The Albanians : an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present 0899509320

3,070 271 25MB

English Pages [747] Year 1995

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Albanians : an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present

Citation preview

THE ALBANIANS An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present by

Edwin E. Jacques

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Jefferson, North Carolina, and London

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication data are available

Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Jacques, Edwin E., 1908The Albanians : an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present / by Edwin E. Jacques, p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-89950-932-0 (lib. bdg.: 50# alk. paper) (CO) 1. Albania —History. I. Title. DR941.J33 1995 949.65-d c 2 0 93-42598 CIP ®1995 Edwin E. Jacques. All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640

To my Dorothy: a "gift of God" for sixty-some years

Table of Contents P reface


Introduction: W ho A re the A lbanians?


Part One: Primeval Albania Colonized by the Greeks and Its Civilization (to 168 b . c .) 1. Archeological Reconstruction of Prehistoric Life in Albania 2. Linguistic Ancestry of the Albanian Language andPeople 3. Traditions About Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles 4. The Early Historical Kingdoms in Albania (1280-323 b.c .) 5. Dissolution of the Albanian Kingdoms and Their Subjugation by Rome (323-168 b.c .)

2 29 46 78 110

Part Two: Developing Albania Subjugated by the Romans and Its Christianization (168 b .c .- a . d . 1503) The Roman Period (168 b.c .- a .d . 395) The Byzantine Period (395-489) Occupation of Albania by the Goths (489-535) Byzantine Rule Once Again (535-861) The Bulgarian Period (861-1014) Byzantine Rule Yet Again (1014-1204) Norman Rule in Albania (1081-1204) Quarreling Feudal Families Vulnerable to the Ottoman Turks 14. The Ottoman Turkish Threat 15. Gradual Capitulation of Feudal Families to the Ottoman Turks 16. Temporary Successes of Skanderberg (1443-1468) 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.


126 146 149 151 156 159 160 164 170 173 178



17. Final Capitulation of Albania to the Turks (1503) 18. Albania's Peculiar Handicaps in Facing Turkish Occupation

190 193

Part Three: Christian Albania Occupied by the Turks and Its Islamization (1503-1912) 19. The Turkish Government of Occupied Albania 20. Reasons for the Adoption of Islam by Albanian Christians 21. Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts for Albanian Independence 22. Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance 23. Declaration of Albanian Independence at Vlora (28 November 1912) 24. Grounds for Confidence in Albania's Eventual Nationhood

200 213 241 275 320 325

Part Four: Muslim Albania Governed by Feudalists and Its Nationalization (1912-1939) 25. The Fourteen Successive Ineffective Governments (1912-1925) 26. The Fourteen-Year National Government of Ahmet Zogu (1925-1939)

334 382

Part Five: Nationalist Albania Seized by the Marxists and Its Communization (1939-1985) 27. The Fascist Occupation and the Rise of Marxism (1939-1944) 28. The Stalinist Government of Enver Hoxha (1944-1985)

410 425

Part Six: Communist Albania Attracted by the West and Its Democratization (1985- ) 29. The Reform Government of Ramiz Alia (1985-1992) 30. The Democratic Government of Sali Berisha (1992-


584 698

In d ex ed M ap s o f A lb a n ia


B ib lio g ra p h y


In d ex


Preface Concerned Albanians and friends of Albania have heard many strange stories about that enigmatic country and its people. I have long confronted the difficulty in distinguishing between fact and fancy. Available informa­ tion is scanty. But altogether helpful was the extensive collection of Albanology in Albanian, French, Italian and English bequeathed to the Public Library of Korcha, Albania, by the pretender to that throne, Prince Don Juan Aladro Castrioti of Paris. His lifelong accumulation of scholarly works proved indispensable to me in preparing a master's degree thesis for Boston University in 1941 on "The Islamization of Albania Under the Turks." Then certain rare works in Italian were researched at the Biblioteca Nazionale of Rome, especially one memorable Fascist half-holiday in 1940 when the departing staff forgot their foreign visitor at his secluded study table and the massive barricaded doors gave me more uninterrupted hours than I really wanted. Certain contemporary Albanian government records are available at the Library of Congress in Washington. Other rare publications in several languages were located by helpful staff at the National Library of Tirana, the Albanian capital, during my visit there in 1986. Of supreme impor­ tance, however, are the Albanian-language books, magazines and clippings that I have gathered throughout more than a half century of fascination with this remarkable people. During the past several years, subscriptions to two Albanian-American newspapers and to an official cultural magazine published in Tirana have enabled me to carefully monitor developments in that country. And finally, intimate accounts of moments of high drama in Albanian history written by eyewitnesses and participants have been ex­ tracted from thousands of pages of American School and Evangelical Mis­ sion documents, reports and correspondence. Some of this material has never been available before in any language, certainly much of it never in English.


Introduction: Who Are the Albanians? When communism crumbled throughout Eastern Europe, Albania re­ mained its last bastion of Stalinism. At the time a spokesman for the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights identified Albania as "the only country in the world which has entirely crushed religious liberty" (Dielli 25 April 1988, 8). Who are the Albanians? Holders of American passports some years ago may remember that Albania was one of the five countries they were forbidden to visit; and when the United States lifted its travel restriction in 1967, the Albanian government promptly applied its own. Some people may have recognized the name of Albania's capital city when former President Carter announced that the man responsible for his inaugural arrangements would head his department of civil defense, one Bardhyl Tirana. Few, probably, would have made a connection between the Albanian community of Detroit and the senior trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice, John T. Kotelly, who in 1979 received the coveted John Marshall Award for his successful prosecution of major cases of public corruption. Nor could they be expected to discern behind the exotic or Americanized surnames of ethnic neighbors the numerous sons and daughters of humble Albanian im­ migrants who resolutely climbed the ladder of success, first in the trades, then in the professions. One of these is Anthony Athanas, a former im­ migrant dishwasher and waiter, who developed one of his five restaurants, Boston's Pier Four, into what the Wall Street Journal once called the biggest restaurant in the world, and who now heads a $1 billion Boston waterfront development project. Other distinguished Albanians include the late John Belushi, the Hol­ lywood comedian who made all America laugh, but whose tragic search for personal happiness led in 1982 to his fatal drug overdose, and his brother, the currently active entertainer James Belushi. Yet another is the nationally syndicated columnist Donald Lambro, named by Reader's Digest (July 1986, 60) "journalism's top expert" on wasteful government programs. And yet another is William Gregory, the air force captain and test pilot with a xi



master's degree from Columbia University who was selected by NASA in 1990 for astronaut training as a space shuttle pilot. News watchers could hardly have overlooked more overt mention of the Albanians. When Pope Paul VI broke all precedents by addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, the only delegation to protest and boycott the address was from Albania. When the World Court at the Hague announced its directive on the American hostages in Iran and the world wondered whether Teheran would honor it, newsmen noted that since the court was established in 1945 its decision had been defied only once, and that by Albania. When the People's Republic of China was something of an international pariah, it was successfully nominated for membership in the United Nations Organization by its tiny but strident client, Albania. When a United Nations draft resolution in 1980 condemned Soviet armed aggression in Afghanistan and demanded immediate withdrawal of foreign troops, Albania was one of only four Communist states voting against Moscow. Once unique as the only predominantly Muslim country in Europe, Albania has recently prided herself on being the first and only thoroughly atheistic country in the history of the world, unsurpassed during the years of Communism for its brutal attempt to exterminate all traces of every religion in the country. A 1989 human rights study by the Puebla Institute of Washington identified Albania as "the worst abuser of religious liberty in the world today" (Dielli 10 Sept. 1989, 8). And yet, who has not heard of Mother Teresa, the saintly Nobel Prize winner, the guardian angel of abandoned slum dwellers in Calcutta and 60 other countries, who was born in Uskup, now Yugoslavia, of an Albanian grocer family named Bojaxhiu? Who are the Albanians? In the following pages we shall see that they claim descent from the great warrior Achilles and from other heroes at the siege of ancient Troy. They claim Alexander the Great, who saved Western civilization from the invading hordes of Persia. Pyrrhus was another Alba­ nian. The Albanians predominated in Rome's elite Praetorian Guard and the remarkable succession of soldier-emperors, including the celebrated Diocletian and Constantine the Great. Probably the outstanding emperor to occupy the throne at Constantinople was Justinian the Great, originating in Ochrida, Albania. Then there was the incomparable Skanderbeg who almost alone shielded Europe from the Turks for a quarter century. Albanian courage and loyalty led Turkish sultans to prefer them as Janissaries in the royal bodyguard, and like the Praetorian Guard before them, they could and frequently did make or break the emperors. They were Albanian refugees from Turkish oppression who led in the liberation of Greece. In fact it was the Albanians who originated the costume still used as uniform by the Greek evzones or royal guardsmen: the "fustanella" or pleated white felt kilt, the hide shoes with turned-up points and colorful pom-poms, the crimson sash or belt stuffed with weapons, a black-winged



jacket and a white fez. Garibaldi and other descendants of Albanian refugees in Italy played a primary role in the struggle for the unification of Italy in 1860. It is understandable then that Enver Hoxha, the freedom fighter and founder of the New Albania, should declare, "Our history was written not with pen and ink, but with the sword and blood." Yet Albanians have excelled in other than military exploits. Serious scholars claim Albanian ethnicity for the poet Homer, the philosopher Aristotle, and Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine." Jerome, who trans­ lated the Latin Vulgate Bible, was of Illyrian, or Albanian, descent, as was Pope Clement XI. So was the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, who in 1964 met with Pope Paul VI to release one another from the anathemas of 1054, which split the Eastern Catholic Church from the West. An astonish­ ing number of Albanians were promoted to the highest governmental offices of the Ottoman empire. The Italian statesman Francesco Crispi declared himself of Albanian blood. So was Mohammed Ali Pasha, who in 1805 established the beneficent century-long regime in Egypt. And so was Mustapha Kemal, founder of modern Turkey, and called "Ata-Turk" (Father of the Turks). But there are also many nameless ones. The absence of early Albanian documents has left us only dim traces of their beginnings. It is possible that over 200 generations of unnamed Albanians have lived and labored, loved and hated, married and begotten, struggling continually for survival. They with their children and their communities enjoyed occasional plenty and suffered frequent desperate want. They sought to improve their condition, they perpetuated their language and their culture, and they usually died with little to show for the struggle. These magnificent Albanians have con­ tinued their dramatic struggle for 70 centuries but have recorded for posterity only the last three of these. The many preceding silent centuries allow us only occasional and fleeting glimpses of the heroic past of these largely unknown people. The Albanians have lived in a land of jagged skylines, towering peaks, precipitous cliffs, windswept plateaus and snow-filled ravines. They called it not Albania, but Shqipëria, the Land of the Eagle. They called themselves not Albanians, but Shqiptarë, or Sons of the Eagle. Thus they identified with that noblest of birds that soars the highest, mates for life, and nests among one-and-a-half-mile-high peaks. That picturesque land has won considerable literary mention. Al­ though William Shakespeare never visited the land, he based his comedy Twelfth Night in Illyria, or Albania. Lord Byron's visits to Albania left him so enthusiastic for the land and the people that his poet friend Shelley nicknamed him "Alby." In his Childe H arold (1.2.46) Byron voiced his ad­ miration of "Illyria's vales," her "many a mount sublime," those "lands scarce noticed in historic tales," and declared "such lovely dales are rarely seen." He waxed poetic too over the people, calling Albania a "rugged nurse of savage men" (1.2.38). He pictured "The wild Albanian kirtled to his knee /



with shawl-girt head and ornamented gun, / and gold-embroidered gar­ ments fair to see" (1.2.58). He also declared (ibid.), "The Arnaouts, or Albanese, struck me forcibly by their resemblance to the Highlanders of Scotland, their very mountains, the kilt though white, the spare active form, their dialect Celtic in sound, and their hardy habits, all carried me b ack.. . . " So would their fierce interfamily blood feuds, and their goatskin or pigskin bagpipes softened with warm water and oil, whose gay, flutelike melody was accompanied by a low drone quite like that of the Scottish highland bagpipe music. Across the Atlantic the tale of Albania's hero Skanderbeg was told by the Spanish Jew in Longfellow's "Tales of a Wayside Inn." And yet farther westward across the Pacific the only epic poem in the Tagalog language of the Philippines is "Florante at Laura," a classic love story based in the kingdom of Albania (Leonard Tuggy, letter to author, 27 March 1989). The present-day shrunken Albania is sandwiched between the former Yugoslavia and Greece on the western shore of the Balkan peninsula, only 40 miles across the Adriatic Sea from the heel of the Italian boot. Yet it cer­ tainly is the least known country of Europe. As the last Turkish province in Europe it was tightly closed to foreigners over the centuries, and until recently it has been closed even more tightly by her postwar Communist regime. One can readily visit Nepal, Saudi Arabia or China, but not this tiny enigmatic hermit nation. Journalists characterize Albania as isolated, introverted, mysterious, xenophobic, a Tibet-in-Europe. Even more ap­ propriately applied to Albania than to the Soviet Union is Winston Chur­ chill's characterization as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." People ask more specifically, "Where did the Albanians originate? Are they modern descendants of the Greeks or the Romans, the Balkan Slavs or even the Turks?" So first we shall examine archaeological findings, then the highly sophisticated detective work of linguistic experts, and finally the popular traditions preserved in the earliest chronicles of ancient scholars. Here we discover traces of Albania's otherwise incomprehensible pre­ historic culture. This ancient Pelasgian people antedated the developing civilizations of Greece and Rome. Their determination to preserve their ethnic identity, their passion for their own land, language and liberty, were threatened by both the Eastern and Western empires of Christendom, and later by the Ottoman Turks. During a dozen consecutive periods of foreign domination the Albanians gradually abandoned their primitive nature worship and were first Christianized, then Islamized, and later made Com­ munist. Many questions arise. Why would historically Christian Albanians turn predominantly Muslim? Other European peoples were exposed to Turkish Islam just as long as the Albanians were, and under similar cir­ cumstances. Yet Albanians were the only Europeans to submit to Islam in significant numbers. Why was this? So we shall examine the 500-year oppressive occupation of Albania by the Turkish overlords and her



abandonment by Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox neighbors. We shall examine in depth two sets of factors, one objective and one subjective, which contributed directly to her remarkable Islamization. The first of these is the pattern of Turkish policies toward religious minorities, the other, certain characteristics peculiar to the Albanian people which predis­ posed them toward conversion to Islam. Postwar Albania earned the dubious distinction of being the only country to vote itself Communist with little or no outside compulsion. In­ terested observers ask, Why would Communist Albania sever postwar ties with Yugoslavia to ally herself with the Soviet Union in 1948, then re­ pudiate the Soviet Union for Maoist China in 1961, then repudiate all ties with China in 1978 and determine to "go it alone"? Why would Albania con­ tinue as the only state on Earth to officially recognize Joseph Stalin as its hero and role model? And there is a yet more immediate mystery, for Al­ bania owes her very existence to American educational, financial, medical, technical, humanitarian and diplomatic aid. In the United States also is the large, closely knit community of enthusiastically loyal Albanian expa­ triates who again and again have come to the aid of the motherland. So people ask, Why would the recent Albanian regime establish diplomatic, commercial and cultural ties with more than one hundred nations all over the world, yet spurn such with the United States, even, like Iran, calling this the "Great Imperialist Satan"? Again people ask, Why would predominantly Muslim Albanians believing in Allah, and Orthodox or Roman Catholic minorities believing in God and in Jesus Christ, outlaw all religious expression and pride them­ selves on becoming the world's first and only thoroughly atheistic state? And yet again, Why in the world would the Albanian Communist regime take satisfaction in being designated by international monitoring agencies as the world's worst abuser of human rights and religious liberty? More recently we would ask, When democratic reforms swept so many Com­ munist lands of Eastern Europe, why did the Communist leaders of tiny isolated Albania disdain "those revisionists" as traitors and pride them­ selves on standing alone as the last bastion of hard-line Stalinism? And finally, Why would those Stalinist bureaucrats imagine that they alone could survive the total collapse suffered by every other Communist regime in Europe, including even the Soviet Union? Casual observers might mistakenly infer from the above that Alba­ nians are fickle or capricious. Accordingly we shall trace the faltering development of a quasi-independent Albania through a succession of foreign alliances dictated by economic dependence, culminating in her radical communization and her repudiation of all compromising entangle­ ments, the abolition of all religion, and her social and economic develop­ ment. Probably this was the only country in the world which asked foreign aid from nobody, and which had no national debt! Were those constantly changing foreign alliances dictated by a determination to achieve some



clearly defined goal that had inspired but eluded Albanian patriots down through the centuries? Admittedly we can know only in part, for Albania has been shielded by a curtain more impenetrable than those which hid the Soviet bloc and China from the world's view. But there are certain in­ dicators that emerge from Albania's long, turbulent, tragic, bloody history. The record, though scanty, is clear. Our world should recognize it. The present work, an historical inquiry into Albania and the Alba­ nians, is no exercise in scholarly futility. It is urgently relevant to several categories of readers. First are the freedom-loving Albanians. That country is unusual in that the number of ethnic Albanians living beyond her borders is greater than the 3 million living within the country. Yugoslavia alone has nearly 3 million. Turkey has 1.5 million, Greece about 300,000, Italy over 400,000, and the United States 400,000, and there are thousands more liv­ ing in Australia, Argentina, Canada, and throughout Europe. English is the primary language of many of these and the second language of virtually all the rest, both within and outside Albania itself. Many of these have ex­ pressed dismay at the few pages that attempt to cover events in their history prior to this century. Many non-Albanian friends of Albania share their frustration. The editor of an Albanian newspaper in Boston deplored the fact that there are very few English-language books on Albanian history. He pointed out that university libraries as well as other American schools and readers are seek­ ing English-language material on Albania, but very little is available. A subscriber responded that many members of his Albanian-American com­ munity do not read Albanian, but are "hungry for facts on our history and heritage,'' and he expressed the hope that they would get more of such material in the future. Another subscriber wrote of his futile search for an English-language history of Albania in the central library of his metropolitan city in the Midwest, only to be told by the librarian that nothing was available. It is understandable then, if regrettable, that Western diplomatic per­ sonnel would know little about Albanian affairs. And this lack of awareness does have serious implications for the rest of the world. We shall see how the bungling intervention in Albanian affairs by well-meaning European diplomats precipitated the Balkan War, awarded to neighboring nations one-half of Albania's territory and population, and set the stage for World War I. A well-informed American president, Woodrow Wilson, is still venerated by Albanians for his stubborn insistence at Versailles on the right of small nations like Albania to enjoy democratic self-government and independence. On the other hand certain Albanian patriots blame British and American military strategists during World War II for enabling a hard-line Communist clique to seize control of their country and elimi­ nate Western-style democracy. Obviously, for weal or woe, the great and small peoples coexisting on Earth are bound together in the bundle of life. What happens in Albania really does have implications for the rest of us.



With the resumption in 1991 of diplomatic relations between the United States and Albania, the postwar informational vacuum is no basis for in­ telligent cooperation between the two. There are other contemporary implications. Global energy problems in recent years have led certain oil-rich Islamic nations to dream of expan­ sion on a far greater scale than anything envisioned by the savage Ottoman horsemen of Amurat or Mohammed II. Certain fundamentalist Muslim na­ tions dream of turning the clock back a thousand years to a strict enforce­ ment of Islamic law. The implications for Christian minorities living in predominantly Islamic lands are vividly illustrated by the historical realities of Turkish-occupied Albania. It was George Santayana of Harvard University who reminded us all that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Albania now catches the attention of many. A New Hampshire legislator, David Young, left for Tirana in May 1992 to serve as chief of staff for two ministries there. Other consultants will go with the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Red Cross or the European Community (EC), each of which has promised millions of dollars for emergency aid. Consultants also represent the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, US/AID and several trade groups and oil companies such as Occidental, Amoco and Chevron. The Peace Corps will send 25 volunteers, and four Ph.D.s went in May 1992 to consult with the Ministry of Education on revising the educational system. Trucks with emergency food, clothing and medicines have entered Albania from Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Britain, Germany and Ire­ land, as have ships from Italy and cargo planes from the United States. The Medical Assistance Programs (MAP) of Canada has enlisted four other mission agencies in significant joint health care projects. About 140 evangelical missionaries already serve in Albania. They come from the United States, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Italy, parts of the former Yugoslavia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Two agencies specializing in short-term work had hundreds of workers distributing Christian literature during the summer of 1992. Every one of these many individuals has his own network of family and friends, each with a great interest in Albania. SO U R C ES OF K N O W LED G E A B O U T EARLY A LBA N IA Ancient Greek and Roman scholars wrote of contemporary happen­ ings which they could verify and preserve for posterity. Unfortunately the early preliterate Albanians left absolutely nothing in writing: no literature, not a single document, not even an inscription. The archaeologists came to our rescue. Their research has unearthed stone structures of every kind: fortifications, dwellings, monuments, altars and tombs, also mosaics and



especially ceramic pottery. Then they have recovered artifacts of stone, bone, horn, copper, bronze, iron, and precious stones, gold and silver. There are weapons, armor, household utensils, agricultural implements, tools, ornaments, buttons and coins, all of which help us reconstruct their prehistoric culture. Linguists have given us additional insights. For linguistic analysis can trace a written language back to its earlier stages, can discover its relation to other languages and to some common parent stock. The inherited names of mountains and rivers, legendary heroes and divinities, figures and in­ scriptions on coins, and any early vocabulary can yield clues as to the primitive culture. Yet further, the chronicles of ancient Greek and Roman scholars incor­ porated snatches of the wisdom of prehistoric neighbor peoples: their myths and legends, taboos and customs relating to the family, the clan, marriage, birth and death, government and war, planting and harvest, songs and games, medicine and religion. This rich treasury of secondhand Albanian folklore had no known author or source. It was an unwritten body of traditional knowledge passed along by word of mouth from generation to generation. Somewhere, somehow, these cultural traces caught the attention of Greek and Roman scholars who recorded them for posterity. These three sources then, archaeology, linguistics and certain early chronicles, can throw considerable light on what would otherwise be a quite incomprehensible prehistoric Albanian past. At this stage early historical and literary documents help fill the infor­ mation vacuum. Fortunately for us, Albania was situated between the two classic civilizations of Greece and Rome and repeatedly came into collision with both. Many Greek, Latin and Italian historical accounts mention quite incidentally some military, diplomatic, commercial or ecclesiastical con­ tact with Albanians. Later European travelers, scholars, merchants, consu­ lar personnel or adventurers explored this mountainous wilderness and recorded observations in their journals. Such unrelated vignettes can hardly enable the continuous historical record which we would prefer. Yet their very authenticity encourages us in reconstructing as faithfully as possible the long, tragic, heroic story of the Albanians, the Shqiptarë. For as J. D. Bourchier declared, "The determination with which this remarkable race has maintained its mountain strongholds through a long series of ages has hitherto met with scant appreciation in the outside world" (Liria 14 August 1981, 3). Let us instead, like the shipwrecked heroine of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, ask, "What country, friends, is this?" Shakespeare's sea captain replied, "This is Illyria, lady" (1.2.1-2). When she asked, "Knowest thou this country?" he replied, "Ay, madam, well" (1.2.23-24). These pages, then, will help the reader know this country Illyria, and know it well.

Part One

Primeval Albania Colonized by the Greeks and Its Civilization (to 1 6 8 B.C .)

1. Archeological Reconstruction of Prehistoric Life in Albania THE ROLE OF A R C H E O L O G Y Archeology is the historical science which discovers and analyzes human traces of prehistoric cultures, i.e., those predating any written records. Archeologists excavate ancient dwelling and burial sites to discover construction materials and techniques and to recover tools, weapons, utensils, coins and ornaments fashioned of durable materials such as stone, bone, horn, pottery or metal. These enable an understanding of the domestic, economic, social and religious activities of the preliterate populations. Clay pottery and fragments called sherds remain unchanged over the centuries. However, their shape, color, ornamentation and workmanship did change over the years, thus affording scientists their usual means of dating the artifacts recovered at an ancient site. THE A R C H E O L O G I C A L A G E S IN EUROPE The archeological ages in Europe are usually outlined as follows: The Stone Age came first, extending for thousands of years until about 2600 b.c ., with early man making and using stone implements. The Balkan region is said to have had a common ethnic basis and an approximate linguistic basis, the region and people being called by ancient scholars Pelasgia and Pelasgian. This Stone Age is usually subdivided into three periods. First was the Paleolithic period ending about 10,000 b.c ., when man made and used tools of rough or chipped stone, horn or bone, and lived by hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruit and edible vegetation. Then came the Mesolithic period ending about 6000 b.c ., during which man domesticated certain animals and plants. Finally we have the Neolithic period (6000-2600 b.c .) during which man developed polished stone tools, pottery, weaving, stock-raising and agriculture. The C opper Age followed, from the discovery of copper about 2600 until about 2100 b.c ., with man first using this rather soft new metal for tools and weapons. 2

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in Albania


The Bronze Age began about 2100 b.c . with the discovery that tin mixed with copper produced an alloy called bronze, a much harder metal than copper for fashioning tools and weapons. The Iron Age followed from 1100 b.c . to about 500 b .c ., during which iron was used to make tools and weapons. At this time there occurred the greatest development of civilization in the Balkan region, as evidenced by the earliest fortified habitations, the ceramics and coins. These prehistoric ages were followed by the Illyrian City period (500-200 b.c .), the Roman Occupation period (200 b.c . to a .d . 400) and the Early Byzantine period (a .d . 400-500). A R C H E O L O G I C A L R ES E AR CH IN A L BA N I A The earliest recorded interest in Albanian archeology was the visit of Ciriaco d'Ancona by Italian galley along the seacoast (1434-35) to copy in­ scriptions and describe the monuments he observed in Lezha, Durrës, Apollonia, Butrint and other places (N A lb 1984, 4:34). Napoleon III sent an archeological mission to trace Caesar's campaign in Albania and carried back to the Louvre a number of works of art found in Apollonia and Durrës. Ottoman officials and businessmen took to Constantinople valu­ able objects found in Durrës, Apollonia, Finiq and Koman (ibid.). During the decades immediately following Albania's independence in 1912, however, archeological research into their origins was not high on their priority list. National survival came first, then a host of concerns basic to nationhood. Research into Albania's distant past was a luxury left to others. An Austrian team of six scholars headed by Camille Prashniker surveyed archeological monuments from Shkodra to Fier in 1916, then in Apollonia and Mallakastra in 1918 (FESH 1985, 864). The Italian Archaeological Mission in Albania began work about 1926 at Finiq, six miles east of Saranda, and around Butrint. Professor Luigi Ugolini continued research about a decade and was followed by Professor Pirro Marconi. The French Archaeological Mission conducted work in Albania during the latter 1920s and 1930s in and around ancient Apollonia, now Pojani near Fier, under the direction of Professor Leon Rey. All these explorations were conducted at sites along the Adriatic coast, tracing early Greek and Roman settlements. There was little interest in Albania's earlier roots. Their discoveries usually enriched foreign museums, especially those of Italy. Following World War II and Liberation, the Archaeological Re­ search Center under the direction of Muzafer Korkuti made great advances in the archeological exploration of early Albania: its prehistoric sites and fortified towns, its castles and tombs. An archeological map issued in 1971 identified 170 archeological sites then under study, and the number has rapidly increased. Besides the National History Museum at Tirana, the cap­ ital and the archelogical museum at the University of Tirana, there are now important museums at most provincial capitals and at the principal archeo­ logical sites.


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

The complete absence of written documents and the scarcity of inscrip­ tions by this preliterate people of antiquity led the Encyclopaedia Britannica author on the Albanian language to the conclusion that "the term 'Illyrian' is really just a name for something we know next to nothing about. 'Pelasgian' is also something that we really can't assign meaning to. These people are better called 'Prehellenic'" (E. P. Hamp, letter to author, 18 June 1983). But the First Colloquium of Illyrian Studies in September 1972 and the second such colloquium in September 1985 brought together at Tirana distinguished scholars of archeology and other disciplines from Albania and 12 foreign countries to pool their extensive research on the theme, "The Illyrians: Origin, Civilization, Heritage." As a consequence the terms Pelasgian or Pre-Illyrian and Illyrian or Prehellenic are now clarified by a greatly enriched body of knowledge. The culture of these prehistoric in­ habitants of the Balkans now appears from the following discoveries of their dwellings, tombs, ceramics, tools, weapons and other articles used for personal ornamentation and worship. THE S T O N E AGE ( T O


2 60 0 B.C.)

This most ancient stage of human society is called the Stone Age, ex­ tending from the remote beginnings of the human race to the middle of the third millennium b.c . when rough stone and bone tools were replaced by copper. The Stone Age is usually divided into the Paleolithic or early stone age (down to about 10,000 b.c .), the Mesolithic or middle stone age (10,000 to 6000 b.c .), and the Neolithic or late stone age (6000 to 2600 b.c .). T he Paleolithic Period (to

ca .

10,000 b .c .)

Probably the earliest traces of human life in Albania have been found in the prehistoric cave dwelling of Xara about five miles from Butrint. On or near the surface of the ground a considerable quantity of flint tools have been recovered. These include tools for scraping, cutting, chipping and per­ forating and are similar to those recovered at recognized Paleolithic sites in southern Epirus, Thessaly and Montenegro. Scientists classify these humans as Neanderthal in type (FESH 1985, 1181). Similar human traces dating back before 10,000 b .c . have been found in the prehistoric cave dwelling Blazi I of Mat, where in addition to flint tools there were broken animal bones, some with scars showing rudimentary efforts to shape them for use (FESH 1985, 103). Humans at that time usually lived in caves or in the open, fed on edible vegetation or tuberous roots and on the meat of wild animals. Similar traces have also been identified on the slope of Mt. Dajti near Tirana. T he M esolithic P eriod (10,000


6ooo b .c .)

Relatively few human traces have been identified with the Mesolithic period. Bone and flint tools have been found in a cave at Gajtan near Shkodra which are thought to date back before 6000 b.c . (NAlb 1984, 4:30).

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in Albania


T he N eolithic Period (ca . 6000 to 2600 b.c .) Because archeological findings for the Neolithic period are so numerous, it has become customary to subdivide the period into the early Neolithic, the middle Neolithic and the late Neolithic epochs. The early Neolithic epoch (ca. 6000 to 4500 B.C.). Civilization in the broader sense of the word really began during this early Neolithic epoch, for it was then that this people made the transition from the nomadic life of the hunter to the more settled life of the farmer. Their settlements were usually situated on river banks, on fertile ground, near woodlands and wild animal life. Caves continued in use for dwellings, although some people fashioned dwellings below the surface of the ground, or even above the ground on posts to escape flooding. Their gradual cultural development is indicated by the archeological traces of their construction, ceramics, tools and other articles. Although ancient tradition ascribes the founding of Butrint to defeated Trojans about 1000 b.c ., archeologists do not agree. The Italian Archaeological Mission working from 1928 until World War II discovered human traces there dating back to 5000 b.c . Ugolini recovered such prehistoric material as a polished ax and two knives made from bone and a few other articles from the Stone Age, as well as a variety of buckles dating from the Bronze Age. These indicate that Albania was populated many centuries before the Illyrian invasion (World's W ork 1930). Vlusha of Skrapari is characterized at the beginning of the Neolithic period by a coarse or primitive ceramic without ornamentation and flint tools. The cultures of Blazi II of Mat, Kolsh I of Kukës and Podgoria I and Vashtemia of Korcha all have a bright red monochrome ceramic and a ceramic with white painted decorations on a red background, which relate them cul­ turally and chronologically to Thessaly and Macedonia. Kolshi of Kukës also had a ceramic with coffee-brown paint on a red background (AT 1985, 5:44). People in Podgoria at the foot of Korcha's Mai' i Thatë (Dry Moun­ tain) used to bury their dead under the earthen floor of their dwellings. The middle N eolithic epoch (ca. 4500 to 3500 B.C.). Dunavec I near Korcha represents the oldest stratum of this middle Neolithic epoch. Situated on the Dunavec River near its junction with the Devoll River, its palafit or post dwellings rank probably as the oldest in the Balkans. Here also appear for the first time a black ceramic and a gray-on-black ceramic, often polished and of good quality. But the distinctive tone of this culture is set by the new forms of the vessels, ornamentations in relief, with engrav­ ing or impressions and gray painting. A short while later Dunavec II shows technically improved pottery with ornamentation in relief, decoration in the form of a plumstone, coffee-colored painting as well as gray, and for the first time two-colored ceramics, red and black. Excavations at Cakran near Fier yielded work tools of flint, stone, bone and horn, millstones, ceramic ovens and dwellings below ground and others half below ground. The most typical ceramic was gray on shiny black, with geometric designs.


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

They had also four-footed vases used in religious rites and anthropomor­ phic figurines. They too buried their dead under the earthen floor of their dwellings. Painted pottery imported from Thessaly dates the settlement ac­ curately as middle Neolithic (FE5H 1985, 139). Cakran and Dunavec II are in complete accord culturally and chronologically. Certain paints on ceram­ ics imported from the culture of ancient Dimini of Thessaly help fix the Albanian dates, also proving the early existence of trade with Thessaly. A remarkable window on Neolithic life in Albania was afforded by the systematic excavations carried out in the summer of 1989 in the Konispol cave of ancient Xara. Facing due west, a corridor 6 or 8 feet long opens into a chamber of about 1400 square feet with plenty of air and light for human habitation. On the right and left sides of this central chamber a corridor ex­ tends about 70 feet farther. Although admittedly introductory, these exca­ vations have revealed archeological materials dating back to the fourth millennium b . c ., such as ceramic vessels with thick and thin walls, black or gray in color, rarely glazed, decorated in relief patterns and with paint­ ings in gray. These characteristics of the Konispol ceramics are identical with those of the settlements at Dunavec of Korcha, Cakran of Fier and Kolsh of Kukës, evidence that during this epoch a similar culture prevailed across the territory now called Albania. This cultural unity becomes even more evident during the later Neolithic epoch when the prevailing pottery is of reddish tones, mostly decorated with patterns in brown paint. The cultural strata deposited one over the other indicate that this Konispol cave continued as a habitation throughout the Copper and Bronze ages also (N A lb 1990, 1:34). Blazi III of Mat is characterized during this epoch by gray-colored, gray-on-black and coffee-colored ceramics, decorated with geometric linear and spiral designs similar to those found along the Dalmatian coast (AT 1985, 44-45). During this same period unusual low, four-footed ritual tables, all having the same form, dimensions, red coloring and engraved ornamentation, were found widely dispersed from Dalmatia in the north to Corinth in the south, including Kosova, Dunavec and Thessaly. The widespread worship of Mother Earth is evidenced by a rich collection of anthropomorphic figurines found in Cakran, Dunavec, Kolsh and else­ where. Found rather widely in the Balkans the crumpled head-to-toe posi­ tion of skeletons is thought to evidence a worship requiring human sacrifice. These several widespread common elements in the workmanship of ceramic vessels and in worship give evidence of a common culture throughout the Western Balkan peninsula (ibid., 46). The late Neolithic epoch (ca. 3500 to 2600 B.C.). At Barch, a suburban village northeast of Korcha, excavations in an ancient tombyard unearthed a late Neolithic culture. Here is seen the characteristic which identifies the late Neolithic pottery, that is, a light colored ceramic. Usually this was an ocher or earthy yellow pottery closely linked to that of nearby Maliq. Less often it was reddish in color, also brownish gray or gray-on-black carried

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


over from the past (Liria 15 August 1984, 3). Then Burimas on the slopes of Korcha's Mai' i Thatë was a late Neolithic settlement having light colored ceramic with coffee-colored designs, also red-on-black. Velcha, a village about twenty miles southeast of Vlora, is the site of natural caves which served as human habitation for some centuries of the Neolithic period. By a large fireplace at the end of one of these caves scien­ tists found a great pile of remains. There were articles of bone such as needles, also round plates and spoons. There were also stone implements, especially hammers, arrowheads and knives. There were parts of many earthen vessels, some glazed, some decorated with geometric designs or with different colors, such as brown, red and white. The Italian Professor Marconi commented on his findings at Velcha: For 3000 years before Christ Albania was inhabited, probably sparsely, by a population of neolithic culture, with the forms and expressions characteristic of the Stone Age. Their dwellings were caves, or villages on the tops of hills or mountains, probably because the valleys and plains did not present a safe refuge from flooding. Often the centers were near the sea. The articles were of bone or horn or stone, and artistic workmanship was expressed by the decoration of vessels with drawings and geometric designs. A culture of this same period and the same form appears to be spread throughout the central valley of the Danube, and in regions of cen­ tral Europe and the Balkan peninsula. At the same time it is found in southern Italy, especially in Apulia. Paleethnologists have often examined the problem of how these similarities could have occurred in such widely separated zones. Now it appears that Albania is the link which connects the Italian peninsula with the Balkan peninsula [Drita 9 March 1938; 24 July 1937],

The Maliq swamp-dweller civilization came to light quite by accident in 1948. Workers digging irrigation ditches to drain the Maliq swampland eight miles north of Korcha found in the mud many horn tools, flint knives and broken pieces of pottery or sherds. Archeologists identified there on the bank of the Devoll River a prehistoric site inhabited continuously from about 2900 to 1000 b . c . (N A lb 1984, 3:26). Frano Prendi, one of the arche­ ologists working there, declared Maliq to be the biggest prehistoric habita­ tion discovered to date in the country and the most important for the study of the cultural and ethnic development of early Albanians (Liria 19 June 1981, 1). This is because the very easily identifiable succession of strata makes it possible for archeologists to use Maliq as an archeological calen­ dar. Accordingly, the earliest level of human habitation during the late Neolithic epoch was called Maliq I. People in that first settlement lived in huts built on the ground, with wicker walls plastered with mud or clay in­ side and out. The huts were rectangular in form, often with two rooms. The earthen floor was usually equipped with a clay oven. The usual Neolithic work tools of polished stone, flint and bone were found. But the many ceramic artifacts were quite unusual, both for their unique form and


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

especially for their highly decorated surfaces. There was a wide range of geometrical and spiral designs in one, two or three colors reminiscent of the very specialized classical "Dimini" ceramics of Thessaly (FESH 1985, 484). Spinning wheel axles found here are similar in form and decoration to those discovered in ancient Pelasgian Troy (Korkuti 1971, 14). At this earliest level of Maliq there were also several crude terra-cotta figurines of a woman (ibid., 19-20). At Kamnik near Kolonja, excavations conducted by Kolonja district school teachers brought to light Stone Age fireplaces and kilns for baking ceramics dating back to 2800 or 2700 b.c . Also recovered was a rich collec­ tion of pottery, besides work tools of stone, flint, bone and horn. Some of the pottery was painted with two or three colors before baking, while other pieces featured an orange-colored spiral design, a white network, some even shaped like a woman with breasts and stubby arms, which would associate them with ancient Troy (ibid., 11). Thus we see that during this Neolithic period and within present-day Albanian territory an identical culture is revealed at Kamnik, Dunavec and Maliq. The development of agriculture and livestock led to a more sedentary life, more permanent housing and a greater variety of tools like those in the rich collections recovered. Trade also began, not only among these settlements of the region, but even with distant Thessaly. This Neolithic culture was becom­ ing less primitive and isolated. TH E C O P P E R AGE ( 2 6 0 0 - 2 1 0 0

b . c .)

The Copper Age, sometimes called the Aeneolithic age, is a term used for the latter half of the third millennium b .c ., when the use of the new metal, copper, appeared. M aliq II Unlike most other Copper Age settlements which were situated on fairly high ground for better protection against their enemies, Maliq was settled on the Korcha plain near the Devoll River. Apparently the river sometimes flooded, for above the earlier layer called Maliq I was a more recent layer about six feet deep called Maliq II. The huts of this layer had been built on hundreds of posts or piles and were called "palafite." The huts themselves, like those of Maliq I, had been constructed of horizontal, closely packed canes plastered inside and out with clay. Those post or pile huts were apparently destroyed by a big fire. Many work tools of flint, bone, horn and clay were found there, varying a great deal in shape and function. Among these were weights for fish nets, awls, needles and fishhooks. In this layer also the earliest copper axes were found. These had been made locally, as evidenced by the casting molds and scrap copper remnants found there. Although the ceramic pottery found here often repeated or developed the form and decorations of the Maliq I pottery, there now appeared a fine gray or black pottery, smoothed and glazed,

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


with gray, red, white or coffee-brown painted geometrical designs, often thick lines forming triangles. Decorations were of many types and of good quality, often painted, but sometimes engraved or molded. A number of new forms emerged here, as cups with an elliptic throat, vessels with a wide throat, spherical or conical vessels without a neck, also baking pots and trays. This "Devoll" pottery would rapidly spread elsewhere and become the distinguishing characteristic of the Copper Age culture. Burimas At Burimas on the slope of Korcha's Dry Mountain are the ruins of a settlement dating from the beginning of the Copper Age, about 2600 b . c . Ceramic artifacts found here are like those of Maliq II, gray on black and polished black (N A lb 1981, 6:30), which would soon prevail over all other kinds, being improved throughout the Copper Age. Originally these ves­ sels followed the Neolithic tradition, being simple in form, the cups, bowls, plates and round vessels having narrow throats and short necks. Distin­ guishing early Copper Age ceramics from that of the preceding Neolithic period were the characteristic decorations: deeply engraved lines forming broad bands or triangles filled with spots, two or three parallel lines, or a row or a spiral of dots, or stripes of red paint. Another characteristic was the gray painting of simple designs. Yet other characteristics were decorative bands of red or white color on the edge of the plates or bowls, either outside or both inside and out. A few ceramic fragments from the eastern Balkans indicate widening trade relations {AT 1985, 48-49). G radec At Gradec of Dibra on the upper part of the Black Drin River is a dwelling site which contains all these typical characteristics of Burimas ceramics, besides a few local distinctives. Thick rather than fine pottery prevails, but it does not match the quality of that from the Korcha basin. Decorations are few and simple, usually gray painting, rarely engraving or relief work. They also made plates with thick edges painted white {ibid., 49). T ren A natural cave with traces of human habitation in the late Neolithic years was found at Tren, near Korcha's Lake Presba. The Copper Age stratum of this cave dwelling yielded findings of Maliq II pottery with beautiful channeling painted with gray and white, decorated with dotted lines and spirals engraved or overlaid {ibid., 51). Here incidentally on the so-called Spile Rock is the oldest pictograph known in Albania, dating from about 1100 b . c . Beautifully reproduced by Korkuti (Korkuti 1971, 29), this is a hunting scene depicting horsemen armed with spears and accompanied by dogs as they chase a deer. It illustrates the importance and the mode of hunting in the local economy of that period.


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

Benja The Benja cave is situated near Permet in the canyon of the Lengarica River, a tributary of the Vjosa. The cave is in the form of a corridor 523 feet long. The Copper Age stratum is quite inadequate for a complete evaluation. The few ceramic fragments available are thin and black in color or polished gray-black. The typical forms are the hemispheric cups and am­ phora with high shoulders and two small handles, decorated with gray painting and overlaid ornaments. These materials date from the end of the Copper Age {AT 1985, 51). Of special value here are the data about the cultural and ethnic links between the Copper Age and the early Bronze Age, that is, between the ancient Pelasgian population and the Illyrians. For two techniques were used to produce a considerable number of these vessels: the upper part was fashioned with Copper Age techniques, the rest with the technique which would be characteristic of the early Bronze Age (Liria 15 August 1984, 3). N ezir The cave of Nezir in the district of Mat was the site of human habita­ tion in the Copper Age and into the Bronze Age. Characteristic of Copper Age pottery was the gray-on-black smoothed and polished pottery of Maliq II (NAlb 1981, 6: 30). The archeologist Korkuti draws several important conclusions from these Copper Age observations. The similar form, ornamentation and workmanship of ceramic vessels recovered in many parts of the Balkan Peninsula, in Troy, and in the Aegean and Anatolia testify to a surprising degree of cultural similarity and to broad economic ties. Agriculture and animal husbandry expanded rapidly. The smelting, refining and handcraft­ ing of copper opened a whole new dimension of life and trade. The long uninterrupted social and economic development of the Copper Age population became the first step toward the formation of a great ethnic and linguistic community. This would relate to the ancient pre-Illyrian, preHellenic Balkan substratum which Strabo called the Pelasgians. Two ques­ tions arise: the time of the Indo-Europeanization of the Albanian region, indeed of the entire Balkan Peninsula, and the relations of the pre-Illyrian Copper Age substratum with the Illyrians as dwellers in the western Balkans during the Bronze and Iron ages. Scholars are not agreed as to whether this Indo-Europeanization resulted from repeated waves of nomadic invaders during the third millennium b.c ., or from a single great influx at the end of that period. Korkuti concludes from his archeological findings in Albania that the Indo-Europeanization of the Balkans was a long process of reciprocal assimilation during which the culture of the one became interwoven with the culture of the other, accelerated certainly by the rapid social and economic developments of the Copper Age. This is the Balkan population

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


which was called Pelasgian by Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus and 160 other Greek and Latin historians, geographers and poets. Korkuti considered Pelasgian that broad cultural, religious and partially ethnolinguistic com­ munity which took form during the Copper Age. He and fellow archeolo­ gists demonstrate that the deposits of the Bronze Age at Maliq and other sites were laid without interruption on those of the Copper Age, indicating the continuity of the same population. They concluded that "the early Bronze culture of Maliq is not something new deposited on the cultural ruins of an earlier local population, but rather a culture born of it" (AT 1985, 58). Reviewing these ancient discoveries, Korkuti concluded that the early Bronze Age culture had the same fundamental features throughout Albania. That is, the principal place in its cultural and ethnic formation was taken by the indigenous Copper Age population, the other component of nomadic migrants from the East being quietly diluted and blended with the local population (ibid., 59). THE B R O N Z E AGE (2100-1100

b . c .)

The Bronze Age represents probably the most dynamic epoch in the social, economic, material, spiritual and ethnic development of the early Albanian population. Chronologically the Bronze Age began about 2100 b . c . when Danubian craftsmen discovered that tin mixed with copper pro­ duced an alloy called bronze which was a much harder metal than copper for fashioning tools and weapons. That age ended about 1100 b .c . when the first iron objects appeared in the Balkans to displace bronze. This 1000-year Bronze Age is often divided into early, middle and late periods. T he Early Bronze P eriod (2100-1800 b . c .) Inasmuch as Maliq serves as our archeological calendar, and the culture of the Bronze Age becomes Maliq III, the culture of the early Bronze is called Maliq Ilia. The culture of this period resulted from a blending of the old indigenous Copper Age culture, called by Korkuti "paleoindoeuropean," with that of a great influx of new indoeuropean immigrants begin­ ning at the end of the third millennium b . c . This influx, or infiltration, seems to have penetrated the entire Balkan Peninsula. Evidences of the blended cultures appear throughout Albania. There is no evidence of other than a smooth transition from the late Copper Age to the very different early Bronze Age. Cultural Innovations in the Balkans. Besides bronze tools and weapons, two other distinct innovations now appeared. First, the ceramics at this point assumed new forms and showed improved workmanship and ornamentation. Typical vases now had two handles raised above the lip. Water jugs were wide-mouthed, and cups were conical in shape with one handle. Bowls and vases had different shapes with or without handles below the brim, and massive crockery had a row of perforations around the rim. Characteristic were broad-belted handles, perforated handles,


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

others in the shape of a beard, and yet others in the form of a tongue with finger impressions along the side. In fact this latter was a prevailing decora­ tion, made by pressing the finger in one or more rows around the mouth of the vessel or below it. Also widely used throughout the Balkans at this time were different forms of molded decorations in relief, especially having the form of a belt with many little indentations (Iliria 1985, 2: 84-86). The ceramic of Maliq Ilia is very similar to that of Thessaly and Macedonia, not only because of form and decorations, but also because of technology and coloring, principally gray or gray-on-black {ibid., 87). A second innovation at this transition point was ritualistic burial of the dead. Until this time the body was simply laid on its right side in a shallow grave with knees drawn up in a fetal position, according to the local tradi­ tion carried over from the Neolithic period. But a new phenomenon ap­ peared in the early Bronze Age and continued throughout Albania without interruption through the Bronze and early Iron ages. This was the imported practice of burial in grave mounds called tumuli, like those associated with ancient Troy. A shallow grave was dug and the body laid on its side in a fetal position as before. Occasionally the body was incinerated and the ashes placed in an urn in the grave, or placed directly in the ground. Buried with the body were weapons, clay vessels and ornaments and, very rarely, work tools. Then over the grave a mound was erected consisting of earth, earth and stones or infrequently of stones alone. These mounds were usu­ ally from two to 16 feet high and 26 to as much as 144 feet in diameter. The earliest grave was placed in the center, with later or secondary graves being added around it and above it. Invariably the entire grave mound was en­ circled with a ring of stones, the circle thought to have been associated with the worship of the sun. Often these grave mounds were clustered together. Seven such burial mounds were discovered at Pazhok southwest of Elbasan. The largest was 16 feet high and 105 feet in diameter and unique because its central grave contained a pair of skeletons rather than just one as elsewhere. This mound contained many ceramic fragments of Maliq Ilia, dating therefore to about 2000 b . c . This grave also contained the skull of an ox, undoubtedly a ritual sacrifice {ibid.). Besides earthenware utensils, scholars recovered there bronze swords, spears and daggers, and also gold and bronze ornaments. Just above this tomb scholars uncovered another skeleton in the same position, accompanied by a water jug typical of the northern Adriatic culture of Ljubljana, testifying to the broadening trade contacts between the northern and southern coasts of the eastern Adriatic {ibid., 87, 88). Elsewhere, four tumuli like those of Pazhok were opened at Piskova near Përmet. A slight variant was seen at the tumulus of Barch near Korcha, where the skeleton instead of being in the usual position was laid on a low central platform, then covered with a pile of stones and surrounded with the usual circle of stones. Anthropologists determined that the skele­ ton was not of an indigenous Mediterranean type body, but probably one

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in Albania


of the new Indo-European nomadic immigrants. Also found here were three small water jugs with single handles, typical of those found then only in western Serbia. Many other tumuli have been found {ibid.) at three sites near Finiq and at several sites near Burrel and Kukës (Korkuti 1971, II). About 40 such tumuli were found near Dedaj of Shkodra, dating back to about 2000 b . c . (NAlb 1984, 4: 30). Three of these were opened in 1983, each having but one central grave with a large quantity of characteristic ceramic artifacts (NAlb 1981, 4: 17). In the Mat region 82 tumuli of this period have been identified (Iliria 1985, 2: 205). Prendi observed that it seems to have been a custom or funeral rite to throw broken pieces of pot­ tery among the stones and earth covering the burial mound (ibid., 90). The architecture of the mounds and of the tombs seems unchanged over the cen­ turies and throughout the country (ibid., 208). Pelasgian Civilization in Early Bronze Age Troy (ca. 2000 B.C.). For the most intimate insight into the civilization of these Indo-Europeans we are indebted to Heinrich Schliemann. His father, a German pastor, used to regale the boy with stories of Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector. Although the youth had to work long hours, he found time to read the classics, developing an obsession for Homer's heroes. Mastering several related languages, he also succeeded in a grain exporting business in Russia to such an extent that he retired as a millionaire at 41. He studied archeology and history, traveled widely, then financed and conducted an archeological ex­ pedition to ancient Troy, called Ilios by the Greeks, Ilium by the Romans and Hissarlik by the Turks. It required seven years to locate the site of the ancient city, situated in northwestern Asia Minor near the Hellespont. There he conducted excavations between 1870 and 1882. His first book, Troy and Its Remains, is a fascinating journal of his experiences supervising a crew of 150 workmen as they unearthed the series of civilizations based on that hilltop. His second volume, entitled Troja, examines meticulously the structures and artifacts discovered in each of the seven distinct strata he found there representing as many successive cultures. Troy was situated in the track of the primitive migration of the Indo-European people from their cradle in the East to their settlement in the West. It was also in the track of a very profitable trade route between Europe and the East, as well as the accepted route for military expeditions. The original Stone Age set­ tlement had been built there on a plateau 80 feet above the plain for defense, near the fertile plain for agriculture and herding, by two rivers for water supply and near the sea for trade. The original plateau itself was discovered by Schliemann 52 feet beneath the surface of a Turkish grain field. The earliest settlement on that rocky plateau had been built of sun-baked bricks and may have dated back to about 3000 b . c . Above those Stone Age ruins there rose in layer after layer ruins of the later cities, each one built on the ruins of its predecessor, reaching up 52 feet to the grain field on the surface. Schliemann believed the Second City to be the very Troy of Homer's


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

heroes. Subsequent study, however, has led scholars to believe that the Sec­ ond City was built a thousand years before Homer's Troy, or about 2000 b . c ., and that there were nine not seven consecutive cities on the site, the Sixth City being the Troy of Homer (Breasted 1967, 305). The year 2000 b . c . would take us back to the very time when the Pelasgians are said to have crossed from Asia Minor into Europe. So Schliemann's minute de­ scription of what he thought to be Homer's Troy will afford us a yet more valuable description of the Pelasgian civilization of that very early era. Of central importance was the hill fortress or acropolis of the old Troy. The massive walls, about 24 feet in height, were of unhewn stones, the smoother more regular surface on the outside, with smaller stones and clay as a binder to fill the spaces between (Schliemann 1976a, 76; hereafter ST will refer to Schliemann's Troy). Many of these stone blocks were over three feet square (Schliemann 1976b, 56; hereafter STJ will refer to Schlie­ mann's Troja). This citadel wall was crowned with an eight-foot-high wall of sun-dried bricks and featured several towers (ST] 57-58). The nobility made their homes within the acropolis, the walls being built of stone (ST 20). The houses consisted of three or more stories with massive beams as indicated by the thick foundations and huge heaps of debris (ST 345). Other houses within the acropolis were built with foundations and thresholds of large stones, the walls making use of sun-dried bricks (ST 20, 96). Both stones and bricks were bonded together with clay (ST] 58). The common people lived outside the acropolis and below it, their houses being built of sun-dried brick or even wood, the wooden rafters and roof being covered with rushes and clay. From the citadel gate to the famed Scaean Gate of the lower city wall there was a 17-foot-wide street paved with flagstones approximately 5 feet long and from 3 to 4 Vi feet wide. Featured prominently in the Iliad, this street dropped rather steeply down to the double-fold, 20-foot-wide Scaean Gate which led out onto the broad plain of the heroes (ST 287). There too were the several tumuli or earthen burial mounds still visible (STJ 242-63). Everywhere the citadel gave evidence of the fiery judgment visited upon the city by its conquerors. Wooden fortifications atop the wall and wooden beams and structures were sufficiently massive to leave a red layer of wood ashes ten feet deep (ST 26). Marks of fearful heat were found everywhere (ST 347): many stone blocks were crumbled or burned to lime (ST] 70); brick walls were melted into shapeless masses (ST] 90); metal ob­ jects were fused together (ST] 58). Thirty feet below the surface a stratum of melted lead and copper averaging more than a half-inch in thickness covered the acropolis area (ST 17, 348). Apparently these metals were pres­ ent in great abundance. The ten-foot stratum of old Troy is composed of fallen masonry and red, yellow or occasionally black wood ashes. The excavations of the ancient city unearthed over 100,000 artifacts, which were carefully catalogued (ST 218). These tell the story faithfully. Stone weapons and implements commonly found in the original settlement

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


were also commonly used in what Schliemann considered to be Homer's Troy. Wedge-shaped battle axes were beautifully made of a very hard gray or green stone called diorite (ST 21), a few being made of transparent greenjade (STJ 41). Some of the same stone had been shaped and fitted as ar­ rowheads, lance heads and sling bullets (ST 21, 163). Found also in abundance were stone hammers, polished axes and knives, single- and double-edged saws of flint (STJ 43, 46), whetstones of slate (STJ 42) and knives of superior quality (ST 95). Hand-operated millstones, oval on one side, flat on the other, were made of stone or lava. Also found were mortars and pestles of diorite, weights, quoits and other objects. At this level metal weapons and implements were then in common use. Pieces of copper armor, helmets and shields were found, also copper battleaxes, daggers, knives, arrowheads and lance heads. Of special interest were serrated or saw-edged lance heads which were unique because they were found nowhere else (STJ 95). The archeologists, however, would correct Homer in one detail: although he made much of swordplay in hand-tohand combat before the walls of Troy, no swords were found here. They depended upon the shorter thrusting dagger of copper until the increasingly common use of bronze made the longer striking sword more popular (STJ 95). Bronze was then coming into use, however, as evidenced by a bronze gimlet such as has been found nowhere else (STJ 98). Of course there was an abundance of copper plates, caldrons or basins like those often given as prizes in the contests, also copper spikes, nails and pins. The art of solder­ ing gold, even some extremely delicate work, was common in Troy, although it was not common in Greece itself until much later (STJ 108). Pottery was plentiful and varied. There were great quantities of earthen plates, most of them uncolored or natural, but some were turned a brilliant red or a dark yellow by the intense heat (ST 263). Although wheel-turned pottery rarely occurred in the lower original settlement, it was found commonly in this level Schliemann associated with Homer's Troy. There were terra-cotta trays, pots, jars and elegant vases of all sizes and some of the most fanciful shapes (ST 281). There were enormous urns for water, wine or funeral ashes, some being over 6 V2 feet high and three feet in diameter (ST 111). They were also cups, spoons, funnels and goblets (STJ 153-61). Among the vast number of urns and vases unearthed, Schlie­ mann stated that several of them were unique, having no counterpart in all the primitive collections of Europe (STJ 152). Also indicative of the foods of that day, the bones of sharks, antlers, boars' tusks, and a great quantity of mussel shells were unearthed (ST 165). Also found were a beautifully or­ namented flute made of bone and part of a four-stringed ivory lyre (ST 25). Probably the most dramatic find during the excavation was the socalled Treasure of Priam. Virgil described the desperate but futile effort to get the king's treasure chest out of the blazing inferno. The wooden chest itself was reduced to ashes, but beside the palace wall the treasures were found, together with the four-inch copper key (ST 23, 322-40). Described


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

in great detail are the two golden diadems, the golden fillets or headbands, 60 gold earrings, six gold bracelets, other miscellaneous ornaments, 8,750 small gold rings, buttons and perforated dice originally threaded as necklaces, vases, plates and goblets of gold and silver, a globular bottle and two cups of purest gold, besides six bars of pure silver. Understandably IIios enjoyed her reputation as a wealthy city. Probably the most mystifying discovery at Troy was the vast number and variety of terra-cotta whorls, a type of fly-wheel to regulate the speed of a rotating spindle while spinning thread by hand. These were strangely similar to the whorls found in Scotland. There were also thousands of little idols and volcano-like cones. Because it was concluded that the inscriptions found on all these were Aryan symbols having a religious significance, these objects will be discussed in a following section on Pelasgian religion. Finally, Schliemann's study and excavations failed to resolve the mystery as to the origins of the Pelasgians and the city of Troy. He conjec­ tured that the original Trojans were a branch of the Phrygian population which had dispossessed the earlier Pelasgian population, driving them over into Europe. Or was it a case of reverse migration? Phrygians who had moved over into the Balkan Peninsula were driven back into Asia by the Thracians. In either case the founders were Indo-European or Aryan in origin, as indicated by Aryan symbols found uniformly throughout the early strata. Schliemann could not improve upon Homer's claim that Dardanus was Troy's first king about 1400 b . c ., and its original name was Dardania (ST 27). Furthermore, Schliemann was certain that these Trojans had no writ­ ten language, for no written records were found, not a single intelligible in­ scription (ST 218, 223). An infrequent symbol or ornament on a vase resembled a letter of the Phoenician alphabet, but these were not decipherable. Nor did this Trojan level contain any of the distinctive features of Greek daily life. In dramatic contrast with the Hellenic Ilios there were no alphabetic inscriptions, no coins, no lamps, no characteristic Greek statuary, not even the characteristic Hellenic pottery designs and colors. In fact Schliemann pointed out that all Greek pottery, even the oldest, was painted, whereas the Trojan pottery was not painted. The latter was also different in shape, workmanship and color (ST/ 239-40). He con­ cluded that there was no Greek presence at Troy until several hundred years after the Homeric epics. He found no evidence of Greek culture throughout the earlier six strata. In fact, he found no vestige of Hellenic pottery which could claim a date earlier than the fifth century b . c . (STJ 268). Schliemann illustrated in his books some of the beautiful statuary found at the Greek cultural level. He was especially enthusiastic over a block of marble bearing an exquisite sculpture of Apollo with four spirited horses, to be dated about 350 b . c . (ST 146). Religious Practices o f Schliemann's Trojans (ca. 2000 B.C.). By the very nature of things, archeology as a science is more precise than poetry.

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in Albania


Under the impression that his excavations were being conducted on the level of Homer's heroes, Schliemann repeatedly acknowledged his deep desire to locate the Temple of Athena (the tutelary goddess or protectress of Troy) which was mentioned again and again by Homer and Virgil. His journal entries record alternately his encouragement followed inevitably by disillusionment. He did locate what seemed at first to be a temple area. Finding no fallen walls or even foundation stones where he was certain they should have been, he conjectured that early Christians must have destroyed the pagan temple and removed the stone blocks for construction elsewhere (ST 320). Later, however, he admitted that it was doubtful whether any such temple had actually existed, saying, "It is probable that the tutelary goddess at that time possessed only the sacrificial altar which I discov­ ered" (ST 346). He did describe at length the remains of two buildings which he thought might have been temples to some other divinity (ST/ 76-87). Schliemann also sought earnestly some evidence of the famous Palla­ dium, the legendary statue of the goddess Pallas (or Virgin) Athena. This statue was supposed to have been almost five feet in height, holding a spear in her right hand and a spindle and distaff in her left hand (ST] 595). Like that of Diana of Ephesus, the image of Athena was said to have fallen from heaven with the promise that Troy would be safe as long as the statue re­ mained in the city. The classic poets reported an enemy raid on the temple and the theft of the statue, which of course could explain the fact that no trace of such an object was discovered during the digging. Schliemann described the only actual image or statue which he found at this level, a sixinch "copper idol" which he hoped might prove to be a small copy of the famous Palladium. He admitted, though, that the figure was "most prim­ itive," "altogether undiscernible to an inexperienced eye," and lacking the usual physical characteristics identifying the female form (ST] 168-69). Judging from his illustration, the image would seem to represent the first poor effort of a little child rather than a divine image sent down from heaven. His futile search for some trace of the Palladium was also a disap­ pointment. But he did report the discovery of a sacrificial altar, the Great Altar. The first related evidence was a colossal accumulation of debris with a crust as hard as stone. It proved to be 131 feet deep and contained the remains of sacrificed animals (ST 222-23). Soon the sacrificial altar itself was un­ earthed. It consisted of a slab of slate granite about five feet square resting on a pedestal of sun-dried bricks just over three feet high. On the altar was a stone block with a crescent-shaped top for the neck of the sacrificial vic­ tim. A cup of pure gold was found in the treasure of Priam such as was used at the altar. It was in the shape of a ship seven inches long, with a mouth at either end: one for drinking, one for pouring, and two large handles, one on either side. A person holding the vessel of wine before him would drink from the nearer spout, then pour a libation to the gods from the farther


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

spout (ST 326 citing Iliad 16:225-28). The libation was usually poured on the sacrificial victim in dedicating it for slaughter and sacrifice. The Trojans used pure wine for the libation to the gods, although they themselves usu­ ally drank only wine mixed with water (ST] 145). Found at this level was an abundance of stone knife blades, including six very pretty blades made of black obsidian which were sharp enough to serve as razors (ST 285). Copper knives were also used for killing the sacrificial animals, and blades of flint resembling saw blades were used for flaying the animals (ST 271). Below the altar was a channel made of slabs of green slate apparently designed to carry off the blood (ST 277). Mute testimony to the religious practices of Troy is given also by the many thousands of terra-cotta whorls which were unearthed here. These whorls were clay objects, always round, up to 2Vi inches in diameter, with a hole through the axis. They differed considerably in thickness, however, some being flat like a disk or wheel, some thicker like two saucers joined at the rim. Some were shaped more like a pear or a top, others more elon­ gated like a cone or volcano with crater, and yet others quite spherical like a ball. The terra-cotta whorl was used in hand spinning. With a hole through the center it was slipped over the wooden spindle to enable a steady rotation like a flywheel and help twist the woolen thread more com­ pletely. Close examination showed that most of these whorls were worn and rubbed on the under side by the circular motion, indicating extensive use with spindles (ST 40). Thus even after the wooden spindles and distaffs disintegrated in the fiery destruction of Troy, the terra-cotta whorls re­ mained. Not only unmarried women did this work, from which we get the term "spinsters," but householders and even noble ladies engaged in spin­ ning. Athena, protectress of Troy, was the goddess of wisdom and skills such as this, and spinning equipment was frequently dedicated to her. Besides the common function of the whorls, their sacred function is in­ dicated by the amazing multiplicity of the religious emblems inscribed on them before they were hardened. All picture the sun in the center, and about half of them show simple rays or rays with stars between them or around the edge (ST 119-24). Certainly the sun god was their most sacred object, and this was an Aryan religious symbol (ST 38). Schliemann iden­ tified on some the 12 stations of the sun or the 12 signs of the zodiac, which are frequently mentioned in the Rig Veda, the oldest and most important of the Hindu Vedas or Psalms. The swastika, a holy "fire machine" thought to represent crossed sticks for making fire by rapid rotation of a vertical stick at their junction, is frequently found, sometimes singly, sometimes in combination, just as in ancient Indian religious art. Or the swastika may have been formed by crossing two units of the letter Z, each standing for Zeus, for the swastika originating in India and spreading to Pompeii and North Africa has always been considered a symbol of the supreme Aryan god Zeus (ST 124-25). It was popularly considered a good luck symbol thousands of years before Christ, "when Germans, Indians, Pelasgians,

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


Celts, Persians, Slavonians and Iranians still formed one nation and spoke one language" as progenitors of the Aryan races (ST 102). Not only the swastika but the cross was also a sacred symbol of the Aryan forefathers, and this symbol too is found on the whorls in many different forms and combinations. Zeus spoke through the thunder and lightning, and the zig-zag lightning is inscribed on many of the whorls. Two other ancient Aryan mystic symbols were found here: the "Tree of Life" and the "Mystic Rose" (ST 160). In fact, groups and clusters of stars appeared, evidencing an acquaintance with the astronomical system held in Babylon (ST xix). Literally hundreds of different artistic combinations of suns, stars, swastikas, crosses and trees were found on these whorls (ST 186-87). Schliemann observed that the religious symbols incised on similar whorls in the Northwest Provinces of India, now Pakistan, are "perfectly identical" to those on the Trojan whorls (ST] 40). Usually the engraved symbols were filled with white clay to make them more prominent (ST 40). Did these ornamented whorls have some particular sacred use beyond their obvious common or domestic use? The archeologist candidly admit­ ted that this was "inexplicable" (ST 175). Other anthropologists report such objects were used as coins by islanders of the South Pacific. Elsewhere smaller ones were used as buttons for garments, or as necklaces, or as amulets. Those with the hole made to resemble an eye may have been used to protect one from the harmful effects of the evil eye (ST] 31-32). Those resembling a wheel were said to be symbols of the sun chariot and used in worship of the sun god Apollo (ST 175). Some think they were used in the worship of the sun whose round image was in the center (ST 41) or for the worship of Vulcan, the fire god (ST 106). Schliemann considered all these opinions, but because the whorls were exactly like the votive offerings of Babylonia and the votive seals found in India, he remained convinced that they were used as votive offerings to Athena, their guardian goddess (ST] xviii, 106). They were tokens of an act of dedication or a vow or a pledge to the goddess. Apparently these were nailed to the temple wall with a round-headed copper nail or pin which was found in some of the whorls (STJ 105-6). Schliemann noted that the workmanship of this period was "most exquisite," that of the earlier period being more primitive, and that of the following period being even more primitive (ST 192-93). And finally, as evidence of the non-Hellenic character of old Troy, Schliemann reported that at least 22,000 of these ornamented whorls were found in the earlier prehistoric settlements of Troy, but none appeared in the later Hellenic layer of debris (ST] 268). Thousands of small, flat figurines which were unearthed in Troy were further testimony to the religious practices of the Trojans. In form they looked like flat gingerbread cookies, with or without a face and usually without arms or legs, although some did have stubby indications of arms (ST 35, 260-61). In size these ranged from five inches long and three inches wide (ST 234). Most of these figurines were made of very fine marble, some


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

of terra-cotta, ordinary limestone, slate, bone and even one of imported ivory. The remarkable fact, however, is that all the figures which have a face feature an owl's face with large or even protruding eyes, and usually between the eyes a more or less conspicuous beak. Often long hair was distinctly marked on the back of the head, with several lines on the neck suggesting armor (ST 164, 172). The workmanship on these figurines was usually rather elementary, even crude (STJ 151). Schliemann pointed out that Homer's Greek text described Athena, the goddess of wisdom, as "owl­ faced," which has always been rendered "bright-eyed" or "shiny-eyed" by translators who did not know the Pelasgians (ST 37-38), and who could not imagine that they would represent their tutelary goddess Athena with anowl'sface. But they did. (ST113). In fact, a four-drachma coin of Athens issued about 600 b . c . shows the first three letters "Athe" for Athens or Athena and the characteristic owl's head of the patron goddess Athena (Breasted 1967, 361). Some of Schliemann's figurines showed more detail: the owl's face on front, the long female hair engraved on back, usually with female breasts and navel, or a woman's girdle (ST 36-37), and some with the vulva (STJ 141). This could be none other than the goddess of wisdom, Athena, the guardian goddess of Troy. Throughout the pre-Hellenic debris at every level he discovered these figurines of the goddess with the owl's face and the enormous eyes (S T 295). They never represented anything else. The flat figures eventually developed into three-dimensional figures. In the ruins of the palace of Priam they found a terra-cotta figure about three inches long, with the owl's head of Athena and the unusually large eyes. Two lines on the temples indicated her helmet, three horizontal lines on the neck her armor. The shield in front had ten rows of dots representing the rows of rivets fastening the several layers of oxhide to the outer case of the shield. The two wings were hollow. Long hair was represented by lines reaching from the back of the head to the ankles (ST 311). This was a rather unique bottle or vase. There were no statues as such. However, there was an immense number of terra-cotta vases in the debris. Many had the usual owl's face, two stubby wings and the physical characteristics of a woman (STJ 151). In no case was Athena represented without the breasts and navel (ST 213). Thus at the 26-foot level in the palace of Priam Schliemann found a splendid brown vase over two feet high, featuring the figure of Athena with the owl's face, two breasts, an engraved necklace, a broad beautifully engraved girdle, but without the two uplifted wings (ST 307). The arche­ ologist pointed out that when the navel was shown it was always ten times larger than the breast and frequently decorated with Aryan religious sym­ bols, such as the cross or the swastika (ST 235). This is probably explained by the prominence given the navel as a result of the Hindu doctrine of rein­ carnation and carried over from the far distant background of these IndoEuropean people. Schliemann was puzzled when he found cups with the traditional owl's face which would not stand when placed on their bottoms. The mystery

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


was solved when he discovered that these were not cups, but covers for the vases, the cover forming the head of Athena, the vase the body (ST 34-35, 266-67). A yet more persistent puzzle remained, however. What were these figurines and vases used for? The symbol was undoubtedly religious. Schliemann leaped to the obvious conclusion when from the beginning he called the flat figurines "idols." But it seems apparent that the symbol was also used as an ornament, for the owl's face was prominent on many of the earrings, pendants and other jewelry found in the royal treasury (ST 23, 335-36). Were these flat figurines, as Schliemann conjectured, actual miniatures of the legendary Palladium supposed to have descended from heaven to the Temple of Athena? He surely hoped so, for he had found no trace of either of these during the excavations at Troy. But he found no answer. Was there some sacred use of the ornamented vases beyond the ob­ vious domestic use, as was also conjectured for the ornamented whorls? Schliemann admitted the unsolved mysteries and used the words puzzle, mystery, conjecture and inexplicable. We too shall have to leave it there. But Schliemann was certain of one thing. From the founding of Troy until the Greek period long after the time of Homer's Iliad, each stratum had yielded an abundance of terra-cottas engraved with the most sacred emblems of the Aryan race. Even the destruction of four or five consecutive civilizations on this hilltop had not interrupted the religious concepts ex­ pressed by the owl-faced figurines and vases. These artifacts were found in all the pre-Hellenic settlements, but none of them in the Hellenic level. The extensive statuary unearthed in the much later Greek city showed that the Greeks had adopted the Pelasgian goddess and had made her much more attractively human in form. Finally we note a natural progression here. First came the primitive concept of a nature goddess to be worshipped; then a symbol was devised to represent her. Gradually the worship was trans­ ferred from the nature goddess to the symbol, and still later the symbol was refined to an artistic statue or image. The progression was initiated by the Pelasgians and consummated by the Greeks. Archeologists interpret these widespread early Bronze Age changes as evidence of a massive influx of new Indo-European immigrants who did not, however, do away with the older "paleoindoeuropean" culture, but blended it with their own. T he M iddle Bronze P eriod (1800-1500 b .c .)

This middle Bronze period was an era of stability with a quiet and nor­ mal development in the principal branches of the economy: farming, livestock and the beginnings of metallurgy. Findings at Maliq, for instance, showed a sharp reduction in the number of the earlier tools and weapons of stone and horn and copper and an increase in those made of bronze. Local production is proved by the finding of molds for pouring bronze. The increasingly patriarchal social order and the increasing prosperity are


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

indicated by more elaborate graves, more luxurious weapons and imported ceramics. The culture of this middle Bronze period, called Maliq IIIc, was founded squarely upon the characteristic forms of the early Bronze period and constituted one more link in the formation of the Illyrian identity. The transition from early Bronze to middle Bronze was so gradual and natural, however, that scholars found it difficult to discern where the one ended and the other began. The difference was mainly technological, in that the pro­ duction of a pottery was of superior quality, with surfaces smoothly pol­ ished and lightly shiny. In color they were still predominantly black or gray-on-black. But new forms emerged: vessels with rounded bottoms, hemispherical bowls with horizontal handles rising directly from the brim or placed obliquely on the neck and little cups with raised handles on the brim. The same circumstances of Maliq in the south were noticed in the northern cave of Nezir in Mat district. Here too the stratum of Nezir IIIc followed smoothly that of Nezir Illb, but the quality of ceramic workman­ ship became increasingly better, with new forms like those of Maliq. Ceramic findings further east in Cetush of Dibra link it with Nezir IIIc, in­ dicating trade relations. Their burial mounds continued the traditional con­ struction of the early Bronze period, a "blister" or shallow hole for the body, covered with a central pile of stones and earth surrounded by a circle of stones. Contained in the graves was the best of local pottery, usually the type of Maliq IIIc, also spear tips of flint and of bronze, and bronze weapons such as swords and daggers. Some bronze weapons were ap­ parently imported from Thessaly, the Ionian Leukas, the Cyclades Islands in the southern Aegean, as well as Mycenae. Other weapons such as those found at Pazhok were apparently fashioned locally following Mycenaean and other Aegean imports. That would give evidence of a relatively high development of metallurgical technology during this middle Bronze period (ibid., 91-93). T he Late Bronze P eriod (1500-1x00

b . c .)

Rapid Social and Economic Development. The late Bronze period em­ bracing the fifteenth through the twelfth centuries b . c . brought great prog­ ress in all branches of the economy: in agriculture and stock-raising, but especially in metallurgy and the production of tools and weapons. Bronze metallurgy became a fine art. Rich copper resources favored this develop­ ment, as illustrated by the discovery of molds for pouring spear heads and chisels at Gajtan near Shkodra. Aegean-type weapons were used through­ out the region: single-bladed knives, daggers and swords being reproduced throughout the region with local variations. This late Bronze culture in the Devoll region is known as Maliq Illd and was characterized by ceramics of high quality clay and finest sand, the surfaces being smoothed and polished. Its distinctive coloring was light with ocher or reddish shading, varied in form and elegantly fashioned,

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in A lbania


often painted with coffee-colored geometric designs. This famous "Devoll" pottery found its way throughout the lower Balkans, even reaching southern Italy during the Iron Age. The northern part of present-day Albania had no pottery to compare with that of Devoll either in its fine workmanship or in its light colors. Tumular burial mounds continued in common use. An extensive burial ground of about 250 mounds dating from the twelfth century b . c . was located at Shtoj near the Mesi bridge northeast of Shkodra. These mounds were three to 10 feet high and 33 to 98 feet in diameter, each con­ taining from one to 14 graves (Iliria 1985, 2: 241-42). Inside were clay vessels, weapons and ornaments. The ceramic materials were locally made and differed from those of Maliq in that they were dark brown or gray-onblack, with geometric designs such as triangles or zig-zag lines incised into the surface. Weapons included lance and spear heads, daggers, knives and axes, while ornaments were buckles, brooches, needles, necklaces and ear­ rings (NAlb 1984, 4:30). But just about everything else, such as the con­ struction of graves and burial mounds and the traditional rituals, demonstrated the unity of north and south. Economic relations extended beyond the neighboring region to southern Italy, the northwestern Balkans and the Danube, but especially to the Aegean world. Increased trade brought private wealth to some, as evidenced in the rich contents of some graves, probably Illyrian craftsmen and merchants. Class distinctions arose. The buried treasure and the fre­ quent burial of weapons indicate the resulting conflict and uncertainty. This same late Bronze period saw the establishment of settlements on hilltops protected by walls of massive unhewn stone quite powerful for that time, such as Gajtan. These fortified points were sometimes simply refuges in times of danger, sometimes permanent dwellings. At this time they also began to develop technical improvements for defense and for economic and social welfare, leading to the establishment of urban communities with well-defined borders and organization. Only during this late Bronze period were the social and economic conditions conducive to the establishment of the first large tribal communities which would later be recognized as Il­ lyrian. Pelasgian Civilization in Late Bronze Age M ycenae (ca. 1400 B.C.). Once again our world is indebted to the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann for his excavations at Mycenae during 1876 and 1877. Because of Homer's Iliad the youthful Schliemann would always remember Mycenae as the capital city of Agamemnon, commander in chief of the united expedition against Troy. Throughout the ages these Trojan heroes have been considered leg­ endary or mythical figures like Zeus or Athena. Now it appears that the stories of the bards and Homer were based on historical fact rather than upon poetic fancy. For while some scholars like Sir Arthur Evans challenged the historicity of Homer's account, Carl Blagen and others


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

were equally convinced of its authenticity. Hundreds of Linear B clay tablets in Greece were deciphered by M. Ventris in 1952. Cuneiform writing on clay tablets in the East Berlin museum was deciphered by E. Fahrer. Apparently the wealthy Troy was actually destroyed about 1250 b . c ., the later shanty town in 1180 b . c . The Hittites and Mycenae dwellers respected each other as equals. The Hittites considered the "Akiyawa" or Achaeans as a strong sea power on their western borders and in 1180 b . c . recorded panic as "the enemy ships come." Egyptian records of the time also mention these "sea raiders." But Mycenae was then on the verge of decline. The ruins of Mycenae came to light for the first time in 25 centuries when Schliemann discovered the ancient walls of both the citadel and the palace. Nowhere else did he find a circle of stone slabs forming a nearly con­ tinuous ring of benches, an open-air meeting place which he called the "agora." This was a circle of royal graves dating from about 1600 b . c ., "shaft-graves" for burial in rectangular pits. These gave evidence of a warlike society now beginning to enjoy the luxuries of life. Besides stone slabs incised with scenes of men hunting and fighting from chariots, there were grave objects such as daggers of superior quality, some beautifully in­ laid with gold. There were also many objects of pure gold which were prob­ ably imported. By 1500 b . c . a more elaborate type of royal tomb came into use. It was built of carefully hewn stone blocks mounded over with earth and resembling a great dome or bell (Thorndyke 1977, 66-67). The largest of these discovered at Mycenae Schliemann named the "Treasury of Atreus," after the legendary king of Mycenae, the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus, dating back to the fourteenth century b . c . Modern scholars agree that these findings antedate the Trojan heroes. The largest of these bell-like structures measured 48 feet in diameter and 43 feet to the top of the dome. In fact it remained the largest domed building of the ancient world until the Roman emperor Hadrian erected the Pantheon 1500 years later. The lintel over the doorway was a massive stone block weighing about 100 tons. Similar but far less pretentious tombs were built for the nobility. These were opened for repeated use when other family members died. Rich golden treasure was found in these royal tombs of Mycenae: 23 diadems besides gold necklaces, goblets, vases and wine jars, some with gold lids attached by fine gold wires. There were over 700 stamped gold disks, some shaped like leaves, butterflies, stars, and sunflowers and gold plaques. In some tombs Schliemann found bodies "smothered in gold and jewels." There were several death masks of gold, breastplates and cups of gold, and bronze swords with gold handles (Payne 1959, 198-200). There was a rich variety of brooches, hairpins, buckles, rings, clasps, earrings, belts and beads, not to mention sword blades of bronze beautifully inlaid with hunting scenes in metals of many colors. About 1400 b . c . the rulers of Mycenae began to make equally impres-

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in Albania


sive provision for their earthly residences. The remains of great palaces have been unearthed at Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryne and elsewhere. These were not like the open colorfully decorated palaces of Crete, however; they were massive, severe, enclosed stone fortresses. Both the massive stone for­ tresses and the massive stone tombs seemed particularly appropriate for Homer's warriors. The Mycenaeans soon began to imitate Minoan pottery. Then they developed their own polychrome pottery, with a black glazed base and geometric designs of white, red and orange. Incidentally, clay pottery is virtually imperishable and furnishes a fairly precise basis for estimating the time and location of its manufacture. The earlier primitive pottery molded by hand eventually gave way to the potter's wheel which enabled more ar­ tistic vessels. Gradually, yet more elaborate work was done, with increas­ ingly artistic shapes and decorative designs and colors, enabling scholars to fix dates and places of manufacture more accurately. Mycenaeans also seized the trade initiative from the Minoans, reaching westward across the Adriatic to southern Italy by 1600 b . c . but giving priority to Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. Exports included pottery, olive oil, wine and hides; they imported grain and luxury items like spices and jewelry. As was the case with the Minoans, expanding trade made the keeping of records increas­ ingly important. Rather than adopt the Linear A system of writing from the Minoans, the Myceneans developed their own system of line symbols which has been called Linear B, using it for their non-Greek language. Thus the ancient Pelasgians had climbed up the cultural ladder step by step from hunting and fishing to pottery making, to agriculture, to metal working, to large-scale building and finally to their own system of writing. THE IRO N AGE (1100-500

b . c .)

The Iron Age is characterized, obviously enough, by the production and use of iron for tools and weapons. The Illyrian culture underwent its greatest development during this period, especially in what is now Alba­ nian territory. The economy improved, trade and wealth increased ra­ pidly, class distinctions became more pronounced, slave labor became common, burial in tumuli or grave mounds continued as the general prac­ tice, and settlements increasingly were fortified with walls of massive unhewn stones. By this time many of the Illyrian families had developed into large tribes similar in race, language and culture. Their fortified towns were often situated on high hills for natural protection. They were sur­ rounded by a wall of huge stone blocks, the wall often being irregular in shape so as to take advantage of natural features such as cliffs and thus re­ quire no more fortification than necessary. The huge stone blocks were not hewn or shaped until the use of iron tools became common, nor were they joined by mortar or cement. These fortified hills were usually located near good pasture land, fertile fields and water. Usually the water supply came from cisterns which were constructed or cut into the rock. As the towns


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

grew and expanded beyond the walls and down the hillside, a second wall was often built. The original inner city was called the "acropolis," or high city, where the governmental and religious buildings were located as well as the theater or social center. Businesses and additional residences were usually found in the lower city. G ajtan

One of the earliest fortifications of this kind was situated at Gajtan, three miles northeast of Shkodra. Although human traces there date back to the end of the Bronze Age, this fortified tribal settlement dates only to the early Iron Age, about 1000 b .c . It had a permanent encircling wall with space designated for residential, economic and religious use, and was one of the earliest steps toward the development of urban life. Traces of many such fortified towns have been found on the mountain range girdling the Shkodra plain. The walls of Gajtan were built of big blocks of unhewn stone placed one upon the other without mortar, any space between being filled with small and medium-sized stones. The wall was 11 feet thick, the highest portion of the remaining wall being eight feet high. Two gateways allowed entry, the larger one being six feet wide and reinforced with massive stones (NAlb 1984, 4:30). The ruins of such fortified towns are found throughout Albania, especially in the districts of Shkodra, Mat, Tirana, Elbasan, Korcha and Saranda. F iniq

The Italian Archaeological Mission did its first work in Albania at Finiq, about six miles southeast of Saranda. The acropolis, situated on top of the hill, was first identified in 1924, then excavated in 1926. Digging below the Roman level, archeologists came upon epigraphs or inscriptions, coins, ceramics, bas-reliefs, broken columns and statuary, and instruments of the Iron Age. In a yet lower stratum they found two flint hammers or ax heads of the Stone Age. This was the first time that evidence of such an ancient citilization had actually been found in Albania. The acropolis proved to be one of the largest in the classical world, its wall zig-zagging one and a quarter miles, making it seven times as large as that of Athens. The great blocks of stone weighed up to 22 tons each, and moving these to the top of the hill certainly represented a major engineering feat. Por­ tions of the wall still stand 23 feet high and feature gates and towers (Liria 1 November 1982, 2). Modern archeologists assert that this hilltop was sur­ rounded by a series of three walls, confirming the statement of the ancient historian Polybius that Finiq was the richest, strongest and best fortified city in Epirus (Liria 22, 29 April 1977). In the third century b .c . this city served as the capital of all Molossia and Epirus. The plain at the foot of the hill still bears traces of the lower city.

A rcheological Reconstruction o f Prehistoric Life in Albania



Remains of the ancient city of Butrint, once called Buthrotum, crown a hill nine miles south of Saranda on the Ksamil Peninsula overlooking the Strait of Corfu. The ancient wall is reported to have been built about 1000 b .c ., "constructed of blocks of stone slightly hewn and fitted together without mortar" (Liria 12 May 1978, 3). The walled acropolis served this Chaonian settlement which was essentially agricultural and pastoral until about 700 b .c . Then the entire city was fortified with three walls, the most sophisticated wall being constructed of huge blocks of stone carefully hewn into geometric forms such as polygons, or parallelopipeds carefully fitted together, and featuring several watch towers and six gates. The best preserved and most majestic of these is the 16-foot-high Main Gate rein­ forced by two towers (Edukata e Re October 1930, 383-85). Distant 600 feet is the famous Lion Gate, so named because of its carved scene of an en­ counter between a lion and a bull, reminiscent of the Lion Gate at Mycenae. This dates back to about 350 b .c . Remnants of the wall stretch to a nearby lake. The surviving towers and gates give a good idea of the strength of the old walls of Butrint and the highly developed engineering skill of their builders (Korkuti 1971,111-12). Butrint was emerging as a city with artisans and industry, the volume of its exports indicated by the very large amount of its imported pottery. Elsewhere

Similar megalithic construction is found at the ancient fortress of Rozafat at the northern port city of Shkodra, dating from the ninth century b .c . Although during Turkish sieges it was subjected to incomparably heavy bombardment which required extensive repair work, traces of the original construction are still discernible. At the entrance of the fortress and along the foundations of the walls can still be seen the characteristic huge blocks of stone. Similar massive construction has been discovered at Apollonia and at Antigonea of Gjirokastra, in both cities the encircling walls being two and one-half miles in perimeter. This megalithic construc­ tion is seen also at the Dores fortress at Tirana, the Leshan fortress near Elbasan, the Tren castle near Korcha, the Kalivo castle near Saranda, the hilltop castle of Antipatrea, now Berat, and elsewhere. Near Pogradec on a rocky peak massive stone foundations indicate early human habitation, fragments of glazed black pottery handcrafted without the wheel indicating a date of about 950 b .c . (Liria 15 November 1982, 2). Other valuable Iron Age finds have come to light in Nepravishta, near Gjirokastra, also in the village of Kolsh in the northeastern district of Kukës, and the well-known tombyard of Cinamak. Excavations at these sites have brought to light one interesting change: the body in the grave mound was no longer placed on its side in the fetal position, but on its back with legs extended (Iliria 2:1985, 243). The usual artifacts of bronze and


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

iron were recovered: spearheads, swords, daggers, helmets and armor, as well as decorative articles like necklaces, buttons, bracelets and other or­ naments. The many graves in a tumulus at Kuch i Zi just southeast of Korcha date from the eighth to the fifth century b .c . They contained bronze ornaments such as pendants, bracelets, buckles, amulets and rings (Korkuti 1971, 48). In 1981 another tumulus was opened at Such near Burrel; it was found to contain earthenware vessels, bronze weapons and ornaments, iron objects, and amber and glass ornaments of the eighth and seventh cen­ turies b .c . (ibid., 131). Superior pottery made with the wheel and imported from Macedonia forced the Albanian craftsmen to adopt the potter's wheel about the latter half of the sixth century b .c . C onclusions

The origin of the Illyrians must be understood as the end result of a very long historical process. The available archeological material indicates that the Indo-Europeanization of the Balkan peninsula cannot be thought of as resulting from a single mass influx of immigrants, but from a long gradual infiltration of population and its intermingling with the old Neolithic Pelasgian culture to form a new culture which we call Illyrian. Albanian scholars see three steps in the economic and social development of the Illyrian people. First, the new Indo-European immigrants arriving in the Balkans as early as 2200 b .c . and throughout the Bronze Age, in­ terweaving their culture with that of the existing Pelasgians or "paleoindoeuropeans" to form the Bronze Age Illyrian ethnos and culture. Then during the later Bronze Age these smaller Illyrian clans progressing economically merged with one another to form broad Illyrian communities with common cultural and linguistic characteristics. Finally, during the Iron Age the Illyrian economy and culture were consolidated and assumed more stable characteristics with the emergence of fortified towns. The fundamental indices of any ethnos or cultural entity are such as the following: (1) Its socioeconomic pattern, in this case the extended fam­ ily, clan or tribe living in hilltop towns fortified with walls of huge roughly hewn stones. (2) Its burial rites, the buried or cremated body being placed within a ring of stones indicating sun worship and covered by a mound of stones or earth called a tumulus. (3) Its ceramic pottery, having about the same shape and workmanship throughout the region. These three factors indicate the cultural unity of this entire Illyrian region. Archeologists also bear witness to the cultural continuity of this Balkan population from the Neolithic Age down through the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, when at last the earliest written sources about the Pelasgians and Illyrians come to our aid (Zëri 23 February 1985, 3). Our historical sources thereafter demon­ strate the unbroken continuity of these Pelasgian and Illyrian forebears down through additional centuries to the Albanians of our day.

2. Linguistic Ancestry of the Albanian Language and People THE ROLE OF L IN G U IS T IC S An experience in India vividly impressed upon the author the potential of scholarly inquiry in the field of linguistics. A friend stopped his car in the bazaar and apologetically exclaimed, "Excuse me just a moment, but I must go into the dukan." That last word sounded so familiar that im­ pulsively I asked if dukan meant store. The friend was surprised, first that he had inadvertently slipped a Marathi word into his English conversation, also that a person not understanding Marathi should have understood that word. But a common Albanian word for store is dyqan. Later in Pakistan I discovered that Urdu speakers also have a word for it: duka. Then I learned that the Marathi word for horse is kala, identical to the Albanian word kale. There is no explanation of these as "borrowed" words, even though borrowing of vocabulary by one language from another is very common. For instance, the Italian word for persimmon is kaki. The Japanese term is also kaki, not because one people descended from the other, or because both had a common ancestor. Rather some Italian navigator discovered the new fruit in Japan, liked it, and took back to Italy not only the Japanese fruit but the Japanese name for it. Like every other language including our own, the Albanian language has been enriched by the incorporation or adoption of words borrowed from contacts with the Greeks, Latins, Slavs, Turks and others. But the Albanian language itself traces back to an earlier base. Language is recognized as one of the fundamental characteristics of an ethnic entity or people. The term "linguistics" has been defined as the study of human speech, including the units, nature, structure and modification of language. Significant aspects of such study are the following: (1) Phonetics, the study and classification of sounds used in a spoken language. (2) Morphology, the proper formation of words, including inflection (gender, number, case, tense, person, mood or voice), derivation of a word from its base, and compounding. (3) Lexicology, the precise definition of words. (4) Syntax, the proper arrangement of words within a sentence. (5) 29


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

Etymology, tracing the origin of a word to some ancestral language, also its development through the years and its transmission from one language to another. Thus it is that the historical study of a language as it changes over the years and the comparative study showing similarities and dissimilarities with other languages can supplement archeology in shedding light on a prehistoric culture. SC H O LA R LY RESEA RC H ON TH E A LBA N IA N LA N GU AGE As in the case of archeology, foreigners rather than Albanians first undertook scientific research into the Albanian language. Not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did the science of comparative linguistics assist foreign scholars in determining the origin of the Albanian language and its relation to other Balkan languages. The difficulty of their task was compounded by the absence of early written documents, for like Lithuanian and Romanian, and for valid historical reasons, the Albanian language was cultivated much later than most other Indo-European languages. This makes all the more urgent, then, continuing research into two closely related questions: the origin of the Albanian language and the genesis of the Albanian people. G odfried W ilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1717)

In the history of studies about the Albanian language and people, probably the noted philosopher Leibnitz was the first to deal with the relationship of Albanian to other languages. His letter of 10 December 1709 quoted in the Romanian magazine A lbania in 1897 declared that his study of Albanian books, including a dictionary, convinced him that "Albanian is the language of the ancient Illyrians" (NAlb 1981, 4:17). But he was a philosopher, not a linguist. That same year, 1897, the Brussels magazine Albania pointed out that although Leibnitz was justly famous for his work in other fields, that did not extend to the Albanian lan­ guage, for he "knew only a hundred Albanian words" (A lbania, Brussels, 1897). Hans Erich T hunmann (1746-1778)

This Swedish historian, a professor at the University of Halle, Ger­ many, was one of the earliest foreign Albanologs to trace the origin of the Albanian language and people scientifically. Surprised by the presence of a non-Greek and non-Slav people in the Balkan peninsula, he researched Greek, Latin and Byzantine sources and studied Theodore Kavalioti's trilingual dictionary (Greek, Slavic and Albanian) in 1770. His Research into the History o f East European Peoples (1774) concluded that the Al­ banians are the indigenous continuators of the ancient Illyrian population, who were neither Romanized nor assimilated by later invaders (FESH1985, 1120).

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


Johan G eorg von H ahn (1811-1869)

This Austrian graduate in jurisprudence from Heidelberg University served as a judge in the newly liberated Greek state, where Albanian-Greek Arvanites amazed him with their Albanian language so different from the Greek (NAlb 1989, 4:35). Appointed in 1847 to the consular post at Janina he studied the Albanian language with linguist Konstantin Kristoforidhi and traveled extensively throughout Albania. In 1854 he published his foundational three-volume A lbanian Studies on Albanian history, language and culture. Ancient sources convinced him that the Illyrians, Epirotes and Macedonians were not Greeks, but antedated them, descend­ ing from the ancient Pelasgians (AT 1983, 1:43). Probably the first to research ancient Illyrian vocabulary, he showed that many Albanian place names carried over directly from their ancient Illyrian names and worked out rules to explain phonetic changes which have occurred in place names over the centuries. He reached the conclusion that the Albanian language is descended directly from Illyrian, and that Illyrian descended from Pelasgian (FESH 1985, 358). Franz Bopp (1791-1867)

A distinguished linguist, Franz Bopp was a professor at the University of Berlin and a pioneer in comparative linguistics for Indo-European languages. When only 25 he published his first work, "On the Conjugation System of Sanskrit as Compared to That of Greek, Latin, Persian and Ger­ man" (NAlb 1989, 3:27). Introduced to Albanian, he noted a close similar­ ity between Albanian and Sanskrit in grammar, in the roots of words, and in their vowels and diphthongs (Dako 1911, 29). He analyzed the numerals and pronouns of the Albanian language then made a historical analysis of its grammatical structure and vocabulary (FESH 1985, 108). He found marked similarities between the vocabulary of Albanian on the one hand, and Armenian or the Baltic languages Lithuanian and Latvian on the other hand, especially in the areas of forestry, agriculture, woodworking, dairy products, household economy, plants, time, weather, animals, livestock, sicknesses, parts of the body and social and juridical terms (Çabej 1976,15). Bopp published his work in 1854 demonstrating conclusively that Albanian belongs to the Indo-European family of languages but did not derive from any other sister languages of the continent, such as Greek (NAlb 1989, 3:27). D emetrio C amarda

Camarda, an Italian philologist of Albanian origin, documented the antiquity of the Albanian language in his book A Com parative Grammar Essay on the Albanian Language, published in Livorno in 1864. While sup­ porting Hahn's findings, he also made an important philological compari-


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

son of Sanskrit, Persian, Latin, classical Greek and Albanian roots. From his critical analysis of more than a score of scholarly sources he concluded that the language of the Albanian people was one of the most ancient of all the peoples of Europe (Drizari 1947, xiv). G ustav M eyer (1850-1900)

An Austrian professor at the University of Graz and a member of the Academy of Sciences of Vienna, Meyer specialized in historical studies of the Indo-European, Greek, Turkish and Albanian languages (FESH 1985, 658). His foundational publication of 1883, The Place o f the Albanian Language in the Family o f Indo-European Languages, was followed by eight or more scholarly studies on the formation of plural nouns in Alba­ nian and comparative studies of Albanian numerals with those of other Indo-European languages, also Albanian history, grammar, historical phonetics, folk stories, poems and proverbs collected from the regional dialects of Albania and from the Arbëresh settlements in Italy and Greece. He is celebrated for his Albanian Etymological Dictionary of 1891. By pro­ found scholarly research this outstanding Albanologist concluded that the Albanian language descended from the Illyrian and is a separate branch off the trunk of the Indo-European family of languages (Liria 15 February 1987, 1; 1 March 1987, 3). Edouard Schneider (x8?—19?)

Schneider, a French scientist serving the Ottoman government at Shkodra, appended to his book The Pelasgians and Their Descendants (1894) a highly technical lecture demonstrating the Albanian language to be "the most faithful and pure echo of the Pelasgian language" (Schneider 1894, 189-288). H olger P edersen (1867-1953)

A distinguished Danish linguist, Pedersen served 35 years as professor of comparative Indo-European linguistics in the University of Copenhagen. His interest in the Indo-European languages led him first to concentrate on Albanian, later on Celtic and Armenian. During the 15 years following a visit to the Albanian riviera in 1893 he published several scholarly works on the Albanian language, giving valuable insights on difficult aspects of Albanian historical grammar, such as phonetic problems with the neuter gender, glottal sounds, and grammatical structure. He also collected and published Albanian folklore. Such scholarly research convinced him that the Albanian language derived from its Indo-European and Illyrian pro­ genitors (FESH 1985, 814; NAlb 1989, 5:28). C hristian Sandfeld-Jensen (1873-1942)

This disciple of Pedersen completed studies at the University of Copenhagen, his expertise in the field of linguistics leading to his appoint-

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


ment as professor of Romanistics for the last 37 years of his life. He pioneered in explaining the affinities between Balkan languages of different linguistic groups because of the coexistence of these peoples from earliest times, but especially during Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman occupations. He identified Albanian as one of the most ancient languages of the Balkans and the source of several purely Balkan features of grammar and syntax, such as the suffix position of the article, the elimination of the infinitive and its replacement by the subjunctive, the formation of the future tense with the auxiliary verb dua, and others. He acknowledged the probability that the Albanian language descended from Illyrian (NAlb 1990, 1:23). N orbert Jokl (1877-1942)

An Austrian linguist of German-Jewish parentage, librarian at the University of Vienna and distinguished scholar of Indo-European languages, Jokl dedicated a lifetime of study to the Albanian language. He was outstanding in his work in etymology and word formation, the relation of Albanian to other ancient non-Greek languages in the Balkans, its phonetics and historic morphology, identifying this as an Indo-European language (FESH 1985, 435). Just before the outbreak of World War II he was invited to teach Albanology to gifted Albanian students, but his death in a Nazi concentration camp deprived Albania of the services of this great scholar (Drizari 1947, viii). M aximillian Lambertz (1882-1963)

While traveling through Greece Lambertz heard some Arbëreshi shepherds conversing in their mother tongue, which aroused his scientific curiosity to investigate the dialect of the Arbëreshi of southern Italy. First visiting Albania in 1915 as an emissary of the Academy of Sciences of Vi­ enna, he soon distinguished himself as a student of Albanian folklore and mythology. Settling at Leipzig he continued studies in Albanology, taught it at the University, and from 1954 to 1959 composed and published a threevolume Course o f the Albanian Language. His new study of personal names and folk beliefs supported the thesis that the Albanian people are descendants of the Illyrians, and the Albanian language is a descendant of the Illyrian (NAlb 1990, 1:22). G iuseppe Schiro (7-1928)

This outstanding Italian philologist, like Camarda, was of Albanian ancestry, and he with his close friend Jokl were inspired by Gustav Meyer. Among foreign scholars of this century, Schiro, Jokl and the Danish Peder­ sen have been called the three foremost Albanologues (Drizari 1947, viii). Professor Schiro's research resulted in his book The Albanian Language, published in Rome in 1932.


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

O thers Several Arbëresh scholars, including Jeronim DeRada (1814-1903), affirmed the origin of the Albanian language as an Indo-European language proceeding from Pelasgian through Illyrian (AT 1983, 1:42). A number of early Albanian writers exhibited scholarly pride in the antiquity of their ancestral language. Vaso (Basil) Pasha, Catholic linguist appointed gover­ nor of Lebanon under the Ottoman Empire, wrote a classic entitled The Truth on A lbania and the Albanians, published in London in 1879. He con­ tended that the ancient Greek gods were borrowed from the Pelasgian ancestors of the Albanians and showed that their names derived not from the Greek language but from the Albanian (Drizari 1947, ix). This claim was supported by later Albanian scholars such as Constantine Chekrezi and Christo Dako. Yet other widely recognized philologists have con­ sidered the Albanian language one of the oldest original members of the Indo-European family. One of these was the Frenchman Antoine Meillet who published Les Langues dans VEurope Nouvelle in Paris in 1918 (ibid., xii). Another was the British philologist Joseph Swire. His book Albania: The Rise o f a Kingdom, published in 1929, was based on his five years of serious research in Albania and elsewhere. Swire concluded that the Alba­ nian race is descended from the earliest Aryan immigrants and was repre­ sented in historical times by the Thraco-Illyrians and Epirotes or Pelasgians who originally inhabited the whole of the Balkan peninsula between the Danube and the Aegean. He pointed out that the earliest Greek writers de­ scribed the Epirotes as non-Hellenic and that the inhabitants of Macedonia, Illyria and Epirus spoke the same language and had similar customs (Swire 1929, 4). Yet another, the Albanian linguist Leonida Ndrenika conducted research in about 60 historical, philological and literary sources in the Vatican Library and elsewhere in Italy. In 1936 he published in Shkodra his findings in the Italian work I Pelasgi e la Loro Lingua (The Pelasgians and Their Language). In it he compiled what is probably the first comparative glossary of its kind which indicates the presence of Pelasgo-Albanian words in classical Greek and Latin (Ndrenika 1936). Only in the decades following liberation, however, have other Albanian linguists focused their study and research on these linguistic problems as a means of penetrating the mystery of the prehistoric origin of the Albanian language and people. Eqrem Ç abej (1908-1980) Undoubtedly the Albanian professor Eqrem Çabej was the most out­ standing modern scholar in the field of linguistics. He pursued higher philological studies in Austria, specializing in comparative Indo-European linguistics. For nearly a half century he researched, published and taught in the field of Albanian linguistics, although he also worked in ethnography, folklore and the history of literature. His outstanding con­ tributions were the historical studies in etymology and lexicology. He also

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


did valuable work in Albanian phonetics and grammar, the origin of the language, its relation to other Indo-European languages and its systematization as an official literary language (FESH 1985, 147). He spe­ cialized in demonstrating that the ancient names of places, rivers and mountains differ from the present Albanian names precisely as the Alba­ nian language has changed phonetically over the years. This was central in the development of his thesis that Albanians are the modern survivors of the Illyrians and of the original Indo-European inhabitants of the Balkans (Liria 8 May 1981, 3). His linguistic dissertation at the First Colloquium on Illyrian Studies (15-20 September, 1972) and other extensive writings "con­ vincingly documented the Illyrian origin of the Albanian language and the autochthony of the Albanian people" (Liria 15 October 1982, 3). A ndrokli K ostallari


C olleagues

Professor Kostallari, director of Tirana's Institute of Linguistics and Literature, reached the same conclusion as that of his colleague Çabej. He too specialized in tracing place names back to the Illyrians. Professor Aleks Buda, president of the Academy of Sciences at Tirana, conducted a con­ ference from 2 to 4 July 1982 to emphasize "the Illyrian-Albanian continuity and the autochthony of the Albanians in their historical territories." These historical territories, incidentally, extend deep into Yugoslavia and Greece, and any official Albanian discussion like this makes her neighbors nervous. Another participant was Professor Mahir Domi who spoke on the Illyrian origin and the development of the Albanian language (Liria 15 August 1982, 2).

Shaban D emiraj Undoubtedly the most complete and comprehensive treatment of Albanian language origins is the recent Historical Grammar o f the A lba­ nian Language by Professor Shaban Demiraj. Consulting the most ancient Albanian texts as well as all dialects, Demiraj demonstrated that the many contacts of the Albanian with other languages in the course of the centuries had an impact on the vocabulary but did not affect its grammatical struc­ ture. The author grapples in a highly scientific manner with many abstruse problems of historical linguistics and concludes that the grammatical struc­ ture of the Albanian language proves it to be a separate branch in the family of Indo-European languages. Foreign scholars will prize the author's broad summaries in English (NAlb 1987, 3:22). Demiraj discusses at length the significance of the so-called Balkanisms found in Albanian and in several other neighboring languages. These Balkanisms include the definite article as a suffix, the use of the auxiliary verb "dua" to form the future tense, the replacement of the infinitive by the subjunctive, the repetition of direct and indirect objects through shortened forms of personal pronouns and others. He also pointed out that all scholars of historical linguistics agree that Al­ banian words borrowed from the ancient Greek were borrowed from its


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

Doric dialect and surely penetrated into the Illyrian language through the early Corinthian colonies of the seventh to fourth centuries b.c . along the Ionian and Adriatic coastline. Similarly, words borrowed from Latin were incorporated into the Illyrian language during the centuries of Roman oc­ cupation. These borrowings of vocabulary traced down to the present-day Albanian language indicate the continuous presence of Albanian speakers in that same territory from ancient times to the present (NAlb 1986, 3:32-33). TH E ILLY RIA N P A REN TA G E OF TH E A LBA N IA N LA N GU A GE T he Illyrians The Albanians, an Indo-European people, claim descendancy from the prehistoric Pelasgians, and from their descendants the more recent Il­ lyrians. Because of this people's irrevocable determination to remain free, it seems probable that their name, Illyrian, derived from their word i lire (free). Their province was called Illyricum by the Romans and included much of the upper Balkan Peninsula. Unfortunately, the Illyrians left no written documents as did the Greeks and Romans, but they did leave occa­ sional epitaphs on their monuments and tombs, using Greek or Latin characters. These Greek and Latin letters do not indicate the Hellenization or Romanization of the population, but rather their use of these "trade languages" just as India, Pakistan and the Philippines use English, while various countries of Africa use French. Illyrian proper names of cities and kings are frequently found on the coins minted after 450 b.c . Other sur­ viving fragments of the Illyrian language were found in written works on Illyria or the Illyrians by Greek or Roman authors who identified the foreign words as Illyrian. Admittedly, Illyrian vocabulary from these sources is scanty, consisting mainly of proper names of persons, places, deities and tribes, about 1,000 words altogether {AT 1983, 1:43). Illyrian is thought to be closely related to the mysterious Messapian inscriptions found in caves of the Bari region of southeastern Italy {ibid., 44). In 1984 the University of Lecce conducted a seminar to discuss the mysteri­ ous inscriptions recently found in the coastal cave called Rocca Vecchia a few miles north of Otranto. About 2,000 inscriptions cover 4,000 square feet of rock wall and date from the sixth century b.c . This Otranto strait was the Adriatic route between Albania and Italy. Ceramics with the Devoll forms and painted decorations show evidence of an Illyrian in­ fluence along the Otranto coast between the eleventh and eighth centuries b.c ., and linguistic scholars find similarities in the vocabularies of Mes­ sapian, Illyrian and Albanian. The archeologists Korkuti and Prendi at­ tended the seminar and believe that continuing research will indicate that these Messapians were tribes of Illyrian origin who crossed the Adri­ atic to settle along the southeastern coast of Italy about 1000 b.c . and

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


that their now extinct language is a variant of Illyrian (NAlb 1985, 3:28). A lbanian T ibs

with Illyrian

Many lines of reasoning convince linguistic scholars that the Albanian people and language originated with the ancient Illyrians. 1. The national name Albania is the name Albanoi, an Illyrian tribe mentioned by the geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria about a .d . 150. 2. The Albanoi territory then centered at Albanopoli, between Durrës and Kruja, the heartland of modern Albania. 3. Four peoples speaking their own languages lived in the Balkans in ancient times: the Greeks in the south, the Macedonians in the center, the Thracians in the east and the Illyrians in the west. Today Albanian is spoken in most of the same region where Illyrian was spoken in ancient times. 4. Those few language elements which are known as Illyrian can be explained through the Albanian language, and no other. 5. A linguistic comparison of Albanian with ancient Greek and Latin indicates that Albanian was formed as a language at an earlier period than those other ancient languages. 6. Archeological and historical data witness to the cultural continuity from the Illyrians to the Albanians. Continual contact with other peoples and languages has left its traces in the Albanian vocabulary. Foreign words have been borrowed from Greek, Latin, Slavic and Turkish, yet Albanian has been preserved as a separate language, its grammatical system remain­ ing virtually unchanged. 7. Linguists point out many technical similarities between Illyrian and Albanian words. 8. Borrowings from northern Greek and from Latin incorporated in the Albanian language reflect the well-known political and cultural pressures on Illyrian territory. Linguistic studies indicate that Albanian developed from Illyrian as a distinct language between the fourth and sixth centuries a .d . Thus ancient borrowings of Greek and Latin vocabulary could not have moved directly into Albanian, but into Illyrian, through which these words entered into Albanian. Historical linguists point out that these borrowings from ancient Greek were in the Dorian dialect and penetrated into Illyrian through Corinthian commercial colonies in Corfu, along the Adriatic coast, and through border towns. Latin borrowings came later during the lengthy Roman occupation (NAlb 1986, 3:32). These ancient Greek and Roman contacts occurred precisely in the territory of old Illyria, leaving their traces in the Illyrian language from which they later passed into the Albanian language. 9. Illyrian toponyms, ancient Illyrian place names for cities, rivers and mountains, are preserved today in the Albanian language, and only in Albanian. The names of Balkan villages usually lasted only a few centuries,

Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization


for villages were often destroyed altogether during wartime. Cities lasted longer, so their names were usually older. But rivers, lakes and mountains endured through the centuries, and their ancient names usually continued in use. Even new inhabitants usually adopted the old names, just as American colonists adopted many old Indian place names in the United States. Accordingly, Albanian linguists have found more than 300 names of ancient cities like Shkodra, rivers like the Drin and mountains like Tomor which were mentioned by ancient Greek and Roman geographers or historians and which are still in use in Albania. Scholars show how the rules of historical phonetics explain any changes of spelling over the cen­ turies from Illyrian to Albanian, as Scupi to Shkup, Scodra to Shkodra, Lissus to Lezha, Durrachium to Durrës, Drinus to Drin, Mathis to Mat. Certainly the Albanian language is derived from the Illyrian (Çabej 1985, 42-62). 10. Illyrian proper names continue in use among present-day Alba­ nians. Many of the individual Illyrian names of persons were preserved on epitaphs and inscriptions on coins. Then the names of other people like the Illyrian rulers Agron and Teuta were mentioned by Greek or Roman historians. The Albanian scholar Mahri Domi claims to have identified 800 of these (Liria 15 October 1982; 1 November 1983). 11. The numerous marine terms for sea plants and animals in the Albanian language show that these people lived along the coast on what would correspond with Illyrian territory (AT 1983, 1:44-45). 12. Then there are other words in Albanian which Greek or Roman writers long ago explicitly identified as Illyrian in origin. Down through the centuries many once great peoples have been either destroyed or assimilated by others so as to disappear altogether. But the Il­ lyrian people with their distinctive dress, music, customs and especially their language have persisted in their shrinking territory along the western shore of the Balkan Peninsula. With no record or tradition even hinting at their extermination or assimilation or migration, one can only assume their unbroken historical continuity. There seems to be no question but that the present-day Albanians are the historically uninterrupted descendants of the Illyrians who were known to have inhabited that same region in early Greek and Roman times. THE PE L A SG IA N PA R E N T A G E OF THE ILLY RIA N AND A LBA N IA N LA N G U A G ES T he Pelasgians The ancient term "Pelasgian" is almost as mysterious now as ever, for scholars still have difficulty assigning precise meaning to it. For that reason some linguistic authorities prefer to substitute the term "pre-Hellenic" for the language of the people who antedated the Greeks in the Balkan Penin­ sula (Hamp 1983). However, Herodotus and Strabo wrote a great deal

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


about the Pelasgians. So did Thucydides, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Pliny the Elder, Hesiod, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Virgil and many others. Living as they did so much closer to that period of human history, their combined testimony to the Pelasgians should have con­ siderable weight. These Pelasgians migrated into the Balkans in prehistoric times before the Illyrians and were called by Korkuti "paleoindoeuropeans." They were the progenitors of the Illyrians who in turn were pro­ genitors of the Albanians. According to the earliest writers those Pelasgians resided throughout the Balkan-Aegean world, including all the Balkans, the Aegean coast of Asia Minor and Crete. Their Pelasgian language was called "barbarian," that is, not Greek. Linguistic studies show that these Pelasgians left their traces in the Balkans in the pre-Greek terms for the names of persons, places and divinities, names which have no apparent tie to Greek, but which are explained by the later Illyrian and Albanian. A lbanian T ies

with the


The first modern scholar to identify the present-day Albanians as descendants of the ancient Pelasgians was Johan von Hahn, who continued historical and linguistic research during his 40 years of service as Austrian consul at Janina. The Arbëreshë poet and scholar in Italy Jeronim De Rada continued the same thesis, demonstrating that ancient Pelasgian place names could be explained only by the Albanian language. In 1879, the year following the denial of Albania's legitimacy by the Congress of Berlin, Pashko Vasa of Shkodra continued the argument, publishing in Paris and Berlin in French and German his well-known E Vërteta për Shqipërinë dhe Shqiptarët (The Truth about Albania and the Albanians). He pointed out that when people are obliged to migrate they often name new places after the old which they had to abandon. So the ancient name of Macedonia was Emathia (Albanian: E madhja, the great one), and the Pelasgians, forced back toward present Albanian territory, renamed the mountainous region Matia or Mati (Liria 1,15 May 1983,1, 7). Virgil claimed that the defeated heroes of Troy did the same on migrating to Butrint, and the Arbëreshë did the same upon reaching southern Italy. The scholar J. Thomopullos listed a number of such place names and in addition showed how certain Etruscan words had the same roots as their modern Albanian equivalents (ibid.). Another modern scholar, Spiro Konda, pointed out examples from Homer's O dyssey where the compound name of a mountain, for instance, consisted of the Albanian name given by the local Pelasgian inhabitants and the Greek equivalent of their supplanters. Thus there was a Gyropetra from the Albanian gur for stone and the Greek petra for stone. There was also a M egallopetras Gyres, combin­ ing great stone in Greek and stone in Albanian. Then there were many variations of the Albanian word mal for mountain and its Greek equivalent oros, as M aleiaon oros. Indicating the wide diffusion of the Pelasgian peo­ ple and language he noted the similar compound name for a mountain near


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

Budapest named Maliegy, mali being Albanian for the mountain, egy being its Hungarian equivalent. Another linguist, Xhaxhiu, also pointed out the many variations of the Albanian word pyll for forest found in the Pelasgian island of Lesbos and in Epirus. He made the following observation: "The fact that the Pelasgians, attacked by their Greek kinsmen, were forced to withdraw from the lowlands to the forests and the mountains explains the widespread use of place names using the Albanian roots pyll, mal and guC (ibid.). Scholars point out that vanished languages usually leave traces in their names which persist for rivers, mountains and other permanent natural features, just as American Indian names are still found all over the United States. Such a word is Larissa, a Pelasgian word for fortress, which was widely used in the ancient world for a fortified city. Still found in maps, it evidences the widespread dissemination of the Pelasgian people. Shepperd's Classical W orld Atlas shows 11 cities or towns named Larissa. There was a Larissa in Assyria on the Tigris River, and several in Asia Minor. One of these near Troy was mentioned by Homer as the home of "the tough Pelasgians from Larissa's rich plowland" (Iliad 2:811-12). Cities in the Balkan Peninsula bearing that name were the following: one on the river Peneus in the district of Pelasgian Argos in central Thessaly; a Larissa Cremaste in the southern portion of Achaia-Phthiotis, and another Larissa, now called Techos, near the river Larissos which flows into the Ionian Sea below the northwest promontory of the Gulf of Corinth at Elia in Achaea. This may help us to appreciate the striking report of the Albanologist Otto Blau that the ancient inscriptions on stone tablets unearthed in Crete and Lemnos from 1897 to 1899, long unintelligible, could be deciphered by means of the Albanian language. Then there is the mysterious language of the ancient Etruscans in cen­ tral Italy. It was long considered to have no established relationship to any other known language. In recent years, however, an Italian scholar named Filippo Coarelli in his Etruscan Cities of Italy declared that the mysteri­ ous language of the Etruscans was closely "related to the pre-Hellenic language of Lemnos" (Coarelli 1975, 14). Lemnos is the Pelasgian island just west of Pelasgian Troy. A contemporary scholar of Arbëreshë or Italo-Albanian origin, Nermin VIora Falaschi, has authored a second study of ancient Euro-Mediterranean civilizations entitled Etruscan, A Living Language. Drawing upon the works of other scholars from ancient times down to the present and analyzing the wealth of Etruscan epi­ graphs, she concluded that the Etruscans were direct offspring of the Pelas­ gians who civilized much of the Mediterranean region. The Italian and English text of 176 pages is illustrated with 49 colored plates and 53 original reproductions of Etruscan inscriptions. There is also a transcription of each Etruscan word in Latin characters, with its Italian, English and Al­ banian equivalents and a table of alphabets. Her thesis is very convinc­ ing, that these ancient Etruscan inscriptions can be interpreted only by the

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


Pellasgo-Illyrian idiom preserved in Albanian (Dielli 28 June 1989, 3; 10 October 1989, 2). Albanian scholars may not be thought altogether ob­ jective, but after studying epitaphs on Etruscan tombs, columns and pot­ tery found in Perugia and elsewhere in Tuscany, they could liken the language to none other than the Tosk dialect of Albanian. Incidentally, the Italian name for this Etruscan region of Tuscany is Toscana, the place of the Toscs, which is identical with the name of the southern Albanians, the Tosks. This matter, however, we must leave with the experts. But un­ doubtedly there is more here than mere coincidence. A consideration of the characteristic vocabulary of this pre-Hellenic people led the French scholar Louis Benloew to the same conclusion in his book La Grëce avant les Grecs, published in Paris in 1877. He observed, "Many names of places, mountains, rivers and legendary personages which cannot be explained by the etymology of Greek words apparently can be explained by a non-Greek language. Only one language up to the present is able to cast light on the names of these places, and this language is Alba­ nian. Therefore, the author of this work is compelled to support the thesis that the Albanians of our day are the descendants of the populations which lived before the coming of the Greeks in the region from the Adriatic as far as the Halys" (x, xi). The Halys was a river in eastern Asia Minor. A scertainment

of the

Pelasgian A lphabet

The reduction of a spoken language to written form is a fascinating story. The Pelasgian alphabet apparently came to us through the Phoeni­ cians. For just as Phoenician craftsmen improved on Egyptian workman­ ship so that King Solomon employed them to build his temple at Jerusalem, so they replaced the clumsy Egyptian hieroglyphs with the first alphabet us­ ing a simple symbol for each consonant. Even more important than their highly prized trade merchandise of metal and glass and ivory was this system of writing which spread by their sea merchants throughout the Mediterranean world. Several of the peoples adopting the Phoenician sym­ bols modified them to represent the different sounds in their speech. Indeed it is claimed that "every alphabet of the civilized world has descended from the Phoenician alphabet" (Breasted 1967, 305). The resulting Pelasgian characters or symbols have not survived in any written documents, but they have been recovered on stone inscriptions, on pottery and later on coins. These different alphabets gradually became distinctive of different city-states or cultures. Thus when Greek colonies girdled the Mediterra­ nean basin and beyond, each colony used the characteristic script of the parent state. So it was that the Chalcidic script used in Cumae and Neapolis in Campania, southern Italy, was that of the founding city Chalcis on Greece's off-shore island of Euboea. The Dorian script found in Corcyra (Corfu) and Syracuse was that of the founding city Corinth. But these several different alphabets sometimes added or lost symbols as they were adapted to different dialects spoken locally. Then too the Etruscan alphabet


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

would be discovered not in the inscriptions on vases imported from Athens and Corinth and found in Etruscan tombs, but rather in the inscriptions on their stone monuments and tombs. These inscriptions according to schol­ arly authority establish the origin of the Etruscan alphabet at Chalcis of Euboea (Taylor 1883, 127-28). Comparative tables show the similar origin of Etruscan and four other Italic alphabets: Latin, Faliscan, Umbrian and Oscan {ibid., 126). Compar­ ing similarities and differences of these five related alphabets, Isaac Taylor was able to reconstruct the parent alphabet used by the earliest settlers in Italy, and he called it "Pelasgic" (ibid., 130). The reconstructed Pelasgic alphabet is shown with the Etruscan and other four alphabets in that same table (ibid., 126). Then the coins minted at Chalcis contain letters from which their alphabet also has been reconstructed. Taylor claims that a com­ parison of the two reconstructions makes it conclusive that the Pelasgian alphabet of Italy derived from the primitive alphabet of Chalcis (ibid., 132-33). This conclusion is also supported by the fact that the earliest Etruscan coins followed the weight standards and numismatic forms of Euboean coins, and the inscriptions used the same alphabet (ibid., 134). By this comparative study of certain ancient alphabets, then, we find that both the Romans and Greeks based their alphabets on the Phoenician alphabet, and we obtain a reconstructed Pelasgian alphabet. We also establish the Pelasgian origin of the Etruscan people of Italy, which lends scientific sup­ port for the claims of Thucydides, Dionysius, Virgil and others. T he Pelasgian V ocabulary



A professor at Belgium's University of Louvain, A. J. Van Windekens, has written on an ancient Indo-European language which he called Pelasgian (Van Windekens 1952). He insisted that many words in the Greek language can only be explained as carrying over from a pre-Hellenic language which he called Pelasgian. The morphological structure of proper names and place names required a pre-Greek language. Those who first settled the Aegean basin before the arrival of the Greeks he called "protoIndo-Europeans." Part one of his work consists of a phonetic study of Pelasgian vowels and consonants. Part two deals with the formation of nouns with special reference to suffixes, proper nouns and toponyms or place names. The name of the goddess Athena, for instance, he explains as based on the word at for father found in Albanian and other Indo-European languages, but with the feminine suffix, making her the mother (Ibid., 148). Van Windekens observed that Pelasgian place names are found from western Asia Minor to northern Italy, but especially in Illyria and what is now Greece. Pelasgian place names are more numerous in Greece than elsewhere, and Pelasgian names of people and divinities are found only in Greek, which led Van Windekens to believe that the density of the popula­ tion who spoke Pelasgian was greatest in Greece. Then he added that the Illyrian language had disappeared, leaving only certain proper names to be

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and P eople


found in Greek and Latin documents. If only the Illyrian language had been conserved like the Greek, he believed that the number of proper names and other words in Pelasgian might indicate just as great a density of Pelasgian population in Illyria as in Greece (ibid., 155). The Greeks, the Illyrians and the Italians found on the Mediterranean shore a language from which they borrowed a great number of words designating familiar and unfamiliar objects. They assimilated the Pelasgian civilization which was reflected in the borrowed vocabulary. Many Pelasgian words have been identified designating animals such as the donkey, pig, pigeon, salamander and lizard. Other words identify plants, minerals, musical instruments, games, navigation, commerce, construc­ tion, warfare, hunting, family, society, and religion. The existence of so many borrowed terms would indicate that the Greeks, Illyrians and Italians did not exterminate or immediately expel the Pelasgian population which they found in those territories. For long years the conquerors must have coexisted with the Pelasgians so as to adopt much of their vocabulary (ibid., 156-58). Van Windekens concluded that the Greeks, Illyrians and Italians could not have been the first Indo-Europeans to settle in southern Europe and Asia Minor. They were preceded by the Pelasgians. He did not date the ar­ rival of the Pelasgians, however, but was certain that they arrived in the peninsula before the Hellenic tribe of Ionians which took place between 2000 and 1600 b.c . Only when the minority Ionians were reinforced by the Aeolians and Achaeans, about 1500 b.c ., and the warlike Dorians about 1000 b .c ., were they able to subdue the Pelasgians and supersede their civilization. The author was convinced that the Pelasgians left their IndoEuropean cradle about the same time as the Hittites, whose migrations cer­ tainly preceded those of the Greeks (ibid., 159). TH E IN D O -E U R O PE A N O R IG IN OF THE PE L A SG IA N , ILLY R IA N AND A LBA N IA N LA N G U A G ES T he Language Families Scholars of linguistics point out that most modern languages are not isolated, but belong to a particular family of related languages, and certain of those families can be traced back to a common parent. Carrying this process of historical reconstruction back yet further, it becomes evident that several of these parent languages in turn derived from a yet more ancient unwritten language which scholars have called "Indo-European." A schematic diagram picturing relationships among the various IndoEuropean languages shows, for instance, that Marathi like Urdu and Hindi and Bengali belongs to the Sanskrit family, although Sanskrit itself is now obsolete (Webster 1970). But Sanskrit was a member of the Indie family, which with Iranian was a member of the Indo-lranian, which in turn de­ rived from the Indo-European base. Strangely enough, this diagram indi-


Primeval Albania, the Greeks and Civilization

cates that(among 47 modern languages developing from the Indo-European base, only two languages, Albanian and Armenian, derive directly from Indo-European with no intermediary linguistic parents The technical im­ plications of this matter must be left to the experts. But it seems in­ disputable that Albanian is a most ancient Indo-European language, and the Albanians are a most ancient Indo-European peoplëT^ T he Indo-European Family C haracteristics The Indo-European languages, then, constitute a family of languages, some living, some dead, which have an affinity to each other, and simi­ larities among themselves. Indo-European languages have some degree of similarity in their vocabulary, their phonetic system and their grammatical structure, with evolutionary changes of course appearing over the cen­ turies. Their grammatical structure, for instance, is characterized by the system of gender, number and case for nouns, pronouns and adjectives, also by the system of conjugation of verbs. The Indo-European base has also contributed a rather rich vocabulary to its related languages, including Albanian. Unfortunately, this base was never a written language. But a great deal of highly sophisticated detective work has been carried on by linguistic experts. They are convinced that by comparing an equivalent word in several related languages they can often discover a common root. Various suffixes or endings added to the root in­ dicate that some of these related languages were highly inflected or de­ clined, like old Greek or Latin as well as the present-day Albanian. In this way scholars have identified hundreds of word roots which they claim must have originated in a common or parent language. Some of these words in Albanian are the following: ditë (day), nat'e (night), dimer (winter), i lehtë (light), i thellë (deep), punë (work), zem ër (heart), ujk (wolf), ujë (water), i rëndë (heavy), jam (I am), kam (I have), bie (falls), ha (eats), pi (drinks) and many others. There are 2,000 of these inherited simple words, but from each of them many other compound words can be formed, for example, from "work" we have worker, workman, working, workshop, overwork, workroom, housework, workday and many others (FESH 1985, 353-54). Because such word roots are found in languages spoken from northern Europe to India, the hypothetical parent language is called Indo-Euro­ pean. D iscovering


P lace

of Its

O rigin

Where did the Indo-European base originate? The gradual emergence of this Indo-European vocabulary has helped scholars reconstruct the IndoEuropean way of life and thus deduce the environment. The existence of a common root for words like field, horse, house and honey would indicate familiarity with such objects not only among persons using those languages today, but also in the prehistoric Indo-European past. Conversely, the absence of a common root for certain environmental words may be highly

Linguistic Ancestry o f the Albanian Language and People


significant. Indo-European does appear to have a common root for words like snow, wolf and oak tree, but no such root for sea, island, tropical trees like the palm or coconut and tropical animals like the tiger and camel. This has led scholars to deduce an Indo-European center or base around the Caucasus or Ural mountains (Thorndyke 1977, 264-65). Without written records it is difficult for them to be more precise and dogmatic. Estimating


T ime

of Its

D iversification

When did this Indo-European parent language begin to bifurcate and diversify into later ancient languages which in turn developed into the many present-day related languages? It is generally recognized that a language tends to change over the centuries. For instance, the English language of four centuries ago used in Shakespeare's plays is now archaic but comprehensible, whereas the Old English of 12 centuries ago found in B eow ulf is quite unintelligible. The known rate of such language change furnishes the scholar with a crude yardstick to estimate the time required for one language to change into another language. The earliest IndoEuropean written languages recorded by 1400 b .c . were Hittite, Sanskrit, Mycenaean and Greek. These had already changed considerably from one another. Linguistic scholars estimate that it must have required between 2,000 and 3,500 years for the parent language to have assumed these various forms. That is, the Indo-Europeans as a single people speaking a common language must date back to 4000 or 5000 b.c . (ibid., 266-67). Obviously, the science of linguistics casts both light and shadows on our search for the prehistoric origin of the Albanian people and their language. At this point too we must leave the mystery with the experts. But it must be obvious that the broad consensus of scholarly opinion is that the Albanian people and the Albanian language are the closest modern sur­ vivors of the Illyrian, the Pelasgian and the Indo-European beginnings. That makes it all the more obvious why these ancient people have clung so tenaciously to their ancient language and culture. Although their land has been occupied repeatedly by Greeks and Romans and Slavs and Turks, and although they repeatedly used those imposed trade languages, the peo­ ple now known as Albanians have persistently and triumphantly preserved their own language, customs and traditions, and their ancient Illyrian and Pelasgian identity.

3. Traditions About Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles SU R V IV IN G T R A D IT IO N S A B O U T A LBA N IA Many early traditions indicate that all the Balkan Peninsula including the region now called Albania was once occupied by a pre-Hellenic people called Pelasgians^JVleither the Albanian territory nor its population was yet called Albanian. That name would come later. However, archeology, linguistics and popular traditions reflected in our earliest chronicles all confirm the Pelasgian origin of the Albanian people and language. As we have already seen, no documents or inscriptions in the Pelasgian language exist. But legends of Pelasgian beginnings have been transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation. About 2,700 years ago the blind Homer's collation of many of these stories was recorded for us in his two great epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Soon afterwards scholars at­ tempted to explain the geographical distribution of the various branches of the human family. Each of course was particularly concerned about the origin and distribution of his own people and their relationship to neighboring peoples. Only incidentally then do we learn something of the Albanian descendants of the Pelasgians as they happened to come in con­ tact with their more literate Greek and Roman neighbors. Some of these early scholars were historians, some geographers, others were poets and playwrights. A clear pattern emerges. EA RLY H IS T O R IA N S AND G E O G R A P H ER S Herodotus (4857-425? b.c .) The Greek historian Herodotus was called the father of history and had a great deal to say about the Pelasgians. First, their territory. The entire territory later called Greece was first called Pelasgia (Herodotus 1942, 2:56). These Pelasgians had lived in Samothrace, the island just north of Troy, before they came to Attice (2:51). In northwestern Peloponnesus the Ionians "inhabited the land now called Achaea and were called, according to the Greek account, Aegialean Pelasgi, or Pelasgi of the Sea Shore"; 46

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


afterwards they were called Ionians (7:94). "The Islanders . . . were a Pelasgian race, who in later times took the name of Ionians. The Aeolians too were anciently called Pelasgians (7:95). Their language was different from Greek. The original Athenians were Pelasgians who spoke the "bar­ barous" Pelasgian language (1:57). Herodotus wrote that Pelasgians living on the island of Lemnos opposite Troy once kidnapped Hellenic women of Athens for wives, but the Athenian women created a crisis by teaching their children "the language of Attica" instead of that of the Pelasgian boys (6:138). Herodotus wrote that the Pelasgians spoke a language unlike that of any of their neighbors (1:57). The Pelasgians antedated the Greeks in what was later called Greece. Herodotus characterized the Hellenic Athe­ nians as "excessively migratory," but stated that "the Pelasgians or Lacedaemons" had always been there (1:56). Significantly enough, he iden­ tified the Spartans as Pelasgians rather than Greeks. The Hellenic race in­ creased because numerous tribes of barbarians voluntarily entered their ranks (1:58). In Achaia, in northernmost Peloponnesus, the Molossians and Arcadian Pelasgians were recognized as "distinct tribes" (1:146). But the inhabitants of the peninsula were eventually driven from their homes by the invading Dorians; only in Arcadia did the natives remain, not being compelled to migrate (2:171). Repeatedly, Herodotus identified the Spartans as Pelasgians, associating them with the drama of Troy. Argos was then preeminent above all the states which would later be known as Hellas (1:1). A series of kidnappings culminated in that of Helen of Argos (1:3), a Lacedaemo­ nian girl from Sparta (1:4). During the reign of Croesus, about 550 b .c ., the Pelasgian Spartans were still masters of most of Peloponnesus and "held first rank in Greece" (1:69). Herodotus noted that barbarians throughout Greece but "especially the Lacedaemonians" disparaged the tradesman and honored the warrior (2:167), which again would identify the Spartan as a barbarian rather than a Greek. One fascinating expression occurred again and again in the Iliad, "the flowing-haired Achaeans." Herodotus wrote that at the mountain pass of Thermopylae the night before meeting the Persian hordes (481 b.c .) a Persian spy had noted the Spartan warriors ceremoniously "combing their long hair." When he reported back that the enemy soldiers seemed rather effeminate, a more knowledgeable in­ terpreter warned the Persians that "it is their custom when they are about to hazard their lives, to adorn their heads with care. . . . This is the first kingdom and town in Greece, and these are the bravest men" (7:208-9). Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fought to the very last man. The monument erected where they fell bears the inscription, "Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell/ That here, obeying her behests, we fell" (7: 228). We shall note again and again that Greek historians and geograph­ ers and writers insisted on the distinction between the original Pelas­ gians and their rivals the Hellenic Greek newcomers. They also identified the Spartans as Pelasgians rather than Greeks. Traditional "Greek" history


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

may be rewritten some day, but that lies quite beyond the scope of this pres­ ent work. T hucydides (4607-400? b .c .)

The Athenian historian Thucydides stated that before the Trojan War the lower Balkan Peninsula was not known as Hellas (Greece) but as "Pelasgicum," which explains why the eighth century poet Homer never referred to Hellenes, but rather to Danaans, Argives and Achaeans (Thu­ cydides 1959, 1:3). These were all Pelasgian tribes. The legendary founder of ancient Greece or Hellas was Hellen, who is supposed to have lived in the late eighth century b .c . Thucydides also wrote that the Pelasgians once inhabited Athens (4:109) and that the massive stone construction under the citadel at Athens was Pelasgian (2:17). He clearly distinguished between the Greeks and the neighboring Epirotes, referring to the "Chaonians and other neighboring barbarians" (2:68), also to a thousand "barbarians," Chaon­ ians, besides Thesprotians and Molossians, who once aided the warriors of Corinth (2:80). D ionysius of H alicarnassus (first century b .c .)

Dionysius was also a Greek historian, born like the great Herodotus in the ancient city of Halicarnassus on the Aegean seacoast of southwestern Asia Minor, but residing later in Rome. He declared that the Albanians, in common with the great majority of ancient peoples, came from the Euphrates and the Ganges. They settled on the shore of the Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus Mountains, later called Armenia, where they lived as shepherds and warriors. They were known in Asia as Albanians, their region was shown on contemporary maps as Albania, and the rocky gorges of the Caucasian Mountains were called the "Albanian Gates." Dionysius was primarily concerned, however, with the relationship between the Pelasgians in the Balkans and those in Italy. He wrote that the Pelasgians came originally from the Peloponnesus, from the neighborhood of Argos. They received their name from Pelasgius their king, who was the son of Zeus. After six generations they moved to Thessaly, prospering greatly. They remained there five generations, when they were driven out by Deucalion, progenitor of the Greeks (Dionysius 1948, 1:17). They dispersed to the neighboring provinces, to Crete, the Aegean islands, especially Lesbos, and to the coast along the Hellespont (1:18). Many of them went inland to their kinsmen around the Pelasgian shrine of Dodona (1:19). Many of these later moved across the Ionian Sea to Italy, the Umbria region. There they collaborated with the aboriginals in driving out the Um­ brians, occupying for some time several cities including Pisa (1:20). The most conspicuous monument which shows that these people once lived at Pelasgian Argos is the temple of Juno at Falerii, built in the same fashion as the one at Argos. The sacrificial ceremonies were also similar. They possessed much of the fertile Campania plain, building several flourishing

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


cities, including one called Larissa (1:23). Pelasgians were superior in war­ fare, and because they lived with Tyrrhenians they also became proficient seamen. They were called both Pelasgians and Tyrrhenians (1:25). Calamities struck the second generation before the Trojan War. They held their largest city, Cortona, but lost many others to the Tyrrhenians (1:26). These Tyrrhenians were descendants of Tyrrhenus from Asia Minor. Dionysius examined at length the question whether Tyrrhenians and Pelasgians were two different people, or whether these were two different names for the same people (1:27-29). He concluded that although distantly related, they were really two different people. Tyrrhenians were called Etruscans by the Romans. The Pelasgians who remained in Italy were ab­ sorbed as fellow citizens (1:30). Dionysius like his contemporary Virgil wrote that following the fall of Troy, Aeneas sailed from the Ambracian gulf along the coast of Epirus to Buthrotum, the Albanian Butrint. Accompanied by the most vigorous men of his army, Aeneas made a march of two days and reached Pelasgian Dodona in order to consult the oracle. Back at Butrint they found the Tro­ jans who had fled there with Helenus. After dedicating to the god various Trojan offerings, including bronze mixing bowls . .. they rejoined the fleet after a march of about four days. The presence of the Trojans at Buthrotum is indicated by a hill called Troy, where they encamped at that time (1:51). Dionysius declared the Trojans to be descendants of Dardanus of Arcadia, who moved to Samothrace, then to the Hellespont and the plain of Troy (1:61). He traced the descent of Aeneas also from Dardanus (1:62). And he quoted ancient Greek and Roman authorities to show that Rome was founded by refugees from Troy, that the founders Romulus and Remus were sons of Aeneas, or the sons of Aeneas' daughter, in either case Dardanians and therefore Pelasgians (1:72-73; 2:2). But this cannot be substan­ tiated. P lutarch (a .d . 46-119)

The Greek biographer and historian Plutarch described in his Life o f the Roman General Pom pey (106-48 b . c .) the Albanians contacted in the Caucasus. Leaving Armenia Pompey marched his army through several nations living in the Caucasus Mountains. Chief among these were the Albanians living in the easterly mountains toward the Caspian Sea. The Albanians at first acceded to Pompey's request to pass through their ter­ ritory. Then they attacked the Romans, were defeated and forgiven. But the Albanians rebelled again (Plutarch 1952, 195-96). Pompey attacked a superior number of Albanians "ill-armed generally, and most of them covered only with the skins of wild beasts" and assisted by neighboring amazons, or women warriors. He defeated them. Upon his return to Rome in triumph, tables were carried inscribed with the names of defeated nations including Albania, and among the many prisoners of war led in triumph were "the hostages of the Albanians" {ibid., 203).


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

Strabo (63 b .c .- a .d . 19)

The Greek geographer Strabo wrote as follows (Strabo 1889, 5.2.4). The Pelasgi were an ancient race spread throughout the whole of Greece, but especially Thessaly. He outlined that region and called it "Pelasgic Argos" because it formerly belonged to the Pelasgians. The nations of Epirus are Pelasgic, because the dominion of the Pelasgi ex­ tended so far. . . . Danaus, having arrived in Argos made a law that those who had before borne the name of Pelasgiotic throughout Greece should be called Danai. . . . As many of the heroes have been named Pelasgi, later writers have applied the same name to the nations over which they were chiefs. Thus Lesbos has been called Pelasgic. . . . Peloponnesus was named Pelasgic.

The islands of Lemnos and Imbros were Pelasgian colonies, and some of these Pelasgians passed into Italy with Tyrrhenus. Before the time of the Greeks, the whole of Greece was a settlement of barbarians, among whom were listed the Pelasgi. Danaus, king of Argos about 1570 b . c ., brought colonists from Egypt. The Epirote tribes above Greece were the Thesproti, Cassopae, Amphilochi, M olotti and Athamanes (7.7.1). The Chaones and Molotti were the most celebrated Epirotic nations because the whole of Epirus was formerly subject to one or the other, also because of their "ancient and famous oracle of Dodona" (7.7.5). Dodona was "established by Pelasgi, who are said to be the most ancient people that were sovereign in Greece" (7.7.10). All Thessaly was called "Pelasgic Argos" (8.6.5). The founder of the Hellenic people was Deucalion's son Hellen, whose sons headed the three great branches of the Hellenic Greeks: Dorus the Dorians, Achaous the Achaians and Ion the Ionians (8.7.1). The Pelasgi drove the Boeotians out of their district north of Athens. But returning the Boeotians drove back the Pelasgi who "went to Athens, a part of which city is called from this people Pelasgic." The Pelasgi, however, settled below Hymettus (9.2.3), the range of hills to the east of Athens, celebrated for its honey and fine marble (9.1.23). Strabo had much to say about the Pelasgians of the Caucasus whom he called Albanians. They were a nomadic people, living as shepherds; they were "little disposed to war" and they "were not savages" (11.4.1). Their region was bounded by the Caucasus Mountains on the north, the Caspian Sea on the east, Armenia on the south and Iberia on the west (11.4.1). They were not devoted to agriculture and used only crude plows of wood instead of iron. But the soil was rich and brought a bountiful harvest with little effort. The vines and fruit trees produced more than they could use, and their cattle thrived (11.4.3). They were simple, honest people. They did not use coined money. They could fight on foot or horseback, with either light or heavy armor. They used javelins and bows and wore breastplates,

Traditions A bout Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles


shields and coverings for the head, made of the hides of wild animals (11.4.4). They worshipped as gods the sun, Jupiter and especially the moon (11.4.7). Numerous tribes of Pelasgi were allied with Troy. Homer noted that some came from Larissa. There were several towns with this name in Asia Minor, but the Trojan Larissa is probably the one near Cyme, about 100 miles distant from Troy (13.3.2). The whole of the Ionian coast was for­ merly inhabited by Pelasgi. Lesbos was ruled by the chief of the Pelasgi. Chios was founded by Pelasgi from Thessaly. The Pelasgi suffered greatly in the Trojan War, but still they occupied Larissa until mainlanders dispossessed them, settling them at Cyme (13.3.3). Here Hesiod the Pelasgian poet originated. Some claim that Homer also was from Pelasgian Cyme (13.3.6). Pelasgian Chios also claimed Homer (14.1.35), and so did Smyrna (14.1.37) and Pelasgian Lesbos. Any one of these foreign origins might explain the foreign constructions which scholars find in his poetic style. P liny the Elder (a . d . 23-79)

Pliny was a Roman naturalist who wrote a ten-volume work covering many phases of natural history. He mentioned quite incidentally that the Peloponnesus was previously called Pelasgia (Pliny 1947, 4:4). Arcadia in the heart of the Peloponnesus was originally called Drymodes ("wooded") and the presumably Pelasgian term Drymodes incorporates the Albanian word dru for tree or wood (4:6). Pliny observed also that "Epirus begins at the mountains of Himara. It includes the Chaones, Thesproti, Antigonenses, the Molossi in whose territory is the temple of Zeus of Dodona, famous for its oracle" (4:1). EARLY P O E T S AND P L A Y W R IG H T S Ancient poets and playwrights also frequently alluded to a favorite subject, the Pelasgian folk heroes. H esiod (eighth century b .c .)

Hesiod was one of the very earliest "Greek" writers whose work re­ mains to this day. He was an obscure peasant who wrote about the dreary, hopeless struggle of the poor farmer and was called the "peasant poet." Hesiod came from the Pelasgian settlement of Cyme in Asia Minor (Strabo 1889, 13.3.3.). He was the earliest to name Pelasgius as the founder of the Pelasgian people, the autochthonous person, "originating in the place where he was first found," the aboriginal inhabitant, the "son of the earth," springing from the earth itself. Hesiod identified him with Arcadia (Hesiod 1967, 160). Arcadia, incidentally, was situated between the Pelasgian centers of Argos and Sparta. He also associated Pelasgius with Lycaonia in central Asia Minor. In another famous fragment still extant he wrote, "The Pelasgians are said to be the earliest of those who settled around


P r im e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

Greece, and the poet speaks thus, O Zeus, king of Pelasgian Dodona" (ibid., 319). H omer (eighth century b .c .)

The blind poet Homer has left us two magnificent epic poems unifying the traditions passed down orally more than 500 years. His first, the Iliad, was probably composed about 750 b .c . Without introduction, it plunges the reader into the camp of Achilles, who was besieging the city of Troy in northwest Asia Minor, a city which controlled the Hellespont. Gradually it is learned that Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, and his brother Menelaus, king of Sparta, had married two sisters from Sparta. Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, had abducted one of them, the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus. The two brothers summoned the princes of the region to join them in war against Troy. Thousands of Pelasgian warriors espoused the cause of their kinsmen and sailed to Troy. Helen's was the "face that launched a thousand ships," actually 1,200 according to Thucydides (1:10). The siege dragged on for ten years. In single combat Hector, oldest son of Troy's King Priam, killed Patroclus, Achilles' dearest friend. Achilles swore vengeance and killed Hector in single combat. The Iliad closes with the mourning and funeral for Hector conducted by the Trojans. Who were these heroes of the Iliad? Priam, king of Troy, was named as a descendant of Dardanos (3:38; 7:89). Dardanos was the first king of Troy, and he originally named the city Dardania (20:215-18). So Priam and his people were called Dardanians, sons and daughters of Dardanos (18:230). This Indo-European people migrated westward into Asia Minor and became closely identified with Troy (7:88), one of its gates being called the "Dardanian Gate" (5:66). The nearby strait to the Balkans became known as the Dardanelles, and still further west the Albanian region Kosova was anciently called Dardania. Listed as allies of the Trojans were the "noble Pelasgoi" (10:130), probably the same fighters called elsewhere the "rough Pelasgians from Larissa's rich plowland" (2:811-12). But strangely enough the other protagonists in this Trojan drama were also Pelasgians. The beautiful Helen, kidnapped by Paris, was actually Helen of Pelasgian Argos (2:21-22; 7:88), the wife of Menelaus, king of Pelasgian Sparta. Commander-in-chief of the expedition was Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, often associated with neighboring Argos (1:2). Serving in the army of Agamemnon were the brothers of Helen, the family originating in Lacedaemon (3:36-37, 41), the powerful Pelasgian military city also called Sparta. Then there was the legendary Achilles, king of the Myrmidons (1:61; 9:109; 18:229) in Thessaly, son of the early and great Pelasgian chieftain Peleus. The Aeolians, Ionians and Dorians are never mentioned by Homer, but the besieging troops are repeatedly addressed as Achaeans, or Argives or Danaans. Who were these? Achaea was the prov­ ince on the northern border of Pelasgian Mycenae. The Argives were natives of Pelasgian Argos. Danaans were so named after Danaus, the early

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


king of Argos. Although some Trojan allies did speak other tongues (4:49), it appears that the classic heroes both within and outside the walls of Troy were Pelasgians rather than Greeks. They all conversed readily in the same language; they venerated the same heroes; they shared the same expertise in breeding and training horses; they had the same augurs consulting the same gods; they practiced the same religious sacrifices and prayers; and they followed the same traditions and manners such as burial customs. One expressed it this way, "Homer immortalized the homogeneity of their speech and culture" (Adamidi 1903, 9). Within the walls and outside the walls, those Trojan heroes were all Pelasgians, not Greeks. Homer's second epic poem was the Odyssey, written somewhat later, probably about 725 b .c . The Pelasgian hero Achilles had died, struck in the heel by an arrow. His son Pyrrhus Neoptolemy immediately took his place at the siege of Troy. Eventually, by the stratagem of the Trojan Horse, they captured the city and utterly destroyed it. King Priam and most of his men were killed, all the women being carried away into slavery. The legendary date for the fall of Troy was about 1184 b .c . The Odyssey narrated the tenyear wanderings of Ulysses or Odysseus, another hero of the siege, as he attempted to rejoin his family and resume his rule as king of Ithaca. This was one of the small Ionian islands off the west coast of Greece. Herodotus identified the Ionians as Pelasgians (Herodotus 1942, 7:94-95). The Odys­ sey gives further evidence of this as it pictures Ulysses consulting the Pelasgian oracle at Dodona when he needed counsel (19:340). Furthermore, his army friend King Menelaus offered to make Ulysses ruler over "Pelas­ gian Argos" (4:233-38). Mentioning Pelasgian colonies on Crete, Ulysses later told his faithful wife Penelope of the "bold Pelasgi" natives, the Dorians and Achaeans, and King Minos who each ninth year consulted Jove in his sanctuary (19:201-7). Homer's seeming preoccupation with the Pelasgian origin of his heroes may well support Strabo's theorizing about the blind poet's own Pelasgian background. Certainly, scholars are agreed that although these epic poems were transmitted to us in the Greek language, the text did include many curious expressions and constructions traceable to the earlier Pelasgian language. In fact, Gounaris in his "Introduction to Indo-European" even theorized that the name Homer derived from the Pelasgian expression of compassion for a blind man: Ho i mjer (O, the poor man!) (Liria June 1985, 7). A eschylus (5257-456 b .c .)

Aeschylus, the Greek writer of tragedies, named Pelasgius as the son of Palaechthon, "Earth-born," the first man. Believing mankind to have proceeded from the womb of the earth, their mother, Aeschylus considered the Pelasgians the "autochthones," his term for the original earth-dwellers who sprang from Mother Earth herself, her earliest-known inhabitants. Pelasgius was the founder of a kingdom in northeastern Peloponnesus,


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

with Argos as its capital. He ruled the region to the west, including the religious center at distant Mount Dodona (Aeschylus 1959,1:249-60). Else­ where he called Argos "the Pelasgian earth" (ibid., 1:860). Sophocles (4967-406 b .c .)

Another Greek writer of tragic dramas, Sophocles named the Pelasgians as preeminent in "the lands of Argos," called also "Hera's hills" because of the famous temple of Hera or Juno situated between Argos and Mycenae (Sophocles 1959, 2:164). Also for the first time he identified the Pelasgians with Etruria, land of the Etruscans, in Italy (Sophocles 1941, 364). Euripides (4827-406 b .c .)

An Athenian writer of tragedies, Euripides centered many of his dramas on the still vivid tragedy of Homer's Troy. Separate plays detailed tragic stories of the royal families of both Argos and Troy. On the one hand fascinating plays featured Menelaus the king of Argos, his ancestors through Heracles or Hercules in The H eracleidae, his wife Helen, his brother Agamemnon, a daughter in two plays Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris, another daughter in Electra, and a son in Orestes. Not only Euripides but Homer, Aeschylus and Sophocles all dramatized the return of Agamemnon from Troy and his murder by an unfaithful wife. On the other hand, Euripides depicted the tragic consequences to the family of Priam, king of Troy, in plays about his wife Hecuba, his daughter-in-law A ndrom ache the widow of Hector, his ally Rhesus and his people The Tro­ jan Women. Incidentally it was Euripides who developed a fanciful ploy to preserve the integrity of a beautiful but compromised Pelasgian heroine Helen. He wrote that a goddess substituted a phantom for her, the abductor Paris taking only the phantom to Troy, while she herself was taken miraculously to Egypt. Her husband Menelaus returning from the destruc­ tion of Troy was driven by a storm to Egypt, where he was reunited with his wife Helen. Recognizing the tragic futility of the entire Trojan campaign for a mere phantom, Menelaus cried, "Then we were swindled by the gods!" (Euripides 1959, 3:704). Euripides identified the home of Agamemnon's daughter as Argos (3:4, 5, 44), which he called the "country of Pelasgia" (4:959) and "rich Pelasgia" (3:46-64). It was from Argos that Agamemnon launched his thousand ships (4:3), and from Argos his son Orestes set out to consult the Pelasgian oracle of Dodona (3:886). V irgil (70-19 b .c .)

Virgil, the Latin poet, authored an epic poem which will live forever with those of Homer. In the Aeneid he described how Aeneas, warrior and counselor of the Trojans, escaped the destruction of Troy. Attempting to reestablish a colony like Troy on several Aegean islands in succession, he

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


was providentially directed to Italy. Meanwhile, Pyrrhus Neoptolemy, son of Achilles, had taken as slave and wife Andromache, the young widow of the Trojan hero Hector whom his father Achilles had killed in combat. Pyr­ rhus returned to Epirus with her and with other Trojan slaves including Elin or Helenus, another son of King Priam. By Andromache Pyrrhus had three sons: Molossius, Pictus and Pergamon. While they were still young, King Pyrrhus was assassinated at the temple of Delphi. Elin then married the twice-widowed Andromache and ruled as king of Chaonia, his kingdom extending from the present-day town of Saranda southwest including the region called Chamëria. Elin established himself at the Albanian town of Butrint, giving it the name of Buthrotum-Troy. Nostalgically, he attempted to reproduce his beloved Troy. Virgil pictured Elin as a cousin of Aeneas (Virgil 1950, 1:3.343). The latter, desiring a visit, "skirted the shores of Epirus, entered the Chaonian harbor, and drew near Buthrotum's lofty city" {ibid., 1:3.292-93). Here he remained two days, saw the palace cloister with marble columns and its wonderful table service of silver bowls and golden plates. Aeneas marveled that Elin had been able to erect such a beautiful city. Elin explained that they had made it like Troy and raised it as a remembrance of that city. Ac­ cordingly they had named the castle gateway Scaea and the two rivers Xanthus and Simois as in old Troy. For the sake of consistency it should be noted that the Xanthus River was also called the Scamander, for Plato wrote about the river that "the gods call Xanthus, and men call Scamander" (Plato 1952, 7:89). Virgil's description of Butrint was so detailed and accurate that the Italian archeol­ ogist Ugolini remarked that Virgil must have visited the site personally (Edukata e Re 1930, 318-19). Aeneas rejoiced to find that his cousin had risen from a slave to a king, that he had married a Trojan girl, and that he had founded a new Troy at Butrint (Qafëzezi 1935, 7-11). The king sent Aeneas on his way with gifts of gold, silver, ivory, valuable armor, horses and weapons, also garments embroidered with gold, encouraging him to establish another replica of Troy on the Tiber River (Virgil 1950, 1: 3.291-505). Like Homer, Virgil presented both protagonists of the Trojan tragedy as Pelasgians rather than Greeks. He declared that the Dardanian King Priam of Troy was, like other Trojan kings, Pelasgian {ibid., 1:1.624). Aeneas also was Dardanian {ibid., 1:1.494, 617) and therefore Pelasgian, as were most of the Trojans. The besieging forces too were Pelasgian {ibid., 1:6.503). Elsewhere even when the English translation calls them "Greeks," Virgil in the Latin text had designated them correctly as "Danaans" and "Pelasgians" {ibid., 1:2.41-49, 83-152). It should be obvious that these "Greek" heroes were not Greeks at all, but Pelasgians. Whether fact or poetic fancy, Virgil also wrote that Dardanus, the first king of Troy, originated in Tuscany north of Rome, that later he went to the island of Samothrace near the Dardanelles and Troy, and then in the person


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

of Aeneas he had returned to Rome {ibid., 1:7.111-67, 207, 240). Virgil recorded also their traditional nature worship, that "the old Pelasgians who first held the Latin borders dedicated both grove and festal day to Silvanus, the god of field and flock" {ibid., 1:8.600-1). His identification of the Pelasgians with the ancient Etruscans of Etruria or Tuscany would corre­ spond with the historian Thucydides' identification of them as a "Tyrrhene" nation (Thucydides 1959, 4:109). This would correspond also with the con­ clusion of Coarelli's recent scholarly and superbly illustrated volume on the Etruscan cities of Italy. Summarizing scholarly disagreement over the origin of the Etruscans, Coarelli observed that no theory yet had displaced the oldest: that they originated with nomad Pelasgians. He identified the mysterious language of the Etruscans as "closely related to the pre-Hellenic language of Lemnos" (Coarelli 1975, 14), the Pelasgian island off the coast of Troy. He associated the Pelasgians with Italy toward the close of the sec­ ond millennium b . c . He does not conjecture whether they first came to Italy by sailing over the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas like Aeneas, or by continu­ ing their westward migration overland by way of Trieste. In either case the massive stone construction characteristic of the Pelasgians is found in Italy, where it is called Etruscan. Thus the remains of the Pelasgic walls of Cor­ tona in Etruria are most remarkable, a 1200-foot fragment being composed of stone blocks of "enormous magnitude" (Smith 1876, 225). Albanians con­ sider the Etruscans to be the same Pelasgians who in their Epirus were called Tosks. These pre-Hellenic Pelasgians, then, once occupied a region extend­ ing from Asia Minor westward to the Adriatic or even the Tyrrhenian Sea, and from the Danube southward through Greece. From a totally unrelated source we find a note which seems altogether in keeping with the foregoing. A scholarly medical doctor interned in southern Italy by Mussolini because of his political activity, wrote that Aeneas, settling in Italy, "found his only allies the Etruscans, city people like him from the Orient, and similarly ruled by a military oligarchy" (Levi 1947, 141). Even though archeologists and historians have disparaged the historicity of the Aeneid, it will surely remain one of the world's greatest epics. Upon the death of Elin of Butrint, the throne went to Pyrrhus' son Molossius. At this point the blend of legend and history began to assume greater credibility. P E L A SG IA N S AND GREEKS These many ancient historical and poetical allusions to the Pelasgians correspond rather closely with the conclusions of modern archeological and linguistic scholars. Without attempting to evaluate or harmonize the many ancient records, we can discern a general pattern. Prehistoric Pelasgians belonged to the Indo-European family of nations. In the remote past these peoples lived where Europe and India meet. They all spoke the same language. They all lived primitively as nomads in tents, herding their

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


goats, gathering wild fruits, fishing, and hunting wild animals for food and covering. Apparently about 3000 b .c . some Babel-like dispersion took place, moving these many tribal families centrifugally outward in different directions. The Aryan fountainhead sent tribal streams southward into In­ dia, others migrating westward from the Indo-European cradle of human­ ity. That they "infiltrated" westward may be a more accurate expression, for it has been observed that "people migrate extremely slowly when they don't know where they are going" (MacNeish 1984, 12). Some of these tribes remained in the Caucasus Mountains where they were known as Albanians. Subsequent historians would record how the Caucasian Albanians were incorporated into the Persian empire, fought against their kinsman Alexander the Great, and were found among the cap­ tives in Pompey's triumphal procession at Rome (Plutarch 1952, 109-10). Conquered eventually by the Seljuk Turks, they were later absorbed by the Czarist Russians and disappeared from the pages of history. Linguistic scholars, however, trace certain similarities between the Albanian and the Armenian languages. Yet other prehistoric Pelasgian tribes continued their westward migra­ tion through Asia Minor. Hittite tablets refer to a powerful tribe on the southern coast of Asia Minor with a name almost identical to "Achaeans." These non-Greeks migrated across the Aegean and settled in the southern part of the peninsula. These are the Achaeans of Homer's Iliad, Pelasgians whose name was later applied to the Greek region and people (Breasted 1967, 310). They entered the Balkan Peninsula before 2000 b .c ., either by way of the Dardanelles into Thrace and Macedonia, or by using Crete and the 500 Aegean islands as stepping stones. Scholars are certain that the earliest traces of what we call civilization in Europe appeared in this its southeastern corner. This civilization had developed on the two great eastern rivers, the Euphrates and the Nile. By land along the Hittite highways of Asia Minor and by sea along the shipping lanes of Phoenician and Egyptian traders, still visible traces of their civilization had come to Asia Minor, Crete, the Aegean world and eventually to the European mainland. The migrating Pelasgians had killed off any resisting population and absorbed any acquiescing population. They dispersed throughout the Aegean world, the Balkan Peninsula and even into Italy. They settled from the Danube southward, but seem to have concentrated in the southern region of the Balkans later to be known as Greece. The entire region was known as Pelasgia. Athens, Sparta, Mycenae and Argos were Pelasgian centers. The ten-year military campaign at Troy was not a Greek war, but a Pelasgian inter-tribal conflict. They all spoke their "barbarian" or non-Greek Pelasgian language. They brought the science of agriculture. Archeologists are convinced that "the key to primitive man's transition from migratory hunter to civilized man was the development of agriculture" which provided a stable food supply and led them to settle down in villages (MacNeish 1984, 11). These developed into towns pro-


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

tected by walls using massive unhewn blocks of stone fitted together without mortar, their characteristic construction hereafter called "Pelasgian masonry." Their nature worship centered in the most ancient shrine, the temple of Zeus at Dodona in Epirus. One might well ask, "But what about the Greeks? Where did they come from?" Scholars are certain that this people also belonged to the great IndoEuropean family, the mother of many nations. The progenitors of the Greeks are thought to have detached themselves from the others, migrating or infiltrating northward over the centuries, then moving slowly westward through the Russian steppes. About 2000 b .c . an uncivilized Greek­ speaking people slowly infiltrated southward, moving over the Danube and into the Balkan Peninsula with their flocks and herds. There they found the Pelasgian occupants had already developed the art of agriculture, hitherto unknown to these nomads. They had also established permanent and securely fortified homes and towns and had learned how to work bronze. For some time the newcomers coexisted with the Pelasgian residents of the land, adopting their more settled agricultural life, their craftsmanship and civilization, their nature worship and divinities. Culturally they developed more rapidly than the native Pelasgians. But both were quite overshadowed by the invasion of a second wave of Greek nomads, the very aggressive Dorians, about 1500 B.c. The newcomers in­ troduced the use of iron weapons and implements as an improvement over bronze, iron becoming common by 1100 b .c . They also introduced a dark period for the entire region. Increasingly the non-Pelasgians became con­ scious of an ethnic identity and expanded throughout the southerly regions of the peninsula. Greek folklore usually traces the founding of Greece back to the mythical Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, the only two persons surviving a great flood. Their son Hellen was the legendary ancestor of the Greek race, dating back to about 800 b .c . The people were called after him the Hellenes, their land being called Hellas. This would make it obvious why Homer never placed Greeks or Hellenes at the much earlier siege of Troy, but rather referred to a number of Pelasgian tribal groups. In view of the very frequent mention of these pre-Hellenic Pelasgians by ancient Greek writers, it is a curious fact that many modern historians either ignore their having existed, or lump them together with the Greeks. Ancient scholars knew better than that. Ancient writers agreed that the Greeks increased in numbers and strength, eventually dispossessing the Pelasgians. Some of the earlier in­ habitants were driven out of their southernmost Balkan holdings. To escape the increasing pressure others voluntarily migrated northward. Yet others were absorbed into the Dorian and Greek populations. During the later period of Greek colonization other discontented Pelasgians were scat­ tered throughout the Mediterranean basin. Thus by one process or another —by expulsion, by migration, by absorption or by dispersion —the

Traditions A bout Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles


Pelasgian presence diminished in old Greece. Their concentration in the up­ per provinces of the Balkan Peninsula, especially in Epirus, Macedonia and Illyria, made it possible for them to conserve their Pelasgian identity, language, culture and traditions. An examination of those early epic poems will help define more clearly the character of this Pelasgian civilization. PE L A SG IA N C IV IL IZ A T IO N A T M YCEN A E P elasgian O ccupation of the Balkan P eninsula

Any inquiry into early Albanian civilization leads back to their Pelasgian antecedents. The earliest available documents show the Pelasgians in control of most of the Balkan Peninsula, including Greece, with strong points at Mycenae, Argos, Sparta and Athens. Later the Pelasgian Agamemnon would be listed as king of Mycenae and Argos, with his brother Menelaus king of Sparta. To our amazement, then, we find that our inquiry leads us back to the famed Mycenaean Greek civilization which was not Greek at all, but Pelasgian! The people who later settled Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria were from this very heartland of the Pelasgians. So in order to discover the roots of Albanian civilization we must go back to Mycenae. The Pelasgians are thought to have entered the lower Balkan Peninsula about 1900 b.c . By 1600 b .c . they had established themselves throughout the peninsula and had even taken to the sea for commerce and piracy. Those along the southerly coasts of the Pelopon­ nesus soon contacted the advanced Minoan civilization of Crete. C retan Influences on M ycenae

The legendary Minoan civilization may root back as early as 2800 b .c ., although scholars admit that the origin of the Minoans on the island of Crete is an utter mystery. Their name derived from a legendary King Minos, which was probably a term for royalty like Pharaoh or Caesar. The Minoan civilization was characterized by strong kings and nobility in charge of government, religion and business. They produced fine pottery, olive oil, wine, jewelry and metal work, limestone and marble. They car­ ried on profitable trade and cultural exchanges with Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean. Wealth multiplied, and the royalty and nobility built vast palaces as at Knossos. They lived in relative luxury as indicated by the col­ orful paintings on their walls. Found only here was a favorite sport for youth of both sexes: bull-leaping, the youth leaping over the horns of a charging bull to land on its back and somersault safely to the ground. This may have given rise to the Athenian legend of Theseus and the "Minotaur" (Minos bull) in the labyrinth or vast palace maze. By about 1650 b .c . they developed their own unique method of writing. They ignored the wedgeshaped cuneiform characters and the system of pictorial hieroglyphs already used in the eastern Mediterranean and developed a system of linear symbols, each standing for a syllable: the system called Linear A. Unfor-


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

tunately, their celebrated clay tablets have not yet been satisfactorily deciphered. Their religion was an animistic nature worship featuring shrines and altars with no idols, but rather pillars or columns. They were a peace-loving people with an advanced culture, living in their unwalled cities and towns with no evidence of violence from without or within. Their greatest prosperity seems to have lasted from 2 1 0 0 to 1600 b .c . A s a thriving commercial center Crete attracted both Phoenician and Pelasgian settlers. But about 1450 b .c . the first Dorian barbarians apparently arrived in Crete from the mainland. By 1 4 0 0 b .c . they had begun to plunder the island, destroying the unwalled cities, the vast palaces and the amazing Minoan civilization. Some who could do so fled to the eastern Mediterranean and became known as Philistines, and their adopted land, Palestine. Others fled to the mainland. Those survivors who could not flee were reduced to mere village existence. By 1150 b .c . the brilliant Minoan civilization was but a distant dream, the people degenerating to such an extent that the apostle Paul quoted one of their own poets who characterized the Cretans as "always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies" (Epistle to Titus, 1 :1 2 ). Apparently they had become dishonest, savage, cunning, greedy and indolent. D evelopment of the M ycenaean C ivilization

The Pelasgians, emerging from centuries of simple village life, benefitted by continuous contact with Crete and the advanced Minoan civilization from 1600 to 1400 b .c . A unique blend of earthy Pelasgian vigor and the more effete Minoan culture led to what has been called the Mycenaean civilization, centering at Mycenae from about 1400 to 1100 b .c . While adopting much of the Minoan culture they retained their own characteristic warlikeness. The Pelasgian princes established themselves in heavily for­ tified hilltop citadels or strongholds from which as a city state they could control the surrounding region. Indeed Thucydides assures us that the world's most famous acropolis, that of neighboring Athens, was built not by the Greeks but by these Pelasgians (Thucydides 1 9 5 9 , 2 :1 7 ). The site was occupied some time before 2 0 0 0 b .c ., later becoming a stronghold. A modern authority on ancient Greece recently observed the following: "There still remain pieces of the wall of gray-blue limestone with which the Pelasgian lords of the castle secured the edge of their precipitous hill. The old wall was called the Pelasgikon. . . . The Acropolis is joined to the Areopagus, and walls were so constructed that the main western entrance to the citadel lay through nine successive gates . . . the work of the Pelasgians, and inherited by their Greek successors. The cult of Athena gave the name to the city, and all nearby residents including Pelasgians became known as Athenians" (Bury 1967, 16 4 ). The government of these city-states was vested in a king who func­ tioned as general, priest and judge and was based on the patriarchal family, with clan loyalty paramount. The king often consulted with a council of the chiefs or princes and nobles, which had advisory power only. The

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


common people had little if any voice. The royal city was established at Mycenae, west of Athens and south of Corinth. This ancient city was said to have been founded by Perseus the great-grandfather of Hercules, who was said to have sallied forth from here to perform the 12 mighty labors celebrated by the poets. Like Athens it was situated about six miles inland from the sea for greater safety from pirates, but was associated with its own Pelasgian port city, Argos, for commerce, a naval base and its own brand of piracy. Mycenae was located at the lower end of a pass between two 2,500-foot mountains, thus controlling the main highway from Corinth down into the Peloponnesus. It crowned an easily defensible hill, its walls in places 23 feet thick being constructed of huge irregular blocks of limestone. The western gate featured two lionesses facing each other with their front paws resting on a pillar, this being named the "Lion Gate." As the bull was a symbol for pleasure-loving Cretans, the lion was frequently used by the more warlike Pelasgians. Massive gates and towers strength­ ened the defenses. Within the citadel was the royal palace, surrounded by the quarters for the nobility, his officials, the palace guard and servants, also storage for food supplies and weapons. Their decorations, unlike those of the Minoans, featured scenes of hunting and battle. Outside the citadel were the shops and homes of the commoners, who in danger could flee for refuge to the citadel. Strabo wrote about Mycenae, "It has a citadel called Larissa, a hill moderately fortified, and upon it a temple of Jupiter" (Strabo 1889, 8.6.7). Strabo identified as Mycenae's "twin city" the harbor town Argos, which was overshadowed by its own "larissa" or fortress (ibid., 8.6.19). In a mountainous land with 80 percent of its area unfit for cultivation, Argos was nicely situated on one of the best agricultural plains in the Pelopon­ nesus (Toynbee 1956, 2:48). At first Argos was more powerful than Mycenae. Agamemnon expanded Mycenae to include Corinth and Achaea, but upon his death after the Trojan War the city declined. Later his city was destroyed by the neighboring Argives (Strabo 1889, 8.6.10). For genera­ tions, however, the massive stone walls would remind the Greeks of Mycenae's past greatness and give rise to tales of how they had been built by a race of vanished giants whom they called "cyclopes." Mycenae had other satellites, fortified towns such as Tiryns whose "strong walls" Homer mentioned (Iliad 2.559). The strength of Tiryns becomes apparent in a sketch of the restoration of its castle. It really was massively fortified. An inclined road led up to the main gate "where the great walls are double. An assaulting party, bearing their shields on the left arm, must here march with the exposed right side toward the castle. . . . This was the earliest castle in Europe with outer walls of stone: the nucleus of a city-state in the plain of Argos" (Breasted 1967, 300). Military outposts with watchtowers were scattered throughout the region to control secon­ dary roads. Other nearby fortified centers were Corinth; Pylus, where the wise old King Nestor ruled; and Sparta, governed by Agamemnon's brother


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

Menelaus. Facing Crete and strongly influenced by its culture were not only these strongholds in the Peloponnesus, but other centers in its northerly neighbor Thessaly. Such were Athens, Iolcus, Thebes and Orchomenus. In each of these cities archeologists have discovered palaces, citadels and royal tombs. Several of these fortified centers eventually became in­ dependently powerful, and seeking to expand, came into collision and conflict with each other. But three of them are mentioned as "dearest far" to the Pelasgian goddess and Queen of Heaven, Hera (or Juno): "Argos and Sparta and wide-wayed Mycenae" (Iliad 4.44). This Pelasgian heart­ land was the center of the Mycenaean civilization. Between Argos and Mycenae her appreciative devotees later erected the famous temple of Juno. D ecline of the M ycenaean C ivilization

We do know, however, that about 1250 b .c . Mycenae and Argos came under repeated attack by Dorian raiders coming over the Danube into the Balkan Peninsula. The citadels withstood their assaults, but the relatively unfortified environs were gradually devastated. By 1150 b .c . all the great Mycenaean centers had been destroyed. It is claimed that in the Pelopon­ nesus alone, south of the isthmus of Corinth, there had been about 150 Mycenaean sites, but only 14 have given archeological evidence of con­ tinued habitation (Thorndyke 1977, 81). The destruction of Troy was ap­ parently the last dramatic act of the Mycenaeans before the curtain fell. Now their fortresses and cities, their trade and arts and even their Linear B writing technique, all had come to an end. Archeologists have discovered only the remains of huts and inferior pottery and no traces of wealth whatever. By 1100 b .c . the Dorians, Indo-European kinsmen of the Greeks, had followed their southward migration and had gained control of most of the land. Cultural decline and the "Dark Ages" followed from 1100 to 750 b .c . The rough Dorian newcomers established strong settlements at Argos, Corinth and Sparta, the dispossessed Mycenaean people fleeing for refuge first to Athens, later to the Aegean islands and the coast of Asia Minor. The Dorians, however, paid little attention to Achaea, Arcadia and the hinterland. But that entire region became isolated from the rest of the world, and the people were reduced to bare survival by their flocks and farms. In sharp contrast, Homer's poems about 750 b .c . recalled nostalgically the great heroes of the Golden Age long past, and may have contributed to the recovery. Yet other Indo-European tribal migrations followed those of the Greeks and the Dorians down into the Balkans. These included the Phrygians and the Armenians. They crossed the Hellespont into Asia Minor, however, completely annihilating the ancient Hittites by 1200 b .c . (Breasted 1967, 312). The Etruscans, Sicilians and Sardinians fled from Asia Minor, many settling along the western coast of Italy.

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


P E L A SG IA N C IV IL IZ A T IO N A T T R O Y R eflections in H omer's Iliad

Their Daily Life. Although these great epic poems of Homer and Virgil may not be acceptable as history, they do preserve a remarkable record of the Pelasgian civilization of that early period. The reader quickly discovers that these Albanian forebears of 1000 b .c . were by no means slouching an­ thropoids or uncouth troglodytes. Indeed, their lifestyle seems comparable if not superior to that of Britain 16 centuries later "when knighthood was in flower." In both instances there was a sharp dichotomy between the nobility and the peasantry, although the social chasm seems to have been bridged a bit more readily by the Pelasgians. The Pelasgians had learned to protect their cities by massive stone walls complete with gates and towers. From their walls the Trojan women and children anxiously watched the combat of their fighting men outside (Iliad 18:239). They were ruled by a king, Priam of Troy, assisted by a council of elders (22:275). Royalty and nobility lived in beautiful palaces (3:41) with marble columns and pavements, high-roofed chambers (3:42) of polished stone (6:73), chambers with inlaid beds (3:41) fragrant and per­ fumed (3:40) and attended by handmaiden servants (3:42). Even in his mili­ tary camp Achilles had a thick couch for repose with fleeces and rugs and linens (9:116). The common people with their families lived in earthenfloored huts, often built of pine timber thatched with rushes (24:315). The first love of the men was warfare, in part for the sheer excitement, in part for the plunder. Their "delight was in war" (23:285), and although separated from homes and families for nine years, they still preferred to re­ main at Troy and fight. War was sometimes provoked by stealing oxen or horses or destroying the harvest (1:5), in this instance by the kidnapping of the queen. Armor was fashioned of shining bronze, the greaves or shin protectors sometimes having silver ankle clasps (2:25; 3:39). They also used a breastplate, a helmet with horsehair crest "nodding terribly" (3:39), a heavy shield of hammered bronze with up to seven thicknesses of oxhide or bullshide stitched together and riveted behind the bronze (12:157). Their weapons were a sword, sometimes with silver hilt (1:7), and long bronzetipped spears (2:31) or darts which were to be hurled or thrusted. Horses were fitted with armor (4:48) and pulled polished bronze chariots (2:27; 8:94) with stout oaken axles (5:67) and wheels. A squire or driver usually handled the reins (8:95), the knight doing the fighting. A squire was also needed to help put on and later remove the cumbersome armor. Foot soldiers sometimes had the advantage of armor —they could strip it from the bodies of slain enemies —or they wore protective mail (7:91; 10:122) or leather covering and carried bronze shields (4:49). For weapons they used swords, spears, bows with bronze- or iron-tipped arrows (3:46), even fighting with sharp stone or metal axes and hatchets (15:194). Their "hornbows" were made of rams' horns.


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

Although savage warriors, they sometimes displayed high chivalry. One dramatic episode at Troy paralleled precisely the "besa" obligation still inviolable in the northern mountains of Albania. Diomedes of Argos, ad­ vancing for single combat, recognized his opponent as the son of a former houseguest. He refused to fight him, but "planted his spear in the earth" and declared them "guest-friends," whereupon they leaped forward to clasp hands and pledge their faith by exchanging pieces of armor as gifts (6:72). It becomes obvious that chivalry did not originate at King Arthur's Round Table. The Iliad contains many allusions to other aspects of the Pelasgian civilization of that time. Many were herdsmen. They raised horses (2:25; 3:32; 4:50) and like the Trojans were famed as "trainers of horses" (2:36; 3:39; 7:90). Various similes shed light on the daily life of the herdsman: "as thick as flies hover about the milk pails/' and "as goatherds divide the flocks of goats when they mingle in the pasture" (2:29); "as the hound guards the sheepfold from the wild beast" (10:123); "as the bull stands at the head of the pasturing herd of cows" (2:29); "as hounds and country folk drive a lion from the fold of cows" (11:147); "as a lion in his fury leaps out of a high sheep fold" (5:54); "as an ass breaks into a grain field and wastes it" (11:147); "as sheep stand in the courtyard to be milked" (4:49). Goat skins were used as wine bottles (3:37), and soft sheep fleeces were used to cover couches or benches (9:116) just as in rural Albania 3,000 years later. Many Pelasgians were devoted to agriculture or farming. To the aboriginal cave dwellers in the Balkans, the Pelasgians migrating into the region were unique in that they brought the knowledge of agriculture: plowing, sowing and reaping. For this reason it is said (Frashëri, S., 1899, 3-4) that these early Pelasgians were called "Arbënë" or "Arbërë" (from arë, field and bërë, to make), literally field-makers. This it is said gave rise to the terms for Albania: "Arbania" by the Romans, "Arvanit" by the Greeks, and "Amaut" by the Turks. Ptolemy the ancient geographer called the tribe living between Durrës and Dibra the "Albanoi," and to this day a district of the plain in the western part of central Albania between the rivers Mat and Erzen is called "Arbën." Certainly this old name has been perpetuated by the Albanians who fled before the Turks to Greece and to Italy, and later to the United States and elsewhere, many of whom still call themselves "Arbëreshë." The nature and diversity of this early Pelasgian agriculture are evidenced by expressions in the Iliad. They prized their "deep-soiled" lands (9:112), "the fruitful orchards" (5:53) and "wheat-bearing fields" (12:158). They recalled "wind stirring deep cornfields" (2:21), "in plowing, two oxen strain at the shaped plow" (13:174), the "furrow made by mules" (10:128), "reaping with sharp sickles" (18:240), "binding sheaves with bands of twisted straw" (18:241), "yoked bulls tread barley on the threshing floor" (20:261), "threshing floors with men winnowing the chaff" (5:62), "wind car­ ries the chaff about the threshing floor when men are winnowing" (5:62)

Traditions A bout Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles


and "as a hen brings her unfledged chickens each morsel" (9:111). It almost sounds as though those warriors at Troy might have wearied of the long siege and nostalgically dreamed of home. Excavations in Albanian burial areas have brought to light early metal farm tools, such as picks, sickles, scythes and even plows (Korkuti 1971, VI). Surely the early Greeks had not ignored agriculture altogether, but they considered the Pelasgians greatly superior. Herodotus confirmed this when he wrote that "the Athenians had given to the Pelasgi a tract of land at the foot of the Hymettus hills as payment for the walls with which the Pelasgians had surrounded the citadel. This land was barren and worth lit­ tle at the time, but the Pelasgians brought it into good condition. Whereupon the Athenians begrudged them the tract and desired to recover it. . . . So they drove out the Pelasgians," who thereupon quit Attica (Herodotus 1942, 6:137). Certainly for their early dwellings the Pelasgians chose sites with fertile land, usually situated along the rivers. Their metalsmiths with fire, bellows and crucible had learned the secret of toughening copper by alloying it with about 15 percent of tin. With tongs, hammer and anvil they made bronze into various pieces of ar­ mor. They also made brooches, spiral armbands, necklaces and cups (Iliad 18:236-38), also other vessels including "tripods," large three-legged caldrons for heating water over a fire (23:302). Prized plunder of war in­ cluded "grey iron'' (9:112) and "smithied iron" (10:129). Shipwrights felled trees for shipbuilding (16:205) and built sea-going vessels. Sailors "beat the sea with polished oars" (7:80). They used "mooring stones" for anchors (1:12). Fishermen "dragged fish from the sea with line and glittering hook of bronze" (16:203) and dived from the ships for oysters (16:210). Hunters with hounds chased the stag or wild goat (15:190). When going into the cool night the warrior threw the skin of the gray wolf (10:127) or the lion (10:119, 123) over his shoulders to keep warm. They loved sports, especially at funerals. Favorite contests for prizes were chariot racing (23:293), foot racing, boxing and wrestling (23:301-4). They competed also in javelin throwing, archery and quoits (2:29). In the military encampment men played music on flutes and pipes (10:118). Achilles himself played the lyre to accompany his singing about the glories of past heroes (9:109). Dancing was common. One dance was described thus: "Youths and maidens dance together, their hands upon one another's wrists. Now they run round with deft feet lightly, now they run in lines to meet each other" (18:242). Incidentally, in greeting one another these early Pelasgians clasped right hands at the wrist (24:320). Women had their own sphere. Noble ladies supervised the duties of many handmaidens and even participated in the work themselves. They combed wool (3:41); used the distaff and spindle to make thread (6:78); did weaving with loom and hand shuttle (6:77; 22:283-84); dyed the cloth (4:46) and embroidered flowers (22:283), battle scenes (2:34) and other figures. Women of high and low degree were prized for their skill in hand-


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

work (9:107). Family life, however, took second place for the warriors, although at times they did express nostalgia for home and family. They brought into their households the women they took in battle (1:4; 4:48). Just before his fatal combat, Hector, son of Priam, “kissed his dear son and dandled him in his arms" (6:78). Apparently, then as now boys delighted in tormenting wasps in their nests (16:200), and children enjoyed building sand castles on the seashore (15:192). In a tender little character study Achilles likened a friend to "a fond little maid that runs by her mother's side, and bids her mother take her up, snatching at her gown, and hinders her in her going, and tearfully looks at her, till the mother takes her up" (16:196). Human nature does not change altogether over the centuries. Medicine was admittedly primitive. Wounded warriors bathed off sweat and blood, then anointed the body with olive oil (10:135). Both the physicians and their bloodsuckers were called leeches and were brought in to cleanse open wounds; the healers sucked out the blood and administered whatever "soothing drugs" were at their disposal (4:47). Both men and women loudly mourned their dead. The women weeping and wailing la­ mented shrilly, with their hands tearing their breasts, necks and faces (18:228). They accepted death, however, even their own, as "by the will of the gods from the beginning" (19:243). At Troy both sides burned their honored dead on huge funeral pyres (1:2; 7:82). Bodies of sacrificed animals were also thrown on the pyre. Human sacrifices were not common, but Achilles cut the throats of 12 noble sons of Troy and burned their bodies with that of his dear friend Patroclus (18:234; 21:263). A massive tumulus or burial mound was often erected over the bones and ashes of the noble dead, and these heroes were honored with the reverence given to the deities. To dishonor dead enemies, their bodies were dragged behind a horse or chariot and finally left to scavenger dogs and birds. Homer's description of the advanced civilization attained by these ancient nobles is supported by modern scholars who report finding carved chairs inlaid with ivory and silver, polished tables, close-fitted folding doors with silver handles, and rugs of soft wool (Mills 1925, 30). Pelasgian Nature Worship. The earliest religious expression of the Pelasgians was the worship of nature, such as the sun and moon, the heavens, the sea and earth, the wind, thunder and lightning. These natural bodies and natural phenomena excited the wonder and admiration of the Pelasgians, who personified them as deities and sought to pay reverence to them acceptably. Can this primitive religious expression be traced back yet further? Philologists assure us that so-called Greek mythology has its roots deep in the religious epics of India, as brought to Europe by the Pelasgians, for the names of mountains, rivers and legendary characters are identical. Strabo (5:221) and Herodotus (1:56; 2:171) agreed that the 50 Danaides or daughters of Danaus, king of Argos, had been raised in Egypt, and on returning to Argos they had instructed the Pelasgian women of the Pelo-

Traditions A bout Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles


ponnesus in the religious rites of Egypt. Archeologists working on discoveries dating back to the Minoan and Mycenaean ages long before the siege of Troy report that neither in Crete nor on the mainland is there any trace of the so-called Olympian deities. The worship of trees and pillars reminded them rather of Canaan and Asia. The scholar Mills reported, "There were no idols or images for worship and no temples. Each home had its shrine and altar, the distinguishing mark being pillars" (Mills 1925, 13). The early Pelasgians were nature worshippers. During their migration from India through the Euphrates and westward could they have become aware of the biblical patriarch Job? For the biblical Book of Job (ca. 1800 b .c .) antedating Moses and the Levitical law, alludes only to the earliest form of idolatry: the worship of the sun, moon and stars (Job 31:26-28). These were the brightest objects of nature and were seen everywhere. They were regarded as visible representations of a supreme invisible god. As such they were worshipped directly by the early Pelasgians and others with animal sacrifices, but with no intermediating priesthood and no temples. Because the study of the heavenly bodies was so prominent, one writer has referred to their religion as "astrolatry." Is it then possible that descendants of these "astrolators" would later become aware of the sacred books of Moses which predicted that "there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel" (Numbers 24:17)? And passing this astrological wisdom on to their descendants, could these have been the sages from the East who came to Jerusalem asking, "Where is he that is born king of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him?" (Gospel of Matthew 2:2)? Babylonians from the East were idol worshippers, while Pelasgians from the East were nature worshippers. Could those Magi have come from the latter? It may never be certain, but it is conceivable. While the people of Israel worshipped a God who had created man in his image, the Pelasgians gradually developed the worship of gods whom they had created in man's image. For the personification of these heavenly bodies led to the concept of a whole family of gods and goddesses, quite distinct from nature itself, having very human characteristics, each exercis­ ing jurisdiction over some particular phase of nature. That is where we pick up the story now, about 1200 b .c . Just as the epic poem Iliad preserved a record of the Pelasgian civiliza­ tion of that early period, it also preserved a clear record of their religious beliefs and practices. Long before Rome was founded (753 b .c .), and long before Greece had developed its own religious system, the Iliad afforded a detailed picture of Pelasgian religion at that period. Among the many natural phenomena personified as deities were the Sun, Moon, Rivers, Earth (Iliad 2:37), Ocean (20:253), Dawn, Morning (24:321), Winds (23:291), Orion (22:273) and others. Then there was the family of the im­ mortals, the later Roman names being more familiar. There was Zeus (called Jupiter or Jove) who was the supreme deity ruling over the immortal


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

family of gods and goddesses, and over all people. His wife was Hera (Juno), the queen of the gods, Queen of Heaven, and herself the goddess of the wind, women and marriage. Their daughter Athena (Minerva) was the goddess of wisdom and skill. Another daughter, Aphrodite (Venus), was the "morning star" goddess of beauty and love. Poseidon (Neptune) was god of the sea, lakes, rivers and horses. Ares (Mars), the son of Zeus and Hera, was the god of war. Another son, Hephaestus (Vulcan), was the god of fire and the forge or metalworking. And there were others: Apollo, the god of music and poetry and the lord of archery (4:45); Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and frequently messenger of the gods; Hermes (Mercury), the god of science, commerce, travel and eloquence, often serving as herald and messenger of other gods, and so represented with winged shoes (24:321; 20:260). Then there were lesser nature goddesses called "nymphs," represented as beautiful maidens living in mountains, rivers and trees. One of these was Thetis (1:12), the sea goddess prominent in the Iliad as the mother of the hero Achilles. Herodotus declared that while the Greeks borrowed some of their gods from Egypt, they got the rest from the Pelasgians (Herodotus 1942, 2: 50-52). Albanian scholars assert with Dako (Dako 1911, 29-31) that the names of these gods cannot derive from the Greek language, in which there is no apparent significance such as found in the Albanian language. For in­ stance the name Zeus derives from the Albanian zë meaning voice or sound, whether the voice of thunder on the Acroceraunian Mountains or the whisper of the wind rustling the leaves of the sacred oak trees at their temple of Dodona. Zeus married the goddess Mentis (mënt = mind) and gave birth to Athena ( e thëna = the saying) or expression of wisdom. Hera (era = wind) is the wind. Afrodita or Venus, the "morning star" visible in the eastern sky just before morning, derives literally from the Albanian (afër dita = near day). Mars, the god of war, was frequently rebuked by the gods for continually stirring up trouble among men and provoking them to war; the Albanian i marrë (crazy) could be related to this (Chekrezi 1936, 21). Apparently, Thetis, the sea goddess, received her name from deti (the sea). Such derivations as these would tend to confirm the thesis that the religion of Olympus originated with the Pelasgians not the Greeks, and that the Albanians of our day are the lineal descendants of the Pelasgian popula­ tion which once covered the Balkans (Benloew 1877, x-xi). These Pelasgian gods and goddesses, although immortal, yet shared the usual temperamental shortcomings of humans. They intermarried among themselves and also with humans. Thus by order of Zeus (Iliad 18:237) the sea goddess, Thetis, married Peleus, king of the Pelasgian Myr­ midons in Thessaly, and gave birth to the hero Achilles (18:229). The divinities held feasts together (1:12) using no bread or wine, however, but ambrosia, so their veins circulated ichor instead of blood which preserved their immortality (5:59). They frequently assembled before Zeus (4:43) for consultation together (8:101; 20:252). But these immortals did not live in

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


splendid isolation. They usually sat together in a high place watching the mortals in combat (20:255), discussing whether they should permit the one or the other to prevail (12:276). They all had favorites (1:16-17; 14:185). The queen, Hera (Juno), admitted, "These three cities be dearest to me: Argos, nearby Mycenae and Sparta" (4:44). Athena urged on the besieging Achaeans, giving them "might and courage" (4:51-52). Aphrodite, however, was mother of Aeneas, a counselor of the Trojans (5:56), so sided with them, as did Apollo (4:50). Mars aided whichever side was losing so as to intensify the struggle. All interceded before Zeus for their favorites (1:12-14). And on Olympus these immortals carried on the heavenly counterpart of the quarrels and intrigues raging below among the mortals at Troy (4:43). The immortals even intervened directly in the combat to deliver their favorites (1:7; 5:59). Zeus sent baneful nightmares (2:18). Apollo sent a favoring gale to aid the sailors (1:14) and even turned away the dart or ar­ row (7:99). The watching gods cried out to encourage fainting troops to ad­ vance or to frighten other troops to retreat (18:233). Athena diverted the hurled spear (5:68) and turned aside the speeding arrow "as the mother drives a fly from her sleeping child" (4:46). Invisible to others, she caught Achilles by his golden hair to get his attention and counsel him in combat (1:7). Poseidon fearing for Aeneas' safety in mortal combat with Achilles snatched him high over the earth (20:258). Similarly Apollo snatched Hec­ tor, hiding him in thick mist (20:261). Various gods and goddesses aided their favorites or deceived the opposition by appearing in various guises: as a herald (2:25), an aged dame (3:41), a young man (16:209), a friend (22:278), or an old man (14:180). That the gods rather than men played the decisive role is apparent from the remark of Paris. When Aphrodite snatched the imperiled Paris from combat lest he be killed, and set him down in his own chamber, he exclaimed, "Now indeed hath Menelaus van­ quished me with Athena's aid, but another day may I do so to him, for we too have gods with us" (3:40-42). Religious Practices o f the Pelasgians. Understanding then the religious belief system of the Pelasgian warriors both within and outside the walls of Troy, the obvious purpose of their religious practices would be to win the favor of these spectator deities. There seemed to be no other way to secure justice (1:2, 11), to remove woes or pestilence (1:13) and to secure victory in combat (1:20) and a favorable outcome in any other personal or group crisis. They devised several ways of ingratiating these powerful im­ mortals. (1) Dedication of the Weekdays. To properly remember and honor their major deities, a day of the week was dedicated to the veneration of each (Siljanit 1907, 9-13). Their Pelasgian names are perpetuated in the Albanian words. E Djelë (Sunday) is literally "Sun" day; E Hënë (Monday) is literally "Moon" day; E Martë (Tuesday) is "Mars" day; E Mërkurë (Wednesday) is "Mercury" day. The derivation of E Enjtë (Thursday) and


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , t h e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

E Premte (Friday) is uncertain, but E Shtunë (Saturday) is "Saturn" day. (2) Oaths. The name of one or another of these Pelasgian gods was also invoked to confirm a solemn declaration. Apollo, the "lord of the archers," was naturally a favorite of warriors whose lives often depended on a swift true flight of their darts and arrows. So we frequently find the warrior in­ troducing his declaration with the words "By Apollo." The Lord Zeus was over all, and even today Albanians usually swear "Për Zotin" (By the Lord). But reverting to the still earlier nature worship of their Pelasgian ancestors, Albanian villagers often use an expression probably heard nowhere else in the world: "Për këtë gur!" (By this stone), usually taking a nearby stone in hand or pointing to a stone. The celebrated Canon of Lek provided that villagers should warn a potential thief that the goods of a traveler passing through their territory were under their besa protection and therefore un­ touchable, signifying this by placing a stone on the goods (Liria Sep­ tember 1989, 5). Sevasti Kyrias wrote that in her day the first thing her father did after deciding on the location of their new home was "to set up a stone and take the traditional oath. The most solemn oath that can be taken by an Albanian is not by the invocation of Christ or of Mohammed, but by the stone" (Liria 15 October 1985, 3). Thus when a question of boun­ daries between two clans arises, the elders of the two contending parties who have been chosen to adjudicate are first sworn on the stone with fitting formalities and solemnity, and then proceed to examine the boundary and give their judgment which is final. Sometimes the oath "Për këtë gur" (By this stone) was modified somewhat to "Për këtë peshë" (By this weight of the stone), or "Për këtë dhe" (By this earth). Oaths, curses or blessings in­ voking the sun were thought to affect people for good or evil, as "By the ray of that sun," or "May the sun's rays strike you dead." Altogether com­ mon still is the old Pelasgian oath, "Për kokën t'ime" (By my head), or "Për kokën e mëmës" (By my mother's head). Helen of Pelasgian Argos swore by her husband's head (Euripides 3:835). Also, Ascanius, son of Pelasgian Aeneas, exclaimed, T swear by this head whereby my father was wont to swear" (Virgil 1950, 2.9.300). (3) Vows. Both Trojans and Achaians made their solemn pledges to a particular god, even to the same god, to perform a stipulated meritorious act if the god would grant a desire. Thus Trojan women went to the temple of Athena with offerings and a vow to sacrifice cows if she would have mercy on Troy. And Diomedes promised to Athena, "Protect me . .. and I will sacrifice a yearling heifer" (10:126). Other warriors vowed to Apollo to sacrifice lambs if he would give them victory (4:45). (4) Sacrifices. Although there were no religious manuals such as the biblical book of Leviticus to prescribe the procedure for religious sacrifices, the sequence seems to have been quite uniform (1:10-13; 3:37-39). The ceremony could take place almost anywhere: in a field, on the seashore, on the deck of a ship, or at a shrine or temple erected for the deity. A priest

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


could officiate, but so could any of the leaders of the people. First those officiating purified themselves by washing their hands, throwing away the defiled water. Then they lifted up their washed hands in prayer to Zeus or Apollo or some other god or goddess. Sometimes they sprinkled barley meal on the head of the sacrificial victim (1:146), a bull, goat or lamb without blemish. Sometimes they poured out on the victim a cup of wine as a libation or drink offering. Then the head was tilted back and the throat cut. The poet described it graphically, "butchered like a lamb, squalling with fright, and the throat held taut for the gashing knife, and the gaping hole where the breath of life goes out" (Euripides 1959, 3:205-9). Then they flayed the animal, cut slices from the thigh, wrapped them in fat and burned them on the fire, pouring wine over them. The "sweet savor" ascended to please the gods. Was it mere coincidence that the sacrifices of these early Pelasgians should parallel so closely the procedure followed by their con­ temporary, the Hebrew King David? Could the migrating Indo-Europeans have come into contact with a Hebrew community somewhere along the way? When the Pelasgians wished some very special favor they offered a "hecatomb," or 100 victims, which was considered the ultimate offering. The sacrifice was followed by a banquet, the rest of the sacrificial victim being roasted for the feast. The food and wine were consumed all day. When sacrificing to Apollo, the god of music and poetry, they "worshipped all day with music, singing a beautiful paean" (1:13-14). At sundown all lay down to sleep. (5) Prayers. The Iliad records many, many earnest prayers. Often they were addressed to "King Zeus" or "Father Zeus" (3:39-40; 15:193). Both the Achaeans and the Trojans prayed to "Father Zeus" (3:39). Looking up to heaven Achilles cried aloud to "Zeus, Father," and sitting by the sea he stretched forth his arms and prayed earnestly to his sea-mother Thetis (1:11). A mistreated old father prayed aloud to King Apollo for justice (1:2) and on another occasion lifted up his hands and prayed aloud to Apollo for the removal of the pestilence (1:13). In the heat of battle Diomedes ejaculated, "Hear me, Athena, . . . be kind to me . . . grant me to slay this man" (5:54). And as Paris and Menelaus prepared for single combat to the death, Agamemnon prayed to Father Zeus, the Sun, the Rivers, the Earth and the Underworld (2:37-38). To assure themselves of the favor of the gods the Pelasgians also sought the assistance of priests and soothsayers. They were convinced that "a dream too is of Zeus" (1:2), and that the gods bestowed on selected individuals the gift of soothsaying, that is, inter­ preting dreams and foretelling the future. To reach a right decision they sometimes cast lots, looking up to heaven and praying to Zeus for the right choice (7:84). Nobles sought to ingratiate the gods by building a shrine or temple and dedicating it to a certain divinity (1:2). (6) Pilgrimages to Dodona. Herodotus recorded for us that Dodona was the most ancient oracle in Greece (Herodotus 1942, 2:52). For some time it was the only one in the country, the Greeks later establishing their


P r im e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv iliz a t io n

own at Delphi. The center of Pelasgian worship, however, the famous tem­ ple of Zeus was situated at Dodona, on a mountain southeast of Yanina near the present Greek village of Kastricë. Aeschylus described the ap­ proach: "You come to the Molossian plains around the sheer back of Dodona where is the oracular seat of Thesprotian Zeus, the talking oaks, a wonder past belief" (Aeschylus 1959, 829-34). As early as the eighth cen­ tury b . c . Hesiod, the peasant poet of Sparta, called this Dodona the "seat of the Pelasgians" (Hesiod 1967, Fragment 225), and Herodotus called the whole Dodona district "Pelasgia" (Herodotus 1946, 2:56). Strabo acknowl­ edged that many hundreds of years before his time the Dodonean Jupiter had been called "Pelasgian Dodonean Jove supreme" (Strabo 1889, 5.2.4). There he hurled his thunderbolts from the Acroceraunian Mountains which drop into the Adriatic Sea at Himara, just below Vlora. There also he whis­ pered his wisdom in the rustling leaves of the sacred oak trees. The interpretation of the thunder or the leafy whisper was usually en­ trusted to a few old women called "oracles." The term "doves" was also ap­ plied to these old women who idled about the temple chattering softly among themselves (Strabo 1889, Fragment 1). At the temple of Apollo at Delphi the oracular interpretation was delivered in a deep hollow cavern with a narrow entrance. "From it rises up an exhalation which inspires a deep frenzy. Over the mouth is placed a lofty tripod on which the Pythian priestess ascends to receive the exhalation, after which she gives the pro­ phetic response in verse or prose. The prose is adapted to measure by poets who are in the service of the temple" (Strabo 1889, 9.3.5). Not so at Do­ dona. Besides the famous oak trees and the thunder there was an equally famous brazen vessel donated by devotees in Corcyra (Corfu). Over it stood a statue of a man grasping in his hand a brazen scourge of three thongs, woven in chains from which were suspended small bones. When­ ever they were agitated by the wind these bones struck continually upon the brazen vessel, producing a long protracted sound which was interpreted by the oracle (Strabo 1889, Fragment 3). Often the interpretation of these messages was ambiguous. Aeschylus tells of a person who "sent many an embassy to Dodona seeking to discover what deed or word of his might please the god, but those he sent came back with riddling oracles dark and beyond the power of understanding" (Aeschylus 1959, 1:658-62). Apparently this was common practice. When King Croesus consulted the oracle at Delphi whether to go to battle against the Persians, she assured him he would destroy a mighty empire. Con­ vinced that she meant the Persians, he fought them and was defeated disastrously. When his messenger remonstrated with her, she replied that because he was not smart enough to inquire whose empire was meant, he had only himself to blame (Herodotus 1946, 1:86, 90-91). Sometimes this deliberate ambiguity backfired. Strabo wrote that once when the Pelasgi and Boeotians were at war, both went to consult the oracle at Dodona. "The prophetess replied to the Boeotians that they would prosper by committing

Traditions A bout A lbania in Our Earliest Chronicles


some act of impiety. The messengers sent to consult the oracle, suspecting the oracle of favoring the Pelasgi on account of their relationship (for the temple had originally belonged to the Pelasgi), seized the woman and threw her upon a burning pile, considering that whether her conduct had been right or wrong, in either case they were right. For if she had uttered a deceit­ ful answer she was duly punished; but if not, they had only complied with the command of the oracle" (Strabo 1889, 9.2.4). Two symbols became associated with Dodona. First was the eagle. In the exacavations of Dodona conducted in 1875, Karapanos found carved on the stone of the temple a two-headed eagle which the ancients used to represent the messenger of Zeus. For the Iliad represented Zeus again and again sending an eagle as a divine sign to the Pelasgian combatants (Iliad 8:97; 12:155). Homer also likened those brave warriors to a swift eagle. Lit­ tle wonder then that they should honor their god by taking the eagle as their national and religious emblem, placing it on their flag. It was appropriate too because they lived among the rocks, built their temples on the rocky peaks, and worshipped their thunder-and-lightning divinity, who used the eagle as his messenger. Queen Olympias of Epirus later took this symbol with her to Macedonia, and her son Alexander the Great made it known throughout the ancient world. Little wonder too that this people should afterwards call themselves not Albanians, but Shqiptarë, Eagle-people, or Sons of the Eagle. Another symbol associated with Dodona was the sacred oak tree which abounded there, and through whose wind-ruffled leaves Zeus re­ vealed his will. One of these sacred oaks formed the prow of the 50-oared ship named the Argo with which Jason and his Argonaut companions sought the Golden Fleece just one generation before the Trojan War. Also prominent at the gate of Troy was "the oak tree" (Iliad 6:72; 7:80; 9:112; 11:137) which was sometimes called the "holy oak" (Iliad7:81; 21:270). This relates to another mystery: the Druids of Britain. For the Albanian language and the Albanian people are both related to the Celts and the Celtic languages. So are the Druids. In fact, the word Druid is Celtic and is a literal translation of "oak tree" and "wise." A Druid is defined as "a member of a Celtic religious order of priests, soothsayers etc., in ancient Britain, Ireland and France." Their religion centered on the heavenly bodies and nature worship, making their appearance in Europe about 2000 b .c . But the word "dru" in Albanian is literally "tree" or "wood." Is there any possible connection here? Stonehenge (ca. 1700 b .c .) is a prehistoric circular arrangement of massive stone monuments oriented for religious reasons toward the sun and other heavenly bodies. In fact the monuments are thought to be primitive astronomical instruments for measuring the movements of the sun and moon. Despite intensive study by scholars over the ages, Stonehenge remains an unsolved mystery. But of all the ancient people, the nature-worshipping Pelasgians were the most famous for their massive stone work.


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv iliz a t io n

P elasgian O vertones in H omer's Odyssey

The Odyssey is the second great epic poem attributed to Homer. There is a striking similarity between the Pelasgian religious practices found in it and those found in the Iliad. Reading the story of Ulysses one becomes overwhelmed by the conviction that here we have another Pelasgian. Learning that his absence of 20 years had led ambitious government leaders to revolt, he was uncertain whether he should reenter his realm openly or in disguise. So he "journeyed to the sylvan shrine of Dodonean Jove" in order to understand his "sure precept" (Homer Odyssey 19:340-44). Or, as he explained to his faithful old servant, he was "wafted to Thesprotia's shore" which was on the Himara coast. There he "voyaged to explore the will of Jove, on high Dodona's holy hill, what means might best his safe return avail, to come in pomp, or by a secret sail" (14:350, 363-66). Meanwhile, his son, Telemachus, fearing that his father might have perished on returning from Troy, went in search of him. Arriving in the court of Sparta he beheld the charming "Argive Helen," restored to her hus­ band, Menelaus (17:133-34). The king of Sparta was exultant to meet the son of his dear friend Ulysses. He said, "I, to confirm the mutual joys we shared, for his abode a capital prepared. Argos the seat of sovereign rule I chose. Fair in the plain the future palace rose, where my Ulysses and his race might reign, and portion to his tribes the wide domain" (4:233-38). For Pelasgian Menelaus to name Ulysses king of Pelasgian Argos would cer­ tainly identify him as of this same Pelasgian race. But Ulysses had persisted in returning to his kingdom. Helen then reassured Prince Telemachus that his father would safely return to Ithaca. "Oh! if this promised bliss by thundering Jove," the prince replied, "stand fix'd in fate above, to thee, as to some god, I'll temples raise, and crown thy altars with the costly blaze" (15:202-5). One more instance will suffice. When Ulysses was restored to Ithaca, and before undertaking the battle with the treasonous suitors to regain his wife, Penelope, and his kingdom, he approached the familiar seaside grotto of the Nymphs. The sacrifices he used to offer them had long been discontinued. But Ulysses entrusted to their safekeeping the treasures he had brought back with him and promised renewed sacrifices if they would grant victory to him and his son. He then "on his knees salutes his mother-earth; then, with his suppliant hands upheld in air, thus to the seagreen sisters sends his prayer: 'All hail! ye virgin daughters of the main! . . . If Jove prolong my days, and Pallas Athena crown the growing virtues of my youthful son, to you shall rites divine be ever paid, and grateful offer­ ings on your altars laid'" (13:404-14). So it was that the gods and goddesses and nymphs were all propitiated, Ulysses regained his wife and the kingdom, and the story ends happily at Ithaca. P elasgian O vertones in V irgil's A eneid

Although Virgil wrote about 700 years later than Homer, his version of the practices prevailing in the Trojan era corresponds rather closely with

Traditions A bout Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles


those mirrored in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The setting is Albanian Butrint. The widow Andromache made a yearly sacrifice and gifts at the altar for her dead husband. People recognized the king as a seer and in­ spired interpreter of the gods to give wise counsel and direction. The king, acting as priest, offered animal sacrifices to the gods for cleansing from sin. Then he prayerfully begged the grace of heaven. They recognized the holy tripod or three-legged stool where the oracle sat to receive and interpret messages from the gods. They recognized that the seer understood and in­ terpreted the stars of heaven and the song and flight of birds. Travelers could avoid peril only by appealing to the gods. If they would only call on Apollo he would come to their aid. Their journey to Italy ended, Aeneas raised an altar and made a sacrifice, covering his head with a purple cloth. The fire on the altar was called "holy fire." People believed the seers had their whole spirits full of the truth of the gods. They could overcome the disfavor of powerful goddesses with prayers and vows to present gifts. The holy priestess or oracle at the cave of Cuma beside the lake called Avernos near Naples could foretell the future. She often wrote signs and symbols on leaves but could also chant the oracular message or speak it, giving full directions for the future. Then they honored the gods of the sea and earth and storms with outpoured cups of wine, praying for a safe trip (Virgil 1950, 3:359-462; 525-29). When Aeneas and his party reached Sicily they worshipped the gods. He poured on the ground two goblets of unmixed wine, two of fresh milk and two of the blood of sacrificial victims, showering bright blossoms around. He prayed to his dead father before the gathered thousands. Then he sacrificed two sheep, two swine and two heifers, and while pouring wine called on his father's spirit. Others brought to the fire gifts such as frankincense, flesh, foods and oil (6:225). Others sacrificed steers, set the caldrons, and putting live coals under the spits roasted the flesh. Another day Aeneas directed the contests: oar-driven galleys, foot races, boxing with huge ox-hide gloves "all stiff with insewn lead and iron" (5:404-5), then archery and exercises in horsemanship (5:72-603). One aspect of Pelasgian life, however, assumed greater prominence with Virgil than it had hitherto: the use of idols or images in temple wor­ ship. For Virgil pictured a Troy complete with its Palladium or legendary statue of Pallas Athena, on the preservation of which the safety of the city was said to depend. But Virgil wrote that the Danaans had crept into the city and broken into the shrine, then "to tear the fateful Palladium from its hallowed shrine, slew the guards of the citadel height, and snatching up the sacred image, ventured with bloody hands to touch the fillets of the maiden goddess" (2:165-70). This estranged the goddess. When the image was placed in their camp, Athena's eyes flashed fire and sweat broke out on her limbs (2:162-74). Virgil vividly described the fiery holocaust which destroyed Troy: "the towering flames . . . the hot blast roars skyward," and Priam's "treasures heaped up" (2:758-65). Cassandra, Priam's daughter,


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

was "dragged from the temple and shrine of Minerva" (2:404). Fighting went on from the "high temple roof" (2:410). Aeneas and his family fled to Priam's huge altar "beneath the open arch of heaven" beside a huge tree "with household gods in its shade" (2:512-13). Aeneas directed his father to take away with him their own household gods (2:717). Then with the characteristic fatalism of these mortals whose destiny was determined by the immortals, Virgil concluded, "It is not Helen, it is not Paris, that is to blame, but the gods, the relentless gods who make Troy topple" (2:601-3). We face a problem here, of course. Homer has been accused of strain­ ing the patience of scholars because in writing of the Bronze-Age Troy he supplied them with weapons and ships more typical of his own eighth cen­ tury b .c . (Bury 1967, 53). Similarly, there is little if any solid evidence that Athena's temple and religious statues or images ever existed in old Troy. Probably Virgil and to a lesser degree Homer projected the religious prac­ tices of their day back to the heroes of quite a different age. This makes it difficult for us now to distinguish between the religious concepts of Virgil in the first century b .c ., those of Homer in the eighth century and those of the Trojans themselves in the thirteenth century b .c . Dionysius of Halicarnassus had a rather fanciful explanation of what really happened at Troy. He conjectured that the divine Palladium did fall from heaven and was kept at Troy, together with a true copy. Miracu­ lously, the Achaeans stole only the copy. Aeneas rescued the original and took it to Italy (Dionysius 1948,1:69; 2:66). Strabo mentioned the Trojan settlement of Heraclea near Taranto in southern Italy, a town claiming to possess the true Trojan statue of Minerva. Its authenticity was guaranteed by the fact that the statue could miraculously close its eyes as it did when the Trojan women were dragged off into captivity. But Strabo was skep­ tical, for he then listed four other towns in Italy where they claimed to have the same Trojan Minerva (Strabo 1889, 6.1.14). U N R E SO L V E D M Y S T E R I E S OF THE P E L A S G I A N S Scholars have struggled valiantly with the ancient chronicles and with the findings of archeologists and linguists seeking to determine Pelasgian origins and relationships. Was it the Dorians or possibly the Pelasgians who destroyed the Minoan civilization in Crete? (Toynbee 1956, 1:410). Was the Mycenaean civilization the legitimate successor of the Minoan civilization, for it appears that Agamemnon and Menelaus by their mother Aerope were great-grandsons of King Minos of Crete (Smith 1876, 22). How were the Pelasgians in the north Aegean islands of Lemnos, Imbros and Samothrace related to the Pelasgians in neighboring Troy, and to those in Macedonia and continental Greece? (Toynbee 1956, 1:408-9). Did any of these Pelasgian tribals have any relationship with the Pelasgians of Larissa and those elsewhere in Asia Minor who were allies of Troy? Was there any continuing relationship between the Pelasgians of Crete and those on the mainland, for Crete furnished "eighty black ships" to join their

Traditions A bout Albania in Our Earliest Chronicles


expedition against Troy (Iliad 2:620). And how were the Pelasgians of Lem­ nos and Crete related to the "Tyrrhenians" or Etruscans of Italy? It would be easy for an Albanophile to be dogmatic. But when scholars like Toynbee grapple with the questions and use words like "puzzle," "conceivable," "ten­ tative" and "fog" (Toynbee, 1:408-15), it would seem wise to leave these mysteries to the professionals.

4. The Early Historical Kingdoms in Albania (1280-323 B.C.) Early Pelasgian families dwelt at first in their own fortified houses, usually built of stone for protection, like primitive castles. Each family was governed by its patriarchal head. Gradually multiplying families estab­ lished their fortified houses in the same neighborhood, relating themselves together for protection as a clan or tribe. Often the tribal chief shared government with a council of elders having advisory or sometimes even legislative power. Despite internal friction and even deadly feuding, these clans eventually sought mutual defense against invaders by associating in a somewhat loose regional federation. Such a federation would usually be dominated by a strong natural leader, or by a prominent tribal family. This gradual process led to the emergence of several distinct Pelasgian states or kingdoms. The historical record, however, is far from continuous. No Pelasgian inscriptions or written records have come to light. Only when the early Albanian came into contact with his Greek or Roman neighbors did their historians record his acts for posterity. Later when records were kept they were usually destroyed, either by enemies who burned the captured city, or by a king like Perseus who in defeat destroyed all his papers so as not to implicate friends in his treason against Rome. The following rather unrelated vignettes, then, must suffice to introduce the early history of the Albanians. THE K IN G D O M OF M O L O S S IA , LA TER EP IR U S (1 2 8 0 -3 3 6 b . c .) P yrrhus N eoptolemy (1280?-? b .c .)

Pyrrhus, son of the legendary Achilles, was the first semihistoric per­ sonage to emerge from the misty past and draw together the scattered Pelasgian tribal people. Shortly after the fall of Troy, traditionally dated about 1284 b . c ., Pyrrhus Neoptolemy came to the southwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula and united under his leadership the warring Pelasgians of that region. This is the region now known by Albanians as Toskëri. These 78

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


tribal groups included the Thesprotians of Saranda and Chamëria extend­ ing southward to the Gulf of Art a, the Chaonians of Kurvelesh and Himara or Labëria, the Atintans of Përmet and Tepëlena and the Dassarets of Berat and the present regions of Ochrida and Korcha. Pyrrhus was traditionally associated with Butrint, but shortly thereafter Yanina became the capital of his kingdom. Even at this stage in their history it is difficult to distinguish between history and poetry. The master poet of tragedy Euripides describes how Andromache from the walls of Troy saw her noble husband, Hector, son of King Priam, slain by Achilles in single combat. On the fall of Troy she was allotted as slave-wife to Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, and they lived at Pharsalus in the district of Phthia in Thessaly. The poet described at length the plot against Pyrrhus and his murder at the altar of Delphi (Euripides 1959, 3:1085-1165). The Greek geographer Strabo was much more cynical. Referring to the tomb of Pyrrhus still to be seen at the shrine, Strabo noted, "He was killed by a Delphian. As the fable goes, he was seek­ ing redress from the god for the murder of his father, but probably he was preparing to pillage the temple" (Strabo 1889, 9.3.9). Thetis, the sea god­ dess and Pyrrhus' grandmother, directed the twice-widowed Andromache to go to Molossia and marry Helenus, where Pyrrhus' son, Molossius, would later reign as king (Euripides 1959, 3:1241-50). Apparently either the poet or the historian has taken liberties with the chronology. The fact re­ mains, however, that Pyrrhus' son, Molossius, did eventually receive the throne and lent his name to the kingdom. Little or nothing is known of the 20 or more kings who followed Pyrrhus. A dmetus (c a . 450 B.C.)

Admetus was ruler in Molossia when Themistocles (5257-460? b . c .), the Athenian statesman and naval commander, was suspected of sympathy with the Persians and condemned. Pursued throughout Greece and allied Corfu, Themistocles fled to Molossia in desperation to appeal to King Admetus, despite the fact that when in the height of his power he had dis­ dainfully insulted Admetus (Thucydides 1959,1:135-37). The king was not at home when Themistocles arrived. Some say that it was Admetus' wife, Phthia, who suggested how Themistocles might place her husband under obligation by taking the king's little son in his arms before the hearth and begging protection. The ploy was effective, and in keeping with ancient Albanian customs of hospitality, Admetus refused to surrender his guest, Themistocles, to the Greek pursuers (Plutarch 1952, 1.19). Later, Themis­ tocles went overland to Pydna of Macedonia and from there crossed the Aegean Sea to exile in Persian territory where he was safe. Obviously Molossia, later called Epirus, was not then considered Greek territory. This was confirmed by modern scholars. In October 1984, 70 his­ torians and archeologists from Greece, Albania, Romania, Italy and several other countries of Europe convened in Clermont-Ferrand, France. They held a colloquium with a group of specialists in ancient history who


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv iliz a t io n

were working there under the direction of Professor Pierre Kaban, the renowned expert on Epirus. They compared studies on the tribal and ethnic groups which gradually organized into urban life, then federated into state organizations. They compared juridical institutions such as the family right of ownership, the role of the woman in the family and the procedure in free­ ing slaves. Similarities of Epirote centers like Dodona and those of southern Illyria were evidenced by their layout, architecture and political organiza­ tion, also the circulation of coins, the structure of graves, the burial rites and articles found in the tumuli. But scholars concluded that from early an­ tiquity until the Roman times the culture of southern Illyria and Epirus, in­ cluding Molossia, was quite different from that of classical Greece as found in Athens and Sparta (NAlb 1985, 3:29). A le xander M olossus ( 1 - 3 3 7 B-c -)

The warrior Alexander Molossus now emerged into the clear light of history. First, in order to further cement family ties with King Philip II of Macedonia and his sister Queen Olympias, he married their daughter Kleopatra, his own niece! Tragically, it was during these nuptials that Philip was assassinated (336 b . c .). Then the merchant princes of Spartan or Pelasgian descent living in Tarentum (Taranto) in southernmost Italy, troubled by regional conflicts, sent a delegation to Alexander begging the help of their Pelasgian kinsman and his fighting men. Characteristically, Alexander consulted the Pelasgian oracle at nearby Dodona to learn whether such a venture would result in victory or defeat. The Lord of Dodona replied cryptically that Alexander must "beware of the waters of the Aheroni and the city of Pandosi, the limits of his good fortune." A river and a city by those names being within his kingdom, he confidently took his army the 40 miles across the Adriatic Sea in 337 b .c . Actually his pur­ pose was not so much to help Taranto as to seize the countryside for himself and become the king of Molossia and Italy. Alexander promptly captured Cosentia (Cosenza), the headquarters of a regional confederacy. Then he defeated their combined forces at Paestum, south of Naples, thus subduing southern Italy from sea to sea. He centered a new "confederation" of cities in Cosenza where he declared himself chief captain and king. His successes in Italy were so great that Rome proposed a treaty with him. A coin issued at the time showed on one side the oak-crowned head of Zeus of Dodona and on the reverse a thunderbolt and spearhead with the legend "Alex­ ander, son of Neoptolemos" (Bury 1967, 680). But Alexander's unexpected successes alarmed his Tarentine patrons, and they turned against him. Alexander tried to rally around him the other Hellenic cities, but in vain. The resulting battle began at a riverside which he discovered to his dismay was named Aheroni, directly opposite a city called Pandosi. Strabo placed this near Mendocino, between Cosenza and the sea (Strabo 1889, 6.1.5). While he was spurring his horse across the river, Alexander was killed by a spear hurled by a former Lucanian ally (Qafëzezi 1934, 24-26). The

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


kingdom of Molossia passed into the hands of his sister, Olympias of Macedonia, whose son the following year would begin to rule as Alexander the Great. Queen Olympias was very insistent upon the non-Greek character of her Pelasgian kingdom. Thus, when certain Athenians sent a delegation to Dodona to offer a sacrifice to the lord of the Pelasgians, she sternly rebuked them for not having first sought her permission. Olympias in fact sent a letter to the Greeks stating bluntly, "The Greeks have no right whatever to cross our Molossian territory" (ibid., 25). TH E K IN G D O M OF IL L Y R IA (7-336

b. c .)

H ylli "T he Star" (7-1225 b .c .)

Hylli was the earliest known king ruling over the scattered Pelasgian families and tribes known as the Kingdom of Illyria. He died in 1225 B.c. His territory originally extended along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, reaching northward to the Gulf of Trieste and southward to the Vjosa River. This region included all of that part of Albania which was once called Gegarie. The historian Gibbon stated that Illyria later included all the territory south of the Danube River between the Adriatic and the Black seas (Gibbon 1860,1:24-25). This extensive kingdom was composed of sev­ eral tribes: the Toulants in the Durrës region, the Liburnians along the maritime coast of Shkodra, Ulqin (Dulcigno) and Tivar, the Dalmatians farther north including Trieste, and the Dardanians around Kosova. The Venetians were said to have been of Illyrian extraction, although they were not usually listed as Illyrians (Mommsen 1874, 2:94). The capital city of the Illyrians was always Shkodra, Albania's oldest continuing city. D urrës P recipitates the P eloponnesian W ar (431-404 b .c .)

The Illyrian king Epidamn of the Toulanti tribe founded the city of Epidamnus (Durrës) before the Corinthian colonizers settled Corfu. In 627 b .c . by treachery and force the Greeks from Corfu took the city. They were soon joined by many others from the region of Corinth, and the city became populous and great. In 435 b.c . strife between "democrats" and "oligarchs" within the city offered the resentful Illyrians their opportunity to expel the Greeks and regain control of their city. Under attack by the socalled barbarian Toulanti tribesmen (Thucydides 1959, 1:24), the beleaguered city appealed to both Corfu and Corinth for military assistance. Corinth at once sent a garrison and more colonists. This was resented by Corfu, which then joined the Illyrians in besieging Durrës. War broke out. Corfu defeated Corinth on the sea, the first recorded sea battle between two Greek powers, and then on the land before Durrës. Corfu then drew up a mutual defense treaty with Athens in 433 b .c . This was a fateful move, with dire consequences for Athens. For thanks to its expanding com­ mercial trade, its naval power, its new democracy, its predominance in the arts and its vigorous colonial expansion, Athens had quite overshadowed


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

its former partners in the anti-Persian coalition. They feared themselves about to be swallowed up. Accordingly, when Athens sent a battle fleet to support her new ally Corfu, the Corinthian navy of 150 galleys went to Chimerium (Himara) in Thesprotis, their troops camping there with "many barbarians." A great naval battle followed. Both sides suffered heavy losses, yet both sides claimed the victory. This conflict contributed directly to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 b .c .) between Athens with her allies and Corinth with Sparta and their allies. Durrës, over which the struggle began, remained happily uninvolved {ibid., 1:24-56). It is significant that when virtually all the Greek states polarized in their alliances with Athens or Sparta preparatory to the war, neither Epirus, Macedonia nor Illyria became involved as an ally of either side. Bardhylli


"W hite Star" (4497-359 b .c .)

Bardhylli, after whom our own Bardhyl Tirana was apparently named, extended his Illyrian kingdom to include much of Epirus and Macedonia. Sons of vanquished noble families were taken to Shkodra as hostages. Few dates are available, except that he reigned from 393 to 359 b.c . This expansionism provoked a strong military response from Philip II of Macedonia, whose general Parmenion defeated their Illyrian cousins between the Albanian lakes Presba and Ochrida near Korcha, killing Bar­ dhylli and recovering the disputed Macedonian territory. In his final battle, Bardhylli is said to have fought on horseback at the age of 90 (NAlb 1987, 4:25). Upon the death of Philip of Macedonia, Bardhylli's sons Kleiti and Glaucus attempted to regain this disputed territory. In a sharp battle at Piluri near the gorge of Devoll northwest of Korcha, young Alexander, son of Philip, defeated them in 335 b .c ., incorporating the Illyrians into his ex­ panding Macedonia. The warlike character of the Illyrians is evident from a recently discovered grave of an Illyrian warrior buried about 350 b.c . at Belsh, 15 miles from Elbasan. At the head of the fighter had been placed an Illyrian helmet and three bronze buckets, one filled with earthenware, another with iron knives and weapons. Beside the body were two pitchers, two bowls and two cups all made of bronze. Beside them were dozens of pottery uten­ sils, most with black glaze or ornamented with red figures. On the other side of the body there were two long iron spears, a sword and several iron spearheads. On his legs were bronze shin-plates, these being the first of their kind ever found in Illyrian cities. They had been shaped to conform to the anatomy of the leg. On the body were found many ornamental objects of silver —such as two bracelets, 15 brooches, two needles, a pair of earrings —some of which featured filigree. The pot­ tery came from nearby Durrës and Apollonia. Evidently the warrior had been an outstanding leader of the Illyrians (Liria 31 October 1975, 3; 28 May 1976).

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)

TH E K IN G D O M OF M A C ED O N IA (7007-336


b. c .)

P erdiccas I (700?-? B.C.)

Perdiccas was probably the founder of this third and latest kingdom federating scattered Pelasgian tribes in the south central region of the Balkans. It is true that Plutarch named the founder as Karano of the Argos region who made himself king in 815 b .c . But Herodotus named as founder a man named Perdiccas. He was one of three brothers, the sons of Temenus, who also fled from Argos to Illyria, then to Lebaea in upper Macedonia. The brothers hired out to serve a local king, Perdiccas caring for the sheep and goats. Dismissed by the king, they settled near Mt. Bermius and gradually gained control of Macedonia. Perdiccas established himself as king about 700 b.c . (Herodotus 1942, 8:137-38). This cor­ responds with the record of the historian Thucydides who wrote that the first Macedonians were the Temenidae (sons of Temenus) who came out of Argos (Thucydides 1959, 2:99). This kingdom included Thessalonica and reached southwesterly as far as Molossia or Epirus, and northwesterly as far as Illyria. Its capital was at Edessa, now Vodena, in western Macedonia. A question arises very naturally: Was not the kingdom of Macedonia Greek in origin and character? Actually Argos was commonly known as "Pelasgian Argos." Although partially intermarried with the Hellenists and influenced by Hellenistic culture, the population was essentially Pelasgian and not Greek. Not much is known about these early kings, except that Per­ diccas was succeeded by his son, Argaeus, who was succeeded by his son, Philip I, who was succeeded by his son, Aeropus, who was succeeded by his son, Alcetas, whose son, Amintas I, became one of the outstanding kings of Macedonia (Herodotus 1942, 8:139). A mintas I (540-500 b .c .)

Amintas expanded his kingdom eastward by annexing successive strips of barbarian territory, then securing them by planting them with "cultivated refugees." Among the distinguished refugees he accommodated in this way was Peisistratus, the exiled despot of Athens, and later in 510 b .c . his tyrant son, Hippias, likewise expelled from Athens (Toynbee 1956, 1:412). This eastward expansion of Amintas brought him into contact with the Persians who were then expanding westward. Cyrus (546-540 b .c .) had incorporated into his empire the Greek cities along the coast of Asia Minor. Then in 513 b .c . Darius moved across the Hellespont and took much of Thrace. It was during the reign of Amintas, about 507 b .c ., that the Persian king sent an embassy of seven high military officers demanding a gift of earth and water as tokens of submission. Amintas entertained them with a great feast. The Persians insisted that the Macedonian women also attend, but their drunken indecencies angered the king's son, Alexander. By a ruse he got the women away from the table and replaced them with young men dressed in women's garments, but armed with daggers. When the ambassa-


P r i m e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv iliz a t io n

dors became too aggressive they perished. Their attendants and baggage all disappeared. The Persians made a strict search for their lost ambassadors, but could discover no trace of them. By bribery and by giving his sister, Gygaea, in marriage to the chief Persian investigator named Bubares, Alex­ ander hushed up the matter completely (Herodotus 1942, 5:17-21). A lexander I (500-454 b .c .)

Alexander expressed his admiration of Greek culture by encouraging closer ties with Greece. The great lyric poet Pindar of Thebes composed poems praising Alexander, and he was awarded the title "Filelini," or "Friend of the Greeks." Such an award, incidentally, would acknowledge that Alexander the Macedonian was not a Greek. Herodotus tells us that Alexander once went to Olympus to contend in the Pan-Hellenic contests. Knowing that he was from Macedonia, the Greeks wished to exclude him from the games, saying that only Greeks were allowed to contend, and not barbarians. But Alexander proved himself a descendant of Hercules and the kings of Argos, so he was relucantly admitted (ibid., 5:22). It is obvious, though, that the Greeks did not consider the Macedonians as fellow Greeks. About 493 b .c . the Persians sent Mardonius, the son-in-law of Darius, with a small army to eliminate the remaining Greek holdings in Thrace, returning to Asia in 491 b .c . Then proposing to divide and conquer Greece itself, they approached Alexander through his brother-in-law, Bubares. Alexander cooperated by sending messengers urging the Athenians to col­ laborate with Xerxes and his Persians on very favorable terms (ibid., 8:136, 140). At the same time the Lacedaemonians or Spartans sent an embassy urging the Athenians not to collaborate. The Athenians decided that they would never collaborate and lose their freedom, declaring, "While one Athenian remains alive, we will never join alliance with Xerxes!" (ibid., 8:141-44). So the Persians marched on Athens, but were defeated at Marathon in 490 b .c . In 481 b.c . Xerxes marched his troops over the pon­ toon bridge at the Hellespont. Crossing Macedonia, he overcame the legen­ dary Spartan 300 at Thermopylae and captured and destroyed much of Athens but was decisively defeated at the naval battle of Salamis in 480 b.c . That winter Mardonius attempted to split the fragile Greek coalition by offering very lenient terms to Athens for submission: equal partnership with Persia and funds for reconstruction and additional territory. Again they refused, asserting their kinship of race, language, religion and way of life. Just as the Persians were about to join battle with the Athenians and Spartans at Plataea, Alexander did his best to persuade the Greeks. But the Persians were defeated, Mardonius was killed and the Persian army withdrew to Asia in 479 b.c . The Persian threat more than anything else had crystallized this Greek consciousness or sense of Hellenism, even of an early Pan-Hellenism. When Themistocles, condemned by Athens for his suspected Persian sympathies, left Molossia, Alexander extended temporary

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


refuge to him at Pydna in Macedonia (Thucydides 1959, 1:137). This and Alexander's friendly alliance with the Corinthians only served to an­ tagonize the Athenians yet more. P erdiccas II (454-413 B.C.)

Perdiccas II succeeded his father, Alexander, as king of Macedonia. As the rival commercial interests of Athens and Corinth at Epidamnos (Durrës) were leading toward conflict, similar rivalry on the Macedonian coast broke out into open warfare. In 432 b .c . Athens quarreled with Cor­ inth over its colony of Potidaea, which had formerly belonged to Athens. When Athens besieged Potidaea, war broke out with Corinth. Most of the Greek states polarized around Athens on the one hand, or Corinth and Sparta on the other. The resulting Peloponnesian War lasted from 431 to 404 b.c . Macedonia was not allied with either. But Perdiccas, hoping to ex­ pand his rule at the expense of the Greeks, found himself frequently em­ broiled in the civil war. At times he sided with Sparta and Corinth against Athens, later to be reconciled with Athens but "unknown to them" sending troops to aid the Molossians against Athens (ibid., 2:29, 80). Noting the stalemate between Sparta and Athens, Perdiccas in 424 b.c . permitted Spar­ tan troops coming through hostile Thessaly to pass through Macedonia into Thrace so as to encourage the revolt of Athenian colonies along the coast. But Perdiccas never did realize his hope to add these colonies to his Macedonian holdings. To punish Perdiccas, Athens encouraged the Thracians from the north and east with allied tribes seeking plunder to invade Macedonia. Thucy­ dides paid tribute to the Macedonian horsemen when he observed, "Where they charged, none was able to resist them, being both good horsemen and well-armed with breastplates" (ibid., 2:100). But enclosed by the sheer multitude of the enemy they were finally overwhelmed. The Thracians assisted by Greeks from the south wasted Macedonian territory. Perdiccas secured peace only by offering his sister in marriage. During the ninth year of the Peloponnesian War, 422 b.c ., Perdiccas aided some neighboring Greeks in their revolt against oppressive Athens. Thucydides differentiated carefully between these Greeks and the Macedonians: "Perdiccas led with him the power of the Macedonians, his subjects, and such Grecian men of arms as dwelt among them." Also, the "Grecians" were numbered separately from their allied "Macedonians and other barbarians" (ibid., 4:124). Thereafter Athens alternately sought Macedonia as an ally and ravaged her as an enemy. Perdiccas II like his father, Alexander II, invited outstanding Greeks to his palace at Edessa. Thus he hosted Mellanipid, an outstanding lyric composer of the period. Hippocrates (460-375? b.c .), the "Father of Medicine," born in Pelasgian Cos, served with Perdiccas as palace physi­ cian for some time. He is reported to have "cured a Macedonian tyrant of the malady of love," dying at a ripe old age at Larissa in Thessaly.


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv iliz a t io n

A rchelaus (413-399 b .c .)

Archelaus succeeded Perdiccas, his father, as king of Macedonia. He was an enthusiastic patron of art and literature. Unfortunately, this was a troubled time in Greece when civil war still raged between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies. From 415 to 412 b.c . Athens launched an expedition in Sicily hoping to annex the colonies of Corinth situated along the coast of Italy, but this proved altogether disastrous. Equally unfor­ tunate was an attempt to reestablish an oligarchical government by the aristocracy and intelligentsia, which provoked the democracy-loving populace into driving many such into exile. Some of these, also a number of artists and writers, found refuge at the court of Archelaus. Thessalus, a Greek physician and most eminent son of Hippocrates, spent consid­ erable time there (Smith 1876, 883). Another, the historian Thucydides (4607-400? b.c .), praised the king for the great progress realized during his peaceful reign: "Many strongholds and walled towns were built by Arche­ laus, the son of Perdiccas, when he came to the kingdom, who also laid out the highways straight, and took order both for matters of war, as horses and arms and for other provision, better than all the other eight kings that were before him" (Thucydides 1959, 2:100). Archelaus also welcomed the tragic poet Euripides, who was said by Aeschylus to have despaired of the gradual deterioration of Athens after the Golden Age of Pericles. Bitter and broken in spirit also by his imagined lack of recognition by his own people, he voluntarily left Athens for exile in 404 b.c ., dying tragically at the Macedonian palace two years later, torn to pieces by the king's dogs (Euripides 1959, 4:530; Smith 1876, 298). In 404 b.c . Athens was crushed militarily and forced to give up its dream of empire. Sparta insisted on dismantling the defenses of the city but was remarkably lenient in dictating the peace terms. Archelaus reigned only five years after the close of the Peloponnesian War, his usually bellicose Macedonia presenting a strangely peaceful contrast to the civil war tearing his Greek neighbors apart. A rather incongruous but welcome historical footnote is that of Pliny, who, in his Natural History, observed that "to give instruction for agriculture was an occupation of the highest dignity, actually performed by Archelaus" (Pliny 1947, 18:5). 40 Y ears of A narchy (399-359 b .c .)

A period of general anarchy followed this peaceful reign in Macedonia, with several short troubled reigns: Orestes and his guardian Aeropus II (399-394 b.c .), Amintas II (393-369 b .c .), Alexander II (369-364 b .c .), Ptolemy (366-364 b.c .) and Perdiccas III (364-360 b.c .). U N ION OF P ELA SG IA N K IN G D O M S ( 3 5 9 - 3 2 3

b . c .)

P hilip II (359-336 b .c .)

During this troubled period of Macedonian history the Greeks tried to assure their subjection by holding Philip, the 15-year-old son of Amintas II,

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


a hostage for three years (367-364 b.c .) in Thebes. Here he absorbed the Greek language and rich Greek culture, but remained determinedly Mace­ donian. Upon returning to his native Macedonia he was given the throne in 359 b .c ., making his residence and capital of the Macedonian monarchy at Pella near Thessalonica. Philip soon brought fame to the kingdom of Macedonia by his determined efforts to unite the western kingdoms in order to block the constantly expanding Persian empire. The first phase of his national strategy was to unite Macedonia itself, this process of consolidation extending from 359 to 352 b .c . To the west and north the mountain ranges created natural frontiers with their kinsmen in Epirus and Illyria respectively and the Paeonians. On the east the Strymon River was the acknowledged boundary with Thrace. But the thriving Greek trading colonies established along the coast of the three-pronged Chalcidice Peninsula irritated Philip and challenged him. Earlier Macedonian kings had established their capital at Pella and built roads, but they had been quite unable to consolidate the scattered princes and tribal chieftains and patriarchal heads of families. Strong hereditary leaders were recognized only by their kinsmen, and loyalty was a sacred obligation. Any broader loyalty was altogether voluntary and tentative and usually appeared quite unnecessary. Philip, however, provided strong leadership. He attracted the loyalty of tribal leaders and created a national consciousness as Mace­ donians. By persuasion and force he won the allegiance of the independent tribal chiefs of the western highlands. By his marriage in 358 b.c . to Olym­ pias, sister of King Alexander, he created a closer alliance with the Molossians of Epirus, who already according to the Greek geographer Strabo resembled the Macedonians in language, dress and other customs (Strabo 1889, 7.7.8). In joint campaigns they drove the Illyrians out of occupied Macedonian and Epirote territory and assured their subordination. By a combination of shrewd diplomacy, persuasive double-talk and restrained military action Philip took from the weakened Athenians some of their trading colonies along the Aegean coast. Thus for the first time in history the three kingdoms of Pelasgian people: Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria, the early Albanians, were all under one head, King Philip II. Two factors were of primary importance both in the consolidation of Macedonia and in its later expansion. First was the reorganization of Philip's army. He recognized tribal and regional loyalties in the formation of battle units, fostering pride in their achievements and competition with other regional units. He also developed the legendary "Macedonian phalanx" for foot soldiers, the men in close and deep ranks with shields joined together and pikes so long that those of the third rank bristled ahead of the front line. He coordinated with them in battle the swift, armored horsemen for which these hardy mountaineers were famous. Philip himself was an inspirational frontline soldier and warrior. Besieging the city of Methone in 354 b .c . he was grievously wounded when an arrow discharged from a catapult pierced his right eye. One Critopulus attending him earned


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

a great reputation for successfully extracting the arrow, "treating his loss of sight without causing disfigurement of the face" (Pliny 1947, 7:37; Strabo 1889, Fragment 22). With a leader like that his men would follow him anywhere. But Philip was also a statesman. He remained uninfluenced by the several political experiments through which neighboring Greece was slowly and painfully moving toward a more democratic rule. The original in­ dependent city-states ruled by local chiefs had been replaced by regional kingdoms ruled by hereditary kings. Then in a first step toward democracy, power was placed in the hands of certain aristocratic families. Rebelling against the rule of hereditary and arbitrary rulers, whether one or many, strong individuals seized the government by force and held it by force. The so-called Age of the Tyrants continued from 650 to 500 b .c . While Sparta remained conservative and rigidly disciplinarian, Athens was more flexible and ready to experiment with new patterns of democracy. Although both rivals moved away from the rule of Tyrants, Sparta remained an authori­ tarian state of tough disciplined soldiers, while Athens established a popular democracy in 508 b.c . and took the lead in art, philosophy and literature. Other states polarized around one or the other of these two ideals, some forming a voluntary coalition with Sparta in the Peloponne­ sian League, others with Athens in the Achaean League. But Philip had not been affected by any of this experimentation. He remained the strong man in the field. Power was not to be placed in the hands of the people, but in his hands. The first tentative steps toward democracy in Albania must wait over 2,200 years! Philip accordingly organized newly conquered towns and newly founded towns not like the old Greek city-states with a good degree of independence, but rather as municipalities of the kingdom of Macedonia. Thus Philip became the first to accomplish what the Greeks never could do with their individualistic city-states, or even with their limited democracies: He welded his diverse peoples into a powerful, unified national state. The second phase of Philip's strategy, the expansion of his kingdom, occupied his attention from 352 to 338 b .c . For an ambitious king like Philip, a consolidated Macedonia seemed altogether restricted. To the south a rather fluid border excluded him from all the former Pelasgian ter­ ritory which was now called Hellas. The occasion he awaited soon pre­ sented itself. A sacred war broke out in Greece over the seizure of Delphi temple treasure for military purposes. Influential citizens of Thessaly on Philip's southern border asked his help to resist attack. This was all he needed. In 352 b .c . his army drove the enemies out of Thessaly, and their reorganized Thessalian League of cities elected Philip as their general. The next year he expanded his eastern border to the Hebrus River in eastern Thrace. Then in 349 b .c . Philip distressed Athens by fomenting a diver­ sionary revolt nearby so as to take possession of the Chalcidice Peninsula with the rest of Athens' colonies and the important trade potential. Philip

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


also won the so-called Peace of Philocrates settlement in 346 b .c ., then marched at once on Thessaly's southern neighbor enemy Phocis, annexing it and even being elected to take its seat on the venerable Amphictyonic Council of Greek city-states. This southward expansion of Philip caused considerable apprehension in Athens. Although the Greeks would later claim Philip of Macedon as one of their own, history records the life-long struggle between this Mace­ donian and the Greeks despite the common threat by the Persians. This was due in part to the hostility of Demosthenes (3847-322 b .c .), the Athenian statesman and orator. Plutarch stated that early in his career Demosthenes conceived a distrust of Philip and the Macedonians (Plutarch 1952, 353-58). This developed into a lifelong feud which became the obsession of his public life. Demosthenes was not above receiving bribes from Greeks and even from the king of Persia, but he spurned such from Philip. When one Antiphon had been acquitted by the assembly of having accepted a bribe from Philip to burn the Greek arsenal, Demosthenes had him haled before the court of Areopagus and got him convicted and condemned Demosthenes continually inflamed the Greeks against Philip. On one occa­ sion he was named as one of the ten ambassadors to present a matter in the court of Philip. When another of the ambassadors commended Philip for his able speaking, his delightful personality and his genial companionship in drinking, Demosthenes disparagingly replied, "The first quality is ap­ propriate for a rhetorician, the second for a woman, and the third for a sponge —but none would commend a prince" (ibid., 356). Demosthenes was famous for his controversial public orations against Philip, called Philippics. In his Third Philippic he cried out, "And shall not Philip and his actions raise like indignation? He who is not only no Greek, no way allied to Greece, but sprung from a part of the barbarian world unworthy to be named: a vile Macedonian, where formerly we could not find a slave fit to purchase!" (Demosthenes 1830, 146). It is obvious that while some might wish belatedly to claim Philip and the Macedonians as fellow Greeks, Demosthenes certainly was not in that number. Some of his countrymen distrusted Demosthenes, however. Others were sure that Philip could do more for them than Athens could. Many considered Philip their last and best hope against the Persian threat. Athens finally enlisted a coalition of states sufficiently large to attack Philip. But at the decisive battle of Chaeronia in 338 b.c . they were defeated. Demosthenes himself deserted the field, throwing away his arms and fleeing disgracefully. Philip now made separate treaties with each of the Greek states, breaking up the earlier coalitions around Athens, Thebes and Sparta. Instead he united both former allies and enemies in the League of Corinth, which was formed in that city in 337 b.c . The agreement permitted a surprising degree of autonomy, also freedom from paying tribute and supporting Macedonian garrison troops. It forbade civil war and substituted procedures for the arbitration of disputes. The League also


P r i m e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

approved war with Persia, elected Philip commander in chief, and prom­ ised troops for the effort. Thus Philip seems to have accomplished the impossible —the subordination of the age-old tradition of independent citystates and their incorporation into a national entity quite beyond the wildest dreams of his predecessors. But Philip would never see its fruition. He returned to Macedonia to prepare for a campaign against Persia. At­ tending a wedding celebration, Philip was assassinated in 336 b .c . by an aristocratic youth with a personal grudge against a member of the family. Demosthenes declared a holiday in Athens, put on festive garlands, and joined the assembly in composing a congratulatory message to the assassin. A lexander the G reat (336-323 b .c .)

Alexander III, Philip's son, nicknamed Leka, was born in July 356 b .c . at Pella, northwest of Thessalonica. The date is remembered because that same night the famed temple of the great goddess Diana of the Ephesians burned down. Plutarch recorded that all the soothsayers then at Ephesus looked upon the ruin of their temple then ran through the streets crying that this signaled the birth of one who would destroy all Asia (Plutarch 1952, 238). Although his father delighted in engraving on his coinage the victories of his racing chariots at the Olympian games, Alexander did not deign to compete in the contests with commoners (ibid., 237). The historian Plutarch also described at length how the 12-year-old lad tamed the wild black horse Bucephalus (ibid., 238). Philip engaged the best teachers for Leka. He learned to speak, read and write the Greek language, as did so many cultured Albanians 22 centuries later. But due to the mutual an­ tipathy between Philip and the Greeks, those most directly responsible for Alexander's education were non-Greeks. Two of these were Leonidas, a close relative of his Molossian mother, Olympias, and Lysimachus the Arcananian from the region of Pelasgian Dodona (ibid., 238). Alexander afterwards declared that the austere Leonidas had taught him to be hardy and reliant by furnishing him with two excellent cooks: a night's march to season his breakfast, and a scanty breakfast to season his dinner (Smith 1876, 421). Then there was Aristotle, the most celebrated philosopher and logician of his time. Philip sent for him to instruct his son in Morals, Politics, Medicine and Philosophy or Metaphysics. It is of more than pass­ ing interest to note that Aristotle (384-322 b .c .) himself was born at Stagira in Macedonia just east of Thessalonica, his father having been the court physician attending Philip's father, King Amintas II (Strabo Fragment 35; Qafëzezi 1929, 11). The Macedonian Aristotle was quite at home in the Macedonian court until age 17 when he went to Athens and studied under Plato. In 342 b .c . he returned to Macedonia as tutor to 13-year-old Alex­ ander, where he remained seven years. The influence of Aristotle during these formative years is evidenced by a letter which Alexander afterwards directed to his tutor: "I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion" (Plutarch 1952,

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


239). Yet he identified with the ancient heroes of Homer, convinced that he was a descendant of Heracles (Hercules) through his father and of Achilles through his mother. Upon the death of Philip in 336 b.c ., Alexander came to the throne of Macedonia at 20 years of age. Philip had already given him considerable responsibility in military campaigns and in peace negotiations, his skill in both having won the confidence of his officers and troops. First, he had to demonstrate his authority by subduing dissent in Macedonia. Then he had to crush transitional outbreaks among the Illyrians from Pilur near Korcha all the way north to the Danube River. Cooperation with the Molossians was assured by his maternal ties. But with his accession to the throne, his father's arch-enemy Demosthenes formed a rival league once again and even urged the Persians to make war on Alexander, calling him a child and a simpleton (ibid., 361). So Alexander marched on Greece. Athens in despair sent ambassadors to negotiate with Alexander. Demosthenes was appointed one of these, but fearing the king's anger he forsook the others and returned to Athens. Alexander was placated, however, but the honor of Demosthenes began to decline. Despite Alexander's temperate use of force and his magnanimous peace terms, many of the Greeks and especially the Athenians bitterly and persistently opposed him. But Alexander demanded and secured the loyal support of his kinsmen in the projected campaign against Persia. Going to nearby Delphi to consult the oracle of Apollo as to the out­ come of the Asian campaign, Alexander arrived on a forbidden day when it was considered improper for the oracle to give her prediction. When she refused to heed his messenger, Alexander himself went and began to drag her bodily into the temple. She resisted in vain and finally protested, "My son, you are irresistible!" He released her immediately, saying that that was just the answer he wished and that he did not need to consult the gods any further (ibid., 245). In 334 b.c . Alexander led his army of 35,000 men across the Hellespont to face the hundreds of thousands of Persians. Alexander asked for only 7,000 men from the Greek states but realized far less than this; one Alba­ nian scholar assures us that there were only 600 Greeks (Qafëzezi 1929, viii). Alexander never fully trusted the Greeks, but depended instead upon his Macedonians and Epirotes, Illyrians and Thracians in whom he had con­ fidence. The Greek language was used as the international and official language of the civilized world at that time just as Latin became so later, then French and now English. But in several crucial moments, as when one of his captains, Clitus, compared the Macedonians unfavorably with the Greeks, Alexander "called out to his guards in the Macedonian language, which was a certain sign of some great disturbance" (Plutarch 1952, 277-78). On another occasion when Alexander sent a Greek general, Philotas, to be tried before a military court he asked Philotas to speak in Macedonian so that his judges who were Macedonians might understand


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

him. But the general refused, saying, "I shall speak in Greek, because I want to be understood by my own countrymen" (The Orient 20 March 1912, 3-4). Apparently most of the leadership and most of the soldiery involved in this Asian expedition were Pelasgian or Albanian; certainly they were Macedonians, not Greeks. Alexander's distrust of the Greeks would soon intensify, for again and again the historian observed that as many as 30,000 Greek mercenaries had joined the Persians in fighting their common enemy, Alexander (Qafëzezi 1929, 76). Alexander frequently sought the aid of his Pelasgian divinities in bringing success to the great undertaking. Thus on the Hellespont, midway between Europe and Asia, he offered a bullock in sacrifice to Neptune, the god of the sea. To the "Zënat" (voices or spirits) of the sea he poured on the altar much wine from a golden goblet (ibid., 44). Stepping ashore in Asia he erected altars to the lord of the Pelasgians, to the goddess Athena and to Heracles (Hercules), the Pelasgian hero whom he claimed as ancestor on his father's side. Reaching the fabled Troy he sacrificed to the goddess Athena at the shrine recently dedicated to her (ibid.) and honored the memory of the heroes who fell there with solemn libations (Plutarch 1952, 245). Finding the tomb of the Trojan king, Priam, who was slain by his maternal ancestor Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, he offered sacrifice on the altar to appease the king's anger (Qafëzezi 1929, 44). Besides placing wreaths of flowers, he anointed the tomb with myrrh, and according to an old custom, the captains ran naked around and around the tomb (Plutarch 1952, 245). Surely the saga of Troy fascinated this romanticist warrior. Even on the Asian campaign he carried the plays of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschy­ lus, but prized Homer's Iliad as the "perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge," keeping "a copy with his dagger under his pillow" as he slept (ibid., 240). The first decisive victory over the Persians and mercenary Greeks oc­ curred at the Granicus River just east of Troy. Then he marched down the west coast of Asia Minor, liberating Greek cities from Persian control. Sar­ dis surrendered, and Alexander ordered erected on the citadel a shrine to the lord of the Pelasgians (Qafëzezi 1929, 51). Ephesus surrendered, and Alexander ordered that the taxes hitherto paid to Persia thereafter be paid to their temple of Diana (ibid., 52). He meticulously provided for the governmental administration of conquered territory and maintained com­ munication with his administrators in Macedonia. There followed in suc­ cession the fall of Syria, the decisive victory of Issus, the surrender of Sidon, and after a seven-month siege, the destruction of Tyre. During the siege of Tyre, Darius, now safely beyond the Euphrates, proposed a treaty. He would surrender his vast empire west of the Euphrates and offer his daughter to Alexander in marriage. Alexander, intent on the whole empire, refused. One of his veteran generals, Parmenion, observed to Alexander, "If I were you I would accept those terms." Alexander replied, "So would I if I were Parmenion." Gaza and the cities of Egypt fell, the liberated

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


Egyptians making him their Pharaoh. One priest saluted him as "Son of Zeus." Because of his spectacular military exploits and his judicious mixture of severity and clemency towards the vanquished, others also repeatedly addressed him as a divinity. Although later he is alleged to have accepted such reverence, at this stage anyway he nourished no such illusion. Plutarch recorded that once when wounded by an arrow and in much pain, Alexander turned to his companions and said, "This, my friends, is real flowing blood, not ichor such as immortal gods are wont to shed" (Plutarch 1952, 258). At this juncture, 331 b.c ., Greek discontent with the League of Corinth led to a hostile outbreak which required intervention by Macedonian troops. So Alexander dismissed his Greek allies, paid them liberally, and continued the next three years without Greek assistance. With the capture of Babylon and the great cities of Persia, and with the death of Darius, the empire collapsed. Its riches went to Alexander. Whereas his treasury on crossing the Hellespont had amounted to only 70 talents, it now amounted to 180,000 talents, said to be the equivalent of several billion dollars (Roebuck 1966, 256). Rather than return his battle-weary troops to Europe, the ambitious Alexander pressed on through Iran, Turkestan and Afghan­ istan. The pursuit of armed bands and the capture of isolated strongholds in these most rugged mountains proved extremely tiring and difficult. After subduing Turkestan and present-day Afghanistan, he proceeded through the fabled Khyber Pass to India's Punjab and the Indus River. He had reversed the migratory route of his ancient Pelasgian ancestors. Nor would he have turned back even then but for the discontent and resentment of his army, which threatened to break out into open revolt. So before returning homeward in 326 b.c . he erected a monumental witness to the farthest penetration of his army into India. He supervised the construction of 12 altars, high and wide like towers, for the gods of his Pelasgian ancestors. Upon these monumental altars sacrifices were offered to the gods according to the custom, followed by gymnastic games and races on foot and on horseback (Qafëzezi 1929, 150). Then they headed homeward, revisiting cities they had captured, reviewing the governments they had established there, reorganizing as necessary, and replacing certain officials who had become corrupt during his long absence. But at Babylon Alexander fell desperately ill with a fever, and within a few days he died at 33 years of age, in 323 b .c . Thus in the approximately 10 years which it had taken his heroes to capture Troy he and his army had subdued most of the thenknown world. The death of Macedonia's archenemy Demosthenes shortly afterwards seems altogether anticlimactic. His susceptibility to bribes proved his undo­ ing. For Alexander's treasurer, a luxury-loving Macedonian named Harpalus, had left Asia to offer to the Athenians not only himself and his men but also several ships and much embezzled booty. Demosthenes at first angrily advised the Athenians to chase the traitor out of the country, but


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

was reconciled upon receiving a heavy golden cup from Persia. He and others were condemned for bribery and banished. Upon the death of Alex­ ander, however, Demosthenes was recalled and reinstated so that he might rally the Greeks once again to drive the Macedonians out of Greece. Failing utterly in this effort, he fled the battlefield and took refuge in a nearby shrine where, to escape capture, he took poison and died. The Athenians erected a brass statue with this inscription at its base: "Had you for Greece been as strong as you were wise, the Macedonians would not have con­ quered her" (Plutarch 1952, 367). P R O FO U N D SO C IA L C H A N G ES A FFE C T IN G A LBA N IA Establishment of G reek T rading P osts and C olonies

About 775 b .c . a significant development began which would pro­ foundly affect the struggling Albanian people. Greek merchants began to establish trading posts and colonies throughout the Mediterranean world. Colonization then, even as in our recent past, was prompted more by com­ mercial rather than national expansionism. Greek merchant ships carried throughout the Mediterranean their famed oil and wine, their crafted metal, woven goods and beautiful ceramic pottery. They brought back raw materials such as copper, iron and tin from Europe, as well as grain, fish, amber, the bronze utensils of the Etruscans and the silver and gold orna­ ments and carpets from the Orient. First came the trading station, then the settlement of colonists on the land. Among these were the landless and dispossessed longing for a better life, political malcontents, social misfits and restless adventurers. Some of these soon wore out their welcome. The colony usually maintained loose ties with its mother city, more sentimental and religious than political. The passion for independence led to the multiplication of independent city-states. Colonists usually brought with them the worship of the gods of their mother city. Westward, the first Greek trading post in Italy was begun on the island of Ischia in the bay of Naples about 770 b .c . A second post was established in 740 b .c . on the fertile plain of Naples at Cuma. This remained the north­ ernmost Greek settlement on the west coast of Italy and a main center of trade with Italian tribes, especially their distant kinsmen the Etruscans. By 735 b .c . Corinth established a colony on Corcyra (Corfu) as a base for crossing the Adriatic to southern Italy, Sicily and the west coast of Italy. This proved a natural sea route for merchants of Corinth and the Ionian ports of Achaea. Colonists from Sparta founded the most important town of southern Italy, Taros (Tarentum, now Taranto), in 706 b .c . But it was the Ionians who colonized the Adriatic shores and the southern coast of France and Spain by 635 b .c . At the same time other merchants were col­ onizing the coastline of Thrace, the Black Sea, Asia Minor and even North Africa. This extensive trade did much to awaken the economy and lay the foundation for a new era, the classical era of Greece.

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


Trading posts and colonies were established also along the Albanian coast. Herodotus noted that "almost all 'barbarians' hold the citizens who practice trades, and their children, in less repute than the rest, while they esteem as noble those who keep aloof from handicrafts, and especially honor such as are given wholly to war. These ideas prevail throughout the whole of Greece, particularly among the Lacedaemonians. Corinth is the place where mechanics are least despised" (Herodotus 1942, 2:167). For it was Corinth, situated on the four-mile-wide isthmus with a port on both the Ionian and Aegean seas, which became the commercial emporium of Greece. Very naturally, then, it was Corinth which colonized the off-shore island, Corfu, and merchants from Corinth and Corfu established commer­ cial colonies at Epidamnus (the Roman Dyrrhachium, now Durrës) and Apollonia (Pojan). Indeed, Apollonia, founded much earlier by the Pelasgian inhabitants, is said to have been "enlarged and beautified by col­ onists from Corinth and Corfu" (Drita 17 July 1937, 3). Soon a trading col­ ony appeared also at the very ancient Butrint, which was already noted for its excellent pasturage and its fine breed of oxen, also its cattle, sheep and goats. Another colony was established at the fortress city Finiq. About 385 b .c . Dionysius of the Hellenistic base at Syracuse, Sicily, occupied and col­ onized the Adriatic port of Lissus (Lezha) just below Shkodra, and the Dalmatian island of Issa just north of Shkodra (Mommsen 1874, 1:417). These commercial relationships proved profitable to both the Greek mer­ chants and the Albanian producers. Soon Durrës with its fine harbor became the largest commercial center along the eastern shore of the Adriatic and was called by Catullus, a Roman poet, the "Tavern of the Adriatic" (Smith 1876, 274). R eplacement of the Barter System by a M oney Economy

Another giant step toward riches and ruin was the transition from the age-old barter system to a money economy. Rather than continue the direct exchange of commodities, the Greeks imitated the Lydian kings of Sardis, Asia Minor, about 700 b .c . and started minting and using coins made of valuable metal. Phidon of Argos is said to have introduced copper and silver coinage in Greece about 748 b .c ., also a new system of weights and measures (Smith 1876, 963). This greatly facilitated trade, and it made possible as never before the accumulation of wealth. It also led to the lend­ ing of money at high interest rates, which in turn led to great poverty and even to human slavery. Among the most significant archeological discoveries made in 1988 was the treasure found at Lleshan near Elbasan. It consisted of 2,758 silver and bronze coins of the ancient Illyrian cities of Amantia, Orik, Shkodra, Durrës and Apollonia dating from the third and second centuries b .c . (Liria 15 October 1989, 3). The numismatic section of the Archaeological Research Center at Tirana collects, studies and classifies ancient coins, about 25,000 of which bear the stamp of Illyrian cities or rulers. The first


P r im e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

Albanian coins were minted about 450 b .c . in Durrës and Apollonia. Both cities used the same silver coins, although each city stamped its own name on its coins. Their monetary unit, like that of the Greeks who introduced the system, was the drachma. But the coins minted and circulated in Il­ lyrian territories were called "Illyrian drachmas," probably because they bore the names of Illyrian kings such as Monun, Mytil, Boiken, Gent, Trit, Bato, etc., or of Illyrian cities such as Damastion, Amanthia, Byllis, Finiq, Butrint, Lissus, Shkodra, etc. Bronze coins of lesser value than silver came into use later. The symbols used on a city's coins help us understand the basis of its economy. The earliest coins indicated the importance of cattle in its economy by showing on one side a cow suckling a calf, on the other side a square with other geometric figures. Another coin featured a horse (Korkuti 1971, 124-25). The central importance of agriculture along Il­ lyria's coastal plains is shown by the symbols of a stalk of wheat, a plough, a bee or beehive, a cornucopia or horn of plenty. The goat head on the coins of Lissus evidences its developing animal husbandry. Bunches of grapes on the coins of Byllis illustrate its fertile and famous vineyards. The figure of a ship indicates the importance of commerce and fishing for Durrës, and the Liburnian vessels on Shkodra's coins became famous for speed during the Illyrian wars with Rome. When before 350 b .c . Damastion in the present province of Kosova became renowned for its iron and silver mines, its coins bore the figure of a miner's hammer and metal bars. Coins sometimes featured mythological figures, such as that of Helios the Sun God, of Heracles or Hercules with the Lion Skin, of Zeus with the crown of laurels, of Iris with the lotus flowers, of Hera with the features of an owl, etc. (NAlb 1989, 1:1). But these coins were usually initiated by merchants not priests and were secular rather than religious in character. Usually they illustrated export products, occasionally a civic symbol or a local legendary hero. The recovery of a city's coins in distant regions evidenced extensive commercial activity. Excavations in the remote northeast mountainous region of Tropoja have produced coins from various Illyrian cities. Find­ ings there revealed also large earthen grain storage vessels, combs and looms for working wool, metal spearheads and other weapons used in trade (Zëri 1 February 1985, 3). Illyrian coins have come to light in Macedonia, Asia Minor and Italy. Also ancient coins from Greece and southern Italy have been found at Finiq and Butrint, illustrating commercial ties between these regions (Drita 9 March 1938, 3). Industrial Expansion and H uman S lavery

For generations Albanian craftsmen had turned out metal work, especially bronze and later iron armor and weapons such as spearheads, swords and daggers. They produced metal agricultural implements such as picks, sickles, scythes, pruning knives and ploughs, also household utensils and ornaments such as necklaces, bracelets and buttons of bronze and later of silver and gold. They produced earthenware utensils of all sorts and

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


sizes, including large vases for the storage of wine, oil and grain. In fact, Kavaja and the entire region between Durrës and Apollonia became famous for its pottery and other ceramics. Large quantities of all these products have been unearthed in the tumuli or burial mounds characteristic of the Illyrians. Building materials of clay and stone were also produced, as were tiles and bricks, also pillars, capitals, terra-cotta and bronze figurines, sculptures and reliefs and materials for fishing and weaving. Now, however, the expanding market for such goods stimulated their production on a far larger scale. This desire for more rapid production of marketable goods led to the introduction of human slavery. Previously, most male prisoners taken in warfare had been killed, while their women and children were taken into captivity as household servants or sold as slaves. But industrial development made warfare profitable not only for plunder, but for the provision of slave laborers. Indeed, piratical raids on distant settlements became a common means of increasing the supply of slaves. Furthermore, peasants obliged to borrow money at high interest often lost their land, then their animals, and could be reduced to selling into slavery their wife or children or even themselves. Interestingly enough, in­ scriptions discovered on the entrance walls of the theater at Butrint proved to be the publicized acts emancipating certain designated slaves (Liria 11 March 1977). In the tomb of a wealthy merchant in Lower Selenica ar­ cheologists found a skeleton still wearing leg shackles. The slave had been put there about 250 b .c . to serve his master in the world beyond the grave (Korkuti 1971, V-VI). In all honesty, however, it must be acknowledged that human slavery was never practiced in Albania to the same extent and with the same cruelty that it was practiced in Greece and Rome. Emergence of a W ealthy C lass

Illyrian merchant ships now touched not only the shores of the Adriatic, but all ports of the Mediterranean Sea. A wealthy merchant class gradually emerged, with a new aristocracy based on wealth not birth. Ex­ cavations show the homes of the wealthy having floors of multicolored mosaic stone cubes with as many as 19 different colors to illustrate floral, animal or geometric designs, or scenes including mythological personages (ibid., 79). One such floor at Apollonia showing Achilles' victory over the Amazons is noted for its artistic perfection (ibid., IX, 80). Just east of Butrint's theater a Pompeii-style residence was found, its rooms built around a peristyle or colonnaded inner courtyard open to the sky, with a garden and sculptured fountain (ibid., 113-14). Apparently this new wealth was not confined to the coastal commercial centers, for remains of a similar dwelling, its entrances decorated with colonnades, were found inland at Antigonea near Gjirokastra (ibid., V-VI). Monumental tombs hewn in the rock have yielded valuable artifacts indicating considerable wealth. One such in Lower Selenica a few miles northwest of Pogradec dating in the third century b . c . yielded "dozens of weapons, earthenware and bronze


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

utensils, as well as many gold and silver ornaments, outstanding among which is a silver fastener representing three knights and a warrior" {ibid.). Some of the golden earrings featured very delicate filigree work {ibid., 46-47). C ultural D evelopment

The Fine Arts. The coming of the Greeks brought something yet more valuable than commerce. By 650 b .c . the demands of trade had led them to borrow the Phoenician alphabet and adapt it to their writing needs, thus creating a writing system of their own. Expanding trade within Albania compelled them also to devise some means of writing their own Albanian language, so they adopted the Greek characters, as noted on seals, tomb­ stone epitaphs, busts and coins. This of course would imply no ethnic iden­ tity with the Greeks, any more than their later adoption of Arabic or Latin characters for the Albanian language would imply ethnic identity with the Turks or Italians. The Greeks, however, had become altogether unique for their cultural development in many fields —literature, philosophy, geography, history, sculpture, architecture, art, music, poetry, drama, dance, science, medicine and mathematics —while the ancient Pelasgians and their Albanian descendants had excelled in their massive stone con­ struction and military exploits. Fortified urban centers multiplied throughout the land during this period, some walls of huge rectangular blocks of stone being carefully hewn, as thick as 20 feet, and topped with baked bricks to a yet greater height {ibid., IX). The coming of the Greeks introduced a new cultural dimension. They "enlarged and beautified" not only Apollonia, but all the population centers they touched. The increasing prosperity made it possible for the sturdy Illyrian construction to become a thing of beauty. The Agoras. So it was that Apollonia near Fier, long inhabited by the Toulant tribe of Illyrians, was embellished by Greek colonists from Corinth who came in 588 b.c . It rapidly became a large city with straight streets crossing at right angles. It also became famous for its Greek-style agora: an open square or plaza, paved and colonnaded, surrounded by shops and public buildings, with stone benches to invite social and business inter­ course. The agora itself was a rectangular space 40 by 246 feet, built with big blocks of stone and dating from the fourth century b .c . Widely known as the Portico, this monument featured two rows of Doric columns. The agora was open to the west, affording a splendid view over the Myzeqe plain to the Adriatic Sea. Its background featured 17 semicircular niches, each surmounted by an arch, to display the statues or busts of heroes and famous people of the city {ibid., 70). When ancient Butrint expanded down the hillside to the lowland early in the third century b .c ., an agora was built there, also at Byllis and elsewhere during the same period. Theaters. The theater at Apollonia, dating from the fourth century b .c ., was 66 feet long by 50 feet wide and open to the sky like all others at

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


the time. The theater was used for dramas, both comedies and tragedies, and for oratorical and musical events. It had a raised stage for the actors, a semicircular floor before and below the stage for the chorus and in­ strumentalists and semicircular tiers of stone benches rising up the slope of the hill to seat 8,000 spectators. Two special features of this theater were an orchestra floor of marble beautified with red lines (Minerva 2 March 1934, 13-14) and a colonnaded portico as a stage background. Traces of similar structures were found at Finiq, Amantia and other cities. The theater of white marble unearthed at Butrint was built about 300 b.c . It was not large, seating only about 1,500, but it was unusually beautiful, and its lower portions are still preserved. This particular theater had 19 rows of benches rising on the slope of the hill, the first row being equipped with special chairs for the dignitaries of the city. The stage was backed by a high wall with niches adorned with sculptures (Liria 11 March 1977). Below Fier was Byllis, one of the largest cities of the Illyrian world. Its theater was larger than most others, seating 9,000, and like that of Apollonia, featured a colonnaded portico behind the stage (NAlb 1984, 3:26). The seats of the first rows were carefully carved out of the rocky hillside and had broad back supports (NAlb 1989, 4:14, 23). Its smaller mother city, nearby Nikae, excavated its own fourth century b.c . theater, with 15 rows of tiered seating for 1,000 spectators and a two-story stage (ibid.). Similar open air struc­ tures with tiered seating, orchestra and stage with niches reserved for sta­ tues were found in most cities (ibid.). A theater mask and some terra-cotta figures of comedians have come to light in Durrës (NAlb 1987, 1:34). Stadiums. The first stadium for sporting events discovered in Albania was the well-preserved rectangular (some say horseshoe shaped) structure of about 250 b.c . at the Illyrian city of Amantia in Plocha near Vlora. Ex­ cavations showed 17 rows of terraced seating on one side and eight on the other, seating 3,000 spectators (NAlb 1984, 3:26). Racing, wrestling, box­ ing and throwing the discus and javelin, as well as other athletic games were conducted here. It was here that the headless but dynamic figurine of a boxer was unearthed (Korkuti 1971, 41-42). The excavation of a major stadium at Byllis began in 1981 (ibid., 131). Continuing exploration in 1987 revealed under the stadium arena a cistern of rather large dimensions which supplied the town with water (NAlb 1987, 6:35). Athletic events and sport­ ing competition were also encouraged by the construction of gymnasiums like those at Byllis, Apollonia, Durrës and other cities. The sheer number and diversity of these social buildings designed for recreation and pleasure would suggest that some of the increasing prosperity may have trickled down to the people, emancipating them from the ceaseless round of grind­ ing poverty and dawn-to-dusk servitude. Shrines and Temples. One of the most famous shrines in old Albania was the magnificent monumental fountain at Apollonia known as the Shrine of the Nymphs or water goddesses. Dating from the third century B.c. (Korkuti 1971 IX, 72) this is probably the earliest of such discovered


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

in Albania and was mentioned by Pliny as still famous in the first century 3:23). Water from several small springs on the hillside was supplemented by water from wells and cisterns and carried by six conduits to this monumental reservoir with its portico of Doric columns and niches for the display of statues. Niches in the wall around a semicircular pond at Butrint dedicated to the Nymphs once contained three statues, two of which have been found: those of Apollo and of young Bacchus with a beautiful head dating from the fourth century b.c . A sacred well there dating from the Grecian era served for many centuries and bore on its parapet the votive inscription: "Guinia Ruffina, friend of the Nymphs" (World's W ork June 1930, 65). The most ancient temple appearing to date is that of Artemis in Apollonia, built about 525 b .c ., located on the highest hill of the city. Found here was the famous relief carving of warriors in com­ bat, originating at that same date. The foundations of other temples and altars were found nearby, one of them dedicated to the god of medicine, Aesculapius. This cluster of similar structures shows that this hill was the sacred zone of the city. At the end of the fourth century b .c . the zone was surrounded by a wall 13 feet high (Liria 1 March 1984, 1). A temple of Aphrodite has come to light in Amantia, traces of a small temple were found at Butrint, and a sanctuary of the goddess Aphrodite was discovered on a hill at Durrës in 1970 (NAlb 1987, 1:34). The Thesaurus. A beautiful and deservedly famous thesaurus or treasury building dating back to the fourth or third century b.c . has been identified at Finiq near Saranda, reputedly the wealthiest fortified city of Epirus (Korkuti 1971, 43). This city's greatest development occurred in the third century b .c . Inscriptions. Numerous well-preserved inscriptions in Greek, the trade language, have been found at Butrint on two walls of the theater and on the stones of a tower of the city wall. These shed valuable light on the social and political life of the city in the third and second centuries b .c . Most of the tower inscriptions were acts announcing the liberation of certain slaves. The neatly carved inscriptions on the theater wall, still very legible, repre­ sent city ordinances (World's W ork June 1930, 66). Inscriptions on many tombstones in Durrës bear Illyrian names and figures in Illyrian dress, revealing the important role of Illyrians in the life of the city (NAlb 1984, 3:26). One such is the tombstone of a young student athlete with the Il­ lyrian name Dardan (NAlb 1987, 3:36). Another is the stone bust of a girl identified by the Illyrian name Kleitia in Greek capital letters, the inspired craftsman remaining anonymous. She wears the usual costume of an Il­ lyrian girl: an inner vest, decorative ribbons on the arms, a cape or scarf over the head and a necklace. The bust is preserved in Tirana's National Museum of Archaeology (NAlb 1989, 3:21). Recent excavations in the district of Gorisht near Vlora have produced not only furnaces for ceramics, building materials and archeological objects such as tools, earthen vessels, ornaments, coins, etc., but also two valuable epitaphs a .d . (Pliny 1947,

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280 to 323 B.C.)


dating back to the third century b.c . One of these was in the Greek alphabet, one in the Latin, showing that already Roman influences were beginning to replace those of the earlier Greeks (Liria 15 May 1983, 5). Ancient drawings are found carved in stone on the walls of a third century B.c. quarry on the Acroceraunian Peninsula (literally, Lightning Mountain) which forms the southern shore of the Bay of Vlora. Two human faces were carved in the rock wall of the Mermer (marble) quarry, probably by slaves working there at the time. The other quarry, called Gramata, has been covered with hun­ dreds of inscriptions, symbols and figures which interpret to us the culture of 2,000 years ago (NAlb 1986, 6:28). W orks o f Art. One of Albania's most ancient works of art was found at Apollonia: a six-foot-long stone carving or bas-relief dating back to the sixth century b .c . and picturing warriors in combat (Minerva 2 March 1934, 14). The figures of this limestone relief were painted red, blue and black and represented three warriors in combat with the mythical amazons. The war­ riors are only partially clothed, muscular, holding large round shields in their left hands and spears in their right. The limestone came from the nearby hills of Mallakastra, and the fine workmanship shows evidence of the early artistic skill of the craftsmen (Liria 1 March 1984, 1). A relief of Nike (Victory) was recovered at Butrint dating from the fifth century b .c . Terra-cotta statuary, figurines of fired clay, were apparently a specialty of Durrës sculptors. Beginning in the sixth century b.c ., they molded figures of females standing, seated on thrones and holding children. The statuettes were placed on altars in temples and shrines. Literally thousands of terra­ cottas dedicated to the cult of Aphrodite, Demeter, Persephone, Dionysius, Artemis and others have been recovered, dating from the third to the first century b .c . (NAlb 1987, 1:34). Aphrodite was represented with classical features, either in half-bust, standing or seated, sometimes naked, sometimes dressed, wearing earrings or a crown of flowers. Thus in 1984 when a prolonged drought lowered the level of Lake Seferan near Elbasan, many terra-cottas and ceramic vessels were found in the mud. Predomi­ nating were figurines of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, in various forms, all belonging to the third century b.c . Spread rather uniformly along the edge of the lake, they had undoubtedly been thrown into the water during religious ceremonies. Some figurines resembled the Durrës workmanship with the appearance and clothing typical of the Greek goddess. Others had features more characteristically Illyrian and clothing worn by Illyrian women: the short-sleeved blouse, the sleeveless dress with a V-neck and belt, as well as their typical head scarf (NAlb 1988, 2:30). Recovered near Durrës was a lion's head carved in white marble about the fourth century b.c ., with open mouth to spout water pouring from the roof tiles. Recovered also was a ceramic vase of the same period featuring a red-painted winged female figure of Nike, goddess of victory, also the figure of a dolphin carved in stone at about the same time (NAlb 1987, 3:36). A beautiful bronze Pegasus or winged horse dating from the fourth


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

century b.c . was unearthed in the Illyrian settlement of Qinam near Kolonja. Probably made by a Greek artist to decorate a bronze vessel, its im­ port by the Illyrians gives evidence of their increasing interest in art (NAlb 1988, 2:31). A group of terra-cotta dancers and musicians came from the rubbish heap of an Apollonian ceramic workshop of the second half of the fourth century b .c . T wo musicians in the center of the group each plays a flute called an "aulos" consisting of two pipes, one carrying the melody and the other the drone. Behind them several rather crude figurines represent dancers, their mouths open singing, their stubby arms shortened because they were linked with one another in a circular dance quite like the tradi­ tional singing dance which survives to the present day (ibid., 30). Because the Illyrians believed in life beyond the grave, they buried per­ sonal ornaments with their dead. A wealth of such artifacts has been recov­ ered from tombs dating as early as the eleventh century b.c ., but especially those of the eighth and seventh centuries b.c . Articles found were buttons, belts, pendants, bracelets, necklaces, fibulae, pins, etc. These ornaments had a pronounced social character to differentiate the wearer, whether man or woman, according to his civic function or economic status. Some pen­ dants of circular plates with or without rays symbolized for the naturalistic Illyrians the sun god as the source of all life (NAlb 1986, 5:30). Remarkable was a necklace found in the sixth century b.c . tumuli of Kuch i Zi near Korcha. It was a very tasteful combination of big blue beads and beads of white glass from Greece, separated by beads of amber imported from the Baltic countries. These exotic ornaments indicate both the economic and the social development of the country at that early period (NAlb 1988, 2:31). Mosaics. With the development of artistic ability and increasing wealth, mosaic floors were installed in many public buildings and increas­ ingly in private homes. While true of Apollonia, this was especially true of Durrës, whose skillful craftsmen in metals, ceramics, cloth, leather and shipbuilding made this city wealthy as a commercial center as early as the fifth century b.c . Unfortunately, the modern city has been built over the ruins of the old, which hinders the unearthing of many ancient sites. It was the digging of an air-raid shelter there in March 1918 which first brought to light a most remarkable mosaic. Elliptical in form, the long dimension is 16.7 feet, the shorter dimension 9.8 feet. In the center, surrounded by many flowers, is a most gracious female head four feet high which has become widely known as "The Beautiful Girl of Durres." The unknown art­ ist used thousands of bits of mosaic stone of highly contrasting colors. Originating in the latter half of the fourth century b.c ., this is one of the oldest mosaics in the Balkans and one of the most gracious mosaic portraits ever recovered by the archeologists. Scholars comparing this figure with others in Italy and the British Museum conclude that she represents Aphrodite, Artemis or some other goddess honored by the Durrës popula­ tion because she assured an auspicious birth and happy progeny. In the

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


early 1920s casual digging for foundations on the outskirts of Durrës brought to light other remarkable mosaics of the third century b .c . which evidence the luxury of some buildings of that early period. Fragments of vases of the fourth century b.c . were recovered nearby, as well as the re­ mains of equally ancient residences just 10 inches beneath the surface. In fact, below ground in this historic city there are so many antiquities that every time one digs to lay the foundation of a new building, some valuable archeological treasure is found. It is understandable, then, that all new con­ struction there is now under the strict supervision of the Institute of Monuments of Culture. Ironically enough, however, the valuable commercial expansion which enabled this prosperity also led to the piracy which brought Albania into collision with Rome and led to her utter collapse. G REEK EM BELLISH M EN T OF THE N A T U R A L IST IC PELA SG IA N R E L I GI O N Pelasgian N ature W orship The renewed and widespread contact with the Greeks would have pro­ found implications also for the religious life of the Albanians. Apparently the Pelasgians did not make graven images, small idols of their household gods or even sacred paintings or pictures. The many pages of Homer's epic poems are remarkably free of idol worship. The earliest Pelasgian religious worship had no material representation of their gods: no images, no idols, no statues, no sculpture, no pictures. Theirs was an idol-free nature wor­ ship. Having no revelation of divine truth like the contemporary Hebrews, these incredible Sons of the Eagle had nevertheless avoided the gross idolatry of India and the Euphrates where they had originated. But this would soon change. A very early intimation of such a transition may have been this. The new shield prepared for Achilles in his mortal combat with Hector was adorned with symbols of their nature gods: Earth, Heaven, Sea, Sun, Moon, Pleiades, Orion, the Great Bear and others (Iliad 18:239). Were these symbols the innocent beginning of a transition toward a more idolatrous approach to their gods, as was characteristic of the later Greek and Roman mythologies? Remaking


G ods


Human Form

Significantly, it was the Greeks not the Pelasgians who were noted for "the craft of written words" as a means of remembering things. It was the Greeks who also developed the artistic crafts of painting and sculpture so as to visualize and remember their religion. When they adopted the Pelasgian religion they found no fixed religious system crystallized by a revealed book or a charismatic founder. There was no developed theology, no systematized declaration of their teaching, no catechism or creed to define their religion. There was not even a regular clergy to perpetuate or


P r im e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

require it, but each father served as priest of his own household. And these leaders could look for guidance only to a very flexible popular folklore transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation. There was no priesthood to lend continuity, only a few "oracles" or soothsayers, usually old women presiding over an isolated sanctuary or shrine. City magistrates or civic leaders subject to frequent change did conduct public sacrifices and prayers. There were few temples. Obviously this adopted Pelasgian religion needed embellishment, and the Greeks were just the ones to accomplish that. They faced the basic question, "How can ordinary people relate satisfactorily to the immortals who are preoccupied with their own other­ worldly concerns?" True, they did intervene in human affairs when a Troy was at stake or a national hero was in jeopardy. But these transcendent im­ mortals had to be brought down to the level of the mortals. So philosophers sought to identify them with the mundane details of human life. Humanism was the essence of Greek art, and it became the essence of their religion. This was more than the simplistic anthropomorphism of Mt. Olympus. Every unexplainable phenomenon of the natural world was represented as the activity of a god or goddess. Those divinities were not transcendent, but dwelt in stones as well as stars, in a tree as well as the sea, in an animal as well as in a human. The Olympian family was adopted by the Greeks. It was their own Socrates who, in a dialog with Plato on the meaning of words, observed that "the Hellenes, especially those who were under the dominion of the barbarians, often borrowed from them" (Plato 1952, 7:98). Herodotus was more specific, asserting that the Greeks learned the names of their gods from the Pelasgians (Herodotus 1942, 2:52). He wrote also that it was Hesiod and Homer, both probably having Pelasgian roots, who "introduced the genealogies of the gods among the Greeks, assigned to them surnames, functions and honors, and clothed them in their several forms" (ibid., 2:53). Surely the Olympian family was expanded fantastically. Hesiod in the eighth century b . c . detailed the acts of procreation, adultery, rape and incest by which the immortals begot myriads of divinities, semidivine humans, humans, semihuman animals and ordinary or gro­ tesque animals. Besides the Olympian family Hesiod listed the names and devious origins of scores and scores of other divinities including Titans, Gorgons, Nymphs, Naiads, Dayads, Nereids, Oceanids, Oreads, Dryads, the Three Graces, the Nine Muses and the Three Fates. There were also the lecherous goat-man Satyrs, the hideous bird-woman Harpies, the snakeyhaired Furies and a host of assorted monsters and dragons (Hesiod 1953). These gods had power to help or harm people. If properly propitiated they could meet every person at the point of his every need; if not, they could destroy him. So people prayed to one divinity or another about every phase of their daily life: for the increased fertility of the herdsman's sheep, for a good harvest as the farmer plowed, sowed and reaped, for safety as the sailor went to sea, for victory as the contestant entered the games, for

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


applause as players opened a theatrical performance, or approbation as officials convened a civic assembly. Patrons

This led to the recognition of a certain god or goddess as the protector or benefactor of individuals having a certain category of need. Thus Apollo as the lord of archery became the protector of the shepherd from marauding wild beasts, and of soldiers. As god of poesy and song he was also patron of poets and musicians. The surest way of winning his favor was by offering sacrifices accompanied by song and dance and poetry. Hephaestus (Vulcan) became patron of those working with fire, whether at the forge or in the kitchen. Athena was the wise patroness of skilled workers such as carpenters and masons, workers in metal and ceramics, as well as those with the spindle and loom, and was often pictured weaving or embroidering. The wing-footed Hermes protected messengers, travelers, merchants and commercial people. The lesbian Sappho maintained a sorority or academy for the cultural training of young women, operating under the patronage of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Academies for medical training depended of course upon Aesculapius, the god of healing. Each city or town also adopted a particular god or goddess as its protector, with an appropriately imposing temple and a designated holy day for sacrifice and prayers. Thus Apollo became the protector of Apollonia, and a headless but otherwise perfect statue of the god dating from about 250 b .c . was unearthed there. So also Mercury was chosen as the patron of Durrës, and the merchants of the city credited him with mak­ ing this seaport one of the most active in the Mediterranean world. With increasing prosperity and luxury, however, the people decided to choose as their protectress the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. To ra­ tionalize this change they pointed out that according to their mythology Aphrodite emerged from the foam of the sea, and along the coast was popularly worshipped as the protector of ports, sailors and maritime trade. In fact the Roman poet Catullus once identified Durrës as "the place of Aphrodite" (NAlb 1987,1:34). Fortunately for them, Mercury with godlike patience did not resent the switch of loyalties. But some of the residents of Durrës insisted that the city should have chosen Poseidon (Neptune) because they lived on the sea and did their business on the sea, and therefore they should have chosen the protection of the one who ruled the waves. But the pleasure lovers preferred the beautiful Aphrodite. They believe that she truly did protect the city in 435 B.c. when the Corinthians attempted to seize the city and the armies of Sparta and Athens swung to opposite sides and precipitated the Peloponnesian War, leaving Durrës quite uninvolved. That is what took place on earth. An Albanian writer whimsically reported what must have taken place up on Mt. Olympus: "Aphrodite naturally would not stay with folded hands. She would present herself before Zeus, would fall at his feet, probably would beg him with a


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv iliz a t io n

smile to gain his intervention in favor of her city. And Zeus, although he was truly old, would not want to disappoint the charming Aphrodite" (.Drita 4 May 1940, 2). More than two centuries then passed quietly for Durrës, her commerce continually increasing, thanks to the intervention and patronage of Aphrodite. But honored above all these local divinities was Hera or Juno, called "Queen of Heaven" by Virgil (A eneid 1:9) and "Queen Hera of Argos" by Hesiod (Theogony 1) because of the famous tem­ ple dedicated to her there (Herodotus 1942, 1:31). Almost every household also adopted its protector, with an altar, a family idol and family sacrifices to secure protection and favor. Thus Aeschylus projected his fifth century b .c . practices back to the Trojans when he pictured Cassandra, daughter of Priam, who was taken captive to the home of Agamemnon and commanded to "stand with the great throng of slaves that flock to the altar of our household god" (Aeschylus, Agam em ­ non, 1959, 1:1037-38). Every effort was made to bring these immortals down from remote Olympus and relate them to the everyday life of mor­ tals. They were progressively humanized and domesticated. It should be noted that eventually the influential dead were also propitiated. On the death of Lycurgus, a Spartan lawgiver, his admirers built him a temple and "worshipped him with the utmost reverence" (Herodotus 1942,1:66). Also, a noble father was revered with offerings of flowers, libations (pouring liquid on the tomb), and prayers directed to him (Aeschylus, Libation Bearers, 1959, 1:88-89, 94). Idols

Paintings and statuary were also pressed into the service of religion as a means of making the invisible divinities more real. Also, how could art­ ists win the favor of these deities better than by honoring them with their beautiful paintings? The earliest Greek figure of a god was simply a wooden post with a roughly hewn head at the top, draped with a garment. But sculptors now sought to excel one another in portraying the gods in ex­ quisitely sculptured marble and molded bronze or even gold. Spartans about 550 b .c . tried to get from Croesus enough gold for a statue of Apollo (Herodotus 1942,1:69). It was a Greek sculptor, Polycletus, who in the fifth century b .c . made the statue of Juno for the temple at Argos. Herodotus also noted that Egyptian kings now "enriched with offerings many of the Greek temples," mentioning especially a statue of Minerva covered with plates of gold, also two or three statues of stone and two others of wood (ibid., 2:182). The "Dea" or "Goddess of Butrint" recovered in that city was probably the head of Apollo, a work of rare beauty characteristic of the Praxitelean school of sculpture of Greece in about the fourth century b .c . This rare find was unearthed in 1929 by the Italian archeologist Ugolini (World's W ork June 1930, 65). King Zog presented it personally to Mussolini, but in 1982 it was returned to the homeland and placed in the National Museum of History (Liria 15 August 1983, 4; 1 June 1984, 3).

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


Progressively thereafter folk worship was not directed upward to an invisible Zeus or seaward to an invisible Thetis. Rather the people would face the beautiful image and direct worship through it to the invisible god and progressively to it as the visible representation of the invisible god. This would seem obvious in the lines of Sophocles, "Hail, Athena! Daughter of Zeus! .. . How well you have stood by me! I shall deck you with trophies all of gold in thanksgiving" (Sophocles, Ajax, 1941 2:91-94). Such religious statuary multiplied phenomenally, being used in sanc­ tuaries, temples, shrines, civic buildings and monuments, and especially in private homes. T emples

Although the Greeks still offered sacrifices and worshipped out of doors, the move toward enhancing or embellishing the earlier nature wor­ ship led to the multiplication of beautiful temples to house their beautiful gods. The folk worship became institutionalized. The earliest remains of large temples were dated about 650 b .c ., with a stone foundation and a rough building of sun-dried brick and timber. By 600 b .c . temples were be­ ing built entirely of stone, and later of polished marble. The temple always featured a statue of the god it honored and frequently was surrounded by stone or marble columns topped by capitals of Doric or Ionian or Corin­ thian style, increasingly elaborate with carvings of floral or leaf designs. Still later sculptured figures of gods adorned the triangular gabled end of the structure. Greek sculptors began using stone late in the seventh century b .c ., almost exclusively for religious purposes. Cities and towns vied with one another in erecting splendid temples for religious observances. Thus ar­ cheologists have discovered at Apollonia the most ancient temple, that of Artemis or Diana built about the sixth century b .c . on the highest hill of the city. The dimensions are quite average, but the lower part of the roof is decorated with various figures. The limestone taken from the hills of Mallakastra is carved in high relief and has been highlighted with strong colors: red, blue and black. Three warriors are shown in combat with amazons, the women warriors of mythology. The workmanship seems to date these figures and the temple just prior to 525 b .c . The use of local stone indicates that Apollonia at this early date had begun to produce artistic work. Other temples are found on the same hilltop. At the side of one of these sanctuaries archeologists discovered three pedestals in a row designated for three statues. One of these pedestals is beautified with carved roses (Liria 1 March 1984, 1). Inside a small temple at Butrint dedicated to Aesculapius researchers found two statues, some epitaphs and about 350 terra-cotta statuettes brought as votive offerings by the worshippers. Likewise at Butrint ar­ cheologists discovered another temple erected in honor of the Nymphs, having three fountains and several statues. Shrines and temples were often "fragrant with garlands" (Virgil 1950, 1:417). Thucydides affords us a


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

fascinating insight into temple life: "The temple of Juno in Argos was also burnt down by the negligence of Chrysis the priest, who, having set a burn­ ing torch by the garlands, fell asleep, insomuch as all was on fire and flamed before she knew. Chrysis, the same night, for fear of the Argives, fled, and they according to the law chose another priest in her room, called Phaeinis" (Thucydides 1959, 4:133). Some temples became very popular and famous. Because of the preva­ lence of illness and the lack of proper medical facilities, sanctuaries to the god of healing, Aesculapius, became very popular. Victims of disease or in­ jury made pilgrimages to the sanctuary, where by purification ceremonies and prayers and offerings they might secure the intervention of the god for miraculous healing. Generous donations were left. As a testimonial grateful patients would purchase and dedicate a model of the part of the body for which healing had been sought: an eye, an ear or leg or arm, the model being made of clay for the poor, but of silver or gold for the more wealthy. Around such a sanctuary a whole complex of buildings developed to sell sacred emblems and souvenirs, food and housing for the staff and pilgrim-patients. Temples and shrines became wealthy, accumulating sacrificial gifts such as gold and silver bowls, goblets, vases and basins. The temple at Delphi was dedicated to Apollo, so Croesus, the last king of Lydia (560-546 b .c .) sent to Delphi a golden statue of a woman about five feet high, also a shield and spear of solid gold (Herodotus 1:51-52). The temple of Olympia was richly decorated with offerings from all over Greece: "a Jupiter of beaten gold . . . the largest was a statue of Jupiter in ivory, the workmanship of Phidias of Athens . . . also many and admirable pictures" (Strabo 1889, 8:3.30). Religious P rocessions

Herodotus claimed that the Greeks began their solemn assemblies, processions and litanies to the gods, having learned them from the Egyp­ tians (Herodotus 1942, 2:58). Anything theatrical and spectacular held special appeal to the masses. Women with castanets and men with pipes played; others sang continually and clapped their hands; all proceeded to sacrifice at a particular shrine. This was followed by feasting and drinking wine till the close of the day (ibid., 2:60). Increasingly, religion became a communal rather than a personal activity. Centrally located shrines like the temple of Zeus at Olympia attracted popular loyalty more than could the relatively remote sanctuary of Dodona, and the whispering oak trees could not arouse the same religious excitement as did the spectacular proces­ sions. The festival of Zeus became extremely popular when the Olympic games began there in 776 b .c . Held every four years, this festival attracted the best Greek athletes, poets, musicians and even the nobility in chariot races. Similar Pythian games centered later at the temple of Apollo at Delphi. This temple enjoyed greater fame, however, for its oracular priestess, the Pythia, whose unintelligible babblings were interpreted by

The Early Historical Kingdoms in A lbania (1280-323 B.C.)


temple priests as predictions of the future. During the sixth century b . c . several other cities erected temples with more incredible claims for their miracle-working idols and more colorful festivals in order to eclipse the competition and attract bigger crowds. So it was that the Greeks migrating into the peninsula adopted the sim­ ple Pelasgian nature worship they found there, embellished it, and gave it back to the Pelasgians when their commercial colonies "enlarged and beautified" their cities (Drita 17 July 1937, 3). Earlier the Trojan Laocoon had cried out his apprehension about the great hollow wooden Trojan Horse left before their city gate. "I fear the Greeks even when bringing gifts!" (Virgil 1950, 2:41-49). After many equally unhappy experiences, his modern Albanian descendants express their apprehension with this prov­ erb, "If you shake hands with a Greek, count your fingers!" Be that as it may, the originally unadorned Pelasgian nature worship had become over the years a beautifully embellished system of idolatry, thanks largely to the Greeks.

5. Dissolution of the Albanian Kingdoms and Their Subjugation by Rome (323-168 B.C.) The death of Alexander the Great signaled the end of the brief union of the three Albanian kingdoms: Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria. Without the unifying personality of Alexander his vast empire quickly dissolved. There being no hereditary successor to the throne, his very capable generals divided the empire, each setting up his own kingdom. Antipater continued his administration of Macedonia and Greece. Lysimachus took Thrace. Antigonus took Asia Minor. Ptolemy got Egypt, and Perdiccas took over Asia. Relations among these leaders gradually deteriorated. For 50 years the so-called Wars of the Successors tore the empire apart. Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great were magnificent memories, but there was no worthy successor. By 275 b .c . relative stability prevailed once more, with the Seleucid dynasty in Asia, that of Ptolemy in Egypt and en­ virons, and that of Antigonus Gonatas in Macedonia. During the wars, however, native princes had assumed control of most of Epirus and Illyria. In effect Antigonus inherited only Macedonia and Greece. The three Pelasgian kingdoms of Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria each went its own way, cooperating in desperation altogether too late to avert their common ruin by the Romans. M A C ED O N IA Ten kings ruled briefly in Macedonia during those troubled years. C assander (317-298 B.C.)

One of those 10, Cassander, is credited with having upgraded the town of Alorus into a city which he renamed Thessalonica after his wife Thessalonice, the daughter of King Philip Amintas, about 315 b.c . T o ac­ complish this he is said to have pulled down about 26 towns in the district, collecting their populations into this one new city which would thereafter serve as the metropolis of Macedonia (Strabo 1 8 8 9 , Fragment 20). 110

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)


A ntigonus II G onatas (279-243 b .c .)

Macedonia faced hostile pressure from several directions. Barbarian Celts and Gauls flooded in from the north, devastating Macedonia and northern Greece. Antigonus repulsed them, however, in 277 b.c . Then Ptolemy of Egypt encouraged Sparta and the Peloponnesus to revolt against Macedonia in 278 b.c . He also persuaded his son-in-law, Pyrrhus of Epirus, to invade Macedonia from the west in 273? b .c ., and in 267 b.c . provoked a two-year rebellion by Athens and Sparta. City-states of the old Achaean League in the lower peninsula followed Macedonian leadership. But Antigonus lost control of those states in upper Greece which had banded together in the Aetolian League. With its mountain frontiers to the west and north relatively secure, Macedonia faced the Aegean Sea. It was natural then that it should carry on its prosperous trade principally with ports of the Aegean and Black seas. But Ptolemy's unfriendly naval control of the Aegean grain routes jeopardized Macedonia's trade and security, so Antigonus finally engaged the Egyptian fleet in battle off the coast of Cos in 258 b .c . and defeated it. Until his rule ended in 243 b.c . he devoted himself to an attempt to upgrade a decaying Macedonia and to resist con­ tinuing pressures on her several borders. He did succeed in establishing a degree of continuity with his 36-year reign. D emetrius II (243-225 b .c .)

The successor to the throne, Demetrius II, also gave priority to strengthening Macedonia rather than extending its frontiers. It is probable that the leaders of the neighboring Aetolian League recognized the value of a Macedonian buffer state against barbarians to the north and the nonaggressive attitude of recent Macedonian rulers. Accordingly they abandoned their former anti-Macedonian position and even solicited their help against the increasingly strong Achaean League then pressuring them from the Peloponnesus to the south. A ntigonus D oson (225-220 b .c .)

Antigonus acted for these few years as regent on behalf of young Philip V. Strangely enough, when members of the Achaean League felt themselves threatened by the expansionism of their neighbor Sparta, they reversed their anti-Macedonian attitude and appealed for help. Antigonus and Demetrius Pharos of Illyria fought as allies at the battle of Sellassia in 222 b.c ., defeating the Spartans. Thus Antigonus saved the Achaean League from extinction and reestablished the Macedonian protectorate over its states in the Peloponnesus. But this also set him at variance with Rome. An­ tigonus and Philip V after him attempted to reestablish Alexander's old Hellenic League set-up at Corinth, liberalizing it so as to attract other Greek states. Regretfully this effort met with only partial success, for by this time (2 2 0 b .c .) Rome had become painfully aware of both Epirus and Illyria. A


P r i m e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

greater degree of unity among these Pelasgian states and Greece would have prepared them all for the gathering storm. It might even have averted the storm. But that was not to be. Philip V (220-179 b .c .)

Philip began his rule as king of Macedonia while only 18 years of age. Macedonia was a strong state militarily and financially, having all of Thessaly subject to him, as well as all the chief fortresses of Greece, several provinces and islands and other isolated districts. In contrast with a debilitated Greece, Macedonians possessed a sturdy nationalistic vigor much like that of the Romans themselves. Facing the Aegean Sea, Macedonia may have been less conscious of the rising power of Rome than were Epirus and Illyria facing the Adriatic, but Philip seemed to have a genius for attracting more hostile attention than both of them put together. Rome would not overlook his military adventure in the Peloponnesus. When Rome as punishment drove the allied King Demetrius out of Illyria in 219 b .c ., he took refuge at the Macedonian court at Pella, where Philip gallantly refused the Roman demand for his surrender (Mommsen 1874, 2:121). The refugee king then proposed that Philip liberate Illyria from the Romans and agreed to cede it to Macedonia. Rome at this time was fighting for its life against Hannibal of Carthage. So Philip in 217 b .c . concluded an offensive alliance with Carthage against Rome. Macedonia was to land an expeditionary army on the coast of Italy to cooperate with Hannibal's forces in a great anti-Roman alliance. Following the anticipated victory Philip would regain the Roman possessions in Epirus. In preparation for the conflict he made peace with the Aetolian League. But his lack of decisiveness doomed the united campaign. Or it may have been that the 21-year-old Philip was envious of the meteoric career of the 30-year-old Hannibal. Whatever the reason, he broke his promise to bring troops to Tarentum to join Hannibal's expedition in southern Italy in 215 b .c . The great anti-Roman alliance bogged down. Instead, Philip determined to take over the Roman holdings in Epirus in 214 b .c . The small Roman army then occupying Apollonia and Oricum neutralized Philip so he could not respond to Hannibal's fiery pleas. Rome also stirred up the anti-Macedo­ nian sentiment of the Aetolian League and of the semi-barbarous Thracians so as to waste their strength and resources fighting each other rather than their common enemy. Hostilities gradually died down, and in 205 b .c . Rome signed the Peace of Phoenice (Finiq) with Philip, retaining, however, most of the disputed protectorate. This became known as the First Mace­ donian War, 214-205 b.c . The Second Macedonian War would soon follow. Three years later in 201 b .c . Rome was preoccupied with concluding a peace with Carthage. Philip seized several important Greek cities and territory along the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, in two instances showing unnecessary cruelty. Follow­ ing territorial encroachments in Illyria, he extended his eastern border from

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)

11 3

the Strymon River through Thrace to the Nestus River near the Hellespont. In the process he seized several more Greek cities which were allied to the Aetolian League. The League appealed to Rome for help, but this had to be deferred for the time. Philip's aggrandizement continued, and the League's appeals to Rome became more urgent. Rome's warnings to Philip were ig­ nored brusquely, as was an ultimatum. Then to punish the Athenians for an injustice done to their Greek ally Acarnania, Macedonian troops accom­ panied Acarnanian troops against Athens. This was the last straw. The Sec­ ond Macedonian War began. Rome went to war against Philip, posing as the protector of the freedom of the Greek states. Philip's potential allies of the Hellenic League exercised their right to remain neutral, and Philip found himself isolated. In 200 b .c . Roman troops landed at Apollonia on the Adriatic coast of Epirus and marched eastward through the mountains to the frontier of Macedonia. Even the Illyrians joined the Roman advance, eager to extend their own territory. Following skirmishes in the mountains the Romans returned to Apollonia with little to show for their year of effort. The campaign had bogged down. In 198 b .c . a new general, Flaminius, prosecuted the campaign more vigorously. He wintered in Greece where he enlisted the neutral states against Philip and crushed the loyal allies one by one. The decisive battle of the war was fought in 197 b .c . at the Greek border town of Cynoscephalae. The Romans dictated rather moderate terms of peace. Philip had to surrender all territory outside of Macedonia itself, pay an annual war indemnity, make no foreign alliances without permission from Rome, send no garrisons abroad, make no war outside of Macedonia, limit his army to 5,000 men, surrender all but five war ships, contribute Macedonian troops to serve with Roman legions and as surety send hostages to Rome, including his younger son, Demetrius. Flaminius, departing in 194 b .c ., did permit continued independence, realizing the importance of such a buffer state between Greece and the bar­ barians of the Danube Valley. But Macedonia was now a satellite or protec­ torate of Rome. Soon afterwards the Aetolian League and Sparta joined with Antiochus of Syria in urging Philip to cooperate with them in war against Rome. Philip distrusted the Greeks and refused. So when Roman troops landed again at Apollonia in 191 b.c . he allowed them to move freely through Macedonia, placed his troops at Rome's disposal and furnished them with supplies. In fact, the Romans were so disgusted with the Aetolians that they permitted a coalition of Macedonians, Illyrians, Epirots, Acarnanians and Achaeans to fall upon the Aetolians and punish them until they repeatedly pleaded for peace. Whereupon Rome rewarded Philip with limited territory along the border of Thessaly, returned many of the hostages and canceled repayment of further indemnity. However, Rome would not permit Macedonia to regain her former power, but con­ sidered her a protectorate whose internal affairs and foreign policy were both subject to Roman supervision.


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

Philip was naturally proud of Macedonia's national traditions and cherished her independence. Forbidden to expand territorially, he concen­ trated on consolidating and developing the country. Strabo recorded that "he raised a very large revenue from the mines" (Strabo 1889, 7:5.8). He also exploited their rich forest resources, reclaimed land for improved agriculture, imposed tithes on grain produced and customs duty on im­ ports. He also fostered good relations with Epirus, which resentful Greek neighbors interpreted as preparation for further war with Rome. Plutarch was more explicit. He alleged that Philip left the cities on the highways and seacoast ungarrisoned and apparently desolate, while assembling troops and stockpiling provisions and supplies at inland strongholds out of sight. Correctly or not, he estimated that there were arms for 30,000 men besides 8 million bushels of corn and money enough to maintain 10,000 mercenary soldiers for 10 years. In fact, most cities and states throughout Greece and the Aegean coastal region, released from their subjection to Macedonia, delighted in the Roman humiliation of Philip. Trivial complaints against him poured into Rome. Some of the accusations were neutralized by Demetrius, Philip's younger son, who as a hostage at Rome had become a great favorite. Unfortunately, Perseus, the elder son and heir apparent, suspected that the Romans were planning to place the younger son on the throne, so brought about his death through family intrigue just before the death of Philip in 179 b . c .. Perseus (179-168 b.c .) Perseus had experienced with his father the humiliation of Macedonia under the Romans and shared his father's vision of national revival. Like his father he devoted himself to the development and strengthening of the country. Repeatedly the Greeks complained to Rome that Macedonia was preparing for war. They also charged Macedonia, rightly or wrongly, with attempting to kill a Greek king, Eumenes. Actually Eumenes had visited Rome to urge further military intervention against Macedonia. On return­ ing home he narrowly escaped death near Delphi when a rock bounded down the mountainside. He considered this an attempt on his life and blamed Perseus, sending charges to Rome. Perseus did, however, approach oppressed peoples within the empire and the barbarian hordes beyond the frontiers about an anti-Roman coalition. He discovered considerable sym­ pathy. Even most of the Greeks expressed themselves as willing to follow Perseus if they could regain freedom from Rome. Rome now had sufficient ground for the Third Macedonian War: secret foreign alliances without Rome's approval and the obvious intent of Perseus to supplant Rome as the protector of Greece. The Roman army landed at Apollonia in 171 B.c., one body moving through Thessaly to approach Macedonia from the south, another smaller body moving on Illyria to approach Macedonia from the west. At the ap­ proach of actual warfare the Greek states collapsed which had favored the

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)


coalition. Some states openly cooperated with Rome, while others pro­ claimed very loudly their neutrality. Perseus found himself standing almost alone. But he won the first encounter rather decisively. Thereafter, neither he nor the Roman commander prosecuted the war vigorously. It became a stalemate. Roman cruelty, injustices and extortion alienated the civilian population. The year ended with no military gains and many political losses. The blunders of the Macedonians, however, were as serious as the blunders of the Romans. Perseus was charged with having an inordinate love for the royal treasury, amassing it for war but at the crucial moment unwilling to part with it. Specifically, Plutarch (229-160 b .c .) in his Life o f Perseus charged him with being so stingy that he lost the support of 10,000 fierce Gaul mercenary horsemen who had actually arrived in Macedonia for battle. He also charged Perseus with stingily betraying King Gentius of Illyria whom he had enlisted as an ally when promising payment of 300 talents. He allegedly paid the promised amount, upon which Gentius cruelly imprisoned several Roman ambassadors at his court. Then Perseus, sure that Gentius had committed himself as an enemy of Rome and in­ volved himself in the war, somehow got back the 300 talents! Plutarch described pathetically how Perseus afterwards saw Gentius with his wife and children carried prisoners to Rome. The story of course may be apocryphal. Rome was unhappy with the stalemate on the battlefield and alarmed over the enlistment of Illyria and the threat of Gauls invading Italy from the north. In 168 b .c . they drafted a veteran, Aemilius Paulus, to replace the incompetent Roman generalship and prosecute the war against Perseus. Plutarch told how the general following his appointment returned home to find his little daughter weeping. Taking her in his arms he asked why she was crying. Catching him about the neck and kissing him, she said, "Oh, father, do you not know that my Perseus is dead?" referring to her little dog of that name. Aemilius replied, "Good fortune, my daughter. I embrace the omen" (Plutarch 1952, 217). The new commander proceeded to join his troops on the Macedonian border. Pliny, who was particularly interested in the relation between the natural and the supernatural, described the apprehension of the Ro­ man troops on the eve of the great battle of Pydna in 168 b .c . Lest his superstitious troops interpret the eclipse of the moon that night as a bad omen, the commander brought a Roman astronomer, Sulpicius Gallus, to announce it to an assembly beforehand (Pliny 1947, 2:9). This relieved them of their fear. Plutarch's Life o f Aemilius Paulus provides considerable detail on the decisive battle of Pydna. Within one hour of fierce fighting the Romans defeated Perseus, who fled to Pella with his gold, then to Samothrace where he surrendered. His army was annihi­ lated. Within two days Macedonia had capitulated to the Romans. Perseus was led in triumph at Rome with his three children, "the most illus­ trious captive whom the Roman general had ever brought home" (Momm-


P r im e v a l A l b a n ia , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

sen 1874, 2:356). A few years later he died as an honored state pris­ oner. Thus ended the Macedonian kingdom. To destroy national unity and prevent a future rebirth, the Romans divided the country into four separate republics. Ordinary business relations, ownership of property and even in­ termarriage across boundaries were all forbidden. All who had held office under Perseus were interned with their families in Italy for 16 years, as were 1,000 Greeks who were traitorously betrayed as having favored the cause of Perseus. Among these was the historian Polybius. To hinder economic recovery and national revival the Romans also temporarily closed the gold and silver mines and the forests. They disarmed the people and razed all the fortresses except those along the northern frontier. The punishment of Greece, however, was much more severe. Their pro-Macedonian spokesmen were hunted down and executed. So it was that Rome effec­ tively ruled out any significant history of Macedonia for the foreseeable future. EPIRU S P yrrhus (296-272 b .c .)

Pyrrhus was probably the most distinguished ruler of Epirus. Tracing his ancestry back to Achilles, he was a son of Aeacides, the cousin of Alex­ ander of Molossus who ruled the Molossians from Yanina. Unfortunately, Aeacides became entangled in regional family politics, first losing his kingdom then his life in 313 b . c . His son, Pyrrhus, then six years of age, was rescued by Glaucias, prince of the Illyrian Taulanti tribe. Restored to the throne briefly as a boy, he was expelled again and began his military career with Antigonus of Macedonia, the veteran commander who had served with Alexander the Great. Captured in battle, he was taken as a hostage to Alexandria. There he won the admiration of Ptolemy, who gave his daughter in marriage and in 296 b . c . restored him to his paternal kingdom. Pyrrhus was noted for his noble bearing and his bravery in bat­ tle. The Epirots called him "Eagle." An Albanian tradition claims that their name "Shqiptarë" (Sons of the Eagle) originated with a statement made by Pyrrhus. When someone praised the swiftness of his troop movements, Pyrrhus proudly replied that this was natural, inasmuch as his soldiers were "sons of the eagle," their movements similar to the majestic flight of the king of birds (Chekrezi 1919,17). A somewhat different version is that when his troops praised his swift bold attacks and called him the eagle, he replied that they were his pinions or wings, which enabled the swift flight of the eagle. This it is said led to the adoption of the name by which this people still recognize themselves: not Albanians, but "Shqiptarë," Sons of the Eagle. It was about this time that the Greek colonies of Corfu and other Ionian islands began to call the neighboring mainland "Epirus" (the main-

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)


land) in contradistinction to their island home. Greek historians gradually dropped the term Molossia, and referred instead to the "Kingdom of Epirus" (Pouq 1805, 3:1) and to "Pyrrhus of Epirus" (Chekrezi 1936, 43). This change of name, however, in no way affected the Pelasgian or Albanian character of that region. Epirus extended as far south as the gulf of Ambracia (Arta). In fact the Greek geographer Strabo wrote, "For those enter­ ing the gulf of Arta by boat, on the right hand are the Acarnanians who are Greek, on the left are Nicopolis and the Cassopians who are Epirotes" (Strabo 1889, 7:325). Thus Strabo distinguished the Epirotes from the Greeks. Ambracia had formerly been a flourishing city, but it had fallen into decay. Pyrrhus "embellished it more than any other person, and made it a royal residence" {ibid., 7:7.6). Pyrrhus was widely recognized as a great and good prince. He ex­ tended his territory to include the island of Corfu and the border regions of Macedonia. With the continual jockeying for power by these regional princes, and the very fluid borders defining their jurisdiction, conflict was inevitable and perennial. It is reported that on one occasion when battling their Macedonian kinsmen, the Macedonian soldiers were so impressed with Pyrrhus' resemblance to Alexander the Great that they forsook their king and united with him (Chekrezi 1936, 42). Indeed, when an unworthy Macedonian king, Demetrius, was dethroned, they invited Pyrrhus to rule Macedonia also. Within seven months, however, he realized that most proud Macedonians would prefer a bad Macedonian ruler to a good non-Macedonian, so he voluntarily relinquished the throne in 287 b . c . Pyrrhus envisioned instead an empire in the West similar to that pro­ posed 40 years earlier by his father's cousin, Alexander Molossus. Rome, considered traditionally to have been founded in 753 b . c ., had gradually emerged as the most powerful city-state in Italy, then had united the diverse groups into a confederation under Roman leadership. Rome had become a strong unified republic. The Gallic or Celtic invasion swept down from the north about 400 b . c ., partly destroying Rome itself by fire in 390 b . c . and dominating much of Italy for a while. The Samnite wars of 326 to 312 b . c . and again from 299 to 291 b . c . had just been concluded as Pyrrhus began to look westward. Inspired possibly by the pontoon bridge thrown across the Hellespont by the Persian Xerxes 200 years before, Pyrrhus ac­ cording to Pliny was the first to conceive of a similar bridge across the Adriatic at its narrowest point, the Strait of Otranto (Pliny 1947, 3:11). His opportunity came in 282 b . c . The wealthy merchant city of Tarentum (Taranto) in southernmost Italy, a Spartan colony, resented the Roman fleet in their harbor contrary to treaty, and appealed to Pyrrhus for assistance. Without waiting to solve the engineering problems involved in the bridge, he adopted the more conventional method of transporting his 25,000 troops across the Adriatic by ship. Besides his 3,000 horsemen he also took 19 war elephants, the first time the Italians had ever seen the huge beasts. With a Roman army approaching, the Tarentines preferred their


P r im e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

possible subjection to Pelasgian Pyrrhus rather than to the barbarian Romans, so they gave Pyrrhus supreme command of the anti-Roman forces. Pyrrhus first wrote to the Roman consul, Valerius Laevinus, offer­ ing to arbitrate between Rome and Tarentum. The consul replied bluntly that Pyrrhus should mind his own business and return to Epirus. When an Epirote spy was captured behind Roman lines, Laevinus showed him the legions in battle games then sent him back to tell Pyrrhus that if he was curious about the Roman soldiers and tactics, he should come and see them for himself (Smith 1876, 418). In the battle that followed, Pyrrhus engaged Roman troops twice as great as his own at Heraclea near Tarentum (280 b . c .) and won the battle. But he lost so many of his officers and best troops that he exclaimed, "Another such victory and I must return to Epirus alone!" (ibid., 728). This gave rise to the expression a "Pyrrhic victory." Although this was Rome's first military contact with the Greek world to the east, it was by no means the last. Hoping for peace and the freedom of the Greek communities in It­ aly, Pyrrhus sent to Rome his most eloquent minister, Lineas. The envoy's phenomenal memory astounded Pliny, for he "knew the names of those in the Roman senate and knighthood the day after his arrival in Rome" (Pliny 1947, 7:24). But Rome refused to negotiate, so Pyrrhus marched on the capital city itself, with its several armies and militia massed in defense. Unable to capture the city, he turned south for the winter. At Asculum he defeated more Roman troops. For the second time he released all his Roman prisoners with clothing and money, asking them to mediate peace for him (Dionysius 1948, 20:1-6). At this juncture Carthage offered to come to the assistance of Rome with a military alliance, hoping actually to expand its holdings in Sicily. This greatly alarmed the Greek colony of Syracuse, which begged Pyrrhus for military aid against the Carthaginans. Pyrrhus was altogether willing to accommodate them. He crossed into Sicily in 278 b . c . and succeeded brilliantly in regaining most of the island from Carthage. He built a strong war fleet by 276 b . c . Unfortunately Pyrrhus attempted to rule these freedom-loving Greeks just as arbitrarily as he had seen Ptolemy rule in Egypt, and the Greeks would not tolerate it. They refused to accept his offer to serve as their king, some openly preferring Carthage to his military government. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, whose Greek birth and Roman residence may not have left him altogether unprejudiced as a historian, blamed Pyrrhus. He wrote that Pyrrhus acted as arrogantly and tyranically as their Italian oppressors, confiscating estates and distributing high offices among his friends and captains. He banished or even executed prominent men on trumped-up charges. He offended their sensibilities even more by sacrilegiously plundering the unguarded treasures of their temples. When he eventually withdrew to go to Tarentum, adverse winds wrecked several of his ships including those transporting the temple treasure. Despite every advantage in his favor, Pyrrhus lost his next battle "because of the wrath

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)


of the goddess" (ibid., 20:8- 12). This was the quite inconclusive battle of Beneventum. Following this, in 275 b .c . he returned home, leaving a gar­ rison in Tarentum, but leaving Italy to the Romans. Not only Epirus, but Greece and the East were now becoming aware of the new power rising in the West. Ptolemy in Egypt was also attempting to expand. Not content with his naval control of the Aegean shipping routes, he fomented revolts in Greece and Macedonia. In fact, Pyrrhus was persuaded all too easily to invade Macedonia from the west, but without great success. Nor would he attack Illyria, for her king, Glaucias, had received him when an infant and helped to restore him to the throne of Molossia when he was only 12 years of age. So he turned his arms against Greece. Penetrating as far east as Peloponne­ sian Argos, he must have been dismayed when the Argives would not ad­ mit him within the city. And here at Pelasgian Argos of all places, he would end his career in 272 b . c . Just as his hero Alexander the Great had ter­ minated his brilliant career so inappropriately on a sickbed in Babylon, Pyrrhus would end his brilliant career ignominiously under the walls of Argos, when an angry old woman hurled a tile from her rooftop and struck him on the head! (Strabo 1889, 8:6.18). Pliny in his Natural History re­ corded a most unnatural phenomenon observed in Rome: "On the day when Pyrrhus died, the heads of sacrificial victims when cut off, crawled about the ground licking up their own blood, an incredibly happy portent" (Pliny 1947, 11:77). A bust identified by scholars as that of Pyrrhus was recovered in Herculaneum at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius and is preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (NAlb 1989, 1:30). A lexander (272-? b .c .)

Pyrrhus was succeeded by his son Alexander who had frequent alter­ cations with Macedonia. Significantly, however, neither of these early Albanian kingdoms sought an alliance with Greece against the other. Fragmentation (?- i 68 b .c .)

After Alexander, Epirus was divided among a number of related tribal princes who governed their own districts as mini-kingdoms. Many of these sided with Perseus of Macedonia in his struggle against Rome. Accord­ ingly, the angry Roman senate ordered their newly appointed general, Aemilius Paulus, to authorize his soldiers to plunder the cities of Epirus as punishment (Pliny 1947, 4:10). Following the battle of Pydna the Roman troops destroyed 70 cities of the Epirotes, most of which belonged to the Molotti tribe, and sold into slavery 150,000 of the inhabitants (Strabo 1889, 7:7.3). Most of these were carried over to Italy. One century later Strabo wrote that even though the countryside was rugged and full of mountains, "the whole of Epirus and Illyria were once well-peopled. At present the greater part is uninhabited, and the inhabited parts are left in the state of villages, or in ruins. Even the oracle at Dodona has almost been deserted


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C iv i l iz a t i o n

like the rest" (ibid., 7:7.9). Mute witness to Rome's fierce retribution on Epirus was found 2,000 years later when excavations at Antigonea near Gjirokastra revealed a considerable layer of ash from the fire which com­ pletely destroyed this city and 69 others like it. ILLY R IA With the breakup of Alexander's empire, Illyria seized the opportunity to regain its independence of Macedonia. Strabo pictured the Illyrians as occupying a portion of the land between the Danube River on the north and Macedonia with Epirus on the south. The Illyrians then occupied the western portion of this Balkan territory reaching to the Adriatic Sea, the Thracians occupying the eastern portion reaching to the Euxine (Black) Sea (Strabo 1889, 7:5.1). There is no known succession of kings during this ini­ tial period. Apparently the Illyrians did not keep records, and they seldom came into contact with other more literate peoples. Three kings named Klito, Glaucias and Pleurates were among those who ruled during this period, but we know little about their dates or accomplishments. M onun (c a . 280 B.C.)

Monun was an Illyrian king from the Taulanti tribe who ruled about 280 b . c . For some time Durrës and Apollonia had existed as independent city-states like those of Greece. But King Monun reestablished Illyrian authority over all its former territories from the Adriatic to the Macedonian border, including both Durrës and Apollonia. He commemorated this ac­ complishment by minting silver coins carrying the name Durrës and his own likeness (Liria 21 November 1980). An unusual treasure of 193 ancient silver coins came to light in the Fier district near old Apollonia. King Monun had issued 37 of these coins in 280 b . c . (Liria 1 October 1983, 3). Monun waged war continually with Macedonia along their common border. There on the shore of Lake Ochrida during World War I a passerby happened to find a helmet which once belonged to Monun. This so-called Crown of Monun pictured in Korkuti's article is a semicircular helmet with slightly protruding edges, embellished by a flowing tassel. At the back a dotted inscription includes the words "Basileos Monounious" (Of King Monun). This national treasure is preserved in the Berlin Museum (NAlb 1989, 1:30). King Monun was succeeded by King Mytili (FESH1985, 724). A gron (2501-231 B.C.)

Agron was the son of Pleuratus, his kingdom extending from Dalmatia on the north to the Aous (Vjosa) River on the south. His capital city, Shkodra, was already famous for its ships and seamen. He built a powerful navy which preyed on the shipping of both Greece and Rome. These acts of piracy attracted the unfavorable attention of both states. He developed both an army and a navy stronger than those of any of his predecessors. Agron induced the Illyrian tribesmen to join in the most common and fruit-

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)


ful business venture they were fitted for: piracy. Squadrons of their swift vessels with two banks of oarsmen plundered merchant shipping in the Adriatic regardless of nationality. The Greek settlements of Epidamnus (Durrës), Apollonia and Pharos on Corfu were also attacked. The pirates also established themselves farther south in Finiq, the most flourishing town in Epirus (Mommsen 1874, 2:90), and on the lower west coast of Greece. In alliance with Demetrius II of Macedonia Agron defeated the Aetolians in Acarnania, western Greece, in 231 b . c . Agron celebrated his victory by drinking so heavily that he collapsed and died. T efta (231-? B.C.)

Tefta or Teuta, the widow of King Agron, acted as regent for her young stepson Pinneus. Her first decision was to drive the Greek colonies off the Albanian coast. Attempting this, she found Durrës too well fortified, but Finiq farther south surrendered. While her Illyrian ships were off the coast of Saranda they intercepted and plundered some merchant vessels of Rome. Encouraged by this success, Tefta's pirates extended their operations southward in the Ionian Sea, westward along the coast of Italy, and were soon feared as the terror of the Adriatic. As soon as Rome's preoccupation with the threatened Gaulic invasions was somewhat relieved, she re­ sponded to the repeated appeals of her beleaguered merchant towns. The Roman senate sent two ambassadors to the pirate lair at Shkodra to require reparations and demand an end to the piratical expeditions. Tefta assured them that her warships would not trouble their merchant ships again, but she could give no assurance that merchant vessels would not plunder one another. Apparently she told the ambassadors that according to the law of the Illyrians piracy was a lawful trade and that her government had no right to interfere with this as a private enterprise. One of the envoys is reported to have replied that in that case Rome would make it her business to in­ troduce better law among the Illyrians. At any rate, one of the ambassadors addressed the queen so disrespectfully that her offended attendants killed him as he embarked for Rome. This was too much for Rome to endure. In 229 b . c . Rome declared war on Illyria and for the first time sent armies across the Adriatic to the Balkan Peninsula. The Roman fleet of 200 ships went first to Corcyra (Corfu). Tefta's governor, Demetrius, at Pharos had little alternative but to surren­ der, and the Romans awarded him a considerable part of Tefta's holdings (228 b . c .). The Roman army then landed farther north at Apollonia. The combined army and navy proceeded northward together, subduing one town after another and besieging Shkodra, the capital. Tefta finally sur­ rendered in 227 b . c ., having to accept an ignominious peace. The Romans allowed her to continue her reign but restricted her to a narrow region around Shkodra, deprived her of all her other holdings, and forbade her to sail an armed ship below nearby Lissus (Lezha) just south of her capital. They also required her to pay an annual tribute and to acknowledge the


P r i m e v a l A l b a n i a , th e G r e e k s a n d C i v i l iz a t i o n

final authority of Rome. Thus the damage was done. Thanks to Queen Tefta the expanding empire of Rome had learned the military route to the peninsula. D emetrius P haros (7-219 b .c .)

Tefta's former governor on the island of Corfu eventually succeeded her as ruler over Illyria and the Greek colonies along the coast. By 222 b . c . he broke off his relations with Rome and resumed piratical attacks on Roman shipping. Hoping to expand his territory southward, he formed an alliance with Antigonus Doson of Macedonia. In 222 b . c . their troops fought as allies at the battle of Sellassia in the Peloponnesus. Rome sent General Aemilius Paulus to punish Demetrius. Unfortunately for him, his ally Antigonus had just died, and Macedonia with a new 18-year-old king, Philip V, was in no position to give help. Shkodra fell to the Romans in 219 b . c . Demetrius fled into exile, taking refuge in the Macedonian court at Pella, where young Philip gallantly refused Roman demands for his sur­ render. Needless to say, this effective Roman intervention encouraged the long-suffering Greek traders. It also encouraged the anti-Macedonian ele­ ment in Greece who were becoming uneasy over the efforts of the Mace­ donian king, Philip V, to reactivate the old Hellenic League. PlNNEUS (7 - 2 0 5 ? B.C.)

Little consecutive history is possible here. We do know that Tefta's stepson, Pinneus, was left on her defeat under the guardianship of Demetrius of Pharos. Upon the defeat of Demetrius the Romans placed Pin­ neus upon the throne of Illyria, requiring him to pay tribute. Upon his death an uncle, Scerdilaedus, the young brother of King Agron, became king. He seems to have continued an alliance with Rome, even fighting against Philip V of Macedonia until his death about 205 b . c . P leuratus (205-? B.C.)

Philip of Macedonia was continually probing the borders of his neighbors with a view to Macedonian expansion. So in 203 b . c . Roman troops drove Philip's raiders out of Illyrian territory with stern warnings. Pleuratus ruled at Shkodra in 200 b . c . and was so eager to extend his ter­ ritory that he cultivated friendly relations with the Romans, even joining in their attacks on Macedonia. Accordingly, when the treaty of Flaminius in 197 b . c . took from Philip V all his holdings outside of Macedonia itself, Pleuratus received the territory east of Durrës as an Illyrian province. This made the "state of robbers and pirates" a powerful principality once again. G e n tiu s (7- i 68 b . c .)

The last king to rule over Illyria was Gentius, the son of Pleuratus. Even though nominally subject to Rome, he apparently resumed piratical expeditions along the Adriatic Sea as early as 180 b . c . He also responded

Dissolution o f the Kingdoms and Their Subjugation (323-168 B.C.)


favorably to the approaches of Perseus of Macedonia for an anti-Roman coalition. Just then the ambassadors of Issa, a Greek island colony on the Dalmatian coast above Shkodra, complained to the Roman senate about Gentius. Rome sent ambassadors to Shkodra for negotiation, but he im­ prisoned them and prematurely committed himself to war with Rome. The following year, 168 b . c ., a small Roman army moved against him. Within 30 days they captured his pirate fleet, his capital, Shkodra, and the king himself. His capitulation to Rome marked the end of the Illyrian kingdom. Gentius went to Rome in chains, side by side with Perseus of Macedonia as prisoner of war in the triumphal procession of Aemilius Paulus. This marked the end of the Third Macedonian War, as well as the end of Illyria. The Romans split the Illyrian territory into three small unrelated states and required payment to Rome of half their property taxes. She also confiscated the Illyrian ships and awarded them to the more cooperative Greek towns along the Adriatic coast. PoSTLUDE

Two observations have significance here. Even when facing this ex­ tremity, the Albanian states made no appeal to neighboring Greece for help, nor did Greece offer any. Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria had their fre­ quent quarrels, but frequently they did find common cause among them­ selves as kinsmen. But there does not seem to have been any common bond, any mutual sympathy between these three states and their neighbor Greece. Again it must be obvious that Illyria had gained a reputation in its lat­ ter years which it could not soon live down. One century after its fall to Rome Strabo wrote in his geography of the peninsula that Illyria was "avoided on account of the savage manners of the inhabitants and their piratical habits" (Strabo 1889, 7:5.10). Many of the survivors of Illyria's col­ lapse fled to their remote mountain fastnesses where they could preserve their language and customs and some measure of freedom. But the descen­ dants of the old Pelasgian people living in Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria, these early Albanians, had lost their cherished liberty for the next 2,000 years.

Part Two

Developing Albania Subjugated by the Romans and Its Christianization (1 6 8 B .C .-A .D . 1 5 0 3 )

6. The Roman Period (168

B .C .-A .D .


A LBA N IA N RESEN TM EN T OF RO M A N RULE Neither eagles nor eagle people can endure captivity. They are not canaries to sing happily in a cage. For the "Shqiptarë," the Eagle People, there now began a struggle for independence which would drag on for 2,000 years. In simple terms, theirs was a long desperate struggle for their own land, their own language and their own government. As we now sift through the centuries of foreign invasion, occupation, oppression, political machination and attempted assimilation, it would be easy to lose our bear­ ings in the tangled jungle of unrelated historical data. We shall discern a meaningful pattern in all of this only as we determinedly follow the bloodred thread which runs throughout: the single-minded passion for Albanian independence, the passion for Albanian land, language and liberty. Now for the first time in their history Macedonia, Epirus and Illyria had come under foreign domination. Previously each had suffered frequent invasion and foreign occupation, and they had even dominated one another. But now Rome had accomplished what Greece never could. Rome alone had succeeded in capturing these incredible Sons of the Eagle, but not in caging them. Even the mighty Roman Empire could not eradicate their passion for freedom. The adolescent Roman Empire failed to work out immediately those administrative procedures necessary for controlling or governing the populations she had conquered. By this failure she contributed to the widespread unrest in Albania and other occupied lands. Certainly Rome did require disarmament of the population, taxation and a degree of isola­ tion for the separate regions. But Rome also allowed a measure of autonomy instead of imposing a resident Roman governor and demanding obedience. Confusion and disorder resulted. Twenty years after the fall of Macedonia, one Andriscus, pretending to be the son of Perseus, attempted to resuscitate the ancient kingdom. The Romans crushed him in 146 b . c ., and only then did they establish the region as a Roman province with a Roman magistrate at its head. Gradually an administrative pattern began 126

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


to emerge. Conquered territories were incorporated into the empire as provinces. Final authority over each province was assigned to the reigning emperor, termed an "augustus," or to one of his princes or potential suc­ cessors termed "caesars." Direct supervision of each province was assigned to a proconsul or governor appointed at first by the populace, later by the Roman senate. Rome also committed troops to the province and stipulated an annual tribute to care for its administration and defense. The collection of taxes was farmed out to "publicans." Certain favored cities were per­ mitted to retain their own municipal government as "free cities." Repeated insurrections broke out among the Illyrian tribes of the northern mountains. Bato, a Dalmatian leader, is reported to have enlisted 200,000 warriors in a liberation attempt which was thwarted by the Romans in a . d . 6 . The peace of a . d . 8 was interrupted by a second attempt that year, and by a third fruitless attempt the following year. Archeolo­ gists unearthed on the north wall of old Durrës a portion of the frieze of a monument which has not been recovered as yet. The relief carved in limestone shows Victory (Nike) in front of a war chariot treading upon the leg of a warrior. The archeologist Korkuti states that because the scene is partially obscured by the use of mortar, "it is difficult to identify this relief with a specific victory in the Durrës territory, where it could be considered the suppression of a Parthian uprising in the year 36 b . c ., or (more prob­ ably) the victory over the Illyrian uprising led by Bato in the years 6 to 9 of our era" (Korkuti, Muzafer, letter to author, 30 April 1987). Strabo noted that in many parts of the conquered territory cities and towns had been destroyed "in consequence of rebellion," and that to pacify potential rebels "the Romans lodged soldiers in their houses" (Strabo 1889, 7.7.3). Pyrrhus had adorned his capital, Ambracia, with public buildings and statues. But Strabo noted that the Romans harassed the city "because of the refractory disposition of the inhabitants" (ibid., 7.7.6). Later those same in­ habitants would be uprooted to populate the new Roman city of Nicopolis. Roman colonies with their garrisons of troops were established also at Buthrotum, Apollonia and elsewhere, but especially at the "truly Roman­ ized" Dyrrhachium (Durrës). Indeed Pliny mentioned that when the Romans adopted the city which was called by the earlier Greeks "Epidamnos," they renamed it Dyrrhachium because of the "ill-omened sound of that name 'damnum'!" (Pliny 1947, 3:23). As a "municipium" the city en­ joyed an unusual degree of autonomy. Indeed, Cicero, banished from his homeland, relieved his nostalgia by sojourning there. He wrote in 58 b . c ., "I have come to Dyrrhachium because it is not only a free state, but devoted to me, and is also the nearest point to Italy. But if the place is too crowded for my liking, I shall betake myself elsewhere" (Cicero 1960, 14:1). Although said to be "truly Romanized," Dyrrhachium was still truly Alba­ nian, for its excavated monuments of that period evidence a predominance of Illyrian names and the Illyrian language. The Italian archeologist Mar­ coni declared that statues unearthed around Vlora and Butrint also showed


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

that even in Roman times the traditional Illyrian costumes still prevailed, and that Albanians more than any other occupied population had pre­ served their ethnic identity (Drita, 10 March 1938, 3). Illyricum traditionally had included all the territory between Macedonia and the Adriatic, reaching south to Epirus and north to the Savus, Dravus and Danube rivers, with its capital at Shkodra. The north­ ern portion was called Illyris Barbara or Romana, the southern portion IIlyris Graeca or Epirus Nova. Illyricum, however, was not organized as a province until the reign of Augustus. Epirus, lying south of Illyricum and west of Macedonia, with Nicopolis its capital, was only gradually recover­ ing from the utter devastation of 168 b .c . In 148 b .c . Rome made Macedonia a province consisting of four districts having the following capitals: Amphipolis, Thessalonica, Pella and Pelagonia (now Monastir), all of which would later be connected by the Via Egnatia. After the conquest of the Achaeans in 146 b .c ., Rome placed Thessaly and Illyricum under the jurisdiction of the same governor of Macedonia. The province of Macedonia then extended from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic and from the Danube south to Achaea, with its capital at Thessalonica. It must have become apparent to quarreling Greece and Macedonia that if they would not hang together in a fight for freedom, they would certainly hang separately in defeat. Of the three provinces Illyricum became by far the most important because of its contribution to Rome of soldiers, administrators and emperors. In return Illyricum enjoyed a period of peace and progress. Several of its cities, such as Butrint, Apollonia and Dyrrhachium (Durrës), became noted as commercial and cultural cen­ ters. A LBA N IA N C O N T A C T S W ITH TH E IM PE R IA L A D M IN IS T R A T O R S Julius C aesar (48 b .c .)

Julius Caesar in 59 b .c . requested jurisdiction over the provinces of Il­ lyricum and Gaul, which the populace of Rome granted for a five-year period, extended another five years to 49 b .c . His nine brilliant campaigns in Gaul won both the adulation of the Roman populace and the jealous resentment of Pompey, second ruler in the triumvirate. When Caesar accepted Pompey's challenge and crossed the Rubicon toward Rome (49 b . c .), Pompey fled across the Adriatic to Dyrrhachium. At this port in Caesar's territory he amassed his military supplies and established his headquarters. The following January, 48 b .c ., Julius Caesar encamped at the Rock of Kavaja on the narrow coastal plain facing Dyrrhachium. At first Caesar was repulsed with great losses and was forced to re­ treat southeasterly through Epirus to Thessaly. At Pharsalus, however, Caesar utterly defeated Pompey and became sole ruler of the Roman world.

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


A ugustus O ctavius (45 b .c .)

Octavius as a fatherless youth was befriended by his royal uncle, Julius Caesar. Having no sons of his own, Caesar undertook the education and training of the youth, sending him at 18 to Apollonia where several Roman legions were stationed so that he might acquire practical military training. At the same time Octavius furthered his studies at the excellent academy situated there and became closely associated with a schoolmate, Agrippa, who would become a valued and lifelong collaborator. The following year, 44 b .c . , on the fateful Ides of March, his uncle was assassinated. Octavius with Agrippa left at once for Italy. Landing at Brundisium (now Brindisi) he learned that Caesar in his last testament had adopted him as sole heir. At Rome, however, the veteran Marc Antony aggressively promoted himself as Caesar's successor. A triumvirate was agreed upon. Antony's empire extended from the Euphrates westward to the Illyrian border, Caesar's from that border westward including Italy. In 42 b .c . their legions crushed the assassins Brutus and Cassius at the battle of Philippi in Macedonia. Shortly thereafter Antony became infatuated with the Egyp­ tian Cleopatra and repudiated his beautiful and virtuous wife Octavia, sending her back to her brother, Octavius. Following a campaign against the Illyrians in 35 b .c . and the Dalmatians in 34 b .c ., Octavius rightly sensed the disgust of the Romans at Antony's dereliction of duty and deter­ mined to eliminate his rival. In the spring of 31 b .c . he went to Epirus. That September the fleet, commanded by his colleague Agrippa, gained a brilliant victory over Antony and Cleopatra in the sea battle of Actium just below Corfu. When Cleopatra retreated with her fleet to Egypt, Antony's fleet was destroyed. He abandoned his remaining ships, 19 legions and 12,000 horsemen on shore, and fled to rejoin Cleopatra at Alexandria. The next year when Octavius appeared before the city Antony and Cleopatra both put an end to their lives. Octavius now became sole ruler of the Roman world. In 27 b .c . the title Emperor Caesar Augustus was bestowed upon him. Commemorating his victory at Actium Augustus beautified its temple of Apollo, revived the festival to Apollo, and erected the city of Nicopolis (Victory City) on the north shore of the bay opposite Actium. Here he relocated the "refractory" inhabitants of Ambracia and other towns around the gulf. Recognized as Rome's first emperor, Octavius Augustus devoted his whole life to enhancing the beauty of Rome. Besides sponsoring the arts, he completed several other famous monuments and began con­ struction of the Pantheon. His reign became known as the Golden Age of Rome (Nagel 1954, 458). It began in Albania's Apollonia. T he P raetorian G uard

The increasing Gothic and Scythian pressure on the northern frontier along the Danube led Rome to make constructive use of its warlike Illyrian subjects. Many were enlisted in the Roman legions while others were settled


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

in colonies along the northern frontier to form a buffer zone. The Illyrian soldiers performed so magnificently that many of them were selected for service in the Praetorian Guard, Rome's elite bodyguard for the emperor. A remarkable number of these men were also promoted to the top of the ladder and were known as Illyrian soldier-emperors. These incredible Sons of the Eagle were worthy descendants of Achilles, Philip, Alexander the Great and Pyrrhus. The sheer number of these soldier-emperors is im­ pressive, and the caliber of several of them is amazing. D ecius (a .d . 249-251)

Decius originated at Bubalia in Pannonia, northern Illyricum. The troops he commanded compelled him to accept the imperial purple under threats of death. His short reign was occupied chiefly in warring against the invading Goths. On the basis of Marcus Aurelius' political philosophy that "what is bad for the hive cannot be good for the bee," Decius began the first universal and systematic persecution of Christians with the deliberate in­ tention of annihilating the Church. The fearful period of torture, imprison­ ment and terror begun by him lasted intermittently from 250 to 259. A ureolus (a . d . 267-268)

While a Caesar was engaged in prolonged campaigns in Persia or Spain and barbarians threatened the leaderless empire, a legion in several in­ stances proclaimed its own general to be the emperor. Thus in 267 Aureolus was proclaimed emperor by his legions in Illyria. He at once made himself master of northern Italy, but he was slain in battle the following year. M arcus A urelius C laudius (268-270)

Originating in an obscure family in Dardania, eastern Illyricum, Mar­ cus Aurelius Claudius rose to distinction as a military leader under the emperors Decius, Valerian and Gallienus. On the death of the latter in 268 he became emperor. At the time hostile pressure from Goths, Germans and Persians threatened to collapse the empire. But in 269 he defeated a great host of Goths near Naissus (or Nissa) in Dardania, for which he was surnamed Gothicus. He died in 270. M arcus A urelius P robus (276-282)

Probus was a native of Sirmium in Pannonia, the northern frontier of Illyricum. Because of his military skill the emperor Tacitus appointed him governor of the east. Upon the emperor's death the armies of Syria forced Probus to take the position. He was enthusiastically and unanimously con­ firmed by the senate, the people and the legions. He brilliantly defeated the barbarians along the frontiers of Gaul and Illyricum and put down several rebellions. But because he required his troops to labor in public works, his own soldiers rose in mutiny against him and killed him in his own home town of Sirmium. A historian writes that Probus "was as just and virtuous

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


as he was warlike, and is deservedly regarded as one of the greatest and best of the Roman emperors" (Smith 1876, 708). V alerius D iocletian (284-305)

Diocletian was born of obscure Dalmatian parentage in the village of Doclea in the basin of the lake of Shkodra, long the capital city of free Il­ lyria. He achieved distinction in the army, serving under Probus, and was proclaimed emperor in 284. As barbarian attacks became more formidable, he associated with himself an Illyrian colleague, Maximianus, who was also given the title of augustus in 286. Maximianus held responsibility for the western empire while Diocletian had that of the eastern regions. The con­ tinuing threat of Persians in the east and barbarian tribes in the north made a further division of responsibility seem necessary. So in 292 Diocletian chose two other Illyrians to serve as caesars: Constantius Chlorus and Galerius. Diocletian had the government of the East; Maximianus, Italy and Africa; Constantius, Britain, Gaul and Spain; while Galerius had IIlyricum up to the Danubian frontier. They carried on successful campaigns against the Britons, Persians and northern barbarians. Diocletian received credit for exceptional statesmanship and his skillful organization of the em­ pire. However, he considered the old Roman religion indispensable for the unity of the empire. Because he considered Christianity divisive, and at the instigation of Galerius, he launched a fierce persecution of the Christians in 303, seeking to exterminate them. This was the greatest stain on the memory of a great and good man. After an anxious reign of 21 years Diocle­ tian longed for peace and quiet. In 305 he abdicated, retiring to coastal Salona (now Split) a few miles north of his birthplace. There he devoted himself to meditation and the care of his gardens. The extensive remains of his magnificent palace are still to be seen. His city in fact soon out­ stripped the older commercial centers of Dyrrhachium and Apollonia. Diocletian, one of Rome's greatest emperors, died in 313. M aximianus (286-305)

The soldier-emperor Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus was also born of humble parentage in Pannonia, northernmost Illyricum near the Danube. He acquired such fame during army service that Diocletian selected this rough soldier to serve with him in troubled times, first as a caesar (285) then as an augustus (286). C onstantius C hlorus (the P ale ) (305-306)

Constantius was the son of a noble Dardanian named Eutropius and was born in eastern Illyricum. Appointed a caesar in 292 by his Illyrian col­ league Diocletian, he was given the government of Britain, Gaul and Spain. After a three-year campaign he succeeded in reestablishing the authority of Rome over Britain. He was equally successful against the warlike Alemanni (German) tribes on the eastern frontier of Gaul. Upon the abdication of

D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n


Diocletian he became an augustus but died 15 months later (306) fighting in Britain at York. G alerius (305-311) Galerius, later to be known as Galerius Valerius Maximianus, was born the son of a shepherd near Sardica (now Sophia) of Moesia, eastern­ most Illyricum. He rose from the ranks to the highest commands in the army and was appointed a caesar by Diocletian in 292. At the same time he was adopted by Diocletian, whose daughter he married, receiving the command of Illyricum and Thrace. Besides successful campaigns against the Persians, he is remembered as a cruel persecutor of the Christians. It was at his instigation that Diocletian issued the fatal decree of 303 which deluged the Roman world with innocent blood. Upon the retirement of Diocletian in 305, Galerius became an augustus or emperor, dying in 311 of "the disgusting disease known as 'morbus pediculosus' (infestation with lice)" (Smith 1876, 487). C onstantine


G reat (306-337)

Constantine, surnamed "the Great," was the oldest son of emperor Constantius Chlorus and was born in 272 at Naissus (now Nissa) of Moesia in eastern Illyricum. He fought beside his father who was killed at the fatal battle of York. Constantine became a caesar (306) then an augustus (308). It was on his way to the crucial battle of Rome's Milvian Bridge that he saw a vision of a luminous cross in the sky and the words "By This Conquer," from which he dated his conversion to Christianity in 312. Fighting against the one remaining emperor, Licinius, he gained control of Illyricum, Macedonia and Achaia (314). In 324 he remained the sole emperor of Rome. Early in his career he issued his famous edict to stop the persecution of Christians (311) and two years later (313) his edict in favor of Christian­ ity. In 325 he convened the Christian Council of Nicea attended by 318 bishops. Possibly to symbolize his break with Rome's pagan past, Constan­ tine left Rome in 326 never to return. He removed the seat of empire to Byzantium which he renamed Constantinople after himself, dedicating it in 330. In his new organization of the empire Illyricum formed one of the great provinces. It was divided into two parts: Illyricum Occidental, which in­ cluded Illyricum proper, Pannonia and Noricum, and Illyricum Orientale which consisted of Dacia, Moesia, Macedonia and Thrace. Constantine was baptized by the church historian Eusebius shortly before his death in 337. His three unworthy sons Constantine, Constantius and Constans suc­ ceeded their father, the latter inheriting Illyricum, Italy and Africa. Julian


A postate (361-363)

Julian, known as Flavius Claudius Julianus, was the nephew of Con­ stantine the Great, and like his uncle he was of Illyrian origin. As a Roman general he became emperor at 30. Because of his obsession for the ancient

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


books of Greece and Rome he was surnamed "The Philosopher." Unlike his famous uncle, however, he reinstituted the persecution of the Christians, attempting to restore once again the worship of the gods and goddesses of his Pelasgian forefathers. His efforts failed, and he became known as Julian the Apostate. FRIN G E BEN EFITS P A R T IA L L Y C O M P E N SA T IN G FO R ROM A N O C C U P A T IO N Limited A utonomy In his historical geography the Greek scholar Strabo paid tribute to the Roman administration of occupied territory when he described Apollonia as "a city governed by excellent laws" (Strabo 1889, 7.5.8). An Italian scholar pointed out that Rome in its occupation of conquered territory "did not represent oppression, but after accomplishing the purposes which led her into the Balkan Peninsula, she left to the Illyrians a broad autonomy which in the hinterland amounted almost to true independence." He added that "on the other hand Rome brought to the Illyrians, often warring among themselves, an organization, a unity, an appearance of statehood which they had never enjoyed under the earlier rule of absolutist families and princes" (Drita, 10 March 1938, 3). We can safely conclude that although these Albanian provinces no longer enjoyed complete independence, they did enjoy a surprising measure of supervised local autonomy. They also did retain their ethnic identity: their language, traditions, costumes and cus­ toms. T rade

and the

Egnatian Highway

The improvement and multiplication of harbors and shipping, the sup­ pression of piracy, the unification of the Mediterranean world, the con­ struction of roads and bridges, these all encouraged the expansion of trade and commerce. Indeed the port of Dyrrhachium (Durrës) became so busy that the Roman poet Catullus singled it out as the "Tavern of the Adriatic" (Smith 1876, 274). Uniquely helpful to Albanian trade with the Balkan world was the system of Roman roads which gradually tied together the whole Roman Empire. These highways were usually made of large, square, flat slabs of stone set in a bed of sand or even mortar. One of the earliest of these highways, the Via Appia, the "Queen of Roman Roads," led from Rome southeastward to Brundisium on the Adriatic Sea opposite Albania. Early in her expansion into the Balkans Rome discovered that both military and commercial considerations demanded a good highway to the East. So they followed an ancient trade route which criss-crossed the Shkumbin River and led from Dyrrhachium eastward to Constantinople. The exact date of this construction is uncertain, but it was some time after their oc­ cupation of Macedonia in 148 b.c . and before the death of Polybius about 117 b .c . who mentioned it in his writings. They had to build many bridges


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

over the turbulent river, leaving the flat road in gravel, but paving the in­ clines with their characteristic large flat stones. The highway itself was a marvel of ancient engineering. The Albanian scholar and patriot Sami Frashëri claimed that the name "Egnatia" originated with the Albanian expression e gjata meaning long (Frashëri, S., 1899, 11). Strabo, writing about Epidamnos (Durrës), enthused about the Egnatian way: "Its direction is toward the east, and the distance is measured by pillars at every mile. . . . The whole distance is 535 miles. . . . The road passes through Lychnidus [Ochrida] a city, and Pylon, a place which separates Illyricum from Macedonia. . . . It continues through Heraclea [Monastir] to Edessa and Pella to Thessalonica. Polybius says this is 267 miles" (Strabo 1889, 7.7.4). The highway extended from Thessalonica to Amphipolis and Philippi on through Thrace to Byzantium. Incidentally, Strabo noted that this highway followed the boundary between Epirus and Illyria. "Traveling from Epidamnos and Apollonia, on the right hand are the Epirotic nations situated on the coast and extending as far as the Gulf of Ambracia (Gulf of Arta). On the left are the Illyrian mountains . . . ex­ tending as far as Macedonia and the Paeones" (Pannonia) (ibid.). Dr. Johan Hahn, the noted Austrian ethnologist and linguist, concluded that the Il­ lyrians were the progenitors of the northern Albanians or Gegs and the Epirotes were the progenitors of the southern Albanians or Tosks. The Via Egnatia followed the Shkumbin River which Albanians have always con­ sidered to be the line of demarcation between the Gegs and the Tosks. This highway opened new markets and facilitated trade. It passed through Lychnidus (Ochrida) already famous for its spring-fed lake 970 feet deep in places, and its fine fish (NAlb 1984, 3:15). Strabo noted that the highway made available its "large supplies of fish for salting" (Strabo 1889, 7.7.8). For centuries fortified habitations had controlled the passes, and small communities had developed there. Now the Romans established military posts and a chain of forts along the highway, and populous com­ munities emerged. The continual passage of Roman legions to and from the East helped control the turbulent area and reassure merchants escorting their caravans to distant markets. But the highway proved to be a mixed blessing. It also facilitated the later eastward movement of the Normans and the Crusaders, also the westward invasions of the Goths, the Bulgarians, the Byzantines and the Ottoman Turks. A griculture Rome proved to be an insatiable market for grain. The ready market and the available transportation encouraged the expansion of agriculture. To assure uninterrupted production the Albanians constructed a stone dam quite unequaled in the Balkans of that period. Built about a .d . 150, the dam in the bed of the Gjanica River near Fier assured the irrigation of the lower agricultural plain. The dam was built of stone blocks forming a wall 436 feet long, averaging 15 feet thick, and about 26 feet high (Liria 12 December

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


1980). Surely those early builders were worthy sons of their Pelasgian ancestors! Wealthy Latin landowners also established estates and farms in some of the most beautiful and productive regions. Atticus, for instance, the friend of Cicero, is said to have set up a plantation in the region of Butrint (Drita 10 March 1938). In fact, coins bearing the name of Butrint went into circulation only when the city became a Roman colony (Liria 25 February 1977). Such coins minted in cities all along the coastal plains bear agricultural symbols such as a stalk of wheat, a plough, a bee or beehive and a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, giving evidence of the central impor­ tance of agriculture in their economy. Roman C ultural


Religious C ontributions

The Romans like the Greeks "enlarged and beautified" the cities they occupied. Old fortifications were strengthened by the Romans, and new fortifications were built. While the Illyrian city of Lissos (Lezha) was founded about 385 b.c ., the city's inner gate was added by the Romans about the first century b .c . (Korkuti 1971, 12). They also fortified and beautified the old Illyrian capital city of Shkodra and its famous Rozafat fortress (Tom ori 17 March 1940). But the many cultural monuments were of far greater importance. Theaters. The "truly Romanized" Dyrrhachium, for instance, has yielded to archeologists the well-preserved remains of the amphitheater built at the beginning of the first century a .d . This was the biggest and most important amphitheater in the Balkans. It was also one of the largest struc­ tures in this important port city, its diameter of about 400 feet comparing favorably with that of the amphitheater at Pompeii (Liria 11 June 1976). Its tiers of stone benches rising 35 feet and seating 15,000 to 20,000 spectators, its galleries and subterranean corridors, all are reminiscent of the Roman colosseum (Korkuti 1971, 101- 2). Here the populace was entertained with artistic performances or contests between gladiators or with wild beasts. Water systems. Romans were famous for their aqueducts and water systems which were also introduced into some Albanian cities. In the hills below Butrint are the remains of what is probably the oldest aqueduct discovered in Albania, built in the first or second century in the Roman tradition. A symbol of this aqueduct is proudly stamped on coins minted at the time by the city's administration (Liria 18 March 1977). A more com­ plex system was that at Durrës of the second century which drew water from Lake Erzen. There were underground canals, raised aqueducts and a system of controls to distribute the water throughout the city by lead pipes, like those at Pompeii. Later, ceramic pipes and stone masonry were used (FESH1985,1129-30). The public baths of the first century at Durrës have been discovered under that city's very modern theater. There are also many masonry chambers and flues through which heat was distributed to the rooms. One of these well-preserved chambers is paved with black and white marble slabs arranged like a chess board. Understandably, the


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r is t ia n iz a tio n

ground floor of this theater is now a museum (Korkuti 1971, X). Public ther­ mal baths were found in numerous other places. At Butrint the remains of five public baths have been found (FESH1985,134), one of which was prob­ ably the largest building in the city. The big cooling room or "frigidarium" had its floor paved with black and white mosaic stone arranged in geometric designs (Liria 11 March 1977). The bath at Apollonia also featured mosaic floors. The remains of an ancient sewer system were un­ earthed in Durrës (Liria 18 June 1976, 4). Libraries. The discovery of five tablets in a memorial urn indicated the existence of a public library in Durrës back in the second century (Liria 11 July 1980, 3). Libraries are mentioned in Apollonia and Durrës in the first century and Finiq in the second century (FESH 1985, 94). The library at Apollonia undoubtedly helped establish the reputation of that city as a center of art, philosophy and oratory (Korkuti 1971, 67, 91). The Romans did encourage education and schools, and because their noble families did prize such training for their youth, it is highly probable that they were partly responsible for the founding of the famous Academy at Apollonia. W orks o f Art. During the Roman period Apollonia also became famous for its own school of sculpture, a number of examples of which have come to light. At Butrint a famous head, the "Goddess of Butrint," has been recovered and is thought to be a second century reproduction of the fourth century b . c . work of the Athenian school of Praxiteles. Inscriptions in the city of Apollonia and on its tombstones include numerous Illyrian names. Here also have been recovered rich collections of coins, ceramics and terra-cottas. Exquisite stone carvings were found on a second century sarcophagus unearthed at Durrës (Korkuti 1971, 107-8) and on tomb­ stones, statues and busts. There was also found a bronze figurine of Eros and a dolphin of the third century similar to the large sculptures which were used to ornament the fountains in the gardens of the wealthy (ibid., 120 ).

Mosaics. Occasional mosaic pictures made of small colored stones were introduced into Albania as early as the middle of the fourth century b . c . on the floors of public buildings or the homes of the wealthy. This art really flourished, however, in the first two centuries of our era, when the small colored stones were replaced by small cubes cut from stone, baked clay, marble or glass. Early mosaics were usually made with black cubes on a white background, like the 15-by-33-foot mosaic at Durrës, with different geometric figures and scenes from marine mythology. Similar mosaics were found at Butrint and especially at Apollonia. Mosaics of the later Roman period used color more frequently and were of a higher artistic level. The earlier geometric and floral themes were replaced by mytho­ logical figures. One such polychrome of the early third century at Apol­ lonia pictures a Nereid or sea nymph mounted on a dolphin and surrounded by sea animals and fish. In the same house a mosaic shows Achilles and the battle with the Amazons. Four multicolored groups of figures appear on a

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


white background. One such 13-by-15-foot mosaic contains 180,000 small stone cubes (NAlb 1985, 6:30-31). Shrines and Temples. The religion of the Romans was similar to that of the Greeks, probably because of their common origin according to tradi­ tion. The supreme Roman god of the skies was Jupiter, corresponding to the Greek god Zeus. His wife Juno was like Hera, Minerva like Athena, Neptune like Poseidon and Venus like Aphrodite. Apollo, Hercules, Mer­ cury and Aesculapius were so recognized by both. But there was a subtle difference. The Romans like the Greeks made the gods in their own image. The Greeks had more genius, originality, imagination, versatility, delicacy, artistry, emotionalism, and both tragedy and comedy. The Ro­ mans were characterized more by stability, inflexibility, endurance, disci­ pline, virility, duty, justice, and legalism. Roman mythology had little place for the fanciful stories of the births, loves and romantic adventures of the Greek gods and stressed heroic characters and deeds. Their worship was more methodical, a duty or debt owed to the gods. Indeed their very word "religion" had the same root as to bind or obligate. It denoted the duty or service owed by men to the gods for their protection and favor. This duty had to be legalistically discharged according to certain fixed regu­ lations. The Romans made little religious contribution to occupied Albania. Occasional temples, shrines and statues were erected to the familiar gods during the Roman period. Thus a temple of the first century dedicated to the Nymphs was discovered at Butrint near the tower gate. It had a semicir­ cular façade with three niches for marble statues of the goddesses, and basins, all faced with multicolored marble (FESH 1985, 758). There also was a small temple of Aesculapius, the god of health, built during the sec­ ond century on the foundation of a yet more ancient religious structure ad­ joining the theater (Liria 11 March 1977). Some of these imported religious expressions penetrated surprisingly far inland. At Korcha near the village of Shëngjergj is a limestone cave extending 40 feet back into the mountain called Mali i Thatë (Dry Mountain). Fascinating archeological materials have been found there: ceramic vessels painted with black varnish, bronze ornaments, earrings, clasps, rings, brooches and bracelets, as well as coins dating from the fourth century b . c . to the fourth century a . d . One of the most interesting among these was a "bronze statuette five inches tall representing the goddess Diana (the Greek Artemis) standing on a slightly inclined square pedestal. The left foot is placed forward, and the right foot rests on its toes, with the heel raised showing Diana in motion. She wears leather sandals. In the palm of her left hand she holds a hemispherical bowl. Her right hand is raised to shoulder height and is reaching toward the sheaf of arrows behind her right arm. This shows two of Diana's roles: huntress and giver of gifts. This type first emerged during the Roman period" (Liria 14 January 1977, 2 ) but differed only slightly from the Artemis already familiar to the Greeks and the Albanians.


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r is t ia n iz a tio n

A radical change was soon to come, not from the west but from the east, and thanks in part to the Via Egnatia. THE IN T R O D U C T IO N OF C H R IS T IA N IT Y T O A LBA N IA T he O rigin


C hristianity

Christianity began with the birth of Jesus Christ in Roman-occupied Palestine. He announced himself as the long-awaited Messiah and Savior. He taught with authority, performed marvelous works of power and mercy and claimed to be a perfect man and incarnate God and the world's only way to God. He was falsely accused, crucified with two common thieves and buried. Three days later his despondent followers saw him in bodily form resurrected from the dead. He commanded them to proclaim the Christian gospel to every nation with the assurance that all who trusted him would be forgiven their sins and become children of God for eternity. While the Apostle Peter exercised a special ministry to the Jewish people, a converted Jewish fanatic named Paul focused his ministry on the Gentile or non-Jewish world. Missionary journeys took him throughout Asia Minor, into the Balkan Peninsula and Italy. Little could the Roman gover­ nor of Palestine imagine that the crucified Jewish teacher and the peripatetic preacher Paul would some day revolutionize his Roman world. Nor could the new Christians persecuted so bitterly by one Illyrian emperor of Rome imagine that his successor, another Illyrian emperor, would halt the persecution and make the proscribed religion the official religion of the em­ pire. But that is just what happened. C hristian Penetration


A lbania D uring


A postolic A ge

Christianity in Albania claims apostolic foundation. The geographical position of Albania makes this almost inevitable. The Christian gospel was first planted in Europe by the Apostle Paul at Philippi in Macedonia (Acts of the Apostles 16:12). Traveling westward on the Via Egnatia he then preached at Thessalonica, the largest city on this great highway. This in turn became the center from which Christianity radiated to Athens and Corinth, also to the province of Illyricum. It is interesting to note how closely Paul's missionary journeys followed these Roman highways, and along them extends the chain of early churches. Indeed, a trip of 150 miles along the Egnatian highway from Thessalonica westward would penetrate to the very heart of Albania. The Apostle Paul traveled that road. On his third itinerary, about a .d . 59, he wrote to the Christian church at Rome that "from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ" (Letter to the Romans 15:19). The Greek preposition "unto" is somewhat ambiguous, admitting either an exclusive or inclusive usage. Paul did not state unequivocally whether he had taken the Christian gospel as far as the Illyrian frontier or whether he had actually penetrated the province itself.

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


The Roman Catholic historian Farlati claims that the church of Durrës was the most ancient in Albania, having been founded by the Apostle Paul while preaching in Illyria and Epirus (Hecquard 1857, 480). He also noted that in a . d . 58 there were 70 Christian families at Durrës, having for bishop one Caesar or Apollonius. Another historian, Lavardin, when writing about the antiquities of the Dukagjin family of the northern mountains mentioned that "in the interior of this region can be seen monuments of marble, on which can still (1576) be read the names of many emperors, Romans and others, and among these, certain remarks or testimonies by which it is evident that St. Paul the apostle preached the Law of the Son of God to the people" (Lavardin 1621, 47). Unfortunately, Lavardin is no more explicit than this, and he seems to have held a monopoly on this infor­ mation. A Roman Catholic scholar names a Greek historian, Menalog, who mentioned the martyrdom of St. Astio, Bishop of Durrës, on 7 July during the persecutions conducted by the emperor Trajan during his reign (a . d . 98-117), and two martyrs, Florian and Laurin, from Ulpiana near modern Prishtina, killed during the reign of Hadrian (a . d . 117-138) (ACB 1988, 111). Further firm evidence is lacking, however. One can only conjec­ ture. So let us do that. The Christian gospel could have reached Albania through the Illyrian soldiers who predominated in the famous Praetorian Guard. These men were housed in their barracks called the "praetorium" and were responsible for guarding the palaces of the Roman emperors and governors. These im­ perial guards had two exceptional opportunities to become acquainted with the new Christian religion. First, when the Roman provincial governor Pilate turned Jesus Christ over to the soldiers for crucifixion, they "led him away into the hall called Praetorium, and called together the whole band" (Gospel of Mark, 15:16). The brutal soldiery mocked, abused and finally crucified their captive. And it was one of them who at Christ's death voiced what others of their number must have concluded by then: "Truly this man was the son of God!" (Mark, 15:39). Some years later the elite Illyrian guardsmen had another excellent op­ portunity to hear the message of Christ from the Apostle Paul. They would have heard his reasoned defense when arrested at Jerusalem (Acts, 22) and during his lengthy detention at the praetorium at Caesarea. Interestingly enough, although the translations had Paul confined in Herod's "judgment hall" or his "palace," the Greek text specifies that he was kept in "Herod's praetorium" (Acts, 23:35). Then later in a . d . 64 during his imprisonment at Rome the Apostle wrote that his "bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace," but again the Greek text specifies "all the praetorium" (Letter to the Philippians 1:12-13). In those same verses he assured the Christians in Philippi that his imprisonment had resulted in "the furtherance of the gospel." Undoubtedly, his two years of imprisonment and Christian witness to the rotating Illyrian guardsmen would have brought conversions among them as it did among the servants of "Caesar's household" (Philip-


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

pians, 4:22). Thereafter when these men returned to their Albanian homes on furlough the Christian faith would have reached their families and friends. But although very probable, this too is conjecture. Paul may well have visited southern Albania personally. Writing to his assistant Titus after release from the first Roman imprisonment, Paul charged him, "Be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis, for there I have determined to winter" (Letter to Titus, 3:12). It is generally conceded that of the several "Victory Cities" in the ancient world, Paul was referring to this more important Nicopolis, a well-known winter resort on the Ambracian Gulf just below Corfu. This was a chief city of Epirus, connected to the Via Egnatia and Durrës by a branch highway through Buthrotum (Butrint), Apollonia (Pojani) and Clodiana (Peqin). Paul must have had Christian acquaintances in Nicopolis, for he would never propose winter­ ing there unless he was sure of his welcome. It is possible that Paul had taken this route down to Achaia after having preached "even unto IIlyricum." We shall probably never know. History is silent also as to whether Paul ever did actually realize his plan to winter at this riviera port of southern Albania. Even if actual visits of the Apostle Paul to Illyricum are questioned in these instances, it is impossible to question the visit of his assistant Titus. While imprisoned at Rome Paul wrote that Titus had gone to Dalmatia, a district of Illyricum (Second Letter to Timothy, 4:10). But we have nothing further about the character of his mission there. The alleged mission of the Apostle Andrew rests on an even less substantial basis. He is reported to have preached in the vicinity of Albania, for St. Gregory of Nazianzus in a .d . 380 associated him with Epirus (Schaff 1893, 33:2.7.332). Six centuries later Nicephorus declared that Andrew in his missionary ministry passed through Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly and Achaia (Migne 1865, 2.2.39). As early as the second century a heretic, Leucius Charinus, writing about the apostles, referred to Andrew's mission and martyrdom in Epirus at Patras, 75 miles south of Nicopolis (Epiphanius, 61:1; 63:2). An allegedly contemporary encyclical letter of the priests and deacons of Achaia tells the story (Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1:471; 6:737). Thus we have several tradi­ tions which indicate the evangelization by the apostles or their associates in southern Illyricum and northern Epirus. But the foundation of Chris­ tianity elsewhere in Albania during the apostolic age, although possible or even probable, is not explicitly stated. C hristianity


A lbania Until


D ivision

of the

Empire (a .d . 395)

Information on the existence of Christian churches in Albania during this post-apostolic period is also unfortunately vague. Before the end of the first century Ignatius, bishop of Antioch and martyr, declared enthusias­ tically that "bishops were settled everywhere to the utmost bounds of the earth" (ANCL 1867, 3:1.50. Cf. 117:1.258; 2:3.106; 3:7.302). While these many similar statements of contemporary church leaders can hardly be

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


accepted literally, they certainly do bear witness to the extensive if not the intensive propagation of the Christian gospel throughout the empire. Yet the status of Christianity in Albania at this early period is admittedly obscure. An authoritative German church historian, Adolf Harnack, has stated cautiously, "We have but a faint knowledge of Christianity in the Balkan peninsula (the diocese of Illyricum) during the first centuries. No outstanding figures emerge . . . the large part of the peninsula cannot have had more than a scanty population of Christians up till 325" (Harnack 1908, 2:230-31). The equally prominent Catholic historian Duchesne wrote that we have little light on the Christian churches of Greece at the end of the second century and no particulars as to the countries farther north (Duchesne 1905, 1:190). The North African church father Tertullian, however, did affirm (ca. 204) the early existence of churches in the "bar­ baric" provinces north of Greece. He wrote, "Throughout Greece and cer­ tain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of churches keep their virgins covered. . .. But I have proposed as models those churches which were founded by apostles or apostolic men" (ANCL 1867, 2:4.27). No specific provinces are named, but Macedonia, Epirus and Illyricum were all con­ sidered barbarian by the Greeks. The saintly martyr Ignatius was in a position to have enlightened us on early Albanian Christianity, but he left us no record of what he observed there. Condemned to death by the emperor Trajan, chained and guarded, Ignatius was hurried from Antioch to Rome and martyrdom (ca. 110). Sail­ ing from Smyrna to Troas to Neapolis, he went on foot "by Philippi through Macedonia, and on to that part of Epirus which is near to Epidamnus (Durrës); and finding a ship in one of the seaports he sailed over the Adriatic sea" (ANCL 1867, 1.295). Ignatius described the journey thus: "From Syria even unto Rome I fight with beasts both by land and sea, both by night and day, being bound to 10 leopards, I mean a band of soldiers, who, even when they receive benefits show themselves the worse" (ibid., 1.75). These "benefits" were probably gifts presented to the soldiers by sym­ pathizing Christians along the way, hoping that the aged Ignatius might be treated more kindly. Referring to the churches en route, he wrote, "The churches received me in the name of Jesus Christ and not as a mere pas­ serby. For even those churches which were not near to me in the way, I mean according to the flesh, have gone before me, city by city, to meet me" (ibid., 1.77). This letter was written from Smyrna, however, before reaching Europe. We have no later document from him, so shall probably never know whether there were Christian churches along the Via Egnatia in Albania to extend the same expressions of love and sympathy. Nicopolis in Epirus was known as an early center of the Christian church. It seems that one of its members was elected to the papal throne. According to the Liber Pontificalis, Pope Eleutherius (ca. 174-189) was a native of Nicopolis. The Christian theologian Origen (185-254) visited Nicopolis and found there a version of the Old Testament hitherto unknown


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

to him. Eusebius (2647-340), the historian, described Origen's zeal in col­ lecting and studying biblical manuscripts: "These he searched up and traced to I know not what ancient lurking places, where they had lain hidden from remote times, and brought them to the light. In which, when it was doubt­ ful to him from what author they came, he only added the remark that he had found this translation at Nicopolis near Axium (Actium), but the other translation in such a place" (Eusebius 1879, 6.16). So, concluded Harnack, there must have been local Christians there at the time (Harnack 1908, 2 : 10 ). The early martyrologies compiled by the church alluded to no martyrs in southern Illyria or northern Epirus. Probably the earliest persecutions would have had little bearing on these regions. The Neronian outbreak following the Great Fire ( a . d . 64) was confined to Rome. Trajan's proscrip­ tion of Christianity as a criminal offense against the state (a . d . I ll ) brought sharp local outbreaks in the more thoroughly Christianized regions, such as Asia Minor, North Africa, Gaul and Italy. Yet the actual number of mar­ tyrdoms in this early period seems to have been comparatively small. While no estimate of the Christian population is possible, Harnack placed IIlyricum in his third category, where Christianity was thinly scattered, and probably for this reason escaped prominence in the martyrologies. Yet there were some Illyrian martyrs. Hecquard wrote that among the three bishops of the early church cited in Farlati's Illyricum Sacrum, the second, St. Astius of Durrës, was martyred under this same Trajan, together with seven Romans who had fled persecution in Rome and had sought refuge at Dyrrhachium (Hecquard 1857, 479-80). How strange it is that Illyrians were responsible both for the systematic persecution of Christianity, and later for its establishment as the official religion of the empire. The Illyrian emperor Decius undertook the first universal and most vicious persecution to stamp out Christianity. Follow­ ing a series of Illyrian soldier-emperors, the great Illyrian Diocletian made his native Salona, just above Shkodra, the administrative seat of the prov­ ince of Illyricum. He erected there his magnificent Palace of Diocletian. Under imperial patronage the city rapidly flourished, putting even Dyr­ rhachium into eclipse. Christianity in Illyricum seems also to have centered in Salona, where a wealth of inscriptions reveals a considerable Christian presence. The otherwise benign reign of the statesman Diocletian was stained by bitter persecutions (303-11) instigated by the two fanatical Il­ lyrians Maximian and Galerius. So many Christians died here that the authorities erected a monument bearing the Latin words "Extincto nomene Christianorum" (The name of Christian is extinguished) (M oody 1978, 6:7). But it was just one year after the retirement of Diocletian (305) that another Illyrian, Constantine, became a caesar, then an augustus. In 313 he issued his famous Edict of Milan guaranteeing religious toleration. This freedom from persecution was not made effective in the eastern empire until his defeat of a co-emperor, the persecuting Licinius, in 323. Then Constantine

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


seized complete control of the empire and established Christianity as the religion of the state. Thus the first and last great persecutions of the church as well as the peace of the church came alike from Illyrian hands. C ouncil of N icea , a .d . 325

In his effort to sink deep foundations for his newly established state church, Constantine called the first ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325. The representative attendance of 318 bishops from all over the empire is im­ portant because it indicates the expansion of the Christian church during the preceding difficult centuries. The existence of Christianity in the Balkans is indicated by 13 signatures of bishops present at Nicea, of whom three came from localities very near present-day Albania: the bishops of Scupi (later Uskup, now Skopje), Stobi (in Macedonia north of Thessalonica) and Corcyra (Corfu). Harnack indicates that Christian centers were existent in 325 at Nicopolis, Buthrotum (Butrint) and Corcyra (Corfu) (Harnack 1908, 13). R eorganization of the Empire

The establishment of the Christian religion brought immediate relief from the series of bloody persecutions. Constantine's celebrated "Sunday Edict" of a . d . 321 adopted the Christian's holy day as the official holy day of the empire and gave the Christians unaccustomed status. But social change would come about more gradually. During that fourth century the bloody games of the amphitheater were prohibited. Promptly the galleries of the famous Durrës amphitheater were altered, one being turned into a chapel with mural mosaics of the Byzantine style. Archeological excava­ tions in 1987 revealed a second gallery adapted to Christian worship. On the walls four human figures were distinguishable, painted with water colors on the plaster. One of these figures depicts a young girl with a royal crown on her head, dressed in an ornamented robe. On the right side of the badly damaged painting is an inscription in Greek reading, "Saint. . . , " her name, however, being no longer legible (NAlb 1988, 1:35). During this fourth century the slave-owning system also began to decay, leading in turn to the decay of the cities. This was especially true along the Adriatic coast where the discontinuance of slave labor cut back the production of goods, which in turn reduced commercial interchange. Certain cities such as Apollonia, Antigonea and Zgërdhesh near Kruja were gradually abandoned. Other cities with a more advantageous geographical position strengthened their fortifications and remained important centers, such as Shkodra, Lezha, Durrës and Antipatrea (Berat). In most of the Il­ lyrian territories, however, there was an appreciable increase of rural set­ tlements. Archeologists report a much greater number of agricultural implements in the necropolises of these rural settlements. The slave labor system had led to rather broad trade relations which now seemed inter­ rupted. The production of handcrafts was on a smaller scale and designed


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

mainly for local consumption. Traditional Roman art forms disappeared, and local Illyrian art revived, featuring the craftsmen, peasants and especially the typical Illyrian figures and garments (AT 1983, 3:41-42). The establishment of the Christian religion soon brought new prob­ lems. Eleven years later, Constantine dramatized his departure from pagan Rome by dedicating imperial Constantinople as a New Rome. He estab­ lished a "symphonic" relation between the new state and the Christian church. He recognized the church as autonomous, having final authority over doctrinal matters, while the state would protect the church and main­ tain uniformity. Constantine called himself in relation to the church, its "bishop in externals." Thus he determined the peculiar character of the Eastern church under the Bishop of Constantinople. The church's prox­ imity to the imperial court led to its infection by courtly conflicts and in­ trigues. The clergy soon became characterized by worldly ambition and servility to worldly men. In the West, the church had more firmness of character, being also protected by distance from the dangers of imperial pastronage. But the Christian emperor, who by his decrees and ecumenical council had sought to unify Christendom, had by his creation of New Rome given rise to a rivalry which was to exercise the most profoundly adverse influence in preparing the church to resist the coming Muslim invasions. Illyricum, lying midway between these rival giants, became a bone of contention. Her allegiance became the cause of a protracted and jealous en­ mity between Constantinople and Rome, as well as the prize of countless intrigues. Constantine's symphonic relationship between church and state was partly responsible, as was his inappropriate partition of Illyricum. For his reorganization of the empire recognized four great divisions called prefectures: Gaul, Italy, Illyricum and the East. These were subdivided into 13 dioceses, and these in turn were divided into 116 provinces. The Balkan peoples were split up unnaturally. The provinces of Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus, Hellas, Crete and Praevalis (Dalmatia south to Epirus) composed the diocese of Macedonia, which with the northeasterly diocese of Dacia formed the prefecture of Illyricum. The northwesterly provinces between Dalmatia and the Danube formed the diocese of Illyricum under the prefec­ ture of Italy. Then the eastern Balkan diocese of Thrace came under the prefecture of the East. Under this clumsy arrangement, one part of the old Roman Illyricum was attached to Rome, another part to Constantinople, and the heartland between the two was contestable. To compound the misfortune, Constantine's symphonic relationship between church and state determined ecclesiastical organization on the basis of the political organization. Henceforth, the church was inextricably joined to the divided state. Political vicissitudes would have their ecclesiastical counterparts. And there would be plenty of each. Church leaders in the great centers assumed ecclesiastical authority over their regional church leaders com­ parable to that of the civil authorities over their regional officials. The bishops of Constantinople, Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria

The Roman Period (168 B.C.-A.D. 395)


competed among themselves for primacy just like their political counter­ parts. During the turbulent period following Constantine, Theodosius I surnamed "the Great" became emperor of the prefecture of the East responsible for prosecuting war with the Goths. For geographic and strategic reasons the two great dioceses of Macedonia and Dacia which constituted the pre­ fecture of Illyricum were temporarily added to the dominions of the eastern empire. Then on the death of Theodosius in 395 the Roman Empire was for­ mally and permanently divided between his two sons Honorius and Arcadius who ruled over the western and eastern empires respectively. The northern Illyrian provinces of Noricum, Pannonia and Dalmatia were in the diocese of Illyricum, and so politically and ecclesiastically were part of the western empire. On the other hand, the Illyrian provinces constituting the diocese of Macedonia were permanently united to the eastern empire. But incredibly, while these latter provinces came politically under Constan­ tinople, they remained ecclesiastically under Rome. This unfortunate discrepancy between the political and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the prefecture of Illyricum provided the perfect occasion for competing bishops to express their growing rivalry and to test their comparative strengths. This date marks the transition from ancient to mediaeval history. More significant, this age-old religious divisiveness handicapped the Albanian population in their effort to resist the Ottoman invasion and to survive the Ottoman occupation. Even more significant, this religious divisiveness still later provided the Marxists with their rationale for outlawing all religion and substituting Albanianism as the unifying alternative.

7. The Byzantine Period (395-489) C o n stan tin ople

Constantinople, capital of the eastern empire of Rome, was built on the site of old Byzantium, dominating the Bosphorus Strait and the en­ trance to the Black Sea. Its commercial and military importance had led to its frequent occupation by the Macedonians and Romans and its partial destruction. Constantine rebuilt it on seven hills like western Rome. It con­ tinued as the capital of the Roman empire of the East until its capture by the Turks in 1453. I n c rea sin g P ressu re fro m the G oths

This Germanic people originated on the Baltic coast, gradually in­ filtrating southward. By a . d . 250 they had occupied much of Dacia just north of the Danube. In fact, marauding expeditions had penetrated to the southernmost parts of the Balkan Peninsula. There were two branches of the Goths. The Visigoths or western Goths sent their armies into Gaul, Italy and Spain, plundering Rome itself in 410. The Ostrogoths or eastern Goths descended into the Balkans, even threatening Constantinople. The Ostrogoths embraced Christianity, however, and it was for their use that Ulfilas translated the Scriptures into Gothic about 350. Pressed by the more barbaric Huns, in 370 the Christian Goths begged Constantinople for an asylum south of the fortified centers along the Danube. Bringing their arms with them, however, they revolted again and again. In 386 Theodosius in­ corporated 40,000 Goths into his imperial army. Upon his death the empire was divided between his two young sons. Reigning at Constantinople, Arcadius, then only 18, came under the influence of a cunning unprincipled Gothic diplomat named Rufinus. Because Rome as well as Constantinople wished to control Illyricum, Arcadius sent Alaric and his army of Goths to ravage and seize Macedonia and Greece. On the murder of Rufinus, Ar­ cadius appointed Alaric as the duke of Illyricum and sent him to ravage It­ aly. Honorius, emperor of the West, adopted the strategy of his brother Arcadius. He made Alaric a general in 403 and commissioned him to 146

The Byzantine Period (395-489)

14 7

conquer Illyricum for the western empire. Outrages committed by Honorius against his Gothic troops in Italy, however, brought Alaric back to plunder Rome in 410, dying later that year. Another Gothic leader, Odoacer, made himself ruler of Italy in 476, capturing Rome and bringing the western empire to a close. But strangely enough, the senate of Rome and Odoacer himself agreed that he would rule not as king, but as prefect of Italy in nominal subjection to Zeno of Constantinople. This led to a more or less united Roman Empire based at Constantinople. E c c lesia stic a l R iv a lr y betw een E ast and W est

The political wrangling between East and West had its ecclesiastical counterpart, which worked out to the disadvantage of Albania. For Albania at the time was subject to the more effete oriental Constantinople rather than to the more virile Rome. For some years, the Byzantine govern­ ment had been largely managed by women. The successor of Arcadius, Theodosius II, was dominated his entire reign (408-450) by his sister Pulcheria. Furthermore, the speculative Greek mind was obsessed with metaphysical aspects of Christian theology, such as the relationship be­ tween the two natures of Christ. Heated controversy was heard even in the streets. In the interests of unity the emperor exercised his high prerogative of personally deciding doctrinal disputes and dictating decisions. As a result the clergy lost their independence and became abjectly subservient to the emperor. While in the West the Roman popes found it relatively easy to dominate the political leaders, in the East the state dominated the church. Traditionally, Thessalonica had been the ecclesiastical center of Balkan Christianity. In order to retain his influence there, the Roman bishop had made it a practice to reserve to himself the appointment of the bishop of Thessalonica. In 421 the unhappy patriarch of Constantinople, Atticus, obtained from his emperor, Theodosius the Younger, a decree assigning to Constantinople the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Illyricum. The pope appealed to Honorius, emperor of the West, who intervened to annul the decree and return Illyricum to the West. To strengthen his position, Pope Leo I (440-461) amplified the authority of the bishop of Thessalonica over the churches of Illyricum. Tensions increased. An earlier Council of Constantinople in 381 had decreed the bishop of Constantinople second to the bishop of Rome. But now the Council of Chalcedon (451) by its 28th canon declared the two of equal privilege. The dispute between the patriarch of the East and the pope of the West became more acrid. Pope Leo of course rejected this canon, basing his claim to primacy no longer on the political preeminence of Rome, but on the religious preeminence of Peter. But while the Council of Chalcedon did subject other dioceses to the patriarch of Constantinople, it gave him no authority over Illyricum. Heated correspondence between Constantinople and Rome resulted in mutual excommunications in 484. The actual extent of the jurisdiction of


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

Thessalonica over Illyricum was diminished, however, not by patriarch or pope, but by the first of many barbarian invasions, that of the Goths. A lba n ia under C o n stan tin ople

At this time relatively little is known of internal affairs in Albania. At the reorganization of the empire in 395 Albania was divided into three districts. There was High Albania also called Praevalis which extended from the Zetes and Moracia valleys southward to the Shkumbin River. Central Albania or New Epirus extended from the Shkumbin River to the Voiosa (Vjosa) River emptying into the Adriatic near Vlora. Then Southern Albania, also called Ancient Epirus extended from the Vjosa River to the Gulf of Arta or Ambracia (Orient 17 January 1912, 3). Illyrians gave to the early Christian Church one of its most celebrated church fathers and theologians, St. Jerome, called Hieronymus (340-420). He was born at Stridon on the northern frontier of Dalmatia and is remembered especially for his Bible translation known as the Latin Vulgate. Christians apparently flourished in old Dodona, for a bishop of Dodona at­ tended the Council of Ephesus in 431 (Smith 1876, 268). Also attending that council was Eucario, bishop of Durrës, and Felix, bishop of Apollonia (Pouq 1826, 1:357). Shkodra became an archbishopric on the formation of Praevalis and was represented at Ephesus by its second known archbishop, Senecius. The archbishop of Shkodra had under him the bishops of Dulcigno and Drivasto, north and east of Shkodra respectively, and was himself subject to the primate of eastern Illyricum residing at Thessalonica. Farlati discovered the names of six of the archbishops of Shkodra and 45 bishops (Hecquard 1857, 475). We also know that a common soldier, a native Illyrian, rose to be emperor of the East following Theodosius. He was known as Marcianus, ruling from 450 to 457 (Smith 1876, 477).

8. Occupation of Albania by the Goths (489-535) As early as 376 the Goths had been permitted to cross the Danube to escape the terrible Huns. For a half century the Goths had halted Hun ex­ pansion. But under Attila, "the scourge of God," they too crossed the Danube and laid waste much of Illyricum in 441 and 442. In the process they destroyed 70 cities and forced the eastern emperor to pay a heavy tribute, besides ceding to them the lower bank of the Danube. Once again in 447 Attila ravaged the Balkans, penetrating far into Greece. His cam­ paigns have been likened to a violent tempest, destructive for the moment, but the traces of which soon disappear. Unlike the fierce Huns, the Goths came to occupy and enjoy the region. Their soldiers enlisted in the army of the emperor and proved helpful in resisting the Huns. Theodoric, who as a youth had lived at the court of Constantinople and had defended the emperor, became king of the Ostrogoths. The emperor Zeno encouraged him to move against Italy. A host of 200,000 fighting men with their families and goods followed Theodoric to victory and a long reign of justice and peace. In 489 he extended his dominion by negotiation more than by war and included Illyricum as well as other provinces to the north and west and Italy and Gaul. Although he was illiterate, he fostered agriculture, manufacturing, trade, learning, laws, peace and respect for religions. He is quoted as saying, "Let other kings seek to procure booty, or the downfall of conquered nations. Our purpose is, with God's help, so to conquer that our subjects shall lament only that they have so late come under our rule" (Fisher 1885, 212). The Ostrogothic kingdom fell in 552, and as a nation the Goths vanished from history. It appears that a young man named Anastasius of Durrës was installed on the throne at Constantinople to rule from 491 to 518. Anastasius I, as he became known, came from an important senatorial family of Illyrian blood in Durrës. He attempted to restore the Byzantine empire by strengthening its finances. This enabled him to reinforce the fortifications at Durrës, building its famous castle and improving its defense system with three surrounding walls and four towers (FESH1985, 24, 473). He also built 149


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r is t ia n iz a tio n

the hippodrome. Apparently, however, the anti-eastern sentiment of the "Romanized" Dyrrhachium overcame any pride over the fact that a local boy had made good. An Albanian scholar observed, "Everyone would im­ agine that all Durrës people would be proud that one of their sons had reached this level. Not so. Durrës people despised him, and in a tablet which was unearthed, dirty words were expressed against him" (Drita 4 May 1940, 2). This Byzantine emperor from Durrës would soon be followed by a far greater Albanian emperor, Justinian, from Ochrida.

9. Byzantine Rule Once Again (535-861) After years under the Goths, Illyricum was restored to the Byzantine empire in 535 by Justinian (527-565), the Illyrian emperor of Constanti­ nople. He divided Illyricum into western and eastern Illyricum. Wishing to honor the place of his birth, he built up Ochrida near Korcha. Renaming it Justiniana Prima, he made it an administrative center and the residence of the archbishop of Illyricum. Being zealously Eastern or Orthodox, he released Illyricum from obedience to Roman Catholic Thessalonica and placed under its jurisdiction Praevalis, Dardania, New Epirus, the two Moesias and the two Dacias. These provincial borders varied continually. At this time Praevalis extended from the Shkumbin River northward to the Zetes and Moracia valleys, Dardania extended eastward to include the Kosova region, and New Epirus extended from the Shkumbin southward to the Vjosa River. Much of these regions composes present-day Albania. By this administrative reorganization Roman Catholic Shkodra found itself placed under the ecclesiastical oversight of Orthodox Ochrida. Only the eastern part of Illyricum still remained subject to Thessalonica, and in com­ munion with Rome. The armies of Justinian, led by an outstanding Illyrian general, Belisarius, won decisive campaigns against the Vandals, the Goths and the Bulgarians. The emperor adorned Constantinople with many magnificent public buildings, including the great temple of St. Sophia and numberless fortresses. He also sought to draw up a perfect code of law for the empire. But he loved pomp and extravagance. All these activities led to crushing taxation. Yet the reign of this Albanian emperor is said to have been the most brilliant period of Byzantine history after Constantine. Archeological excavations in Albania have revealed a new creative ac­ tivity at this period, not only in military and civil construction, but especially in the construction of churches, their mosaics and their decorative patterns. Among recent discoveries belonging to the sixth cen­ tury are the basilica of Saranda with over 1,600 square feet of multicolored mosaic floors, the basilica of Ballsh near Fier with very rich decorative sculpture, and the basilica of Arpaj near Durrës which appears to be one 151


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

of the largest buildings for Christian worship ever discovered in the coun­ try. In fact, the remains of over 30 such Christian basilicas have been un­ earthed in recent years. One of the well-preserved Byzantine church structures built during this period, about 550, is the Baptistry at Buthrotum (Butrint). The building is circular in form, 44 feet in diameter, with 16 straight granite columns sup­ porting an arched roof with a central dome. The floor was paved with multi-colored mosaic figures forming seven concentric circles with the bap­ tismal font itself in their center. In the areas between the concentric circles were geometric designs, also 69 medallions, each picturing in mosaic an animal, bird, fish or vegetation. When the original building was converted into a baptistry, some of the earlier mosaics were replaced by others con­ taining Christian symbols. In the space between the entrance and the cen­ tral baptistry two allegorical scenes were displayed. The rite of baptism was symbolized by two stags approaching a font, with a triumphal arch over them, in the center of which a cross appears between two palm branches. The eucharist was symbolized by a vase from which grape vines hung, while two peacocks perch on either side (World's W ork 1930, 6:65). An ad­ joining service room, rectangular in form, is also paved with mosaics featuring birds and geometric figures of special artistic value. The central baptismal font is described as "deep, faced with white marble, and polygonal in shape" (Edukata August-September 1930, 318-19). Professor Pirro Marconi, Italian archeologist, observed that the baptismal font was deep "for the rite of implanting in water" (Drita 20 April 1939, 3). Korkuti beautifully illustrates the mosaic pavement of this baptistry (Korkuti 1971, 116). Another Italian archeologist in 1930 called this "the most beautiful mosaic of all the old mosaics of the world which have been discovered up to the present" (Edukata August-September 1930, 318-19). Nearby are the walls of a basilica dating from the end of the sixth century. Then there was a considerable number of castle towns. Some of these were related to the military concerns of the Byzantine Empire. Certain for­ tified towns of Kosova were centers of a mining population. But most of them existed as peasant settlements with agriculture their primary concern. One of the most important of these was Kruja, named for its fountains, which existed as an Illyrian settlement as early as the third century b . c . The nearby village of Gërdhesh, thought to be the Albanopolis mentioned by Ptolemy in the second century, was abandoned because of barbarian incur­ sions. Between the fifth and sixth centuries the inhabitants sought protec­ tion by building a castle at Kruja on a steep rock bluff dominating the plain leading to the nearby coast. Later in the Middle Ages this would become the center of the Arbër state, then Albania's capital city from which Skanderbeg would mount his resistance to the Ottoman invaders who named it Akhissar or White Castle (NAlb 1988, 2:8). Archeologists assure us that all their findings of the fifth and sixth centuries throughout Praevalis and Dardania of northern Albania and Old Epirus and New Epirus in the

Byzantine Rule Once Again (535-861)


south indicate a uniform material culture. This is evident in their handcraft products, their pottery, building ceramics, architectural patterns, mosaics and coins (AT 1983, 3:41-42). Although Byzantine sources provide little if any information about the Albanian civilization of these Middle Ages, archeological investigation is revealing an increasing treasury of data on the economic, social, material and spiritual culture of their Illyrian forebears. One such culture in north­ ern Albania is the Koman culture, taking its name from the village Koman in the Puka district of Shkodra where the mediaeval tumuli or burial mounds near the Castle of Dalmaca yielded such valuable work im­ plements and weapons. This culture dated back to the period of the bar­ barian invasions of the fourth to the seventh centuries. About 30 such tombs have recently been unearthed in northern and central Albania, in the regions of Mirdita, Kukës, Shkodra, Lezha, Kruja, Tirana and Durrës. Yet others have been discovered over the border in Macedonia, Montenegro and Corfu. All these tombs are built in the same manner: case-like with slightly protruding sides. Usually the graves are built of limestone slabs, often encircled by a low wall of stones. The roofing is also built of stone slabs. In all the tombs the body was laid on its back directly on the earth. The tombs were usually, but not always, oriented in an east-to-west direc­ tion. The inventory of these tombs indicates a uniform culture. There are metal fibulae or clasps, rings, bracelets and belt buckles with common or­ namentation such as spirals or pyramid-like heads. Axes, knives, spearheads and ceramics all indicate a direct continuity from their ancient culture, but with elaboration. So does their silver workmanship, their blacksmithery and their pottery. Bronze necklaces resemble those of the Iron Age Illyrians. They consist of one or two rings, with or without a spoke in between them, often abundantly decorated with bird images. These ring-like ornaments were also used as amulets, their circular shape symbolizing the sun, their bird-figures symbolizing the sunbird. Appar­ ently these Illyrians still persisted in the religious practices of their earlier nature worship. Other characteristic Illyrian objects in these Koman tombs were hemispherical buttons with transversal cuts on the upper surface, string beads of a double-conical form, and rings with side protrusions. These all were made of bronze and were commonly found in the Illyrian tumuli, but not in the tombs of neighboring peoples. Occasionally these ob­ jects, especially earrings, incorporated traces of Byzantine or Roman design, but they always retained their ethnic distinctiveness and illustrate the continuity of the Illyrian or Arbër people up through the eighth and ninth centuries (AT 1983, 3:43-44). The excavated tumuli of southern Albania indicate a similar Arbër culture, such as those at Piskova, Rapska and Grabova in the Përmet district and Rehova in the Kolonja district. This Arbër culture is found in two distinct stages. That from the seventh to the ninth centuries displays certain pagan elements connected with the burial ritual surviving as a tradition


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

among the Christianized population. The ceramics were like those of the Koman culture, but had more elegant shapes and were decorated with pur­ ple belts against an ocher background. The second stage of Arbër culture of the ninth to the eleventh centuries during the Bulgarian period would evidence the continuing stylistic features of the Koman culture but with enriched decoration of earrings, necklaces and ceramics (NAlb 1989, 2:25). For a century and a half after the death of Justinian (565) the story of the Byzantine court and empire was an almost unbroken tale of crime and degeneracy. The only bright chapter was the reign of Heraclius (610-41). Leo the Isaurian, emperor from 717 to 741, accomplished the reorientation of eastern Illyricum to the Orthodox patriarch. Like the Ottoman Muslims already approaching Constantinople he abominated the Christian use of icons and images, abhorring them as idolatry. His edict of 726 forbade the veneration of such, and in 730 icons and images were banned altogether. The party of "image-breakers" or iconoclasts was strongly opposed by the party of "image-worshippers" supported by the monks. The remonstrances of the Roman bishop made no impression on Leo. When Pope Gregory III convened a synod against the iconoclasts, Leo retaliated by annexing to Constantinople (732) the papal provinces of eastern Illyricum and even Sicily and Calabria in southern Italy. The powerful papal vicar at Thessalonica was reduced to an inferior bishop. The fanatical eastern em­ press Irene (780-802) later restored image worship, and in 842 the empress Theodora finally confirmed it. But neither chose to reverse Leo's arbitrary acquisition of eastern Illyricum. During this unstable period Durrës was the "metropolis" or provincial capital of New Epirus. In the Eastern church the metropolitan bishop had oversight of the bishops of his province. He ranked below the "exarch" or bishop of a diocese, but above the archbishops of the province. At this time when Durrës was alternately under the Byzantines then the Bulgarians, a unique little chapel was built in a gallery of that city's famous amphi­ theater. Gladiatorial games had been forbidden in the fourth century, and Christian shrines were often erected to commemorate early Christians massacred in the amphitheaters. Such a massacre had occurred in Durrës during the persecutions under the Roman emperor Trajan (Liria 15 August 1985, 2). Still to be seen at the amphitheater chapel is the only mural mosaic to be found in all Albania, with two vertical panels remaining. One of these, poorly preserved, shows a female figure wearing an imperial crown and holding a globe encircled by a diadem, with two other females beside her named Irene and Sofia. The better preserved panel shows St. Stephen with a prominently displayed ruler and two archangels, with a two-line in­ scription overhead. The mosaic features red, white, black and green stones, also fragments of gold-caked glass (NAlb 1989, 5:29). Some consider the ruler a divine figure wearing imperial garments, and would date the mosaic to the sixth or seventh century. Other scholars identify the ruler as the Byzantine emperor Alexander who ruled from 912 to 913 (FESH1985, 726).

Byzantine Rule Once Again (535-861)


Another scholar identifies two of the figures as an important Durrës official named Alexander and his wife, dating sometime between the seventh and tenth centuries (Liria 15 August 1985, 2). On the plaster of the apse an ar­ cheologist discerns traces of a fresco with the figures of Mary and the Child used in worship (ibid.). In this case the chapel would probably have been built following the image controversy, or sometime after 800.

10. The Bulgarian Period (861-1014) The Slavic tribes did not appear on the scene until the sixth century. Under pressure from the barbarian Avars, some of them moved south and west of the Danube. In 640 the good emperor Heraclius invited them into his realm to help him repulse the invading Avars. But afterwards Heraclius could find no one to help him drive out the Slavs. So he settled them in the southwestern part of the Balkans, dispossessing the Illyrians and moving them southward. There the newcomers gradually formed the Slavic states of Serbia, Croatia, Istria and Dalmatia. Except for the coastal cities those regions became quite thoroughly Slavicized. Meanwhile the Bulgarian peo­ ple had mingled with the Slavs and adopted their language. About 861 cen­ tral and southern Albania were overrun by the Bulgarians and devastated. The Bulgarians however were Christianized by the "Apostles to the Slavs," the brothers Cyril and Methodius of Thessalonica. Many of them were bap­ tized in 864 and 865 in the Eastern rite. When Boris of Bulgaria failed to obtain autocephaly from the Patriarch Photius, he accepted the eager Latin promises and was Latinized in 866. Subsequently offended, he returned to Orthodoxy, and in 870 was accorded a Bulgarian archbishopric at Ochrida as well as governmental autonomy. It will be remembered that Ochrida is situated at the north end of Lake Ochrida, the largest body of water in the Balkan Peninsula, and it was important because it commanded the pass by which the Egnatian Way led from the Shkumbin River over the lofty Scardus range to Heraclea, now Monastir (Finlay 1877, 2:371). The archbishops styled themselves "Archbishop of Prima Justiniana, Ochrida and all Bulgaria," and enjoyed spiritual authority as far as Kanina of Vlora. Shortly afterwards another wave of Bulgarians under Czar Simeon (892-927) enveloped virtually all of Albania except the impenetrable north­ ern mountains. Numerous large settlements were established. The Bulgarian King Samuel invaded the eastern empire 26 times between 988 and 1014. But in 1018 the emperor, Basil II, drove them out of Albania, then placed the Bulgarian kingdom under Byzantine rule. Although virtually all other traces of the Bulgarian occupation have 156

The Bulgarian Period (861-1014)


disappeared over the centuries, a number of Bulgarian place-names are still to be found. But there is one other fascinating trace: a religious statue, whereas the Eastern church used only the flat picture called an icon. A British historian wrote the following one century ago: Only one statue now remains in the Greek Church, a wooden statue of St. Clement of Rome in the metropolitan church of Ochrida in western Macedonia. I have elsewhere suggested that this statue dates from the time of Cyril and Methodius, who transported the body of St. Clement from the East to Rome, and one of whose followers, Clement of Ochrida, after their death, retired to his native city and founded a monastery there. Reverence for his memory would cause it to be spared. Von Hahn who has since visited Ochrida is also of the opinion that its date is earlier than the capture of that place by Basil II in 1018. The crucifix came to be pro­ scribed in the same way. The only remaining specimens of this that I am acquainted with are: one at Ochrida in the same church with the statue, one at Mount Athos and one at Crete [Finlay 1877, 2:165-66],

Northern Albania or Praevalis was not affected too seriously by the theological disputations so common between patriarch and pope. One such dispute centered around Photius, the most learned theologian in the East. His appointment as patriarch was irregular. Pope Nicholas I condemned the appointment and anathematized Photius in 863. Photius in an en­ cyclical letter indicted the Latins for their Filioque interpolation, adding to the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father "and the Son." He also challenged their rule of clerical celibacy and other peculiarities of theology and ritual. A synod of Constantinople in 864 ex­ communicated the pope, and the bitter controversy continued. But it seems to have brought no immediate local reaction within Albania. A Dalmatian Council was held in 875 in which legates of the pope and of the emperor of Byzantium as well as Serbian chiefs took part. They regulated the demarcation of the provinces and the jurisdiction of the magistrates, the hierarchy and the churches. They also transferred the seat of the metropolitan bishop of Praevalis from Shkodra to nearby Dioclea. But the schism of Photius seems to have had no effect on these Catholics of northern Albania. Their attachment to the Latin rite earned for their country the designation Latinia, by which name it is called in a letter of 983 addressed by Emperor Constantine XI to the people of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) (Chopin 1856, 116-17). This fact will explain both their persistent Catholicism and their affinity with the neighboring Venetians in the Turkish period. The historian Spinka provides a bewildering story, however, of Latin and Byzantine missionary machination during this period, when the tribes very cleverly played the East against the West and vice versa in order to secure for themselves greater privileges (Spinka 1933, 20-25; 36; 73-86). Latin pressure won to Catholicism the Croats who had settled in the western part of Praevalis, but the eastern Serbians remained Orthodox.


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , t h e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

Edward Gibbon records with relish a unique instance in East-West relations when the Greeks cooperated with the Latins in driving the Saracens out of Bari and southern Italy. Incurable proselytizers, the Greeks then compelled the Italians of Apulia and Calabria in the Kingdom of Naples to acknowledge the eastern emperor and patriarch (890) (Gibbon, 1860 5:440-43). The Byzantine or Greek ecclesiastical organization set up at that time would continue for more than a century until the Norman con­ quest of Apulia (1040-43). This was to become the immediate cause of the great and final schism between the Eastern and the Western church.

11. Byzantine Rule Yet Again (1014-1204) The Greek or eastern empire survived only at the expense of constant military warfare with barbarians pressing in from the north and Muslims pressing in from the south. In addition there were theological battles both within the empire and with the Western church. The Latins complained of the Orthodox use of leavened bread for the eucharist, the marriage of their priests, and other Greek distinctives. This continuing irritation led the new Patriarch Cerularius (1043) to collaborate with the Bulgarian metropolitan area of Ochrida in arbitrarily banning the Latin liturgy still used in some Bulgarian churches and monasteries. When the Normans annexed the Byzantinized provinces of southern Italy to the see of Rome (1040-43), Cerularius addressed to the Italian bishop of Trani a violent letter warning him against the erroneous Latin practices. The bishop turned the letter over to the pope, who directed his ambassadors to leave on the altar of St. Sophia in Constantinople a papal bull anathematizing the "seven mortal heresies" of the Greeks and excommunicating the patriarch. Supported by other Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, he in turn anathematized the pope. Thus in 1054 occurred the Oriental Schism, the great and final rupture be­ tween the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Churches in northern Albania remained in communion with the Latin church; those in central and southern Albania remained under the religious jurisdiction of Constantinople. It would be 900 years before an Albanian patriarch would salute the Roman pope with a kiss of peace. A remarkable Macedo­ nian dynasty led the beleaguered empire for some time, culminating with Basil II. Isaac I, the first of the Comneni family, succeeded him in 1057. Isaac had to combat a new and vigorous enemy, the Turks, who had al­ ready conquered most of Asia.


12. Norman Rule in Albania (1081-1204) THE N O RM A N A R R IV A L Early in the eleventh century knights from Normandy in northern France ventured into southern Italy and Sicily helping different states battle against the encroaching Saracens. When their successful campaign in Sicily went unrewarded, they decided to reward themselves by conquering all of southern Italy for themselves (1072). This brought them into contact with the eastern empire. The Norman Robert Guiscard (1057-1085) conceived the conquest of the whole Byzantine empire. His opportunity soon came. The bishop of Deabolis or Devoll in central Albania invited the Franks or Nor­ mans from Italy to support his people in throwing off the imperial yoke of Constantinople (Dako 1919, 20). With Norman, Bulgarian and Greek sup­ port the Albanians formed an army under Nicephorus Basilicus and gathered in the countryside before Durrës. The troops of Emperor Alexius Comnenus defeated them, however, in 1079. The Normans apparently liked what they had seen in Albania, for they soon returned. Guiscard and his son Bohemond led their troops back across the Adriatic in 1081. They defeated the Byzantine emperor, Alexius Comnenus, under the walls of Durrës that October, capturing the fortress itself the following February. Anna Comnena, favorite daughter of Alexius, recorded in her Alexiad a vivid account of the Norman siege. First they tried battering rams against the walls, then tunneling under the walls, and finally a wooden siege tower to attack over the walls. Anna described the tower as a terrible sight, but especially terrible in motion. For the tower was covered on all sides to protect the soldiers within who used levers to jack it up onto rollers. The seemingly self-propelled tower astounded the defenders. Slits on each of the several levels allowed the sheltered bowmen to fire showers of arrows, and a drawbridge raised on the top level protected the swordsmen until it was lowered onto the wall to allow them to overrun the defenders. From their base at Durrës the Normans soon occupied Albanian territory as far east as the Vardar River. Many Norman families now transferred their residence to Albania. 160

Norman Rule in A lbania (1081-1204)


TH E NAME "ALBAN IA" It was at this time that the name "Albania" emerged once again. It had first been used by Claudius Ptolemy (90-160), a geographer and astronomer of Alexandria, Egypt. In his G eography he mentioned for the first time the "Albana" people and their capital city Albanopolis located behind Durrës, probably the Illyrian town Zgërdhesh between Tirana and Kruja. This name was popularized by Anna Comnena (1083-1146), daugh­ ter of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I, who recorded in her famous history that the population located behind Durrës called themselves "Arbanez." In the beginning of the twelfth century the Normans in their French language Song o f Roland called the region from Durrës south to Vlora "Albana." In the fourteenth century these people fleeing to Greece used a linguistic variant "Arvaniti" for themselves, and in the fifteenth and six­ teenth centuries other fleeing to southern Italy called their homeland "Arbana" and themselves "Arbëreshë." Where ancient Albanopolis once stood there is a village still called "Arbana." Gjon Buzuku, one of the early Alba­ nian writers of the sixteenth century, referred to his country as "Arbën." Strangely enough, though, he was also the first to call its language "Shqip." While the western world continued to use the older name "Albania" for the land and "Albanian" for the people and language, the people themselves based on this word "Shqip" the word "Shqipëria" which they use for their country and "Shqiptarë" which they use for themselves (NAlb 1987, 2:17). TH E C R U SA D ES Exhausted by prolonged resistance to the savage Muslim expansion, Byzantine Emperor Michael VII in 1071 appealed to the pope for military aid against the Turks. Distracted by ecclesiastical problems of his own, it was not until 1095 that Pope Urban II conceived the Crusades as a means of regaining the Lateran Palace and St. Peter's, also the churches and kingdoms of his Holy Roman Empire then lost to the anti-Pope Wiebert, and even of reuniting the Greek and Latin branches of Christendom. In­ creasing outrages perpetrated by Muslims against Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land furnished the occasion. Urban's impassioned appeal at the Council of Clermont (France) in 1095 provoked the spontaneous outcry "God wills it!" and precipitated the series of Crusades. These hordes of knights and fanatics, saints and savages, were inspired by motives as base and as lofty as hatred, adventure, plunder, salvation and the liberation of the holy places. The First Crusade (1096-1099) was a disaster. Various contingents descending through Hungary and Bulgaria provoked the populace to violence by their disorderly pillaging for food, their drunken brawls and their massacre of the Christ-killer Jews in order to seize their wealth. Ac­ cordingly, while some contingents chose to reach Constantinople by ship, another under Raymond of Toulouse descended the eastern shore of the


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

Adriatic Sea to Durrës, then followed the old Via Egnatia eastward to Con­ stantinople. Alexius, the Byzantine emperor, was embarrassed and alarmed by these disorderly mobs converging on the city. Fearing that they might unite and seize Constantinople, he very generously offered to set them across the strait of the Bosporus on the road to Jerusalem, being careful to hasten each division on its way before the next division could ar­ rive. There they were waylaid one division at a time by the Turks, and thousands were annihilated on the march through Asia Minor. At intervals throughout the 150 years of the Crusades, Durrës became the favored port of entry, the Albanian coast their staging ground, and the Egnatian Way their central Albanian highway to Constantinople and the East. Despite the Norman occupation of the region, the countryside, in­ cluding their chief seaport Durrës, remained faithful to the patriarch until his fall in 1204. It is traditionally believed in Albania that St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) on returning from the Holy Land personally founded the first Franciscan monastery on Albanian soil at Lezha in 1220. Supporting this early date is the old Gothic inscription over the entrance of the Fran­ ciscan Church of the Annunciation in Lezha, stating that it was "built in the year 1240" (ACB 1990, 23). During the First Crusade (1096-1099), the Second Crusade (1147-1149) and the Third Crusade (1189-1192), the emperors at Constantinople were more alarmed than gratified by the many swarms of crusaders passing through their territory en route to the Holy Land. But their worst fears materialized with the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). Some of those crusaders dallied in central Albania, then proceeded over the Via Egnatia to Constan­ tinople. There they joined forces with other crusaders who had sailed with the Venetian fleet. Then the Roman Catholic crusaders en route to fight the Turks quarreled instead with the Greeks and pillaged Constantinople. They even established a Latin Kingdom there (1204-1261) under the Nor­ man knight Baldwin of Flanders. For the first time in history a Roman pope set up Latin bishops over the Eastern churches. They also established there the Latin liturgy. Pope Innocent III proclaimed the reunion of the Eastern and Western churches accomplished. The Orthodox government and patriarch, however, simply withdrew to Nicea. THE LEGEND OF FLA U R IM O N T Another legacy of the Norman period in Albania was a fascinating though fanciful novel which appeared about 1180. This epic poem called Flaurimont was written in old French by a romanticist poet, Amon de Varanes. Scholars are convinced that the poet was born in the Balkans, later moving to Chatillon castle near Lyons, France, where he wrote this novel of 13,680 verses. The hero of his blend of history and legend was named Flaurimont (or Mountain Flower), the son of Duke Matakas, ruler of ancient Durrës. He is pictured as the grandfather of Alexander the Great, whose Illyrian mother was of the neighboring Molossi tribe. A "detested

Norman Rule in Albania (1081-1204)


king Candiobras" sent a dragon which terrorized the Albanian territories, demanding a live man and an ox for its food each day. Like Hercules before him, Flaurimont slew the dragon and delivered his people. The names Albania and Durrës occur frequently in the poem. The description of the Durrës castle and its surrounding territory is so detailed that scholars believe the author of this chivalrous legend must have lived there himself during the Norman period. Handwritten copies of this work are preserved in Montpellier, Paris, London, Turin and Venice (Liria 1 February 1989, 3). It is certain that tales of this mysterious land and these untamed heroes would travel far and excite the imaginations of many others. So it was that Shakespeare based his Twelfth Night in Albania, and Longfellow's Tales o f a Wayside Inn included the exploits of Skanderbeg as told by the Spanish Jew. In fact, it may have been some devious Spanish connection which ac­ counts for the fact that the only classic poem in the Tagalog language of the Philippines is a love story, Florante at Laura, which took place in the Kingdom of Albania (Tuggy, Leonard, letter to author, 27 March 1989). Y E T A N O TH ER N O RM A N L E G A C Y -F E U D A L IS M The Normans as a people have vanished from the face of the earth, lost in the kingdoms they founded. Wherever they went they merged into the conquered peoples so that they left no permanent traces behind. In Albania alone, however, their institution of feudalism remained for centuries. The principles were few and simple. The king allotted land to his officers and personal followers. As feudal lords these men governed their territory, allotted it to trusted friends as underlords, paid taxes on it, defended it, and bequeathed it to their sons. Dependents of the landowner tilled the land for him, fought for him, and were protected by him. They were not slaves to be sold, yet they were not free to change their residence, marry or bequeath their goods without permission from their lord. There was a clear dichotomy between landowners and serfs, also a hierarchy or gradation of landowners which position would pass down to their heirs along with the land.

13. Quarreling Feudal Families Vulnerable to the Ottoman Turks Following the seizure of Constantinople by the Latin crusaders, Albania, midway between Constantinople and Rome, was torn by the bit­ ter rivalry between the two. Then feudal families sought to expand their regional holdings at the expense of weaker neighbors. The Islamic invasion of Europe through Spain and through Italy having been thwarted, the Ot­ toman Turks in Asia Minor now launched another attack through the Balkans. Finally, the Republic of Venice, seeing its vital trade interests threatened, determined to seize the prosperous commercial cities along the Adriatic coast before the Turks got them. For two centuries, then, Albania seemed like a tangled jungle of conflicting interests. The borders of com­ peting principalities were changing from year to year, even from month to month. The feudal princes, unwilling to stand together united, would in­ evitably fall one by one divided. Their tragic story precedes and follows the decisive battle of Kosova in 1389. THE CO M N EN U S FA M ILY (1204-1318) AND THE D E S P O T A T OF EPIR U S When Constantinople fell to the Latin crusaders in 1204, a prince of the fallen dynasty, Michael Comnenus, escaped death at their hands only by fleeing to southern Albania. He rallied the feudal lords and drove out the Latin Venetians to establish an independent principality which he called the Despotat of Epirus with its capital at Yanina. For this reason it was sometimes called the "Principality of Yanina." To the north were the Serbs, and to the east the Bulgarians, both of whom sought every occasion to ex­ tend their dominion. Prince Michael seized the initiative, however, and ex­ tended his rule to Corfu and Durrës then as far north as Shkodra. With the establishment of the Latin kingdom at Constantinople, the new Latin patriarch of Constantinople had replaced the Byzantine archbishop of Durrës with a Latin prelate. Michael, however, reoriented Durrës toward Orthodoxy, for which he received the title "Defender of the Faith." In­ terestingly enough, this principality was the first free kingdom in Albania 164

Quarreling Feudal Families Vulnerable to the Ottoman Turks


since it was subjugated by the Romans 14 centuries earlier. Michael I died in 1215, his successor Theodore Engjelli expanding the Despotat in territory and power, extending it even to Thessalonica in the east. Michael II succeeded his father as despot from 1230 to 1267, fighting constantly against Latin Constantinople which was trying to regain control of this Albanian principality. Winning some campaigns and losing others, he was alternately independent of and subject to Constantinople. It was probably about this time (1250) that the Byzantine church and monastery of St. Mary were built at Pojani, about four miles west of Fier. The struc­ ture is unique in that the lower part was constructed of large stone blocks taken from the ruins of the ancient theater of nearby Apollonia (FESH1985, 854). The Eastern authorities relocated in Nicea sent an officer to Albanon in 1257 to restore order in the province. The Albanian population, however, preferred alliance with the Despotat and sent the officer back to Nicea. An influential chief supporting Michael II at the time was Gulam (William) of Albanon. The name Albanon was frequently applied at that time not only to the town, but also to the triangular region of central Albania between Elbasan, Durrës and Kruja. Some believe that the name Albanon may have given rise to the designation of the region as "Al­ bania." The historian Theodor Ippen, a native of Albanon, has sum­ marized the vicissitudes of the Despotat (Diturija October 1928, 374-75). At Constantinople there was constant strife between the Greek Ortho­ dox population and the Latin usurpers. To win friends in his opposition to the usurpers, Michael II gave his daughter Helen in marriage to Man­ fred, King of the Two Sicilies, in 1258. He granted much of lower Al­ bania as a dowry, including Corfu, Durrës, Vlora, Himara, Butrint and Berat. Two years later (1260) Michael Paleologus drove the Latins out of Constantinople and reestablished his capital there. On the death of Manfred (1266) much of this southern Albanian territory passed to Charles I of Anjou, a prince of the French royal family. The remaining territory of the Despotat went to Prince Michael's son Nicephor (1267-93) then to his son Thomas (1293-1318) who was the last of the Comnenus line. THE O R S IN I FA M ILY (1318-1358) When Thomas was assassinated by his sister's son Nikolla Orsini, the Orsini family seized control and ruled from 1318 to 1323. But it was a turbulent period. Nikolla was assassinated by his brother John who ruled from 1323 to 1335. It was during this period that the Albanians of Kolonja, Devoll and the Ochrida region joined the emperor Andronicus Palaeologus against the Despotat (1327). A few years later (1338) Andronicus, enraged by the repeated incursions of the western Albanians against the imperial fortresses at Berat, Kanina, Skrapari and Klisura, sent a punitive expedition into Albania. But John was assassinated by his wife Anna Palaeologus, who then ruled through their minor son


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

Nicephor from 1335 to 1358. While resisting raids from Albanian chieftains to the north, Prince Nicephor was killed in 1358. THE SH P A T A FA M ILY (1358-1431) The principality then passed into the hands of Gjin (John) Bua Shpata ("The Sword"). The Shpata family sprang from ancient Finiq, John himself being a nobleman from Delvina. He based his principality in Arta and en­ joyed the support of many lesser feudal families who feared the return of the Byzantines. During this century the pressure of invaders from the north and east caused many Albanians to withdraw southward and occupy the northern provinces of Greece. Shpata captured territory there and helped establish Albanian colonies, giving his name to the important village of Shpata, a suburb of Athens. During this period repeated contact with the advancing Turks foreshadowed the catastrophe to come. Strangely enough it was the Byzantine emperors who became the authors of their own ruin. When John Catacuzenos was unable to control his disintegrating empire he introduced mercenaries: Bulgarians, Serbs and even Turks (Gibbon 1860, 6:188). Thus in 1341 Orhan under the crescent of Islam entered Europe for the first time. They proved to be formidable fighters, and carried off im­ mense quantities of booty. In fact, the Latins, besieged in the Yanina for­ tress, hired Turkish troops in 1381 and again in 1384 to distract the Albanian troops of John Shpata. Apparently the Turks liked what they saw, for they would soon come back uninvited. THE Z E N E V ISI FA M ILY (1 304-1435) The Zenevisi (or Zenebishi) family ruled the southern region of Albania below the Vjosa River as early as 1304. Ruling from their capital, Gjirokastra, their territory included the seaport Vlora and the coastal region almost as far south as Arta and Yanina. The despot of Yanina, at that time a Serb, called Turkish troops in from Thessaly in 1380 and 1382. TH E A N JO U FA M ILY (12 6 9 -1 3 6 8 ) AND THE A N G EVIN "K IN G D O M OF A RBËRIA " On the death of Manfred, King of the Two Sicilies (1266), the south central Albanian territory he had received as a dowry from Comnenus and his Kingdom of Naples passed to Charles I of Anjou, a prince of the French royal family. The territory Charles occupied in 1269 consisted of Durrës, Vlora, Corfu and Butrint to the south, the Berat district as far east as Ochrida and the Dibras and Mirdita to the north. Negotiating with the principal chieftains of central Albania, he created the Angevin "Kingdom of Arbëria" in 1272, with himself as king and Durrës his capital. In 1274 19 influential chieftains from the region between Kruja and Elbasan signed a document recognizing King Charles as their sovereign. Documents in Naples list 15 governors who represented the Angevins at Durrës from 1269

Quarreling Feudal Families Vulnerable to the Ottoman Turks


to 1301. Even Pope John XXII appealed to the chieftains to remain loyal to Charles when in 1319 the Byzantines and Serbs were preparing to attack and recapture this Latin stronghold. Charles I was succeeded by his son Charles II the Lame, who in 1294 turned the Kingdom of Albania over to his son Philip, prince of Taranto. On the death of Philip in 1333 the rule went to his brother John of Gravina, then in 1335 to John's son Charles of Duras. Charles was beheaded in Aversa near Naples in 1347 on the order of his cousin Ludwig, king of Hungary. Another cousin, Philip II, inherited the Kingdom of Albania but lost it to the Topia family in 1368. THE M U ZA KA FA M ILY (1280-1389) One of the feudal families holding power in central Albania under the Angevins was the Muzaka family. Andre Muzaka at Berat held the title "Marshal of Arbëria" from 1280 to 1319. The region of broad plains they once held is still called Myzeqe. Andre II holding the title "Despot" ex­ panded their territory to its maximum: from the Adriatic Sea between the Vjosa and Devoll rivers eastward including the Korcha plain. With one daughter, Komita, married to Balsha II of Shkodra and another to the Gropa family at Ochrida, there seemed to be an unusual degree of stability. But on the death of Balsha II in 1385, Komita separated from the Balshas and ruled the southern portion of this principality independently. But then came the catastrophe of Kosova in 1389. THE T O P IA FA M ILY (1338-1460) The Topia family ruled under the Angevins in 1338, controlling the Durrës region and much of central Albania from Mat to the Shkumbin River and ruling from Kruja. Robert of the famous house of Anjou, king of Naples, had an illegitimate daughter whom he wished to marry to a French gentleman of Greece. En route her ship touched at Durrës, where she met and fell in love with Tanush Topia. They were married and had a son Karl. King Robert, feigning pleasure at the marriage, invited the daughter and her husband to Naples, where he killed them both. The Topia family ruled over the regions of Durrës, Kruja, Peqin, Elbasan, Mokra and Gora, that is, along both sides of the Via Egnatia as far east as Lake Ochrida. The Topia family subdivided into two branches: that of the mountains, and that of the coastal plains ruled by Prince Karl. In 1385 Karl, at war with his cousin George Balsha II, was supported by another ruling prince who asked help from the Turks. They gladly entered Al­ bania and helped defeat Balsha. Upon his death in 1388, Karl was buried in the monastery of St. John which he had built in Elbasan. Mindful of his mother's origin, he ordered that his Elbasan gravestone commem­ orate him as of the "House of France," and that it bear the French fleurde-lis. Just one year later the fateful battle of Kosova would take place (1389).


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

TH E DU SH AN FA M ILY (1331-1355) Stephen Dushan in 1331 succeeded his father as king of Serbia, ruling from Prizren in northern Albania. He acquired much of Macedonia (1343), then Epirus and Thessaly (1348), and much of northern Albania. He as­ sumed the rather pretentious title "Emperor of Romania, Slavonia and Albania." Obviously there was a continuous Albanian presence there even during Serbian rule. His natural religious antipathies were sharpened, however, by contact with the northern Albanians. For while he and the Serbs adhered to the Eastern or Orthodox church, these northern Alba­ nians adhered to the Western church of Rome, centering now at coastal An­ ti vari rather than Shkodra. Thus in 1332 a Franciscan friar, Brocardus, related of that region, "There are two peoples, the Albanians and the Latins, who both belong to the Church of Rome." He then enumerated the bishoprics: "Anthibarie [Antivari], Catharo [Cattaro], Dulcedine [Dulcigno], Suacinense, Scutari [Shkodra] and Drivasto [now ruined], Greater and Lesser Polat [Upper and Lower Pulati], Sabbate [Sappa] and Albania [Elbasan and Durrës]. They are all under the archbishop of An­ thibarie" (Durham 1921, 13). Dushan chose direct confrontation. His celebrated Canon of Laws "established by the grace of God in the year 1349 at a meeting of the Patriarchs" provided that even the emperor could be called into court if he had done any injustice. It also provided the following: As to the Latin heresy, and those that draw true believers to its faith. If such a one will not be converted . . . he shall be punished by death. The Orthodox Tsar must eradicate all heresy from his state. The property of all such as refuse conversion shall be confiscated. Heretical priests of other communions who try to make proselytes will be sent to the mines or ex­ pelled from the country. Heretical churches will be consecrated and opened for priests of the Orthodox faith. . . . If a Latin priest be found try­ ing to convert a Christian to the Latin faith he shall be punished by death" [Durham 1909, 295],

This canon also crystallized into law the attachment of the peasants to the feudal landowner, detailing their obligations of money, produce and labor. But Stephen was ambitious, and he was shrewd. Learning that the pope was seeking to confederate all the powers against the Turks, and desiring to be named chief of the league, he feigned to embrace the Catholic faith. He even ordered that Latin priests enjoy complete liberty in the exer­ cise of their functions. Happy over this conversion, Pope Innocent VI sent two legates. Dushan received them with honors. But understanding that several million of his subjects would revolt against him if he tried to convert them, he forbade the legates to attend Latin services. The pope, seeing himself deceived by Dushan, engaged the king of Hungary to make war on him. He marched on Dushan and took him prisoner. Forced to recognize the religious authority of the pope in order to regain his liberty, Dushan

Quarreling Feudal Families Vulnerable to the Ottoman Turks


was released with magnificent presents. While mounting a crusade against the Turks, however, he died at Devoll of a fever in 1355. His conglomerate empire broke up among several regional feudal families, the province of Shkodra being taken over by members of the Balsha family. TH E BA LSH A FA M ILY (1360-1421) The origin of the Balsha family is uncertain. Hecquard claims that the family was originally French by the name of Baux coming from Provence to Naples with the Angevins, and then to Shkodra (Hecquard 1857, 416). In 1360 he assumed the title Balsha I, and with the help of his brothers and Albanian feudal chiefs he eliminated the rule of the Byzantines and the Or­ thodox Serbs in north and central Albania. Soon the Balsha family ruled over Dalmatia, much of Macedonia, including Thessalonica, and much of present-day Albania, with his capital at Shkodra. He died in 1362. His three sons ruled together, their expanding power bringing them into conflict with Karl Topia and with Venice. The Balsha family restored Catholicism (1369), their coins thereafter having Latin inscriptions. In 1383 Balsha II captured Durrës from Karl Topia and assumed the title "Duke of Durrës." Topia called on the Turks for assistance. Amurat I (or Murad I) gladly sent an army of 40,000 men from Macedonia. In the plain of Savre between Elbasan and Lushnja Balsha fought the Turks and was defeated and killed, his head being taken to the Turkish capital as a trophy. The principality now split into two parts, Balsha's widow, Komita Muzaka, returned to her family seat at Berat to rule over the southern part of the principality. His nephew Gjergj II Balsha ruled the northern portion from Shkodra (13851403).

14. The Ottoman Turkish Threat THE E X P A N SIO N OF ISLA M Islam, the great historic movement which threatened Albania and Europe at this juncture, had its origin in Arabia. Muhammad's original crusade against idolatry in his own country was by its very success ex­ panded into the Muslim concept of a universal theocratic state. Although Muhammad died in a . d . 632, the first caliph, Abu Bekr, with both religious and secular authority, consolidated the prophet's conquests. His successor, Omar, expanded the Muslim dominions until they stretched from Cyrene to India (644). The expansion broke out of the heat belt with the Saracen invasion of Spain but met its decisive defeat at Tours (732) by Charles Martel. Thereafter the northward expansion of Islam into Europe was at­ tempted through Asia Minor. The three patriarchates of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch fell. Constantinople itself was besieged unsuc­ cessfully on two occasions, from 669 to 676, and from 717 to 718. Then a short-cut into Europe through Sicily and Italy was attempted in the ninth century, but with no permanent gain. Alarmed over the rise of the Seljuk Turks, the popes proposed the crusades, partly to rescue the holy places from Muslim domination, and partly to establish Latin supremacy over the eastern empire and church. Then in 1307 the more virile Ottoman Turks from the Mongolian steppes succeeded the Seljuk dynasty. Heading north­ ward they succeeded by 1312 in overwhelming most of Asia Minor, in­ cluding six of the seven biblical churches of Asia. In 1333 the emperor of the East, Andronicus III, fearful of the advanc­ ing Turks, sought aid from the pope, but could not accept the stern Roman prerequisites. Pope Benedict XII reopened negotiations with Andronicus, but when at Avignon in 1339 he demanded the unconditional surrender of Orthodoxy, all again proved futile. In 1354 the Turks bypassed Constan­ tinople and crossed the Dardanelles into Europe. The eastern Emperor, John Cantacuzenus, gave his daughter in marriage to the Turkish emir Orhan, and they signed treaties of perpetual friendship (Gibbon 1860, 6:230-33). On the untimely death of Orhan, his brother Amurat I suc­ ceeded to the throne (1361-1389). He established his capital at Adrianople (or Edirne) near the border of Greece and subdued the province of Thrace. 170

The Ottoman Turkish Threat


The capital of the waning Greek empire and of the Orthodox church was now surrounded by the Turks. To resist their further encroachments, the Byzantine emperor, John V Paleologus, was forced to seek help in 1369 from Pope Urban V at Avignon. En route his ship paused at a famous quarry on the Karaburun Peninsula of Vlora which was often visited by sailing vessels. Still visible, carved on the rock wall of the Gramata cave by one of the ship's company, is a figure symbolizing the desperate plight of eastern Christendom. A stone tower surmounted by a cross is encircled by the strangulating coils of a serpent (NAlb 1986, 6:28). The immediate Ottoman threat compelled John to pretend to submit to the pope's severe conditions for military assistance, but his people repudiated his hypocritical submission. Meanwhile the Turks were overrunning the Balkans, coming up through Greece into Albania. Because of the prevailing feudal anarchy they met with little effective resistance. THE B A T T L E OF K O S O V A (1389) An anti-Ottoman coalition of Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, Serbs and Albanians headed by the Serbian prince Lazar fought a Turkish army twice its size on the plain of Kosova near Prishtina on 15 June 1389. Troops of Gjergj II Balsha of Shkodra and of Theodore Korona Muzaka of Berat participated. Even though an Albanian named Milosh Kopiliq penetrated to the Sultan's tent and assassinated Amurat I, the Turks succeeded in destroying the Balkan coalition. This bloody defeat opened the way for yet deeper penetration of Albanian territory under Sultan Bayazet, surnamed "Thunderbolt" (FESH 1985, 88). He overran Albania from 1394 to 1396 and occupied it from Gjirokastra in the south to Shkodra in the north, and from its eastern border to Durrës on the coast. The Christian powers had their opportunity to annihilate the Turks in 1402, when Tamerlane and his Tartars crushed the hitherto victorious Ot­ tomans at Ankara. Turkish troops withdrew from all European possessions except the province of Adrianople. Bloody revolts in Asia Minor followed one another without interruption. If at that moment a coalition of Christian princes had united against the Turkish Empire, they would inevitably have destroyed it. Instead the feudal families fought one another to expand their territory and fought Venice to regain lost cities. No attack was made against the Turks, however, so they reorganized their internal affairs and recovered their strength under Mohammed I (1403-1421) and his successor, Amurat II. A LBA N IA N D IS IL L U SIO N M E N T W ITH VEN ICE The Republic of Venice seemed to be Albania's only hope of deliverance from the Ottoman Turks. Since its founding in a . d . 500 by Romans and others fleeing German barbarians, Venice had become Europe's greatest commercial city. Not content with establishing trading centers along the Adriatic and Mediterranean coasts, the Venetians also


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

determined to take over the control of those centers before the arrival of the Turks. To induce local princes to place their port cities under the protec­ tion of Venice, the Venetian senate promised attractive rewards as well as material and military support. If these promises did not prove to be suffi­ ciently persuasive, the Venetian senate fomented friction between neighboring families, resorted to assassination, or even bribed the Turks to attack. By one means or another Venice soon had control of Shkodra and the harbors of Lezha, Durrës, Vlora and Himara. The senate rebuilt their destroyed city walls, and the "Venetian towers" are still to be seen. Venice built roads and bridges and issued special Albanian coins called "Venetika." It appeared to be Albania's only hope to withstand the invading Turks. But it soon became obvious that the only intention of Venice was to safeguard its own trade interests. Even the offer of Albanian princes to acknowledge Venetian sovereignty did not suffice. For Venice, uncertain of its ability to grapple militarily with the Turkish colossus, chose instead to sign accords, agreeing to pay annual tribute in exchange for the safekeeping of its trading centers. In despair some Albanian princes also submitted. For the Turks, unable to enforce their rule in the vast conquered territories, preferred to leave the native feudal families in control of the peasant population. Under this arrangement the feudal princes were obliged to accept the Turkish sultan as overlord, pay yearly tribute, and provide troops whenever called upon. Other Albanian princes determined to continue their one-sided bat­ tle against overwhelming odds until finally they too were forced to yield to the Turks.


15. Gradual Capitulation of Feudal Families to the Ottoman Turks Following the decisive battle of Kosova the Albanian feudal families were forced to capitulate one by one. THE SH P A T A FA M ILY (T O 1431) Just ten years after Kosova, John Bua Shpata died in 1399 and his despotat was divided into two parts. The northern part went to his son-inlaw John Zenevisi based at Gjirokastra, the southern part to his brother Maurik Bua at Arta. Not too long afterwards these two domains were divided into still smaller and weaker domains until Yanina and the whole southern region fell into the hands of the Turks in 1431. Yanina surrendered to the Turks, however, so as to preserve a measure of autonomy. The cir­ cumstances were not altogether unique in Albanian history. On the death of Prince Charles of Yanina, three illegitimate sons quarreled with two nephews over the inheritance. When they very naively sought a solution by Turkish intervention, Amurat seized the pretext and marched on Yanina. F. C. H. L. Pouqueville, later consul general of France to the court of Ali Pasha of Yanina, discovered the following ultimatum among old docu­ ments at Yanina: Amurat, Emperor of the Orient and of the Occident, I write to you, people of Yanina, and I invite you to come voluntarily to present the keys of your fortress, and salute me as your emperor, if you would not excite my anger, and oblige me to march against you with my army, to take your city. Then you would prove the evils which have been suffered by the places which have resisted me, and which have refused to recognize me as their master; cities which my sword has smitten, and which have fallen before the sabre of my soldiers, conquerors of the Orient and the Occident. We shall swear together: I that I shall never drive you from your fortress, you that you will be faithful, and forever submitted to my authority [Pouq 1826,1:149].



D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , t h e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

Several of the city's most distinguished citizens appeared before the sultan and arranged the capitulation. In consequence, 18 Turks commanded by an officer took possession of the chateau of Yanina in the name of Amurat on 9 October 1431. THE Z EN EV ISI FA M ILY (T O 1434) During the years following Kosova, Prince John Zenevisi (7-1417) car­ ried on continual warfare with the Turks, with the new despot of Yanina and with Venice over the salt trade. Upon his death the Turks besieged his capital, Gjirokastra, and took the stronghold in 1418. Depa Zenevisi, John's son, took refuge in the island of Corfu. Then, encouraged by the successful uprising of Gjergj Arianiti Topia in central Albania, he raised an army in 1434 with the intention of recapturing Gjirokastra. While he was besieging the Janissary garrison holding his former capital, superior Turkish forces arrived. Caught between the two forces, many of the Albanian revolu­ tionaries were killed, including Zenevisi himself (1435) (Noli 1921, 84-85). THE M U ZA KA FA M ILY (T O 1474) Theodore II Muzaka died during the crucial battle of Kosova. The Balsha widow Komita Muzaka ruled from Berat until her death in 1396. Then her daughter Rugina Balsha of Vlora held the territory until 1417, when it all fell to the Turks and she took refuge in Corfu. The city of Berat also fell in 1417, the Muzakas there submitting as vassals to the sultan. In­ congruously enough, they still maintained political relations with Venice, even though some of their children embraced Islam and rose to eminent positions in the Turkish army. Another, John Muzaka, later fought the Turks together with Skanderbeg throughout his revolution. After the death of Skanderbeg when the last Albanian stronghold fell (1474), Muzaka refugeed in Naples where in 1510 he wrote a valuable history of the Muzaka family (FESH 1985, 730-31). THE T O P IA FA M ILY (T O 1425) Upon the death of Karl Topia (1388) his sickly young son Gjergj headed the principality. Being an ineffective ruler anyway, he yielded to Venetian pressure and left Durrës to Venice just before he died in 1392. The remainder of his principality was divided among the daughters of Karl and other relatives, who fought with both Venice and the Turks until Kruja fell to the latter in 1425. Of the Topia family ruling in the mountains, one war­ rior left a brilliant record. George Arianiti Komneni Topia lived from 1400 to 1460. As a young prince he was captured by the invading Turks and held as a hostage by the sultan. Escaping in 1432 he returned to Albania and established his rule over the region from Vlora to Durrës. The sultan sent an army after him, but it was utterly defeated between Ochrida and Elbasan. Not long afterwards the historian Chalcondile vividly described several revolutions against the Turks, including this temporarily successful

Gradual Capitulation o f Feudal Families to the Ottoman Turks


one of Arianita (Chalcondile 1662, 112-16). In fact his uprising was spec­ tacularly successful for several years. Ali Pasha Evrenozi, sent to suppress the revolt, pursued the southern Albanians into the mountain passes where his troops were cut to pieces again and again, only a few escaping by the Ionian Sea. Arianita became a national hero, even winning international acclaim. In 1443 he extended the revolution into Macedonia, but col­ laborated with Skanderbeg from 1444 to 1450. His eldest daughter, Andronika, became the wife of Skanderbeg. Topia died about 1460. When the Turks occupied his domain in 1466, two of his sons went to live in Venice, one remaining in Albania and embracing Islam. THE G R O P A FAM ILY (1 273-1468) The Gropa family ruled the eastern shore of Lake Ochrida under the Angevins as early as 1273. They were neighbors of the Topias, the Shpatas and the Kastriotis. After the disaster of Kosova (1389), nearby Ochrida fell into the hands of the Turks. Several warriors of this family served with Skanderbeg, Zaharia Gropa becoming distinguished as a commander in several battles against the Turks. THE BA LSH A FA M ILY (T O 1421) Balsha III was the last of this northern dynasty, ruling at Shkodra from 1403 to 1421. Venice with Ottoman help seized several of Balsha's coastal cities, and even the region around Shkodra. By 1412 Balsha III had regained three of those cities, and with the support of the Zaharias, Kastriotis, Rugina Balsha of Vlora and others, he continued the warfare with Venice right up until his premature death in 1421. The Balsha dynasty then dis­ solved and their territory was divided among local feudal lords, such as the Zaharias of Dagnum (Daina) at the mouth of the Drin River, the Jonimas of Lezha, and especially Duke John, better known as Dukagjin. Apparently the liberty-loving Albanians did not welcome the Venetian overlords much more than they did the Turks. Indicating their restlessness, an order was issued in the Senate of Venice on 12 August 1423 setting forth measures to be taken to stop the Albanian uprisings. It concluded, "The observance of the present shall be sworn to by the contracting parties on the image of the crucifix" (Deputazione 1876, 11:133). Shortly afterwards (1430) Venice again felt compelled to make peace and commercial treaties with Amurat, pledging mutual nonaggression, free commerce and payment by Venice of an annual tribute of 136 ducats for Shkodra and Drivasto (ibid., 12:140; Romanin 1853, 4:233). TH E D U K A G JIN FAM ILY (1 393-1479) The famous Dukagjin or Duke John family ruled over the moun­ tainous territory of Lezha, Mirdita and Dukagjin as far east as Prizren. The name first appears in history following the disastrous battle of Kosova (1389) when Progon and Tanushi, the sons of Lek Dukagjin, turned the city


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

of Lezha over to the Venetians in 1393. The names of Paul and Nikolla Dukagjin emerge frequently during the first half of the fifteenth century because of their quarrels. Both brothers participated in Skanderbeg's Assembly of Lezha (1444) and his warfare, especially against Venice in 1447-48. When the territorial claims of Lek Dukagjin caused a quarrel and the death of Lek Zaharia (1445) and the seizure of his castle at Daina on the Drin River, Skanderbeg had to intervene. This caused an estrangement be­ tween the two, and Dukagjin even sided with Venice in 1456 and with the Turks in 1457. Fortunately, Pal Engjell, archbishop of Durrës, was able to reconcile these two leaders (1463) in view of the continually increasing pressure of the Turks in Dukagjin's territory. Fighting side by side until the death of Skanderbeg, Lek Dukagjin thereafter became one of the prin­ cipal figures in the warfare against the Turks. When the last strongholds fell to the Turks in 1478 and 1479, Lek and other family leaders sought refuge in Venice. Others remaining in Albania became Muslims and reached high positions with the Turks. Many others in their mountain strongholds steadfastly resisted Turkish domination and continued as Catholics with some degree of autonomy under their celebrated Canon of Lek. This famous Canon of Lek originated with some unknown legislator of the family, although tradition links it with Prince Lek himself. Never re­ duced to writing until modern times, this governmental pattern was handed down orally from generation to generation, becoming more or less stan­ dard among all the mountain tribesmen. In fact it was considered more binding than Turkish law or their church's Ten Commandments. The basic unit was the patriarchal family, all the descendants of the living head dwell­ ing together in a great fortified stone house well distant from its neighbors. Each family had an elder who represented it at the council of the tribe or bajrak (literally, banner) of that district. The bajraktar or tribal chief presided over the tribal council and carried the tribe's banner in war. The tribes of a given region recognized one of their number as a prink (prince). The chief offices were hereditary but required confirmation by a decree of the Turkish vali or governor. Each principality thus formed a sort of aristocratic republic. The Canon embodied both civil and penal regula­ tions. One unique feature of Albanian mountain justice was the blood feud, or purification by blood. Murder had to be avenged at once by the victim's relatives. Family honor was not reestablished until the murderer or one of his male relatives had paid with his own blood. The code was very com­ plicated, and very exact. Women were highly respected and were in­ violable. Ffospitality was a sacred obligation, the host being required to avenge harm to one's guest. Real or imagined dishonor to one of these proud mountaineers might begin a feud which could cost many lives and last a century. The besa or besa-besën (word of honor) was an oath or pledge to keep one's word, and when extended to guests, friends or even to blood enemies was absolutely sacred and inviolable.

Gradual Capitulation o f Feudal Families to the Ottoman Turks


TH E K A S T R IO T I FA M ILY (1 383-1474) The Kastrioti family had a small principality in the mountains between Mat and Dibra, just north of the Topia holdings. Kostandin (Constantine) Kastriota began ruling this principality in 1383. His son Gjergj (George) with his troops took part in the ill-fated battle of Kosova in 1389. The Vene­ tians occupied Kruja the capital in 1392. When Gjergj reestablished his rule at Kruja in 1395 the Venetians considered him an enemy and beheaded him at Durrës in 1402. His son Gjon (John) succeeded him, reoccupied Kruja and gradually extended his domain over Tirana, Mat, the Dibras and Mirdita from Prizren in the east to the Adriatic in the west. Strong fortresses were maintained at Kruja, Petrel near Tirana, Petralba, Stelluzi in Mat, Sfetigrad in Upper Dibra and Tornach. From 1407 to 1430 John fought periodically with the Turks, but three times was defeated and forced to ac­ cept severe conditions of peace. When the Turks under Amurat II over­ whelmed him in 1421 they followed their usual practice, allowing him to remain with limited control of his principality. But they required him to pay annual tribute, also to surrender four sons as hostages to guarantee his continued submission to the sultan. They also promised the father that after his death they would return his oldest son to rule in his place. The youngest son was a nine-year-old boy, George, who would later be known as the hero Skanderbeg (Noli 1921, 70-71, 88-89). When Turkey and Venice went to war over possession of Thessalonica in 1428, Venice encouraged Gjon Kastrioti to rebel. Then in 1430 Venice yielded the coveted port to the Turks, signed a peace treaty and abandoned her ally to Turkish reprisal. The victorious sultan immediately retaliated against the revolting Albanians, defeating Kastrioti and restricting him to a small mountainous zone. Then using Kruja as a base, Ali Pasha Evrenozi from 1431 to 1433 laid waste most of Albania from Shkodra in the north to Vlora in the south. Except for the stronghold of Shkodra and other seaports held by Venice, virtually all of Albania was now in Turkish hands. One after another the individualistic feudal lords had been compelled to sue for peace and submit to the tribute. The longing for independence had not been crushed, however. It only awaited the proper leader who could rally the regional princes for united resistance. His time had come.

16. Temporary Successes of Skanderbeg (1443-1468) HIS EA RLY TR A IN IN G AS A H O ST A G E During much of this time young George Kastrioti had been held as a hostage at the court of Amurat II in Adrianople. Hardly were he and his brothers in the hands of Amurat when, contrary to Amurat's pledge, they were circumcised, given Muslim names and instructed in the Muslim faith. Sansovino, an Italian who for 13 years was a Turkish prisoner, and yet not antagonistic toward the Turks, wrote that "the most beautiful young men are used for immoral purposes by the courtiers, and when their beauty fades, they are made eunuchs for guarding the women or for stable or kitchen servants" (Sansovino 1560, 1:69). Chalcondile implied that young Kastrioti was so abused (Chalcondile 1662, 154). This does not, however, seem probable in view of the fact that he was given the select training of the elite Imperial Guard called the Janissaries, founded by Amurat I. Al­ banians were said to have predominated in that bodyguard just as they had in the elite Praetorian Guard of Rome. His older brothers were allegedly poisoned (Noli 1921, 74). George, now named Skender after the equally youthful Alexander the Great and because of their common Albanian origin, appeared thoroughly Ottomanized. By his intelligence and strength he won the favor of the sultan and rapid advancement. He showed such courage in battle that he was made an officer, a sanjak or commander over 5,000 cavalrymen, and was thereafter called Skander Beg or Lord Alex­ ander. In 1438 and 1440 Skanderbeg was sent with his troops to suppress the restless peasants in upper Albania, where he became aware of their readiness for revolt. SK A N D ER BEG C O M M IT S H IM SELF T O A LBA N IA N IN D EPEN D EN CE (1443) In 1442 John Kastrioti died, and the sultan granted his principality to a renegade Albanian then governing Kruja rather than to the lawful heir. Apparently Skanderbeg reached a decision. The next year he was sent in company with another Turkish general at the head of an army against the 178

Tem porary Successes o f Skanderbeg (1443-1468)


revolting Hungarians headed by John Hunyades. In battle at Nish that 3 November 1443, Skanderbeg retired his troops, deliberately causing con­ fusion. Locating the sultan's secretary, he extorted an imperial firman (order) to Sabel Pasha, governor of Kruja, directing him to surrender to Skanderbeg the fortress and the governorship of Kruja, Mat and Dibra. In the American poet Longfellow's Tales o f a Wayside Inn the Spanish Jew in his second tale dramatized the ensuing forced march with 300 loyal Alba­ nians, the surrender of the sixth-century fortress of Kruja, and the annihila­ tion of the Turkish garrison, excepting only those few who abjured their religion in order to survive. In place of the Turkish banner Skanderbeg raised his family banner, a red field with a superimposed black double­ headed eagle. The watchwords of liberty and religion provoked a general revolt. Couriers radiated through the countryside. With the exception of four strongly garrisoned fortresses, the example of Kruja was enthu­ siastically repeated. The remaining fortresses - Petrel, Petralba, Stelluse and Sfetigrad —all surrendered, their Turkish defenders being promised deportation to Turkey. Within one month Skanderbeg regained all of his father's principality, which consisted of Mat, Kruja, Mirdita and Dibra. On 28 November 1443 a new era began as he was formally proclaimed head of the Kastrioti principality. Immediately, he mobilized the villages, rein­ forced the castles and set up a courier network to prevent a surprise attack by the Turks. Skanderbeg now once more publicly professed the Christian faith. On Christmas Day his nephew Hamza and several comrades were baptized as Christians. Although in a predominantly Muslim Albania this sensitive conversion has been denied, a foremost authority on Turkey declared that Hamza "a Musulman like himself [Skanderbeg] became a Christian and was baptized on December 25, 1443" (Hammer-Purgstall 1835, 2:340-43). The principality was purged of the Turks and of their religion. But Skanderbeg was well acquainted with Amurat and the vengeance he would unleash. So he began a long contest in which he was destined not only to preserve the liberty of his country, but to stand as a bulwark between Christian civiliza­ tion and Islam. Two months later on 2 March 1444 he convened an assembly of the feudal lords of Albania. To avoid jealousy among the princes and to solicit the aid of the powerful republic, the assembly convened at the Cathedral of Venetian-occupied Lezha. Besides local princes, others came: Gjergj Arianita, Andrea Topia, Nikolla Dukagjin, Theodore Muzaka and many others, including delegates from Venice. While no formal unity of these feudal princes was attempted, they did form a "League of the Albanian Peoples." Each noble kept his autonomous domain, but they did create a military alliance for the sole purpose of conducting common warfare against the Turks. They elected the 32-year-old Skanderbeg as their generalissimo, and each ally, including Venice, pledged men, food and money to be contributed. The League's army consisted of about 18,000

D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n


soldiers, half cavalry, half infantry, about three-quarters of them from Skanderbeg's own principality. He established his counterpart of the elite Janissaries or royal guard consisting of 2,000 men unequalled for their discipline, courage and loyalty. Because the League united Albanians from the north and the south, the symbolic two-headed eagle found its place on their Albanian flag. T R E A C H ER Y OF SK A N D ER BE G 'S C H R I S T I A N ALLIES H ungary

As Skanderbeg foresaw, his treason enraged Amurat II. A punitive ex­ pedition entered Albania that June of 1444 through the usual northeastern gateway of Kosova, descending to Dibra. At the nearby plain of Torviolli between Librasht and Pogradec in one long day of battle the smaller inex­ perienced Albanian army utterly destroyed the Turks. Albanian princes were jubilant. European courts were amazed and pledged support. En­ couraged by this victory Pope Eugene IV organized a united crusade which gave promise of success. Fearing nothing more than Christian union, however, the sultan that July succeeded in signing a ten-year peace with Hungary, which had tired of waging war alone and unsupported. Amurat II then abdicated the throne and retired to a life of leisure. Cardinal Julian Cesarini, however, persuaded the new King Ladislaus of Hungary and Poland to join a united effort to drive the Turks out of Europe. The cardinal absolved him from his treaty oath "which should not obligate a Christian to keep faith with an infidel," and within six weeks Hungarians were march­ ing southward. Amurat led his troops once more, unexpectedly intercept­ ing the Hungarians on the field of Varna. The battle at first seemed to be going against Amurat. The French Jesuit Duponcet wrote the following, which may have been fancy rather than fact, but which should have taken place even if it did not: The infidel prince, seeing himself on the verge of losing the battle, took out of his pocket the treaty which he had made with King Ladislaus and Hunyades, and raising toward heaven the hand holding it he cried aloud these words, "Jesus Christ, if you are God as your people assure us, avenge the injury which they have done to you in violating this treaty which they have sworn to me in your name to observe inviolate'' [Duponcet 1709, 103-41. Duponcet added that the prayer was too impious to be heard, but a terrible jealousy among the Christians enabled him to obtain the thing requested. For Polish lords with King Ladislaus were pricked in honor to see the Hungarian Hunyades reaping all the glory of the battle. They shouted to one another not to be put to shame. The king with more courage than suc­ cess spurred his horse into the midst of the Janissaries, where the horse was cut down and the rider beheaded. Cardinal Julian also perished on the field, as did most of their army (November, 1444).

Tem porary Successes o f Skanderbeg (1443-1468)


To their everlasting shame it should be made clear that Christians elsewhere were partly responsible for this defeat. For when Amurat was separated from the advancing crusaders by the Hellespont, certain moneyloving Genoese merchants promptly ferried 40,000 of his soldiers over the strait at a ducat a head (Ganem 1901, 1:118). Further, a Serbian, George Brankovich, who had married his daughter to Amurat, resisted Skanderbeg's passage to reinforce the crusader army. The Albanians now determinedly resisted the ruthless war of exter­ mination launched by Amurat. Except for occasional brief truces and ar­ mistices, warfare was incessant. After three successive years of victory over the Turks, a year of peace followed in 1447. This enabled Skanderbeg in 1448 to respond to an appeal for help for Alphonse I, King of Naples. He sent soldiers to help suppress an uprising. The grateful king granted land, and that year many of the soldiers settled permanently in southern Italy, founding a dozen villages in the region of Catanzaro and four others in Si­ cily, including Piana degli Albanesi. This was the first of several waves of immigrants from Albania. But the grateful King Alphonse contributed only about 100 soldiers to aid Skanderbeg against the Turks. V en ice

The growing military reputation of Skanderbeg warmed Pope Eugene IX and King Alphonse of Naples, but it alarmed his Christian allies, the Venetians. At first they welcomed him for maintaining a buffer state be­ tween their commercial colonies along the coast and their common enemy, the Turks. But now they feared losing their Albanian strongholds. In 1447 they seized the fortress of Daino by trickery so as to sow discord among the Albanian princes. The League having no artillery failed in their at­ tempts to recapture Daino and Durrës. One of their own Venetian historians recorded their Machiavellian duplicity. They sought by every means to overthrow or bring about the death of "this formidable one" (Romanin 1853, 4 Marzo 1448, Secreta 17:221). They even offered in 1448 a life-provision of 100 ducats annually to the man who killed him (Kortshës 1923, 14). Venice, fearing that he might take Durrës, sent reinforcements there. They also sent a messenger to the sultan with plans for the punish­ ment of his rebellious subject (Romanin 1853, 25 Maggio 1448, Senati Mar. 62t). Their captain, Paul Loredan, received an order to assail and combat Skanderbeg with all his force {ibid., 27 Giugno, Secreta 18:14). He was warned, though, that if Turkish assistance should be delayed, it would not suffice to enter the undertaking alone. In that case it would be necessary to introduce negotiations, recalling the ancient friendship of the Republic with his father, and how from the beginning it had favored his advancement. Thus he could prolong matters until the arrival of the Turkish troops. Should these not come in time, however, he should then conclude a treaty providing that Venice would pay Skanderbeg an annual tribute for the cas­ tle of Daino which they had seized. The Turkish contingent did not appear


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

in time, so Venice concluded a peace treaty (4 October 1448) with her "buoni amici e vicini" (good friends and neighbors). Venice agreed to pay Skanderbeg 1,400 ducats annually for retaining Daino and environs, but would cede Buzëgjarpëri at the mouth of the Drin River, and would enjoy the privilege of buying tax-free 200 horse-loads of salt annually (Deputazione 1876, 14:31). Two weeks later an attacking Turkish contingent was defeated at Upper Dibra. Captured documents showed that the Venetians had urged the Turks to attack Skanderbeg (Noli 1921, 154-55). CONTINUING TURKISH CAMPAIGNS B O T H M I L I T A R Y AND D I P L O M A T I C Just three days later (17-19 October 1448) one more huge crusading army under the courageous but unfortunate Hungarian John Hunyades was completely destroyed by the Turks on the plain of Kosova. Turkish at­ tention then focused on the rebel league of Albanian princes. Sultan Amurat or Murad II himself led the invasion in the spring of 1448 with an army of 80,000 men. They also brought into Albania for the first time two cannons which could fire stones or iron weighing over 500 pounds. Sharp engagements punctuated an unsuccessful campaign of 18 months, Skander­ beg and his men winning each battle. In 1449 Amurat returned to Adrianople or Edirne his capital. But in May 1450 Amurat with his son Mohammed and an army of over 100,000 men returned to lay siege to the capital, Kruja. Skanderbeg could marshal only about 17,500 men. So while 1,500 select fighters defended the castle itself, Skanderbeg and two bands of 8,000 peasants remained outside to harass the Turks day and night. To the scene the Turks brought four enormous cannons which would hurl 600-pound stones at the gate and walls, with six more to handle 200-pound stones. The castle was bom­ barded four days in succession and then stormed by overwhelming forces, but in vain. Once again the Venetians prized financial gain above the com­ mon cause against the Turks and sold them the necessary food and sup­ plies. The siege continued until the late October rains began. Amurat finally abandoned the siege, leaving 20,000 men dead, then losing many more to snipers and ambushes throughout the mountain passes leading to the eastern frontier of Albania. Returning to Edirne quite demoralized, Amurat died a few weeks later in January 1451. Skanderbeg reentered Kruja. The garrison and population could hardly believe that they had repulsed the sultan. Wild jubilation continued for days. The amazement and rejoicing in Albania was equaled by that of all Christendom. Am­ bassadors were sent to the court at Kruja. Rich gifts and warrior volunteers poured in. Skanderbeg and the Albanian fortresses seemed the last desperate hope of European civilization against the encroaching Turks. One of Albania's greatest literary figures, Naim Bey Frashëri, pointed out at this juncture that for the third time Albanian military leadership had saved Europe from Asia: when Achilles conquered the Trojans, Alexander

Tem porary Successes o f Skanderbeg (1443-1468)


the Great the Persians, and now Skanderbeg the Turks (Frashëri, N., ca. 1900, 8). D I V I S I O N S IN C H R I S T E N D O M LEAD T O THE FALL OF C O N S T A N T I N O P L E (1453) As Turkish power became ever more threatening, Byzantine am­ bassadors appeared ever more frequently at the papal court. According to military vicissitudes, insincere negotiations for a reunion of Christendom were proposed or withdrawn. It seems that the wily Greeks wished first military aid, then a council, and finally (if unavoidable) reunion. The Latins knew the futility of a council, so promised assistance as a conse­ quence of reunion. A Byzantine historian and intimate of the emperor recorded the principle of these negotiations as revealed in a conversation between the emperor and his young heir, later to be known as John II Paleologus: Our last resource against the Turks is their fear of our union with the Latins, of the warlike nations of the west, who may arm for our relief and their destruction. As often as you are threatened by the miscreants, pre­ sent this danger before their eyes. Propose a council, consult on the means; but ever delay and avoid the convocation of an assembly, which cannot tend either to our spiritual or temporal emolument. The Latins are proud, the Greeks are obstinate; neither party will recede or retract. And the attempt of a perfect union will confirm the schism, alienate the churches, and leave us without hope or defense at the mercy of the bar­ barians [Gibbon 1860, 6:306-7]. Accordingly the emperor discussed union with the Latins so as to halt Muslim aggression, but to retain the identity of Orthodoxy he never con­ summated the reunion. The son, John II Paleologus, was not so cautious, or perhaps the pressure was greater. He was giving serious consideration to the invitation of Pope Eugenius IV, who had put down three antipopes and who now aspired to heal this more ancient schism. The sultan, fearing a reunion, offered to Paleologus guarantees of security and even of money if he would repulse the papal advances. As a pretext for delay the young emperor pleaded his depleted treasury. The pope promptly covered the expenses with a subsidy of 10,000 ducats. Yielding, the emperor, the patriarch and a large entourage sailed to the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438. There after interminable doctrinal debates, the Greeks signed ambiguously phrased concessions, and a meager military aid was forthcoming as the reward of union. Back in Constantinople, however, these representatives were charged with apostasy, the agreement was popularly denounced and the traffickers in religion obtained popular pardon only by humbly confess­ ing their error and abjuring the union. After the annihilation of the crusader troops at Varna (1444) and the


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

preparation of Mohammed II for the siege of Constantinople, Constantine Paleologus made a last desperate appeal to the West for substantial military aid on any terms. Although as recently as 1450 a council at Constantinople had again enumerated Latin errors, Constantine in 1452 subscribed to the former union, proclaimed it at St. Sophia Cathedral, and for the first time since the eleventh century the name of the pope was recited in the prayers. The Greeks, however, unanimously repudiated any alliance with the Latins. Their great admiral Notares, premier and second to the emperor himself, declared that he preferred to see the turban of the Turks in Con­ stantinople rather than the cap of a cardinal (LaMartine 1854, 3:214-15). Stubborn to the death, they faced the Turks alone, and the city fell on 29 May 1453. Constantinople became the Turkish capital and was renamed Istanbul. The crescent replaced the cross, and the great St. Sophia Cathedral was turned into a mosque. The persistent animosity between Latin and Greek over technical points of doctrine is mirrored in the account of the Latin historian Bernino. He found a significant relation between the fall of Constantinople that fatal day in May, and the fact that this was the day "appointed in that year for the feast of the Holy Spirit, which pro­ ceeded from the Father and from the Son, denied by the Greeks" (Bernino 1685, 79). It is possible that a more decisive factor in the fall of the capital of Orthodox Christendom was the unusually heavy artillery used by the Turks. Gibbon took delight in pointing out that the grand master of Ot­ toman artillery was Urban, a Hungarian, presumably Latin, who had left Greek employ for that of the Turks because they paid him more liberally (Gibbon 1860, 6:379). For a thousand years Constantinople had served as the custodian of the intellectual heritage of antiquity, as well as developing its own culture and literature. Many of its scholars now fled from the Turks, transplanting their cultural treasures in the West. An important group of these emigrants settled in Moskopolis (now Voskopoja of Korcha district). This small village became a city of about 60,000 and for 350 years was famous for its academy, its public library and the first printing press in the Balkans. After conquering Constantinople, Mohammed II determined to crush Albanian resistance so he could move across the Adriatic into Italy and capture Rome. Pope Nicholas V did not cease appealing to quarreling Christian princes for a crusade. Apparently, Mohammed II took the proposal more seriously than did the princes. He addressed a letter to the pope to dissuade him. After enumerating his forces he urged the pope and his Sacred College to submit to him, promising entire religious liberty. Then he added naively, "When my task of pacification shall have been completed, it is not impossi­ ble that, instructed by you and by your priests in the miracles and the life of Jesus, I shall embrace your religion. Some astrologers have predicted that of me. As for me, I shall leave to heaven the care of inspiring me" (Julien 1879, 93). Unfortunately, the appeals of Nicholas fell on deaf ears. The spirit of the times doomed him to failure. Now no Christian banner

Tem porary Successes o f Skanderbeg (1443-1468)


stood between the vengeful Turks and the Albanians. And the Albanians knew they had to face the Turks alone. C R O W N I N G J O Y S AND S O R R O W S OF THE I N C REDI BLE S K A N D E R B E G His M a rr ia g e During a happy interlude between seemingly incessant military cam­ paigns came the marriage of Skanderbeg at age 39 to Marina Andronika on 26 April 1451 in the cathedral of Kruja. She was the 23-year-old daughter of the heroic Arianiti Komneni Topia, the second most powerful prince of Albania after Skanderbeg, and the first to pledge himself, his soldiers and his fortune to the cause of Albanian freedom (Drita 13 April 1938). Following the wedding Skanderbeg and his bride visited cities and castles throughout the country, receiving congratulations from them and from European courts, including even Venice. T rea c h ery and D efectio n of H is A ides

Skanderbeg's several victories over the troops of Mohammed's generals were followed by extremely critical days from 1455 to 1457. Unable to conquer the Albanian princes militarily, the sultan undertook to subvert them with bribes of riches and honors. Assassination plots were discovered. An army entrusted with the siege of Berat was cut to pieces in June 1455. Skanderbeg's outstanding general Moisi of Dibra deserted to the enemy, though he begged for restoration the following summer, 1456. That same year the joyous birth of Skanderbeg's son John convinced Hamza, his nephew and best general, that he would never inherit the Albanian throne, so he deserted to the Turks who promised it to him. To create a unified Albanian state the victorious Skanderbeg took strong measures against several feudal princes who were incompetent, thus generating pockets of resentment. Venice too was troubled by his alliance with her enemy Naples, so incited these resentful princes against him. Skanderbeg's sense of gloom was relieved, however, by the Hungarian John Hunyades' defeat of Mohammed II at Belgrade in August 1456, then descended again just six days later as Hunyades died of malaria. Between 1457 and 1460 there followed a swift succession of five brilliant victories by Skanderbeg over invading Turkish armies. Mohammed the Conqueror then asked for a three-year armistice, which was signed on 27 April 1461. In it the sultan recognized Skanderbeg as the king of Albania. T he C a m pa ig n in I ta ly

This first declared peace in over 18 years of continual warfare permit­ ted the Albanian population to resume normal occupations once again. They plowed the neglected fields, repaired their homes and rebuilt the dam­ aged villages and towns. The peace also allowed Skanderbeg to respond to


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r is t ia n iz a tio n

the appeal of Ferdinand I, king of Naples, son of his friend Alphonse I. Rais­ ing an expeditionary force of 5,000 veterans he sailed to Brindisi that autumn of 1461. At Barleta his cavalry helped defeat the Angevin kings of Sicily. By August 1462 the whole kingdom was restored to a most grateful Ferdinand. Skanderbeg returned to Albania, but once again many of his warriors chose to remain and establish themselves in 15 more villages near Taranto. Commercial rivalry between the Kingdom of Naples and the Republic of Venice was so sharp, however, that Venice urged the sultan to break his armistice and attack Albania. Receiving word of Turkish raids along the Albanian frontier, Skanderbeg reached Kruja just in time to discourage further attacks on Albania itself that fall of 1462. Further border raids were repulsed, and in April 1463 the Turks proposed a 10-year ar­ mistice, which was signed in Uskup. Two great honors must be noted. Fer­ dinand gave to Skanderbeg not only honorary titles and a goodly pension, but he granted to him and his heirs several territories in southern Italy where more of his veterans settled periodically. Then Pope Pius II blessed Skanderbeg, naming him the "Athlete of Christ" and promising to organize a crusade against the Turks with Skanderbeg as the generalissimo of the Christian armies. The pope also promised to come personally to Albania and officially crown Skanderbeg as King of Albania, Macedonia and Rumeli (the Turkish designation for Thrace and Romania). C ollapse of the P r o jec ted C rusade

The idea of a great crusade to drive the Turks out of Europe became an obsession of the pope. Plans repeatedly fell apart, however. Once John Anjou seized 26 galleys constructed for the crusade and invaded the Kingdom of Naples, precipitating a civil war. Pope Pius II tried another ap­ proach. Fie invited the sultan to become a Christian and the legitimate suc­ cessor of the Paleologus dynasty of Constantinople. Fie wrote a 64-page document and urged, "A trifle can make thee the most celebrated of mor­ tals, and this trifle is not difficult to find: aquae pauxillum, just a little water which will make thee a Christian, a servant of God and of the gospel. . . . We shall name thee Emperor of the Greeks and the Orient. Not one prince on earth will surpass you in glory and power" (Julien 1879,106). At last the pope concluded that war was the only solution. Yet both Christian powers —Venice supreme on the seas and Albania supreme on the land — were bound to the Turks by treaties of peace. After lengthy negotiations Pal Engjëlli, archbishop of Durrës, representing the pope and even Venice convinced the reluctant Albanian leaders that both national honor and sur­ vival demanded their participation in the crusade. When they declared war in November 1463 the archbishop was rewarded with the red cap of a car­ dinal. On 14 August 1464 at Ochrida Skanderbeg overwhelmed Sheremet Bey with 14,000 of his troops. Returning to Kruja he prepared to go to Durrës to welcome the pope and the crusader army. Instead, a messenger arrived announcing the death of Pope Pius II at Ancona just before embark-

Tem porary Successes o f Skanderbeg (1443-1468)


ing. He died, and with him the proposed crusade, on the very day when Skanderbeg was assuring wrath on himself by his defeat of Sheremet at Ochrida. Although all Europe admired and felicitated Skanderbeg on his victories, the only serious initiative to aid him had collapsed. T he D eath of S kanderbeg (1468)

In 1465 an unbelievably swift succession of major battles was fought, five within five months. All were won by the astonishing Albanians. But the erosion in numbers of Albanian warriors was great, and Skanderbeg's principality was weakening progressively. Assassination attempts failed. Then Sultan Mohammed II himself came at the head of his army to subdue this last center of resistance. Kruja was besieged in June 1466. Skanderbeg personally appealed to Venice, Naples and Rome for men, weapons and provisions. He received congratulations, honors, homage and eulogies, but little more tangible than a sword and helmet which had been blessed per­ sonally by Pope Paul II. The following April Skanderbeg disastrously defeated the Turks, even their commander, Ballaban Pasha, losing his life. Another expedition led personally by Mohammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, proved equally futile that spring of 1467. But that which Turkish armies failed to accomplish by force, and hired assassins by treachery, was accomplished by an anopheles mosquito from a neighbor­ ing swamp at Lezha. While laying plans for the eradication of four Turkish strongholds remaining in Albania, Skanderbeg at 56 was stricken with malaria, like Alexander the Great and John Hunyades and Balsha before him. He died at Lezha on 17 January 1468. To the great joy of the Turks, but accompanied by mourning throughout Albania and all Christendom, Skanderbeg was buried in the cathedral of St. Nicholas at Lezha. In token of their grief his people thereafter dyed black the traditional white xhufka (tassels) on the shoulders of their jackets. Noli expressed it well: "together with his body was buried also free Albania" (Noli 1921, 269). But this magnificent Skanderbeg with little outside help had rallied his troops to defeat more than a score of Turkish armies. His Albanians had blocked the invasion of Europe by the Turkish colossus for a quarter of a century. In doing so Skanderbeg bought time for the maturing of the Renaissance, for the Reformation, for the development of printing (1456) and the explora­ tion of the Western world where hundreds of thousands of his descendants would later take refuge. The Albanian government has restored the historic old church of St. Nicholas and in 1981 incorporated it in a national memorial. The museum complex features a heroic monument of Skander­ beg, his sword and helmet and many other mementos of the national hero (.Lina 15 December 1982, 3). TH E R EL IG I ON OF S K A N D E R B E G In view of subsequent claims and counterclaims, it would seem in order to inquire whether Skanderbeg was sincerely motivated by religious


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

convictions, or whether as some claim he merely used religion as a tool to achieve Albanian independence. Fethy Pasha, a former minister of Turkey in Belgrade, asserted that while Skanderbeg was commanding a military force in Anatolia (Asia Minor), "the archives give evidence that he was a good Moslem. But after the death of his father (1432) the sultan gave his principality of Kruja to another instead of inviting him to take the post of his father. It is from this day that he gave himself secretly to the Roman Church, with the hope of finding there the means of realizing his views" (Dukagjin-Zadeh 1920, 5-6). This viewpoint is shared by other Muslims. One Muslim official ridiculed a reference to Skanderbeg as a "General of the Cross" and declared that "Skanderbeg did not fight for the cross but for his fatherland; he did not fight against the religion of Islam but against the Turk. It must be recognized that Skanderbeg himself was a Mohammedan, and there is no foundation for saying that he became a Christian" (Zan i Naltë April 1936, 107-8). Roman Catholic writers often go to the other extreme. They affirm that he was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, and his later compulsory circumcision as a Muslim at age nine had little significance. The numerous clerical historians assert that as a Turkish commander he secretly nourished the determination to reestablish Christianity in his domain, that he battled mercilessly against Muslim opponents, but when sent against Christians in Greece and Hungary he moderated his ferocity so as to spare the Christians and yet not sacrifice the troops committed to his care (Duponcet 1709, 15-16). To reconcile this with his later wars against Christians, as when the Venetians disputed his right to the town of Daino, for instance, clerical historians make a nice distinction. When Skanderbeg noticed that his soldiers were less eager to fight against Christians than against Turks, and fearing that they might not display their usual courage, he declared that they must separate the religion of their enemies from their unjust preten­ sions: they were not to fight them as Christians, but as usurpers. This would also justify the shedding of Angevin blood in Italy. From the standpoint of objectivity, it is regrettable that virtually all of the early chroniclers of this heroic era were ardent clerics. It is inevitable that their personal religious convictions would color their narratives somewhat too strongly. The historians Giovio, Lavardin, Duponcet and others fill entire pages with devotional speeches and letters of Skanderbeg. Would that these were authentic, that we might get beyond the historian to the warrior himself. A German scholar supports the assertion that these devotional speeches sound like the priest-historian rather than the warriorSkanderbeg (Hammer-Purgstall 1835, 2:346). Despite the continued use of the Turkish name Skanderbeg there is no doubt that he was a true Roman Catholic. Around his famous helmet were the Latin initials standing for the words: "Jesus of Nazareth Blesses Skanderbeg Prince of Mat King of Albania Terror of Ottomans King of Epirus." He selected as advisors and diplomatic representatives men like the Dominican friar and astronomer

Tem porary Successes o f Skanderbeg (1443-1468)


Gjin Gazulli and the archbishop of Durrës Pal Engjëlli. He continued lifelong and intimate relations with the popes and the Church. Pope Pius II and Pope Paul II affectionately called the warrior the "Christian Gideon," the "Sword of Christendom," the "Pillar of the Holy Church," the "New Maccabaeus" and the "Terror of Islam" (Tocci 1911, 20-21). In gratitude the city of Rome erected a large equestrian statue of the warrior in a square near the Colosseum dedicated to his people and still bearing the name Piazza Albanese. There can be little doubt about the matter. Skanderbeg was a loyal Roman Catholic.

17. Final Capitulation of Albania to the Turks (1503) Upon the death of Skanderbeg his 12-year-old son Gjon (John) Kastrioti was declared his successor with the queen mother as regent. But there was now no strong charismatic prince to unite the naturally clannish Albanian tribesmen. The country was impoverished both of men and materials for the prosecution of the war. Venice, with an obviously ulterior motive, encouraged the Albanian lords to continue the struggle against the Turks. But the outcome was inevitable. In 1474 Gjon turned over Kruja and his father's principality to the Republic of Venice, and with his mother and other refugees left the country to take up residence in the gift territories of Calabria and Sicily. Only two warrior princes now remained, one of whom was Lek Dukagjini. About the only chronicler to continue the story of Albanian misfor­ tune was Marin Barleti (1460-1513), a Roman Catholic priest of Shkodra. He provided detailed histories of the siege of Kruja, the two sieges of Shkodra and the life of Skanderbeg. Twice a year, at the spring harvest and the autumn vintage, Turkish troops repeatedly invaded the country, laying waste the olive groves, vineyards and crops around Kruja, Durrës, Lezha and Shkodra. Thus they hoped to starve out their Albanian and Venetian garrisons. Mohammed II undertook a 13-month siege of Kruja and finally starved them into capitulation in June 1478. In retaliation for his many defeats there and despite guarantees of their free withdrawal from the region, the Turks massacred the men, sent women and children into slavery, and held the wealthy for ransom (Secretario 1560,139). When the Turks captured Lezha from the Venetians in 1479, local tradition asserts that they recovered the body of Skanderbeg, not for desecration but for veneration. They mounted bits of his bone in silver and gold as amulets or charms, hoping that the wearer would become a partaker of his courage and good fortune in war (Hecquard ca. 1859, 56-57; Noli 1921, 280; Duponcet 1709, 575). In 1478 Mohammed II himself proceeded with his army of 100,000 men to besiege and capture Shkodra. A poet-historian reported that Moham190

Final Capitulation o f A lbania to the Turks (1503)


med II himself proceeded with his army of 100,000 men to besiege and cap­ ture Shkodra. A poet-historian reported that Mohammed, catching his first glimpse of the Rozafat fortress, its Pelasgian foundations, its cliffs, its mighty ramparts and towers, cried in admiration, "What an excellent nest the eagle has chosen, there to defend its young!" (LaMartine 1854, 3:214-15). The 1,700 defenders are said to have withstood the attacks over six months. The Venetian Romanin provides graphic details of both sieges. He praised the Venetian commander, Antonio Loredano, for presenting himself before the famine-stricken population and crying, "If you are hungry, eat of my flesh; if you are thirsty, drink of my blood" (Romanin 1853, 4:369-73). The second siege was notable in that for the first time in warfare the attackers used huge cannon, molded on the spot, which could fire balls of 1,200 pounds and incendiary bombs (ibid., 4:379-83). The fall of Shkodra eventually became inevitable. Venice signed a treaty with the Turks in 1479 surrendering the city and all her other Albanian holdings ex­ cept Corfu, Durrës and nearby Antivari and Dulcigno. Most of the in­ habitants of Shkodra settled in the Venice region (Secretario 1560,139-40). Mohammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, now looked long­ ingly at Rome, its riches and its pope, the archenemy of infidels. In August 1480 the Turks with a powerful army of 10,000 and their navy passed from Vlora across the Adriatic to Italy. The city of Otranto fell, and Italy tasted the cruelty of that from which the Albanians had shielded her for almost a century. This campaign was cut short, however, by the death of Mohammed in the spring of 1481. A rather extensive rebellion then broke out in Albania. Gjon Kastrioti, son of Skanderbeg, returned to direct the war against the Turks and was proclaimed "Prince of Albania." Between 1481 and 1485 they fought fairly successfully from Kruja to Vlora. In 1494 Charles VIII of France proposed a united campaign against the Turks, send­ ing the archbishop of Durrës to Greece to promote a move on Shkodra with Greek and Albanian help. But the Venetians arrested the archbishop, and learning of the enterprise from his papers, those Venetians who should have been the first to favor the plan instead sought to ingratiate their common enemy Bajazet II by forewarning the Turkish garrisons (Chalcondile 1662, 112-16). In fact the Republic of Venice frequently in her quarrels with Hungary, Naples or other Christian rivals would covertly urge the sultan and his armies to attack them, while taking care to keep the hordes away from its own borders. The sultan on his part was as unprincipled as Venice, making it his policy to divide and conquer. By his manipulation of cir­ cumstances, the sultan would set the infidels against the infidels, or as Ham­ mer interpreted the expression of the Ottoman historians, the sultan "set the dogs against the pigs, and the pigs against the dogs" (Hammer-Purgstall 1835, 3:247). When France entered the war against the Turks, the revolt in Albania broke out once more. But after one year France withdrew from the war and the Turks were free to concentrate their forces against the Alba­ nians and subdue them.


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n i a , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

Venice declared war against the Turks in 1499, and another popular uprising took place in Albania. Gjergj Kastrioti, Gjon's son, was invited to come to Albania in March 1501 and lead the uprising. He was called the "New Skanderbeg." But Venice suffered several defeats and lost Durrës in 1501 so unilaterally made peace with Turkey in 1502. Thus the proud Republic of Venice, the "Mistress of the Adriatic," ended her 125-year rule over this coastal chain of Albanian strongholds. Her castles have crumbled. But still bearing witness to her past glories is the Lion of St. Mark roughly carved in the solid rock above the village of Vune near Himara (Scriven Na­ tional Geographic Aug. 1918, 92, 98). The withdrawal of Venice, however, once again left the Albanians alone to face the Turkish wrath. Kastrioti also withdrew from the country in 1503. Although scattered revolt continued for a few years, the last Albanian stronghold, Lezha, fell to the Turks in 1506. Abandoned by its old allies, Albania's liberation war was crushed at last. Sixty years of incessant warfare against the Turkish colossus had cost Albania immeasurable losses of human and material resources. But the yet more tragic loss of freedom would condemn Albanians for over four cen­ turies to the deepest political, economic, social and cultural deprivation.

18. Albania's Peculiar Handicaps in Facing Turkish Occupation MILITARY ISOLATIO N Albania faced Turkish occupation quite alone. For a quarter century Skanderbeg and his men had headed European resistance to the terrible Turk. Now Skanderbeg and his men were gone. Hungary and John Hunyades were gone. So were Greece, Venice and Naples. The patriarch at Constantinople was a virtual hostage and puppet. The Bulgarians, Thra­ cians and Slavs had largely faded into history. The old western empires had been split by the rising tide of nationalism and were incapable of united in­ tervention. The pope had no armies of his own. SOCIAL FRAGMENTATION Not only did Albania stand alone, it stood divided. Albania, the old "Illyricum Sacrum," was unique. Midway between Constantinople and Rome, it was a bone of contention throughout the centuries. Irreconcilable enmity developed between Orthodox and Latin Christians so that they could rarely cooperate against their common enemy, the Turks. Alone among the several Balkan nationalities Albania was characterized by serious religious disunity. Greece was solidly Orthodox, as were Walachia (Romania), Bulgaria and Serbia. Croatia and Dalmatia were solidly Latin. But northern Albanians were Latin, and central and southern Albanians were Orthodox. Here the Turks encountered no solid religious bloc as they did elsewhere. These major religious blocs were further subdivided by the prevailing feudalism. Its feudal princes had learned nothing from their own tragic history. They had no overall organization, no federation or alliance. Their territory was divided into feudal principalities, regional in scope, unrelated and often at war with one another. Northern Albania was divided among the families of Duke John (Dukagjini), Spani and Dushmani. Central and southern Albania were divided among the Zaccarias, the Gropas, the Muzakas and the Shpatas of Gjirokastra. An insatiable traveler of that period recorded his impressions: Albania had become such that in that place there were more counterfeit 193


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r i s t i a n i z a t i o n

lords than villas or castles. Greece and Albania alike were in such turmoil, with Christian princes jealous of each other's power, that when the Turks came, they could not unite in a common resistance" (Cantacuscino 1551, 20-23). Albania was the only country in the Balkans where feudalism in its western form was ever established, being transplanted by the Normans. And just as in Europe, this feudalism defied centralization of power and united action against a common enemy. TH E E M I G R A T I O N OF ALBANIA' S L EA D ER S HI P G reece

The Gothic and Slavic invasions from the north had led to migrations of Albanians to Greece as early as the eighth century. But the Ottoman in­ vasions encouraged much more extensive migrations of the Christian population. John Bua Shpata had established Albanian colonies in Greece the latter half of the fourteenth century. Coming from "Arvania" they called themselves "Arvanites." The Byzantine historian Cantecus noted that the feuds between Byzantine nobles and Latin princes after the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) had devastated the Greek countryside. But the "Arvanite [or Albanian] newcomers settled in barren regions, felled the forests and made the land suitable for tilling. Many Greek regions which previously were useful only to provide sanctuary for robbers, thanks to the work of the ex­ perienced farmers, were tilled and planted to different crops" (Liria 1 June 1984, 1). These Albanians did not come as invaders, but as refugees who would settle and develop Greece and give their lives to secure its in­ dependence from Turkey. In fact, it is reported that at that time one-half of the population of the lower peninsula, the Peloponnesus or Morea, were Albanians (Diturija January 1927, 1). Among the suburbs of Athens 35 villages had Albanian names (ibid., 83). The invading Turks seemed to single out these Albanian refugees for their special fury. In 1423 the son of Fazi Evrenosi entered the Peloponnesus and on 5 June "defeated the Albanians, erecting a pyramid with the heads of eight hundred prisoners" (ibid., 84). In 1454 Turhan cap­ tured and sold as slaves 10,000 Albanian women (ibid.). In May 1458 Sultan Mohammed II invaded the Peloponnesus, "fighting more against the Albanians than against the Greeks. His horsemen devastated the region taking Albanians slaves. .. . The brave commander of the city, the Alba­ nian Doksa, they sawed in the middle" (ibid.). S outhern I taly

The earliest emigrants to Italy are thought to have gone in 1443 when Alphonse V of Naples hired Albanian troops under the command of one Dimitri Reres. After the wars he became governor of Castra Reggio, found­ ing 13 Albanian villages near Catanzaro in southernmost Italy and a few in Sicily (Diturija 1909,1:6, 83). After the campaign of Skanderbeg in Italy

Albania's Peculiar Handicaps in Facing Turkish Occupation


he received grant territories in 1462 where he settled some of his battleweary veterans. On 25 April 1467 two Shkodra Catholics fearing the ad­ vancing Turks took the image of "Our Lady of Good Counsel," better known as "Our Lady of Shkodra," across the Adriatic Sea to Genazzano, Italy, about 15 miles east of Rome, where it became very prominent in the popular piety of the Arbëreshë. Until the present day, every 25 April at nine o'clock all the bells of the Genazzano churches are rung in memory of her migration and her protective presence. Many other groups of Albanians fled the country during the 11 years between the death of Skanderbeg (1468) and the fall of Shkodra (1479). Pope Paul II described their coming in a let­ ter to Philip, Duke of Borgogne: "It is pitiful to see these adventurers without a fatherland cross the Adriatic on fragile boats, and seek on the coast of Italy a refuge against the barbarism of the infidels" (Rodota 1760, 3:30). One such refugee family which settled in Rome at this time was the Albani family which would attain fame and fortune in the world of art (NAlb 1987, 5:23). Most of these exiles, however, sought refuge in southern Italy, in the Kingdom of Naples, where a grateful Ferdinand welcomed them to the ter­ ritory bestowed on Skanderbeg. Calabria in southern Italy still bears names of towns around Cosenza which they settled, such as Spezzano Albanese, S. Demetrio Corone, and Macchia Albanese. In 1487 Gjon Kastrioti and his followers, their revolution crushed, were refused refuge either in Palermo or Naples lest the Turks resent it and declare war. Only by begging the in­ tervention of the pope were the Albanian refugees finally permitted to settle in scattered villages of Calabria and Sicily. Because these refugees from southern Albania were Greek Orthodox by religion, they were erroneously thought of as Greeks, and their district near Palermo was called "Piana dei Greci" (Plain of the Greeks) until Mussolini years later corrected it to "Piana degli Albanesi" (Liria 1 March 1984, 4). This people then and to this day proudly called themselves "Arbëreshë" and their language "Arbërisht" from the ancient name for Albania, "Arbëria." Yet more refugees fled Albania after Turkish occupation was completed in 1502. As the Turks progres­ sively seized Greek territory, especially in 1535, the Arvaniti population also fled across the Adriatic to join their Albanian coreligionists. Migra­ tions ceased in 1774. Most of these refugees adhered to the Greek rather than to the Roman rite. They had two bishops, one situated at Hungra in Calabria, the other in Piana degli Albanesi, also called Hora of the Arbëreshë, in Sicily. They faced difficulties in a Latin environment because of their Albanian language and because of their Greek rite. Although they were never charged with doctrinal perversion, they were considered schismatics because they turned to the bishops of the Italo-Greek colonies for the ordination of their priests. To facilitate their transition to the Latin rite, Pope Gregory XIII in 1576 founded the Greek College in Rome. Other centers of Albanian culture and learning were the Illyrian College in Loreto (1580), the Basilian Monastery


D e v e lo p in g A l b a n ia , th e R o m a n s a n d C h r is t ia n iz a tio n

of Grottaferrata two miles south of Frascati near Rome, the College of St. Adrian in S. Demeter Corona of Cosenza and the Graeco-Arbëreshë Seminary of Palermo. The Vatican has repeatedly repudiated charges of "denationalizing" Albanians and of "imperialistic politics," citing these and other schools as centers of learning which preserved and developed their national consciousness, identity and culture and avoided their ethnic assimilation and disappearance as a people from the face of the earth. N o rth ern I taly

In 1387 the Durazzo family of traders emigrated to the Republic of Genoa. Within a century this family became one of the wealthiest in the region. The first doge or president of the Republic was James Durazzo, and six other presidents and two cardinals bore surnames which testified to their Albanian origin (Sinishta 1976, 224). On the fall of Shkodra (1479) the in­ habitants spared by the terms of capitulation went to Venice with the gar­ rison. Among these were three prominent brothers: Andrea, Gjon and Pal Gazuli of Shkodra who had been of great assistance to Skanderbeg in the diplomatic and political field. Gjon, who in 1430 had received a degree in mathematics and astronomy at the University of Padua, was later invited to teach astronomy there, where he became famous as "Joannis Gini Gazuli de Albania" (Dielli 25 April 1988, 6). The refugees were given a pension and employment, and many were settled in the land of Gradisca. Here the arable land was divided into 150 portions for that many families. Gradisca was undoubtedly preferable to Albania at the time. But it was situated in Friul, east of Venice, and the Turks had already penetrated that region in their foray of 1476. Knowing the Venetians, one might legitimately ques­ tion whether their settlement of an Albanian refugee colony there as a buffer was really as altruistic as it might appear. Several of the newcomers attained prominence there, however (Secretario 1560,140; Barbarich 1905, 195). An important Albanian community developed in the Lagoon area of Venice, where the members set up their own hospital, print shop and famous School of the Albanians. The façade of the school is still visible, including bas-reliefs of the Albanian wars (Liria 1 February 1989,1). Marin Barleti, another refugee, became famous throughout Europe for his two works in Latin on the Life and W ork o f Skanderbeg, and the Siege o f Shkodra which he had witnessed personally. Leonik Tomeu (1456-1531), born at Durrës and refugeed at Venice, was also invited in 1497 to teach philosophy at the University of Padua. For 30 years there he achieved fame as the first at Padua to teach the works of Aristotle in the original language; he even had Nicholas Copernicus among his pupils (NAlb 1989, 2:25). Yet another refugee reaching Venice in 1479 was Marin Beçikemi (1468-1526), who as an 11-year-old child had seen 26 out of 30 family members die de­ fending Shkodra. Later he wrote commentaries on Cicero, Pliny, and others; he also taught rhetoric at the University of Padua (FESH1985, 81).

A lbania’s Peculiar Handicaps in Facing Turkish Occupation


These sixteenth-century refugees also contributed the illustrious Albani family of Rome. The Albani family furnished the Catholic church with a great number of distinguished prelates, including Pope Clement XI (1700-1721), and numerous cardinals. Alexander Albani was curator of the Vatican Library who between 1758 and 1760 built a marvelous country house, Villa Albani, to house his extensive collection of contemporary art and antique masterpieces which now adorn the principal museums of Europe. Another contribution was the talented painter Francesco Albani (1578-1660). The "Albanian Altar" of marble in the Cathedral of Milan was largely the work of the Arbëresh refugee Andrea Aleksi (1425-1505) of Durrës, architect, painter and sculptor. The 13-foot-high altar dating from 1480 has three cupolas covering three statues, the central figure being that of Our Lady of the Illyrians (Liria 13 March 1981, 2). The altar bears the signature "Alexio de Albania." All of his numerous works in northern Italy and Dalmatia bear his name and the name of the homeland which he could never forget (FESH 1985, 17). Besides pastoral, scholarly and agricultural careers, many Albanians entered the military service of the Catholic princes, where many were distinguished for their courage. Many were found also among the armies of Spain, the Republic of Venice and the Kingdom of Naples (Rodota 1760, 3:38). To France these refugees con­ tributed Count Jules Tomeos, one of the greatest of French philanthropists and the translator of the books of Aristotle, Macedonian mentor of Alex­ ander the Great. For the most part, these emigrants represented the elite of the Albanian nation, her leadership. They made their contribution to the culture of their adopted homelands. But these migrations tragically impoverished Albania herself. True, the refugee Arbëreshë did retain their language, customs and national traditions. They remained free; they remained Christians; and they regained their lost prosperity. But Albania was deprived of much of her best leadership just as she entered the four dark centuries of Ottoman bondage. This loss of her leadership weakened Albania incalculably.

Part Three

Christian Albania Occupied by the Turks and Its Islamization ( 1 5 0 3 -1 9 1 2 )

19. The Turkish Government of Occupied Albania The last flickering lights of freedom in Albania were snuffed out in 1503. Shielded from the Asian barbarians for a generation by the incredible Skanderbeg and his Albanian warriors, Europe suddenly emerged from the 1,000 years called the Dark Ages. This was her Renaissance. Contributing to this intellectual and cultural awakening were the following: the westward migrations of the intelligentsia from fallen Constantinople, the translation and dissemination of the Greek classics, the substitution of popular languages for the formal Latin, the invention of paper and the printing press (making learning available to the masses) and the discovery and exploration of new worlds. But Albania would share in none of these. For four centuries it would be kept intellectually sterile, isolated from Europe and the West. Hardly anything is known about its internal life. Albanian histories devote hardly more than three or four pages to those centuries. Visitors were extremely infrequent. About our only source of knowledge is the occasional chronicle of a rare traveler, or the report of a cleric to his superior. Some of these maintained clandestine relations with Austria, Russia, France or Italy. From such sources we gain some information about the relations between the Muslim government and the Albanian Christian population. Then at the beginning of the nineteenth century English and French imperial expan­ sion began to affect Albania. The establishment of consular posts and an invasion by geographers and adventurers resulted in a small flood of publications which revealed to the world the material and cultural blight suffered by Albania during those centuries of isolation. From such limited sources, then, we shall attempt to understand the political, social and religious climate of that dark period. TH E A D M I N I S T R A T I O N OF T R I B A L AND FEUDAL C O M M U N I T I E S The Turks incorporated into their Ottoman Empire Arnaoutlek, their designation for Albania, and the Arnaout or Albanians. They created in 200

The Turkish Government o f O ccupied Albania


Albania, as in all new territory, their own feudal system and their own pat­ tern of administration. They granted land and extended authority to key local leaders. As feudal lords these were required to provide troops for the service of the state if needed. They had to pay taxes and assist in the govern­ ment of their territory. Thus a spahi or cavalier received a timar of 300 to 500 acres of land. Larger grants of land called a ziamet and beylek were hereditary fiefs ad­ ministered by a bey. A certain number of fiefs grouped together in a district constituted a sanjak, administered by a sanjak bey or lieutenant colonel having command of about 5,000 horsemen. Benedetto Ramberti, an in­ veterate Italian adventurer, passed through northern Albania in 1534 and wrote that the sanjaks were committed to the care of officials "of great reputation and esteem, supremely in the things concerning war" (Ramberti 1539, 5). He enumerated 30 sanjaks, among which we find the following: Shkodra, Yanina, Vlora, Nicopolis, Ersek, Ochrida and Elbasan. He added that five others had been united to neighboring places, among which were Durrës and "Albania," a term sometimes used at the time for Pulati north­ east of Shkodra. Hecquard included also the sanjaks of Dukagjini and Tirana (Hecquard 1857, 196). The organization of these sanjaks into vilayets or provinces was not accomplished until 1861 by the "law of the vilayets." Each vilayet was then administered by a vali or governor-general under the direct control of the central government, the Porte. All aspects of local government were usually administered by a medjli or council, usually under the presidency of a pasha. Although appointed by that official, the members of the council were not passive instruments in his hands, for they knew local customs better than the oft-transferred pasha. Because this council included several ex officio religious officials: the mudir, the cadi and the mufti, it was often fanatical. Civil questions, such as tes­ taments and inheritances, were first decided by the cadi or religious judge on the basis of the sheriat or religious law. His decisions were carried to the council only if they were appealed. Even the decisions of the council could be appealed to the pasha, but Christians were not so naive as to appeal. In the relatively inaccessible mountain regions of Mirdita and Dukag­ jini in the north, and Himara in the south, the traditional Albanian form of feudal government was tolerated rather widely. The chief offices of the tribal organization were hereditary but required confirmation by a berat or decree of the vali or Turkish governor. These same mountaineers resisted Turkish authority so stubbornly and so successfully that they won the right to be governed by their own laws or customs. The Turkish government related itself to the mountaineers, however, by appointing the leader of each tribe to serve on a buluk-bashi or regional council. This council represented the pasha in the mountains, as well as the interests of the tribes before the pasha. Occasionally their sturdy independence won these tribals exemption from taxes, from government interference in their civil and criminal cases and even from military service.


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

On the plains the classic feudal system prevailed. Essentially there were only two classes: the rulers who owned the land, and the ruled who farmed it. This was often a harsh system, for the rapacity of local officials was irresistible. The pasha and even the bey, though theoretically subject to a superior, was practically sovereign in his district. The land was known as either a free village or a chiflik or farm. The small proprietors in a free village lived in their compact village, each going out daily to work his own field and coming back to his village at night. They paid tithes of their pro­ duce to the sultan and surtaxes to the bey according to his cupidity, but they lived in constant fear of being dispossessed of their small holdings. The chiflik on the other hand was owned by the bey or landlord and worked by the peasants or serfs. The bey collected the sultan's tithe of the produce first, then usually kept two-thirds of the remainder for himself. Often one-half of the peasant's dwindling portion had to go for the or­ dinary or extraordinary surtaxes. Some beys, however, were sympathetic. One Ilo, the son of an influential priest at Panariti, had been taken by the Turks as a hostage, like Skanderbeg. At the assault on Constantinople he had been one of the first to force his way into the city. The sultan rewarded his bravery by naming him Ilias-Bey and appointing him governor of Yanina. Later he petitioned Sultan Bayazet II and was awarded his native Panariti, also neighboring Treska and Trebicka, and in 1484 the towns of Leshnja, Vithkuq and Korcha (N., N. D. 1901, 28-31). On the other hand, some beys were pitiless. About three miles north of Korcha, near Plasa, the walls of the castle of Sinan Bey bore grim witness to a traveler of the past century. She described over the gateway a beam inserted in the thick stone wall, from which the victims of his anger or caprice were hanged. Still visible were the iron hooks upon which they were pierced and suspended in agony (Walker 1864, 248-49). In justice, however, it must be stated that there were some beys who protected their peasants against abuse, judged their quarrels with impartiality, provided land and guaranteed their livelihood, even treating their peasants pater­ nally and enjoying their loyalty. But more of them were oppressive and deeply hated. In either case, however, this feudalistic system divided Albania into many small rather unrelated lordships or principalities, among which the Turkish government frequently sowed discord so as to strengthen its own control. O T TO M A N ATTITUDE TO W A RD CHRISTIA NITY The Ottoman Turks were predominantly Sunni Muslims. Their name derived from the Arabic word sunnah or tradition. They based their fun­ damental tenets on the sacred Koran and the traditional record of the deeds and sayings of their prophet Muhammad. Accordingly, the attitude of the Muslim Turkish government toward Christianity and Christians was based on these revealed authorities. Basic was the injunction, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Rodwell 1909, 2:257). But as Muhammad felt

The Turkish Government o f O ccupied A lbania


increasingly secure in his new movement he delivered several injunctions in the Koran to fight "in the way of God" against the infidels (ibid., 2:186-90; 4:86, 91-93; 8:40-41; 9:29, 124; 47:4, 5, 9). Such expressions as "strike off their heads" and "make a great slaughter" preclude the possibility of an allegorical interpretation. Yet a Muslim apologist declared that the primary purpose of the jihad or holy war was one's battle against his own soul, the "elevation of the soul from bestial vileness to angelic highness" (Tunisi 1916, 3). One Ali Cheragh has devoted a 350-page book to the thesis that Muhammad fought only wars of self-defense (Cheragh 1885, i, 116). Yet his interpretation of certain Koranic raiding expeditions is not very con­ vincing. Nor could self-defense account for the expansion of Islam under Omar from Cyrene to India within 12 years. The primary purpose of the Muslim jihad was not the extension of ter­ ritory or the increase of revenue, but the propagation of the faith. This was asserted by Cantemir, who, as a favored hostage became a master of the Turkish, Arabic and Persian languages, and who based his assertion on seventeenth-century sources (Cantemir 1734, 79-80). This is acknowledged also by Kuduri, the author of an Arabic work of jurisprudence having great authority among Muslims (Kuduri 1829, 13). Apparently the jihad was directed solely against the idolators at first. Muhammad regarded Chris­ tians and Jews as superior to idolators, being "people of the book" and following Jesus and Moses, both of whom Muhammad acknowledged as prophets of God. Muhammad therefore granted some Christians letters of freedom (Gieseler 1868, 1:536.7). Certainly both the existing documents: the Testamentum and the Pactum Muhammedis, assuring liberal privileges to all Christians, are spurious. However, the terms on which Omar at the capitulation of Jerusalem (637) allowed freedom of religion to the Chris­ tians there expresses the changing attitude of the caliphs toward Christians within those few years (Kuduri 1829, 38-40; Denton 1876, 115-16). Still more striking are the following quotations from Kuduri's jurisprudence written about 1020 (Kuduri 1829, 14-19). 3. When the Moslems shall set foot on territory belonging to the in­ fidels, and when they besiege a city or a strong castle, they shall invite the besieged to embrace Islam; if these latter consent to it, then combat must be abstained from; if they refuse, they must be invited to pay the tribute, and in case they pay it, they shall enjoy the same security which the Moslems themselves enjoy, and the obligation to keep peace will be reciprocal. 5. It is laudable to make a second invitation to become converted to Islam to those who, having received the first, shall not have acceded. If they persist in their refusal, the Moslems will then implore against them the help of God, will make war against them, shall set up against them the machines of war, they will carry to them the flame, inundate their fields, cut down their trees and devastate their crops. 8. It is becoming to a Moslem to never betray sworn faiths, to never employ fraud, to never mutilate prisoners, to kill neither the women nor


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

decrepit old men nor children, nor the blind nor the lame, at least when one of these has not contributed to the war by commands, or the woman is not a queen. The Moslems shall keep themselves from killing the un­ conscious.

12. All infidels who embrace Islam will obtain by the fact of his conver­ sion, security for his person, for his minor children and for all his riches that may be in his possession or in possession of a Moslem or in possession of a tributary. 13. If victory makes us master of a country of infidels, then the ter­ ritory, the married women and the children whom they carry in their womb and the grown children shall be turned over to the public treasury. 16. When the Imam shall gain by force an enemy province, he will be free, either to divide it among the conquerors, or to confirm the ownership to its inhabitants in imposing on them the haratch [tribute]; and as for the captives, he can at his will kill them, or reduce them to servitude, or set them at liberty in making them tributaries of the Moslems. Knowing the Turks to be largely Sunni Muslims, rigid adherents to the sunnah, or body of authenticated traditions of early Muslim custom and precedent, one would expect them to follow standard Muslim practice in their treatment of subjugated Albanian Christians. Recalling also that after defeating the last Abbasid caliph at Cairo in 1517, the Ottoman Selim I fused the functions of caliph with those of sultan, one would expect him to conscientiously enforce the sheriat or religious law. This would be true especially at first, which was precisely the period when the Turkish sultan subjugated the Albanians. The attitude of the Ottoman government toward Christianity may be understood yet better by noting the position of Orthodoxy in Constantino­ ple subsequent to its fall. An early historian of that period described the violence shown to Christian institutions in that city: "I shall not tell of the little respect used by the Turks toward the sacred places, making of sanc­ tuaries and of churches places of infamy and stalls for horses. They entered the monasteries of the nuns consecrated to God, and lifting up the pictures of the saints, threw them to the ground, and on these did violence to the nuns, and blasphemed God saying, 'If your religion is good, why does it not show some miracle now?"' (Cantacuscino 1551, 36). The Muslim con­ querors of Constantinople, like the Latin conquerors two centuries earlier, were guilty of equally repugnant excesses. After three days of plunder, the city was restored to order. Many of the citizens, however, had been ex­ ecuted or led away into slavery, as provided for in the law relative to those who resist Islam. A D M I N I S T R A T I O N OF THE GREEK O R T H O D O X CHURCH The reigning sultan, Muhammad II, tolerantly established the basic system which persisted in Turkey with but few and late modifications. The official religion of the state was Islam. Under Selim I (1512-1520) the sultan

The Turkish Government o f O ccupied Albania


became also the religious head or caliph of Islam. Nevertheless, provision was made for non-Muslim subjects. The Greek Orthodox Christians were united into a religious community, officially recognized by the govern­ ment, and directed by religious leaders under the supervision of the Porte, the Ottoman Turkish government. The patriarch, elected synodically as usual, represented his community at the Porte. The election, of course, had to be approved by the government and was usually confirmed by a berat or patent authorizing him to exercise his office. Accordingly, the Orthodox community enjoyed certain administrative and even judicial prerogatives. They had liberty of action in that which concerned their worship and the administration of property used for worship, teaching and philanthropy, such as churches, schools, monasteries, hospitals and cemeteries. A permit was indispensable for the founding or the repair of their buildings. They had a right to teach in their own language and in their own schools. Even a lower civil court was granted them, with competency to judge according to their own community statutes such questions as clerical discipline, mar­ riage and divorce, dowries and inheritances. Sentences rendered within the limits of competency would be executed by the government officials (Young 1905, 2:1-3). This amazingly liberal policy of the Ottoman government was de­ signed to ensure peace in the Orthodox Christian territories, but it con­ tained the seeds of its own destruction. Over the centuries these churches and schools fostered the nationalistic longing for independence until finally those populations threw off the Turkish yoke altogether. Like a doubleedged sword it cut both ways, for it harmed the church. Royal patronage had been the curse of the Eastern church since the days of Constantine. Now subsidized by the sultan, the hierarchy cringed in subservience to the Muslim overlords. Simony reigned. A patriarch who obtained his position by bribery was often deposed arbitrarily by the sultan in favor of a higher bidder. A historian writing on the Greek Church noted that during one 15-year period there were 14 patriarchs (Adeney 1908, 312). Archbishops and bishops followed the poor example of their superiors, and an already decadent church sank still lower. Often the hierarchy no longer enjoyed the confidence of its constituency. These Christians in most instances were suffering to maintain their identity and were not encouraged by the spec­ tacle of selfish compromise in high places. One other order of Greek Christian officials should be noted: the phanariot. These men derived their name from the Phanar section of Con­ stantinople, which was their base and the ecclesiastical center. The phanariots were hired for the odious task of collecting taxes. Like the Jewish publicans serving under the Romans, these Greek officials were despised as renegades by their coreligionists. In the outer fringes of the em­ pire, especially when the central government began to lose its virility, the unsupervised phanariots sometimes exceeded even the local pashas and beys in rapacity toward their fellow Christians.


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

In Albania the Turkish government set up this same type of "govern­ ment within a government'' for the Eastern or Greek Orthodox minority community. The Albanian Orthodox religious capital under Constantino­ ple was Ochrida. The historian records that her ecclesiastical jurisdiction extended over the metropolitans of Kosturi, Monastir, Prelep, Vodena, Korcha, Berat, Canina and others (Lequien 1740). The archbishop of Ochrida was one of the two prelates in all the East who had the privilege of consecrating the patriarch of Constantinople (Pouq 1826, 3:52). Banduri catalogued 109 metropolitans who in 1711 served under the patriarch of Constantinople (Banduri 1711, 231-35). Among these were the archbishops of Durrës, Yanina, Kolonja and Korcha. Several other historians have fur­ nished lists of metropolitans and bishops serving under Constantinople in Albanian communities (Hale 1872, 4-7). Apparently the Orthodox hier­ archy in Albania did remain in possession of those ecclesiastical and civil prerogatives granted by Muhammad II to Constantinople. Early in the nineteenth century the French consul Pouqueville visited Kosturi, where the archbishop invited him to sit in on a session of the ecclesiastical court. Most of the hearings concerned debts or domestic quarrels. Pouqueville considered the decisions measured and wise and observed that the involved parties accepted them without resentment. The archbishop serving as judge assured the visitor that rarely would a Christian appeal his decision to the cadi or civil judge, always a Muslim. On the whole, the tolerant system seems to have functioned quite satisfactorily. Sevasti Kyrias Dako explains the implication of this rather unique "government within a government" as follows. Strange as it may seem, the immediate result of the Turkish conquest in 1453 was beneficial to the Greek Patriarchate. Muhammad II, the con­ queror of Constantinople, taking advantage of the hatred between the Pope and the Patriarch, was delighted to teach the Eastern Orthodox Church to regard him as their benefactor and protector. He gave to Patriarch Gennadius the rank of a pasha, and issued a decree recognizing him and his successors as the spiritual head and also the civil head of all Orthodox communities. Besides those who were Greeks by race, this jurisdiction embraced all Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians and the Slavs. In other words, this imperial decree made the Eastern Orthodox Church a state within a state. It put the Eastern Church entirely under the control of the Greeks residing at Phanar. Thereafter the forces of the Church were used as political weapons for the benefit of the Greek "Great Idea," that is, the hellenization of the other Balkan nations, and the restoration of the Byzantine Empire. To achieve their aim, the Phanariotes made the Greek language su­ preme. The Greek alphabet, Greek books, Greek schools, Greek churches were the dominant feature of the intellectual life of the Balkan Christian people until the beginning of the twentieth century. The spiritual despotism of the Patriarchate was worse than the political tyranny of the Turks. Those who dared to defy it were boycotted, anathematized, ex­ communicated and denounced to the Turkish authorities as seditious,

The Turkish Government o f Occupied Albania


rebels against the government, and were liable to imprisonment or exile. The Turkish authorities cooperated openly with the Greek bishops in repressing the national spirit of the Christian Albanians, and in keep­ ing them under the religious yoke of the Patriarchate [Dako, S., 1938, 6-7].

It was during this period also that an unfortunate linguistic factor tended to identify the two essentially different qualities of religion and na­ tionality. The word din in either the Arabic or the Turkish dictionary was defined as meaning milet. But actually din means religion or faith, while milet means nationality. Thus it is understandable that a person who became a Muslim was said to have "become a Turk" (Frashëri, M., 1938, 8). On the other hand, the Greek Orthodox Christians were commonly called "Greeks." When the Albanian borders were being defined following her declaration of independence in 1912, the Orthodox authorities insisted that people living in Albania who were adherents of the Greek Orthodox church were not Albanians, but Greeks. This confusion of religion with na­ tionality surfaced as recently as 1991 when a Greek enthusiast in Florida claimed that Albania has a Greek minority "which constitutes one-third of the total population" (Tampa Tribune 8 January 1991, 6). The actual Greek minority in Albania, as evidenced by census figures and recognized by the United States State Department, is about 2 percent (Tampa Tribune 26 Jan­ uary 1991, 15). This marriage of the state and church produced two unfortunate offspring. First was the political intrigue against the Ottoman government. The Eastern church was already at a low ebb spiritually, but it sank still lower when it assumed the responsibility as conservator of the nationalistic ideal. Russia, then the only free champion of Orthodoxy, eagerly cooperated in this political action. This identification of nationality with religion also led the Orthodox priests in Albania to seek her hellenization and union with Greece even above her independence from Turkey. This political propaganda was facilitated by the character of Orthodox ad­ ministration in Albania. The unity of the Church and identification with Greece were furthered by their insistence on the use of the Greek language in churches and schools, even for those who did not understand Greek. Only in a few quarters were they gradually compelled to concede the use of the national idiom. Even then, though, they insisted that the upper clergy should invariably be of the Greek race and tongue. Lower priests might be Albanian-speaking nationals, usually ignorant and all too often quite illiterate, but their memorized liturgy had to be in the Greek language. The influential and lucrative positions were reserved for the Greek clergy, often from that center of radically conservative hellenism, Mount Athos.


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

A D M IN IS T R A T IO N OF THE RO M A N C A T H O L IC CHURCH The most important Roman Catholic colony in the old Greek empire was that at Constantinople, which, after the fall of the capital in 1453, centered in the suburb of Pera, a Genoese town. As a recompense for its neutrality during the siege, Muhammad granted the citizens municipal selfgovernment. The Ottoman government was always suspicious of the Roman Catholics, however, for their ecclesiastical head, the pope, was not only powerful politically, but he was also beyond Ottoman jurisdiction. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Latins was usually exercised by the prior of the Franciscan monastery at Pera. In 1678 an altercation between him and the French ambassador led to the assumption by the French of the pro­ tection of the Latin Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Over a century elapsed, however, before this French patronage was felt in Albania. Meanwhile, the Latin archbishops of Shkodra and of Durrës, as well as the independent monastery of St. Alexander at Orosh among the Mirdites, depended directly on Rome. With no representative at the Porte, the Catholic community of Albania was adopted at various times by Venice, Austria, Italy and France. Under the pretense of protecting this oppressed and unchampioned Catholic minority, the several great powers have justified their meddlings in the internal affairs of Turkey. Separately we shall consider the successive intrigues which were carried on, ostensibly for the protection of the Christians, but resulting usually in their increased oppression. The election of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Albania, like that of the Orthodox community, had to be validated by a berat of the Ottoman government. This was usually granted at the request of the Austrian em­ bassy. The Porte did not insist, as in the case of the Orthodox community, that these prelates should be Ottoman subjects. Quite obviously, this opened the door for an infiltration of foreign propagandists coming as bishops, priests and missionaries of the various orders, especially Jesuits and Franciscans. The Catholic bishops, however, could not exercise the same extensive civil jurisdiction as could the Orthodox. Their competency in marriage and testamentary cases was not contested by the government, and decisions were based on their own canonical code. But this limited juridical power was exercised only in the cities and on the plain. The moun­ taineers, who were so successful in remaining Catholic, conserved their tribal organization and governed themselves according to their unwritten canon of Lek Dukagjini. Although there must have been a temporary interruption of the Catholic organization in the northern cities immediately after the Chris­ tians abandoned to the Turks the cities of Kruja, Lezha and Shkodra, the bishoprics seem to have been reestablished later along the same lines. Hecquard, the French consul at Shkodra, mentioned the archbishops of

The Turkish Government o f Occupied Albania


Antivari and of Durrës, and named dependent bishops at Dagno, Drivasto, Shkodra, Lezha, Apollonia, Vlora, Kruja and others (Hecquard 1857, 466). The bishops and lesser ecclesiastics were to a surprising extent Austrian by nationality. In his detailed description of Catholic Albania in the middle of the nineteenth century, Hecquard named either as Austrians or foreigners the bishop of Shkodra, the Franciscan missionaries, the bishop of Zadrima, the archbishop of Durrës and the bishop of Lezha (ibid., 473-79). The parish priests were usually natives. These Catholic interests in Albania were supported by grants from foreign missionary organizations or even from foreign governments. This very naturally augmented the suspicions of the Ottoman government. Officially rather tolerant of the rights of its Christian subjects, the Ottomans naturally resented the presumption of foreign powers interfering in Turkish internal affairs. Apparently only one bloc of Catholics were secure: the militant Mirdites in their mountain fastnesses. When Benedictine and Dominican monks were forced out of the diocese of Shkodra, the former were able to continue only by scattering among the mountains. There they took over an old work among the Mirdites which the Benedictines had previously en­ trusted to the secular clergy. An abbott having episcopal rank presided over the Mirdites from the monastery of St. Alexander at Orosh. For some time he exercised great authority because of his uncontested right to help direct temporal affairs as an advisor to the tribal chiefs. The office even­ tually lost its power, however, and Hecquard wrote, "The unfortunate ab­ bott, receiving none of the assistance sent to Albania by the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, of Lyons, and the small payment attached at one time to his title being no longer paid to him, the unfortunate abbott I say, lives without complaint in a state bordering on misery" (ibid., 226). The historian makes a rather curious observation about these Mirdites. Although Latins, they had until the time of his visits retained traces of their Byzantine past. In communion they took both the bread and the wine. In some churches he found Byzantine crosses and paintings. Also they re­ tained the old calendar (ibid.). A D M IN IS T R A T IO N OF CHURCH P R O P E R T Y Having noted the Turkish administration of the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic hierarchies, we turn now to its handling of the tem­ poral affairs of those churches. Halil Ganem wrote that the king of Serbia put to John Hunyades the question, "What would you do to our Orthodox churches if you were master of our country?" The fervent Hungarian general replied at once, "I would establish Catholic churches everywhere." When an envoy of the king proposed the same question to Muhammad II, he replied without hesitation, "Beside each mosque will be raised a church where your people can pray" (Ganem 1901, 1.134). As we have seen, Muhammad II was comparatively tolerant in his treatment of submitted Christians. Would that all of his successors had been equally so! But on the


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

very next pages Ganem records the shrewdness of Muhammad in playing Venice against Hungary to split up a potentially dangerous coalition. If this reply to the envoy is accurate, then we might impute not only tolerance but shrewdness to the conqueror of Albania. Having taken the country by conquest, Muhammad could hardly have felt obligated to build churches for the "tritheistic" worship of these perverted "people of the book." A Venetian historian, so familiar with Turkish customs, published in 1560 the following report: When the Turks take a province . . . they take away from the churches all the bells, organs and other musical instruments, and the churches are at once consecrated to Muhammad. Left for the submitted Christians are only certain poor little churches, where they celebrate divine offices not publicly, but softly with hushed voices. These churches, if they happen to fall in by an earthquake or should burn, or decay, could not be repaired unless large sums of money are paid. Preaching of the gospel is entirely forbidden them [Sansovino 1560, 1:72].

In Albania each of these statements can be substantiated. Yet there are oc­ casional exceptions which give the impression that no altogether consistent practice was followed. As for the conversion of churches into mosques, this was seen early in the Albanian experience with Turkish conquerors. Another historian records that after the battle of Varna (1444), Amurat or Murad II turns his arms against the rebellious Castriot Skenderbey, drives him out of his kingdom and lays waste all Greece and Arnaud [Albania]. Moreover, because Skenderbey had without reason deserted the Moham­ medan religion, and treacherously broken his faith, he converts all the churches of Arnaud into ja m i and mosques, orders all the Epirotes either to be circumcised, or expiate his treachery with death. By this means all Arnaud was in a short time initiated in the Mohammedan faith [Cantemir 1734, 92],

Cantemir acknowledged in his introduction that all his information was derived from Turkish sources, and the four unjustifiable uses of the word "all" betray the Turkish bias of his sources. Certainly all the churches were not converted into mosques, for just about 20 years after that date Skanderbeg still maintained the independence of his section of Albania where Catholic churches were numerous. Although all the churches were not turned into mosques, many were. With Turkish expansion, the famous church of St. Nicholas at Lezha where the bones of Skanderbeg were interred, also a sister church there, were at once transformed into mosques. In reporting this, Hugonnet presented ex­ tenuating circumstances for the act which he called "rare in the history of the Osmanlis" (Hugonnet 1886, 292-93). It seems that when Lezha was ceded to Turkey, the inhabitants emigrated en m a s s e , and these churches

The Turkish Governm ent o f Occupied A lbania


were not in service as such when the Turks took possession. Hecquard reported that after the church of St. Nicholas was transformed into a mosque, three muezzins in succession were said to have met death by fall­ ing from the balcony of the minaret while calling the faithful to prayer (Hecquard 1857, 57). This was considered such a bad omen that the churchmosque was abandoned. Admittedly it is difficult to distinguish history from pious mythology. The same author reported that in the diocese of Shkodra many churches had either been destroyed or converted into mosques (ibid., 474). In fact, we have many instances where Muslim authorities either closed churches, turned them into mosques or tore them down to build mosques on the old foundations. Thus at the famous old Rozafat fortress at Shkodra, "between the second and third walls there can still be seen the walls of a mosque which was built upon the ruins of a church" (Liria 19 De­ cember 1975, 2). At the oldest mosque of Shkodra, Xhamija e Plumbit (the lead mosque), Durham reported that she could still see the courtyard and cloistered walk of the former church of St. Mark (Durham 1909, 226). The author of an article on Byzantine art in Albania described the peculiar form of several fourteenth-century Byzantine churches in eastern Albania, and then observed, "Many mosques have the same form, for originally they were churches and later converted to the Moslem worship" (Tom ori 28 April 1940, 3). Regarding the erection or repair of Christian churches, the general rule would be that of Kuduri: "It is not permitted to build a new church or a new synagogue on Moslem territory; but when the old churches or synagogues shall fall down, they can be rebuilt" (Kuduri 1829, 33). Apparently there were conditions even for the rebuilding of old structures. Often large sums of money had to be paid (Sansovino 1560, 1:72). Part of this money may have been for a special tax; undoubtedly a good part of it was designed to purchase official favor. In Shkodra the Catholics could not secure permis­ sion for the construction of a church. In order that their closely guarded young girls might safely fulfill their religious duties, the pope shortly after the Turkish occupation granted permission for them to have chapels in their own homes where mass might be celebrated (Hecquard 1857, 339). Three centuries later, although there were more than 12,000 Catholics in Shkodra —the seat of a bishopric —they had been permitted no building. Hecquard reported seeing Catholics devoutly kneeling on the bare ground, reciting their rosaries before a rude plank altar slightly protected from the elements (ibid., 22, 337-38). An imperial firman or decree sent some time previously to the governor of Shkodra permitting the construction of a church there was not announced until 1858 by a more liberal governor, Abdi Pasha. The Orthodox already had a small church outside Shkodra, across the Bojana River. At Tirana the Catholics obtained permission to construct a small church in 1856. In Durrës the old Norman church dedicated to St. Roch was restored in 1809 by the alms of a French general.


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

The Catholic tribes in the mountains were rarely molested in their religious practices; their summary mountain justice was too inescapable. When the church at Sappa was destroyed by an earthquake in 1853, it was recon­ structed at once with aid sent from France (ibid., 65). Contradictorily enough, certain new churches were built during the Ottoman occupation. In the city of Voskopoja (Moskopolis), near Korcha, many great churches were built in the days of its prosperity from 1650 to 1740 (N., N. D., 1901, 50). In the nearby village of Drenova a church of Byzantine style was erected in 1767. Inside this church, of which only the walls still stand since its destruction by fire, there could then (1901) be found this inscription: "This Church of the Sleep of Saint Mary was con­ structed by the contributions of the villagers, and by the contribution of the honorable Mr. Nanos, and in the time of the priest Ripko, in 1767 on the 13th of July; and the name of him who writes, O Mother of God, in­ clude in the books of life" (ibid., 45-46). Then in 1817 a monastery dedicated to St. Elijah was built at nearby Hochisht (ibid., 54). Church bells, introduced at Constantinople in 896 by a Venetian doge or duke, were not used widely in the Orthodox churches. The Turks as a rule would not tolerate them, believing that the souls of the faithful dead were disquieted by them. Only in a few places were they allowed as a special favor. Ali Pasha, for instance, anxious to conciliate his subjects at Yanina, permitted the use of bells (Hughes 1830, 2:21). The Catholic moun­ taineers on the other hand did not seek permission, they just continued to use them. In the bishopric of Zadrima, despite a minority of 2,000 Muslims, each of the 34 villages had a church and a priest, and the bells rang on Sun­ days and feast days, to the great displeasure of the Muslims (Hecquard 1857, 65). The Franciscan monastery of St. Anthony, said to have been built by order of St. Francis of Assisi himself while traveling through Albania, lay just opposite Lezha and rejoiced Catholic hearts as its bell was heard sounding the hour of prayer (ibid., 58). Oppressed because of their fanaticism, or possibly fanatical because of their oppression, the Catholics of Shkodra seem to have been singled out for grievous measures. They were forbidden to build a wall around their cemetery. Situated as it was outside the city, Muslim hoodlums delighted in enraging the Catholics by breaking or overturning the headstones, sometimes even exhuming dead bodies. The intimidated Christians did not dare to make complaints, and the govern­ ment took no punitive measures (ibid., 340). Noting then this lack of consistency in the attitude of the Turkish ad­ ministration toward church property, we conclude that the policy varied according to the fanaticism or liberalism of the local Muslim administrator, also according to the relative strength and fanaticism of the Christian and Muslim elements in the locality.

20. Reasons for the Adoption of Islam by Albanian Christians People who know little else about Albania have heard of it as the only predominantly Muslim country in Europe. How is this? After several hun­ dred years of hated Turkish oppression, Albania was freed in 1912. But as an Albanian proverb declares, Shkoi thundra, m beti gjurma (The hoof went, the footprint remained). When Turkey withdrew, approximately 70 percent of the Albanian population had been converted to the religion of Muhammad. Undoubtedly the preceding chapters will have alluded to several influential factors. But here we shall crystallize those general im­ pressions, examining both the objective and subjective factors, both the Turkish policies and the Albanian characteristics which interacted for their large-scale conversion to Islam. THE PR EA C H IN G AND TEA C H IN G OF ISLA M Muslims would like to believe that the preaching and teaching of Islam were persuasive enough to lead these many Albanians to conversion. The official organ of the former Medrese or theological seminary in Tirana, Albania's capital, claimed that Islam entered Albania in the thirteenth cen­ tury, that is about one century before the Turkish armies crossed the Hellespont into Europe (1341). At that time a wise man, a preacher of Islam named Sari Saltik, is said to have had great success in propagating Islam (Zan i Naltë August-September 1936, 251-52). It further claimed that no one was compelled to change religion, only he "who desired to become con­ verted of his own will" (ibid., August 1935, 256). But there is no historical basis to indicate that the preaching of Islam or personal religious convic­ tions had anything to do with the many conversions to Islam. Nor does history suggest that conversions to Islam began before the Turkish yataghan or scimitar reached Albania. In fact, the Bektashi dervish Ali Tyrabi acknowledged that the Turks brought their religion into Europe “me force dhe luft'ë" (with force and war) (Tyrabi 1929, 47).



C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

THE USE OF C O M P U L SIO N IN C O N V E R SIO N Although most missionary religions at one time or other and to a greater or lesser extent have used compulsion in the propagation of their faith, no religious guidebook has authorized it. The Koran expressly for­ bade the use of compulsion in turning others to Islam: "Let there be no com­ pulsion in religion" (Rodwell 1909, 2:257). Again, "Verily, they who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabeites, and the Christians, whoever of them believeth in God and in the last day, and doth what is right, on them shall come no fear, neither shall they be put to grief" (ibid., 5.73). And again, "The truth is from your Lord: let him then who will, believe; and let him who will, be an infidel" (ibid., 18.28). Such evidence can be amassed to prove that the Koran (like the Bible) does not countenance compulsory conversion. As for Islam, its ideal or goal is a universal theocratic monarchy. The Prophet Muhammad and his successors the caliphs united the political and religious authorities in one person. They divided the world into two categories: Daryl Islam (the field of Islam) and Daryl Harb (the field of bat­ tle). The sword was expressly commanded by the Koran as the means of subjugating the non-Muslim world to the sultan as a political authority. This political submission would then open the way to unhindered religious propaganda designed to convert the tributary infidels to Islam itself. But some zealots preferred quicker results by the sword rather than the less predictable results of religious propaganda. When an Albanian writer charged that the Turks by the most ignoble means had converted many Albanians to Islam, the official reply was quite evasive: "If Turkey had used such methods, it would have built a complete unity. However, the religion of Islam does not permit such measures" (Zan i Naltë April 1936, 106). Yet more outspoken was their statement, "For five centuries the Balkan nations lived under Turkey and were not compelled to change their religion and language, except whosoever desired to be con­ verted of his own will" (ibid., August 1935, 256). This more categorical statement is much more vulnerable. We have already noted the early-eighteenth-century history of Cantemir, who based on Turkish documents his account of the forcible conversions under Amurat II (Cantemir 1734, 92): "For Amurat orders all the Epirotes either to be circumcised, or expiate his [Skanderbeg's] treachery with death. By this means all Arnaud [Albania] was in a short time initiated in the Mohammedan faith." Muslim law gave to the infidel or non-Muslim three alternatives: conversion, payment of tribute or war. Should subject Christians agree to pay the tribute they were then theoretically immune to the demand for conversion. But fanatics are a law until themselves. In Shkodra the curate of the now non-existent village of Chisagnio, by his "ardent zeal for the salvation of the souls confided to his care," drew

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


upon himself the hatred of the Turks. In 1624 they seized him, and "on his refusal to embrace Islam," put him to death. His parishioners redeemed the body with money, and interred it in the parish" (Hecquard 1857, 475). In 1668 two Franciscans refused to abandon their posts at Shkodra but urged the Christians to continue in the faith. The pasha had them seized, brought before him, and when they refused to deny their religion in the face of his offers and threats, they were killed (ibid., 475-76). Yet another Franciscan missionary was seized by the Turks in 1721 and offered the two alter­ natives: to be loaded with honors if he would abjure the Christian religion, or to be put to death if he persisted in his faith. He suffered a cruel and lingering death by strangulation (ibid., 477). Sansovino described the intolerant use of compulsion by the Turks toward tributary Christians: "If with the most shameful words you are abused, or Christ is abused, you must be silent and endure it quietly. And if you should say any indecent word against their religion, you will be cir­ cumcised against your will; and if you only open your mouth against Mohammed, you will be immediately burned" (Sansovino 1560, 1.72). A specific case of compulsion recorded by Poujade had occurred just before his arrival in Yanina. A wealthy Muslim gentleman had in his ser­ vice a domestic named George, who was required to carry the master's pipe and prayer rug to the mosque. Never entering the mosque itself, which was forbidden to Christians, he always waited in the courtyard until his master had finished prayers. His master, however, began calling him by the Muslim name Mustapha, and one time determined to make him enter the mosque. Upon George's refusal, the master pretended that George had become a Muslim, that he had previously entered the mosque and that he must now obey. The insistence of the efendi and the persistent refusal of the servant caused conflicting emotions. The Muslim population felt their religion insulted. George was thrown into jail and tortured. Refusing to become a Muslim, he died under torture. To save their children from for­ cibly being declared Muslim, his wife declared them illegitimate, preferring dishonor for herself to Islam for her children (Poujade 1867, 177-78). All Christians were not so resolute. Lt. Adolphe Cerfbeer of Strasburg, serving with Ali Pasha of Yanina as artillery officer and masking his iden­ tity with the pen name Manzour-Efendi, wrote in 1818 that Ali Pasha ordered the inhabitants of a Christian village of the Labëri district to become Muslims. No motive was given for this action so contrary to the Koran and to the human conscience. Yet not daring to refuse, all the men, headed by their priests, presented themselves for circumcision. A Muslim priest was sent to instruct them in their new religion, and boy hostages were required (Manzour 1828, xxi-xxii). Captives taken in the wars and runaway slaves of the Europeans were often severely abused by their Turkish masters until they changed their religion. Himself a prisoner, Sansovino reported that the Turks did every­ thing to make them deny their Christian religion and be circumcised. He


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

wrote, "The others who do not wish to be circumcised are cruelly treated: which misery I have proved for thirteen years, and can express freely how many calamities there are in this sort of life" (Sansovino 1560, 1:69-70). That some did yield to conversion is evidenced by an article of the peace treaty between Turkey and Venice after the fall of Shkodra in 1478, as well as by several treaties thereafter: "Slaves who flee from the Venetians com­ ing into the hands of the Turks shall be restored; if converted to Islam, the proprietor shall be reimbursed with 1,000 aspri for each slave" (Deputazione 1876,16:126). Evidently in certain cases at least, compulsion was used not only to subjugate Christians to the Muslim state, but also to subject them to the Muslim religion. Most people would now agree that compul­ sion, whether by Muslims or Christians, must be recognized as an unwor­ thy factor in religious conversion. E C O N O M IC D IS C R IM IN A T IO N A G A IN S T N ON -M U SLIM S By discriminating against the non-Muslim population, the Turks brought economic pressure to bear on them to such a degree that many sought relief by converting to Islam. T a xa tio n of N on -M u slim s

The payment of annual tribute was one of the three alternatives offered to Christians by conquering Muslim armies. In his authoritative work on Islamic law, Kuduri outlined the several taxes which were levied (Kuduri 1829, 28-33). These included the haratch or tribute, the tithes and the poll tax. Although the stipulated amounts may now seem very moderate, the excessive poverty of Albanian peasants under Turkish feudalism made these taxes unbearable. While the above taxes were paid directly to agents of the Porte, further taxes were levied by the Porte on the pashas. These in turn and their tax collectors demanded from the people unnecessarily higher sums so as to leave themselves a comfortable balance. A French historian wrote that "these spoliations fell principally on the Christians" (Valon 1845, 1:98). Selim I deliberately loaded the Christians with excep­ tionally heavy taxes, but promised to exempt whole households where at least one male member accepted Islam (Tomitch 1913, 13). A Venetian adventurer in the early 1500s stopped with a family in northern Albania that had seven sons, but the eldest had "become a Turk" to escape heavy taxes (Ramberti 1539, 5). "This official policy," he ob­ served, "had induced a great number of people to free themselves from such a charge." At that time whole villages and even entire regions were Islamized, such as the Kosova plain and the regions of Prizren and Gjakova (Tomitch 1913,14). Gregory Messarechi, a Catholic missionary of Prizren, in his report of 1651 named village after village in which virtually every man had passed to Islam, only some of the women remaining Christian (ibid., 15, citing Vatican MS Starine, xxv.175). Although protesting that at heart they could never be other than Christian, these men stated that they

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


had finally changed their religion because it was simply impossible to pay the heavy taxes. About 1671 a very similar report came from Etienne Gaspari (ibid., 16-17, citing Starine xxv.196 at Zagreb Library). Only in the northern mountains, where tax collectors did not dare ven­ ture, were Albanian Christians free from this economic pressure. In southern Albania, when their Venetian allies withdrew from Himara early in the seventeenth century, retribution fell so harshly upon the population that "many of these people, to escape the heavy charges, became Turks" (Bessarione July-December 1911, 448). Manzour also reported that in the region of Labëri in southern Albania, "It often happens that families, even entire villages, embrace Islam for the sole purpose of escaping the tax called haratch, which the non-Muslim subjects are obliged to pay" (Manzour 1828, xxi-xxii). C o n fisc a tio n of L ands

Although Muslim law allowed subjugated Christians to retain the title of their land on the payment of tribute, they nevertheless suffered fre­ quently from the injustice of unscrupulous pashas. Should the pasha desire to become the proprietor of a free village, he might force the landowners to sell at his own price. Failing that, he could by ruse, vexation and injustice dispossess the owners. Should he find it difficult to possess a land, he could and frequently did settle in the village strong detachments of undisciplined soldiers whose maintenance would impoverish the villagers. Then they would be willing to buy peace even at the price of their lands. This was a tactic of Ali Pasha. Sometimes without such preliminary niceties a covetous pasha could arbitrarily dispossess the owner. Comparative safety could be found only in turning Muslim. Thus Hecquard told of certain staunch Catholics abandoning their fields near the city to settle in the mountains at the time when "to conserve their lands, their coreligionists were embracing Islam" (Hecquard 1857, 150). I n d u stria l R est r ic t io n s

During the Turkish occupation, taxation and brigandage brought in­ dustry to a virtual standstill. Caravan routes through Albania were aban­ doned, and exports were negligible. Without exports or imports or even trade, each village, even each household was virtually sufficient unto itself. Even in this very elementary industrial organization the Turks severely restricted Christian participation. In Shkodra they forbade Christians to practice certain vocations on pain of death. Muslims enjoyed a monopoly on the lace factories and tanneries and the recovery and sale of salt. Mustapha Pasha had a Christian tailor, so this business was permitted to Chris­ tians as well as Muslims. But until 1857 the market day in Shkodra was on Sunday. To survive in business the Christian shopkeepers had to keep open shop on their holy day. Christian householders were compelled to go to market on Sunday to buy provisions for the week (ibid., 327-28, 337).


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

Lively opposition from the Muslims made it impossible to change market day to Wednesday until 1857. In Elbasan, despite a 20 percent Orthodox population, Christian businessmen were forbidden to have shops in the city bazaar until 1860 (ibid., 265). And at least until the middle of the twentieth century the sale of pork products was rigidly excluded from the public bazaar; only in the yard of the Orthodox church did anyone dare sell the flesh of the animal so abhorred by the Muslim majority. There the carcass would be hung on a peg driven into the outside wall of the church building. Further south in Yanina, the pressure on all Christian businessmen was so great that it "led several rich Yanina merchants to leave this city to go to Petersburg, Vienna and Trieste" (Bellaire 1805, 25). P r efer m en ts

The religion of Muhammad was spread first in Albania among the leaders of the people. Some of these were converted without coercion by appeal to their selfish ambition. For at first the sultan had governed sub­ jugated Albania by naming Turks as pashas, beys and agas. These Ot­ toman officials, however, did not understand Albanian customs and caused unnecessary friction and resentment. So the sultan placed local government in the hands of local lords or chiefs who would become Muslims and pledge loyalty to him. Those chiefs then maintained their own soldiery, protected the sultan's interests, levied taxes and surtaxes, and paid the sultan as re­ quired. Albanian chiefs who proved dependable were promoted to higher offices, those of pashas, generals, deputies, ministers, prime ministers and ambassadors. Thus the Turks induced natural leaders to convert by prom­ ising them titles and endowing them with land, prestige and authority in government. Traces of this practice are found as early as the Balshas, about 1400 (Noli 1921, 276). The governor of Kruja, dispossessed by the sudden coup of Skanderbeg, was an Albanian converted to Islam at that early date. Even northern mountaineers, already exempted from taxation, the confiscation of their lands and industrial restrictions were not immune to the appeal of personal ambition. Hecquard noted that in Rapscia of Hoti there were 10 families who had embraced Islam in order to obtain favors from the pasha. He had conceded to them the privilege of choosing the boulouk-bachis or council members from their tribe, a position both influential and lucrative (Hecquard 1857, 161-62). Chiefs of the Shkreli tribe, although good Catholics, had embraced Islam in order to obtain employment and honors (ibid., 200). Finding both fidelity and intelligence among the Retchi and Loho tribes, the pashas, desiring their services, offered favors and gifts, converting many to Islam (ibid., 147-48). This defection of the leaders, swayed more by expediency or oppor­ tunism than by religious conviction, proved a fatal precedent for the rest of the population. In this feudally organized society the commoners were

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


dependent on their overlords and tended to follow their example. Thus in studying the rise and progress of Islam, Stubbe made the following obser­ vation about the Turks: "By loading Christians with taxes and tributes, and keeping them out of offices and preferments, not only did they keep them in civil obedience, but they gained to their religion by hopes of preferment more than they could have done by persecution" (Stubbe 1911, 188). SO C IA L P R E SSU R E S ON THE N ON -M USLIM Although Albanians throughout the centuries had become accustomed to foreign overlords, they had never been subjected to a system designed to impress them so forcefully with a sense of their own inferiority. Islamic law stated simply, "The tributaries are required to distinguish themselves from Muslims by their clothing, their mounts, their saddles and their hats. They must no longer ride horses nor carry arms" (Kuduri 1829, 33). San­ sovino (1:72) was even more explicit. Christians were not allowed to bear arms or to wear the Turkish costume. If a Christian on horseback passed a Muslim, or one who had entered the Turkish religion, he would have to dismount from the horse, and bow his head. If he did not do this he could be thrown from his horse with a cane. Should the Muslim be afoot and tired, he could use the horse, the Christian going on foot. In his book entitled The Christians o f Turkey: Their Condition under Musulman Rule, Denton (1876, 115-16) quoted the Mutka or digest of Turkish canon law as follows: And the tributary (or Christian) is to be distinguished in the beast he rides, and in his saddle, and he is not to ride a horse, he is not to work at his work with arms on, he shall not ride on a saddle like a pillion, he shall not ride on that except as a matter of necessity, and even then he shall dis­ mount in places of public resort; he shall not wear clothes worn by men of learning, piety and nobility. His women shall be distinguished both in the street and baths, and he shall place in his house a sign and mark so that people may not pray for him or salute him. And the street shall be narrowed for him, and he shall pay his tribute standing, the receiver being seated, and he shall be seized by the collar, and shall be shaken, and it shall be said to him, "Pay the tribute, O tributary! O thou enemy of God!" A deliberate and systematic program to humiliate the non-Muslim is seen in the treaty between Caliph Omar and the people of Jerusalem in 638. This seems to have become a formula for later capitulations. Kuduri (1829, 11-12, 38-40) preserved the text with the assurance that most of the condi­ tions were still strictly obligatory for the non-Muslim people under the Turkish yoke. Here are the conditions written by Omar (May God be pleased with him!) in his constitution on the rights of tributaries, conditions which are so obligatory that, should these latter infringe them, their life and their goods may be surrendered at the discretion of any one. They must:


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

1. Build neither new church nor synagogue on Mohammedan ter­ ritory. 2. Not rebuild those which shall fall down. 3. Leave the gates open to all Muslim travelers. 4. Never fail to exercise hospitality toward Muslims up to a period of three days. 5. Not inquire into the state of affairs of the Muslims, nor make report of it to the infidels. 6. Never be opposed to the desires of their kin who would embrace Islam. 7. Conduct themselves respectfully toward Muslims. 8. Give up their seats to the Muslims when these latter shall be pres­ ent, for these seats are the seats of the Muslims. 9. Never wear clothing or ornaments resembling those of Muslims. 10. Not take upon themselves Muslim names. 11. Not ride saddled and bridled horses. 12. Carry neither bows, arrows, swords nor other arms. 13. Never wear on the finger a ring ornamented with a cut stone. 14. Never sell wine, nor drink it publicly. 15. Never dress like the idolators. 16. Never affect the customs and habits of idolators. 17. Buy neither houses nor habitations in the neighborhood of those of the Muslims. 18. Never inter their dead near the cemeteries of Muslims. 19. Never utter cries when struck by some misfortune, nor shed tears in public at the death of their kin. 20. Never buy Muslim slaves.

At the conclusion of these capitulation terms, Omar stipulated that if the Christian should infringe any of the conditions, no sacrifice of silver could redeem his life, and any Muslim could kill him with impunity. It is not difficult to imagine the effect which such measures would have on the Albanian: proud, independent, perpetually armed and from time immemorial a horseman. The impenetrable mountains of the north safe­ guarded the social status of those Christian Albanians. Thus in 1804 when some Muslims of Shkodra maliciously hung a Capuchin monk, the Latin Mirdites learned of the atrocity. They seized five Turks, who were later found hanging from the city gates with a letter addressed to the pasha. It read, "Five for one, and if a similar crime recurs, thy head shall answer for it" (Pouq 1826, 3:229-30). The pasha appeased the vindictive Mirdites with presents and promises. But elsewhere in the more exposed plains and foothills the Christian minority suffered without recourse. Hecquard reported (434) that the pasha of Ipek kidnapped young girls and children of Christian families for use as servants or slaves. When Hasan Arslan of Shoshi with a band of Muslims assassinated their pasha, the Ot­ toman inspector sent to punish the criminals was deceived. He returned to Constantinople carrying the heads of certain Christians of Shkreli wrongly accused of the crime. There was no court of appeal. The testimony of Chris-

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


tians was not accepted by the cadi or Muslim judge. Even the few rights re­ maining to them as subject people could not always be enjoyed. Writing as recently as 1919 the Romanian Jorga (1919, 53) reported that in Kruja "Christians were not permitted to stay overnight until recent times." The Turks in Albania seem to have relaxed somewhat their dress code for non-Muslims. Nevertheless, in Berat and elsewhere the Muslims for­ bade Orthodox women to walk in the streets publicly unless they wore the veil and long black cape of the Muslim women and walked with their hands crossed over their breast (Robert 1844, 2:169). Because Muslims considered unveiled women shameless and lewd, many Christian girls in Muslim cities began wearing the veil in public from about the age of 12. Poujade (1867, 194) noted that Christian women frequently used white veils. Long after in­ dependence from Turkey, elderly Orthodox women in Elbasan could be seen on the street wearing white veils, although usually their eyes were visi­ ble. Turkish influence upon the Christian community is seen also in the lat­ ticework partitions in the rear of Orthodox churches, the women being kept behind the screen during mass. Poujade (ibid., 191) reported having met in Yanina an Orthodox gentleman called Kir Alex who dressed as a Turkish efendi or gentleman, wearing a turban and walking slowly with a string of beads between his fingers. Albanians living in their own homeland could not bear to live as second-class citizens. The systematic humiliation of this people, so proud of their Albanian heritage, could not fail to tend toward their Islamization. R E L IG IO U S T R A IN IN G OF C H R IST IA N JU V EN ILES By several means the Turkish overlords took juveniles away from their Christian families and brought them up in surroundings conducive to their adoption of Muslim habits of thought and life. H ostages

During the Turkish invasions a Christian prince could sometimes re­ tain nominal autonomy by the payment of an annual tribute and assuring his obedience to the conditions of the treaty by surrendering one or more sons as hostages. These young Christian hostages were usually brought up in the Muslim religion. The classic example, of course, is George Kastrioti, or Skanderbeg. Another who has already come to our attention was Ilo, the son of an influential priest of Panariti, who became the famous Ilias Bey. He returned to Korcha in 1484 and built the great mosque there, mak­ ing that town the chief center of the region. After the capitulation of Albania the taking of hostages was not so common. Ali Pasha of Yanina, however, did require youthful hostages as a guarantee of the sincerity of the conversion he forced upon their parents. Manzour (1828, xxi-xxii) wrote, "I have seen in the house of Mehmet efendi, lieutenant of the pasha, where I was living, the son of the ex-curate and the two sons of the chief of the village, who had been taken to be raised


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , t h e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

in the Mohammedan religion, and to serve as hostages for the sincerity of the conversion of their fathers. The other children of the same village had been distributed with the same intention among the principal Moslems of Yanina." A bdu ctio ns

Abduction or kidnapping also provided Christian youth for training in the Muslim faith. A young lad watching the family cattle was carried off by the Turks, with other boys. He was raised a Muslim, entered the army, and returned to Albania as a general, Balaban Vadere (Duponcet 1709, 477). Another youth, snatched from his Christian parents, circumcised and raised as a Muslim also attained fame as a general, Jagub Arnauth, who led a Turkish army back into Albania {ibid., 511). Children were sometimes abducted even during the later period of Turkish occupation. In 1867 the French author Poujade (1867, 175-76) wrote of the visit to his Yanina home by an elderly Orthodox father. With tears he threw himself at the feet of the French gentleman, begging him to intervene for the return of his abducted eight-year-old son. The chief of the Turkish battalion, who had no children of his own, had had the boy kid­ napped in broad daylight. The child was circumcised, dressed as the Turks, and treated as the chief's son. When Poujade intervened in behalf of the father, the pasha replied that he could not return a child now made Muslim by circumcision. Also, the kidnapping had been effected during the sacred month of Ramadan, and during that month it was very necessary to concur with the religious sentiment of the Turks. T he "B lood T a x " fo r the J a n issa r ies

Christian juveniles taken into Turkish custody were often destined to become Janissaries. This elite body of troops had been created by the sec­ ond Ottoman sultan, Orhan, in 1328, but was much more thoroughly organized by his son Amurat. The Janissaries were the precise counterpart of Rome's Praetorian Guard, and, significantly enough, Albanian warriors were outstanding in both. Composed largely of new converts to Islam, the Janissaries would have no interest in partisan intrigues either at the Porte or in the provinces. Open only to the strongest, most intelligent and most courageous soldiers, the rigorously disciplined and highly trained Janissaries were the outstanding military institution in Turkey. They had a reputation for absolute loyalty to the imperial authority. Many Christian youths taken as hostages or abducted were trained for this body. In addi­ tion, a so-called blood tax was placed upon tributary Christians. A double tithe of the younger population, one boy in five, was demanded by the government. Every two or three years government officials went through the towns and villages, selecting the healthiest and strongest boys to be trained for service as Janissaries. First the youths were initiated into the Muslim faith, then they were given the best court and military training.

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


The Venetian Pavlo Giovio (1541, 32) claimed that most of these Janissaries were Albanians, Slavs or Hungarians. One such was taken from his home in Butrint, became a Muslim, received an education in Arabic, and under the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent (1520-66) be­ came well known as Habraim Pasha (Giovio 1555, 2:337-38). Another of humble origin in the mountains of Arta rose step by step to become widely known as the general Sinan Pasha (Chalcondile 1662, 405-6). To avoid los­ ing their choicest sons to the Turks, parents could choose one of several hard alternatives: they could risk trying to bribe the officers, they could marry the boys at the age of 12 and pay the haratch for them also, they could mutilate the boy, or both father and son could convert to Islam (Tomitch 1913,12-13). In this latter case Islamization was effected either by serving with the Janissaries, or by evading that service. THE PEC U LIA R A PPEA L OF B E K T A S H IIS M The close identification of Albanian warriors with the Janissaries had significant religious implications for Albania. When Sultan Orhan founded the Janissaries in 1328 he wished to have a religious blessing on the new military order. For the purpose he invited a venerable 79-year-old sheikh, Hadji Bektash. Ever since that early beginning, the Janissary officers wore on back of their helmets a bit of felt reminiscent of the sleeve of the robe of Bektash. The Janissaries themselves were considered an elite troop, but the Bektashis among them were the aristocracy. They claimed as converts both Skanderbeg and his nephew Hamza (Tyrabi 1929, 55). Bektashi der­ vishes functioned as chaplains. An indestructible solidarity developed be­ tween the Janissaries and the Bektashi dervishes. When the Janissaries rode into the Balkans, Bektashiism rode with them. But Bektashiism was a unique form of Islam. Bektash himself was a descendant of Muhammad's daughter Fatima and her husband, Ali, who Shiites claim was designated by Muhammad as his legitimate successor. Bektash was born in Persia in 1249, moved to Turkey in 1284 and died in 1344 at 93. At 26, Bektash traveled to India, Tibet and China, where Bud­ dhism and Hinduism strongly influenced him toward pantheism. He and his followers rejected the harsh doctrine, stem rules and intolerant attitudes of the orthodox Sunni Muslims. A Bektashi spokesman declared, "We do not want religious divisions and fanaticism: our doctrine teaches love to all, brotherhood and unity" {ibid., v). Probably it was this conciliatory attitude which led him in writing of the miracles of Jesus Christ to apply to him the title "son of God" {ibid., 11). Emancipated from orthodox Muslim tradition, the liberal Bektashis sensed no particular reverence for the Arabic and Per­ sian languages, but produced their religious literature in their own Turkish language. Hadji Bektash and his followers thus formed a new and different order of dervishes: meditative, metaphysical, charitable, hospitable and tolerant. It is said that in the early 1300s Bektash sent a devout dervish named


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

Sari Salltëk into Europe and Albania. He dressed in the robe of a Christian monk so as not to endanger his life and quietly planted the Bektashi faith in the Balkans. Specifically mentioned were the Albanian cities of Uskup, Ochrida, Kruja and Yanina. Reaching Corfu he "founded an institute in the form of an Orthodox church, but the idea which he sowed indirectly among the people dealt with freedom, love and Bektashi discipline. His motto was very wonderful. 'Let the people be trained in the principles of Hadji Bektash but only in the name of the prophet Christ, without mentioning Hadji Bektash and his ancestor Muhammad with Ali.' This motto he told only to his most faithful followers" (ibid., 48-50). He placed these faithful der­ vishes disguised as Orthodox monks in seven branches in the Balkans. Not until 1378 did the first missionaries dressed as Bektashi dervishes openly ap­ pear in Albania. That was at Kuch of Devoll, near Korcha (ibid., 54). It is understandable that the orthodox Sunni Muslims would attack the Bektashi faith as being "half Mohammedan, half Christian" (ibid., 56). A Bektashi historian admitted that in all places subdued by the conquering Turks, the Christian population was compelled to convert to the Moham­ medan faith, "even though unwillingly" (ibid., 62-66). This somewhat eclectic Bektashiism became something of a half-way house which held spe­ cial appeal to reluctant Albanian Christians. The historical record is scanty. But certainly Bektashi presence in Albania goes back to the early 1700s. For in Kruja tombstones featuring the characteristic "tac" or sym­ bolic cap of the Bektashis carved on the top date back to a . h . 1141 (a . d . 1728) and another to a . h . 1130 (a . d . 1717) (Birge 1935, 110-16). The hatred of Bektashiism by the Sunni Turks increased as the number of Janissaries expanded to over 47,000. With the progressive weakening of the centralized authority of the sultans, the Janissaries, like their earlier Roman counterparts, the Praetorian Guard, exercised their political power and became a turbulent force in making or breaking the rulers. Their grow­ ing influence became so intolerable that in 1826 Sultan Mahmoud II carried out the bloody abolition of the Janissaries, killing 18,000 outright (Tyrabi 1929, 67). This caused such a public outcry from the associated Bektashi dervishes that one month later, urged on by the Sunni clerics, the sultan publicly executed three prominent Bektashi leaders. Then he abolished the Bektashi order, destroyed their tekkes (monasteries), forbade their distinc­ tive costume and exiled the dervishes. Most of these dervishes fled to Albania, homeland of so many Janissaries, where the Bektashi order found its most congenial home. Even here, however, the Turks utterly destroyed the Bektashi monasteries at Shkodra, Kruja and Tirana (ibid., 75). But Ali Pasha of Yanina gave liberally to construct the picturesque tekke on the hilltop of Melchan near Korcha (ibid., 76). Unlike other dervish orders, such as the M evlevi or Whirling Der­ vishes and the Rufai or Howling Dervishes, the Bektashis had no public ser­ vices of worship. In fact, their entire ritual and their beliefs were guarded from the public with such secrecy that they aroused great curiosity among

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


the uninitiated as to the "Bektashi Secret." As Shiah Muslims they recog­ nized 124,000 prophets, the four highest being Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad. The Bektashi leader in Albania acknowledged that Jesus never sinned, but that according to the Koran Muhammad did sin. He found God resident in every good man. He believed in the transmigration of souls, the good person coming back after death in another good person, the evil person coming back as an animal or even as a stone. "Paradise and hell," he added, "are in this world" (News Bulletin December 1930, 11-13). Organizationally, they divided Albania into six dioceses, each of which elected two representatives to the managing council. They spread their roots deep and wide in Albania, especially among the more prominent Muslim intelligentsia. Bektashis were usually estimated to number about 200,000 of the 1 million Albanians, or 20 percent of the population. This represented a majority of the Muslims of southern Albania. Because of persecution in Turkey, they enthusiastically espoused the cause of Alba­ nian independence. For instance, "all the Bektashi fathers of Toskëri" are said to have gathered with other patriots at the tekke of Frashëri to plan the Congress of Prizren (Frashëri, M., 1938, 28, 34). M A R IT A L R EG U L A T IO N S Although the prophet Muhammad assumed the privilege of taking more wives, he limited his followers to "marry but two, or three, or four" (Rodwell 1909, 4:3). Besides the wives, however, a good Muslim was al­ lowed several concubines, the number being limited mainly by his financial ability to support them. The practice of polygamy, however, was the ex­ ception rather than the rule in Albanian Muslim circles, especially among the common people. Unilateral intermarriage with Christians was permit­ ted: that is, Muslim men could marry non-Muslim women, but under no circumstances could Muslim women marry non-Muslim men. Should Christian girls refuse the advances of Muslim men, decisive action was sometimes taken. Thus at the fall of Yanina in 1431, Amurat sent to the city 18 officers to prepare the city for occupation. Struck with the beauty of the Epirote girls, several officers requested the daughters of leading families in marriage. They were repulsed with disdain. One feast day as the young ladies were leaving the church of St. Pantocrator, the officers seized those whom they fancied, and the families had no alternative but to acquiesce to the conquerors (Hammer 1835, 2:283; LaMartine 1854, 3:60). Thus began the multiplication of mixed families: half Muslim, half Christian. Another such case is that of a young Catholic girl taken into con­ cubinage by a Turk in Shkodra. In 1701 the bishop tried to secure her release. This so enraged the Turk that he went to the mosque and accused the prelate of having spoken blasphemies against the religion of Muham­ mad. A mob seized him at his Jubani residence, stripped and maltreated him, then took him to Shkodra, where the pasha condemned him to death and he was hanged (Hecquard 1857, 476). The sheriat or Islamic law


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

prescribed that in such mixed marriages the woman also must observe the religion of Islam. There were many infractions of this rule, beginning at the top with Ali Pasha himself. His Orthodox wife Vasilika was even allowed a chapel of her own in the palace itself. But male children inevitably fol­ lowed the religion of the father, as did many of the daughters. W ELC O M E OF C H R IST IA N M A L C O N T E N T S During these long years of Turkish occupation, the relationship be­ tween the oppressed Christians and their church often became strained. The Muslims did whatever they could to introduce friction and then to at­ tract discontented infidels to their religion. With no profound religious con­ victions, some of these Christians changed their religion for the most trifling reasons. For instance, about 1800 all the villages called Anamali on the slope of Mt. Tarabosh, near Shkodra, were Catholic. One Easter morn­ ing the priest delayed mass at the request of a number of distant villagers who were en route to participate. When he refused to celebrate mass at the usual hour, the indignant villagers of Anamali, their pride injured, took the road to Shkodra. There before the pasha they declared themselves ready to become Muslims. Their mass conversion was received with enthusiasm by the Turks, who loaded their chiefs and older men with presents. Later many were repentant, but they could never return to their former religion (ibid., 26). Others when reproved by their bishop for spending all they possessed to treat one another on their feast days, threatened their bishop with becoming Muslims (Hugonnet 1886, 119). In 1760 a group of 36 villages south of Kolonja and Përmet sought desperately for Heaven's relief from the pressure of fanatical Muslims all about them. They resolved to adopt rigorous fasts and mortifications, and if no relief resulted they would aban­ don their religion. The people kept their pre-Easter fast, and when Easter dawned with no relief from Muslim oppression, a mass abjuration was agreed upon. The Orthodox bishop and priests were sent away, and Muslim imams were invited in. The confession of faith was recited, and the men were circumcised. Only a few persons refused to apostatize, and these had to flee the region (Pouq 1826,1:259-61). Manzour (xxii) asked a family from Labëri why they had abandoned the Christian religion for Islam. The poor farmer told how he had prayed several years in succession to Jesus, to his Mother, to St. Nicholas and other saints, for relief from hail, distemper and sickness among the cattle, all to no avail. The next year he invoked the intercession of Muhammad and was spared the usual round of misfortune. So the family passed over to Islam. TH E SU FFIC IEN C Y OF A FO RM A L P R O F E S SIO N OF ISLA M The act of conversion was extremely simple. It consisted only in the repetition of the creed: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


apostle of God." The simple formality required for conversion is described by a Frenchman: "He is conducted to the center of the assembly and by the commandment of their priest, called a dervish, he raises the index finger, and raising the eyes to heaven, cries aloud, to be heard well, 'La ila la mehmet resulam,' that is to say, 'God is God the only God, and Mohammed is his prophet.' After that, by some expert man his foreskin being cut, he is presented to the people and his first name changed, he being given a new one" (Lavardin 1621, 4). The French artillery lieutenant who took the name Manzour described the simple procedure when he pretended to adopt Islam for personal safety during extensive travel. He found a cadi or religious judge in the same inn where he had stopped overnight. "I declared to him that I wanted to become a Moslem. He praised God, and at once threw my hat out the window. He took off the sash which served him as a belt to envelope my head in the form of a turban, then gave me letters of recommendation to the governor of Bosnia" (Manzour 1828, xxii). No preparatory catechizing was necessary. By a simple declaration of faith, and at most circumcision, a Christian could escape all the injustice poured out upon his kind by the Turks. Upon reflection, it seems surprising that only 70 percent of the Albanians were Islamized. Generally these conversions were quite nominal. After the southern Himariots had accepted Islam, the Uniat missionary Korolevskij wrote, "Nobody is molested there by the Turks." But of the purely superficial nature of the conversions he continued, "By their ignorance they became Turks, and now they are really neither Turks nor Christians" (Bessarione July-December 1911, 473). This was paralleled at Elbasan, where a group of pseudo-Muslims lived. They had two sets of names, Christian and Muslim, and followed the two corresponding religious rites. Inwardly they were Christians, but outwardly they professed Islam (Chekrezi 1919, 204). As late as 1905 a traveler reported that Muslims in the town of Lushnja still continued a tradition of their Christian ancestors. Every night villagers by turn climbed the nearby mountain peak to the church of St. Nicholas to light a candle there (Grameno 1925, 63). In the Catholic north there were quite a number of "occult Christians" who lived a double life religiously, and were called "crypto-Catholics" or "laramani." They remained Christians in secret, but through force of cir­ cumstances felt it necessary to behave in public like Muslims. These men did not compel their wives to be converted, and contrary to Islamic law the Christian mother would raise the children in the Christian religion. As the sons became of age, they too would have to profess Islam, but the women carried on the Christian tradition (Tomitch 1913,15). This phenomenon of divided households was reported in the south also by Poujade (1867, 103-4). He wrote, "I have known Albanian chiefs who still had Christian old mothers and aunts. In the villages of Chamëri and Labëri one can fre­ quently see husband and wife eating . . . food, part cooked without butter


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

for the wife during Lent, and part for the husband filled with savory meat and cooked in butter." Documents were also commonly seen, where one Mehmet Abdullah was declared the son of Constantine or Demetrius. Some Albanian Muslims still had Orthodox family names. Faik Konitza, Albanian scholar and diplomatic envoy to the United States from 1926 to 1939, considered this double life an "ironical and non­ chalant way" of escaping religious controversy. With good humor he quoted the wife of a British ambassador to Constantinople, who wrote in 1717 about the Albanians as follows: These people, living between Christians and Mahometans, and not being skilled in controversy, declare that they are utterly unable to judge which religion is best. But, to be certain of not entirely rejecting the truth, they very prudently follow both. They go to the mosque on Fridays and the Church on Sundays, saying for their excuse, that at the day of judgment they are sure of the protection of the true prophet; but which that is, they are not able to determine in this world [Konitza 1957, 135].

Konitza then quoted Lord Byron. "The Greeks hardly regard them as Chris­ tians, or the Turks as Moslems; and in fact they are a mixture of both, and sometimes neither" {ibid., 136). And he quoted Byron's contemporary, the Anglican clergyman T. S. Hughes: "The Albanian Mahometan is not more observant of doctrines, rites and ceremonies under his new law than he was under his old one. . . . He frequently takes a Christian woman to his wife, carries his sons to mosque, and allows his daughters to attend their mother to church; nay he even goes himself alternately to both places of worship" (ibid., 136). This rather relaxed attitude toward the double life was not found in the northerly regions of Albania. There the secret Christians or laramani attended church only when they dared. They secretly asked the priests to hear their confession and grant them communion. The archbishops of Uskup, yielding to circumstances, allowed the priests to administer the sacraments to these occult Christians and to extend to them spiritual suc­ cor. This accommodation continued until 1703, when the Albanian (Arbëresh) Pope Clement XI, ruling from 1700 to 1721, took a different ap­ proach. He sent the archbishop of Antivari (later Tivar, now Bar) on a pastoral visit throughout the Albanian communities, then received his report of destroyed churches and desecrated shrines. To discourage further conversions to Islam, the pope called the Second Council of Albanian Bishops, presided over by the archbishop of Antivari. There it was decided that communion must be refused to those Chris­ tians who, while preserving in heart the religion of Christ, yet failed in its outward confession by following the customs of the Turks and receiving Muslim names. A later encyclical of Benedict XIV, dated 1 August 1754, confirmed this decision. It forbade archbishops, bishops, priests and Al­ banian missionaries to permit Catholics to take Moslem names, whether to

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


escape the payment of taxes, or for any other reasons. The encyclical added that the clergy should persuade those who deny the impieties of Islam and return to Christianity, to withdraw from those regions if they doubt their constancy, and to settle in countries not under the Turks. From that time these occult Christians, though cut off from all spiritual aids, preserved the memory and some of the customs of their Christian heritage, although for survival or convenience they continued to feign the practice of the Muslim religion. Many of these converts to Islam, however, evidenced the superficiality of their conversion by embracing the liberal sect of the Bektashis. Muslim contentment with even a nominal profession of Islam was farsighted. In the first place, it was irrevocable: once a Muslim, always a Muslim. The punishment for Muslim apostates was death. Article 55 of Kuduri's In­ stitutes reads as follows: "When a Muslim shall abandon Islam, the dogmas shall be expounded to him; if he has any doubts they shall be removed, and he shall be imprisoned three days. If he is converted, nothing more shall be done. In the contrary case he shall be slain; and if he has been put to death before the doctrine of Islam has been expounded to him, the action of the one who killed him is detestable, but he will not incur any punish­ ment thereby" (Kuduri 1829, 34). This law of apostasy was applied without moderation in Albania. The former consul of France at the Yanina court of Ali Pasha told of one Flasan of Kosturi who witnessed the torture of a Basilian monk Demetrius and was so impressed that he became a Christian. After baptism he fled to the coastal region of Acarnania, where under the name George he cultivated a small farm. Becoming notable for his piety, he was later discovered and with white-hot irons tortured to death (Pouq 1825, 1:254-56; also Hecquard 1857, 484-87). Even this superficial profession of Islam proved progressive. It under­ went development with the passage of time. Turkish hopes lay in the next generation, and the next. In Albania they were not disappointed, for by such practices they effected the Islamization of 70 percent of its population. R E L IG IO U S D IS U N IT Y IN A LBA N IA When Albania eventually secured its independence from Turkey, this historically Christian land enjoyed the dubious distinction of possessing the most highly concentrated Muslim population of any state in Europe. Of the neighboring Balkan states, Romania had a Muslim population of 1.5 per­ cent, Greece 2.1 percent, Yugoslavia 13 percent and Bulgaria 15.8 percent (Nelson ca. 1930, 484-87). Yet the Muslim population of Albania totaled 70 percent. The reason for the disparity is not at first apparent. The Turkish occupation in these other Balkan regions lasted just about as long as it did in Albania, for although Albania was the last to be subjugated by the old Turkish empire, it was also the last to secure independence from it. As far as we know, the same religious policies were applied by the Ottomans to the inhabitants of those other Balkan states as were applied to the Alba­


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

nians. It seems then, that the explanation must lie not in the external cir­ cumstances, such as the duration or the intensity of Islamic pressure, but rather in certain characteristics of religion and psychology peculiar to the Albanian. There would seem to be four such factors. First is the religious disunity found there. All the Balkan nationalities except the Albanians enjoyed a distinct religious homogeneity. Greece was solidly Orthodox, as were Wallachia or Romania, Serbia and to a lesser degree Bulgaria. On the other hand, Croatia and Dalmatia were solidly Roman Catholic. But the earlier strug­ gles over Illyricum Sacrum had split Albania into two hostile camps: Catholic and Orthodox. Historically, Albanians had found their loyalty divided between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western or Roman Catholic Church, between Constantinople and Rome. Most northern Al­ banians were oriented toward Rome, most southern Albanians toward Constantinople. We have already become aware of the friction between the two, amounting even to open hostility. According to reports of the Catholic Rodino, a Uniat missionary to southern Albania, this hostility originated with the Orthodox bishops, who were always of Greek nationality. They denounced him to priests and peo­ ple as an "heretical papist" (Bessarione July-December 1911, 448-49). Neither did the Catholic Rodino prove more tactful, for he went throughout the country, preaching and exhorting bishops, priests and people alike to return to the Catholic Church. Driven out of one diocese he went on to the next. When an Orthodox bishop was stationed at fanatically Catholic Shkodra, Pouqueville (1805, 3:263-64) wrote that the Catholic missionaries there had more to fear from the Greeks than from the Muslims. The Catholic Mantegazza (1906, 322) reported that "the schism was so profound that even now the Albanian Catholics have less repugnance for the Moslem than for the Orthodox." He told of Catholics and Muslims living together peaceably, sometimes even in the same house and family, "a thing which would be absolutely impossible among Catholics and Orthodox." An example of these unfortunate quarrels is given by Hecquard (153-54). The Catholics of Koplik used to hold an annual pilgrimage and mass at their little church of St. John in neighboring Vraka. In 1855 a small colony of Orthodox Slavs nearby took possession of the church, claiming it was Greek in form and therefore Orthodox. Soon the Koplik Catholics and allies numbering 300 descended with a priest, consecrated the old church according to the Latin rite and celebrated mass. Tragic repercus­ sions were averted only by the hasty intervention of the French ambassador at Constantinople. The Turks were not slow to play the one against the other for their own advantage. Ali Pasha found that the Catholic Mirdites would fight most en­ thusiastically for him against the Orthodox Albanians of the south. This mutual religious antipathy was exploited also by foreign propagandists who, through their churches, promoted suspicion and distrust so as to

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


further theirn own anti-Albanian designs. But this religious dissension dissipated the energies which might have enabled both Catholic and Or­ thodox Albanians to support one another in resisting Islamization by the Turks. THE D EC A D EN T C H A R A C TER OF A LBA N IA N C H R IS T IA N IT Y It was Lord Byron who wrote about Albania, "The cross descends, thy minarets arise." Then he added, "But still the cross is here,/ though sadly scoffed at by the circumcised" (Byron 1891, 1:2.38). Apparently they had some reason. A few illustrations will suffice. Foreign priests were often ignorant of the Albanian language and customs. The English lady Edith Durham, whose love for Albanian moun­ taineers earned her their title "Queen of the Mountains," nevertheless de­ tailed how their bishops, usually foreigners, quarreled with one another so as to enlarge their bishoprics. As early as 1684 these quarrels had become so bitter that a commission was appointed to delimit the bishoprics of Durrës, Sappa and Lezha. The three bishops were solemnly warned to observe these boundaries, so as to avoid scandal among the faithful, and "inconveniences" from the Turks. But in 1702 it became necessary again to call the bishops to order. Pope Clement XI, of Albanian blood on his mother's side, sent the archbishop of Antivari, Vicentius Zmajevich, as his Apostolic Visitor. After traveling through the mountains and visiting all the tribes, he made a most lamentable report: "The vineyards of the Lord are corrupt, desolate, given over to pagan and Turkish practices. The bishops are quarreling with one another for various villages. The worst case is that of Postripa for which three bishops at once contend, and the people are left without leader or shepherd like a scattered flock subject to persecution and oppression" (Durham 1909, 7). Durham observed that as a result a large part of the region had become Muslim. The implacable blood feuds of these northern Catholics led Durham to this observation: The ensanguined figure of Christ on the cross calls up no image of redemp­ tion by suffering, but only the stern cry: "We are at blood with the Chifuts [Jews], for they slew our Christ. We are at blood with the Turks because they insult Him. We are at blood with the Shkyars [Orthodox] because they do not pray to Him properly." And strong in this faith, the mountain man is equally ready to shoot or be shot for Him. . . . The cross is a sort of charm, marked on bread, planted on every hill, scratched or painted on every door, set on the gable of roofs, worn around every neck, and tat­ tooed on the hand, arm or breast of the greater part of the Catholic population as a protective charm. But of the real teaching of Christianity they seem to have no idea [ibid., 81, 152],

Christ's gospel could have moderated the hatred, but it was seldom pro­ claimed in the language of the people. Instead, the church leaders, in


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

Dante's words, "let the Gospel sleep, and pass their own inventions off in­ stead" (Dante, Canto 29). The malevolent power of the evil eye was commonly believed respon­ sible for accidents, sickness, death or any other type of misfortune. Instead of combating the superstition, many priests accredited it by selling to mothers a little triangular cloth brevet or patch with a written prayer, or mysterious symbols. The patch was pinned on the shoulder of the outer garment to ward off the evil eye. Hecquard illustrated how these super­ stitious beliefs were often exploited: Three years ago a house adjoining the French consulate enjoyed a wide reputation for being haunted by an evil spirit. It dropped stones on the roof, opened the spigots of barrels of oil and wine, and overturned fur­ nishings. People became fearful of staying there. Finally a priest was called, but his exorcism was in vain. Another priest was called, and he passed the nights in prayer, and even celebrated mass, but without favorable results. The unaccountable happenings continued. The consul visited the house. Stones fell again, and the trembling people made the sign of the cross. The priest Don Angelo recounted the prodigies he had seen. The consul, rather than argue, looked around. He observed in the dust near the barrels, traces that could not have been left by a spirit. He called together all the servants, and announced sternly to the assembly, "I have an infallible secret for finding demons of this type. If such things occur again, call me. I shall come with my kavass [armed guard] and policemen, and you will see me catch him!" The apparitions promptly ceased. Later it became known that a young servant girl who wished to return to her parents hoped to accomplish this by frightening her master [Hecquard 1857, 346-47],

Similar superstitious tales were common in the southland. An illiterate people who could not read, and who had no books anyway, spent their long evenings crouching at the fireside recounting tales, each more imag­ inative and fearful than the one preceding. After death the souls of the dead were said to wander through the house for 40 days, so pitchers of water had to be covered lest the spirits fall in and drown. The supernatural power of the religious icon was feared so much that a group of young men challenged a skeptical friend to dare touch it, for his arm would imme­ diately wither. He not only touched the icon, but rapped his knuckles on it. There was no supernatural punishment, so the disappointed group shouted to a policeman that the skeptic was going to steal the icon from the wayside shrine. He found himself embroiled in a court trial. Amulets were commonly used to protect children from the evil eye. Parents protected an only son by piercing his ear, certain that the earring would deceive the evil spirit into thinking the son a girl and leave him alone. Outside the monastery of Ardenice, near Lushnja, there are some beautifully sculptured figures, one of which was certainly Aphrodite. A visitor in the mid-twentieth century reported that "her breasts are quite destroyed by

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


village women, who have chipped away and eaten small bits of marble to assure breast milk for their babies" (Tom ori 28 April 1940, 3). A recent visitor to Shkodra recalled that nursing mothers lacking breast milk often went to the Rozafat fortress nearby and rubbed the limestone stalactites and stalagmites hoping that this would increase their milk supply (Liria 26 September 1980, 3). The attachment of an Albanian Christian to his church was often very nominal. Although an atheist or a blasphemer, his attendance at mass a few times a year, probably on holy days, would suffice. Nor would he have to remain long when he did go. At any point in the long ritualistic service he could enter the church, buy a candle and light it before the icon screen or altar, bow a moment in the incense-laden air, cross himself, then chat with friends over topics of the day. He might neither heed nor understand the antiphonal chanting of the priest and his assistant. Religion to him was a very casual affair. Yet it could rightly be observed that all these religious conditions prevailed throughout the Balkans. Why then should the proportion of con­ versions to Islam be so much greater in Albania than elsewhere? Actually, Albania was an anomaly. Situated in the heart of Europe, it was for cen­ turies so near the life-giving currents of social progress, yet insulated from those civilizing streams by its mountain frontiers. As late as the nineteenth century Gibbon (I860, 1:25) called Albania "very obscure." Still later, Boppe (1914, 71-72) wrote, "In seeing the different people of Albania, I notice each day habits, usages and customs that seem to belong to another world. These provinces are more foreign to Europe than Africa and its nomads. A Gheg, a Dibran, is farther from us than the bedouin of the sands of Bactria." Overrun by one people after another, this unfortunate country was then deliberately kept in disunion, ignorance and poverty by the Turks. Throughout the period of Islamization, illiteracy was almost universal in Albania. Gibert (1914, 36) stated that as late as 1876, with over 17,000 Catholics in the diocese of Lezha, only 50 knew how to read. Manzour (1828, 37) wrote that throughout the south there were entire districts where only one or two Muslim priests, or as many Christians, knew how to write. Even in the cities very few people were literate, and even they had very few books to read. The priests, who should have been eyes for the unseeing, were of little help, for many of them were also illiterate. Most of them were quite indifferent to Christian preaching and instruction. Those few who were capable and willing to read the gospels at mass were required to read in Latin if Catholic, or in Greek if Orthodox, and most Albanians did not understand either language. It is little wonder that they were uniquely impoverished spiritually. The Bulgarians, on the other hand, had declared their church autocephalous as early as 917, thereafter electing their own patriarch and Slavicizing their church liturgy. The Greeks of course understood their Greek liturgy. Poujade (1867, 190), in fact, wrote that the Greeks were


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

relatively well-instructed in their religion, read the Old Testament as well as the gospels, and generally speaking, were free from skepticism. An Al­ banian writer, Pika (1935, 21), has contrasted the Greeks' stubborn resistance to conversion with the readiness of the Albanians to change their religion. He ascribed the sharp contrast to the different levels of national and religious culture: the Greeks stood very high, the Albanians very low. He wrote, "Of all the peoples of the Balkans, which have been those who changed the Christian religion for the Muslim religion with the greatest of ease, and in the greatest number? The Albanians: those of all the peoples most lacking in religious and nationalistic consciousness." The peculiarly decadent character of Christianity in Albania was a significant factor facilitating their conversion to Islam. TH E M A T E R IA L IS T IC O U T L O O K OF THE A LBA N IA N Springing directly out of this decadence of Albanian Christianity, and linked causally with it, is the materialism which motivated Albanians more powerfully than did their religion. Caution is required here, however, in passing judgment. We who are far removed from the circumstances which contributed to the Islamization of Albania can hardly evaluate properly the factors involved. Neither must one overlook the 30 percent of the popula­ tion who remained loyal, enduring cruel oppression year after year that they might have escaped with the simple repetition of a formula. We must recognize too that many of these had identified nationality with religion, that for them to become a Muslim was to become a Turk, and their resistance to conversion could be considered primarily patriotic rather than religious. But even after excluding these, there must have remained many simple, devout persons, lofty and lowly, but mostly lowly, who refused regimentation into Islam. For these genuine praise is the least of tributes. But one is still faced with the 70 percent. Proportionally, four times as many Albanians as neighboring Bulgarians or Yugoslavs were converted to Islam, 35 times as many Albanians as Greeks and 45 times as many Alba­ nians as Romanians. Such figures have given travelers and writers the im­ pression that Albanians are "without religious character." Islamization proceeded more rapidly among the more accessible Tosk population of southern Albania. This probably led Poujade to the conclu­ sion that "the Tosk is the least religious of all the Albanians, or better, his religion is money" (113). Yet Lord Byron paid the highest tribute to the honesty of the Albanians associated with Ali Pasha. The integrity of the Dibran was proverbial. Following a revolt in 1903, the Balkan Committee of London sent H. N. Brailsford to Monastir to supervise the distribution of relief funds and materials. Apprehensive of entrusting relief funds and supplies to unknown native helpers, Brailsford asked non-Albanian mis­ sionaries, consuls and Catholic priests to recommend honest men for responsible service as his assistants. Following interviews and their employment, he found to his amazement that he had 15 Albanians and six

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


non-Albanians, mostly Slavs. Eventually he evaluated the men, and found that of the six, three proved unworthy, or 50 percent, while of the 15 Alba­ nians, only one had received "the lightest reprimand." Brailsford could not speak too highly of the scrupulous honesty and integrity of his Albanian assistants (Skendo 1919, 6-7). On the whole, however, it may safely be asserted that Albanians never were devout Christians before conversion, nor were they devout Muslims afterwards. Religion sat lightly on their shoulders, so much so that the Turks considered the word "Albanian" synonymous with "infidel" (Pouq 1805, 3:157). It will be remembered that although he admired the Albanian people, Lord Byron wrote, "The Greeks hardly regard them as Christians, or the Turks as Muslims; in fact they are a mixture of both, and sometimes neither" (Byron 1891, 2:786). But although there was some uncertainty as to the decisive influence of religion in the lives of the Albanians, there was general agreement on the decisive influence of money. Money talked in a language very widely understood. Their love of money was proverbial. Midhat Frashëri, writing under the pseudonym Lumo Skendo, reported that in Turkey they had a proverb, "I thane Shqiptarit, ‘A vete në skëterë?' A y pyeti, ‘Sa është rroga?'" (They said to the Albanian, "Will you go to hell?" He asked, "How much is the salary?") (Diturija 1:3, 35). An Albanian scholar with the highest credentials, Faik Konitza, repeated the same story (Konitza 1957, 47). Through even this levity we see the consciousness of Albanians themselves that the determining factor for them was not usually religion, but materialism. Another Muslim Albanian commented on how this Albanian characteristic would make him peculiarly sensitive to economic pressure. He wrote, Albanians always, so now, before the two alternatives of material interest and religious affairs, always prefer the former. . . . Religion, Moham­ medanism as well as Christianity, has not rooted itself in the hearts of Albanians deeply enough so that for religious reasons he will spurn material interests. The religious conviction of the Albanians has been and is more a means than an end. The change of religion up until our day has not taken place because of inner convictions. The reasons must be sought elsewhere. Only the blind cannot see them. Archbishop Fan Noli has perfectly analyzed the psychology of our nation when he said that in Albania we have "four different religions which have not taken root in the heart of a pagan people" [Kortshës 1923, 11].

Incidentally, the citation of Archbishop Noli was taken from an address that he delivered to the Albanian parliament in Tirana on 27 November 1923, the day before the nation celebrated Flag Day. The good archbishop illustrated this theme in his biography of the national hero, Skanderbeg. He wrote that the hero's father, John Kastrioti,


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

sent gifts to various monasteries and churches, Catholic and Orthodox, that they pray to God in Latin, Greek, Slavic, in the west and the east, to save him from the danger in which he found himself, with the hope that if the prayers of the shaved and groomed Catholic brothers proved useless, the endless litanies of the bearded, lion-headed Orthodox monks with their age-old hatred of scissors, razor, comb and cleanliness, might be more efficacious. Four centuries after John Kastrioti, Ali Pasha Tepelena, fighting desperately against the Turks, ordered Jewish rabbis, Mohammedan hodjas, Bektashi fathers and Orthodox priests to pray for his deliverance in temples, mosques, tekkes and churches, and to awaken the Most High with cries from the minaret and the clanging of bells. To this day Albanian villagers in trouble, regardless of their religion, will knock in turn on the door of the priest, the hodja and the father. Typically Albanian is the tale of the shepherd, who, disillusioned with the saints, lit a candle and asked help from the devil. When the danger is great and all hope is lost, deliverance is good wherever it comes from, and in the dark hour of misfortune the Albanian is simply a pagan who casts a hand­ ful of incense on any altar of any god he has ever heard of [Noli 1921, 65-66].

Undoubtedly this materialistic outlook of the Albanian people facilitated their Islamization during the Turkish occupation. THE A PPEA L OF ISLA M T O THE S O L D IE R L Y A LBA N IA N Our concluding factor in explaining the extensive Islamization of Albania was the natural appeal of Islam to the soldierly Albanian character. The male Albanians were traditionally warriors. Since their prehistoric migration into the Balkans, their subsequent wars with the Greeks, their empire-building Macedonian phalanxes, their wars with Rome, with the Goths, the Avars, the Serbians, the Bulgarians and the Nor­ mans, their internal quarrels and the long campaign against the Ottoman Turks, the prestige of the Albanians as rather undisciplined but hardy war­ riors has been unquestioned. Lord Byron expressed his admiration: "Fierce are Albania's children, yet they lack/ not virtues, were those virtues more mature./ Where is the foe that ever saw their back?/ Who can so well the toil of war endure?/ Their native fastnesses not more secure/ than they in doubtful time of troublous need;/ Their wrath how deadly! but their friendship sure./ When Gratitude or Valor bids them bleed,/ unshaken rushing on where'er their chief may lead" (Byron 1891, 2:65). This warlike heritage was a peculiar characteristic of the Albanians. When they foresaw the inevitable Turkish victory over their country, many Christians fled. Their light cavalry, however, fought victoriously in Calabria, Naples and Pisa, certain Albanian captains winning renown (Giovio 1555, 2 :101- 2, 209). Their fierce fighting ability so impressed the French in the time of Napoleon that they recruited men from the regions of Epirus and Shkodra to form their elite "Albanian Regiment" that was famous in guerrilla war­ fare (Boppe 1902, 3-30).

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians

23 7

Tribute-paying Christians were forced to give up their arms. Upon accepting Islam, however, they could once again enjoy the bold ad­ venture of armed conflict. Albanians, altogether out of proportion to their number, achieved distinction as warriors under the Ottoman ban­ ner. Bajazet Pasha, who saved the life of Muhammad II on several oc­ casions, was Albanian (Noli 1921,12). Habraim Pasha was born in Butrint, rising to the post of Beyler-Bey over the cavalry of all Turkey-in-Europe (Giovio 1555, 2:337-38). Balaban Pasha was of humble Albanian ori­ gin, but was rapidly promoted after Muhammad II saw him enter first into Constantinople as the city fell (Duponcet 1709, 477). Fighting with Balaban against the rebellious Skanderbeg was Jaqub Arnauth, his sur­ name meaning Albanian in Turkish, he being noted for his daring mili­ tary enterprises in Asia and Greece (ibid.; Lamartine 1854, 3:326). Ad­ miral Gjedik Pasha, who led the Ottoman troops from Vlora to the invasion of Otranto (1480) was Albanian by birth (Noli 1921, 279). So was Sinan Pasha, born in the mountains of Arta (Chalcondile 1662, 405-6). Many pashas and viziers in the Ottoman Empire were of Albanian origin. Their courage in war and their natural leadership fitted them to at­ tain high official positions just when the Ottoman race itself was beginning to decline. Later the Albanian regiments in the service of the sultan were numbered among his best troops. In the battle of Konia won by Ibrahim Pasha, all the honor of the day rested with the two Albanian regiments which evidenced exceptional discipline and courage (Poujade 1867, 105). Their unusual reputation made them sought out as mercenaries. Although remaining Catholic, the Mirdites often hired out as warriors. Albanian soldiers fought under the Turks at Rhodes (Fontano 1545, 3:31). It was a prominent Albanian who was one of the two hostages given by the Turks to guarantee the safety of two distinguished Italian ambassadors negotiating in their camp (ibid., 3:51). Albanian leadership was very prominent in the struggle for the libera­ tion of Greece from Turkish occupation and the struggle for the unification of Italy. In 1841 Jusuf Bey of Berat enrolled 6,000 Albanians to suppress the rebellion in the island of Crete; in 1842 Tafil Buzi raised 3,000 men to fight in Lebanon, some of those Albanian mercenaries shortly afterwards gain­ ing notoriety as being responsible for the widespread disorders in Beirut (Poujade 1867, 106). Besides the inborn love for warfare, another custom of the Turks made military life altogether attractive to the materialistic Albanian fighter. Cantemir (1734, 73) wrote that it was then the practice of the Turkish emperors to promise the soldiers all the goods of the enemy, unless the city was taken by surrender. He added, "It is not to be expressed what fire this gives to men naturally greedy of plunder and rapine" (ibid.). That this category included the Albanians may be inferred from Mariano Bolizza's report of 1614 describing the valuable silver harnesses, weapons and other


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

objects in the homes of many northern Albanians, all the fruit of plunder (Hecquard 1857, 193). Although the besa, the Albanians' word of honor, was traditionally in­ violate, these hired soldiers were thoroughgoing mercenaries when their own country's welfare was not at stake. The Albanian companies serving the French in the Ionian Isles, at a crucial moment, passed over to the English enemy in a body. Yet later, of the 34 officers and 789 men compos­ ing an Albanian contingent, all deserted to English employ except 13 men, and these as a precaution had been put in prison prior to the engagement (Boppe 1902, 16-17). Unfortunately for the national honor, Chalcondile (405) identifies as Albanians the four whose treason overthrew the other­ wise unconquerable Thomam Bey in Egypt (1516), also the traitor who, during the siege of Rhodes (1522), left the city, divulged its weakened state and urged the Turks to persevere in the siege (ibid., 478). Probably because of his close association with Ali Pasha, Manzour had little sympathy for the Albanians. After paying tribute to their efficiency as light cavalry, especially in guerrilla warfare, he added (401), "However they are un­ disciplined to the last degree, robbers, assassins, liars. . .. With money one can always be certain to corrupt the Albanians: chiefs or subalterns, no one can resist the appeal of gold, which makes them abandon him for whom they are fighting, and even turn their arms against him." Scarcely more charitable was Pouqueville's analysis of Albanian character, he as French consul undoubtedly influenced by his familiarity with the Yanina of Ali Pasha. He asserted that the naturally savage customs of Albania had been tempered somewhat by Christianity, that the Alba­ nians who remained faithful to the religion of Christ had some vices, but those who had embraced Islam had neither virtue nor conscience (Pouq 1826, 3:239). The historical record available to us does not give the impres­ sion that virtue and conscience were very influential factors even in the behavior of Christian warriors during those harsh years. Lord Byron described how the gallant Christian Suliotes withstood Ali Pasha for 18 years: 5,000 men against 30,000, their castle finally falling not by assault but by bribery. He described "Albania's chief, whose dread command/ is lawless law; for with a bloody hand/ he sways a nation, turbulent and bold./ Yet here and there some daring band/ disdains his power, and from their rocky hold/ hurl their defiance far, nor yield, unless to gold" (Byron 1891, 1:47). The Mirdites, usually cited as the outstanding examples of Christian integrity, provided the servant who executed the cold-blooded murders which opened the way for Kara Mahmoud to become vizier of Shkodra (D., N. B., 1899, 5-8). When Ali Pasha ordered the death of the elderly Ibrahim Pasha of Berat, no Muslim would lift a hand against him because of his virtues and nobility. But as the guards were leading him to a monastery, supposedly for safety, Mirdites threw themselves on the old man and strangled him to death (Boppe 1914, 211). Neither Christian nor

Reasons fo r the A doption o f Islam by Albanian Christians


Muslim seems to have been greatly moved by conscience at the time. Men of such character were very valuable to the Porte. They filled some of the highest positions in the empire, and they filled some of the lowest. Lavardin (1621, 2:413) observed that Albanians were used for the execution of murders and for deeds of violence. It was a Bosno-Albanian, Veli Mehmet, who shot a military attache of the Russian Embassy in 1886, but escaped punishment because of his influential countrymen at the Porte (ibid., 2:412-13). Apparently there was an affinity between the warlike, proud, mer­ cenary, liberty-loving but not unimpeachable Albanian character and the Turkish or Muslim ideal. Sami Bey Frashëri, one of the most widely known and respected literary figures during Albania's national regeneration, prob­ ably knew his generation better and described them more accurately than foreign travelers and observers ever could. He wrote as follows. The change of religion increased a very great deal, and in all parts of Albania they began to accept the religion of the conqueror, saying, "Tek është kordha është besa" (Where the sword is, there is the religion). The Albanians have this characteristic, that they fall away quickly from one religion, and always want to change it; when they saw also that the Turks do not honor them that were not of their religion, they did not delay receiving that religion. . .. Because of their characteristics, they excelled in the things which were sought by the kingdom of Turkey. Ceaseless warfare, contests and races with horses, plunder, murder, stabbings and other such things which the Turks wished, these things were also beloved by the Albanians. The Turks found in the Albanians a powerful and loyal comrade in battle; and the Albanians found in the Turks a master who opened before them a broad and unrestricted field to do all those things which their hearts wanted to do. Albania in the Turkish times became richer and wealthier than ever; for the Albanians went out together with them into all parts of the world, and returned laden with gold and silver, with valuable arms and with beautiful horses from Arabia, Egypt, Kurdistan, Hungary, etc. Being more brave and capable than the Turks, they went up into the highest and most honorable positions, and had more honor than the Turks themselves. As grand viziers alone, there were appointed about twenty-five Albanians, and the best and most renowned of those who have occupied this position have been Albanians. . . . This is the reason for the ties between the Albanians and the Turks: the Albanians found in the Turks that which their heart desired: possessions, honor, arms, horses, plunder as much as they desired, and freedom as much as they needed; and the Turks found in the Albanians that which they desired: courage, loyalty and ungrudging bloodshed [Frashëri, S., 1924, 19-21].

We ask again, then, Why did Albanians adopt the religion of their Turkish oppressors? There were outright compulsion, several forms of economic discrimination, social pressure, the religious training of Christian juveniles,


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

marital regulations, the welcome of Christian malcontents and the suffi­ ciency of a nominal profession of Islam. But why was Albania more thoroughly Islamized than any other Balkan state? Evidently this was not due to the centuries of Turkish oppression, for the duration was somewhat similar throughout the Balkans. Nor was it due to any peculiarly effective strategy of conversion, for the general Ottoman policies toward conquered minority religions were applied everywhere. But in Albania the unique in­ ternal religious disunity, and the peculiarly decadent character of Chris­ tianity greatly weakened their defenses. Probably of yet greater significance, the Albanians were notably materialistic, not moved by spiritual considerations when these conflicted with material interests. But supremely, the warlike, proud and liberty-loving Albanian nature found the irksome restrictions of tributary Christianity as repugnant as the life­ style of conquering Islam was attractive. Probably the greater mystery is why the percentage of Albanians converted to Islam during the 500 years of Turkish oppression was as low as 70 percent.

21. Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts for Albanian Independence Having considered the attitude of the Ottoman government toward conquered Albania, its church organizations and its Christians, we now note the attitude of Christian Albanians toward their Muslim overlords. For the first three centuries of her occupation by the Turks there is no con­ nected history of Albania. Even the disconnected bits of knowledge available to us are altogether infrequent. Yet the fragmentary glimpses we do have make it evident that Albanian Christianity sponsored a long suc­ cession of rebellions. As a rule the Orthodox south tended toward alliances with Orthodox powers, and the Catholic north with Catholic powers. But these Sons of the Eagle would never lose their passion for their own land, language and liberty. The measure of their desperation is shown by the ap­ peals from the Orthodox south to Catholic Italy and Spain for aid, and the Catholic northerners cooperating with the Orthodox Serbians and Russians in a common struggle against the Ottoman oppressor. THE H IM A RA A S S A S S IN A T IO N A T T E M P T A G A IN S T SU LTA N SU LEYM AN The Ottoman Empire reached the culmination of its power under Suleyman II, "the Magnificent" (1520-1566). He took Belgrade (1521) and Rhodes (1522) and in 1526 made Hungary a Turkish province. He reached the walls of Vienna itself in 1529, forcing Austria to pay tribute. Italy and all Europe were thrown into alarm when Suleyman then addressed himself to an invasion of Italy. Almost before the Christian powers had heard that the Turks had left Constantinople, wrote Chalcondile (544), Suleyman with 200,000 combatants arrived on the southern coast of Albania in 1530. Unfortunately for the region, a well-laid plot to assassinate Suleyman was discovered. Preparatory to slipping past the sentinels and killing the sleep­ ing sultan, one Damian climbed up a tree to spy out the location of the royal tent. Unfortunately, a branch broke under his weight and Damian 241


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

fell, becoming wedged tightly in a fork of the tree. Janissaries seized him, tortured him to confession, then tore him to pieces. After wreaking pitiless vengeance on neighboring Himara (ibid., 547), the army encamped before Vlora while the cavalry swept out to desolate the countryside. The Barbary pirate Barbarossa with a great fleet met them at Vlora and transported them across the strait to Otranto. There they laid waste the coast of Puglia. Returning, they attacked Corfu, held since 1386 by the Venetians as a base from which to protect the coast of Italy. Heavy rains hindered them, and when trouble arose in Persia that September, they departed (Coronelli 1686, 142-43). THE N O RTH ERN A LLIA N C E W ITH VEN ICE IN TH EIR W A R OF 1570-1571 When Venice declared war against Turkey in 1570, it seemed like a golden opportunity for freedom-loving Albanians. Sultan Selim sent ar­ mies by land and sea. Pending their arrival, neighboring sanjak-beys besieged Dulcigno. Albanian soldiers joined the defenders. When the Ot­ toman armies arrived, however, the city was forced to capitulate on condi­ tion of safe conduct of persons and goods to Venetian-held Ragusa. In spite of the pledged word, on surrender many of the Albanian soldiers were ex­ ecuted, and the civilian population were made slaves. Catholic Albania at this time was subject to the metropolitan of Antivari, which was next at­ tacked by the Turkish army and forced to surrender in 1571. Hecquard (469) records that at its capture, the archbishop John VIII was taken prisoner. The commander of Roumeli, or Turkey-in-Europe, demanded that he be burned alive. But Ali Pasha, commander of the Ottoman fleet, claimed the prelate as his prize of war and tried to get 20,000 ducats ransom for him. Unable to find this sum, the pasha took the archbishop on board ship for Constantinople. The ship was attacked by the Venetians, however, and the Turks put the unfortunate prelate to death. The archbishopric re­ mained vacant until 1579. During this war between Venice and Turkey, about one hundred towns, mostly along the Drin River, swore allegiance to the Venetian government. They proposed the formation of a league and invited the pope to cooperate. But nothing further is on the record. After the fall of Antivari, eight years passed before Catholic Albanians had a new archbishop in 1579. He found his palace occupied, however, by the Turkish cadi or judge. The new archbishop was impatient to assume the full dignity of his position. He appealed to the senate of Venice to recom­ mend to the Turkish sultan that he order the governor of Antivari to respect the person and goods of the archbishop. The Venetian ambassador at Con­ stantinople neglected the matter, considering it useless to request that which he was sure he could not obtain. But in some circuitous manner the Turks at Antivari learned of the request and conceived a violent hatred for the prelate. One day when the archbishop left his residence at nearby Budua to visit his flock at Antivari, the Turks seized him. They threw him

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


in a dark prison and beat him with rods until he died. This and other peti­ tions proved embarrassing to Venice. At the close of the century, the crown of Albania was offered to Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy, the Hapsburg Rudolph II, and Ranuccio I, Duke of Parma, but each in turn declined the dubious honor. Despairing of help to free their country, inhabitants of Dalmatia and Albania sought permission of Venice to abandon their lands and settle in Venetian territory so as to escape the Turkish yoke. Unwilling to risk a rupture with Turkey, the Venetian senate exhorted them to pa­ tience and resignation (Romanin 1853, 7:10). SO M E A B O R T IV E C O N S P IR A C IE S We turn once again to the weary succession of bloody revolutions in­ tended to secure independence for Albania. P lans of C harles II, D uke of N evers (1614)

Another well-planned insurrection raised the hopes of Albanians both in the north and in the south. Charles II, Duke of Nevers, in central France, crystallized the plans (Boppe 1914, 2). In 1614 an assembly was held at Kuch in upper Albania, where the patriarch of Serbia and the principal men of all the subjugated kingdoms of Turkey-in-Europe participated. They sent Captain Gioanni Reness to the pope to present the plan which was expected to effect their release from Turkey. Lenormant (331-34) recorded the plan. Arms would be introduced to the mountaineers of Montenegro, Dukagjin and Himara, providing 30,000 good soldiers. From Himara 8,300 men would seize the castle and city of Vlora "which will be easy because there are Christians as castle guards, and all the chiefs are in accord with the Himariots." Those of Dukagjin would take Kruja easily, the Turks having failed to rebuild a section of the fallen wall. Others would go to Shkodra and to Castelnovo where arrangements had been made with Christian night guards. The victorious armies would then destroy all the Turks in the coun­ try, marching on city after city, gaining new recruits, devoting the spoils taken from Turk or Jew in the captured cities to the maintenance of the army, and even driving the Turks out of Constantinople. The archbishop of Arta sent a letter to Pope Paul V in 1618 referring to these "innumerable riches" of the Turks and Hebrews. In it he declared that "the multitude of the people is desirous of attempting their liberty" and that the archbishops and people would thereafter be servants of the pope. The letter was signed by Gabriel, archbishop of Anapacto-Arta with his five bishops, also by the archbishop of Yanina with his five bishops (ibid., 334-35). There is no record of any actual campaign. Korolevskij (Bessarione July-December 1911, 446-48), however, told of arms and am­ munition sent to the Himariots by the Austrians. He also recorded a few temporary gains in the region of Himara with the aid of Austrian and later Venetian detachments, also their final retirement, leaving the Albanian


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d Is la m iz a tio n

collaborators exposed to the Turkish retribution. This was so bitter that "many of these people, to escape the charges, became Turks." Bishop Pjetër Budi of the Mat region was distracted from his literary efforts by the suffering of his people. In 1621 he reported that as many as 30,000 Albanians were ready to take up arms against the Turks as soon as a European military expedition landed in Albania. He tirelessly sought men and munitions from Spain, Italy and France, but this military aid never materialized (ACB 1984, 17). T he C atholic B ishops and V enice (1645)

The firman issued to archbishop Marinus Bisius of Antivari secured a peace that was not broken until 1645. At that time the bishops of Durrës, Shkodra and Lezha, counseled by their archbishop, placed themselves at the head of a plot intended to place Albania under the jurisdiction of Venice (Hecquard 1857, 472-73). A traitor revealed the plot to the pasha of Shkodra, who once again began to oppress the Catholics, chiefly by unjust tributes. It is at this time that many of the abjurations commenced, when almost all members of the nobility changed their Christian religion for that of Muhammad. Also 3000 Catholics of the region fled to the states of Venice to escape the persecution and conversion. O rthodox B ishop P aysiye and R ome (1651)

Tomitch (1913, 21-27) reported another desperate bid for freedom a few years later. In 1626 a well-known adventurer, Fran Brtontchevitch, had addressed a note to King Philip IV of Spain showing the possibility of a crusade against the Turks. Negotiations finally culminated in the con­ ference of Boudimlje in 1651. Paysiye, the Orthodox bishop of Boudimlje and Albania, was chosen as its delegate to go to Rome and effect the healing of the schism and papal cooperation. This posed real danger for the Turks, inasmuch as the approach of the Venetian army then at war with Turkey would lead both Catholic and Orthodox Albanians into the conflict. Once more, however, the Turks learned of the plot, caught Paysiye and burned him alive. The patriarch and papal envoy fled to Montenegro, and dark days ensued for the Orthodox Albanians in particular. Besides heavy taxes, acts of violence were directed against the clergy and the monasteries, resulting in further martyrdoms, conversions or flight. A lliances with V enice and with A ustria (1669, 1684)

Once again during Turkish preoccupation with Crete in 1669, the Catholics of Shkodra called the Venetians to their assistance, promising to open the gates as soon as their army appeared before the city. Becoming aware of the project, the pasha increased the garrison and redoubled vigilance, and in the resulting punitive measures the bishops of Shkodra and of Sappa had to flee to Venice to escape death. Another effort which gave promise of success was that of 1684. The

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


Turks met with serious defeat at Vienna in 1683, and the overthrow of Turkish rule in Hungary followed. This was the turning point in Turkish imperial fortunes. The Venetians saw their opportunity. They declared war in 1684, capturing Albanian Preveza and undertaking the conquest of Greece. Orthodox and Catholic Albanians alike followed sympathetically the advance of the Venetian armies down the Balkan Peninsula under General Piccolomini. When the army reached the region of Kosova the Christians at once took up arms against the Turks. On the death of Pic­ colomini, however, his successor, the Duke of Holstein, acted altogether differently toward his allies. When he tried to disarm the Albanian coun­ tryside the people turned against him. He retaliated by burning their villages, and the alienation was complete. When the Austrians later made peace with Turkey they failed to include any favorable stipulations for their Albanian allies, who once again were exposed to the merciless revenge of the Turks. Albanian hopes rose once again when a member of the famous Albani family, Albanian by blood, became Pope Clement XI. This Albanian pope was naturally very concerned about the religious and political rebirth of his ancient homeland. Thus, three years after his election as pope, he ordered that a First Council of Albanian Bishops be held in 1703. Meeting near Lezha, the Croatian Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop of Tivar, presided, with four Albanian bishops taking part. The council was primarily con­ cerned with the many Catholic conversions to Islam. It was conceded that the cause of this apostasy was the heavy burden of taxes and other civil obligations which the Turks required of Christians. Nevertheless, the coun­ cil ruled that the sacraments should be given only to those who openly con­ fessed the Christian faith. This excluded the crypto-Catholics or laramani. Further, the council ruled that Christians who had embraced Islam out of desperation could receive the sacraments only after they had again con­ fessed the Christian faith openly. This meant acknowledgment not only to the Catholic church, but also to the Ottoman rulers. This latter was very problematical, however, for according to the Muslim law everyone who deserted Islam for another religion was subject to the death penalty. The council further ruled that Catholic clerics could not give the sacraments to Catholic women who were married to Turks, or to women whose husbands had become Muslims after their marriage. Even these severe measures of the council, however, did not succeed in halting or even slowing down the conversion of Catholics to Islam. Shortly afterwards, in 1711, Pope Cle­ ment interceded with the Venetians for military aid for Albania, but with no tangible response. Hope blossomed again in 1737 when the Austrians and Russians in­ vaded Turkey. Anticipating their help, the northern Albanians, led by their archbishop, Mihili Suma, rose up once more against their Turkish overlords. The foreign troops eventually retreated toward Novi Bazar, however, leaving the Albanians to resist alone for three years, then suffer


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

the usual harsh retaliatory measures. The ensuing persecutions became so severe that most of the Christians were compelled to take refuge in the mountains. Forced to descend to the cities for provisions, they adopted Muslim names and feigned to profess Islam, but without abandoning their own religion. For this they were termed "occult Christians," or "laramani," meaning two-faced. Anti-Christian persecution forced the higher clergy to flee for their lives. In 1726, led by their bishop, 16 peasant families fled their homes and lands in the Shkodra district and settled at Zara. This small town in north­ ern Dalmatia under the Republic of Venice gave the 147 refugees fields, gardens and houses outside the walls. One year later 71 others followed. Six years later 150 compatriots joined them. Calling themselves Arbëreshë, these hard-working colonists prospered by agriculture and livestock, rap­ idly increasing to 2,000 people (Liria 26 December 1980, 1). The parish priests remaining behind despaired of combating the evils and contented themselves with preaching patience and submission simply to survive. Stagnation and decay were inevitable, and seemingly complete. That the Christian faith survived at all is a source of wonder, especially when one reflects on the riches and honor which would have resulted from conversion to Islam. R E C O G N IT IO N OF FO REIG N PO W ER S AS "P R O T E C T O R S " OF C H R IST IA N M IN O R IT IE S In the eighteenth century two phenomena appeared which were des­ tined to play a large part in the religious history of Albania. First were the numerous religious concessions wrested by Christian powers from a pro­ gressively weakening Turkey. On the basis of these "protectorates" of Christian minorities in Turkey, European powers could and did presume to meddle in Ottoman internal affairs. Admittedly this was less because of love for the Nazarene than for their own imperial aggrandizement. France

The roots of this religious interventionism lay back in the seventeenth century when France established her consuls at Durrës, Yanina and Arta to regulate commercial affairs. The king sometimes interceded in behalf of Catholics whose rights were frequently violated. Louis XIV based on article 42 of the Capitulation of 1673 the French right to protect non-Muslim Turkish subjects, even deducing the right of intervention. Several French ambassadors at Constantinople protested, however, that whereas France did have the right to exercise jurisdiction over her own ecclesiastics living or traveling in Turkey, she as a foreign power could not threaten Turkish sovereignty over its subjects by presuming to "protect" Ottoman subjects (Jehay 1906, 328-30). Nevertheless, at the Spanish War of Succession (1701), France did protect the Catholic tribes of Albania against Muslim persecution, earning the gratitude of the Mirdites. Unfortunately for

Revolutionary and D iplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


Turkey, the ambiguous article 42 in the earlier capitulation was phrased no more specifically in the Capitulation of 1740. Its article 32, number 2 simply reaffirmed the older stipulation: "The bishops of French nationality and other religious who profess the Frankish [Latin] religion, of whatever na­ tion or kind they may be . . . shall not be troubled in the exercise of their functions in the confines of our empire where they have been for a long time" (Young 1905, 2:129). On this basis the French continued to claim the right of intervention to "protect" Albanian Catholics. A ustria

The Austrian empire by her numerous treaties had gained a more substantial arrangement: that of a religious protectorate. The article con­ cerning religious liberty included in the treaties of 1616 and 1642 was ex­ panded in the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), article 13, reading as follows: As to the priests and the exercise of the Christian religion according to the rite of the Roman Catholic Church . . . they may repair and restore their churches and exercise the ordinary functions of their ministry conforming to the ancient usages. No one will be permitted to transgress the sacred capitulations and the divine laws by molesting these priests, of whatever order or condition they may be, neither to extort money from them, and the said priests shall enjoy, as in the past, the imperial favor [Jehay 1906,

339]. The qualifying words "as in the past" might sound dubious in the light of the oppressive measures which we have reviewed. Yet it must be remem­ bered that such action was usually taken against them as rebels, not primarily as Catholic Christians. This article 13 with its guarantees was repeated textually in Austria's later treaties at Passerowitz (1718) and at Belgrade (1739). Still greater guarantees were assured by the Peace of Sistovo (1791), article 12 of which reads as follows: And concerning the exercise of the Catholic Christian religion in the Ot­ toman empire, concerning her priests, her adherents, the erection or repair of her churches, the freedom of worship and of persons, the frequentation and the protection of the Holy Places of Jerusalem and other countries, the Sublime Ottoman Porte renews and confirms . . . not only the privi­ leges assured to this religion by the article of the treaty of Belgrade, but also those which have been theretofore conceded by its firmans. .. [ibid., 343]. On the authorization of these diplomatic acts, then, Austria proceeded to interest herself in the welfare of the Catholic subjects of the sultan. Italy

To remedy the stagnation of Catholicism in Albania, Rome, at the in­ stigation of Austria, sent foreign prelates there. The archbishops of Durrës


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

and Shkodra, the bishops of Sappa, Lezha and Pulat, as well as the arch­ abbot of Orosh were all furnished with berats on Austrian request (ibid.). Being represented by the Austrian consul, then the only one in Shkodra, the Catholic officials could gain the ear of the authorities. Some alleviation of their harsh conditions was secured. But some of the younger, ambitious priests, who had just been trained in Rome, resented this intrusion. They attributed the nomination of Austrian prelates to the politics of a nearby power attempting to strengthen its influence over the Albanian population (Hecquard 1859, 276). Mantegazza (1906, 322) deplored the fact that the Roman Catholic Church in Albania was becoming popularly synonymous with the "Austrian Church." He charged that Austrian priests could be con­ sidered as consular agents maintained by Austria even in the most remote and inaccessible places and her most active and most effective instrument for her propaganda and politics. Russia

Meanwhile Orthodox Russia was raised to her important position in European affairs by Peter the Great, whose maritime policy demanded a port in the ice-free Mediterranean. He also cherished a dream of PanSlavism, which would embrace all the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans, including even Constantinople itself. This seemed to require the destruction of Turkey. Accordingly, in 1711 the czar invited other Slavic states —Ser­ bia, Slavonia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia and Monte­ negro —to join Russia in a crusade to free Orthodox Christendom from the Ottoman yoke. That action initiated perpetual conflict between Russia and Turkey. On the other hand, the blocking of a possible Pan-Slavic empire with access to the Mediterranean has always been a guiding principle in the politics of the western powers. In 1764 Russia began extensive intrigues aimed at securing the allegiance of the Orthodox and establishing herself at Constantinople. Humbled in war, Turkey in the treaty of 1774 did make certain concessions, although refusing to grant the Russian demand for a "protectorate" over all Orthodox Christians in Turkey. These concessions included, however, un­ taxed and unhindered pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the erection of new chapels in Constantinople (Schopoff 1904, 8-14). Yet Russia had declared herself patron of the Christian population in Turkey and used this as a pretext for repeated interference designed to extend her influence in the Balkans. Determined to block this expanding Russian influence, England and France joined Turkey in the Crimean War (1854-1856), the Treaty of Paris guaranteeing Turkish independence. The continuing strategy of the western powers to strengthen the Balkan states as a bulwark against Rus­ sian expansionism would have serious implications for Albanian indepen­ dence.

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


R E C O G N IT IO N OF R EG IO N A L P R IN C IP A L IT IE S W ITH L IM IT E D A U T O N O M Y The second hopeful phenomenon of eighteenth-century Albania was the modified political policy of the ever-weakening Porte. Rather than at­ tempting to subdue the endless insurrections of this liberty-loving people, the Porte adopted a policy of divide and rule. Tribal chiefs and the landed aristocracy who were Muslims and pledged cooperation with the Turks were granted feudal titles such as pasha, bey and aga and were permitted limited administrative authority within their regions. Thus many small principalities came into existence, each exercising practical autonomy, although not actual independence. In order to check any concerted move toward complete emancipation, the Porte proved very adept in sowing the seeds of jealousy and rivalry among the various tribes and feudal lords. In­ stead of using their collective energy against their commonly resented sovereign, they wasted it on internal friction. Yet this diminishing of central control in the empire did encourage the intervention of the increasingly em­ boldened European powers. Also, the heady experience of limited local autonomy whetted the appetite of the Albanians for complete indepen­ dence from Turkey. One such principality in the north and one in the south succeeded in achieving considerable distinction. A l i P asha of Y anina ( 1 7 8 8 - 1 8 2 2 )

Ali was a native of Tepelena whose personal acquaintance with brigandage may have been his chief qualification for appointment as in­ spector general of the highways. His considerable success in suppressing the brigands who terrorized Thessaly and southern Albania led to his appoint­ ment in 1788 as pasha of Yanina, capital city of southern Albania. The French revolution broke out the very next year and ignited his ruling pas­ sion to become entirely independent of the sultan and to set up an Albanian kingdom. This he proceeded to accomplish in the most deliberate and cold­ blooded manner. Not troubled by conscientious scruples, he first bribed Porte officials into indifference. Then he found support from France. For when Napoleon crushed the Republic of Venice and annexed it to Austria in 1797, the Venetian holdings in the Levant, including the Ionian isles, went to France. Fearful of Russian expansion, France sent Pouqueville to Yanina as consul general. His primary mission was to arouse the suspicions of Ali Pasha against Russian propaganda and help him resist it (Boppe 1914, 39-42). Through French instrumentality Ali secured positions as pashas for his sons, besides arms and ammunition, even cannon, and army instructors for his troops. Napoleon wrote to his General Gentili, "It is in the interests of the Republic that this pasha (Ali) . . . beat all his rivals, so that he can become a prince consequential enough to render services to the Republic" (ibid., 6). But such subtlety was Ali's own game. He did not plan to render service


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , t h e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

to the French Republic, but that the French Republic would render service to him. Ali's career was characterized by intricate intrigues with the Porte at Istanbul, with France, England, Russia, Austria, the Albanian beys and the Christian chiefs. He artfully played one against the other, ever seeking to augment his own power. Even a cursory review of those intrigues is quite beyond our scope. But by his unprincipled political sagacity he gained supremacy over central and southern Albania, Macedonia, northern Greece and the Ionian isles. Two stumbling blocks appeared in the way of his expanding power: the tiny but intrepid Orthodox Christian republic of Suli just below Yanina, and the powerful native Muslim beys among whom southern Albania was divided. Alternately allying himself with one against the other, he grad­ ually weakened them both until, after destroying the beys, he with match­ less ferocity annihilated the gallant Suliotes. Their captain, Marko Bochari, and other survivors escaped to Greece where they led her war of in­ dependence. But to Ali, religion was only a potent psychological factor to be used in his intrigues. With the Turks he was a fanatical Muslim; with the Bektashis he was a pantheist; with Greeks he drank to the health of the good Virgin. If the occasion seemed to demand it, he showed little com­ punction in burning down churches crowded with worshippers. Then when some unfriendly chiefs observed the feast of Ramadan in the mosque of Yanina, Ali secretly trained 20 cannons on the mosque, and 60 chiefs and 200 soldiers perished when the mosque tumbled down under the eruption of cannon balls and flaming grenades (Pouq 1825, 3:63-64). Although the Bektashis claimed Ali as an adherent (Tyrabi 1929, 72-73), his cruelty was proverbial. In an early character sketch of Ali, the newcomer Pouqueville (1805, 3:24-26) presented him favorably, his worst trait being a violent temper. Later, on better acquaintance, he wrote, "I deplored the destiny which condemned me to reside with such a man, without foreseeing, alas, the sum of chagrins which he would cause me" (Pouq 1826, 3:116). Military officers, doctors, carpenters and tradesmen who entered Yanina were prized so highly by Ali that he interned them there, compelled them to marry and naturalized them as citizens. Escape was extremely difficult, and if discovered, a horrible death served to quiet the rage of Ali and to deter others (Manzour 1828,112-13,116). A European artillery officer, after several years of forced residence at Yanina, requested permission to return home. Ali replied, "I permit you to leave, but your head must remain here" (ibid., 218). The officer remained but described Ali as "a tyrant in comparison with whom Nero would have seemed a 'philan­ thrope'" (ibid., 206). Despite the risk, one man, an instructor of infantry, did make good his escape. He reportedly saw so much horror that he could endure no more and fled (Bacheville 1822, 298-99, 303, 322). The Albanian historian Chekrezi (1919, 44), overcoming the natural tendency to idealize a national hero, wrote of Ali: "His main characteristics were: hypocrisy, unscrupulousness, cruelty and unprincipled as well as

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


unlimited ambition." Hoping to unite northern and southern Albania, Ali gave his niece in marriage to Mustapha Pasha of Shkodra. But with good reason Mustapha distrusted Ali. He refused to cooperate in a nationwide war of independence from Turkey, so they were crushed separately. For the sultan, alarmed at Ali Pasha's expanding power and independence, and at his relations with France and England, resolved to suppress him. In 1820 the sultan outlawed Ali with an imperial firman and sent two armies to besiege him at Yanina. During this siege the Greek war of liberation broke out. After two years of siege, assured that life and property would be spared, the "Lion of Yanina" surrendered on 1 February 1822. As perfidious as Ali himself, the Turks immediately beheaded him and sent the head as a trophy to Istanbul. The very success of Ali in subjugating his rivals had left southern Albania with several quarreling beys, but no recognized leader. When these agreed with Mustapha Pasha of Shkodra to make common cause against the Turks in 1830, the Grand Vizier Reshid Pasha to their great surprise declared a general amnesty. He invited all the beys and chiefs to a great banquet near Monastir to declare their reconciliation with the government. About 500 leaders appeared in gala costumes, the elite of the Muslim population of southern Albania. It was a splendid feast. A military band played European airs strange to Albanian ears, and as a special token of honor, a regiment of troops under European discipline was drawn up. Soon, however, the drums beat the charge and a fusillade cut down the honored guests, who were completely exterminated with bayonets. The heads of the nobles were cut off, salted and sent to Constantinople (Robert 1844, 2 :201- 2). Great was the rejoicing of the Orthodox Greeks, for the Turks had used these very Muslim leaders for several years to retard the struggle for Greek independence. The Porte had avenged Greece's enemies. But now, the southern tribes being crushed, Reshid turned his attention to the north, where another Albanian family ruled increasingly independent of Turkey. T he M ahmud Pasha Family of S hkodra (1756-1832)

Living in the village of Bushat near Shkodra, an influential Albanian named Mehmet in 1756 secured by deception the title of pasha of Shkodra. At once he destroyed or neutralized the Ottoman officials and potential rivals by fomenting quarrels among them. Soon he established himself as supreme in a somewhat free principality of northern Albania. With the help of Catholic mountaineers he extended his rule to Lezha, Tirana, Elbasan and Dukagjin. He was finally assassinated by order of the Porte in 1770, allegedly because he had not sent an army to help the Turks in their war with Russia. Succeeding his father was Kara Mahmud (Black Mahmud) who proved yet more enterprising and daring. His government from 1775 to 1796 was one long succession of wars. Possessing Montenegro in 1775, he


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

10 years later disregarded the treaty between Venice and Turkey and pil­ laged Venetian holdings along the Adriatic coast. Then he succeeded in routing a Turkish punitive expedition on the plain of Kosova and annexed that region. Soon the economy began to develop as trade and social life flourished. In order to gain the favor of the Mirdites, Mahmud feigned sym­ pathy for the Christians. He made the celebrated Canon of Lek Dukagjini the law of the land. Noting this, Emperor Joseph II of Austria envisioned his conversion and Austrian expansion. Accordingly, he proposed that when Mahmud accepted Catholicism, Austria would recognize him as sole sovereign of all Albania. All the Albanian princes both Christian and Muslim assembled at Podgoritsa, and he swore with them on the Gospel and the Koran to fight to the death against the enemies of liberty. This was a significant step: that both Muslim and Christian Albanians would join forces against the Turks. Their longing for liberty transcended religious distinctions. At the memorable assembly a senator from Ragusa came to felicitate Mahmud, and Joseph II solemnly sent him an enormous cross of solid silver (Robert 1844, 2:194). The grand mufti at Constantinople, however, hurled anathemas at him. A punitive expedition against him at Shkodra proved futile. Later Mahmud suspected Austrian intrigues against himself. To in­ gratiate himself with the Porte, he traitorously killed certain Austrian agents and sent their heads to the Porte as tokens of repentance, and was pardoned (ibid., 2:195; Hecquard 1859, 444). But in 1795 while ravaging Montenegro, he was captured and beheaded. Pouqueville (1825, 1:95) noted that the Montenegrin troops were commanded by Bishop Petrovich, and that afterwards the good bishop kept the head of Mahmud in his chamber at the Cetinje monastery. Ibrahim, the brother of Mahmud, succeeded him, and was in turn suc­ ceeded by his nephew Mustapha. There was at this time a great deal of dis­ satisfaction with the sultan because of his attempted reforms and the lack of success in his war with Russia. So at popular request Mustapha Pasha gave the signal for revolt against Turkey. The Muslim beys of Macedonia be­ came convinced that a disintegrated empire would subject them to the Or­ thodox Russians, so these natural allies helped defeat Mustapha's army at Prelep. Mustapha capitulated in 1832. By Austrian intervention he was par­ doned and retired in Constantinople with a pension. By imperial decree, however, the feudal ramparts of Shkodra, Durrës, Yanina and Arta were leveled. Reforms were promised to the Christians, including lower taxes and the self-administration of their villages without Muslim intervention. But the two promising independence movements had been crushed. TU R K EY G R A N T S "TH E T A N Z IM A T " REFO RM M EA SU R ES (1839) During these years, however, oppressed peoples elsewhere were de­ manding and securing their independence, democracy and constitutional

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


government. The successful American Revolution of 1776, the French Revolution of 1789 and the recent achievement of independence by Romania and Greece all stimulated the incessant demands for an indepen­ dent Albania. At this juncture new and powerful friends appeared. Sultan Abdul Medjid in 1839 succeeded in convincing the European powers of the strategic importance of Turkey in blocking Russian expansion southward. To reassure the Christian powers, Turkey that November announced inter­ nal reforms. In his Hati i Sherif of 1839 the sultan guaranteed all his sub­ jects, regardless of rank or religion, the following: security of person and property, a regular and impartial system of taxation, public administration of justice, regulations of property, conscription, etc. (Schopoff 1904, 17-25; Jehay 1906, 92-94). Then when Russia made unacceptable demands of the sultan, including the protectorate over all Orthodox Christians in Turkey, and threatened war, the "sick man of Europe" was supported by England in the Crimean War (1853-1856). By the treaty of Paris (1856) Turkey was recognized as a European power. The treaty also affirmed that the proper protector of Christians in Turkey was the sultan alone. As if to earn this recognition, just one month earlier the sultan had announced religious reforms. These regulated the local self-government of Christian communities, granted the Christians equal rights with Muslims concerning freedom of worship and litigation in the Ottoman courts (Young 1905, 2:1-9; Schopoff 1904, 48-70; Jehay 1906, 94-95). In Albania it was not the nationals but the Austrian propagandists who seem to have been the first to take advantage of the reform measures of 1839. Jesuit missionaries entered Albania, settling at Shkodra, the center of Austrian influence. To win the confidence of the Albanian Catholics, they studied the language, opened schools and visited the sick regardless of religion, furnishing them free medicine. Jealousy and hatred arose. Doc­ tors deprived of their patients excited the fanatical Muslims. The Jesuit establishment of convents for girls was quite foreign to the custom of Al­ banians, who asserted that the avenging yataghan (sabre) of a father or brother was more effective than a convent wall in guarding the virtue of their girls. Even other Catholic priests were hostile to the Jesuit order. When it was rumored that the Jesuits under pretense of building a school were in reality building a church without the required permission, the aroused populace destroyed the structure and forced the Jesuits to leave the country (1842). In 1855 the pope by a concordat recognized Austria's right to exercise a protectorate over Albanian Catholic interests (Kersopoulos 1937, 41). The same year the emperor of Austria provided funds for the construction and maintenance of another school. Although the College of Propaganda at Rome assisted in the endowment of the school, and priests of other na­ tionalities were assigned to it, its director and character were Austrian Jesuit. The revived hostility to the returning Jesuits and the publication of the reform measures of 1856 aroused the fanatical Muslims during their


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

feast of Bajram. They staged a violent demonstration and once again destroyed the new structure. Although the reforms were applied very cautiously in such sensitive localities, the first Catholic church was built in Shkodra two years later. Possibly to discourage further outbreaks, Abdi Pasha himself honored the inauguration of the church by his presence at the religious ceremonies. An indemnity was also granted for the destroyed building. Certainly this was a turning point for Catholicism in Albania. The new seminary building was completed. Other grants enabled the construction of elementary schools, placed under the care of the Austrian consulate and directed by professors of that nation. Founded in 1856, these schools neglected both the Albanian and the Turkish languages. The efficacy of foreign intervention for Christian minorities is evident in a firman delivered in 1859 to Bishop Cholcha of Shkodra. On the basis of various specified treaties with Austria, the imperial government con­ sented to the request of the Austrian ambassador, and ordered, "You, Governor, judges and others" to recognize the deposition of Bishop Topitch and the installation in his see of Bishop Cholcha (Jehay 1906, 345-46). Here we behold something new under the sun: the imperial arm of the Turkish sultan extended in the service of the Nazarene and of the Hapsburgs. The reforms did not bring immediate relief to Albanian Christians. Two years after they were theoretically granted equal rights with Muslims, Hecquard (1857, 357-58) noted, Only for two years have the Christians taken part in the m edjli [council], where, for that, they do not enjoy the least influence.. . . The government chose two incapable men. The Christian element exists in the m edjli only as a form, and whether from fear of being mistreated by the authorities, or from fear of being designated for the vengeance of the bandits who desolate the country, the Christian representatives have never dared raise their voices against the arbitrary measures so contrary to the interests of their communities. . . . As for mixed tribunals . .. where the statements of the witnesses should be received impartially . . . the m edjli or ca d i of Shkodra would never admit the witness of Christians, even when acting on cases between Christians, and though the cases originated in villages where no Muslims exist.

Nor can one forget the martyrs of Stublla. In 1846, seven years after the widely heralded reforms, 25 laramani or crypto-Catholic families from Stublla and neighboring villages of Kosova declared themselves openly as Christians. The Muslim governor, Maliq Bey, arrested all the families and deported them to exile in Anatolia, as Asia Minor was then called. He defended this action before his government on the ground that if they were free to practice their own religion publicly, the whole vilayet of Kosova would return to Catholicism. The great powers intervened, but only 79 of the original 167 persons survived for repatriation. Obviously those reforms

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


guaranteed on paper by Istanbul would be implemented very gradually by fanatical officials out in the provinces. By now Albania and all the northern provinces of Turkey were filled with anarchy and terrorism. The Albanians bitterly opposed the taxes, military service and even the reforms themselves. A series of uprisings oc­ curred in Mirdita, Dibra, Shkodra and throughout the northern moun­ tains. Thus in 1862 the abbot of Mirdita, Gasper Krasniqi, led an uprising involving intellectuals like Bishop Pal Dodmasej and the patriotic writers Zef Jubani and Pashko Vasa. In 1877 Msgr. Pjetër Prenk (Prince) Dochi helped in the uprising which erupted in Mirdita, for which the Turks ar­ rested him and exiled him to Istanbul. Soon these limited and uncoor­ dinated protest movements would be national rather than local in character, and they would demand full independence rather than a more limited autonomy. TH E P R O T O C O L OF LO N DO N (1877) This passion for national unity and independence was contagious. Both Italy and Germany succeeded in their struggles for unification in 1870. The six great powers —England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia —now took it upon themselves to maintain stability and order in Europe. In 1875 and 1876 the Slavic populations in the Balkans —Bulgaria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro —erupted in uncoordinated revolutions for independence. They were speedily crushed by Turkey. Russia moved to intervene. To avert a Russo-Turkish war, England called the great powers to London in March 1877. The resulting Protocol of Lon­ don required Turkey to extend a degree of autonomy to Bosnia, Herze­ govina and Bulgaria, they remaining within the empire. In just such an unfavorable climate as this Abdyl Hamid II began his rule as sultan of Turkey in 1876. To placate his restless populations, he ascended the throne with the promise of a constitution and a democratically elected parliament like those enjoyed by other European states. But the anarchy in the Balkans made him suspend his promise in 1878, and he reigned as an absolute monarch for over 30 years. To escape imprisonment or exile, many libertyloving Albanian patriots fled the country. Progressive Turks were concerned over the failure to realize the prom­ ised constitution and democracy and formed a party called the Committee of Union and Progress to secretly plan the overthrow of Abdyl Hamid. Albanians too were exasperated, for the London Protocol of 1877 placed certain Albanian populations under Bulgarian administration. So southern Albanians, led by Abdyl Frashëri, met at Yanina and adopted a memoran­ dum addressed to the Turkish government. It demanded that Albanian populations constitute a single vilayet or province. This vilayet should en­ joy a degree of local autonomy under Albanian officials, with schools and courts in the Albanian language and with military service performed only within the Albanian vilayet. The Protocol of London exasperated the


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

Russians also, for it did not extend to the Slavs in Serbia and Montenegro the same limited autonomy promised to the others. So Russia, with Serbia and Montenegro, declared war on Turkey on 24 April 1877. THE T R E A T Y OF SAN STEFA N O (1878) Turkey was quickly and completely defeated and had to accept the severe terms dictated by the Slavs in the Treaty of San Stefano on 3 March 1878. To the shock and indignation of the Albanians, the treaty made no reference whatsoever to Albanian rights. She was to remain subject to Turkey. And the Turkish territory awarded to the victorious combatants was predominantly Albanian in character. Article 1 of the treaty gave to Montenegro the districts of Dulcigno, Tivari, Hot, Plava and Gucinja. Ar­ ticle 3 gave to Serbia the district of Prishtina. Article 6 gave to Bulgaria not only the coveted Macedonian port of Salonica, but also the districts of Korcha, Voskopoja, Pogradec, Dibra, Gostivar and Tetova. It seemed as though much of Albania would be under Slavic domination and the Or­ thodox Church. It seemed also that the age-old Russian dream of PanSlavism and a warm-water seaport were both to become reality. That prospect alarmed the western powers. The British fleet hastened to Istanbul. Otto Bismarck, the "Iron Chancellor" of Germany, hurriedly summoned the Congress of Berlin for 13 June 1878 to study and revise the terms of the Treaty of San Stefano. Interestingly enough, the Ottoman government welcomed the indignation of the Albanians and even en­ couraged them to organize "self-defense" committees. Hoping also to avert further dissolution of their crumbling empire, the Turks pleaded with Muslim Albanians to declare themselves loyal Turks. THE LEAGUE OF PRIZREN , OR "TH E A LBA N IA N LEA GU E" (1878) Albanian patriots could not accept either of the two alternatives facing them: subjection to the neighboring Slavs or continued subjection to the Turks. Their longing for full independence had been stimulated by the ex­ perience of local autonomy attained by the pashas of Yanina and Shkodra, and even more by the achievement of freedom for Greece. Accordingly Albanian patriots living in Constantinople organized a secret committee in April 1878, the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian People. The committee was headed by Abdyl Frashëri and included his brother Sami Frashëri, Pashko Vasa, a Shkodra Catholic, Jani Vreto, Kostandin Kristoforidhi and others. Recognizing the urgency for action, they called a widely representative assembly to bring the world's attention to the rights of the Albanian people. They hastily called the convention to meet at Prizren just three days before the opening of the scheduled Con­ gress of Berlin. Three hundred delegates met at Prizren, now Serbia, on 10 June 1878 under the presidency of Abdyl Frashëri. Because of the short notice

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


and difficulty of travel, many of the attendants came from northern and eastern Albania. The program was drawn up under the leadership of Pashko Vasa. A national league was formed, the Albanian League for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian Nationality, or simply the League of Prizren or the Albanian League. Its headquarters were in Prizren, with branches in the major cities and towns of Albania. The league declared the inviolability of the four vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Monastir and Yanina that were recognized by the Ottoman government as ethnically Albanian. The delegates also agreed on the formation of a central council for autonomous self-government, the official use of the Albanian language, the establishment of Albanian-language schools and the formation of a na­ tional militia for self-defense. The league immediately dispatched to Berlin a copy of the resolutions signed by the delegates, requesting that Albanian nationhood be recognized. This declaration was issued at the precise moment when the British scholar Arthur John Evans published his Illyrian Letters in 1878. After visiting Durrës, northern Albania, Kosova and Prizren in 1877, he con­ cluded his impressions of the characteristics of the Albanians with these words: "Everything reminds me that I am not among either a Slavic or a Turkish people. These are truly fellow-patriots of Skanderbeg and of Ali of Yanina —Albanians, 'Shqiptarë/ heirs as strong as rock, a most warlike race and altogether undefeated! . . . The Albanian is by nature quick, energetic, skeptical, always in motion, impatient with supervision. For him, above everything else is freedom" (Liria September 1988, 8). This and his later work, Ancient Research in Illyria (1883), evidence his unusually perceptive impressions of the Illyrian people and culture. Unfortunately this insight was not shared by European diplomats in their ivory tower. TH E C O N G R E SS OF BERLIN (13 JUNE 1878) The European powers convened the Congress of Berlin on 13 June 1878. They concentrated on the issue which had precipitated the Congress —the reduction of Russian influence in the Balkans. The month­ long congress under the presidency of Bismarck forced Russia to withdraw her ambitious plan. It declared Serbia, Montenegro and Romania to be in­ dependent states. Austria took Slavic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Abdyl Bey Frashëri and a companion, Mehmet Ali Vrioni, pled for the recognition of Albania, but in vain. They heard the objection repeatedly, "There is no such thing as a nation without a written language" (Grameno 1925, 58). On the basis of Bismarck's cynical remark, "There is no Albanian nationality!" the congress approved the assignment of Albanian territories to Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. The decisions of Berlin deepened the dismay of Albanians even more than did those of San Stefano. Nine years later, on 2 October 1887, Francesco Crispi, the highly respected prime minister of Italy and himself of Albanian blood, spoke with Prince Bismarck about Balkan affairs. He who was much more knowledge­


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

able on this tangled peninsula assured Bismarck, "If changes ever take place in the Turkish government, above all else Macedonia, Albania and Serbia must have their autonomy, just as Romania and Bulgaria now have" (Drita 28 November 1937, 8). But without Crispi's wise counsel at Berlin, a shrunken Albania was left subject to a shrunken Turkey. Abdyl Frashëri, however, returned from Berlin determined to develop the Albanian language and justify her claim to independent statehood. Strictly speaking, 1878 marked the dawn of Albania's national renaissance. The Albanian League was the first national patriotic organiza­ tion. It was the first concrete expression of a nationwide determination to achieve Albanian independence, after 2,000 years of foreign domination. Altogether too frequently their earlier movements toward freedom had been orchestrated by foreign powers exploiting Albanian dissatisfaction with Turkish rule. Or they had been inspired by individuals such as the pashas of Yanina or Shkodra eager for personal aggrandizement. At Prizren, for the first time, a representative group of Albanian leaders, Muslim and Christian from north and south, united to resist the cession of Albanian territory to greedy neighbor states. TH E A LBA N IA N LEAGUE'S F IR ST FA L TER IN G S T E P S T O W A R D IN D EPEN D EN CE As the continuing League of Prizren attempted to formulate a constitu­ tion, it became evident that there were two radically different schools of thought represented there. Reactionary Muslim officials and clergymen col­ laborating closely with the Ottoman government attempted to make the league a Balkan Muslim organization designed to strengthen loyalty to Turkey. Those patriots convening the sessions intended an organization in which all Albanians regardless of religion could cooperate to safeguard Albania's territorial integrity and achieve her full independence from Turkey. Strangely enough, the former predominated at first in defining the league's goal as limited autonomy and loyalty to Turkey. But when Turkey tried to persuade the league to surrender Albanian territory as required by the Berlin agreement, Albanians refused. They fought Turkey from 4 to 6 September 1878 at Jakova, and won. Three weeks later the Istanbul committee drafted a more specific program which was approved by the Albanian League on 10 November and delivered to the government in January 1879. It proposed that all Albanians in Turkey form a single prov­ ince, with its own general assembly, official use of the Albanian language, Albanian schools and use of part of the tax revenue for education and public works (Frashëri, M., 1938, 29-30). The reply was delayed. But the Albanians steadfastly refused to surrender territory. When the Turko-Greek Boundary Commission started discussions in Preveza in February 1879, hundreds of influential patriots of the league assembled there and announced that they would never surrender their territory. When Turkey, in accordance with the Berlin agreement, withdrew its troops from

Revolutionary and D iplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


Plava and Gusinje, the league's army moved in to occupy them and defeat the Montenegrins when they attempted to take over. Montenegro pleaded for the intervention of the great powers. On 2 April 1880 the great powers proposed giving Montenegro two other districts: Hot and Gruda. This was accepted by the sultan but refused by the Albanians. A special assembly, including mountain tribal chiefs, gathered at Shkodra on 17 April. They adopted a memorandum addressed to the sultan demanding the creation of one autonomous province including all Albanian districts to be governed by a prince elected by the Albanians but serving under the sultan. Five days later, in accordance with the directive of the great powers, the Turkish armies withdrew from Hot and Gruda. The volunteer army of the league occupied them immediately, resisting the Montenegrin troops coming to take over. So the powers urged Turkey to turn over to Montenegro instead the port city Dulcigno and environs, its population again exclusively Albanian. As soon as the Turkish troops withdrew on 27 August, the league's volunteers took possession. Nor could they be dis­ lodged until an international battle fleet of 17 ships blockaded the city on 20 September and a Turkish army of 10,000 men blockaded the city by land. Two months later on 26 November the 3,000 Albanian volunteers had to turn Dulcigno over to the Montenegrins. By this time it was becoming apparent to the Albanians that limited autonomy under the sultan would never suffice. In October during the siege of Dulcigno another general assembly of the Albanian League was called at Dibra. Once again the reactionaries were numerous and vocal. Recogniz­ ing that Turkey was ready to surrender Dulcigno and would try to crush the freedom movement of the league, the reactionaries withdrew. The league then reorganized. On 8 May 1880 the league declared itself the autonomous provisional government of Albania, organized a small militia and began functioning within a limited area. A congress convened at Gjirokastra on 23 July 1880 and took similar measures. But a strong Turkish army arrived in April 1881, taking Uskup, then Prizren and Gjakova, reestablishing Turkish administration throughout Kosova. Determined to crush the defense committees and the freedom move­ ment, the government set up military courts which tried large numbers of patriotic Albanians, sentencing over 4,000 of them to imprisonment, exile or death. Bibdoda of Mirdita and Hodo Pasha Bushati were eternally exiled to Anatolia. Abdyl Frashëri was hunted incessantly, but successfully eluded his pursuers for weeks. But upon leaving the shelter of the Bektashi tekke at Kruja to reach home at Frashër, he was captured by a Turkish patrol on 16 May while crossing the Shkumbin River. The government commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, but in a general am­ nesty he was released from prison in 1885 shattered in health. Only recently was one of Abdyl Frashëri's latest letters discovered in the Italian archives. He addressed it on 16 September 1890 to Francesco Crispi, then prime minister of Italy, and himself of Albanian descent. The



C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

letter expresses the singleness of purpose which drove those patriots of the league. The Albanians are all ready to die with arms in hand before permitting themselves to be divided among neighboring states, which would com­ pletely destroy their language and culture which they have conserved since prehistoric times. . . . Albanians want their country to be pro­ claimed an autonomous province or a little kingdom in the new reorgan­ ization of the peninsula. . . . Albanians must preserve their administrative autonomy and the national and ethnic boundaries of their homeland. .. . The Albanians will gladly welcome a European organization and laws. They give little importance to religion, and Muslims, Catholics and O r­ thodox all are unanimously agreed on anything related to their country. They would prefer a prince of their own blood worthy of this title, capable of directing them well in the way of progress, and who would know their traditions and customs [Liria 15 August 1984, 1].

Abdyl Frashëri died in 1892 before his longing was realized. Yet another memorable uprising was that precipitated by an Austrian named Delmotzi (or Lemass) in May 1883. At the time a commission was attempting to define the boundary between Albania and Montenegro. Delmotzi traveled throughout the mountain villages speaking of freedom. He convinced the mountaineers that the Slavs were stealing more Albanian territory and that the Austrian government would support an uprising to save it. Durham (1909, 58-59) reported her conversation with an old moun­ taineer who had guided the stranger. I believed him. O God, I believed him! I believed we were to win freedom from the Turks. He asked how long our ammunition would hold out, and we said, "Two weeks." "Help will come in four days," he told us. The Kastrati and Hoti tribes rose up and took the Turkish authorities unawares. But help never came! They fought the Turkish troops. When their ammunition was all but exhausted, they hurled themselves in a final frenzy on the soldiers. They dragged in dead bodies, and tore cartridges from the belts of the living and the dead.

The Austrian and French consuls intervened to prevent the final massacre. The survivors were promised an armistice and safe conduct to return home. But then the Turks fell on them separately, slaughtered many and burned their houses. Once again these freedom-loving mountaineers were disillu­ sioned with their foreign allies. Apparently, repeated Turkish military ac­ tion had crushed the League of Prizren. Yet it had served its purpose in crystallizing the determination of Albanians for complete independence. However, the traditional military confrontation began to wind down. A final appeal that must have sounded like an ultimatum to Sultan Ab­ dyl Hamid II came in June 1902 from a committee speaking for "all Alba­ nian leaders, Mohammedan, Catholic and Orthodox, and for all Societies,

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


Leagues and Committees which are to be found within Albania and without." After summarizing the poverty, ignorance, political oppression and foreign aggression, they asserted their submission to the sultan and im­ plored his help for the Albanian vilayets: Shkodra, Kosova, Monastir, Salonica and Yanina. The petition closed, "But if the government of Your Majesty . . . now as before, will do nothing for the Albanians to renew our nation which is in danger, then with the help of God and with that of our sword, we shall see what things we shall do. 'God with us'" (Java 30 May 1938, 5). No reply has come to light. U N D ERG RO U N D FREEDO M FIG H TER S TA K E UP THE A RM ED STR U G G LE T he "K omitet" or "Ç eta" G uerrilla Bands

The armed struggle against the Turkish overlords continued, but no longer as a massive confrontation of armies. Now small bands of five or 15 men formed mobile units to conduct hit-and-run guerrilla-type sorties against the enemy. Their declared purpose was to strengthen the patriotic zeal of the Albanian population, to call official attention to their cause and to harass enemy forces. An anonymous document later announced the specifics of their cause. Certain excerpts follow: [The komitet] will seek to obtain a general pardon from the government for all Albanians, whether Muslim or Christian, punished for political reasons. [3] Will seek government recognition of Albanian nationality, and the Albanian language with our national letters. [4] Will request Par­ liament to recognize the Albanian society Përparim [Progress] as a moral and juridical person as was determined at the Congress of Elbasan. [6] Will request that in the first official schools to be established in Albania, the in­ struction be given in Albanian and Turkish equally. [7] Will seek that all officials who serve in Albania will know the language of the country. [8] Will seek that all police and gendarmes be Albanian citizens. [9] Will seek that young men of Albania taken for military service shall remain in the Balkans. [10] Will seek that a part of Albanian taxes be used to improve the local situation, as for roads, railroads, special buildings and schools. Finally, [11] In order to achieve these purposes, the Komitet will use whatever means may be necessary [ Komitet 1911].

Certainly these objectives, voiced again and again, do not seem unreason­ able or radical. The same document, with no author or publisher listed for obvious reasons, outlines certain regulations which underscored the deadly serious nature of the undertaking: Art. 4. Each comrade of this Komitet must be Albanian, over twenty years of age, with good personal habits, and must be honorable. Art. 6. His oath will be taken before his comrades, with a piece of bread, some salt, a


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

pistol, a dagger and for Muslims the Koran and for Christians the Gospel. A rt. 7. A comrade who betrays the Komitet is to be punished with death. Art. 14. The Komitet will accomplish its purposes by using its braves among the mountains working according to the decision of its chief. Art. 17. Each comrade of the Komitet who may be punished by the government may depend on the Komitet to try to care for his household, for himself, and to try to set him free [ibid.].

Bajo T opulli of M onastir (1868-1930)

The determined effort of the Turkish government to suppress the Al­ banian language and every other patriotic expression aroused popular resentment. In November 1905, Bajo Topulli, former director of the Turkish secondary school in Monastir proposed a secret komitet to press for Albanian independence. Grameno (1925, 26) listed among the first col­ laborators then at Monastir the following: Gjergj Kyrias, who operated the patriotic press; Nuçi Naçi, who had suffered much for the Albanian boys' school at Korcha; and Grigor Tsilka, Protestant pastor at Korcha. Topulli himself headed this very first komitet, named "Për Çlirimin e Shqipërisë" (For the Liberation of Albania). To enlist support and other recruits, Topulli went to several centers of southern Albania, while Tsilka went to the Albanian communities of Sofia and Bucharest. Their lofty purpose was stated in their constitution, article 2: "The pur­ pose of this komitet is the resurrection of Albania, sowing brotherhood, love, unity, spreading the way of civilization by means of books which will be printed, sending men throughout the ends of Albania to sow these thoughts, sustaining men in the mountains to help in every way to reach the purpose of the komitet, and using every instrument for the progress of the nation and its deliverance from the yoke and darkness in which it now finds itself" (Liria 15 February 1982,1). These "instruments" incidentally in­ cluded the pistol and dagger. Following the Albanian League of Prizren in 1878, another secret society had drawn patriots together for united action. Their seal featured a crossed pistol and dagger. These underground patriots were the first to enroll in the guerrilla bands (Liria 15 June 1984, 2). Ç erçiz T opulli of G jirokastra (1880-1915)

Bajo Topulli enlisted a notable band of freedom fighters right in his home town of Gjirokastra. The komitet was headed by his own brother Çerçiz Topulli, soon to become a legend. Early in 1907 Çerçiz Topulli declared, "We go with rifle in hand, out into the mountains, to seek freedom, justice, civilization and progress for all . . . to expel the rotten Turkey from our dear Motherland" (ibid.). He subordinated religious differences and every other consideration to this goal of national liberation. "Each Mohammedan has a duty to die for a Christian because he is blood of his blood; in the same way each Christian should die for a Mohammedan who is likewise blood of his own blood" (ibid.). The patriots who formed

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


this band in 1907 included in their number one Mihal Grameno, who later would lay aside his rifle for the editorial pen and found the first Albanianlanguage newspaper in Korcha. Grameno, the warrior patriot, poet and journalist, has conserved for us the most graphic accounts of the modus operandi of these guerrilla bands. This particular band of nine patriots continually visited trusted friends in village after village of southern Albania. Their primary activity was not military, but missionary. They were apostles of Albanianism. More threatening to Turkish officials than their gjashtore (six-shooter revolvers) was their patriotic propaganda, their revolutionary ideology. Their trusted friends invited other patriotic neighbors in to spend long hours discussing the Albanian predicament. Invariably they found that "some of them had patriotic feelings, so we gave them a number of books to read." And again, "We found some patriotic young men who could read Albanian very beautifully, so we gave them several books to read" (Grameno 1925, 35, 51). Incredible warriors were these! Besides their weapons, their heavy all­ purpose cloak and the yet heavier backpacks loaded with ammunition, food and equipment, they carried quantities of Albanian books. Their patriotic propaganda angered Turkish officials, who sent out military patrols to capture them. The hunted patriots had to hide by day and travel by night along "exhausting and terrifying mountain trails" where "even goats would tremble to pass" in daylight (ibid., 34). Eluding their pur­ suers, they traveled in rain, snow and cold, wading swollen streams and climbing over rocks, without food for days at a time. Once they found refuge for 45 consecutive rainy days in a dense forest. Sometimes they were more fortunate and found refuge for the day in a deserted barn or shepherd hut, an isolated old church or a mountain cave. Grameno praised the disciplined hospitality of the Bektashi monasteries, many of whose der­ vishes "went village to village spreading a patriotic spite" (ibid., 60). In spite of the risks involved, most villagers befriended the patriot band; very rarely were they betrayed. These lovers of Albania reveled in the beauties of their coastal riviera, the rugged mountains, the sheep in summer pasturage by a mountain stream or the frustrated search parties in the passes far below. They sang to the flute of a lonely shepherd, or Grameno taught some illiter­ ate companions how to read and write Albanian. They valued the sym­ pathy and confidence of the population, so never stole from them or exer­ cised violence, and seldom used their rifles. But the one battle Grameno recorded during their two-year operation made them a living legend. They had divided into two groups, traveling different routes so as to make hospitality less burdensome on their friends. Their little band of five men headed by Çerçiz was surrounded by a Turkish unit of 150 men at Mashkullore early on 5 March 1908. Grameno described the all-day battle: "Bullets came at us like hailstones. . . . We replied with bullets, and with patriotic songs" (ibid., 73-80; Drita 28 November 1937, 18). Çerçiz and his little band fought off the encircling troops all that long


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d Is la m iz a tio n

day from dawn to dark, when the four survivors escaped into the sheltering mountains. Other patriotic bands conducted similar operations elsewhere, but having no journalist in their company, they were to remain unsung heroes. THE P R O C L A M A T IO N OF THE C O N S T IT U T IO N (1908) T he Reval Programme Meanwhile, the condition of Turkey, the "sick man of Europe," was steadily growing worse. Control over its provinces was rapidly falling apart. The great powers realized increasingly that they must interfere in her affairs if they were to control the balance of power in the Balkans. In June 1908, King Edward of England and the Tsar of Russia met at Reval. They drew up a secret Anglo-Russian scheme known as the Reval Programme. It called for more effective European supervision of Turkish affairs and dealt especially with the administration of justice. T he Y oung T urks


T heir C onstitution

The Reval Programme greatly alarmed the secret Committee of Union and Progress, whose members also called themselves the "Young Turks." They knew that to save Turkey from foreign intervention, they would have to overthrow the despotic regime of the "Red Sultan" Abdyl Hamid. In order to succeed in this, they had to secure the cooperation of the Albanian chiefs of the Imperial Guard, who were trusted implicitly by the sultan, and who were utterly loyal to him. Only when the Young Turks assured them that Abdyl Hamid would remain on the throne would the Albanian guards tip the scales in their favor. In return for Albanian cooperation the Young Turks promised constitutional freedom of education and religion, new roads, and the erection of schools and hospitals throughout the country (Dako 1919, 76). The Albanians joined in their brief, bloodless revolt, 30,000 gathering at Ferizovik to demand a constitutional government. It will be remembered that the sultan's earlier proposed constitution had been suspended in 1878 because of the anarchy prevailing in the Balkans. Now at the demand of the Young Turks, supported by 30,000 revolting Albanians, Turkey pro­ claimed its constitution on 23 July 1908. It promised justice in place of ar­ bitrary rule and complete equality for the several nationalities within the empire. Now also for the first time the four Albanian vilayets or provinces could choose deputies to represent them in the Turkish parliament. Among the 21 men chosen as spokesmen we find the names of Ismail Kemal Bey representing Berat and Essad Pasha Toptani representing Durrës. Both men were destined to play significant roles in the forthcoming free Albania. Hopes for a new day ran high. When Ismail Kemal left Berat for his new post in Istanbul, hundreds of citizens gathered to see him off. The Greek

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


bishop gave a brief address in the Greek language and then shouted in Greek, "Zito o Ismail Beis, zito i elefdheria!" But an Albanian barber then shouted in the Albanian language, "Rroftë lirija! Rroftë Shqipërija!" (Long live freedom! Long live Albania!) (Leka 28 November 1937, 350-51). T he C onsequent Explosion


A lbanianism

The proclamation of the constitution brought indescribable joy throughout Albania. Taking its assurances at face value, the people pressed foward enthusiastically to implement their new freedoms. Literary clubs were opened throughout Albania. Patriotic societies were formed to sup­ port education in the Albanian language. Schools were opened in cities and villages. Printing presses were established. Newspapers and periodicals began publication in Istanbul, Salonica, Monastir, Korcha, Yanina, Elbasan, Shkodra and elsewhere. The Monastir Club sponsored a congress in November 1908, which adopted an official alphabet and voted to open a normal school at Elbasan for the training of school teachers. T he Y oung T urks Have Second T houghts Very soon the Young Turks revealed that they were indeed the children of the old Turks. Rather than extend equality to their subject na­ tionalities, such as the Albanians, Bulgarians, Armenians, etc., they sought nothing less than their denationalization and their complete Ottomanization. Had the Albanians not been so deliriously happy with the new con­ stitution, they might have inferred this intention when a number of their leaders were honored by the Young Turks at a banquet in the famous White Tower of Salonica. Mustafa Kemal, who would later become Turkey's first president, stressed in his address "the importance of this freedom which will unite all our different nationalities in one common effort for the welfare of the Ottoman empire" (Grameno 1925,114). That was hardly the basic con­ cern of the Albanians. But soon it became obvious that absorption into the empire was to be the condition of their enjoyment of the privileges granted by the new constitution. So the Young Turks outlawed the patriotic societies, suppressed the Albanian schools and newspapers, and decreed that thereafter the Alba­ nian language should be written not with Latin letters, but only in the holy Arabic characters like the Koran and the Turkish language. Nor would the Young Turks allow the Albanians to choose their own representatives to the Turkish parliament; the Young Turks would appoint them. They withdrew the limited autonomy already extended by the old regime to the district of Himara and the northern mountaineers. They also ordered all Albanians to surrender their cherished weapons. The Albanian population very naturally resented this reversal of the freedoms promised them. When they resisted this unforeseen threat to their ethnic identity, the Turkish government once again sent their armies on the march. That November 1908, Xhavid Pasha mounted an expedition of


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

7.000 men with 22 cannons to subdue Kosova. One Isa Bey Boletini of Mitrovice with only 14 hastily gathered friends resisted them in the moun­ tains. When the patriot band had to escape into their mountain wilderness, the army could only vent their frustration by burning Boletini's house and farm (Woods 1911, 98). Boletini then raised an army and led much of the fighting around Prizren, Prishtina and Kosova in 1909, the Turks leaving 2.000 of their men casualties (Leka 1937, 364). D ETERM IN ED A LBA N IA N R E SIST A N C E T O THE NEW T U R K ISH T H R EA T T he C ongress of D ibra (July 1909)

That July 1909, members of the Albanian committee convened a con­ gress in Dibra to debate the changing political situation. The wily Young Turks, determined to exploit the congress for their own ends, flooded it with their own delegates armed with a prepared list of resolutions. The assembly adopted these, with additional demands for justice in the courts, Albanian schools, tax reforms, greater autonomy, the construction of roads, the delineation of frontiers, permission to retain their weapons, and military service only within Albanian territory (Woods 1911, 100-1). In reply, Turkish armies that month moved across northern Albania to Shkodra, forcibly disarming the population, enforcing martial law, com­ mandeering cattle and horses, enforcing taxation and burning villages to enforce their rule. It is important to note that up to this point the Albanian patriots would have been content with a degree of administrative autonomy within the Turkish empire. Indeed, they had not as yet insisted on complete in­ dependence from Turkey, because this would have left a disunited Albania exposed to the greed of their unprincipled neighbors. Neither would a greatly weakened Turkey have been able to protect their interests. Therefore, up to this point, Albanian patriots had attempted to work with the Young Turks to strengthen the empire. They hoped to achieve a greater degree of autonomy within the empire as a step toward their unification and preparation for complete independence. But now it became apparent that Albanians could not achieve autonomy under the Ottomans. Not even freedom to adopt a Latin alphabet would suffice now. Albanians deter­ mined to become content with nothing less than their own land, language and liberty. Spiro Belkameni of Belkamen (1885-1912)

When the Young Turks turned the clock back, Albanian patriots reac­ tivated the underground çetas and went back into the mountains. On 29 May 1909, Çerçiz Topulli founded in Gjirokastra a secret society called Kandilja (The Candle). Patriots elsewhere did likewise. One of these guer­ rilla bands was headed by Spiro Belkameni, a dashing young folk hero. In

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


August 1909, this band of patriots from Belkamen and Negovan left their homes to roam the villages and mountains of the entire region (1909-1912). They raided Turkish military depots, ambushed caravans of packhorses loaded with Turkish military and food supplies, defied the Turkish authorities and aroused nationalistic fervor. Surrounded again and again by the Turks, Belkameni was never captured. When these several bands entered liberated Korcha, Belkameni and his companions led the way, their white felt k'esula (berets) bearing the words: Liri a Vdekje! (Liberty or Death). Later, after these rebel bands had been granted amnesty by the government, Belkameni and some companions accepted an invitation to visit an acquaintance. They went unarmed and were all treacherously murdered (Drita 28 November 1937, 10). T hemistokli G ërmenji


K orcha (1871-I917)

Themistokli Gërmenji was also prominent in the independence move­ ment. Born in Korcha in 1871, he received his early education there then at 21 moved to Bucharest, where he was greatly influenced by the patriotic societies. Moving to Monastir, he and his brother opened the Liria (Freedom) hotel which soon became the center for patriotic Albanians. Here they planned the Congress of Monastir (1908), and here they planned the four annual uprisings of 1909,1910, 1911 and 1912 (Drita 12 September 1937, 10). To raise the considerable sums of money needed to equip and maintain the fighting men, Gërmenji gave liberally of his own funds then left his own business interests in Monastir to solicit aid from the Albanian communities of Romania, Egypt, Italy and elsewhere. The island of Corfu became a natural staging ground for these guerrilla bands, being Greek ter­ ritory, near the Albanian border, with a Turkish consul, Mehmet Konitza, of Albanian origin who was sympathetic to the cause. Pro-Albania activity had begun in Corfu in April 1909, when Dr. Leonidha Naçi and many other members of the Labëri Club of Vlora fled there, where Naçi at once began publication of his paper E Drejta (The Right) which continued from 1909 to 1912 (Drita 28 August 1937, 3). While Gërmenji was conferring in Corfu, the Greek authorities learned of the patriots' anti-Turkish activities and their need of funds. The Greek prime minister, Venizelos, summoned Gërmenji and two of his friends to Athens. He offered them arms, ammunition, free passage through Greece to the Turkish border and a "fat salary" to the guerrilla leaders on one con­ dition: that they not carry on any nationalistic propaganda south of Vlora, which region he coveted for Greece. After two hours of negotiation during which neither side yielded, Gërmenji and his companions refused the restriction and became personae non gratae in Greek territory (ibid., 21 August 1937). Operating between Saranda and Gjirokastra, planning the guerrilla capture of Turkish military supplies, Gërmenji was seized by the Turkish authorities and imprisoned at Yanina. To fill the vacuum, Spiro Belkameni and his brother Mihal were sent to that territory with arms and


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

supplies purchased in Corfu (ibid., 24 August 1937). Early in 1912 Gërmenji was released and returned to Monastir where he began a strong propaganda campaign among Albanian officers in the Turkish army, and among stu­ dents. Individual officers and students joined various bands, but one officer, Tajar Tetova, was noteworthy because he defected with his whole company (ibid., 31 August 1937). Later that same year Gërmenji headed an armed band in the Korcha district. K ol R odhe and H is A lbanian -A mericans (1911)

Even the Besa-Besën society of Albanian-Americans in Boston sent a band of fighters to assist the cause. Kol Rodhe, head of the society, with 11 selected men sailed from New York 18 July 1911, proceeding to Naples, then to Brindisi and Corfu to join the freedom fighters. Just as they were to join the Albanian revolutionists, however, an armistice was agreed upon, and the government extended amnesty to the rebels. For this little band of fighting men the war was over before it began! Most of the men returned home, but Kol Rodhe with Qerim Panariti and Vasil Tromara determined to go secretly into Albania. Unfortunately, Rodhe and Tromara were captured in Delvina and sent to prisons in Yanina and Gjirokastra (Gaz 28 November 1937, 5). U prisings in N orthern A lbania

By March 1910, the Young Turk oppression had led to serious but un­ coordinated local uprisings which spread from Prishtina throughout the province of Kosova. Grameno was convinced that the sultan himself had fomented the rebellion, hoping to weaken or even overthrow his Young Turk rivals (Grameno 1925, 122). Mountaineers interrupted the railroad line between the strategic centers of Uskup and Ferizoviq and that April 1910 fought several engagements with Turkish troops who swarmed like bees out of both centers. The patriots insisted that they did not destroy the railway, nor did they touch the mail. But they did stop the trains, confiscate war materials, and disarm and turn back Turkish troops (Leka 1937, 366). A punitive Young Turk army smothered the insurgents then set up courts-martial which punished many of the offenders with imprison­ ment, exile or hanging. One division of Turks marched westward again through the mountains and despite stiff resistance reached Shkodra that 26 July. They set up military court, forcibly disarmed the people, regis­ tered them and their livestock for tax purposes and forced into the army most young men between 18 and 26 years of age (ibid., 366-67). Isa Boletini with 3,000 other refugees fled to Montenegro, their traditional enemy (ibid., 368). A second division of Turks marched southward to Elbasan where they proclaimed martial law. They closed the Normal School, and all persons associated with it were arrested and flogged mercilessly. They also closed other Albanian-language schools (Kalendari 1911,19). This succeeded only

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


in sharpening the antipathies already existing between the Albanians and Young Turk government officials. Because of the widespread unrest, government authorities forbade the continued publication of Albanian newspapers in Monastir, Elbasan and Korcha, punishing their directors with fines and imprisonment or exile. The brave Albanian resistance seemed crushed. But confidence in the rightness of their cause led many of these determined mountaineers to share the optimism of Hil Mosi, who had fought among the rocks, who wrote poetry and would later serve in the Albanian cabinet. He eulogized the stubborn heroism which would never quit: And though this year was not propitious for us, Let no one believe Albania has died. Spring will come again, And again to the mountains we'll hie! [Liria 17, 24 November 1978, 2]

And so they did! The next April 1911, Dedë Gjo Luli of Hot in the Shkodra mountains led another regional uprising. Waylaying Turkish military units, the Albanians disarmed and freed the soldiers, once gaining "33 mausers and 4,000 cartridges." But in March these determined moun­ taineers had fought the Turks with "guns, knives, axes, picks, stones and clubs" (Leka 1937, 368). A Turkish paper reported that "among the moun­ taineer rebels are also women armed like men, who fight with greater bravery and hatred than the men, preferring death rather than retreat" (ibid., 369). That April Turgut Pasha as Turkish "commander of the army of Shkodra" called on the mountaineers to surrender their weapons, prom­ ising amnesty instead of severe punishment (ibid., 375-76). Meanwhile a Shkodra newspaper in May 1911 reported 13 battles fought up to that date, all of them won by the Albanians. Mountaineers ambushed Turkish units in the narrow mountain passes, women and children helping roll rocks down the precipitous mountain walls. They captured thousands of Turks, taking away their weapons and heavy guns and releasing the unarmed soldiers. Sizeable units of insurgents were now reported operating in northern Albania: about 3,000 serving under former deputy Basri Bey in the region of Dibra, 4,000 others near Prishtina, and 5,000 others in the region of Ipek and Kosova. Uprisings


Southern A lbania

In Istanbul that spring (1911) a secret meeting of patriots had designated two Albanian deputies of parliament to act in Kosova, Hil Mosi fomenting general revolution in the Shkodra mountains. They also as­ signed Grameno and two associates to encourage and coordinate the guer­ rilla bands in southern Albania, and another patriot for Sofia or Bucharest to channel news bulletins to European capitals (Grameno 1925, 125-26).


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

Grameno returned to Korcha where he enlisted volunteers, raised money to buy sandals and cloaks, and smuggled in weapons from Corfu. On 16 June 1911, Dr. Haki Mborja led the first new rebel contingent out into the Korcha mountains. One week later another band followed, and yet others throughout the south. In July, however, Grameno and 25 others found themselves in the Korcha prison, "the heart and soul" of the na­ tionalist movement. Two guerrilla bands united to storm the prison and free their comrades, but they were thwarted by the army at the bloody bat­ tle of nearby Orman Çiflik on 28 July 1911. Late that year the authorities considered the rebellion crushed and released the prisoners. T he M emorandum


G recha (23 June 1911)

Ismail Kemal Bey, a native of Vlora, was following these develop­ ments with unusually great interest. For 35 years he had headed the liberal opposition in the Turkish parliament and was widely respected as a militantly progressive politician and able diplomat. With Luigj Gurakuqi (1879-1925) he called an assembly of national leaders to meet at Grecha (now in Serbia) on 23 June 1911, to consider Albanian affairs. The delegates framed a memorandum that was printed as a brochure entitled Libri i Kuq (The Red Book), which was sent to the Turkish government, with copies going also to the great powers of Europe. The memorandum pointed out that once before the Albanians had surrendered their arms and received assurances of constitutional liberties that were subsequently taken away. The memorandum listed a dozen demands once again, chiefly the follow­ ing: Albanian autonomy within the Turkish empire, free election of Alba­ nian deputies, free conduct of Albanian-language schools, administrative organization of the Albanian vilayets, but with decentralized administra­ tion of isolated mountain regions by the traditional law of Lek and use of the Albanian language in government offices and courts (Drita 28 November 1937, 18-19). Apparently these persistent Albanian demands did finally bring a response of a sort. Two days later, on 25 June 1911, Sultan Mehmet Reshati V went to Salonica to pay his respects at the tomb of Sultan Murat who had fallen at the battle of Kosova. Over 200 leaders from the Korcha and Vlora regions greeted him. Whether or not this record can be taken lit­ erally, it probably does indicate his attitude toward the recalcitrant Alba­ nian subjects: 'The king granted gifts to the clubs: to the Bulgarians, 50 lira (Turkish pounds); to the Greeks, 70; to the Jews, 70; and to the Albanians a rock with which to beat their heads" (L eka 1937, 389). Back in Istanbul Ismail Kemal and Hasan Prishtina led the Albanian deputies in the Turkish parliament in their insistent demands that the Young Turks recognize Albanian rights to a measure of administrative autonomy. To remove their platform of protest, and hoping to replace the dissenting deputies, the Young Turks on 18 January 1912 dissolved the parliament, established their own military dictatorship and called for a new

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


election the following April. During the interval there were violent clashes between patriots and the Turkish occupation forces in northern Koplik and the Peja and Gjakova regions. The electoral campaign also provided the perfect opportunity for an Albanian propaganda campaign. Alleged voting irregularities that April triggered local uprisings. An Albanian student at the Military Academy of Istanbul, Sali Hidri, wrote a letter in early May to Ismail Kemal Bey. He described how the mountaineers of his district had surrounded the city of Gjakova. They sent letters to the civil and military authorities repeating the demands of Grecha. Instead of indicating com­ pliance, the authorities strengthened their fortifications. So the insurgents stormed the city by night from four directions and captured it. But the letter noted that only one-fourth of the men were properly armed. Hidri pled for "weaponi, cartridges and a little money. Most important are the weapons." He continued, "The morale of the men is excellent, so much so that fighters who are in front fight even with swords or axes" (Liria 17 November 1978, 5). The heroic Isa Boletini led an uprising which spread throughout Kosova and the northern mountains then by June to most of Albania. Sympathizing officers and soldiers began to desert from the Turkish army. Former deputies, including Hasan Bey Prishtina led guerrilla bands of up to 2,000 men (Leka 1937, 404-5). T he A ssembly of Junik (21-25 M ay 1912)

Another step forward was registered at the Assembly of Junik, which was convened from 21 to 25 May 1912 by Hasan Prishtina. Elected three times as a deputy to the Turkish parliament, he used that platform to de­ fend Albania's national rights. Besides leading the northern uprising, he collaborated closely with Ismail Kemal and became the head of the national uprising of 1912. The Assembly of Junik demanded Turkish recognition of Albanian ethnic borders, Albanian administrators elected by the Albanians themselves, use of the national flag, the opening of Albanian-language schools, and the use of Albanian as the official language (NAlb 1987, 4:14). These well-formulated demands were announced not only in Albanian newspapers, but also in Istanbul and in watching European capitals. A widely publicized letter of Hadji Adil Bey summarized once again these demands. He insisted on the following: The Porte must recognize as governor general the man whom Albanians elect; all government officials in the country must be Albanians; military service of Albanians will be per­ formed only within Albania; local office holders must also be Albanians; taxes received must be spent in the places where they are collected; taxes must build roads and open schools in which lessons are given in the Alba­ nian language using Latin letters; all Albanians doing military service in Yemen must be called back to Albania to complete military service. Responding, the Porte ordered the governors of the vilayets to quiet the Albanians with the promise of sending a commission to discuss these mat­ ters and urging them not to make war against the state at such a critical time


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

for the empire (Drita 28 November 1937, 19). Symbolizing their increasing authority in negotiations with the Turkish government, however, revolu­ tionary mountaineers at Pejë on 8 June 1912 refused to admit government spokesmen wearing the characteristic Turkish red fez, but required them to wear the white Albanian beret or skullcap (Leka 1937, 406). That same June, Turkey's Itilaf party joined the revolt against the Young Turks. A lbanian Insurrections C ontribute to the Y oung T urks' C ollapse

By that July (1912) uprisings had spread throughout the country, and all of Albania clamored for full independence. Even children caught the fever. M. Hasib of Elbasan reported the following to the Albanian newspaper in Monastir: Every night after supper small boys from five to ten years old gather from all over the city to play soldier through the streets and market of Elbasan. One of the biggest, carrying a flag, acts as leader; another plays a flute like a band, and others —more than 500 —march behind the leader with a very pleasing military bearing, singing an Albanian national song. Lined up four-by-four, the leader gives the command "March!" and they go forward singing, "Go forward with bravery/ you will not lack victory!" All keep time with the tramp of feet, and at the end of the song, all shout in unison, "Long live Albania! Long live those who struggle for the Motherland!" [Drita 9 August 1912, 2]

Their elders, operating as armed bands, liberated many of the Albanian cities, under the leadership of patriots like Dedë Gjo Luli in Shkodra; Hasan Prishtina, Bajram Curri, Isa Boletini and others in the northland; Themistoli Gërmenji at Korcha; Sali Butka at Kolonja; Elmas Xhaferi at Vlora; Aqif Bichaku at Elbasan; Abdi Toptani at Tirana and many others (ibid., 1). On 17 July 1912 the Young Turk government was forced to resign. The new Turkish government at once sent a commission of three high officials, all Albanians, to Prishtina. They could not accede to the na­ tionalistic demands of Grecha, nor would the Albanian negotiators yield. So the struggle continued. T he T urning P oint : T he Fall of U skup (i i A ugust 1912)

Liberated that summer were Peshkopia, Fier, Përmet and other southern regions. It was the fall of Uskup, however, that marked the begin­ ning of the end of the long struggle. First Mitrovitsa, then Prishtina and then Kruma fell to the insurgents. The Gjakova garrison laid down their arms, many of them joining with the insurgents. When 15,000 insurgents headed to Prizren, the troops there fought sharply then laid down their arms. With gathering momentum the insurgents insisted on the fulfillment of their demands. From Ferizaj they presented a memorandum listing the 14 very familiar demands. They also declared that if they did not receive a favorable reply within two days they would attack Uskup, the capital city

Revolutionary and Diplomatic Efforts fo r Albanian Independence


of the vilayet of Kosova. Since no reply came, a strong Albanian army ap­ proached the city. The Turkish garrison of 4,000 men did not resist, and that strategic city also fell to the insurgents. Ten days later from neighbor­ ing Monastir the newspaper detailed the fall of Uskup. The Albanians entered Uskup in this manner. Sunday 29 July [old calen­ dar, new calendar 11 August] afternoon 200 armed Albanians entered under the command of Mehmet Dokliani singing national songs. . . . Monday [30 July] a train of 26 cars came bringing 1200 armed Albanians, wjio also entered the city singing. . . . Tuesday 400 more entered. . . . ' Wednesday morning 60 Catholic mountaineers came, and 1000 other armed Albanians. . . . Finally Bajram Curi entered Uskup. At the head of this multitude was the band of the Albanian Catholic school, followed by the carriage of Bajram Curi, after which came 30 other carriages full of people, and after these more than 3000 armed Albanians. After them came a second multitude of about 2000 Albanians, and finally another body of 1000 persons. A h o d ja [Muslim priest] surrounded by deserting officers, soldiers and gendarmes carried a red-and-white flag. All of these entered the city armed and singing national songs, and went straight to the places prepared for them to stay. As soon as he entered the city Bajram Curi went to the prison and freed all the prisoners. All these Albanian insurgents went through the city streets, some armed, some unarmed, and no one dared to challenge them. Everything they took they paid for, and they harmed no one. But in spite of this the houses and market were closed for fear of harm. On the railroad some paid, and those who could not pay signed their names on vouchers. The leaders of upper Albania proclaimed to the people of Uskup that if any had suffered wrong by the soldiery, they had the right of complaint, and wrongdoers would be punished. We hope that the Albanians will conduct themselves wisely through to the end, and that they will not spoil the great honor which they have earned up to the present" [Drita 22 August 1912, 2],

This editorial tribute is witness to the fact that throughout their bloody struggle for freedom, the Albanian soldiers proved themselves as fierce fighters, yet remarkably free of the atrocities against civilians which unfor­ tunately characterized the troops of Serbia and Greece. The victorious Albanian troops now headed toward Monastir and Salonica. T he G ranting of A lbanian A utonomy (18 A ugust 1912)

The Monastir newspaper Drita (The Light) of 9 August carried the glad news in front page headlines that a royal decree announced the acceptance of the Albanian demands of Grecha. Included also was a general amnesty for all Albanian insurgents and for deserting officers and soldiers of the im­ perial army. By now the state administration was entirely paralyzed. On 18 August the new Turkish government spelled out the Accord of Uskup. It provided for the formation of an autonomous Albanian province com­ posed of the four predominantly Albanian vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Yanina and Monastir. By this action the Turkish government officially


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

recognized this territory as ethnically Albanian. It also assured Albanian self-government within the empire and public education in the Albanian language. However, this was not to be. THE BA LKA N W A R EX PLO D ES (8 O C T O B E R 1912) The emergence of a new national entity in the Balkans soon to attain complete independence threatened the delicate power equilibrium in the peninsula. Further, the consolidation of these four vilayets into an Alba­ nian state would preclude the realization of the expansionist policy deter­ mined upon by Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece at the expense of Albania. Accordingly, it is significant that immediately after the Porte's recognition of Albanian administrative autonomy, those disgruntled states formed the Balkan Alliance. They agreed secretly on the partition of Albania among themselves, then they declared war on Turkey on 8 Oc­ tober 1912. Under the pretext of fighting against Turkey, they invaded Albania. The first shot of the Balkan War was fired on 9 October by Montenegrin troops crossing the northern border of Turkey to besiege the fortress of Shkodra (Dako 1919, 95). That October and November the Serbian army drove the Turks out of Uskup then entered Albania by two routes. The northern route led through Prizren, Gjakova and Mirdita to Lezha and Durrës. Hoping to avert Serbian occupation, the Durrës authorities an­ nounced Albanian self-government on 26 November and raised the Alba­ nian flag without any fanfare. On the approach of the Serbian army two days later, a delegation of notables went out to notify the commander that he was on Albanian not Turkish soil (ibid., 105). The commander knew nothing of a self-governing Albania, but he did have orders to take Durrës. On 28 November 1912 he lowered the Albanian flag at the government hall and raised that of Serbia. Then his soldiers waded into the sea and with bared swords struck the water shouting "Zhivio! Zhivio!" (Leka 1937, 416-18). Thus the Serbians found at Durrës their long-dreamed-of port on the Adriatic Sea. Meanwhile, other Serbian troops following the southern route occupied the city of Monastir that 22 November, then took Resna, Ochrida and Elbasan on 29 November, when virtually all of northern and central Albania was in Serbian hands. Simultaneously, the Greeks began their advance from the south, enter­ ing Preveza on 3 November and two weeks later besieging the fortress of Yanina. A garrison of 25,000 men resisted steadfastly in spite of a food shortage. Besides this strong point and the port of Vlora, most of southern Albania was soon occupied by the Greeks. Rather than join forces with either Turkey or the Balkan Alliance states, Albanians determined to re­ main neutral in the war and to proclaim their complete independence.


22. Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance Paralleling this seemingly endless succession of bloody insurrections, a less violent but yet more dramatic cultural revolution was taking place. The culture of any people may be thought of as its total way of life and thought. Anthropologists point out that many factors distinguish one culture from another: language, including both vocabulary and gram­ matical structure; racial origin; historical background; social organization; technology for shelter, clothing, hunting, farming and warfare; religious beliefs and practices; artistic expression in music, dancing, games, paint­ ing, sculpture and folklore; and customs and traditions. Most social scien­ tists would agree with the early Albanian linguist Sami Frashëri that "Language is the protoplasm of nationhood" (Liria 15 September 1983, 2). Precisely here lay the Albanian tragedy. A N C IE N T T R A C E S OF THE A LBA N IA N LA N GU AGE The most ancient confirmation of the early existence of the Albanian language was written not on perishable paper or parchment, but on ageless stone. Professor Dhimitër Shuteriqi reported the finding of a single word inscribed in a mosaic of ancient Lychnidus (Ochrida), long the capital of the Illyrian tribe of the Dessareti. The one word "Gjon" for John has been written and pronounced this way by only the Albanians, even up to the present day. Other people express the name differently, as John or Jean or Jan or Johan. Shuteriqi pointed out that this ancient Albanian word is writ­ ten in accordance with all known orthographic norms (Liria 15 October 1988, 4; 15 January 1989, 1). Furthermore, in a document of a . d . 879 there appears the name of the historic town still called "Krujë," which name Skanderbeg's historian Marin Barleti later observed would surely have been applied to the castle city because of its many fountains or springs (ibid.). Scholars have found in the French castle of Chantilly a manuscript containing a handwritten text of 275


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , t h e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

eight lines, apparently part of a poem, in Albanian (ibid.). Then more recently Albanian inscriptions have been discovered in several carvings in the Roverson Museum of Grottaferrata near Rome. One carving is 3Vt by 1 foot in size and shows George Kastrioti Skanderbeg. On another is in­ scribed the word "Albëria," for Albania. A third carving contains the Al­ banian word "trim" for "brave man." The carvings came from the castle of Julian of the Poor, where Albanian soldiers were quartered after the death of Skanderbeg and the fall of Shkodra to the Turks in 1479. The abovementioned inscriptions, however, give evidence that these exiles could never forget their homeland or their mother tongue, which was written significantly enough with the Latin alphabet (ibid.). TH E O T T O M A N S U P P R E S SIO N OF TH E A LBA N IA N LA N GU AGE For centuries the Ottoman Turks had deliberately and systematically split the Albanian population into rival groups with their feudal govern­ ment, their religious antipathies and their substitution of other languages for the national idiom. Although a rich legacy of heroic ballads, poems, tales and proverbs had passed orally from generation to generation, the Turkish government had strictly prohibited publications in the Albanian language. Thus they hoped to denationalize the Albanian people and to effect a greater homogeneity in the diverse populations composing the em­ pire. Actually, the percentage of literates among Albanians was very low. "Why should a young lad go to school and learn to use a pen," they asked, "when he has never learned to use a gun?" But even literate Albanians hardly knew their own language. Virtually all schools in the country were maintained by priests of the various religious communities. If Muslim children went to school anywhere, it was to a mosque school where semiliterate instructors taught them in the Turkish language. Greek Or­ thodox children who got any education at all got it in the schools main­ tained by the Greek Orthodox Church, where textbooks and instruction were in the Greek language. Roman Catholic children in northern towns who went to any school attended Austrian or Italian schools and were taught in either the German or the Italian language. Other minority religious communities such as the Bulgarians, Serbians and Romanians en­ joyed the protection of their motherlands, so they established churches and schools using their own languages. Among the relatively few elementary schools in Albania, not one of them used the Albanian language. Scheming propagandists sought systematically to denationalize successive generations of Albanian youth. However, the Albanian language was commonly used for daily conversa­ tion and was thus transmitted from generation to generation. In fact, the widespread illiteracy may explain why the Albanian language continued as a spoken if not as a written language.

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


C O N S E R V A T IO N OF THE N A TIO N A L LAN GUAGE BY THE R ELIG IO U S C O M M U N IT IE S T he Roman C atholic C hurch of the N orth

Earliest Known Albanian Documents I. In Albania, as throughout the civilized world, the Greek and later the Latin languages were used in all written materials until the Turkish occupation. Ethnic literature was for­ bidden by the Turkish government lest it awaken nationalistic sentiment. The earliest evidence of the existence of Albanian-language literature is a written statement by the French Dominican Father Brocardus, then arch­ bishop of Tivar. In a written report in Latin in 1332 he said, "Although the Arbërs [Albanians] have a language completely different from Latin, still they have Latin letters in daily use, as well as in all their books" (NAlb 1987, 6:25)', From this it becomes evident that the Albanian language was in com­ mon use and written with the Latin alphabet at least as early as the begin­ ning of the fourteenth century. Marin Barleti, the famous historian and biographer of Skanderbeg, wrote in his Latin work of 1504 entitled The Siege o f Shkodra, "I have recently gotten hold of certain annals —fragments rather than annals — which, based on the legend, speak about the reconstruction rather than the construction of this city. In them we read in the native language that a cer­ tain 'Roza and his sister were the founders of the city of Shkodra'" (ibid.; Liria 1 March 1988, 1). This famous legend of the Rozafat fortress written "in the native language" would have been written not in Latin, but in Alba­ nian. Unfortunately, "all their books" have been lost, either because of the contemporary Stephen Dushan's determination to eradicate heretical Roman Catholicism from his Orthodox realm, or because of the Ottoman determination to eradicate all evidences of Albanian culture from their empire. While most written documents in the Albanian language were lost forever, a few did survive outside the country in various archives and libraries. Thus in 1915 the Romanian scholar Nicola Jorga discovered in the Laurentian Library of Florence a circular letter written in 1462 by Pal Engjëll (1416-1470), the Catholic archbishop of Durrës. Ëngjëll enjoyed the trust and respect of all Albanians, was a close collaborator of Skanderbeg and frequently traveled abroad as Skanderbeg's envoy to secure the aid of allies against the Ottomans. While his text was in Latin, it contained a onesentence formula in the Albanian language, which Albanian parents in the absence of a priest could pronounce in baptizing their dying children (Qafëzezi 1936, 85). The early Albanian text reads, "Un te paghesont pr' emenit Atit e t'birit e t'spertit senit." This is quite similar to the present official Albanian, which would be written, "Unë të pagëzoj për emrin e Atit e të Birit e të Shpirtit të Shenjtë" (I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) (Diturija 1 April 1927, 201-4). This brief sentence is the earliest text written in Albanian which has yet come


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

to light. It was written in Mat, northern Albania, during the heroic resistance of the Albanian people against the onslaughts of the Ottoman armies. Early Albanian Books. The earliest existing book in the Albanian language is a liturgical work entitled Meshari (The Missal), written by Gjon Buzuku, a parish priest of northern Albania, the book being completed and printed in 1555 (Diturija April 1927, 203-4; Liria 5 January 1979, 3). The only existing copy of this book was discovered in 1740 by the Albanian archbishop Gjon Kazazi of Uskup. It found its way eventually into the Vatican Library, where it was rediscovered in 1909 by the Arbëresh Pal Skiroi (Tom ori 20 April 1940, 3; Liria 1 March 1988, 1). The first 32 pages of the original 220 pages are missing (NAlb 1985, 1:17). The Albanian language was written with the Latin alphabet, sup­ plemented with five special letters, an orthography which was adopted rather closely by other authors of the early seventeenth century (NAlb 1990, 1:28). Buzuku's language was quite refined for that early age, and his use of it to supplement Latin in a missal may reflect the Reformation em­ phasis on getting the Word to the people in their own tongue. It is thought that Buzuku served a parish along the coast between Shkodra and Dulcigno. Numerous works followed, of course, produced by literary pioneers like the following. Pjetër Budi (1566-1622) was born in Mat, bordering the mountainous regions of Tirana and Elbasan, where he served as a priest, then as bishop. He published three works in Rome in the Albanian language: a catechism, Christian Doctrine (1618); The Mirror o f Confession (1621); and Roman Rituals (also in 1621). One of the earliest Albanian poets, his book on doc­ trine included 10 poems of his own. In the closing 70 pages of his work on confession he complained about the lack of schools and the lethargy of the clergy who were not attempting to alleviate the misery and ignorance of their fellow citizens. He tirelessly promoted the growing movement for na­ tional liberation. Frang Bardhi (1606-1643) was born and raised in the village of Kallmet (Zadrime) below Shkodra. Trained in Loreto, Italy, he later became bishop of Sapa. He is remembered especially for compiling the first dictionary in the Albanian language. This was his 188-page La tin-Albanian Dictionarium Latino-Epiroticum listing 2,544 Albanian words (Geg) and 5,000 Latin words. Bardhi also appended notes on Albanian grammar and a list of 113 proverbs, phrases and idioms revealing contemporary culture. This dictionary was published in Rome by the Propaganda Fide in 1635. Bardhi also wrote a polemic Apollogji refuting a Slavic claim to the legendary Skanderbeg as of non-Albanian origin; this historical document was published in Venice in 1636 (Legrand 1912, 26-27; Liria 1 November 1983, 2). Bardhi is recognized as Albania's first lexicographer, folklorist and ethnographer. Pjetër Bogdani (1625-1689) was born near Prizren, studied theology

fAlbania's N on v iolen t R evolu tion : Its Cultural R enaissance

r\ J


and philosophy at Rome, and was named bishop of Shkodra (1656) and then archbishop of Uskup (1667). His work, The Infallible Truth o f the Catholic Faith, was published several times in Padua and Venice. His style is unique in that he traced down and popularized long-forgotten expres­ sions, also for the first time created new words for abstract notions and for scientific terminology. His "clear, refined Albanian" is said to have in­ fluenced Kristoforidhi and other renaissance scholars (Zëri 7 December 1984, 3). His principal work, The Band o f Prophets, the earliest original work of Albanian prose, was published in Padua in 1685. Bogdani com­ bined in his person the cleric, the scholar and the patriot. He participated personally in popular uprisings against the Turkish occupiers. During the Austro-Turkish War (1683-1689) he organized the resistance, placing himself at the head of 6,000 Albanians taking part in the fighting. In fact, the cave in the village of Rrjoll, where he used to hide when pursued, still bears his name: the Cave of Bogdan. During these trying years he became ill and died at Prizren. But his Albanian books fulfilled the longing he once expressed: "O for a lighted candle in my hand to enlighten that poor land of Albania, and Serbia, the large part of which speak Albanian" (NAlb 1989, 3:16; Dielli 10 September 1989, 3). A growing interest in the Albanian language is indicated by the publication of the earliest Albanian grammar on record, written in Latin by Andrea Bogdani (1600-1683), the uncle of Pjetër Bogdani. The book was used as a text in teaching the language in certain schools of that period. Un­ fortunately, not one copy of the book has survived (Liria 1 May 1984, 1, 3). In 1702 Father Francesco Maria da Lecce compiled an Italian-Albanian dictionary in Mat. Later in 1716 his Osservazioni grammaticali nella lingua Albanese (Grammatical observations on the Albanian language) was published at Rome (ibid., 15 October 1984, 2). Another Italian-Albanian dictionary of Buonaventura Pruker saw the light of day in 1752 (ibid.). It will be noted that virtually all of these early works were written for and preserved by the Roman Catholic Church. One wonders whether Midhat Bey Frashëri was correct in his observation that although there was a sharp increase in the number of Catholic books published in the Albanian language in the mid-1800s, it was accomplished "without producing any results of a practical character" (Skendo 1912, 219-20). Early Catholic Schools. The first recorded Albanian-language school was opened at Velje of Mirdita in 1632. Others were reported at Pllane, a village near the Mat River, in 1638, at Troshan in 1639 and in the city of Shkodra itself in 1698, with teachers such as Gjon Shqiptari, Filip Shkodrani and Dhimitër Dhërmiu (Liria 11 April 1980, 1). Another very early school was founded at Kurbin of Kruja in 1632. Besides reading and writing, Albanian grammar was taught, and books by Bardhi, Budi and Bogdani were used (FESH 1985, 1021). A real surge in Catholic education began in Shkodra in 1855, when the Franciscan fathers opened the "Franciscan School," later called Illyricum,


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

and yet later becoming a college emphasizing the humanities. Upon their invitation the Jesuit order in 1856 sent Father Claudio Neri, who established a mission in Durrës then went to Shkodra to set up a seminary. Turkish authorities and Turkish fanatics tore down the structure and forced Neri to flee for his life. The sympathetic Austrians, who had assumed the protec­ tion of all Catholic people in Turkey since their treaty of 1699, sent a fleet of battleships to the Buni River approach to Shkodra. The Turkish govern­ ment got the message, apologized, paid for damages and authorized the completion of the building. The seminary known as the Kolegja Papnore Shqiptare (Albanian Papal College), later the Albanian Pontifical Seminary, began its distinguished career in 1859. In 1861 the Franciscans established their seminary there also, giving instruction in the Albanian language. Then in 1877 the Jesuits founded another influential center of higher learning in Shkodra: the Kolegja e Shën Francesk Saverit (St. Francis Xavier College) to provide technical and commercial training for about 400 students. A pioneering scientific innovation at Xavier College was the meteorological observatory established here in 1888, the first astronomical observatory in the Balkans. It continued its valuable service until 1946 when it was confiscated by the Communist regime (ACB 1988, 64). The following year (1878) the Stigmatine sisters opened their Shkolla Femnore Franceskane for 200 girls. By that time it was reported that there were 21 other Albanian-language elementary schools operating in Durrës and northern towns. Each had about 30 students, except the Prizren school which reported 80 (Leka 1937, 465-66). The Franciscans are said to have set up the first printing press in Shkodra as early as 1593. The Jesuit "Press of Our Immaculate Lady" established in 1870 quickly became famous for its books on Christian doctrine, Father Jungg's Albanian grammar, and later, periodicals such as Leka, a very meritorious literary and cultural magazine which began publication in 1929. Schools were seen increasingly as the vehicle for the realization of a deeper Albanian Catholic consciousness. Growing concern led to the con­ vening of a Second and soon a Third Council of Albanian Bishops. The Third Council held in 1871 made little or no reference to the perennial prob­ lem of Islamization, but focused on Catholic faith and ritual and the duties of priests and bishops. The Fourth Council of Albanian Bishops was held at Shkodra in 1895 and grappled with the problem of Catholic conversions to Islam. It forbade the giving of non-Christian names to infants at baptism and the feigning of conversion to Islam while secretly remaining Catholic. But the council did relax the earlier requirement that renegades returning to the Catholic Church announce their reconversion to the Turkish govern­ ment officials. It was this council which proclaimed the Madonna of Shkodra as the "Mother of Good Counsel" and the "Protectress of Albania." Most significant, however, was the particular emphasis the council gave to opening Albanian-language religious schools. These Catholic schools in northern Albania were maintained for the

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


most part by Austrian funds. The Italian Bennici (1901, 19) wrote that by 1901 the Austrians were spending 1 million florin annually for religious pur­ poses, including numerous schools in the principal cities of Albania. Besides the villages around Shkodra, he enumerated schools at Durrës, Vlora, Tirana, Prizren, Uskup, Ipek, Gjakova and many smaller places. All schools were in the care of priests, monks and friars. Bennici acknowledged that by 1895 Italian schools had been established to offset Austrian prop­ aganda (ibid., 25-26). But the Italians had their own brand of propaganda. In fact, Hugonnet (1886, 201) reported one Franciscan monk, Leonardi, an Albanian from Italy, who declared, "We are missionaries of civilization more than of religion." Yet it must be noted that in many of these schools the Albanian language was taught more and more frequently. Austria openly combatted these Italian schools. With the sanction of the pope and the Austrian consul, the suppression of these Albanian-language schools was considered. But the Shkodra patriots prevailed. Occasionally, at least, they used the Albanian language in their churches also, for a French visitor to Shkodra in the 1880s wrote about sitting with others cross-legged on the floor in church where he heard "an interminable sermon in Albanian" (Hugonnet 1886, 220). T he G reek O rthodox C hurch of the South

The Greek Orthodox Church also proved helpful as a conservator of Christian culture and civilization during the centuries of Asiatic domina­ tion. Cultural Center o f M oskopolis (Voskopoja). When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, many of its learned men fled to the West. Many of these settled in Moskopolis, later called Voskopoja, about 13 miles west of Korcha. For 350 years the city was famous for its printing press, founded in 1720, the first press in the Balkans after that of Constantinople (NAlb 1984, 5:30-31). Voskopoja became a center of education and culture because of its famous "New Academy" founded in 1744, which emphasized philosophy, logic, mathematics, physics, economics and practical account­ ing. A famous public library was located at the Academy, and included not only the ancient classics, but a wide collection of scholarly works from western Europe. Its graduates readily gained entrance to the universities of European capitals and trained as teachers, doctors, economists, philoso­ phers and lawyers. Here too a vigorous Albanian movement developed. It involved a comparison of various alphabets used to express the Albanian language, the compilation of vocabularies and dictionaries and the translation of foreign works into Albanian. The New Academy proved very influential in the development of a literary Albanian language and of a national Al­ banian consciousness (Liria 15 October 1983, 1). The skilled craftsmen of Voskopoja were known through all the Balkans for their work with jewelry and the ornamentation of weapons. Their merchants enjoyed commercial


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , t h e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

ties with all of the Balkan Peninsula, as well as much of central and eastern Europe. This flourishing city of 30,000 inhabitants was destroyed by avaricious feudal lords during the period from 1769 to 1789, and by suc­ cessive wars. The ruins of 24 remarkable Byzantine churches still bear mute witness to the past greatness of Voskopoja as a cultural center (Dako 1919, 81-82). T heodor Kavalioti o f V oskopoja (1718-1797). In 1770 one Theodor Kavalioti, director of the New Academy, published a scholarly study of Albanian in his Lexicon Tetraglossan. Appended to a section on Albanian history and lexicography was a small dictionary of about 1,200 Albanian words, with their Latin, Greek and Romanian equivalents. He used a rather bizarre alphabet of his own. The German philologist Von Hahn recovered it and identified some of its characters as "analogous to those of the Illyrian Glagolitic" (Taylor 1883, 2:208-9). Hoping to set up a press in Elbasan, Kavalioti worked and saved then ordered a supply of Albanian type from Voskopoja. To assure the safe arrival of his precious type, he went in per­ son to escort the heavy boxes to Elbasan. Confident that the heavy boxes guarded so carefully by the owner must contain gold, the mule drivers murdered Kavalioti along the trail (Dako 1919, 81). Great must have been their chagrin to find lead type instead of gold bullion. Another fourlanguage vocabulary (Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian and Albanian) by Dhanil Mihal Adam Haxhi appeared in 1794. This also included 235 sentences in Albanian regarding daily life situations (Liria 15 October 1984, 2). L iterary Treasures D iscovered in Berat. The earliest written documents found in Albania are the three Codices o f Berat, found in that city's Church of St. George in 1868. The first book, the famous C odex Purpureus Beratinus, contains the gospels of Matthew and Mark, purportedly handwritten by John Chrysostom (347-407) himself in Byzantine Greek (Gaz 11-12 May 1938; Drita 15 August 1938, 3; Batiffel 1886, 437-40). Writ­ ten with exquisite calligraphy and silver lettering, its cover and the margins of its 190 pages of dark red parchment were ornamented in the Byzantine style, with colorful vignettes and decorative letters, and even minutely delicate illustrations. The text itself has been very helpful to biblical scholars in reconstructing the original New Testament text. In 1938 the historian Qafëzezi indexed 47 valuable manuscripts and books discovered there. Among them was the oldest existing Tosk manuscript, that of Kosta Ieromonaku Berat, written 1764 to 1763, which is now preserved in the National Library of Tirana. The 154 pages, written in Albanian using the Greek alphabet, consist mostly of prayers and religious verses or poems. One unique feature is that Kosta Berat changes the commonly used feminine form of the word for God, "Perëndia," into the masculine form of the same word, "Perëndiu" (Drita 3 October 1937, 3). He also issued during the 1790s his Greek-Albanian dictionary listing 1,710 words spoken at the time in the region of Berat (Liria 15 October 1984, 2).

^Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Naum Veqilharxhi (1767-1846). A few years later, in 1846, one Naum Panajot Bredhi, called Naum Veqilharxhi of Vithkuq near Korcha, quietly published a pamphlet at Constantinople entitled An Albanian Encyclical. Curiously enough, it was written in the Greek language but called on Al­ banians to awaken and bring to light their own mother tongue so as to enter the mainstream of civilized nations (Gaz 28 November 1937, 3). This is con­ sidered by Qafëzezi to be one of the very first documents seeking to awaken the patriotic sentiment of Albanians. Veqilharxhi developed his own 33-character alphabet, using some Greek characters (Liria 17 February 1978, 4). The Albanolog Von Hahn recovered this alphabet and tabulated it (Taylor 1883, 2:208-9). Veqilharxhi also published the first Albanian primer, Evetari, an eight-page booklet, in Bucharest in 1844, an enlarged edition following in 1845. A packet of these primers was sent to a friend, Thanas Paskali in Kor­ cha, for distribution. A few excerpts from Paskali's long letter of 22 April 1845 will evidence the enthusiastic reception given this first primer. As you directed, we have distributed them all around Korcha, also Përmet, Gjirokastra and Berat. Everybody received them with great joy and with pleasure, praising and singing to God almighty who has enlightened you to produce in our language characters which our country has lacked for so many hundreds of years. . . . From patriots who come from there [Romania] we have understood with joy that you have already prepared other manuscripts. Other lovers of light, especially the Most Holy Bishop of our city, Neofit Gjirokastriti, embrace with great en­ thusiasm this beginning. . . . Please send more primers [Drita 21 February

1940, 3], Incidentally, it was in this very year 1845 that Bishop Neofit Gjirokastriti began his 29-year bishopric in Korcha. According to the Korcha historian Qafëzezi, this was "the first and the only" bishop of Korcha who ever helped in the spread of the Albanian language (Fashizmi 31 January 1940, 3). The primers, however, and other Veqilharxhi booklets, including readers and a grammar, were disseminated throughout southern Albania. The Albanian Language in G reek O rthodox Schools. As early as 1629 instruction in Albanian was given by the Arbëreshë Zef Sqiroi, who served along the Himara coast for 25 years. He taught the children "Christian Doc­ trine" in the Albanian language. In 1660 another Arbëreshë, Onufer Kostandini, opened a school in Himara which was in operation for three years (Liria 12 December 1980). Although Albanian-language schools were officially prohibited, patriotic teachers in the Church-sponsored Greeklanguage schools sometimes dared to give instruction secretly in their Al­ banian mother-tongue. In 1852, for instance, the schoolteacher in the village of Lavdar of Opari, near Korcha, used Veqilharxhi's primer to in­ culcate love of country and love of their own language (Liria 16 October 1981, 1). In 1854 another teacher, Than Xheka, used Veqilharxhi's primer


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

to teach the Albanian language to his students in Trebicka. Among these was Spiro Dine, who 12 years later found work in Egypt. There he asso­ ciated with the patriot Thimi Mitko in collecting and publishing Albanian songs, poems, proverbs and customs, which were collected in his volumi­ nous Valët e Detit (Waves of the Sea) (Liria 15 August 1982, 2). In fact, Veqilharxhi's books aroused such apprehension among Greek Orthodox clergy that when he was ill in the Greek hospital at Constantinople, he was reportedly poisoned by order of the patriarch (Dako 1919, 81). The three Frashëri brothers considered Veqilharxhi the forerunner of the many emerging cultural revolutionaries. The A rbëreshë o f Southern Italy. The Arbëreshë of southern Italy are credited with finding (and losing) the most ancient document to have sur­ vived the centuries. It was discovered in 1912 in the thousand-year-old Monastery of St. Mary of Grottaferrata, with Arbëreshë connections, near Rome. The pergamena manuscript was written in the first half of the four­ teenth century in the Greek language; but IV 2 pages of the Gospel were written in the Albanian language. The Italo-Albanian monk Don Sofronio Gassisi who announced the find showed the document to a visitor, the Romanian historian Nicolae Jorga. Jorga visited the abbey in 1919 and reported that Gassisi showed him the document which he "took out of the cupboard to the right as one enters by the door into the room of manuscripts" (Diturija 1 April 1927, 203-4). Unfortunately, Gassisi died in 1922 before he produced the promised study on the document. And most unfortunately, this priceless document disappeared without a trace. Luke Matranga (1560-1619) originated in Piana degli Albanesi, near Palermo, and was one of the first graduates of the Greek College in Rome. On the completion of his studies he returned to his village to serve as a priest. He translated Father Ledesma's catechism Dottrina Cristiana into the Arbëreshë dialect of Albanian with the title E M besuam ë Krishterë (Christian Doctrine) and had it published in Rome in 1592 (Tom ori 10 May 1940; Liria 30 December 1977,1; 7 April 1978, 3). This is the second oldest Albanian book to survive, and the sole surviving copy is in the Vatican Library. It is of very great importance, not only for its record of the early speech of the Arbëreshë people, but because of the short verse incorporated in it, which is thought to be the earliest trace of poetry in the Albanian language. Nilo Katalano (1637-1694) was an Italian monk of the Orthodox monastery of Mezduso. He was born in Sicily and served as a missionary along the Himara coast of Albania, where he died. He drew up an Albanian grammar text, and is noted especially for his compilation of an AlbanianItalian and an Italian-Albanian dictionary. He based them on the Geg works of Budi, Bardhi and Bogdani rather than on his own Arbëreshë dialect, showing that Albanian publications were rather widely dis­ seminated even at that early date (Liria 1 May 1984, 1). The original manuscripts are kept in the Royal Library of Copenhagen.

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Jul Variboba was an Arbëresh poet of the latter half of the 1700s, born in an Arbëresh town, San Giorgio Albanese, of Cosenza. He trained in Italo-Arbëresh College, served as a priest in his hometown, then went to Rome where he spent his last years. In 1762 he published there in poetic form his Gjella e Shëri Mëris Virgjër (Life of the Virgin Saint Mary) (Liria 30 December 1977, 1). He is unique for his presentation of traditional biblical figures in a nontraditional way as ordinary people. His poetic description of the joys and sorrows of the Arbëreshë people ranks this work toward the top of Albanian poetry. While it must be obvious that most of these early Albanian works, whether Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox, were consistently religious in character, the field broadened greatly with the cultural awakening which began toward the close of the eighteenth century. Primers were produced to help the illiterate learn to read. Grammars and dictionaries appeared to help Albanians speak and write their language correctly and uniformly. There also appeared a small flood of folklore, poetry, romances, history and patriotic literature designed to awaken the cultural consciousness of the Albanian readers. T he M uslim C ommunity

Because the Ottoman government took such a hostile attitude toward the dissemination of Albanian-language literature, it is altogether understandable that we have very little involvement here by members of the Muslim community. Nevertheless, we do have an early AlbanianTurkish vocabulary, compiled in 1728 by the poet Nezim Frakulla (1685-1760) of Berat. This work has proved of special significance in discovering the chronology of Albanian word-borrowing from the Turkish language (Liria 15 October 1984, 2). In 1927 the historian Qafëzezi found in Lezha, below Shkodra, another document written in Albanian using the Turkish alphabet, authored by one Hafëz Ali Ulqini. He noted that the poem of 15 stanzas and only 191 words was printed by special permission of the Turkish minister of education in 1884, inasmuch as "many Albanians are in darkness because they do not understand Turkish or Arabic" (Qafëzezi 1936, 89). As a general rule, however, the Ottoman government forbade the publication and use of literature in the Albanian language. The Albanian Bektashi leaders were much more open on this matter, due to their bloody clash with the Sunni Turks. Baba Ali Tomori, head of the Bektashi dervish order in Albania, once observed that it had always been their practice to record their religious literature in the language of the people (Fashizmi 2 February 1940, 3). He then listed several Bektashi poets, mostly dervishes, who had written religious hymns in the Albanian language, but using Turkish characters, for at the time they had no alter­ native. These hymns, by the way, were never printed as books, but were handwritten in personal notebooks for singing in Bektashi prayer rooms. Among these Bektashi poets was also one Dalip Bey of Frashër, who about


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

1826 made a free translation in poetic form of the 1,200-page Hadikan'e Fuzuliut. His brother Shahin Bey Frasheri translated similarly the classic M uhtamamenë. But again it must be remembered that although these classics were written in the Albanian language, they were expressed with Turkish characters inasmuch as no Albanian alphabet had yet been agreed upon (Tyrabi 1929, 79). It must be remembered also that having been expelled from Turkey, the Bektashi dervishes must have sensed that the very survival of their order in Albania could depend upon her achieving independence from the Ottoman empire. Accordingly, the Bektashis volunteered leadership in the various patriotic congresses. A number of them "traveled through Albania village to village from north to south, distributing books about the rebirth of Albania. All their monasteries became national schools preaching 'Qerbela' translated as living poetry by their immortal poet Naim Bey Frashëri" (ibid., 84-85). T he P rotestant C ommunity

In such an unpromising milieu as Turkish-occupied Albania then was, its spiritual awakening was undertaken by sturdy characters both Albanian and expatriate, who played the sometimes complementary, sometimes conflicting roles of patriot and teacher, preacher or book peddler. They were captivated by two magnificent obsessions: Albanianism and the Evangel. The British Bible Society Produces Albanian Scriptures. Albanianlanguage literature was virtually nonexistent as late as 1824, that language having been proscribed by both the Ottoman and Greek Orthodox authori­ ties. Yet in that year the earliest translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew into the Tosk dialect of Albanian was printed in Corfu by the British and Foreign Bible Society of London. In 1827 the entire New Testament was published by the Bible Society, using Greek characters. Virtually no other printed literature in the Albanian language existed at that time. Kostandin Kristoforidhi (1827-1895) originated in Elbasan where the Geg and Tosk dialects meet. He maintained a prolific partnership with the Bible Society from 1857 to 1874, using the Latin characters for his translation of the New Testament and selected books of the Old Testament. This biblical literature was disseminated by several Bible Society "colporters" or peripatetic book peddlers. The Kyrias Girls' School at Korcha (1891-1914). Gerasim Kyrias left his Bible Society post and evangelical ministry at Monastir to open the first Albanian-language school for girls and to preach the gospel at Korcha in 1891. Upon his premature death, his two sisters, Sevasti and Parashqevi, became responsible. Rev. and Mrs. Grigor Tsilka joined the Korcha work in 1900. The bitter opposition of Turkish and Greek authorities continued, so the Congregational Mission Board of Boston sent Rev. and Mrs. Phineas Kennedy to collaborate at the school. This move led to greater stability, for

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


now they could secure the intervention of the American Embassy at Con­ stantinople. The Kyrias School was also renamed the American School. One common thread in this cultural revolution must be obvious. All Albanians of north or south, whether Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Muslim or Protestant, were determined to mold themselves into one people by popularizing their common mother tongue: Albanian. P R O M O T IO N OF A LBA N IA N N A T IO N A L ISM BY P A T R IO T IC S O C IE T IE S O V E R SE A S Patriots undertook a cultural revolution by founding national societies and by sponsoring cultural and political programs of education and promo­ tion. A few of these societies were attempted secretly in Albania. More were centered among Albanian expatriates who for political, religious or economic reasons had migrated to Constantinople, Romania, Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece and the United States. Their aim was to promote the use of the Albanian language and thus stimulate the national consciousness and strengthen the bonds of unity among all Albanians. T he G radual Emergence of a Strategy

By this time two facts had become apparent. First, early literature in the officially proscribed Albanian language had been produced almost exclu­ sively by ecclesiastical personnel and for religious purposes. Undoubtedly any other type of literature produced in the Albanian language at that time would have been immediately and arbitrarily suppressed. Then again, what little Albanian literature did emerge resulted from the initiative of pioneering individuals rather than from any group effort. Undoubtedly this posed less of a threat to Turkish authorities than would ethnic literature produced and disseminated by an organized group. But this individualistic approach would never suffice. First, the Albanian-language literature would have to reach more than the religious elite; it must reach beyond the literate few to the illiterate many. This would require primers, grammars and dictionaries, which in turn would create a larger body of literates. Then the Albanian lit­ erature would have to be broadened yet more so as to cover all aspects of life, and so create an Albanian population more culturally homogeneous than in the past. That of course ran counter to Ottoman intentions. Finally, any adequate effort in this direction would have to involve group action so as to create a popular movement. There seems to have been no clearly defined strategy to this end, but gradually a strategy or pattern developed. Economic pressures seem to have moved many Albanians along in the right direction quite unconsciously. Widespread poverty and unemploy­ ment in Albania forced many workers to migrate and seek employment in Bucharest, Sofia, Constantinople or Alexandria. Others migrated for better educational opportunities or for greater freedom. Only the men migrated. Relatives and friends from the same locality lived and ate together economically in a sort of dormitory arrangement called a konak, so they


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

could save money to send back to their families. The prospect of a better livelihood abroad led additional relatives and friends to leave the villages and gravitate to the dormitory family. This voluntary economic exile called kurbet wreaked havoc on family ties, but it did expose thousands of men to the greater freedom available to them outside of Turkish-occupied Albania. There was then no radio, television or cinema to while away the long evenings. Instead the men played cards or dominoes together and talked in­ terminably about the old country. Then there were the ubiquitous coffeehouses, the inns and the ethnic stores, shops and restaurants. These were usually named nostalgically after the city or region from which the proprietor came. Men from the same locality gravitated together to spend their free time. Like-minded individuals discovered one another, aired their common grievances and concerns and shared their dreams and eventually their tangible proposals for action. These ethnic islands in alien cities became the seedbed for the cultural revolution. Patriotic societies sprang up. These cultural çetas wielding the pen became just as effective as the military çetas wielding the sword. The names chosen for those patriotic societies may seem innocuous in our more sophisticated day, but they did give assurance that the activists were heading in the right direction. Istanbul, T urkey

The Three Frashëri Brothers. Born into a large family in the southern village of Frashër (Përmet), these three brothers received higher training in Yanina then gravitated to Constantinople, also called Stamboll, the seat of the Ottoman empire. All three distinguished themselves as patriots. Abdyl (1839-1892), the oldest, was outstanding as an astute leader, diplomat, organizer and activist, carefully discerning the most effective plan of ac­ tion. Elected as a deputy from Yanina in the Turkish parliament, he was chosen as leader of the "Central Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Albanian Nationhood." In 1878 he became leader of the League of Prizren then headed the delegation from the league which visited the capitals of the European powers to defend the territorial integrity and the autonomy of Albania. In fact he prosecuted the struggle for independence so vigorously that the Ottoman government later condemned him to death, commuting this to life imprisonment. After four years his health was so broken that they released him, to die soon afterwards. Naim (1846-1900) was the outstanding poet of the Albanian renaissance, his patriotic poem "Albania" (1880) being only the first of many which would arouse the patriotic fervor of Albanians and enlist them for participation in both the cultural and the armed revolutions. He ex­ tolled the beauty of his homeland in his famous Bagëti e Bujqësia (Cattle and Farming), the courage of the national hero in his epic poem the History o f Skanderbeg, the beauty of the Albanian language, the moral qualities and ideals embodied in readings for the classroom, and religious poetry, especially his masterpiece, Qerbela in the Bektashi tradition.

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Then there was Sami (1850-1904), the linguist, fluent in Albanian, Turkish, ancient and modern Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Arabic and Per­ sian. He was also a grammarian and publicist, taking leadership in cultural and literary activities. He was the author of several bilingual dictionaries and a prolific writer of political, social, educational, cultural and scientific articles for learned journals in several languages. But Sami was finally isolated by the Turkish government for his views on Albanian in­ dependence. He was placed under house arrest for years until his death at Stamboll. These three Frashëri brothers, each with his own rare gifts, and complementing one another so remarkably, proved to be the precise com­ bination needed to stimulate and coordinate the long frustrated yearnings for Albanian independence. The Bashkimi (Union) Society. Albanian patriots living in Stamboll for various reasons united in December 1877 to form an organization with the rather unwieldy name "The Central Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Albanian Nationhood," with Abdyl Frasheri as president. This organization was sometimes referred to simply as the Stamboll Committee, or the Bashkimi Society. They envisioned their immediate goal to be the Ottoman recognition of the Albanian regions as an autonomous Albanian province within the empire, later to be given full independence. This patriotic society took the initiative in resisting the partition of Albanian ter­ ritory outlined in the treaty of San Stefano, in creating the Albanian League of Prizren (1878) to protect their rights, and in visiting the foreign offices of the great powers to demand the recognition of their rights as a people. Their basic need was a uniform alphabet for the Albanian language. On Sami Frashëri's principle of "one sound for a character and one charac­ ter for a sound," they drew up a phonetic alphabet of 36 characters, mostly Latin letters, but using 10 specially improvised symbols. This was adopted early in 1879 and was called the Stamboll alphabet. Their first publication was a primer entitled The Primer o f the Albanian Language, produced in 1879. Collaborating on it were Sami and Naum Frashëri, Pashko Vasa, Jani Vreto and Koto Hoxhi. That same October (1879) the committee formed a literary society called the Society for Printing Albanian Characters, with Sami Frashëri its president. Its primary purpose was to spread the knowledge of reading and writing the Albanian language and to awaken the patriotic fervor which had been suppressed over so many centuries. In­ tense literary activity followed, designed particularly to meet the need for textbooks for the projected Albanian schools. Pashko Vasa (1825-1892), born in Shkodra, but an Ottoman official at Constantinople, was fired with patriotic enthusiasm to produce his Albanian Gram m ar fo r the Use o f Those Who Wish to Learn This Language without the Help o f a Teacher. He also authored an ardent poem, "Mother Albania," an illegal flyer pro­ testing the foreign occupation of Albania. Also of great importance for the proposed schools was Sami Frashëri's Primer and his Grammar o f the Albanian Language, published in 1886, and


C h r is t ia n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

his G eography published in 1888. These and several other titles were re­ ceived enthusiastically by Albanians everywhere. Naim Frashëri was the first to specialize in writing verses or poetry in Albanian. His tender pastoral poem Bagëti e Bujqësi (Cattle and Farming), published in Bucharest in 1886, endeared him to a predominantly rural people. The same year he published his Dëshira e Vërtetë e Shqiptarëve (The True Desire of Albanians). His several school texts had to be published outside of Turkey. His epic poem Istori e Skënderbeu (History of Skanderbeg) in 1899 eulo­ gized the mediaeval national hero who for a quarter century success­ fully withstood the Ottoman armies. Recalling thus their ethnic roots, Albanian patriots might realize that if they did it once, they could do it again. Frashëri also authored several Bektashi classics: Qerbela, Fletorja e Bektashinjvet, Lulet e Verës and Thelb' i Kuranit. The chief themes of his popular poems were patriotism, nature, honesty, knowl­ edge, loyalty, historical events, exhortations and God (as in his "Perëndia," 1890). The first scholarly review of Albanian studies appeared in 1884, a monthly periodical called Drita (Light) with Sami Frashëri as director. For fear of Turkish government reprisal, Naim Frashëri signed his articles sim­ ply with the letter "D." Unfortunately, this publication survived only three issues before the government suppressed it. So the society moved its base of operations from Istanbul to Bucharest and renamed the publication Dëshirë (Desire). In 1889 this predominantly Muslim committee published the biblical books of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew at Bucharest. The books were prepared under the direction of Gjergj Kyrias of Monastir, us­ ing the modified Latin characters adopted by the Stamboll Committee in 1879. However, the Ottoman government opposed the national alphabet so strongly that further projected publications were prohibited (Woods 1911, 112-13). Sponsorship o f K oto Hoxhi's Albanian School in Gjirokastra. It was during those very years that Koto Hoxhi (1824-1895) of Gjirokastra became a symbol of many other cultural heroes and martyrs. Having worked side by side with Sami Frashëri, Jani Vreto and Pashko Vasa in 1879, devising an alphabet for expressing the Albanian language and pre­ paring the first Albanian Primer, he secretly introduced Albanian language instruction into the Greek-language middle school in Qestorati of Gjiro­ kastra where he taught. He may have foreseen the consequences, for this enthusiast had written, "Not for church and mosque, / but for instruction, civilization,/ we are killed for Albania" (Liria 1 June 1984, 4). He suffered first in the prison of Gjirokastra then was "entombed alive" in the infamous Jedikule in the Turkish capital. Lamed and dehumanized by his sufferings, he died there in 1895. Sevasti Kyrias, while studying at Constantinople, induced the prison superintendent, an Albanian from Kosova, to permit her, disguised as a boy, to visit Hoxhi there in the dungeon. She wrote of descending a

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


labyrinth of dark corridors and tunnels, then opening the small door into his cell: A filthy hole! A streak of light from a loophole above helped me discern a miserable figure. I could not make out whether it was human. On a slab of stone that served for a bed it lay huddled in a heap of rags. It was Koto! All his intellectual faculties appeared extinct. I asked myself, "Is it possible that in this miserable and frightful body lives the soul of Koto, the great Albanian leader?'' "Tungjatjeta, Koto!" I finally dared to murmur. In a fee­ ble, hardly audible voice, he asked, "Who is it that is talking to me? It must be some heavenly voice sent by God to speak a soothing word to my wounded heart." He was a picture of such misery that I felt hot tears roll­ ing down my cheeks. His hair was long, his matted beard reached down to his waist, his garments were the merest rags. I spoke almost choking. "I have come, dear father, to bring you a word of encouragement, and to tell you that though they have thrown you into this dungeon to suffer cruel torment, still the seed you have sown is bear­ ing good fruit. Your spirit lives in the heart of your people." The ragged figure responded, "Yes. They have chained my body, but my soul is free. It is free, and no torture can prevent me from crying, 'No! Albania will not perish. She will soon be united, independent and happy'" [Dako, S.,

1938, 59-60], Koto Hoxhi then told her how the sultan had offered to pardon him, on condition that he give the names of the leaders who had organized the Al­ banian League. But he simply would not betray those leaders of the na­ tionalist movement of Prizren. Incidentally, among his normal school students were Pandeli Sotir and Petro Nini Luarasi, both of whom would soon carry the torch for Koto Hoxhi. Sponsorship o f the Albanian Boys' School in K orcha (1887). Expand­ ing its concern for the use of the Albanian language, the patriotic society Bashkimi in Istanbul recommended that patriots in certain towns request permission to open schools in the Albanian language. Then in 1885, through the considerable influence of Naim Frashëri, Bashkimi received from the Turkish minister of education a permit in the name of Pandeli Sotir of Bucharest to open a private Albanian school in Korcha, where a patriotic society had just begun. To soften if possible the anticipated clerical opposition, Bashkimi consulted with the Albanian society Drita (Light) of Bucharest, who sent their Thimi Mitko to Korcha that summer of 1885. Very tactfully he presented to the assembly of the Mitropoli (Cathedral) the request of many that the Albanian language be included in the curriculum of the schools maintained by the Greek Orthodox Church in Korcha. At first the assembly and Bishop Fillotheos agreed to the pro­ posal, but later he decided that they should have a permit from the patriarch. He refused the petition on the ground that "it did not flow from the desire of the people, but from certain persons sold out to Austrian


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

propaganda, and from certain protestants" (Dituria 1926, 167). Hot debate broke out in the assembly, and one member, Jovan Kosturi, walked out. When the patriots were convinced that they could accomplish nothing through the Orthodox schools, they invited Pandeli Sotir to come to Korcha at the close of 1885 to open their first school in the Albanian language. Ironically, the building made freely available for that purpose by the Terpo brothers had been sold to them just a few years earlier by the Greek Orthodox community, and it was situated on the very square dominated by the Cathedral of St. George. This first school opened on 7 March 1887, the day to be celebrated later each year throughout Albania as "Teacher's Day." Both boys and girls were enrolled at first, with about 200 students the first two years. They studied both Turkish and Albanian and in 1888 Greek also. The needed textbooks came from Istanbul and included Sami Frashëri's primer, grammar and geography. Later the girls were transferred to the Kyrias Girls' School which opened in 1891. The bitter intrigues of the bishop and patriarch, combined with financial problems, compelled Pandeli Sotir to withdraw to Istanbul two years later. He died in 1892, allegedly "having been thrown from a third floor window by Greek Or­ thodox fanatics" (ibid., 167). The original school permit having been issued personally to Pandeli Sotir, the assistant director Thanas Sina of Postenani (Leskovik) found himself in the embarrassing position of operating the school without a per­ mit. He was assisted by Pandeli's brother Koço Sotir, and together they car­ ried on the work for another year, despite bitter opposition. Muslim students as well as Christians attended, a Muslim lawyer, Ibrahim Effendi, teaching the Turkish language. Official anathemas by the Greek clergy frightened some parents so that the enrollment dropped from 200 to 80. Having no license, Sina withdrew at the year's end to serve in Bible distribu­ tion with the British and Foreign Bible Society. Petro Nini Luarasi (1865-1911) then came from Kolonja to direct the Korcha Boys' School. In 1884 as a teen-age patriot he had begun giving secret instruction in the Albanian language in the village of Bezhan near Kolonja where he served as a teacher. Often he had begun the lessons with the lines of the poet Naim Frashëri, "Gjuha jonë, sa e mirë. . ." (Our language, how good. . .), he reciting the verses, the children repeating the chorus. He had also prepared a group of young men as teachers. Despite threats he had multiplied the classes, spending mornings, afternoons and evenings in different villages. Two faithful armed villagers accompanied him in appreciation of his work with their children. Fanatics, however, lay in ambush, shot the guards and warned Petro that if he ever returned they would do away with him also. He replied, "Kill me, then, but collect my blood, for your children will need it to write their mother tongue" (Liria 15 March 1983, 4). He had also conducted an Albanian school in the village of Katund for two years before it was suppressed by the Ottoman govern­ ment (1886-1888).

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Then he came to Korcha to conduct that school in its fourth year (1888-1889). He was assisted by Koço Sotir, Thoma Avram and Nikolla Zografi. Continued persecution and harassment dropped the enrollment to 40. Fifty years later Thoma Avram was the only survivor among the original teachers of this school. When a friend recalled that he had begun teaching in 1888, he exclaimed, "Oh, what a timel How intoxicated we were with enthusiasm!" Visiting once again the historic building where the school had been held, he was asked, "Did you have enough books, Mr. Thoma?" The veteran educator exclaimed, "Very few, and those were pedagogically inappropriate. We only had a patriotic spirit that made us furious!" (Drita 4 July 1937, 4). During that summer (1889) another young patriot, Nuçi Naçi, at­ tempted to teach the villagers of Opari, west of Korcha, to read and write Albanian. He also distributed Albanian primers and books, especially Naim Frashëri's pastoral poem, "Bagëti e Bujqësi" (Livestock and Farming), so dear to country people. He reported that children of the Greek school could learn to read the Albanian alphabet within two or three days, while villagers and shepherds learned much more slowly. Among the 36 villages of that zone there were then only four small schools, three taught in Greek and one in Turkish. When Naçi left, however, the Greek Orthodox priest Papa Vasil gathered all the Albanian primers he could find and forbade fur­ ther reading in their own native language (Liria 16 October 1981, 4). Naçi learned that reading Albanian did continue secretly. He, however, was be­ ing prepared for subsequent service at the Korcha school. The following year, 1889-1890, Petro Nini was assisted by patriots of Monastir in securing a permit of sorts. He was also greatly encouraged by Jovan and Spiro Kosturi and others of the Korcha society. But financial problems persisted. So his Korcha friends encouraged him the summer of 1890 to visit the Albanian communities of Istanbul, Sofia and Bucharest to solicit support. Thus the operational needs of the Korcha school were assured, and a concerned Albanian in Bucharest contributed sufficient funds for opening schools in five villages around his native town of Kolonja: namely Luarasi, Treska, Selenica, Vodica and Goshtivishti. Return­ ing from Bucharest, Petro Nini succeeded in bringing into the country several trunks filled with Albanian books. That fall he oversaw the opera­ tion of the five village schools, which were bitterly persecuted by the Turks until they were closed down two years later in 1892. Persecution came also from another direction. On 20 September 1892, Bishop Kosturi Filaret of Korcha published the following text entitled "Cursing of the Albanian Writings by Bishop Kosturi Filaret." With great sadness we have seen with our own eyes and heard . . . that the accursed of God Petro Luarasi, in cooperation with Protestant and Masonic propaganda, has circulated among different villages of Kolonja attempting to teach the Albanian language. This is not the case, however,


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

for in truth he is twisting the consciences of the Orthodox to make them converts to the Masons and the Protestants. His only purpose is to shake the foundations of our Orthodox faith which our holy martyrs and fathers and teachers strengthened with so much effort and with their own blood. And we saw that this only is their purpose: to dishonor our holy faith, because these Masons and Protestants are beginning to speak against our sacred icons, to dishonor the saints and the cross and fasting, and to spread Gospels and other books which are against our holy faith [Luarasi, P „ 1911, 14-16],

By another document of the same date the bishop notified the priests in those villages that Luarasi had allied himself with the Society of Masons and Protestants, and that because he had distributed anti-Christian ser­ mons and books, both he and his family were "unchurched" or excom­ municated (ibid.). Responsibility for the Korcha Boys' School now fell on Nuçi Naçi, with enrollment thereafter fluctuating between 50 and 80. In 1895 Naçi went to Egypt, Kristaq Vaja serving as director until 1897, when Naçi was per­ suaded to return to the post. With the appointment of a new government officer in 1898, harassment of the school increased. Soon after his arrival in Korcha the officer summoned Naçi to his office and required of him a diploma as director and a new permit for the school. Inasmuch as he had neither, the court fixed 20 July as the date for trial. As soon as school exams were over in June, Naçi went to Monastir where Albanian friends com­ mended him to other friends. A special educational commission examined him and issued the necessary diploma. They also secured a permit from the governor. An Albanian proverb states it this way: "Kush ka miq ka fiq" (He who has friends has figs), or in this case, a diploma and a permit. On 20 July the court found his documents in order and freed him. Two peaceful school years followed. Persecution by the Turkish official then became more severe. Equally severe economic pressures were relieved in good measure by the sacrificial giving of three men of the Korcha patriotic society. Even more serious was the shortage of Albanian books, relieved greatly by George Kyrias of Monastir and Midhat Frashëri of Istanbul. Both Naçi's home and school were raided periodically by the police without finding grounds for closing the school. The incriminating books, newspapers and correspondence from Albanian patriots were well hidden under the office floor! At least once every week Naçi was called before the police and his friends were threat­ ened. In June 1902 just after final exams another police raid produced three sacks of his Albanian books seized at the school and another sack at his home (Dituria 1926, 174). Naçi was arrested and imprisoned at Monastir. No one dared reopen the school that fall. The following February 1903 Naçi was released from prison. Finding the supply depot under his office floor intact, Naçi spread the word that the Boys' School would reopen in the fall. This angered the

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Orthodox clergy most deeply. Having failed to close the Albanianlanguage school by the more spiritual weapons of anathema and excom­ munication, they now denounced the Albanian school teachers as traitors conspiring against the sultan. Naçi's brother, Dr. Leonidha Naçi of Corfu, had been accused of planning a revolution with Prince Aladro Kastrioti, and he had recently visited his brother Nuçi at Korcha. So the authorities took the occasion to round up several troublemakers. Nuçi Naçi was among them and was condemned to two years in the infamous six­ teenth-century prison the White Tower of Salonica (ibid., 176). This marked the end of the Albanian Boys' School at Korcha. Every one of the few Albanian schools in the country was now closed, with the sole excep­ tion of the Kyrias Girls' School, which because of its American Protestant connection enjoyed a degree of immunity (Dako 1919, 84). It appears that the Greek Orthodox clergy were in complete agreement with the Turkish officials on one subject at least: the suppression of Albanian-language literature in Albania. The Korcha building where the first Albanianlanguage school originally held classes has now become a local museum of education, a memorial of those difficult but heroic years. Because Korcha so determinedly pioneered in opening these two Albanian-language schools for boys and for girls, the poet laureate Naim Frashëri dedicated his 13-verse poem "Korcha" to that early intellectual center. One verse reads, Blessed art thou, O Korcha, flower Who surpassed all your companions. You raced like a hero to the front, W ell always be indebted to you.

And another, How How How How

good our language, sweet, how broad, light, how free, beautiful, how precious!

And another, We are neither Greeks nor Bulgarians, Nor anything else, We are only Albanians, We bear this name as an honor.

Bucharest, Romania and Elena G jika

Elena Gjika (1829-1888), a Romanian princess, was a patriotic forerunner of the famous society in Bucharest and proud of her Albanian parentage from Përmet. She was a prolific writer on political, religious,


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

cultural and social themes, always using the pen name Dora d'Istria. In 1866 she published in four languages —Albanian, French, Italian and Greek —a famous work of folklore entitled K om bësia Shqiptare sipas këngëve popu llore (The Albanian Nationhood according to popular songs). Through this and other collections of popular songs and biographies she ex­ posed the centuries-long struggle of her people against the Turkish oc­ cupation. That same year she wrote to the Arbëreshë poet De Rada encouraging a "general revolution." She added, "If the general uprising breaks out in Albania in March, as the Augsburg paper warns, I have reason to believe that he [probably Garibaldi] would not fail to support it morally and with manpower. We have 15,000 to 20,000 fine 15-franc rifles which I can send you as soon as you let me know." She was altogether confident that "a peo­ ple like ours will not be destroyed. I want to believe that we shall not die without seeing our homeland free from the yoke of the barbarians" (Liria 15 December 1983,1). In 1881300 student admirers in Shkodra sent her an exquisitely filigreed silver pen. She wrote appreciatively, "More powerful than a scepter. I trust that until the close of my life this pen will be used for the defense of the honor and the rights of Albania, my honored fatherland" (ibid.). Also in 1881 Albanians in and around Bucharest began patriotic meetings for fellowship. Then in 1884 they organized the society Drita (Light), and also began the publication of a monthly periodical also called Drita. This was the first periodical to be published in Albanian and carried very valuable cultural, literary and educational articles. After only three issues its publication was interrupted, so they changed the name to Dituria (Knowledge) and placed it under the direction of Pandeli Sotir (1843-1891). They used the Stamboll alphabet and carried articles which served as classroom study material. Sotir, who had studied and practiced medicine in Vienna, devoted himself at that time to Albanian education and became the first director of the Boys' School in Korcha. In 1888 Albanians set up the publishing house Dituria to print Albanian books. That same year they began publication of a weekly newspaper, Shqiptari (The Albanian), which continued with a few interruptions until 1905. It kept Albanians everywhere informed on the program for autonomy, the progress of the uprisings in Albania, and the development of Albanian schools. It was Dituria which published Sami Frashëri's famous Albania: What it has been, what it is, and what it will becom e, translated into several languages. Dituria also published his Albanian grammar and Naim Frashëri's epic poem on Skanderbeg. These publications had a wide influence. Eventually these earlier societies, Drita, Dituria and Shpresa (Hope), merged to operate as Bashkimi (Union). An Albanian student enrolled at a school in Greece wrote of receiving "as from the Lord" a book from a friend in Romania:

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


It was written in Albanian with different letters. I began slowly to read, and felt a great sweetness as I understood everything that was written. With great joy I took the book to show to my fellow students, who were amazed when they saw that there were books in the Albanian language. We wanted to share our joy with our director and teacher, Mr. Dhjamanti, a Greek. But he rebuked us harshly, declaring it a sin to even touch such books with our hand. Fortunately the patriotic sentiment took root in several other fellow students as well as myself. In 1885 I went to Romania and found the field wide open [Grameno 1925, 8-9].

This student, Mihal Grameno, would later return to Albania as a free­ dom fighter, and still later would edit the first Albanian newspaper at Korcha. A thens, G reece

On 1 January 1860, patriotic Albanians in Lamia began publication of a weekly newspaper they called Pellazgu, partly in the Greek language, partly in Albanian. The following year, 1861, they changed the name to Pellazgjotis with a subtitle in Albanian, The Albanian and the Greek. The paper was concerned exclusively with the Albanian national language and culture. Its director was Anastas Byku, who was active from 1848 to 1878. Born in Lekël of Tepelena, he worked as a teacher and journalist. In 1878 he published another paper, Pellazgu Promete, in Greek with the same na­ tional purpose. A loyal disciple of Veqilharxhi, Byku insisted that despite religious and regional differences, Albanians constituted a single people, descended from the Pelasgians and Illyrians, whose progress depended upon the cultivation of the Albanian language by Albanian books and schools. In 1879 another scholar of Albanian parentage, Anastas Kullurioti (1820-1887), undertook the publication of a patriotic weekly newspaper, I fon i tis Alvanias (The voice of Albania), published in Athens in both Greek and Albanian and using Greek characters for both languages. The newspaper championed Albanian rights, her national consciousness, com­ plete independence, territorial integrity, her language, schools and culture. It continued for only 40 issues. In 1882 Kullurioti published in Athens a primer called A bavetar arbëror (Arbëreshë primer) with appended readings in the Albanian dialect used in Greece, printed in Greek characters. He authored also an Albanian-Greek dictionary. Persecuted by the Greek government, he fled to Gjirokastra in 1883, hoping to spread Albanianism. There the Turkish government, alerted by the Greek consul, imprisoned him, then expelled him. He returned to Athens to resume publication of his newspaper. But he supported so forthrightly the Albanian League of Prizren and the creation of a free Albanian nation to include all ethnic Albanian territory that he was put in prison once again, dying there allegedly by poison.


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

A lexandria , Egypt

Efthim or Thimi Mitko (1820-1890) of Korcha migrated to Egypt in 1859, where he soon became the leading figure in the Albanian colony. He conducted wide correspondence with patriots both within and outside Albania and supported the Albanian cause in articles published in numerous journals. He achieved special distinction as a folklorist, seeking and recording popular songs, proverbs, habits and customs. In 1878 he published in Alexandria the first comprehensive collection of Albanian folk stories under the title The Albanian Bee. The patriotic motive of this cultural manifesto appears in that he wrote "to stimulate his fellow coun­ trymen to study their mother tongue so that they might move ahead like other nations" (FESH 1985, 714; NAlb 1990, 2:20). Mitko introduced his folk stories with an appeal to the Greeks to recognize the Slavic threat and encourage the Albanians in the development and use of their own language. His appeal fell on deaf ears. Persevering, however, he published for a time in Athens the Albanian newspaper called The Voice o f Albania. In 1894 Albanian patriots in Alexandria formed the patriotic society which they named Vëllazëria Shqiptare (Albanian Brotherhood). A disciple of Mitko named Spiro Dine (1844-1922), originating in Vithkuq of Korcha, joined Mitko in Egypt in 1866. Much of his collection of folklore went into The Bee, the remainder appearing in a 1908 publication in Sofia entitled The Waves o f the Sea. About the same time, March 1907, Athanas Tashko (1863-1915) of Cairo began publishing his militant and satirical newspaper S hkopi (The Rod) championing the rights of the Albanian nation. During this same period Albanian patriots in Cairo publicized their cause in the weekly newspaper Shkreptim a (Lightning), predominantly in Albanian, but partly also in French, Greek and Turkish. First appearing in 1910, it sharply criticized the policies of the Young Turks and others, but it sur­ vived only 21 issues. Sofia , Bulgaria

The patriotic society Dëshirë (Desire) was founded in Sofia in 1893 by patriots of the Albanian colony. Their declared purpose was "to spread knowledge and Albanian language instruction, also to spread Albanianlanguage schools in Albania." In 1896 they managed to set up the printing press Mbrothësia (Progress) to serve the national cause. Its manager was Kristo Luarasi (1876-1934), who had taught in an Albanian school for two years (1892-1894) until persecution by Turkish and Greek Orthodox officials made him flee to Sofia. There he proved valuable in the field of publications. In 1897 Dëshirë began publishing the annual Kalendari K om bëtar (Na­ tional Calendar), a cultural review which also summarized the outstanding Albanian news events of the preceding year. With but few interruptions this annual publication continued until 1926. A happy footnote is the

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


collaboration of Polikseni, wife of Kristo Luarasi, in every phase of the work. Having studied at the first girls' school in Korcha, and having served as a schoolteacher, she was uniquely valuable in correcting proofs. But when the need was urgent, she also helped at the printing press, even packaging and shipping the printed material. By 1911 they had printed and carefully shipped out about 150 titles in the Albanian language. Among these were the many works of the national poet Naim Frashëri. From 1901 to 1908 Shahin Kolonja published with Mbrothësia the militant newspaper Drita (The Light), also a biography of the patriot Naim Frashëri, and other stirring material. There is little doubt that this press became most promi­ nent in producing Albanian Renaissance publications. In 1902 the society also opened an evening school for instruction in the Albanian language. The society also put on patriotic dramas and sought to counteract the antiAlbanian propaganda of the Greek Orthodox patriarch. Brussels, B elgium

In 1896 Faik Konitza (1876-1942) began the publication of one of the most important political and cultural periodicals of the Renaissance period. Called simply Albania, it was published in Brussels in both Albanian and French and continued until 1909. A bey himself from an aristocratic family, Konitza was charged with trying to protect the interests of the wealthy by opposing a military uprising and confining the patriotic revolution to a cultural revival. His magazine featured scholarly articles and studies of his own, and espoused a united literary style for the Albanian language. Southern Italy

The Italo-Albanian Jeronim De Rada (1814-1903) from Macchia of Cosenza is generally acknowledged to be the outstanding figure in Alba­ nian literature. He was a teacher, publicist, folklorist and the Albanian poet laureate. His romantic and patriotic writings in Albanian beginning in 1836 remain unsurpassed. His Poesie Albanesi, the Albanian text translated into Italian, was published in 1847. This included a greeting from his French poet friend Lamartine, who wished to be the first to express his "wishes for the liberty and resurrection of Albania" (Legrand 1912, 83). The following year (1848) De Rada began publishing in Naples the very first Albanian newspaper, L'Albanese d'ltalia (The Albanian of Italy), in both Italian and Arbëreshë Albanian. It dealt with political news, demanded social justice, included Arbëreshë poetry and pled for the Albanian language and schools. In 1876 De Rada began the shipment of arms to Albania. In 1880 he protested against the unjust decisions of the Congress of Berlin, declaring boldly, "And today the European Areopagus has been invited to decree whether the Albanians should continue to exist or should be eliminated" (Flaga 6 July 1934, 6-7; Liria 15 July 1983, 4; 1 January 1984, 1-2). Then in June 1883 he founded the very first Albanian periodical, Fiamuri iA rbërit (Flag of Albania), a monthly magazine in Arbëreshë Albanian and Italian.


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n ia , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

Besides educational, literary and cultural dtticles, he passionately cham­ pioned the national rights of the ancient Albanian people as voiced so recently in the League of Prizren. He exposed the expansionist ambitions of Albania's neighbors: Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Austria, and even his native Italy. He reported also the militant movements then erupting in Albania. After 31 issues the Italian authorities in 1887 sup­ pressed the magazine. But his demands for Albanian freedom had cap­ tured the imagination of his Albanian readers and had made Europe realize that the sons of Skanderbeg still lived. De Rada never set eyes on Albania, but he repeatedly and proudly announced his Albanian an­ cestry. The 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discoveries was celebrated in Milan on 12 October 1892. On the page of commemora­ tion De Rada proudly identified his nationality as "an Albanian" (NAlb 1988, 2:16). Then in 1895 these Arbëreshë formed a National Albanian Society in Italy to call the plight of Albania to the attention of Europe. Their proc­ lamation began, "In Italy we are 200,000 Albanians . . . We speak the same language of our brothers beyond the Adriatic: the same language spoken by the Pelasgians, dwellers of Greece even before it was subdued by the Hellenes coming from Asia" (Leka 28 November 1937, 447-48). Then they petitioned the European powers to recognize the national rights of the Albanians. From 1897 to 1924 they pled the cause in the columns of their periodical La Nazione A lbanese published in Catanzaro. Similar patriotic societies were formed in Palermo (1893) with many branches, also in Naples (1897) and Rome (1900). In 1900 they induced the Italian government to establish a chair of Albanian language and literature at the University of Naples. Then in June 1903 the Italo-Albanians held their Fourth Annual Congress in Naples, discussing the formation of a federation to unite all their societies, also the encouragement of further publications as a means of publicizing Albania's identity. Very soon there were 13 patriotic and cultural magazines published by the Arbëreshë, mostly in both the Albanian and the Italian languages. Some continued only a few issues, others a few years, and the biweekly La Nazione A lbanese for 27 years. When the Balkan War broke out in 1912 and foreign troops threatened the partition of Albania, the Italo-Albanians "in the name of its 80 colonies" addressed a strong appeal to the great powers of Europe. In both Italian and Albanian they deplored the greediness and injustice of neighbor nations, announced their watchword "Albania for the Albanians," and pledged their lives and belongings to support their "ancient homeland" {ibid., 448-51). Admittedly their appeal of November 1912 was an exercise in brinkman­ ship, for Italy also had designs on Albanian territory. Then during the Lon­ don Conference of Ambassadors and the Paris Peace Conference, the Arbëreshë of Italy joined the other expatriate communities in supporting Albanian independence by a ceaseless flow of protests, memorandums,

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


documents and articles. To this effort as much as to her own heroic sacrifices a free Albania owes her very existence. T he U nited States

The seeds of Albanian nationalism originated and grew within Albania despite Ottoman oppression. But they really flowered across the Atlantic among Albanian immigrants in an American climate more con­ ducive to growth. Because so many from the Korcha district were the first to reach America for work, these were the first to return, determined to transplant the same freedom and progress in their homeland. These men ac­ cordingly earned for Korcha the name "Cradle of Albanianism." Koli K ristofor Encourages Migration to America. Actually the first Albanian to arrive in the New World was an unnamed man from Korcha who arrived in the United States in 1876, but soon departed for Argentina. The first Albanian to establish residence in the New World was Prenk Dochi, who served as a Roman Catholic missionary on the rugged west coast of Newfoundland from 1877 to 1881. Subsequently he served two years as priest at St. John, New Brunswick, withdrawing to Rome in 1883. A few years later he was reassigned to his native region as abbott of Oroshi, Mirdita, where he served until his death in 1917 (ACB 1986-1987, 59-64). The first Albanian to settle in the United States was Koli Kristofor (1859-1940), from the village of Katund, near Korcha. He reached Boston on a Greek ship in 1886, the same year the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor. Some say that having no friends in Boston, and not knowing where else to go, he slept that first night in the railroad yard of Boston's South Station. Others say the police gave him a bed in jail. But he found work, learned English, lived frugally and saved his money. Six years later he returned to his birthplace, dressed in American clothes, in­ cluding a celluloid collar, a black derby hat and plenty of dollars in his pockets. His incredible tales of earning 10 dollars a day selling fruits, vegetables or flowers by pushcart in the city streets astounded the whole region, for few villagers saw that much money in an entire year. In 1892 he returned to Boston, accompanied by several other young men from Katund. But theirs was a difficult life in a strange land. As many as a dozen men would live together dormitory style in a slum tenement they called a kon ak or lodging house. They shared domestic duties so as to cut expenses and send hard-earned money home to their families. They had to struggle with a strange language and culture, but the freedom and economic oppor­ tunity in the United States made them determined to succeed. The first 17 Albanian pioneers in America were from Katund. By 1900 others in large numbers had heard Lady Liberty's invitation: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. ..." Entering the "golden door," hundreds of Albanian immigrants found work. Some of them peddled through the streets with pushcarts, others worked in neigh-


Christian Albania, the Turks and Islamization »

borhood stores and restaurants, or in mills and factories throughout the eastern states. While the years of family separation did bring economic benefits and stimulate their longing for freedoms in Albania like those in the New World, the emotional price was very high. For generations the field at the north edge of the city of Korcha, where accompanying families last embraced sons and husbands and fathers departing for America, was called lëndina e lotëve (meadow of tears). Eventually some of the men brought their wives and children to America and established homes there. But as late as 1913 there were only 13 Albanian women to be found in the whole Boston area: two in Marlboro, three in Hudson, two in Natick, three in Worcester and three in Boston itself (Lina 5 December 1975, 3). The great influx of Alba­ nian women and the founding of families would not take place until 1930 to 1940, when sons and daughters began to climb the educational ladder and excel in business and the professions. Incidentally, the pioneer Koli Kristofor at 57 was ordained a priest of the Orthodox Church in 1917. Petro Nini Luarasi Encourages Patriotic Societies. Another newcomer to the United States was Petro Nini Luarasi (1865-1911), who had struggled to introduce the Albanian language into several schools in and around Kolonja and Korcha. On the suppression of these schools he came to America in 1904 where he found undreamed of freedom to circulate among Albanian communities, encouraging old friends and former pupils to seek for their enslaved homeland the same liberties which they enjoyed in America. Under his leadership the first Albanian patriotic and mutual aid society in America was founded among Korcha immigrants in Jamestown, New York, in 1906. It was named Malli i Mëmëdheut (Nostalgia for the Motherland). Early that year he notified a patriot friend in Romania about the new society, "the purpose of which is to spread Albanian writing," and he encouraged patriots to "work incessantly for the precious national pur­ pose" (Liria 15 February 1982, 1). Founded just three months after Bajo Topulli's guerrilla band in Monastir, this new society shared the same "precious national purpose": the resurrection of Albania. Moving to Natick, Massachusetts, Luarasi carried on a nationalistic effort among the many nearby Albanian communities. "He was like a traveling library, his pockets always filled with Albanian pamphlets, magazines and newspapers" (Liria 15 December 1982, 2). Paralleling his efforts, patriotic Albanians in the Boston area were distributing postcards which had been published by Prince Aladro Kastrioti, with the black double-headed eagle of Skanderbeg and the prince's picture. For his en­ thusiastic encouragement of patriotic societies among his countrymen, Petro Nini Luarasi has been called the "Paul Revere of Albanianism." At­ tending the "Alphabet Congress" of Monastir (1908) as a delegate, he re­ mained to teach in the Albanian school at Negovani. His aggressive patriotic and educational articles were carried in Albanian periodicals everywhere, but he died in July 1911, allegedly by poisoning.

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Sotir Peci and the Establishment o f Albanian Newspapers. Another forward movement in the United States was led by Sotir Peci (1873-1932), who founded the first patriotic Albanian-language newspaper in Boston. Born in an Orthodox family in mountainous Dardha near Korcha, Peci finished middle school in Korcha then graduated in mathematics from the University of Athens. Chekrezi wrote of him, In a dark basement of dingy Hudson Street, Boston, Mr. Petsi [Peci] started that year [1906] the weekly publication of a newspaper K o m b i [The Nation], with the proceeds of his own manual labor —he was a fac­ tory worker at that time because of his ignorance of the English lan­ guage—and with some voluntary contributions made by a handful of Albanians. The people to whom he sent the newspaper, gratis at the begin­ ning, wondered what it was for; they not only had never seen an Albanian newspaper, but also they were entirely illiterate. Consequently Mr. Petsi, who was at the same time editor, publisher, manager and printer, was obliged to go and explain in person what that shabby sheet of paper was meant to be. Out of 5000 Albanians estimated to have been in the United States at the time, not twenty persons could read or write" [Chekrezi 1919, 227-28],

Twelve years later it was estimated that 85 percent of the much greater number of Albanians in the United States were literate (Dako 1919, 205). Many years later this writer was deeply moved during research at the Boston Public Library to find between the pages of a book, a letter dated 1908, written from Sofia, addressed to Sotir Peci in Boston. Inadvertently he had forgotten this letter left as a bookmark between the pages of an ex­ tremely significant volume. It was Jehay's De la Situation Legale des Sujets Ottomans non-Mussulmans (Of the Legal Situation of non-Muslim Sub­ jects of Turkey). How stirring to let one's imagination picture this zealous expatriate in Boston struggling day and night to realize the human rights then denied to his oppressed countrymen! Eventually, however, he became convinced that military action would be needed to effect Albania's in­ dependence from Turkey. Stirring poems like the following appeared in his paper (Liria 9 October 1981, 1). Zër' i trumbetës buçet, buçet, Për luftë djemtë ajo thërret; Se erdhi ditë Shqipërisë Të shkundë zgjedhën e robërisë.

The voice of the trumpet re­ sounds, resounds, It calls young men to war; For a day has come for Albania To shake off the yoke of slavery.

In November 1908 Peci participated in the "Alphabet Congress" of Monastir as a representative of the Albanian communities in the United States, for whom he was granted three votes. There he came to realize that he was needed in the homeland more than in the United States. For several


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

years thereafter he dedicated himself to the Elbasan Normal School and the cause of higher education in the emerging free Albania. Fan S. Noli Heads a N ationalized Albanian O rthodox Church. On 10 May 1906, Fan S. Noli (1882-1965), a 24-year-old Albanian born near Adrianople, Turkey, abandoned schoolteaching in the Albanian colony of Alexandria, Egypt, to settle in the Albanian colony of Jamestown, New York. Albanian-Americans everywhere were in ferment because a promi­ nent businessman and patriot in Korcha named Spiro Kosturi had been secretly targeted and murdered in Salonica because he had asked that the wedding service of his brother be conducted in the Albanian instead of the Greek language (Dako 1919, 53-54). A great memorial service and protest meeting was planned in Boston, and the newcomer schoolteacher from Egypt was invited as the principal speaker. Constantine Demo recalled the event. The people flocked from all around. The Natick delegation, 82 strong, came by special car. As they alighted at Park Square snow began to fall. They marched two-by-two to the meeting place, with Sotir Noke in front, carrying the American flag. Attached to the side of the American flag was a pocket-size Albanian flag, hand-painted from the picture postal card of Prince Aladro Kastrioti, by Miss Anna Howe. She was a Sunday School teacher in the Natick Congregational Church, where many Albanian boys learned to read and write English. . . . The tiny flag, like a child taking its first steps, seemed to be holding tight for guidance and protection under the Stars and Stripes, as it paraded proudly through the streets of Boston for the first time, carrying our hopes high for a better future. The meeting place on Washington Street was jammed. Every colony was represented. The principal speaker was to be that new Albanian from Misiri [Egypt], Fan Noli. After hearing his ovation on Spiro Kosturi, the crowd gave him an ova­ tion which literally rocked the building. Never before or since have I heard anything to equal it. Immediately the people chose him unanimously and overwhelmingly as their leader. . . . The second important thing happen­ ing that day was the sending of telegrams and cablegrams to the great na­ tions, protesting the cruelties that were taking place in Albania. From that day on, the Albanians in America were acting as a group, under a vigorous leadership [Liria 25 November 1977, 4].

Noli moved to Boston in 1907 to work with Peci on his weekly news­ paper Kom bi. Those were difficult days. There were few paying subscrib­ ers. By the end of the year the editors owed $485, a huge sum in those days. Peci and Noli appealed to the Natick colony, those zealous patriots raising the money to pay the debt. It has been reported that in those days of hum­ ble beginnings, Noli and Peci had to share a single overcoat between them, taking turns wearing it. Demo described that pioneer operation. It took three people to print K o m b i: Peci, Noli and an important cog in the wheel, Efthim Natsi. He was the typesetter, the "printer's devil" and

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


the press pumper combined. You see, it was a unique press: it was operated by foot power. Picture if you can Noli on the right feeding the press, Efthim in the middle pumping it and bobbing up and down to print the pages, and Peci on the left taking out the finished product. Ah, those were the happy days! [Liria 15 December 1982, 2].

That same year, 1907, Noli founded the patriotic society Besa-Besën (Oath of Loyalty) in Boston. In 1909 K om bi was discontinued and the Albanian-language newspaper Dielli (The Sun) began publication as the news organ of the Besa-Besën society. Fan Noli served as its editor, using Kombi's press and type. In 1912 a Committee of Federation was formed in America to unite all the scattered Albanian societies into one federation. That 28 April the Vatra (Hearth) society was proclaimed as the umbrella organization, also called the Pan-Albanian Federation, with Fan Noli as its secretary and Dielli as its news organ. Its announced purpose originally was that the four Albanian vilayets be given administrative autonomy within the Turkish empire, but this was soon changed to full independence. Vatra made an incalculably great contribution to scattered Albanian immigrants, informing them of the troubled situation in Albania, conserving their ethnic heritage, and coordinating their supportive action on behalf of the motherland. Soon the organization had over 50 branches throughout the United States and Canada. On 20 July 1913, Kristo Dako was elected its president. But a cruel situation was then coming to a head. Our historian Demo described how the strong arm of the Greek Orthodox Church functioned even in the New World to crush the emerging Albanian identity. Four deaths had occurred in our midst in the years 1901-1907: one from Treska, two from Stratoberdha and the fourth from Katund, and the Greek Church had refused to bury our dead. We were forced to take them to Lowell, Massachusetts for burial, and Lowell in those days seemed very far away. There a Syrian priest said their last rites in a Syrian church. . . . When another death occurred in the Marlboro-Hudson colony, the Greek Church this time not only refused to bury the man, but went so far as to persuade Orthodox churches of other nationalities to do likewise. And the young patriotic Albanian, Kristaq Dishnica, was laid to rest in a Worcester, Massachusetts cemetery without benefit of clergy from the Church of his belief. When this became known through the Albanian press, the Albanians from all sections of the country rose as one, and in righteous anger demanded a clean and absolute break from the Greek O r­ thodox Church [Liria 25 November 1977, 4).

Incidentally, the Greek priest in 1907 refused the 20-year-old Greek Or­ thodox Albanian a Christian funeral on the ground that he and his Alba­ nian friends were Turks and not Orthodox Christians (Liria 5 December 1975, 3). Providentially, the schoolteacher Fan Noli had been a church cantor


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

since boyhood and was familiar with church history and Orthodox canon law. Asked to lead the movement for an Albanian Orthodox Church, he translated the Greek liturgy into beautiful Albanian and placed himself under the episcopal supervision of the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Plato. On 8 March 1908 that prelate ordained Noli to the priesthood at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York City. The very first divine liturgy in the Albanian language in the very long history of the Orthodox Church was celebrated 22 March at the rented Knights of Honor hall on Tremont Street, Boston. Present at that service, the historian Demo wrote, "Our eyes were filled with tears" (Liria 15 November 1983, 1). Thus it was that in this land of religious freedom there began the phenomenal career of Fan Noli, who helped so much in shaping a new nation. That same "Sunday of Orthodoxy," Albanian Orthodox worshippers of the Boston region organized their Saint George Cathedral. For some time this community worshipped in various rented halls but in 1922 purchased a Swedish church building on Emerald Street. Then in 1951 the community of Saint George bought and adapted the congregational church building on Hudson Street. This building had been partially constructed in 1872 by pro­ ceeds from Julia Ward Howe's anti-slavery composition, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Interestingly enough, her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, as a young man had fought against the Turks in the Greek War of Independence. Another happy coincidence: it was that same year, 1872, that in distant Constantinople Kristoforidhi published his Albanian translation of the New Testament —the very book which later captured the heart and mind of young Fan Noli and moved him toward his brilliant ec­ clesiastical career (Liria 15 November 1983, 1). Other Albanian communities formed their own Albanian Orthodox churches, meeting in rented halls or in Russian churches while having no church buildings of their own. The first church building in the New World built by Albanian Christians was at Southbridge, Massachusetts, in 1912. Other churches followed this lead in due time. Chekrezi noted that religious differences between Christian and Muslim Albanians were quite subor­ dinated to their common love of country. Many Muslim Albanians made liberal contributions to the national Albanian Orthodox churches, hun­ dreds of them even belonging to it (Chekrezi 1919, 229). So it was that in the United States thousands of Albanians found what they had so desperately lacked and had sought in their own country. They found freedom to live wherever they would, work where they wished, associate freely in Albanian patriotic societies, establish their own Albanian-language newspapers, teach their children the Albanian language, and even worship in their own Albanian churches using their Albanian language. It was natural that these sturdy pioneers enthusiastic­ ally determined to prosecute the struggle for similar freedoms in their homeland. In fact, Chekrezi asserted that of all the overseas communities of Albanians, "it is the Albanians of America who have made the largest

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


contributions to the growth of nationalism, and to the intellectual develop­ ment of their native country" (ibid., 227-28). Their newspapers, letters and visits fired a longing for the same freedoms in Albania. A lbanian L iterature Smuggled to the P eople as C ontraband

An accurate indicator of the increasing public interest in the Albanian language is the publication within a few years of four excellent Albanian grammar books. One was published in Florence in Italian (1870) by Girolamo De Rada of the Albanian community in Italy. Next was the Gram atika e Gjuhës Shqipe in Greek published in 1882 by Kostandin Kristoforidhi. Then there was the grammar of Sami Frashëri (1886) in Al­ banian, published in Bucharest. And in 1887 Pashko Vasa of Shkodra published in London an Albanian grammar in the French language. The swelling stream of ethnic literature coming into the country very naturally enraged the officials of both the Turkish government and the Greek Or­ thodox Church. A fascinating but futile effort to disarm the opposition was detailed by a colleague in his biography of the patriot Naim Frashëri, published just one year after his death. Hoping to win official favor for their Albanian project, the society in Istanbul prepared a beautifully bound and gilded copy of the Albanian primer, using its special alphabet. A courageous Albanian soldier presented the beautiful book to the sultan. The sultan asked the musketeer if he knew how to read those characters. Upon hearing his affirmative, the sultan replied, "After one week let us see who can read the better, you or I!" The waiting Albanian patriots rejoiced exceedingly when they heard the soldier's report. But before many days passed, they learned that the same sultan who had spoken such honeyed words had also given an order to the post offices and customs houses not to pass a single Albanian book. Instead they must be confiscated and destroyed. The Greek Orthodox patriarch also pronounced a curse upon Alba­ nian literature and threatened with excommunication any of the faithful who would dare to read it. These two historic enemies now collaborated in prosecuting and imprisoning any person caught with the Albanian-language material. Sami Bey Frashëri, leader of the Bashkimi Society in Istan­ bul, and his brother Naim Bey Frashëri, foremost patriotic poet, were punished by exile. Abdyl, their elder brother, continued service with Bashkimi, although they had to remove its headquarters to Bucharest. How then could this Albanian literature produced abroad reach Al­ banians within the hostile empire? Handled like contraband, the forbidden material reached Albanians through peaceful but determined men like the storekeeper, Musa Chakerri (Berberi). He was born in Vlora in 1862. The League of Prizren awakened his concern for the furtherance of the language and national identity of Albania. In his little store he collected all the Al­ banian books, periodicals and newspapers which came to him secretly from patriots in Sofia, Bucharest, Istanbul and Egypt. His store became an


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

undercover propaganda center and meeting place for patriots of the area. When three or four patriots gathered there, they would read aloud the ar­ ticles, editorials or poems in Albanian, but quietly lest they be overheard from outside. His store and home were frequently raided, and he was im­ prisoned repeatedly. Finally, at 43 the incorrigible patriot was murdered in the streets of Vlora by agents of the Turkish government (1905). The Albanian newspaper Drita of Sofia mourned the death of Musa Berberi of Vlora. It called him one of the foremost disseminators of Albanian-language literature. Another has estimated that through these smuggled materials Musa had enabled more than a thousand boys and girls to read their mother tongue (Liria 16 June 1978, 1). Surely the overseas patriotic societies helped secure Albanian independence by producing this wealth of literature, then smuggling it past hostile Ottoman border guards to increasingly eager Albanian readers. THE E X P L O SIO N OF A LBA N IA N ISM T he C ongress of M onastir , called the "A lphabet C ongress" (1908)

The Young Turks' constitutional promises of greater freedom meant much to all the ethnic groups of their Balkan empire, but especially to the Albanians who had been the most severely oppressed. Enthusiastically they implemented those promises of religious liberty, free use of the Albanian language, the opening of Albanian schools, and freedom of the press. But patriots who were attempting to unify their people found them hopelessly fragmented. There were several unavoidable factors. First, this was the deliberate "divide and conquer" strategy of the Ottoman government. It was the inevitable result of the feudal and tribal societal structure prevail­ ing in Albania. It was also the consequence of the foreign orientation of Albania's various religious blocs, promoting the Turkish, Greek, Italian and German languages instead of the Albanian. Then there were the two regional dialects: Geg and Tosk. Finally, patriots attempting to unify their people by promoting literacy in their mother tongue found their problem compounded by the use of several different alphabets for expressing the Albanian language. For instance, Muslim schools —if they taught the Albanian language at all —would use Arabic characters as they did in Turkish. Greek Or­ thodox schools would naturally use Greek characters, and writers trained there would express their Albanian words with Greek letters. Durham has described how patriotic Catholic priests wished for a simple system using only Latin letters, but Austrian Catholic schools were deliberately saddled with a "brand-new system swarming with accents, with several fancy let­ ters, and with innumerable mute ee's printed upside down, producing a startling effect, as of pages and pages of uncorrected proofs!" (Durham 1909, 10-11). She was sure that this system was introduced to split the

A lbania’s Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


native clergy into pro-Italian and pro-Austrian parties so as to avoid a unified language and people. During the development of Albanian-language literature, many differ­ ent alphabets had been devised. One of the most recent was that developed at Istanbul. It was generally conceded, however, that because of its several non-Latin symbols it did not prove altogether acceptable for the produc­ tion of Albanian literature or for use in a nationwide school system. So the active and idealistic Bashkimi society of Monastir, encouraged by the freedoms assured by the recently proclaimed constitution, called the first widely representative congress to discuss and adopt a uniform alphabet. Bashkimi invited the delegates to work for the progress and happiness of Albania "not with powder and with weapons, but with paper and pen" (Leka 1937, 350-51). A standardized alphabet would be but the beginning. So they convened the one-week Congress of Monastir, or the "Alphabet Congress," on 14 November 1908. There were 150 delegates present, coming from various parts of Albania, as well as from Albanian communities in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, America and elsewhere. They elected as their presi­ dent Midhat Bey Frashëri, son of the distinguished Abdyl who had presided at Prizren. Midhat Frashëri served at the time as the editor of two reviews published then at Salonica: Liria (Freedom) and Dituria (Knowledge). The Bible Society representative Gjergj Kyrias as vice president and the Protes­ tant pastor of Korcha, Rev. Grigor Tsilka, both served on the 11-man Alphabet Commission (ibid., 355-59). Parashqevi Kyrias of the Korcha Girls' School served as its secretary. She was the only female delegate to be seated at Monastir, and the first woman in history to take part in a pan-Albanian forum (Liria 15 April 1986, 3). Kristo Dako attending the Congress reported, "Learned Albanians representing all classes of people: Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox and Prot­ estants, came together like brothers. Patriotic speeches and literary ad­ dresses were delivered. . . . Academic discussions were carried on as though they were life-members of some European academy" (Dako 1919, 89). Mrs. Phineas Kennedy, an American missionary from Korcha present as an observer, reported on the Franciscan poet Gjergj Fishta (1871-1940) as follows: "The best address was delivered by a Roman Catholic priest from Shkodra, his words drawing tears from the eyes of all his hearers. A Moslem hodja [priest] was so affected that he rushed forward to embrace him before the whole audience" (PBK 3 December 1908, 1). The congress resolved by unanimous vote to recommend to all Alba­ nians that they discontinue use of the Istanbul alphabet with its ten unique symbols and write their language thereafter only with the Latin alphabet. The alphabet worked out at Monastir consisted of 36 Latin letters and letter combinations and remains in use virtually unchanged to the present day. It was agreed also to hold a second congress at Yanina in two years to con­ sider orthographic and literary problems, also to attempt to unite the Geg


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

and Tosk dialects into a uniform Albanian language. Inasmuch as the Al­ banian language before this had usually been expressed in the Turkish (Arabic), Greek or even Slavic characters, or modifications of these, the determination of these delegates to face westward was clearly a cultural declaration of independence not lost on either the Ottoman government or the Greek Orthodox Church. Nor could anyone have dreamed that in 1928 Mustafa Kemal would require Turkey to write its own language in Latin letters, following the precedent set by its vassal state Albania. The nine-day congress also agreed on the development of the Albanian printing press at Monastir under the direction of Gjergj Kyrias for the production and diffu­ sion of Albanian literature. N dre M jeda (1866-1937), P oet and Patriot

Another prominent participant at the "Alphabet Congress" was the Jesuit scholar, poet and patriot originating in Shkodra, Ndre Mjeda. Dur­ ing higher studies abroad he became acquainted with several celebrated Albanologists. Their scientific study of the Albanian language became the central theme of much of his scholarly research and poetry. In 1892 he dedicated his famous poem "The Albanian Language" to the outstanding Austrian scholar Gustav Meyer. He sang its praises with these words: "Sweeter than the song of the nightingale/ the Albanian language sounds./ More than the scent of hyacinths/ it fills my heart with joy" (NAlb 1989, 4:16). Living in several foreign countries and learning to speak in 13 foreign languages, he yet preferred his own mother tongue: "Among other nations, in other lands/ where I have lived so long,/ only for you my sad heart throbs/ and tears of nostalgia fall./ All these languages I have heard/ are beautiful in themselves. / But still for me, like the glowing sun/ you emerge above them all" (ibid., 17). He analyzed existing alphabets and devised a new one, eight of his 13 proposals being adopted by the Congress of Monastir. He also collected vocabularies, legends and proverbs. He wrote exten­ sively on linguistic problems. He sought to unify the Geg and Tosk dialects, basing his compromise on the speech of Elbasan. He opened Albanian schools in the northern mountain regions, published textbooks and dic­ tionaries and envisioned a uniform language as the vehicle for unifying northerners and southerners. "Rally, brothers, unite/ under Albania's flag. / Of one blood, one race are we, / Of one homeland, one history. / Geg or Tosk, mountains or plains/ one nation undivided. / From end to end of Albania/ one language unites us all" (ibid., 16). T he A lbanian P ress at M onastir

This Albanian press of Monastir was actually financed by a group of Muslim beys, influential businessmen and patriots. They were fearful of the Young Turks, however, and discussed ordinary press business "as though they were conspirators engaged in some secret intrigue against the govern-

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


ment of the land" (Hodgson 1911, 269). The director of operations was Gjergj Kyrias, whose brother Gerasim had founded the Kyrias School for Girls at Korcha. Their determination to proceed immediately with the im­ plementation of the Monastir Congress decisions is evident from cor­ respondence with Gjergj Kyrias dated that September 1908. Kyrias' correspondent was one Shaban Blloshmi, a 26-year-old patriot whose guerrilla exploits throughout the Shkumbin River basin combined with his promotion of the Albanian-language primer to earn him the popular title of "outlaw teacher." The salutation of his letter to Kyrias in­ cluded the following unique greeting: "I kiss the eyes of your son for the freedom of the Albanian language." He continued, 'Today as freedom has been given to our land, our language is progressing. Everybody has begun to learn, but we are bad off because we have no primers. I beg you ear­ nestly, either by a special man or by the post which comes to Qukës to send me some primers and books, and weekly the newspapers which are now printed" (Liria 1 August 1989, 4). The Monastir press quickly became known throughout the country as a distributor of Albanian-language books and newspapers. The plant itself employed 17 men and boys. They depended on one new hand-fed electricpowered press to print a weekly newspaper, Bashkim' i K om bit (National Unity), also government documents, Albanian primers and school text­ books. The Muslim sponsors were sympathetic to the ethnic language pro­ gram of the Bible Society and cooperated by publishing the Christian Scriptures in Albanian. An earlier product of 1902 was the important 320-page Hristomathi edited by Gjergj Kyrias, but actually printed in Sofia. Designed for Alba­ nian schools and homes, it contained poems, songs, dialogs and readings acclaiming the school, wisdom, home, family, nature, homeland, temper­ ance, honesty and kindness. Like the famous McGuffey Readers, virtually every selection in part one referred to God, and this section concluded, "God grant that each son and daughter of Albania/ become wholeheartedly a slave of wisdom" (Kyrias, Gj. 1902, 60). The section of "Dialogs" included a discussion of the Ten Commandments (ibid., 165-66) and a debate: "Can Education without the Gospel Improve the World?" (ibid., 177-82). Ten of the songs in that section were standard hymns translated by Kyrias from his Bulgarian hymn book. Soon thereafter in 1906 Kyrias printed at his Monastir press a collection of hymns and sacred songs, 61 of them translated or written by him, 45 by his brother Gerasim. After the proclamation of the Constitution (1908), the Bashkimi so­ ciety of Monastir began publication of the four Gospels in the national characters. In 1909 they published an excellent 16-page booklet entitled "Ini­ tial Truths for the Salvation of the Spirit." But that same year the Turkish government reversed itself and closed down all Albanian printing presses. Earlier apprehension about the continued operation of the Monastir press was well justified. For when Hodgson of the Bible Society office at Constan-


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

tinople inspected the plant in mid-1911 he reported, "All Albanian schools have been ruthlessly closed, persistent attempts have never ceased to pro­ scribe the Albanian language and to suppress all Albanian literature. . . . The unhappy political situation . . . may at any moment burst into flame" (Hodgson 1911, 269). C ooperation of A thanas S ina in T ranslation and C olportage

When the Albanian press was established, God had already providen­ tially prepared the needed translator. Athanas Sina, a native of Postenani of Leskovik, had already served as teacher at the Korcha Boys' School, also as a Bible Society colporter since 1888. In addition, he was considered a very proficient Albanian scholar (PBK, letter to Barton, 20 June 1908). Col­ laborating with members of the distinguished Frashëri family and with the Bible Society at Constantinople, he had already prepared several biblical books for the press. Government censorship banned the books as a danger to the state. But now Sina proceeded to Monastir where he worked closely with Gjergj Kyrias, the Bible Society depositary there and a small company of assistants. They undertook the preparation in Albanian of the entire Old and New testaments (Hodgson 1913, 358-59). Under the care of Sina, the Albanian revision made excellent progress. The New Testament was com­ pleted and issued from the Monastir press in 1912. Translations were made of many of the books of the Old Testament not yet in print and prepared for the press. The entire Bible was within sight of completion. Then came the Balkan War and the occupation of Monastir by the Serbs. The unhappy population, predominantly Albanian, was at the mercy of the Serbs and Croats. They shut down the press and closed the book depot. Colportage activity came to a standstill, and the colporters scattered. Sina went back to Postenani and quietly continued his work on the biblical texts. The Serbs caught Elias with his books, which showed a British connection, so threw him into prison as a dangerous character, eventually forcing him to do hard labor. He eventually recuperated from his terrible ordeal by sheltering at the Orthodox convent of St. John near Elbasan. The other colporters simply disappeared for the duration. Upon Sina's eventual retirement from active colportage work, his son Pandeli Sina continued that work for several years. T he Y ll ' i M ëngjezit (M orning Star ) S ociety for W omen (1909)

This Yll' i Mëngjezit Society was the first known society organized for Albanian women. It was founded at Korcha in January 1909 by Parashqevi Kyrias, graduate of the American College for Women at Constantinople, who was teaching at the Korcha Girls' School directed by her sister Sevasti. The stated purpose of the society was to spread education among Albanian women and to assist poor girls to get an education. Accordingly, the so­ ciety held weekly meetings and lectures at the Kyrias School, as well as con­ ducting literacy classes for women twice a week. Almost immediately it

Albania's N onviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


enrolled 100 women, including many prominent families of Korcha. Enroll­ ment eventually reached over 500. The direction of their programming must have been as obvious to the civil authorities as it was to the members. In early February 1910, for in­ stance, the Kyrias School girls presented a drama, William Tell, for the people of Korcha. To help interpret the play, the Austrian villains were dressed like Turks, the Swiss heroes like Albanians. National songs were sung, some of them composed by Parashqevi Kyrias herself, and short speeches were given. The next day the Protestant pastor, Rev. Grigor Tsilka, was summoned by the police for questioning, but he was later released. Then the president of the society, Miss Parashqevi, was sum­ moned to appear before the court. It was reported as follows: On the assigned date Miss Kyrias accompanied by Rev. Tsilka and by the kav ass [bodyguard] went to the court, where she was put in the criminal dock to be questioned. Finally she was sentenced to a fine. The purpose of the suit evidently was to intimidate her, and so force her to resign rather than to be summoned to appear before the court. For a woman this was considered to be a disgrace. But the daring President is an exceptionally brave little thing [Dako 1919, 93-94],

She appealed the case to Monastir and even to Constantinople, where she was acquitted on 2 May 1910. Soon branches of the society appeared in all the important towns of Albania. They did much for the secret distribution of Albanian-language papers and books and in arousing patriotic sen­ timent. The continuing existence of the society was precarious, however. Following its suppression by the government, a front-page article in the Korcha newspaper heralded the good news: "With great joy we announce that the Literary Society for Albanian Women Y//' i Mëngjezit, which was officially recognized by the Government, began once again on 27 February, 1912, where over one hundred women attended" (K oha 7 June 1912, 1-2). A program committee was elected and announced "the weekly meeting usually featuring a speaker, followed by useful discussions." It was also an­ nounced that two other meetings were held each week when members who do not know how to read and write Albanian could receive instruction from members who were teachers. Mrs. Sevasti Kyrias Dako now served as president. The article closed with an exhortation to women not to think that they were powerless to accomplish things. "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world!" Meetings were held in the American School regu­ larly until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. T he O rthodox League (1909)

The Orthodox League or Lidhja Ortodokse was founded in Korcha on 1 February 1909, under the leadership of the former guerrilla chieftain Mihal Grameno, now the distinguished editor of the patriotic newspaper


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

K oha (Time). This movement was inspired by the nationalized Albanian Orthodox Church organized just one year earlier in the United States. The league's main purpose was to oblige the patriarch to abandon his deter­ mined policy of Hellenizing the Albanian Orthodox population and to secure the use of the Albanian instead of the Greek language in at least part of the Orthodox Church liturgy and in all the Orthodox schools in the country. If these concessions were not to be realized, the league proposed the formation of an independent or autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church. Such had been accomplished long before by the Bulgarians and very recently by their compatriots in the United States. Branches of the league were soon established in Berat, Elbasan, Durrës, Yanina and elsewhere. Enthusiasm built rapidly. On 6 April "large printed notices were posted upon the doors of the Greek Orthodox Church and elsewhere in Korcha announcing that a national Albanian Orthodox Church had been started" (PBK, letter to Erickson, 6 April 1909). Certainly the announce­ ment was a bit premature. The demand for the use of the Albanian language in the Greek Or­ thodox services grew rapidly, even out in the villages. The weekly newspaper Dielli (Sun) in Boston reported (18 June 1909, 3) that residents of Treni and Progri, a few miles distant from Korcha, decided that they would not receive the Bishop in their churches until he gave permission to have the mass said in Albanian. In the two villages therefore they said as much of the reading as they could in Albanian, such as the Gospel, the Creed, etc. But the priest of Treni thought otherwise, and cursed his sheep who wanted to leave the Hellenist fold. Then the village drove out the priest. The Bishop tried to bring his wandering sheep back to their senses with a big notebook, where the elders of the village would sign that they were Hellenists. Progri was deceived and did not keep its word, and was rewarded. But little Treni with 50 houses did not receive the Bishop, and would not sign the notebook. Thus Treni re­ mained without a priest! A man died. They sought a priest from the Bishop to bury the dead. But the Bishop refused, and the man was buried without a priest. The Treni families in America, however, held a funeral mass in Natick, Massachusetts for the deceased patriot, whom the Greek fanatics had left to be buried without the last rites of his religion.

Fanatical violence frequently erupted over the language question. Bab Dudë Karbunara (1842-1917) was born and brought up Orthodox in Berat, completing his studies in Trieste. He worked rather closely with Kostandin Kristoforidhi. Despite the threats of his ecclesiastical superiors, he fre­ quently read the Gospel in Albanian during his celebration of the mass, even chanting the Psalms in his mother tongue. Fanatics sprinkled his home with kerosene and burned him out in 1895. Neighbors helped rescue the family, but he lost virtually everything else. A patriot, he was one of the founders of the Bashkimi Society there and a delegate to the historic Con­ gress of Vlora in 1912.

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


Equally dramatic violence broke out elsewhere. Papa Kristo Harallambi Negovani was another Albanian patriot priest of the Greek Or­ thodox Church. He was born in 1875 in Negovan, a village near Fiorina. While teaching school for a few years, he secretly included instruction in the Albanian language. Working in Romania three years, he was inspired by the patriotic society there entitled Djalëria (Youth). Becoming a priest back in his native Negovan, he taught Albanian in an evening school, translated liturgical books and encouraged the use of the mother tongue. Threatened and even imprisoned at Monastir, he would not keep silent. One dark night, 12 February 1905, the 30-year-old Papa Kristo was cut to pieces in the street with knives and hatchets, the assassins allegedly sent by his own bishop. A poet of the time, Loni Logori, left this lament (Liria 25 April 1980, 4): Papa Kriston e vranë, Dhe s'ra për të një këmbanë. Por malet e Shqipërisë Dhe shpellat e malësisë Thërrisnin an'e mb'anë: Papa Kriston e vranë!

They killed Father Kristo, And not a church bell tolled for him. But the mountains of Albania And the caves of the highlands Were crying from every direction: They killed Father Kristo!

That same night his brother, Rev. Theodos Harallambi Negovani, was also killed. Five years later his 30-year-old nephew, Rev. Vasil Gjorgji Negovani, became tragically involved in the controversy. He had translated two or three books of liturgy into Albanian, but did not live long enough to see them in print. For the village of Negovan decided that they would have a compromise: hearing the mass in turn, one Sunday in Alba­ nian, the next in Greek. The Greek priest would not hear of this, however, and caused a violent quarrel among parishioners inside the church. During the tumult the Greek priest was killed and Papa Vasil severely injured. He was taken to the infirmary of the prison at Monastir, where he died on 16 January 1910. Bashkim i i Kom bit, the weekly patriotic newspaper of Monastir, detailed the tragic story (21 January 1910, 1). A large patriotic funeral was accorded him. Greek sentiment remained so strong in the Orthodox Church that when Rev. Stathi Melani, pastor of the Albanian Orthodox Church at Southbridge, Massachusetts, visited Albania on 24 December 1918, and celebrated mass in the Albanian language, he lost his life. The Liria newspaper of Boston (1 March 1983, 2) carried the story of one Apostol Kotani. His murderers cut off his head so that they might collect their reward. It was not until 1921 that Rev. Vasil Marko of the Al­ banian community in St. Louis, Missouri, succeeded in celebrating the mass in Albanian for the first time at the Cathedral of St. George in Korcha.


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

T he Educational C ongress of Elbasan (1909)

It became increasingly apparent to all patriotic Albanians that they could never realize their lofty purposes unless and until they established Albanian schools for the formation of their youth. Until that hour their youth had been exposed to foreign propaganda in schools maintained by the Turkish government or the Greek Orthodox Church, both of which were fanatically opposed to the Albanian language and to any patriotic sen­ timent. Yet patriots considering the establishment of their own school system faced three great problems: hindrances from Greek and Turkish authorities, their lack of money and the lack of trained teachers. The new constitution of the Young Turks reduced the opposition of the authorities. Helpful although inadequate sums of money had been gathered here and there within the country and larger amounts from Albanian societies and clubs in other countries. But very few adequately trained teachers were available who could teach in the Albanian language. To face this educational challenge, the Albanian Club of Salonica called another congress for 20 to 27 August 1909 to meet this time in Elbasan, the heartland of Albania. Sevasti Kyrias was invited to represent the pioneer girls' school at Korcha. Twenty-eight Albanian societies and clubs sent delegates to this eight-day conference designed to foster an educational movement throughout the country. There it was agreed to found a normal school at Elbasan, with a six-year course to train young men as teachers. Men educated in European universities were located to form the faculty. Needed funds were subscribed by the various clubs. The Monastir Club was designated as the center for the encouragement of a federation of Albanian clubs throughout Albania and elsewhere. Their stated purpose was declared to be the spread of the Albanian language and education without interfering in politics. The Korcha club Përparimi (Pro­ gress) was named the financial center to handle contributions and oversee the multiplication of day and evening schools. The support of the Normal School at Elbasan was its primary responsibility and its major concern. The congress urged all Albanians to put the Albanian language into the foreign schools found throughout the country. On 18 November 1909 the directors of Përparimi addressed a call for material help to all Albanian patriots everywhere. The call was not very subtle. It announced boldly, "To sup­ port the Normal School three things are necessary: money, money and yet more money" (Drita 28 November 1937, 15). The Normal School at Elbasan did open that very December with an enrollment of 143 students (ibid., 5; Dako 1919, 156). Members of the Al­ banian Club of Uskup, for instance, sent eight of their young men. Other clubs did likewise. Instruction in Albanian, Turkish and French was obligatory, Greek and English being optional. Three months later the periodical Tomori, edited by the Elbasan patriot and merchant Lef Nosi (10 March 1910), carried an article on the enthusiasm of nationalists for the

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


school and the sacrifices of professors who give up "relaxation and rest in the daytime, and quietness and sleep in the nighttime." The following June another article raised the question, "How can we assure the life of the Nor­ mal School?" It proposed the sale of "patriotic cigarette papers" to benefit the school and a penny a month from every Albanian. One can only imag­ ine the meager level of living of the many to whom this support program was proposed. But with or without adequate funding, the Normal School at Elbasan continued to prepare the educational pioneers for the emerging Albania. Later it would bear the name of its first director, Luigj Gurakuqi. T he C ultural Explosion

The Young Turks' promise of cultural autonomy for the Albanians brought a great surge forward. The first newspaper in Albania to use the Albanian language was K oha (Time), which began weekly publication in Korcha on 28 December 1908. The patriot Mihal Grameno served as editor, with the close collaboration of Hil Mosi. They proposed to cover political, cultural and commercial concerns. The paper was received enthusiastically throughout the whole country. The publication of other newspapers and periodicals in the Albanian language soon began in Monastir, Salonica, Elbasan, Shkodra, Yanina and elsewhere. It was as though a dam had broken and released a flood of long-pent-up water. Consider the following: "During the first ten months of the Constitutional Government, four na­ tional Congresses were held, sixty-six national clubs were formed, thirtyfour day schools and twenty-four night schools were opened, fifteen literary societies and three musical societies were formed, four printing presses were established, and eleven newspapers began publication" (Dako 1919, 78). Research indicates that including overseas Albanian colonies, there was at this time a total of 90 Albanian newspapers and magazines in production (Liria 15 November 1983, 3). THE Y OU NG T U R K S U P P R E S S I O N OF THE C UL T UR AL A W AK EN I NG This explosion of Albanianism far exceeded anything that the Young Turks had anticipated. It gave them second thoughts, and a harsh reaction set in. Turkish officials attempted to contain the rapidly expanding na­ tionalistic movement. First they forbade Albanian societies, schools and publications. Dismayed and disillusioned at this reversal, a patriot sent this gloomy report from Durrës in June 1909: In Tirana a club which opened is now half-closed, for no one dares come near it because of the Young Turks. In Kruja, the city of Skanderbeg, they want to open a society, but are waiting. In Shkodra they had one, and it was closed, but they are thinking of opening it again. As for Vlora it is getting worse and worse. Honored patriots are being seized and exiled. As many as can do so escape to Italy. Those who cannot go, hide themselves, or flee to the mountains. In the city now a man hardly dares call himself


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

an Albanian. The school at Vlora was closed; the director M r. Leoni Naçi fled for his life. The club L abëria is dying out. It is believed that the time has come to rise up, for otherwise the Young Turks with their leader Ferid Pasha will strip the hide off all honorable Albanians with manly character [Dielli 18 June 1909, 1],

But things would get worse before they got better. The increasing prominence of the Albanian language expressed with Latin letters pro­ voked the more conservative and ignorant Muslims. They protested that Albanian like Turkish should be written only with the holy Arabic characters and that the patriotic preference for Western letters for writing constituted a disparagement of the Muslim religion. Some holding this point of view formed a society in Istanbul called Mahfeli to seek govern­ ment support for their cause. They denounced as traitors all who would use Latin letters for the Albanian language and petitioned that such persons should be expelled from Turkey (Leka 1937, 388). Toward the close of 1909 the Ottoman government forbade the use of the Albanian language with "national characters" in all the government schools of the country. It also decreed that the Albanian language should thereafter be written only in the Arabic script then used for the Turkish language. The reactionary Mahfeli society with government support then printed and distributed Albanian primers using the Arabic characters. Albanian patriots protested this threat to national progress. Thus in February 1910 a protest meeting was held in Elbasan with 7,000 persons protesting the use of foreign characters for their Albanian language. A larger protest rally was reported on 27 February from Korcha, involving 12,000 persons. Then a yet larger gathering of 15,000 persons was held at Berat. In protest against the Arabic characters they burned in the city square the Albanian-language primers with Arabic script which had been sent from Istanbul. Telegrams from the Albanian societies of Salonica, Uskup and Monastir defended the use of the Albanian rather than the Arabic alphabet. In Shkodra a Muslim group prepared to hold a rally supporting the use of Arabic characters. They reconsidered, however, when Catholics of the highlands promised to counter with a rally of 60,000 demanding the Latin characters. So yet another telegram interpreted the regional sentiment. In Kolonja 1,500 persons in national costume demanded the Albanian alphabet. Similar protests took place at Përmet, Frashëri, Tepelena and Konitza of Chamëria. The protests were in vain. So a second Congress of Monastir was called for March 1910. There it was determined to continue the use of the national alphabet and to continue to protest the unjust action of the government (Kalendari 1911, 18-19). The patriotic newspaper Shkreptima (Lightning) of Cairo published a memorandum composed by guerrillas who had taken to the Albanian mountains. They explained that their purpose was not to plunder or to kill,

Albania's Nonviolent Revolution: Its Cultural Renaissance


but to fight for the following: (1) a pardon for Albanian political prisoners; (2) freedom for education in the Albanian language and with the national alphabet; (3) freedom to open all Albanian schools closed by the govern­ ment and to operate the printing presses and publish the newspapers sup­ pressed by the government. The memorandum concluded, "Let the whole civilized world and especially the government of the Ottoman Empire know well and now that all Albanians, Tosk and Geg, will not stop fighting for these three demands until the government will agree to grant them to us with certainty" (Leka 1937, 473-74). Although this cultural revolution had been conceived as a nonviolent confrontation, it was rapidly becoming dangerously hot. The national poet Father Gjergj Fishta of Shkodra fanned the flame still hotter when he spoke at the fiftieth anniversary of the Shkolla Françeskane (1861-1911). Before the governor and other Turkish authorities he closed with these words: "Therefore, Albanians, of whatever religion,/ Geg and Tosk, in mountain and city. / Never leave your own language. / Don't leave it as long as you have life. / But always labor for it. / For as long as you keep your language, / your family, homeland and customs/ you can keep far dis­ tant the foot of the foreigner" (ibid., 480).

23. Declaration of Albanian Independence at Vlora (28 November 1912) ISM A IL KEM A L C R Y S T A L L IZ E S A LBA N IA N LO N G IN G S FO R IN D EPEN D EN CE With most of the Albanian countryside occupied by hostile troops, this seemed the worst of times. But at just such an hour the best of men assumed leadership. This was Ismail Kemal Bey of Vlora (1844-1919). Trained in law at Istanbul, serving as interpreter for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and appointed at 25 to the first of several governorships, his acute insights and innovative ideas led Sultan Abdyl Hamid to both respect and fear him. He was interned for seven years, yet he was repeatedly promoted. He was just 100 years ahead of the European Economic Community scheme when he proposed a similar commonwealth scheme to the sultan. To thwart the perennial Russian dream of acquiring Constantinople and a warm water seaport, Ismail Kemal proposed to the sultan the following in 1892: A useful policy for the present and for the future would be one that would tend to establish an entente between the Balkan states by the conclusion of a defensive alliance and an economic accord, the prelude to the con­ stitution of a great Oriental State. . . . The establishment of a free entente such as I suggest would give the peoples of each state the right to settle in any part of the great Empire, and to be considered as belonging to it, with freedom to undertake any enterprise they wished. Turkey would have the advantage of having reestablished her unity as a State with the old frontiers, but instead of having to devote all her resources to prevent­ ing the emancipation of the people . . . her strength would reside in the unity of the people for their mutual defense, and their resources would be devoted to the economic development of the Empire [D ielli 25 November 1988, 4].

Appointed governor of the Libyan province of Tripolitania in 1900, he learned of the conservative sultan's true intention to intern him again. He 320

Declaration o f Albanian Independence at Vlora (28 N ovem ber 1912)


realized the futility of his hopes of achieving Albanian autonomy indirectly by such a federation scheme as he had proposed. So he fled to Europe where in Paris and London he urged the powers to accept the idea of an autonomous Albania. His program was simple and direct: (1) the integrity of Albanian territory (especially Kosova, for northern Epirus was then part of Albania); (2) the opening of Albanian schools, with Albanian books us­ ing the Latin alphabet rather than the Arabic, Greek or Cyrillic letters sometimes used; (3) the economic development of the country, involving roads and a railway, also introduction of foreign companies and capital for exploiting of natural resources; and (4) broader administrative autonomy. Following his civil rehabilitation he was elected parliamentary represen­ tative from Vlora and Berat. However, the recall of the constitution by the Young Turks, their military dictatorship, their uncompromising Islamic nationalism, their repudiation of any commonwealth scheme, the outbreak of war against Turkey and finally the invasion of Albanian territory itself all combined to convince the 68-year-old statesman that he must not press toward autonomy within the Ottoman empire, but rather toward full indepen­ dence. He hastened to neutral Romania to consult with prominent Alba­ nian patriots in Bucharest on 5 November, then to Budapest to confer with ambassadors of the great powers. Encouraged, he with Luigj Gurakuqi, the legendary Isa Boletini and others took a ship from Trieste to beleaguered Durrës. To evade advancing Serbian army patrols, the Greek naval blockade and Turkish search parties, they proceeded to Vlora by horse­ back. There regional delegates summoned by telegraph from Bucharest and representing all parts of Albania gathered at Ismail Kemal's family home and birthplace. On 28 November 1912 the 83 gathered delegates constituted them­ selves a national convention. They unanimously proclaimed the indepen­ dence of Albania and elected Ismail Kemal as its provisional head. One week later on 6 December the Italian consul at Vlora sent a report to Rome commenting on this declaration of independence (Dielli 25 November 1988, 4): Until yesterday they remained disunited, even enemies, which could have condemned forever the existence of an Albanian nation. But they got rid of all antagonism, and gathered around a man quite superior for in­ telligence, experience and smartness, and struggled to save themselves by declaring their independence. . . . I was pessimistic and incredulous as long as possible. Now I believe I can declare that the Albanians should be supported.

On that day —the very day in 1443 when Skanderbeg was formally pro­ claimed head of the federated Albanian princes —Ismail Kemal on the balcony of his home raised the historic banner of Skanderbeg: the double­ headed black eagle on a blood-red field. Expressing the joy of all Albanians


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

at regaining their independence, the old veteran concluded his brief address with these words (Liria 15 November 1983, 1): Behold, then, this is our Flag, red and with the black two-headed eagle in the center. Now, all together, as one body united and indivisible, let us labor to honor it, to advance and to civilize our Free Fatherland as we should. In closing, nothing remains to me but to direct a prayer to the Great God that, together with His blessings which I beg to make us worthy of this day, He grant that from this day forward I may be the foremost patriot of the Fatherland, even as I had the honor and the destiny to be the first to kiss and to wave our Flag, free in our free Fatherland. Long live the Flag! Long live Albania!

Since then Albanians everywhere have celebrated 28 November as Flag Day, commemorating this double date of Albanian independence. Faik Konitza pointed out that "Albania was the last country in the Balkans to succumb to the Turks, and the last to regain her freedom" (Konitza 1957,

101 ) . T H A T F IR S T A LBA N IA N FLAG We may never know for sure who made that historic flag first raised at Vlora. A front-page obituary in a Tirana newspaper of long ago iden­ tified one Marigo Jovan Pozio as the "true Mother of Albanian freedom" who "embroidered with her own hands the first flag which was raised in 1912 in the free sky of Vlora" (Ora 26 August 1932,1). She was born in 1878 in the village of Hochisht near Korcha, "the most idealistic cradle of na­ tional sentiment," married a Vlora merchant and moved to that city in 1904. Soon their home became a rendezvous for Albanian freedom fighters of the region. The Albanian government decorated Marigo Pozio post­ humously in March 1960 while celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Inter­ national Women's Day (Shqiptarja e Re April 1960, 20). But it is also claimed that the first flag was actually embroidered in Boston, Massachusetts. The former editor of Dielli, Qerim Panariti, declared that the flag was taken from Boston to Corfu in 1911 by Albanian members of the Besa-Besën Society who volunteered as freedom fighters. The flag was left there with Nuçi Naçi, former teacher in the Albanian schools in and around Korcha who was then serving as instructor in a Corfu trade school. Panariti claimed that Marigo Pozio visited Corfu with her merchant husband, received the flag from her compatriot, took it to Vlora and made it available to Ismail Kemal for this historic flag-raising (Panariti, Q„ 1939, 48-51). This latter version is embellished somewhat in a much more detailed account published in Tirana (Vatra 28 November 1934, 2). There it was asserted that Kol Rodhe, head of the Besa-Besën contingent, took with him to Corfu the Albanian flag of red silk with gold embroidered edges, mounted on a two-piece lance with a gilded double-headed eagle at the tip.

Declaration o f Albanian Independence at Vlora (28 N ovem ber 1912)


Lest the authorities confiscate the flag, they entrusted it to a patriot tem­ porarily visiting there, Mrs. Marigo Pozio. Returning home to Vlora, she wrapped the flag about her body and got it through customs into the coun­ try. When the veteran Ismail Kemal arrived to discuss with others a declaration of independence from Turkey, Mrs. Pozio took the flag to him and told him its story. On 28 November 1912, it was this flag which was displayed on the Vlora balcony as Albania's independence was proclaimed. Copies of it were sent to all offices of the new government. The odyssey of this famous flag is further detailed: flying at the surrender and withdrawal of the Greeks from the Korcha region on 1 March 1914, presented by Kol Rodhe to the Arësimi (Education) society in Natick, Massachusetts, and finally by them presented to the National Museum in Tirana where it ap­ propriately came to rest. V LO R A P R E C IP IT A T E S TH E LO N D O N C O N FEREN CE OF A M B A S S A D O R S , 1912 Besides their formal proclamation of independence from Turkey, the Albanian delegates at Vlora declared their neutrality in the Balkan War. They also constituted a provisional government with the elderly statesman Ismail Kemal Bey as president. Selecting patriots from North and South, from East and West, they elected various ministers to form the cabinet and a senate of 18 members. They also notified the Porte and the great powers of the formation of the new state and appealed to the great powers of Europe for recognition. Turkey and the Balkan Alliance states paid no at­ tention to this claim of independence, the latter considering her partition among them a foregone conclusion. The two rivals, Austria and Italy, agreed that neither the other nor any third state should dominate Albania and its Adriatic ports, so both sided with Albania. Russia sided with the other Slavic states. Germany opposed this Pan-Slavism of Russia. France sided with Russia, her natural ally against Germany. To avert an impend­ ing world war, England intervened, convening the so-called Conference of Ambassadors in London on 17 December 1912. Represented there were the six great powers of Europe: Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. Determined to block Slavic expansionism, the conference three days later on 20 December officially recognized the principles of Albanian independence and neutrality. Although subsequent sessions would slowly and painfully define the details of her boundaries and government, this prompt decision served notice on the Balkan states that they must abandon their announced plans to divide Albanian territory among themselves. So it was that after five centuries of Turkish oppression and 2,000 years of foreign domination, these incredible Sons of the Eagle had regained their freedom. Through countless generations they had persistently resented foreign domination, resisted extermination and refused assimila­ tion. At long last they had regained their land, their language and their liberty. Just 20 years later the children in a Korcha elementary school


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

dedicated to the Albanian-American patriot Sotir Peci, could be heard reciting in unison their patriotic catechism. It included the following ques­ tion and emphatic response: "Ku është balta më e ëmbël se mjaltë? —Në Shqipëri!" (Where is the mud sweeter than honey? —In Albania!). To the uninitiated, a school exercise like this must seem to be the ultimate in crass jingoism. To others whose historical perspective enables them to discern Albania's soil drenched with the patriot blood of thousands of years, this would seem like the understatement of the ages.

24. Grounds for Confidence in Albania's Eventual Nationhood With what trepidation these Albanian patriots must have faced the future! For over 2,000 years their people had been under foreign domina­ tion. They were surrounded by well-established nations agreed on Albania's partition. At that very moment most of northern Albania was oc­ cupied by the Montenegrins and Serbs. Its foremost bastion, Shkodra, was under siege and would fall the next April. All of southern Albania was oc­ cupied by the Greeks who had also blockaded the southern coast. These in­ vaders claimed to be fighting the Turks, who still occupied much of eastern Albania, and they refused to recognize the new state of Albania or her neutrality. With no neighboring allies, the Albanians were completely isolated. Internally, they were politically fragmented. Feudal families imag­ ined that independence would increase the privileges they already enjoyed. On the contrary, Ismail Kemal's democratic policies brought disillusion­ ment, and they listened to Essad Pasha Toptani's siren song of a countergovernment based at Durrës. Then, thanks to the deliberate policy of the Ottoman government, the Albanian masses were socially splintered, il­ literate and poverty-stricken. Yet those Vlora patriots could look beyond the immediate and discern tangible grounds for optimism and even con­ fidence in Albania's eventual nationhood. For Albanian leadership had proved effective elsewhere when given the opportunity. A LBA N IA N LEA D ER SH IP IN THE O T T O M A N EM PIRE Even a casual review of Turkish history will amaze the reader with the number of Albanians who reached the pinnacle of administrative power — that of prime minister of the Ottoman Empire. The record is impressive, even incredible. Midhat Bey Frashëri, writing under the pen name Lumo Skendo (1919, 24-25), cited a Turkish author, Osman Zadë Naib, who referred to Albania as the "Garden of the Viziers" in his book of that title published in Constantinople In 1853. The Turkish author expressed amaze­ ment at the disproportionally large number of cabinet ministers con­ tributed by that subjugated people. He listed 26 grand viziers or prime 325


C h r i s t i a n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

ministers of Albanian blood who had "directed the affairs of the Ottoman Empire" since the 1500s, These grand viziers originated in such places as Ochrida, Arta, Monastir, Pojani of Korcha, Vlora and Berat. Among them were three who carried Turkey to the peak of her military renown: Sinan Pasha, Ferhad Pasha and Kuprili Pasha. The author attempted no listing of the "rich catalog of a very great number of secondary pashas, army com­ manders, governors general and others" who, with patriots like the three Frashëri brothers and Ismail Kemal Pasha, distinguished themselves in government service. As economists, the "only great names in Turkey" were two, both Al­ banians, including Kotchi Bey of Korcha (ibid.). Turkey's outstanding astronomer, Hasan Tahsini (1811-1881), originated in Albania's southern village of Ninati, near Saranda. He became famous for his works in mathematics, physics and psychology, but especially in astronomy and for his invention of astronomical instruments. When the Ottoman empire had only translations of works by foreign authors, his book on astronomy was unique (NAlb 1987, 6:25). Tahsini was named the first rector of the Univer­ sity of Constantinople (NAlb 1984, 5:27). He also collaborated with other Albanian patriots at Constantinople in the development of the famous "Stambul Alphabet," even suffering persecution for his patriotism (FESH 1985,1073). The Englishman John Cam Hobhouse, traveling companion of Lord Byron and later known as Lord Broughton, compiled a list of famous Albanians who rendered brilliant service to the Ottoman empire (1809, 298). Among these was Namik Kemal Bey, the poet and founder of modern Turkish literature, and the equally distinguished poet and patriot Sami Bey Frashëri (NAlb 1987, 5:27). In the field of the arts, Midhat Frashëri or Skendo listed three Albanian architects who designed several of the most superb mosques and fountains in Turkey (1919, 24, 25). The town of Opari just west of Korcha produced many builders famous for their craftsmanship in stone. Among these were Petro Korchari, chief architect for Ali Pasha of Yanina; the Katro brothers, identified with the exquisitely beautiful Byzantine churches of Voskopoja; and especially Mehmet Isa, chief builder of the incomparable Taj Mahal for Shah Jahan at Agra, India (Liria 16 October 1981,1). Then there was Sadefqar Mehmeti of Elbasan, the architect credited with the famous Blue Mosque (1562) in Istanbul (Nëndori May 1972, 75-84). More utilitarian and mundane were the picturesque stone bridges built during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries over Albanian mountain streams, such as the Berat bridge resting on seven legs or piers and linked by elegant arches, built in 1780 (Liria 15 June 1984, 4). There was also the long 345-foot bridge with 13 arches at Mesi, near Shkodra, and the unusually high stone-arched bridge of Limar in Përmet, which though only 115 feet long, was 62 feet high (Liria 26 January 1979). Engineer Sina of Voskopoja was famous for his construction of the suspension bridge at Budapest (Liktori 8 November 1939, 3).

Grounds fo r Confidence in Albania's Eventual N ationhood


The native instinct of these Albanian stoneworkers excited the admira­ tion of a long-term European resident at the Turkish court at Constantino­ ple. He wrote about the Arnauts or Albanians, They excel in building aqueducts. Their skill will not be questioned by any who have seen the aqueducts of Constantinople. And yet, without any mathematical learning, precepts or instruments they make these aque­ ducts, measure the height of mountains and distance of places more ex­ actly than a geometrician can, and judge very well the quality and quantity of water. When they are asked about the grounds of this art, they do not know what you mean, nor can they explain themselves [Cantemir 1734, 200-1],

Workmen of the Lunxhëria region near Gjirokastra became famous throughout the Balkans and especially in Constantinople for their stonework in constructing wells, fountains for drinking water, irrigation canals and water-powered mills. They built so precisely that "it seemed as though not one liter of water was wasted" (Ze'ri 13 December 1984, 3). Assuredly the remains of ancient Pelasgian, Illyrian and later Albanian stonework still excite the wonder and admiration of every observer. Albanian craftsmen are also credited with the finest gold embroidery in the Balkans, and with being the most skillful silversmiths. Such crafts­ men of Voskopoja were famed throughout the Balkans for their gold and silver ornamentation of weapons (NAlb 1984, 5:31). A LBA N IA N LEA D ER SH IP IN R O M A N IA The principalities of Moldavia and Walachia merged in 1861 to form Romania. Two remarkable princely families were known to have been of Albanian origin. The Lupu family consisted of Vasil, with his brother Mateo and his son Stefan. They were outstanding in Moldavia (1634-1654) for their spread of education and the introduction of a printing press (NAlb 1987, 5:23). Then the Gjika family originated in Përmet and provided a dynasty of princes ranging from George Gjika in 1656 to Gregory Alex­ ander Gjika ending in 1856 (ibid.). An altogether familiar member of this family was Elena Gjika (1829-1888), who wrote profusely under the pseudonym Dora d'Istria, and who played such a significant part in the Renaissance movement in Albania. A LBA N IA N LEA D ER SH IP IN THE GREEK W AR OF IN D EPEN D EN CE (1 8 2 0 -1 8 2 6 ) Pondering the decline and fall of Greece, Lord Byron observed, "A thousand years scarce serve to form a state. / An hour may lay it in the dust, and when/ can man its shattered splendor renovate?" (Byron 1891,1:2.84). Albanians seem largely instrumental in doing just that. While the sultan was preoccupied with Ali Pasha, the Greeks seized the opportunity for their own insurrection in 1820, finally achieving indepen­


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

dence in 1826. In that war of independence, many of the outstanding leaders were descendants of the Albanians who had migrated there under John Bua Spata. The Greek islands of Spetzai, Hydra and Poros were in­ habited almost exclusively by people of Albanian blood. Many of these made their livelihood as fishermen. In the struggle for independence they contributed such national figures as Miaulis, Djavela, Marko Bochari and the female naval commander Laskarina Bubulina (Skendo 1919, 25). The French writer Honorë de Balzac published in Paris (1828) his Laments and Elegiac Songs, folk songs eulogizing Bubulina, Bochari and others, which he collected from an Albanian woman who emigrated to France [hiAlb 1984, 3:16). The British historian George Finlay, in his seven-volume History o f Greece (Finlay 1877, 4:254-57) stated that in the struggle of Greece to regain her independence from Turkey, the soldiers of Suli and the sailors of the islands of Hydra and Spetzai were the bravest warriors and the most skillful mariners, and "these were of the purest Albanian race." In fact it was another Briton who declared it not likely that the independence of Greece would have been achieved but for the invaluable services rendered to the revolution by the Albanians, both of Albania and Greece (Peacock 1914, 178). As confirmation, the first president of free Greece, Capodistrias (1828-1831), was born in Corfu of an Albanian family originating in Gjirokastra (Skendo 1919, 26). It is altogether remarkable that although separated from their motherland for centuries, many of their descendants even yet have not lost their language, customs and traditions. One of these who distinguished himself recently in the Greek navy was Admiral Kunduriot. During the naval battle of the Dardanelles in 1912 he shouted a command to the crew of his battleship in the Albanian language. When asked afterwards why he had used this unaccustomed idiom, the admiral replied, "From en­ thusiasm!" His reponse corresponds very closely to the reason given by Alexander the Great for frequently speaking to his Macedonian troops in their non-Hellenic language. On another occasion Admiral Kunduriot learned that his ship's officers had forbidden the seamen to speak Albanian among themselves. The ad­ miral summoned the seamen on deck and asked them, "A kuvëndoni Shqip, more?" (O you, do you talk together in Albanian?). The sailors looked at one another, hardly knowing what to reply. One of them took courage, and answered, "We do talk together just a little, Admiral." Kunduriot replied, "Go ahead and talk together in Albanian, for we are the ones who liberated Greece!" (Dituria January 1927, 86). Certainly these Greeks of Albanian origin did make a significant contribution to their adopted land. The tragic fact remained, however, that although Albanians helped free Greece from the Turkish yoke, their own land would remain under the op­ pressor for another 100 years.

Grounds fo r Confidence in A lbania’s Eventual N ationhood


A LBA N IA N LEA D ER SH IP IN THE U N IFIC A T IO N OF IT A L Y (1 8 6 0 -1 8 7 1 ) As in Greece, so in Italy the descendants of the Arbëreshë refugees made significant contributions to the unification of their adopted land (1860-1871). Among the earliest and most active centers of the revolution was their village of Hora e Arbëreshëvet near Palermo, usually abbreviated to Hora; this was commonly known to Italians as Piana dei Greci, later Piana degli Albanesi. While Garibaldi, who came from Albanian stock, was pondering how and where to begin the struggle to free Italians from Bourbon oppression and unite them in a single state, an Arbëreshë çeta of 400 fighters from Hora attacked the Bourbon troops in April 1860. Francesco Crispi, also an Arbëreshë from Sicily, who signed himself an "Albanian by blood and by heart" (Fashizmi 13 February 1940; Drita 28 November 1937, 11), was Garibaldi's closest advisor and the political brain of his expedition. It was Crispi who persuaded Garibaldi to sail from Genoa for Sicily that 6 May with his famous "One Thousand" fighters. Of these the historian Xoxi names six men besides Crispi who were former students of the Arbëreshë college of San Demetrio Corone in Calabria, southern Italy (NAlb 1985, 3:23). One of these was Domenic Mauro, born of Albanian parentage in 1812, who became a celebrated poet and author. But when popular uprisings against social injustice began, he forsook the pen for the sword and fought bravely under Garibaldi. In fact, an Italian professor, Rosolino Petrotta, in his series "Shqiptarët në Itali" (Albanians in Italy) (Fashizmi 13 Feb. 1940), has listed 19 Italo-Albanian patriots from Hora alone who became prominent in the uprisings of 1860. Petrotta pointed out too that Garibaldi himself did not overlook this heroism, but on 2 October 1860 had declared publicly, "Gli albanesi sono eroi che si sono distinti in tutte le lotte contro la tirannide" (The Albanians are heroes who have distinguished themselves in all the wars against tyranny). Still cherishing their Albanian ethnicity, these Arbëreshë fighters of Hora were characterized in these words by Italian chronicler Aba with the Garibaldi expedition: "They are proud and honest people, they are proud of their origin. In their songs they keep alive the feeling of four centuries, and still dream that one day their kin will be able to return to their distant ancestral Homeland" (NAlb 1985, 3:23). The courageous support of the many Arbëreshë patriots helped Garibaldi to quickly subdue the island, and when he crossed over to southern Italy, the fighting Arbëreshë of that region welcomed him with indescribable joy. Italy as a united nation owes much to the descendants of those Albanian refugees. It must be remembered that one of them, Francesco Crispi, would serve twice as prime minister of Italy (1887-1891 and 1893-1896). Two distinguished literary figures must also be noted. Girolamo (or Jeronim) De Rada (1814-1903), one of the greatest Albanian poets, was born at Macchia near Cosenza in southern Italy. Equally outstanding was


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , th e T u r k s a n d I s la m iz a tio n

the poet Giuseppe Skiro (1865-1927), who came from Albanian stock at Hora of Palermo and who is considered De Rada's direct successor. Begin­ ning about 1861 thousands of these Sicilian Arbëreshi sought a new life in the New World, many going to New Orleans. Their story is told by Bret Clesi in his "The Arbëreshë and Contessa Entellina" (Liria 1 March 1984, 4). In 1901 the Arbëreshë of southern Italy were reported to have 80 towns, 27 of the Greek rite (Uniat churches related to Rome), and 53 of the Latin or Roman Catholic rite, with a total population of 208,410 persons (Barbarich 1905, 331-33). Arbëreshë towns were distributed as follows in the southern Italian provinces: Catanzaro 13, Cosenza 29, Campobasso 7, Lecce 10, Foggia 7, Potenza 5, Palermo 5 and Catania 3 (Dituria 1 June 1909, 83-85). Currently, Mahir Domi in his statistical study of "Albanian Set­ tlements in the World" (Liria 28 March 1980, 3) estimates that about 136,000 of these Arbëreshë people in 55 villages still speak Albanian, whereas about 182,000 Arbëreshë in other villages can no longer speak it. Eqrem Çabej, in his "The World of the Arbëreshi'' (NAlb 1987, 6:28), observed that those living in mountainous regions seem to have retained their language and culture better than those living in open country. Yet it seems remarkable that after 500 years in Italy, so many Arbëreshë living in their compact Albanian communities have not been altogether assimi­ lated. Customs, costumes, poems, songs and traditions have been passed down from mother to child for generations, using their Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language. Five hundred years after their departure from the homeland an Arbëreshë daughter now living in the United States quoted in quite understandable Albanian a nostalgic song they traditionally sang as they left their church in Italy. Turning to the East toward the homeland they would sing, "Motherland, place of beauty,/ I have left, never again to see you./ Over there I have left my father, / Over there I have left my mother, / Over there I have left my brother. . . / I have left, never to see you again" (ACB 1985, 18-19). Their language and traditions have also been perpetuated in their own newspapers and publications. One of their number, Prof. Francesco Solano, presently holds the chair of Albanian language and literature at the University of Cosenza, usually writing under the pen name Dushko Vetmo. Here it was reported recently that many of the town halls still bear the official emblem of the black two-headed eagle of Skanderbeg (Fashizmi 9 February 1940). Resisting denationalization, another reported that "even on the bottles of wine we produce in our villages, we have the figure of Skanderbeg on the labels" (Liria 16 May 1980, 4). In 1983 the Albanian government recognized this heritage and presented a bust of the national hero for the Skanderbeg Square of Spezzano Albanese (ibid.). Another such bust was erected in the Arbëreshë community of San Nicola del Alto of Catanzaro (Liria 1 May 1984, 1). In just such communities as these did the many Italo-Albanians preserve their love for the old homeland while yet making their distinct contribution to the new.

Grounds fo r Confidence in Albania's Eventual N ationhood


A LBA N IA N LEA D ER SH IP IN THE C EN TU RY-LO N G D Y N A ST Y IN EG Y P T (1 8 0 5 -1 9 5 2 ) Yet another Albanian pasha proved more successful than either Ali Pasha of Yanina or Mahmoud Pasha of Shkodra, for while their states en­ dured but a generation, Mehmet (or Mohammed) Ali (1769-1849) estab­ lished a dynasty in Egypt which endured for over a century. Mehmet Ali was born of Albanian parentage and reared at Cavalla, a small Macedonian seaport. This Albanian soldier of fortune headed an Albanian contingent accompanying a Turkish expedition in 1798 to expel Napoleon Bonaparte's troops from Egypt, then a Turkish province. After the French withdrawal in 1801, prolonged factional struggle led Cairo to ask this Albanian adven­ turer to serve as governor of Egypt. Constantinople confirmed the appoint­ ment in 1804. Combining cunning, strategy and savagery, he subdued Egyptian rivals by 1811 then devoted himself to furthering the interests of the large landowners and business classes. He improved manufacturing and commerce. He built a canal between Alexandria and the Nile. For his military successes against the Greek rebellion of 1821, Mehmet Ali expected to acquire the Peloponnesus as a reward. But the combined navies of Great Britain, France and Russia destroyed his fleet at the battle of Navarino in 1827, virtually assuring the freedom of Greece. In 1839 he even rebelled against the Ottoman empire, and might have captured Con­ stantinople itself (1840) but for the intervention of Britain, France and Russia. Thereafter, Mehmet Ali occupied himself with the development of Egypt as a modern state. He built the first barrage or dam across the Nile for irrigation purposes. He introduced the cultivation of hemp and cotton for which Egypt soon became famous (Readers Digest November 1982, 183). He built textile mills and steel mills. He had a high regard for the civilization of Europe and invited European educators to teach in a network of institutes, sending his best students abroad for higher study. His military skills were equaled by his governing skills. The new constitution of Egypt was his creation, as were the new army and navy, the tax system, the systematization of imports and exports, health legislation, schools, colleges and publishing houses. Mehmet Ali was far ahead of his countrymen, while his moral character, enlightened mind and distinguished ability qualified him for the title Founder of Modern Egypt. Because of his Albanian origin, Albanians were regarded with special favor in Egypt and welcomed as im­ migrants. Mehmet Ali was surely among the great men of his epoch. An equally enlightened grandson, Ismail Pasha, improved the ad­ ministration, the courts, the post office system and public works, notably the railways, telegraph network, lighthouses, breakwaters and harbors, although these required heavy taxation. He also suppressed human slavery, and he completed the 92-mile Suez Canal joining the Mediterra­ nean with the Red Sea in 1869. All in all, the Mehmet Ali dynasty introduced


C h r is t ia n A l b a n i a , t h e T u r k s a n d I s la m i z a t i o n

a new era to Egypt lasting from 1805 to 1952. The last king of Egypt, Farouk I, was reportedly of Albanian blood, which might explain the cordial welcome he extended to the exiled Albanian King Zog in 1939. His reign extended from 1936 until his abdication in 1952. That year marked the close of this famous Albanian dynasty. Thus we see that Albanian leaders left a brilliant record of service in the Roman Praetorian Guard and the Turkish Janissaries, in the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires, and in the epic struggle for the liberation of Greece and for the unification of Italy. Meanwhile, in their own land they lacked the bare essentials of nationhood: their own land, language and liberty. Now it seemed high time that they did something for themselves. Surely at last their time had come.

Part Four

Muslim Albania Governed by Feudalists and Its Nationalization ( 1 9 1 2 -1 9 3 9 )

25. The Fourteen Successive Ineffective Governments (1912-1925) TH E P R O V IS IO N A L G O V ER N M EN T OF ISM A IL KEM AL (28 N O V EM BER 1 9 1 2 -2 2 JA N U A RY 1914) Inadequate P reparation for Statehood

Probably few states have been born into the world family so poorly endowed for responsible statehood. True, many Albanians had served with distinction in high positions in the Ottoman government. Others had become famous leaders in Greece, Romania, Egypt and Italy. After enumerating many of these, Midhat Bey Frashëri, better known by his pen name Lumo Skendo, concluded, "Until now the Albanians have lived very little for themselves; their activity, their blood, their talents have profited their neighbors. They have consecrated their best for the good of others. Now they must live and work for themselves, for their Albania" (Skendo 1919, 27). But the cruel, corrupt and inefficient Turkish rule had not en­ couraged the development of either the local Albanian leadership or the in­ stitutions necessary for self-government. Fierce fighting men do not sit graciously at the desks of administrators. Although united by love of country and spoken language, Albanians were hopelessly divided in many ways. Socially, feudalism had created a sharp distinction between the landed families of princes or chiefs and the peasants. There was no middle class to relieve the sharp dichotomy. Religiously, Albanians were divided into Muslims, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics, each with its different alien orientation, its particular religious language, rites, festivals, traditions, customs, costumes and folklore. Even personal names emphasized their different religious identity. Then, too, Albania was a wilderness, the most primitive region of Europe. Its very few roads were unimproved and often impassable. Bridges were few. There was no vehicular traffic, only packhorses and foot trails. There was no postal or telephone service. Its economy was utterly unde­ 334

The Fourteen Successive Ineffective Governments (1912-1925)


veloped, with no manufacturing and no commerce. Most of the people sur­ vived by keeping flocks and herds, or by primitive farming. There was little to export, so there was little foreign exchange available for imports: foreign trade was at a standstill. Schools were few, and these only emphasized the religious disunity because of the different languages employed. Illiteracy was very high, estimated at over 95 percent of the population. Health facilities were rare and very elementary. Yet here were two million people, hardy, frugal, hospitable, brave, loyal, proud and independent. Again and again these Albanians, deter­ mined to have their own government, schools, language, newspapers and cultural societies, had been arbitrarily crushed. But at last they joined together to face the world and achieve their national destiny with little to unite them except their spoken language, the blood-red banner of Skanderbeg with its superimposed black double-headed eagle and pride in their an­ cient ethnic identity. Solidarity of O verseas A lbanian C ommunities: T he C ongress of T rieste

Just as the overseas communities of Albanians had stimulated the patriotic fervor which gradually led to the independence of their homeland, so at this critical juncture they once again demonstrated their solidarity. On 1 March 1913, they convened a Great Congress in Trieste, Austria. There were 150 representatives in all, coming from the United States, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, and of course from the new state itself. Bishop Fan Noli of Boston was one of the featured speakers. The congress recognized the provisional government of Ismail Kemal, pledged its faithful support, discussed the ethnic boundaries of the new state and sent strong resolutions to the European capitals and to the London Conference of Am­ bassadors then in session, appealing for their recognition of Albanian in­ dependence and for the lifting of the Greek blockade. Sponsorship by the G reat P owers of Europe

The question of Albanian independence that had prompted the Con­ ference of Ambassadors at London came up for discussion at their first ses­ sion. The six ambassadors decided that Albania would be recognized as an autonomous state under the sovereignty of the Ottoman sultan. After months of wrangling and compromise under the constant threat of a general war, the conference announced its formal decisions on 29 July 1913. They recognized Albania as an independent sovereign state with no ties to the Ottoman Empire. Quite inconsistently they provided that it be gov­ erned by a European prince to be elected by the powers. Albanian neutral­ ity would be jointly guaranteed by the six great powers. They also appointed an "International Commission of Control for Albania," to be composed of one representative from each of the six powers and one Alba­ nian. This commission would supervise the Albanian government's organ-


Muslim Albania, the Feudalists and Nationalization

ization, finances and administration for a 10-year period. Dutch officers would organize the gendarmerie. The American minister to Greece called this plan "a marvel of in­ competency," an "absolutely discordant scheme" and "a jumble of incon­ sistencies" (Williams 1915, 19-20). Although it did infringe on Albania's independence, such international sponsorship of the new state, surrounded as it was by greedy neighbors, probably became Albania's best assurance of survival. D efinition of A lbanian Boundaries by the G reat P owers

The most difficult decision facing the Conference of Ambassadors was the definition of the frontiers of the new Albanian state. Soon after the Treaty of San Stefano, which had awarded so much Albanian territory to its neighbors, an International Eastern Roumelian Commission had been appointed in 1880 to regulate the affairs of Turkey. Great Britain was ably represented by Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice, who became convinced that the Albanians had been treated with great injustice. Strongly supported by Lord Goschen, British ambassador at Constantinople, he proposed boun­ daries which would include all regions where the ethnic character of the population was predominantly Albanian. On 26 May 1880, Lord Fitz­ maurice reported to the Foreign Office as follows. The district covered by the geographical expression, Albania, falls mainly within the two vilayets of Scutari and Janina. But it extends also in an easterly direction beyond the watershed of the mountains dividing the streams which fall into the Adriatic from those which fall into the Aegean Sea, and includes portions of the vilayets of Monastir and Kosova. The extension of the Albanian population in a northeasterly direction towards Prishtina and Vrania is especially marked, and is fully acknowledged [A lban ia 1 April 1920, 3],

Turkey had also grappled with this question. When in 1912 they pro­ posed the formation of an autonomous Albanian province, they recognized the four vilayets of Scutari, Yanina, Kosova and Monastir as ethnically Albanian. Simple justice should have recognized these natural boundaries, and much bloodshed would have been avoided. But compromise is ever the accepted strategy of diplomats. So the Conference of Ambassadors sought by appeasement and expediency to satisfy the exaggerated territorial claims of Albania's greedy neighbors. Contiguous states based their ingenious and naive claims on historical, geographical, political, strategic, economic and even archeological considerations: anything to counterbalance the obvious ethnic Albanian character of the territory. After months of debate and compromise, the six ambassadors pro­ duced the following irrational settlement in March 1913. In the north the districts of the Hoti, the Gruda and much of the Clementi tribes were severed from their Shkreli and Kastrati allies in the "Five Banner Group,"

The Fourteen Successive Ineffective Governments (1912-1925)


and with Plava and Gusinje were given to Montenegro. In the northeast they gave to Serbia the whole vilayet of Kosova, including the cities of Uskup, Ipek, Gjakova and Prizren, cities so sacred in Albania's renaissance, populated by one million Albanians and very few Slavs. Ser­ bia would find Kosova a thorn in her side right down to the present day. The eastern Albanian districts of Dibra, Ochrida and Monastir also went to Serbia. On the south the Greeks insisted that the population of "North­ ern Epirus" which was Greek Orthodox by religion was therefore Greek by nationality. They based this claim on the official Turkish population statis­ tics of 1908 which classified citizens by religion as either Mohammedans, Jews or Greeks. The latter term referred to Greek Orthodox Christians, many of whom were not Greeks by race, nationality, language or senti­ ment. Many of these Greek Orthodox people were no more Greek than the Roman Catholic people were Romans. This should have been evident from the fact that in 1908 when southern Albania, which the Greeks called their "Northern Epirus," sent representatives to the first parliament of the Ot­ toman Empire, six of the deputies were Albanians, and only two were Greek-speakers (Dako 1915, 15). Despite appeals from southern Albanians and from relatives who had migrated to the United States, a compromise solution was reached on 11 August 1913. The ambassadors ceded to Greece much of southern Albania, including the region of Chamëria populated mostly by Albanian Muslims and including even Yanina, the traditional capital of southern Albania. Dako in fact has cited more than 20 historians, geographers and diplomats, Greeks as well as Turks and Europeans, who identified the Illyrians, Macedonians and Epirotes as far south as Yanina as being Albanians, not Greeks (ibid., 7-11). Furthermore, the scholar Sami Bey Frashëri, when proposing administrative divisions for an eventual Albanian nation (1899), had located their centers at Shkodra, Ipek, Prizren, Prishtina, Uskup, Monastir, Dibra, Elbasan, Tirana, Berat, Korcha, Kosturi, Yanina, Gjirokastra and Preveza, all these cities being in the four Albanian vilayets of Turkey (Frashëri, S., 1924,101-2). How ironic that of these 15 Albanian centers, eight were awarded to either Greece or Yugoslavia! The Conference of Ambassadors constituted an International Boun­ dary Commission in August 1913 to do an on-the-spot study of the popula­ tions and fix the exact boundaries. Their work was greatly complicated in the south by the obsession of the Greeks that persons identified with the Greek Orthodox religion were therefore Greeks. Sevasti Kyrias Dako reported that when the commissioners reached Monastir that October en route to Korcha, she contacted an acquaintance, Mr. Bilinski, the Austrian representative, to inform him of the Greek strategy to represent the Korcha population as Greek. After the colorful Greek-inspired demonstrations, "Mr. Bilinski suggested to his colleagues a stroll in the city. When they entered the Greek school yard where the children were playing, he threw in their midst a handful of small coins. The children rushed to pick them


Muslim Albania, the Feudalists and Nationalization

up, and in their excitement forgot to speak Greek, but spoke Albanian, their mother tongue. This was enough to convince the commission" (Dako, S., 1938, 128-29). A former schoolteacher, Elpinike Frasher, described the Hellenistic propaganda carried on through the Greek-language school operated by the Greek Orthodox Church, this being the only school in her village near Përmet. She wrote, While there was not a single Greek individual in the population of Përmet and its environs, we were made to feel we were Greeks. The opening exer­ cises of every school day consisted in responding individually to the ques­ tion, "What are you?" with the answer, "I am a Greek Orthodox Christian." I was so conditioned to think that everyone has a native tongue (Albanian in my case) and a school language (Greek) that when I came to the States as a child I couldn't get over the fact that people here spoke English both at home and in school [Liria 15 April 1984, 3].

She recalled the visit of the Greek crown prince to Përmet after the Balkan War. He appeared at the balcony to survey us, a sea of schoolchildren from Permet and the neighboring villages, singing Greek songs. Each child dressed in the Greek colors (blue and white), carried a small Greek flag (supplied by Greece of course), and each of us wore a blue and white sash across one shoulder on which was embroidered "Enosis i thanatos" which meant "Union or Death." It could have fooled anyone. But it was all pro­ paganda [ibid.].

Frasher told also of the visit of the International Commission to Erseka, as she recalls, to determine the Greek or Albanian character of the population. Once again the schoolchildren massed before their balcony to sing the Greek songs. The Austrian member of the commission threw a handful of coins to the children below. Suddenly the singing stopped, and the only sounds heard were what came naturally: Albanian words, as the children scuffled to pick up as many coins as they could. "This," the Austrian said, "proves the true ethnicity of the people." And the commis­ sion agreed. But Frasher continued, "When it seemed certain that our districts would be rightfully assigned to the newly formed Albanian state, my town of Frashër, a center of national awakening and home of the famous Frashëri brothers, as well as many other villages in southern Alba­ nian were burned to the ground by the retreating Greeks" {ibid.). The work of the Boundary Commission terminated in December 1913 and was reported from Florence, Italy. Unfortunately, the capricious boun­ dary lines had chopped up Albania, awarding to her neighbors to the north, east and south about one-half of her population and one-half of her territory. For years thereafter, maps on Albanian post office walls displayed those shaded areas of "Enslaved Albania" occupied by Yugoslavia to the north and east, and by Greece to the south. But the

The Fourteen Successive Ineffective Governments (1912-1925)


artificial and unjust boundaries determined by the Conference of Am­ bassadors continue unchanged to this day. The resulting country extends 210 miles from northern to southern extremities, and its maximum width is 90 miles. The area is 10,629 square miles, about the size of Belgium, or the size of New Hampshire or of Vermont. T he P rovisional A lbanian G overnment

The national convention at Vlora, upon declaring Albanian in­ dependence in 1912, had created its organization with the official title, the Provisional Albanian Government. But while the ambassadors at London quibbled, virtually all of Albania had been occupied by foreign troops. Even their capital city Vlora was surrounded by Serbian troops on the north, Turkish troops on the east, Greek troops on the south, and a Greek naval blockade on the west. The new government created a Ministry of Post and Telegraph that 5 December, but Vlora was besieged. To make matters worse, the Greeks had cut the undersea cable to Italy, leaving the new government completely isolated, "like a fish out of water," Grameno expressed it (Grameno 1925, 145). Even worse, Albania's territorial boun­ daries were being determined in London, with no official Albanian representative present. So on 23 December 1912, Mehmet Konitza, former Turkish consul at Corfu, was sent to London with two others as official representatives of the Provisional Government of Albania. The following 30 March Ismail Kemal with two other officials escaped by sea to appeal in London and other Euro­ pean capitals the integrity of Albanian territory and the lifting of the naval blockade. They could report no outstanding success. However, one member of this delegation was the legendary military commander Isa Boletini. Upon entering the British Foreign Office building to plead his na­ tion's cause, the security police asked him to remove the pistol from his belt and check it in the vestibule. He complied with no objection. Following the interview, the foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, accompanied Boletini to the vestibule where he put the pistol back in his belt. The foreign secretary remarked with a smile, "General, the newspapers might record tomorrow that Isa Boletini, whom even Mahmut Shefqet Pasha could not disarm, was just disarmed in London." Boletini replied with a broad smile, "No, no, not in London either," and he withdrew from his pocket a second pistol! Ob­ viously Boletini had become convinced in the troubled Balkans that pistols rather than diplomacy were the secret of survival (Liria 15 July 1982, 3). During the president's absence little progress could be made in organiz­ ing the government and defining its policies and operational procedures. Uncertainty as to the territorial extent of governmental jurisdiction would continue until the final decisions of the Boundary Commission. Although the Greek naval blockade of Vlora was lifted in April, the occupation of virtually all Albanian territory by Balkan Alliance or by Turkish troops made it impossible to encourage the population to elect local authorities


Muslim Albania, the Feudalists and Nationalization

and properly relate them to the central government. It must be obvious that for reasons quite beyond the control of the Provisional Government at Vlora, progress was extremely slow in this new nation. Nor could the government do anything to rectify conditions or to lessen the frustration sensed at Vlora and throughout the country. T he S iege of S hkodra

Following the course of the Balkan War from their ivory tower, the Conference of Ambassadors in London notified the belligerents in March 1913 that Shkodra had been assigned to Albania and that attacking troops should withdraw. The Serbian troops honored the announcement and reluctantly withdrew from the city. The Montenegrins, however, deter­ minedly continued their siege. So on 4 April the great powers sent a naval task force to blockade their coast, planning to land troops and occupy the city. To their consternation, Hasan Riza Pasha, commander of the Shkodra garrison, was murdered while a guest of Essad Pasha Toptani that April, who turned the fortress over to the Montenegrins and retired with his troops to Tirana. The stern objections of the powers, especially of Russia, led Montenegro to withdraw her troops from Shkodra on 13 May. The next day an international army