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

TRAVELS IN MACEDONIA

CHAPTER X
Journey from Greveno to Castoria.
 

Having delivered to Aly, before I set out for Macedonia, an account of those quarters which it was at that time my purpose to visit, it would have been most imprudent and improper in me afterwards to deviate from my projected course. Of that project it was no part to examine the coast between the mouths of the Peneus and the Axius, or the Vardar. That very interesting expedition was postponed to another opportunity : but that opportunity never occurred.

In all travelling enterprises in the Turkish dominions, the operation of setting out is always difficult, and often very disagreeable. Independently of the delays in procuring post-horses, it is not always sufficient that you submit to exorbitant


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demands; force is not unfrequently necessary to produce obedience to the most authoritative commands. The last part of the ceremony I left, as was proper, in the hands of my janissaries; and the menzildgi or post-master of Greveno, having been duly beaten and paid, dismissed us with a long list of prayers for our health and prosperity during our journey.

Our course from the town lay a point to the westward of north, over an uneven tract, destitute of wood, and by its clayey soil, little susceptible of cultivation, as practised in that quarter. Parallel to the range of Pindus I observed Mount Bennius, or Bourenos, a dependency of Mount Bora, which accompanies the left bank of the river Haliacmon from the country of Orestis, for fifteen leagues, nearly down to Cojani. By its summits I was enabled to determine the confluence of the Rhedias or Venetico with the river Indgé-Carasou; and they became of the greatest service to me in laying down my series of triangles, as I proceeded farther to the north and west. I was now on a different plane of country, for the waters no more ran towards the Venetico. Throughout Turkey the roads are only paths formed by the caravans, which often vary their course, when by the overflow of the waters, the fall of a bridge, the rain, or desertion from war or pestilence of a village or post formerly frequented, the former track can no longer be pursued. Such was the fate of Archouda (the village of the bear) once containing one hundred families, but now only a score, crowded into huts scarcely fit for hog-stys. Its position is noticeable as being the point of distribution of the waters south to the Venetico, and north to the Haliacmon, now the Indgé-Carasou. From Archouda the road leads over a plain for a league and a half to Zourcli, whence eight miles eastwards is seen Chatista on the right bank of the Indgé-Carasou, a point of importance in the determination of various positions in my topography of Macedonia. A mile beyond Zourcli we crossed a low hill, to a stream called Premoritza, which rises in the north parts of Mount Smolica, four leagues to the westward. Fording over the muddy channel of this river we observed to the eastward Selitza, two hours north-east from Zourcli, on the left bank of the Indgé-Carasou, which there changes its name for Bichlistas, by which it is known all the way up to its springs in the upper vallies. Various are the names assigned by writers to the Haliacmon, or Inogé-Cara-Sou: Bichlistas and Asambaba, according to Paulus Jovius: by Sophiamis it is called Pelecas, and by Mercator Platamon.

Holding on still northwards over a country not unproductive, but rendered melancholy by the deep shade of the lofty


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    Vaipes. Sdreotza.

mountains on our left, we entered Lepchista or Lepsini, called by the Greeks Anaselitzas, a town founded in the fourteenth century, by a colony of Christians; but their descendants being massacred or carried into bondage by the Sultan, the present inhabitants are mussulmans. This district I conceive to be the ancient Elymæa; and it, as well as the town, the seat of a deputy-governor, contains a great number of beys, or military nobles, who, contrary to the established practice of the Turks, expend their time and the profits of their cornfields and vineyards in a continual round of hunting-parties and feasting. Leaving Anaselitzas we steered north-northwest for an hour, over rich corn-lands, to Vaipes, a village half a league west from the Haliacmon. On the road I had a view of the peak and town of San Marina, distant three leagues and a half west, half a point north, in that part of Pindus, or Mount Grammos, to which it gives its name. San Marina is situated about five leagues north-east from Smolika, the eastern peak of the great Zaroux, distant twelve leagues from Mount Konis, at Conitza.

Ascending from Vaipes, for two leagues, to Cherbadez, a village inhabited by. peaceful Christian and Turkish husbandmen, we there discovered Castoria, called by many Albanians Castron, but by the Turks Kesterié. Before us, and to the right, lay several villages, inhabited by Christian and Mahometan Bardariotes, noted for being the mildest and the most hospitable of all the country-people of Macedonia. From the same place Cherbadez, the highest summit of Mount Grammos, bore west five leagues. Proceeding for an hour and a half we descended to the right or southern bank of the Haliacmon, there flowing from west-north-west. There terminates the district of Anaselitzas, and probably that of Elimea: for Livy (xlii. 53.) informs us that that part of Macedonia lay on the Haliacmon. Passing over to the north side of that river, by a stone-bridge, called Smighi, (the confluence), because there falls in a stream from the lake of Castoria, we travelled up the left bank of this stream for a league and a quarter, and crossing it halted for some time under a grove of tall walnut-trees, near Sdreotza, a village of the same name with the stream. Gardens neatly kept and cultivated, women washing by the water-side, multitudes of geese and ducks sailing on its limpid bosom, a number of herons, white as snow, would almost have persuaded me that I was on the banks of the Mincio, in Lombardy. The illusion was much strengthened when I saw the people behold my hat without alarm, the children come up to me with flowers, and every one to whom I addressed myself to be ready to answer my questions, and offer me their services.


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Continuing our journey, a postillion was sent forward fo request the governor of Castoria to provide a lodging for me. Then passing round by the west side of the lake, along the rocky hill, from which issue numerous springs and rivulets, we turned eastward along the north side to the approach lo the town, where we were met by a deacon of the church, sent to conduct me to the residence of the archbishop.

"The Roman consul Sulpicius having, with less difficulty than was expected, forced his way across the Candavian mountains, descended into the country of Elimea. Then entering Orestis he attacked Celethrum, a town situated in a peninsula. A lake surrounded the walls, and a communication with the continent was maintained by a single road along a very narrow isthmus." (Livy, xxxi. 40.) When we read this passage, in connection with the other parts of the history of the campaign of Sulpicius against Philip of Macedon, in the 550th year of Rome; and compare the whole with the position of Castoria, it is impossible not to conclude that this town occupies the site of the ancient Celethrum, The present name, especially as pronounced by the Albanians Castron, is evidently formed from the castrum, or fortress constructed by the Romans, on the naturally very strong position of Celethrum.

The lake of Castoria is in length, from north to south, estimated equal to a journey of two hours and a half of Turkey, or about eight miles, and the breadth from west to east about seven miles. The depth of water in several places, as I sounded it, varied from thirty-six feet to three feet, on a bottom of mud, continually augmenting by the substances introduced from the surrounding hills. From the middle of the north shore of the lake projects a peninsular space of uneven-ground, connected with the continent by an isthmus, at its beginning only eight French toises, or fifty-two English feet in breadth. In the lowest part it is only three feet above the usual surface of the lake, and has there the appearance of having been cut through by a ditch. The isthmus contracts still more at the place, where, as probably in ancient times, the peninsula was defended by a wall, flanked by three towers, in the centre one of which is the gate of entrance into the town. Within the gate the ground, divided by an elevated ridge, rises towards the north and the east, the quarter occupied by the Turks, commanding a fine view over the lake on that side, and of the woods, gardens, and villages on the shore. On the west and soutli of the ridge or spine, are situated in clumps the habitations of the Greeks; and below them, on the border of the lake, is the Ouvraio-Machalé, or suburb


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    Description of Castoria.

of the Jews. On the highest ground stands the metropolitan church, from which the prospect is very extensive. In front of this eminence the ground subsides to the south-east to rise again suddenly, to form the hilly position of Celethrum, composed of bare lime-stone rock.

The ground occupied by the present town was eith-er without, or covered by the works constructed for the defence of Celethrum, towards the isthmus; for it is asserted that Castoria, where it now stands, owes its origin to the invasion of the Turks, in the beginning of the fifteenth century. In fact, it is only after you enter the rugged broken hilly part of the peninsula, that you begin to discover evidences of antique buildings. But what deplorable evidences do we discover! Open spaces overgrown with brambles; public baths overthrown; the foundations of seventy churches or chapels, planted on the ruins of ancient temples, now themselves equally in ruins. So completely has Celethrum been defaced, that, with the exception of the quadrangular acropolis, or citadel, still exhibiting morsels of Roman construction repaired by Justinian, to no portion of the remains was I able to assign a probable designation. Inquiring of every one what was the name of the city lying in ruins before me; poios to xeurei? who knows that? was the answer of even the best-informed Greeks in the town: nor could they conceive why I should interest myself in such objects. Thus the present inhabitants of the venerable Celethrum, afterwards named Justinianopolis, neither know nor care what has happened on the place of their abode.

The population of Castoria is computed to amount to fifteen hundred families, Christian, Mahometan, and Jew. A mile from Mavrovo, on the east border of the lake, is Crepeni, now a hamlet of only eight families, but once a large village of one thousand inhabitants, near which are the Pelasgic remains of a very ancient city, the Argos Oresticum of Strabo, which, like its founder Orestes, seems to have been persecuted by the furies. By war, pestilence, and famine, this colony from Argos has been effaced from the earth, and even of its successor Crepeni, all that now remains is that, in all public acts of the district of Castoria, it is still entitled the capital of Orestis.

It was my intention to make Castoria my central position, from which to make radial excursions to different points of the environs. All those it was not, however, in my power to accomplish, for various reasons, one of which was, that the surrounding inhabitants in general understood only their own tongue, that of the modern Bulgarians, the Triballi of antiquity. My inquiries, therefore, could he conducted only


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through my guides, very seldom able, and not always disposed, to aid my researches, which to them appeared idle, if not dangerous.

This jealousy of my purposes extended to the governor of Castoria himself, who, however, was cured by a Turk of distinction In the town, who had resided for some time in Paris with the Ottoman ambasador. "These Franks," said he one day, in my presence to the governor, "are a set of madcaps, who scour up hill and down dale, to hunt out and pore over old stones, which your excellency would not even employ to make lime: they must be treated, therefore, as so many overgrown children." Then turning to me, he explained in French what he had said, adding, "the Turks have no conception of your sciences and knowledge: they suspect your purposes, and they even suspect me their countryman at this moment, because they do not understand what I say to you." By this double negociation the drogman, with that dexterity for which drogmans are distinguished, effaced all distrust from the mind of the governor, and I obtained indulgences much beyond what I had ventured to expect. Post-horses were now placed at my disposal; and every other facility was commanded for my projects. But my credit was raised to the highest pitch when it was known that I was honoured with a visit from the Caimacan, or deputy of the Romili-Valessi or governor-general of Macedonia, then in Castoria. To such a point did the Caimacan carry his politeness, as to declare that I might freely, and without any difficulty, travel about over the whole extent of his jurisdiction. The favour was too extravagant; I therefore availed myself of it with great reserve; agreeably to the advice of my friendly drogman, who said to me at parting, "Make the best use you can, and quickly too, of this indulgence: but remember; be on your guard against the Turks."
 

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