to know how much may be comprized in a small space, have merely to turn to a particular passage, such as (pp. 172, 173.) the geographical sketch of Phocis.

The latter part of the volume consists of a commercial memoir, of considerable importance; of a disquisition on the means of attacking and defending the northern frontier of Turkey; and finally of a survey of the Roman wars carried on against the Macedonians, so admirably described in the latter books of Livy. General de V. intimates an intention of publishing, at a future time, a work on military antiquity;

a task

« PreviousContinue »