Turkey In Europe - Albania And Epirus
( Originally Published 1920 )
THE name of Shkiperi, which the Albanians give to the country they inhabit, is supposed to mean " land of rocks," and no designation could be more appropriate. Stony mountains occupy the whole of the country, from the frontiers of Montenegro to those of Greece. The only plain of any. extent is that of Scutari (Shkodra), to the south of the Montenegrin plateau, which forms the natural frontier of Albania towards the north. The bottom of this depression is occupied by the Lake of Scutari; and the Drin, the only river of the Balkan peninsula which is navigable for a considerable distance from the sea, debouches upon it. The Drin is formed by the junction of the White and the Black Drin, and in former times it only discharged a portion of its waters temporarily into the Boyana River, which drains the Lake of Scutari. But in 1858 it opened itself a nett channel opposite to the village of Miet, about twenty miles above its mouth, and since that time the greater volume of its waters flows in the direction of Scutari, frequently inundating the lower quarters of that Wan. The marshy tracts ou the Lower Drin are dangerous to cross during the heat of summer, and the fevers of the Boyana are the most dreaded along the whole of that coast.
Most of the southern ramifications of the Bosnian Alps are inhabited by Albanians, but they are separated from their kinsmen in Albania proper by the deep valley of the Drin, a kind of canon similar to those of the Rocky Mountains, enclosed between precipitous walls several thousand feet in height, and hardly ever trodden by the foot of a wanderer. The mountain systems of Bosnia and Albania are only indirectly connected by a series of ranges and plateaux stretching from the mountain of Ghieb in a south-easterly direction as far as the Skhar, or Seardus of the ancients. The crest of this latter runs at right angles to most of the ranges of Western Turkey, and although its culminating point is inferior in height to those of Slav Turkey, it is the point of junction between the Balkan and the mountain systems of Bosnia and Albania. The Skhar is of great importance, too, in the hydrography of Turkey ; for two great rivers, the Bulgarian Morava and the Vardar, descend from its flanks, one flowing to the Danube, the other to the Gulf of Saloniki. Chamois and wild goats are still met with in the Skhar, as in the Pindus and Rhodope, and mentions an animal known to the Mirdits as a lucerbal, which appears to be a species of leopard.
A mountain region, hardly 3,000 feet in elevation, but exceedingly difficult of access, rises to the west of the Skhar, on the other side of the Black Drin : this is the citadel of Upper Albania, the country of the Mirdits and Dukajins. Enormous masses of serpentine have erupted there through the chalk, the valleys are hemmed in by bold precipices, and the torrents rapidly run down the hollowed-out beds on the exterior slopes. As a rule, the direction of the tortuous ranges of this mountain country is the same as that of the southern spurs of the Skhar. They gradually decrease in height, enclosing fine upland valleys, u here the waters are able to accumulate. The Lake of 0khrida, the largest sheet of water in Upper Albania, has not inaptly been likened to the Lake of Geneva. Its waters are bluer even than those of its Swiss rival, and more transparent, and fish may be seen chasing each other at a depth of sixty feet beneath its surface: hence its ancient Greek name of Lychnidos. The delightful little town of Okhrida and Mount Pieria, with its old Roman castle, guard its shores, and the white houses of numerous villages peep out amongst the chestnut forests which cover the slopes of the surrounding hills. This lake is drained towards the north. through the narrow valley of the Black Drin. If the statements of the inhabitants may be credited, the waters of the double basin of Lake Presba reach Lake Okhrida through subterranean channels.
The isolated peak of Tomor commands this lake region on the west. To the south of it commences the chain of the Pindus, locally known as Grammos. At first of moderate height, and crossed by numerous mountain roads affording easy communication between Albania and Macedonia, these mountains gradually increase in height as we proceed south, and exactly to the east of Yanina they form the mountain mass of Metzovo, with which the Pindus, properly so called, takes its rise. This mountain mass is inferior in altitude to the peaks of Bosnia or Northern Albania, but it is far more picturesque than either, its slopes being covered with forests of conifers and beech-trees, and the plains extending along its foot having a more southern aspect. Mount Zygos, or Lachman, which rises in the centre of this mountain mass, does not afford a very extended panorama, but if we climb the craggy peaks of the Peristera-Vuna, or Smolika, near it, we are able to look at the same time upon the waters of the AEgean and Ionian Seas, and even the shore of Greece may be descried beyond the Gulf of Arta.
A famous lake occupies the bottom of the limestone basin at the western foot of the mountain mass of Metzovo. This is the Luke of Yanina, and nowhere else throughout Epirus do we meet with an equal number of natural curiosities as on the shores of this lake. Its depth is inconsiderable, nowhere exceeding forty feet, and it is fed only by numerous springs rising at the foot of the rocks. There is no visible outlet ; but Colonel Leake assures us that each of the two basins into which it is divided is drained by a subterranean channel. The northern lake pours its waters into a sink, or roinikora, and reappears towards the south-west as a considerable river, which flows into the Ionian Sea. This is the Thyamis of the ancients, our modern Kalamas. Farther to the south the ancient Acheron bursts from the rocks, and having received the nauseous waters of the equally famous Cocytus, throws itself into the " bay of sweet waters," thus called on account of the large volume of water discharged into it by rivers.
When the waters of the southern and larger basin of Lake Yanina are low, there is but a single effluent, which plunges down into an abyss, and in doing so turns the wheels of a mill. The Cyclopean ruins of the Pelasgic city of Hellas command this huge chasm with its roaring waters. The subterranean river reappears far to the south, and flows into the Gulf of Arta. But when the level of the lake is high, four other sinks swallow up its superabundant waters, and convey them into the main channel, the direction of which is indicated by a few small lakes. The important part played in the mythology of ancient Greece by these subterranean effluents, and particularly by the infernal Acheron and the Cocytus, amply proves the influence exercised by the Pelasgians upon the civilisation of the Hellenes. The myths of the Hellopians became the common property of all Greece, and there was no temple in all Hellas more venerated than their sanctuary at Dodona, where the future might be foretold by listening to the rustling of the leaves of sacred oaks. This sacred grove existed, probably, near one of the Cyclopean towns so numerous in the country, if not on the shore of the lake itself. Some, erroneously no doubt, have looked for it near the castle inhabited in the beginning of this century by Ali Tepeleni, the terrible Pasha of Epirus, who boasted of being a " lighted torch, devouring man."
The mountains of Still, to the west of the basin of Yanina, attain an altitude of 3,500 feet, but the neighbouring hills are of moderate height, though abrupt and difficult of access, and near the coast they sink down into small rocky promontories, scantily clothed with shrubs and overrun by jackals. Swamps abound near the shore, and during summer their miasmatic air spreads over the neighbouring villages. To the north of the swamps of Butrinto and of the channel of Corfu, and to the west of the isolated peak of Kundusi, however, the coast rises again, and the austere chain of the Chimera Main, or Acroceraunii, extends along it. It was dreaded by the ancients on account of its tempests, and the torrents which poured down its sides. Squalls and changes of wind are frequent near the " Tongue (Linguetta) of Rocks," the most advanced promontory of this coast, at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. These are the " infamous rocks " referred to by the Roman poet, upon which many a vessel suffered shipwreck. The channel which separates Turkey at that place from Italy has a width of only 45 miles ; it is less than 100 fathoms in depth, and at some former period an isthmus may have united the two countries.
The Shkipetars, or Albanians, are subdivided into two leading tribes or nations, the Tosks and the Gheges, both of whom are no doubt descended from the ancient Pelasgians, but have in many places become mixed with Slays, Bulgarians, and Romanians, and perhaps even with other nations ; for whilst in some tribes we meet with the purest Hellenic types, there are others the members of which are repulsively ugly. The Gheges are the purest of their race, and they occupy, under various tribal names, the whole of Northern Albania as far as the river Shkumbi. The territory of the Tosks extends from that river southward. The dialects of these two nations differ much, and it is not easy for an Acroceraunian to understand a Mirdit or other Albanian from the north. Gheges and Tosks detest each other. In the Turkish army they are kept separated for fear of their coming to blows, and, when an insurrection has to be suppressed amongst them, the Turkish Government always avails itself of these tribal jealousies, and is certain of being served with the zeal and fury which hatred inspires.
Up to the period of the migration of the barbarians, the whole of Western Turkey, as far as the Danube, was held by Albanians. But they were then pushed back, and Albania was entirely occupied by Servians and Bulgarians.
The names of numerous localities throughout the country recall that period of obscuration, during which the name of an indigenous race was not even mentioned by the historian. But when the Osmanli had broken the power of the Serb, the Albanians again raised their heads, and ever since they have kept encroaching upon their Slav neighbours. In the north they have gradually descended into the valley of the Bulgarian Morava, and one of their colonies has even penetrated into independent Servia. Like the waters of a rising ocean, they overwhelm the detached tracts of territory still occupied by Servians. This progress of the Albanians is explained, to a great extent, by the voluntary expatriation of the Sarvians. Thousands of them, headed by their patriarchs, fled to Hungary, in order to escape the dominion of the Turks, and the Albanians occupied the wastes they left behind. The Servians still hold their ground near Acroceraunia, on the shores of Lake Okhrida, and in the hills looking down upon the fatal plain of Kosovo, where their ancestors were massacred; but they gradually become Albanians in language, religion, and customs. They speak of themselves as Turks, as do the Arnauts, and apply the name of Servian only to the Christians dwelling beyond the frontier. On the other hand, many of the customs of the Gheges agree in a remarkable manner with those of their Slav neighbours, and this proves that there has taken place a thorough blending of the two races.
But whilst the Albanians are gaining ground in the north, they are losing it in the south. A large portion of the inhabitants of Southern Albania, though undoubtedly of Pelasgic origin, are Greek by language. Arta, Yanina, and Prevesa are Hellenized towns, and only a few Mohammedan families there still speak Albanian. Nearly the whole of the tract between the Pindus and the Adriatio coast ranges has became Greek as far as language goes, and throughout the mountain region extending west ward to the sea the inhabitants are " bilingual ; " that is to say, they speak two languages. The famous Suliotes, for instance, who talk Tosk within the bosom of their family, make use of Greek in their intercourse with strangers. Wherever the two races come into contact, it is always the Albanian who takes the trouble to learn Greek.
This influence of the Hellenes is all the more powerful as it meets with support amongst the Zinzares, known also as Macedo-Walakhs, " Limping " Walakhs, or Southern Romanians, who are met with throughout the country. These Zinzares are the kinsmen of the Romanians of Wallachia and Moldavia, and live in a compact body only on the two slopes of the Pindus, to the south and east of the Lake of Yanina. Like the Romanians of the Danube, they are most probably Latinised Dacians. They resemble the Walakhs in features, character, and disposition, and speak a neo-Latin tongue much mixed with Greek. The Zinzares in the valleys of the Pindus are, for the most part, herdsmen, and wander away from their villages sometimes for months. Others carry on trades, exhibiting much manual skill and intelligence. Nearly all the bricklayers of Turkey, those of the large towns excepted, are Zinzares; and the same individual sometimes erects an entire house, doing in turn the work of architect, carpenter, joiner, and locksmith. The Romanians of the Pindus are likewise esteemed as clever goldsmiths.
Their capacity for business is great, and the commerce of the interior of Turkey is almost entirely in their hands, as is that of the maritime districts in those of the Greeks. The Walakhs of Metzovo are said to have stood formerly under the direct protection of the Porte, and every traveller, whether Mussulman or Christian, was bound to unshoe his horses before he left their territory, for fear " of his carrying away a clod of earth which did not belong to him." Commercial houses conducted by Walakhs of the Pindus are met with in every town of the Orient, and even at Vienna one of the most influential banks has been founded by one of them. Abroad they are generally taken for Greeks, and the wealthier amongst them send their children to Athens to be educated. Surrounded by Mussulmans, the Zinzares of the Pindus feel the necessity of attaching themselves to some country through which they might obtain their freedom, and they hope for a union with Greece. It is only quite recently that they have learnt to look upon the Romanians of the North and the Italians as their kinsmen. They do not, however, set much store upon their nationality, and have no aspirations as a distinct race. There can be no doubt that in the course of ages many of these Macedo-Walakhs have become Hellenized. Nearly all Thessaly was inhabited by Zinzares in the Middle Ages, and Byzantine authors speak of that country as " Great Wallachia." Whether these Zinzares have emigrated to Romania, as some think, or have become assimilated with the Greeks, the fact remains that at the present day they are not very numerous on the eastern slopes of the Pindus. Thousands of Romanian families have settled in the coast towns, at Avlona, Berat, and Tirana, embracing Mohammedanism, but still retaining their native idiom.
If we exclude these Zinzares, the Greeks of Epirus, the Servians, and the few Osmanli dwelling in the large towns, there remain only the semi-barbarous Gheges and Tosks, whose social condition has hardly undergone any change in the course of three thousand years. In their manners and modes of thought these modern Albanians are the true successors of the ancient Pelasgians, and many a scene that a traveller may witness amongst them carries him back to the days of the Odyssey. G. von Hahn, who has most thoroughly studied the Shkipetars, looks upon them as veritable Dorians, whose ancestors, led by the Heraclidœ, burst forth from the forests of Epirus to conquer the Peloponnesus. They are as courageous, as war-like, as fond of dominion, and as clannish as were their ancestors. Their dress, likewise, is nearly the same, and the white tunic (fustanelle) neatly fastened round the waist fairly represents the ancient chlamys. The Gheges, like the Dorians of old, arc addicted to that mysterious passion which the historians of antiquity have confounded, unfortunately, with a nameless vice, and which links men to children by a pure and ideal love, in which the senses have no part.
There is no modern people respecting whom more astounding acts of bravery are recorded than of the Albanians. In the fifteenth century they had their Seanderbeg, who, though the theatre of his glory was more circumscribed than that of his namesake of Macedonia, was hardly inferior to him in genius, and certainly surpassed him in justness and goodness of heart. Or what nation has ever exceeded in courage the Suliote mountaineers, amongst whom not an aged man, a woman, or a child was found to beg for mercy from Ali Pasha's executioners? The heroism of these Suliote women, who set fire to the ammunition waggons, and then hand in hand precipitated themselves from the rocks, or sought death in the mountain torrents, chanting their own funeral song, will at all times stand forth in history as an astounding fact.
This valour. unfortunately, is associated amongst many tribes with a fearful amount of savageness. Human life is held cheap amongst these warlike populations; blood calls for blood, and victim for victim. They believe in vampires and phantoms, and occasionally an old man has been burnt alive, on suspicion of his being able to kill by the breath of his mouth. Slavery does not exist, but woman is held in a state of servitude ; she is looked upon as an inferior being, basing no rights or mind of her own. Custom raises a more formidable barrier between the sexes than do walls and locked doors elsewhere. A young girl is not permitted to speak to a young man ; such an act is looked upon as a crime, which her father or brother may feel called upon to punish by a deed of blood. The parents sometimes consult the wishes of their son when about to marry him, but never those of their daughter. The latter is frequently affianced in her cradle, and, when twelve years of age, she is handed over to a young man on his presenting a wedding outfit and a sum of money fixed by custom, and averaging twenty shillings. From that moment he becomes the absolute master of his bride, though not without first going through the farce of an abduction, as is customary amongst nearly all ancient nations. The poor woman, thus sold like a slave, is bound to work for her husband. She is his housekeeper as well as his labourer, and the national poets compare her to the "ever-active shuttle," whilst the father of the family is likened to the "majestic ram marching at the head of the flock." Yet woman, scorned though she be, and brutalised by heavy work, may traverse the whole country without fear of being insulted, and the life of an unfortunate who places himself under her protection is held sacred.
Family ties are very powerful amongst the Albanians. The father retains the rights of sovereign lord up to an advanced age, and as long as he lives the earnings of his children and grandchildren are his own. Frequently this communism continues after his death, the eldest on taking his place. The loss of a member of the family, and particularly of a young man, gives rise to fearful lamentations amongst the women, who frequently swoon away, and even lose their senses. But the death of persons who have reached the natural limits of human life is hardly mourned at all. The descendants of the sane ancestor never lose sight of their parent age. They form clans, called phis or pharas, hich are bound firmly together for purposes of defence or attack, or in the pursuit of their common interests. Brotherhood by election is known amongst the Albanians, as well as amongst the Servians and other ancient nations, and its tics are as strong as those of blood. Young men desirous of becoming brothers bind themselves by solemn sows in the presence of their families, and, having opened a vein, they drink each other's blood. The need of these family bonds is felt so strongly in Albania, that young people brought up together frequently remain united during the remainder of their lives, forming a regular community, having its days of meetings, its festivals, and a common purse.
Tut in spite of these family associations and clans, in spite of the enthusiastic love which the Albanian hears his native land, there exists no political cohesion amongst the various tribes. The physical conditions of the country, no less than an unhappy passion for war, have scattered their forces, and rendered them unable, consequently, to maintain their independence. The religious animosities between Mussulman and Christian, Greek and Roman Catholic, have contributed to the like result.
It is generally supposed that the majority of the Albanians are Mohammedans. When the Turks became masters of the country the most valiant amongst them fled to Italy, and the greater part of the tribes that remained behind were compelled to embrace Islamism. Many of the chiefs, moreover, turned Mussulmans, in order that they might continue their life of brigandage, on pretence of carrying on a holy war. This accounts for the fact of the aristocracy of the country being for the most part Mohammedan, and in possession of the land. The Christian peasant who tills it is nominally a free man, but in reality he is at the mercy of his lord, who keeps him at the point of starvation. These Albanian Mussulmans, however, are fanatic warriors rather than religious zealots, and many of their ceremonies, particularly those connected with their native land, differ in nothing from those of their Christian compatriots. They have been converted, but not convinced, and cynically they say of themselves that their " sword is wherever their faith is."
In many districts the conversion has been nominal only, and zealous Christians have continued to conduct their worship in secret. Many Mohammedans of this class returned to the faith of their fathers as soon as the tolerance of Government permitted them to do so. As to the warlike mountain clans, the Mirdits, Suliotes, and Acroeeraunians, they had no need to bend to the will of the Turks, and remained Greek or Roman Christians. The boundary between Gheges and Tosks coincides approximately with the boundary between these two denominations, the Roman Catholics living to the north of the Shkumbi, the orthodox Greeks to the south of the river. The Hellenes and Zinzares in Southern Albania are orthodox Greeks. The hatred between these two denominations of Christians is intense, and this is the principal reason why the Albanians have not succeeded in regaining their independence, as have the Servians.
Southern Albania and Epirus had feudal institutions up to the close of last century. The chiefs of the clans and the semi-independent Turkish pashas lived in strong castles perched upon the rocks, from which they descended from time to time, followed by bands of servitors. War existed in permanence, and property changed hands continuously, according to the fortunes of the sword. Ah the Terrible, of Yanina, put a stop to this state of affairs. He reduced high and [ow to the same level of servitude, and the central Government now wields the power formerly exercised by lords and heads of families.
If we would become acquainted with a social condition recalling the Middle Ages, we must go amongst the independent tribes of Northern Albania. On crossing the Matis e at once perceive a change. Every one goes armed ; shepherds and labourers carry a carbine on the shoulder ; and even women and children place a pistol in their belts. Families, clans, and tribes have a military organization, and at a moment's notice are ready to take the field. A sheep missing in a flock, an insult offered in the heat of passion, may lead to war. Not long since the Montenegrin was the most frequent disturber of the peace, for, shut up in his sterile mountains, he was often obliged to turn brigand in order to sustain life, and laid under contribution the fields of his neighbours. The Turks have at all times nourished this hatred between Albanians and Montenegrins. They recompense the warlike services of the tribes of the border clans by exempting them from taxation, and allowing them to govern themselves according to their ow n laws. Let these immunities be touched, and they will make common cause with their hereditary foes of the Black Mountains.
The Mirdits are typical of the independent tribes of Northern Albania. They inhabit the high valleys to the south of the gorge of the Drin, and, though hardly numbering 12,000 souls, they exercise, in consequence of their warlike valour, a most important influence in all Western Turkey. Their country is accessible only through three difficult defiles, and they hold command of the roads which the Turkish troop must follow when operating against the Montenegrins. The Sublime Porte, well aware how difficult it would be to subdue these redoubt-able mountaineers, has endeavoured to attach them, showering honours upon them, and granting them the most complete self-government. The Mirdits, on their side, though Christians, have at all times fought most valiantly in the ranks of the Turkish army, in Greece and the Morea, as well as against their fellow-Christians of Montenegro. They are formed into three banners" of the mountains and two of the plains, and in time of war are joined by the five banners of Lesh, or Alessio. The banner of the renowned chin of Orosh takes precedence of all others.
The country of the Mirdits is governed by an oligarchy, of which the Prince or Pasha of Orosh is the hereditary head. His you or, however, is merely nominal, for in reality the country is governed by a council consisting of the elders (vecehiardi) of the villages, the delegates of the banners, and the heads of clans. The proceedings of this council are regulated by ancient traditions. Wives are taken by force from the enemy, for the members of the five banners look upon each other as relatives, and the Mohammedan girls in the lowland villages look forward with little fear to their being carried off by Mirdit warriors. The vendetta is exercised in an inexorable manner, and blood cries for blood. A violation of hospitality is punished with death. The adulteress is buried beneath a heap of stones, and her nearest relative is bound to deliver the head of her accomplice to the injured husband. It need hardly be said that education is at a very low ebb amongst these savages. There are no schools, and in 1860 hardly fifty Christians of the Mirdit country and of the district of Lesh were able to read. Agriculture, nevertheless, is in a relatively advanced state. The valleys of the sterile mountains are cultivated with a certain amount of care, and they produce finer crops than do the fertile plains, inhabited by an indolent population.
By a strange contrast, these direct descendants of the ancient Pelasgians, to whom we are indebted for the beginning of civilisation in Europe, still number amongst the most savage populations of our continent. But they, too, must yield in time to the influence of their surroundings. Until recently the Epirotes and southern Shkipetars left their country only in order to lead the easy but degrading life of mercenaries. In the last century the young men of Acroceraunia sold themselves to the King of Naples, to be embodied in his regiment of " Royal Macedonians;" and even in our own days not only Mohammedans, but also Christian Teske, enter the service of pashas and beys. These men, known as Arnauts, may be met with in the most remote parts of the empire—in Armenia, at Bagdad, and in Arabia. On the expiration of their term of service, the majority of these veterans retire to estates granted them by Government, and this accounts for the large number of Arnaut villages met with in all parts of the empire.
But wars are less frequent now, the life of a mercenary offers fewer ads antages, and increasing numbers of Albanians leave their country annually in order to gain a living abroad by honest labour. Like the Swiss of the canton of Grisons, many Shkipetars descend from their mountains at the commencement of winter in order to work for wages in the plains. Most of these return to their mountain homes in spring, enriched by their earnings ; but there are others who remain abroad for years, or who never return. The ads antages of a division of labour appear to be well understood by these mountaineers of Epirus and Southern Albania, and each mountain valley is noted for the exercise of some special craft. One valley sends forth butchers, another bakers, a third gardeners. A village near Argyrokastro supplies Constantinople u ith most of its well-sinkers. The district of Zagori, perhaps the home of the ancient Aselepiads, sends its doctors, or rather " bone-setters," into every town of Turkey. Many of these emigrants, when they become wealthy, return to their native land, where they build themselves fine houses in the midst of sterile mountains, and these take the places of the old seigneurial towers, which were erected only for purposes of defence.
The Albanians are thus being carried along by a general movement of progress, and if once they enter into the common life of Europe, we may expect them to play a prominent part, for they possess a penetrating mind and much strength of character. The Albanians enjoy the advantage of having ready access to the sea, but hitherto they have derived only small benefit from it, not only owing to the disturbed state of the country and the absence of roads, but also because of the alluvial deposits formed by the rivers and the malaria of the marshes. Still, making every allowance for these disadvantages, they hardly account for the almost entire absence of maritime enterprise. One would scarcely fancy these Epirotes and Gheges to be of the same race as those Hydriote corsairs who launched whole fleets upon the waters of the Archipelago at the time of the war for Hellenic independence, and v ho still maintain the foremost place amongst the mariners of Greece. The ports of Albania—Antivari, Porto Medua (one of the safest on the Adriatic), Durazzo, Avlona, Parga (lost in a forest of citron-trees), and even strong Prevesa, surrounded by more than a hundred thousand olive-trees—can boast but of a trifling commerce, and two-thirds of that are carried on in Austrian vessels from Trieste. With the exception of the Acroceraunians and the inhabitants of Dulcigno, which is the port of Scutari, no Mohammedan Albanian ventures upon the sea, not even as a fisherman. In spite of the fertility of the soil, there are hardly any articles to export. The mines of the country are unexplored, agriculture is in a most backward state, and in Epirus hardly any industry is known except the rearing of sheep and goats.
At the time of the Romans these countries were equally forsaken. There was one magnificent city, Nicopolis, built by Augustus on a promontory to the north of the modern Prevesa to commemorate his victory at Actium. The only other town of importance was Dyrrhachium, called Durazzo by the Italians. It formed the terminus of the Via Egnatia, which traversed the whole of the Balkan peninsula from west to east, and constituted tho great highway between Italy and the Orient. At Iona may aspire one day to take the place of ancient Dyrrhachium. Its geographical position is superior to that of Durazzo, for it is nearer to Italy, and its deep and secure harbour enjoys the shelter of the island of Suseno and of the Linguetta of Acroceraunia.
In the meantime all the commerce of the country is concentrated in Scutari and Yanina, and in some other towns of the interior. The most considerable amongst the latter are Prisrend, at the foot of the Skhar, whose nobles boast of their magnificent dresses and fine weapons; Ipek (Pech), Prishtina, Jakovitza (Yakova), in the north-eastern portion of the country, and on roads which lead from Macedonia into Bosnia. Nearer the coast are Tirana, Berat, and Elbasan, the ancient Albanon, whose name recalls that of the entire country. Gyorcha (Koritza), to the south of the Lake of Okhrida, is likewise a place of much trade, thanks to its position on a road joining the Adriatic to the AEgean Sea. Scutari and Yanma occupy sites at the foot of the mountains, whose natural advantages could not fail to attract a numerous population. Yanina, the capital of Epirus, is the more picturesque of these two cities. It is situated on the shore of a fine lake, opposite the somewhat heavy masses of the Pindus, but in sight of the mountains of Greece, which are of a "luminous grey, glittering like a tissue of silk." At the time of Ali Pasha, Yanina became the capital of an empire, and its population then exceeded that of Scutari. But the latter has now regained its pre-eminence. It is admirably situated, and the roads from the Danube and the .Egean, from the Lower Drin and the Adriatic, converge upon it. Scutari, or Shkodra, is the first oriental city which a traveller coining from Italy meets with, and the first impression made by its numerous gardens enclosed by high walls, its deserted streets and irregular buildings, is sufficiently curious. Long after he has entered the town, the traveller will remain uncertain as to its whereabouts. But let him climb to the summit of the limestone rock surmounted by the old Venetian castle of Rosapha, and the most magnificent panorama will unfold itself before his eves. The domes of Scutari, its twenty minarets, the emerald verdure of the plain, the surrounding amphitheatre of fantastically shaped mountains, the winding waters of the Boyana and Drin, and the placid surface of the lake glittering in the sun—these all combine to produce a spectacle of rare magnificence. The sea alone is wanting to render this picture perfect, but, though near, it is not within sight.