29 October 2012

Cretan Defenses, 1502

Crete, by Piri Re'is

 From July 1500 through August 1502, Bartolomeo Minio was Venetian captain of Crete, which meant that he had primary responsibility for the defense of the island, and was second in command after the Captain General of the Fleet for the defense of the stato da mar.  In June 1502 he was finally able to make a tour of the defenses of Crete, unable to go sooner because of the pressure of the Ottoman war.  This is what has survived of his account of the fortifications, from a draft translation of the book I have coming out with John Melville Jones: The Greek Correspondence of Bartolomeo Minio: Volume 2: Dispacci from Crete, 1500-1502.
* * * * * *

14 July 1502
. . . I left here on the 19th of June to investigate various parts of this island and among other places, I was at Milopotamo1, a fortification on the shore which is in very bad condition in every respect that can be mentioned, where a number of good people live, but I am ashamed to speak of their condition. Then I went to Rethimno where I stayed two days. I looked over that place carefully and found it to be very weak, both in its walls and its ditches, and in my opinion a small enemy fleet would cause it great fear, and harm because of its weak fortifications. Then it has a large borgo, unwalled, not protected by any ditch nor anything else, one could jump into the terra over it anywhere without getting wet feet.

I left that place and went to Bicorna2, which is a fortification outside the mouth of Suda Bay on the left side. A very good fortress in bad condition, but to some extent better than Milopotamo; in truth one could without much expense have an angaria of villani3 in this area to put it in such a condition that it would not be captured by an attack from the sea, and would also be strong enough to withstand a number of shots from bombards. On the right bank of this fortress, not far away, are two streams of most abundant water, and anyone who wants to take water from these streams can be attacked from the castle. 

Then I went to Suda Bay and made the whole circuit and went to the rock of S. Nicolò which is at the mouth, guarded now and then. This island is 300 passa long and about a mile around. This island is about 275 passa from the land of the right side, 850 passa and more from the land on the left side. 4 On this island, in the middle, is a church with some other dwellings, and it is flat and open to all, and it is a steep place where many people could stay, I say a large number. If one wanted to block the entrance to Suda with the island, it is necessary to build two fortresses on it, one at the right bank and the other on the left, and build them low facing the sea . . . and nevertheless it would defend from the sea where one would have to put the bombards, because the sirocco and levanta5 batter from the sea against all. Then the middle area of the island is a spacious area, like the terraferma. . Behind Suda there is not enough drinking water for a large fleet. 
Then I traveled from the end of the bay of Suda to Chania by land, which is a completely flat area and really beautiful territory, about 3 miles, where I stayed two full days. I wanted to see the whole area of Chania and all the borgo, which is completely walled and seems as if it were a strong site, I found the place badly fortified, both the wall of the terra and the borgo, as well as the trenches, as all who have seen the place can well testify. I found Chania, both the terra and the borgo, very well populated and to be land well situated to be able to fortify both the terra and the borgo, . . . it is a place having value for many reasons that they can tell you. 
In Chania I found a man who seems to me to have great ability and great authority, by the name of Conte Franzon, who from what I have learned is a provisionato of Your Sublimity, who went everywhere with me both at Suda and the island, then we toured all of Chania, and I also took him to Bicorna. Speaking a good deal together, he seems to have a concern for its good condition and apparently has sent Your Signoria a modello of Chania.6 He has been most useful.

Then I went to Chisamo, a fortification very near Cape Spada7, a place in worse condition than the others and in a place more dangerous that, by the true God, Most Serene Prince, besides such a place could enter into the hand of the enemy to cause real harm to Your Sublimity's state. It seems to me, speaking always with my customary respect and submission toward you, that seeing this island of so great importance to your state, seeing these places in such a condition, seems to me a great shame. I inform you that I have learned from him [Franzon] that last year at Chania there was the captain of His Majesty, the King of France, at Suda, incognito, and he wanted to see the whole thing and learned such details, saying with his own mouth, “The Signoria of Venice has little care for this great island to have these places so desolate and in such bad condition, which all need to be completely fortified.” I do not enlarge beyond what was said to me. 
Because the Most Serene Signoria commands me in your letter that I should look well into the whole matter of Suda and also tell them my feelings and thoughts, I think I have said reasonably discreetly what I think, nor do I want to say anything else about this, but I will send in another letter a detailed account of what I think are the needs, and I will do also with good and loyal advice, and I will draw a map, so that Your Serenity will be able to make the best decision, both for Suda and for the other places . . . I will not refrainfrom telling Your Most Illustrious Signoria these few other words: the area of Sitia is of great importance because there is a good port and it is at a cape on the eastern end.

 Outside the mouth of Suda is a place most suitable for mounting arms named [- - - -8] that has an island in front which forms almost a port and is a spacious place. And on this same route which goes from Suda to Chania9 one goes by the place of Marathonisi10 at Chania, of which I have the opinion that there is no more apt place than Suda to be able to load and unload from this island I think you do not know it, because [ - - - - 11] Spinalonga12 is a spacious port for landing and so too is Sitia. It is true that the island is mountainous and in several places there are a number of quite narrow mountain passes for going from one place to another, but there is no other way to be able to pass. So as to not diminish the truth some people have the opinion that the villani could stand strong at the passes, but in my judgement they can have the opinion that pleases them, but every day one sees through experience that when they hear the name Turks they take to the mountains. But if there were a good number of people, equipped and practiced in such exercise, they could manage a good number of villani with them. I have not thought it inappropriate to say these few words and Your most illustrious Signoria will make your own most wise judgement.

1    Milopotamo is the present Panormas, between Candia and Rethymno. There is nothing to be seen of the fortification now.
2    Bicorno is a small fortification on Suda Bay.
3    Angaria of villani = required labor from paroichi, serfs.
4    275 passa is about 1512 feet, and 850 passa is about 4674 feet.
5    Sirocco: a wind out of the Sahara desert which can reach hurricane force. It leaves a coating of fine red dust in its wake. Levanta, or levanter, is a strong north-east wind often bringing rain.
6   Modello: a wooden model.
7   Chissamo, a fortified town, is the present Kissamos, at the base of the gulf formed by Capes Spada and Gramvousa, capes west of Chania.
The name is left blank in the manuscript, but Minio is probably referring to the small island of Souda    
      Nisida towards the mouth of the bay.
9   Suda and Chania are on opposite sides of the neck of a head-shaped peninsula that bends eastward to form
     Suda Bay.
10 Marathonisi ("fennel island"): now Marathi, a small bay and peninsula at the opening of Suda Bay.
11A short space is left in the manuscript but more than a little is missing, as the text switches abruptly from the western  
      end of Crete to the eastern end.
12 Spinalonga: a long peninsula with many inlets and outlets toward the eastern end of Crete, north of Ag. Nikolaos on Mirabella Bay; not as far east as Sitia.

For more of Bartolomeo Minio:

22 October 2012

Mark Twain didn't say that

Drake's Drum at Buckland Abbey

"Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder's runnin' low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port o' Heaven,
An' drum them up the Channel as we drumm'd them long ago."

Sir Francis Drake didn't say those words given to him in Henry Newbolt's poem, and no one thinks he did. They are part of a child's view of history, and one of the early surprises by time that lured me into scholarship.  And the whole drum mystique has a wonderful accumulation of stories.

I was thinking about Sir Francis Drake -- pirate, slaver, brute --recently because at a church servic a couple of months back, the reverend talked about a prayer he said was written by Sir Francis.  The Sir-Francis identification -- language and thought -- didn't sound right to me, and I had theological problems with the egocentric content. I asked where he had found it.  Just Google for "Sir Francis Drake's prayer," he said.  I did.  I will not put the prayer here because I find the attribution a great untruth, and it is so far from anything that could be imagined of the 16th century that it makes my head hurt.

More searching seemed to produce evidence that it was so cited, and rewritten into its present form, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  In an e-mail, the reverend said he knew someone who could find out about this for me, and perhaps this will happen.  The reverend also said about Sir Francis: 
I may judge his actions, but not his faith.  A good thought on that is to point to John Newton who was a slave ship captain that penned the hymn "Amazing Grace" after his conversion of thought about that matter which had been (wrongly) upheld as okay by the church.
A kind and uncritical view of this pirate, brute, and slaver.  So I read three serious biographies of Sir Francis, all of which assured me that he was not bowling when the Spanish Armada was approaching the shores of England: a bit of publicity long after the event.  I am disappointed, but I can live with that.

However, none of the biographers mentioned this prayer, all three had cold views of his religion, all three found him a great moral failure, and I would personally say that Sir Francis hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of having written that web-cherished prayer.  Or of escaping hell, if you believe in that sort of thing.

There is a fine prayer attributed to Drake here, which was, in fact, composed by Eric Milner-White, the Dean of York during WW2 and after, derived from a letter of Drake's which said: There must be a begynnyng of any great matter, but the contenewing unto the emd untyll it be thoroughly ffynyshed yelds the trew glory.
If Drake actually used this in the context of a prayer, it was before a massacre or slave-taking.  That was what he did.

 Think about it.

I am getting to Mark Twain now.  The year I was 14, I lived two blocks from his house in Hartford, Connecticut.  I passed it twice a day on my way to and from school.  I visited it so often that the ladies at the door quit charging me admission, and I could go into Mark Twain's library, sit in his chair, and read his books.  At the annual Mark Twain festival, a charming white-haired man with a white suit, and a cigar, was shaking hands on the porch, and it was another 5 years or so in a college literature class before I realized that I had not actually met Mark Twain personally.  My tenderness for this man, for his books, and my reverence for the Mississippi River he gave me is unequalled by my affection for anything else except for my daughters. And Nauplion.

So in this context, imagine my horror when I was sent, and more than once, a cheerful maxim attributed to Mark Twain which recommended various forms of imposing your uninhibited self-expression on an unsuspecting public.  This was making the rounds of the interwebs, and I can only say that I never saw it posted by a person of the male gender. (Thanks, guys!)  With a daughter's help, I tracked it down to another author -- a New Age type,  which was evident from the text -- unfortunately of the male gender. Again, I will not post the quotation here because I have standards.

No one who has actually read Mark Twain, or knows anything about him, or has any respect for him, could attribute something so trite, so mindless to this man who lived enmeshed in depression and and anger, and his experiences of slavery, war, failure, loss, and death. 

If people think Mark Twain's name authoritative, why treat it with such carelessness? Or Socrates' name, or Thucydides', or George Washington's, or the names of any of those people who are used as authorities for private sentiments? 

Winston Churchill did not say, "You make a living by what you get: you make a life by what you give," another quote currently circulating that shows no awareness of his distinctive style of rhetoric.

Albert Einsten did not say, " The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," a quote that is always turning up on Facebook.

Edmund Burke did not say, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  Nor did Plato or Martin Luther King.

Ingrid Bergman did not say, "Play it again, Sam." 

Sherlock Holmes did not say, "Elementary, my dear Watson." *

If you have the slightest temptation to pass on an attribution -- it happens to all of us -- and you do not know a specific citation, Do Not Attribute It.  You can quote it, no matter how banal, from now till the cows come home,** but don't burden it with a label.  Man-up, woman-up, and claim it as your own.

It is that simple.  And for the people who do believe in hell, let me remind you that giving such twaddle to Sir Francis Drake or Mark Twain, or misquoting anyone (including, especially in the next couple of weeks, President Obama), is a violation of the 8th Commandment (or 9th, depending on your confession): Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Mark Twain was my neighbor. 

* Would you believe P. G. Wodehouse, in Psmith Journalist, 1915?
** I have heard this phrase used all my life by people who have no personal acquaintance with cows.

16 October 2012

Stratioti, numbers, horses

Chesepritri* off the coast of Candia, south of Tolo. 
Mid-16th C, redrawn 18th C.

From the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, identified as Poros.
What Albanian word would the French have heard as Chesepritri?  

In January I wrote an entry about how the number 6000 became the definitive number whenever the troop strength of the Morea was estimated.  This works very well, if you take some simplistic calculations.  Sphrantzes said that there were 30,000 Albanians.  Assume half were males, 15,000.  Evidence from various population groups in medieval and pre-modern Greece suggests that from 37-54% were under the age of 14, or 5550-8100.  That  is a very wide range, from 9850 down to 6900 adult males, and if you consider the ones too old or too injured to fight, or those needed to keep an eye on the settlements and herds, 6000 is quite reasonable.

There is one other estimate of stratioti numbers in the Morea to consider.

Chesepritri is the green island, farther down the coast than this suggests. 
The blue is Ropolı/Romvi, the red Daskalo in the bay off Tolo.
Nauplion upside-down. Piri Re'is, 1574 edition of 1520s map. 
Piri Re'is's islands should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise.

In 1465, Jacopo Barbarigo (in charge of Venetian forces in the Venetian-Ottoman war in the Morea) said that the territories of Methoni and Koroni could only support about 150 horses each -- he was having a difficult time getting feed for the stratioti's horses, and many had starved to death.  Although he was stationed in upper Mani, he had to keep most of his forces up in Nauplion territory.

He said he had a total of 1500 stratioti, in addition to the Italian troops. He estimated that there were between 2000 and 3000 stratioti fighting with the Ottoman troops. This would be a total count of 3500-4500 stratioti in the Morea.  What happened to the other 1500-2500?

Στὸ βουνὸ would be my guess, assuming there had been about 6000 earlier.  The Ottomans are only recorded as having one battle in the field with stratioti, and that was in 1423.  Barbarigo gives accounts of one side coming upon the other en route, or an occasional ambush, but all other accounts concern sieges and raiding the countryside.  Stratioti, with horses, did not think much of sieges, from either side.

 Chesepritri more accurately located by GoogleMaps,
triangular plain of Canda right, Nauplion upper left.  

In the Nauplion area, the stratioti had been given the land at Aria and Candia, in the flat triangular plain south-east of the coastal mountains and the narrow road past the bay of Drepanon. (The area produces artichokes today.)  In theory, and following the Byzantine system, stratioti had land on which to support themselves and their families, and otherwise they were paid in loot.  In practice, as Minio found in the summer of 1480, stratioti could not collect their harvest and then pay their harvest taxes, if they had to be armed and on full alert for an Ottoman attack just at harvest time.  Or, as Barbarigo kept trying to explain to Venice, stratioti could not feed themselves if they had been away from home for three years and were always on the move. (For more on stratioti pay, here.)  

This gets us to Chesepritri, the large island in the bay between Tolo and Candia.  The French map emphasizes pastures which are difficult to have confidence in looking at the aerial map of the island.  I do not know how many farm plots and how many horses the plain of Candia could maintain.  This site on horses suggests 1 1/2 acres of good pasture land -- 6 stremmata -- dung-free, per horse.  So I suspect that Chesepritri's pastures provided a home for some of the stratioti's horses, probably the mares and foals, as the others would at times be needed immediately.

Chesepritri itself, showing that the 16th-C map was not too far off.  
Modern houses in just about the same locations, some pasture areas.

* Thanks for the Chesepritri map to Pavlos Plessas, himself from a stratioti family known at the time the original map was made, the Blessi.

09 October 2012


Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for trying to be a woman.  

A girl who could have been my granddaughter was shot today because she had integrity. 

Masked Taliban gunmen who were not men enough to show their faces attacked a schoolbus, shooting Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck.  They just missed her brain. They shot two other girls for good measure.  The territory where she lived was supposed to be safe. If Malala does not die, the masked coswards have announced they will kill her.  The masked cowards cannot bear for a woman to have the courage to show her face.

She is 14 years old.  Since she was 11 she has wanted to be a doctor, and she wrote an blog for the BBC under the name Gul Makai  ("Cornflower") about her experiences as a girl in a vicious culture.  She wrote about being afraid. She had been warned several times to stop speaking out.

 She comes from a good family, from a father who ran a girls' school, one of the last to stay open in defiance of the Taliban.  She was named for a mythical heroine.  She has already been recognized in Pakistan as a heroine, even before the nastiness that happened today, 9 October.

Remember Malala Yousafzai.

08 October 2012

One more Palaiologos

Manuel,"son of Eudokia, the illustrious and thrice-happy,
whose father is a Caesar and whose mother is from a branch of flowering purple
Icon podea embroidered with gold, silver, pearls, and silk, 750 x 750 mm,
Museum, Ducal Palace, Urbino.
At the Monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana near Pesaro, 1425-1915.

Ivan Drpić sent me material about another Palaiologos, one known as Manuel The Bastard -- if he is known at all --that being "Nothos" in English. 

All that is known about Manuel is that he commanded whatever there was of a Byzantine fleet in February 1411 and defeated an Ottoman naval attack on Constantinople.  Our source is Chalcocondyles (picked up by Pseudo-Sphrantzes) who says:

Thereupon the Greeks manned their ships, as many as they had, as well as triremes, and placed Manuel in charge, the illegitimate son of the ruler John. They attacked and began a naval battle. The Greeks won. This Manuel, son of the ruler, was second to none in judgment and prudence, and seemed at that time to be quite capable of leading in war and was generally held in esteem. Because of this esteem, he was arrested by his brother the ruler and thrown into prison where he and his sons stayed for seventeen years.

His brother the ruler was Manuel II, and it is impossible to think of Manuel acting like this, no matter how irritated. It is completely in violation of what is known of his character. He, and his son John after him, were outstandingly mild-mannered in their treatment even of the treasonous, although both had flaming tempers.  I consider this sentence seriously erroneous.  Of course, ignoring that sentence means losing half of what Chalcocodyles has to say, but discrimination is listed as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  

That is it for Manuel, brother of Manuel.
Then there is this marvelous portrait of a contemporary Manuel kneeling before his patron, the Archangel Michael, embroidered on silk. In Kosmos of Verse, Ivan Drpić points out that -- unusually for a donor/protector image -- the two are equal in size. The silk was probably intended for use as a podea, a textile attached to the lower edge of an icon:


Twenty-three lines of verse are embroidered around the figures on this textile in gold and silver -- you will see how the lines vary in length.  I have taken this from two transcriptions which differ in spellings and accents: 

Ὡς πρὶν´ Ιησοῦς τ(οῦ) Ναυὴ κἀμψας γόνυ
Τῶν σῶν ποδῶν ἔμπρ[οσ]θεν αὑτὸν ἐῤῥίφη,
Αἰτῶν παρὰ σ(οῦ) δῦναμιν [ε]ἰλ[η]φέναι  //
Ὡς ἀλλοφύλων ὑποτά[ξ]ῃ τὰ στίφη·
Οὕτως ἔγωγε Μανυὴλ σὸς οἰκέτην,
Εὐδοκίας παῖς εὐκλἑ(οῦ)ς τρϊσολβίου·  //
Φυτοσ//πόρον μὲν // Καίσαρι // κεκτη//μένης· //
Γεννήτρι//αν δὲ πορφυρά[ν]θητον κλά//δον
Τὰ // νῦν ἐμαυ//τὸν ἱκ[ε]//τικῶ τῶ // τρόπω·
Ῥίπτω  // ποσί σ(ου) // καὶ λι//τάζο// μαι δέ // σε, //
Ὡς [σ]αῖ//ς σκέ//ποις πτέρυ//ξι κεχρυ[σω] // μέν[αις] //
Καὶ προ//φθάν// ων ῥύῃς // με παν//τὸς κιν//δύν(ου)· //
Καὶ προ//στάτην ἔ//χω σὲ // καὶ φύλ//ακά μου· //
Ψυξῆς // τε καὶ σώ//ματος ὢν ἐν τῷ // βίῳ
Κἂν // τῇ τελευ/ ταίᾳ δὲ // καὶ φρι//κτῇ κρίσει
εὑρῶ // προσην//ῆ διὰ // σοῦ τὸν δεσπό // την·
Ἐκ κοιλίας γὰψ μ(ητ)ρι//[κ]ῆς ἐπεῤῥίφην
Ἐπι σέ, ταχίαρχε // τῶν ἀσωμάτων. *
Ὁ ἀρχ (άγγελος) Μιχ (αὴλ) ὁ φύλαξ
† (Οὖ)ς μ(ου) προ // σέσχε σῇ δεήσει καὶ σκέ//πω
Σὲ μὲν πτέρυξιν // ἰδίαις ὡς οἰκέτην· //
Ἐχθρ(οὺ)ς δὲ τ(οὺ)ς σ(οῦ)ς ἀνε//λῶ μ(ου) τῇ σπάθῃ. **

Loosely translated, this says:
- As once, Joshua, son of Nun, knelt and threw himself at your feet asking to receive from you the strength to conquer the foreign hordes, so I, your servant Manuel, son of Eudokia, the illustrious and thrice-happy, whose father is a Caesar and whose mother is from a branch of flowering purple, now throw myself at your feet as a suppliant, and I pray you to shelter me under your golden wings, and advancing, save me from all danger. Be, I pray you, guardian and protector of my soul and body during my life, and that I find at the last, terrible judgement, a favorable master thanks to you. Since my mother’s womb I have been entrusted to you, O Commander of the Asomatoi. ***
- My ears have been attentive to your requests, and I am sheltering you my servant under my wings, and with my sword I will cause your enemies to perish.

Various writers have identified this kneeling Manuel with Manuel "Nothos," and the coincidence of names and military accomplishments are tempting.  But there is no final definite proof to allow us to say that they are the same person.

Still - - the face of Manuel reminds me of the portrait of his nephew, Theodoros I Palaiologos at Mistra, as to the shape of the nose, and the eyebrow arch. Both features are quite different from those of the Archangel Michael (below). The quality of the portraiture in the silk embroidery of the faces of Manuel and Michael is stunning, and we can only wonder what other fine portraits have not survived. 

The whereabouts of this his wonderful textile has been known since 1425 -- it was in the Abbey of Santa Croce de Fonte Avellana near Pesaro from then until 1915 -- but nothing is known of its origin. (One can speculate -- I will just mention that two significant individuals from Pesaro, both of the Latin rite, were in the Morea at that time, and one of them was married to a Palaiologos -- Cleofe Malatesta and Pandolfo Malatesta, Archbishop of Patras.)

The silk is now in the museum of the Ducal Palace of Urbino, displayed at eye level for reasonably clear viewing.  I have not had the privilege of seeing it, but a recent visitor expressed dismay at the deterioration of the fabric and the apparent lack of concern for its maintenance and restoration.  I would like this entry to contribute to its protection.

* A star is embroidered here.  

** Four dots are embroidered here. 
*** Asomatoi = heavenly beings without bodies, i.e., archangels.

I am glad to send an extremely large PDF of the textile on request.

02 October 2012

The Athens plague of 1835, continued.

Bettina as a young girl. 

In the previous entry, Konstantinos Schinas had to tell his wife's parents about her long and serious illness in Athens in the hot summer of 1835. Now in this final letter written two weeks later (25 August/5 September), he tells them about her death.

* * * * * * 

I wrote to you the 18th via the Austrian Embassy and I didn’t sense the horrible, the uncurable catastrophe ahead for me and you.
In the morning of the 24 at 1 ½ o’clock my angel, your only daughter closed her beautiful eyes -- pious, patient, loving Bettina after a sickbed of 38 days while she was thinking only of her saviour and her parents, her glance turned to heaven, repeating for more than an hour “Forgive me everything, everything”.

Alas, dear parents! Everybody without exception shared the dolour of this unexpected disaster, friends, Christina, Stephan and all helpers still are inconsolable; all of our relatives and siblings who will get this horrible message very soon will be weeping bitterly for a long time over this irreplacable enormous loss, but they will eventually find relief from their pain.  Only you dear precious parents, and me the  husband of the most excellent creature, will no instance, no time ever deliver from this pain. I have loved this invaluable angel more than 10 years, not in confidence to gain possession of her, but with a hope not impossible to realize.

Finally there was the time to make long-nourished wishes true, I travelled to Ancona, alas, a year ago to bring the beautiful bride home, but no, to her grave. The subject of my adoration, 10 years desired, my lover, my wife, my guardian angel was allowed to me less than 10 months, now she is the Lord’s bride. She is in heaven and we unfortunates -- on this earth of mourning, in this deceiving joyless world. I will love her till my grave, but now hopeless on earth; only one hope is left to be reunited with her in one grave and in another world. Until the Lord helps me to this fortune I will continue living with her, try to guess her will and fulfill it faithfully and painstakingly according to my powers and so find little and poor comfort. I’ll do my timing all of the year related to her. My holidays will be the days meaningful to her or us, her birthday, her day of baptism, her confirmation, the day we first met, the day I first declared myself to her, the day of our separation in Berlin, the reunion in Ancona, our wedding day. The days when she led a serious conversation with me, gave me a fruitful advice, spoke to me a holy word will be my days of devotion. The correspondence with you will be part of these sweet duties, parents of my angel who is resting in God. 

Alas! I swear by her who adored you, who thought of you with burning desire till the end of her life, who had no wish but fulfilling your will completely, by the only and beloved daughter who is now watching us from above, to consider myself forever as your son, her orphaned husband, the most lamentable of all men, and will keep up the correspondence with you as faithful and reliable as your beloved passed away daughter did. There will not be the diversity like before, because why should you further be interested in Greece, which now keeps only the mortal remains, but no longer the beautiful soul of the precious child. But it will be of greatest interest for you, because for years I will be able to tell about the magnificent, the devotional, the loving, the brilliant I keep of her. And you too will always want to communicate about her to me. That is what I ask and confidentially expect of you in her blessed name, to continue your parental love for me, who will never stop to be connected with your daughter, as well as the regular correspondence like with her. Alas! Should there be little comfort thinkable, Bettina must always be considered as being alive with us, her death may not alter inner relations, everything must stay like she never stopped to be with us.

I realize that I did not yet continue the account of the cruel disease which I gave you only till the 18 of the month.

I told you in my last letter she was getting better, only suffering the so called bed-sore which had started healing,  there was no anxiety for her life anymore but a long convalescence to be expected; but this unfortunate abscess obviously had undermined all her life powers. The physicians (Dr. Röser and Ipitis) decided for a China decoction as a restorative agent, because out of exhaustion she developed a lethargy (meanwhile also Dr. Rösler became ill). The result were severe convulsions in the middle of the night; Ipitis helped again with calmatives, but a night or 2 later there were alarming palpitations; I didn’t know about this but was informed by the Bavarian nurse, like the doctor, 16 hours later (which was Friday, Aug 21, 6-7 o’clock in the evening). That evening the doctor did nothing about it. 

The following day (Saturday) he arrived only at half past 9 and ordered digitalis, finally at 6 in the afternoon he ordered a Spanish fly at her neck and another medicine, to stop the awful enlargement of her heart by diversion. These drugs arrived after 1 ½ hours from the king’s pharmacy which is rather far away. They were applied and seemed to show effects in the beginning (specially the Spanish fly); but this was a delusion, human help was too late anyway. After 8, her breathing started to get very hard, she couldn’t speak though she was obviously fully aware; at 11 her death struggle began, at 1 ½ after midnight the angel passed away repeating many times the words "Everything, everything, everything."

Madame Hill, who lives quite far away was informed immediately and she came right away with an older Englishwoman and with our Bavarian (or Wurttembergian) nurse Babett Wimmersberger washed the beautiful corpse, put her back on the bed where she had died and left.

The angel’s face was so lovely, so moving, so heavenly like I never saw one before, not only in the first hours after she had passed away but also the whole Monday (24) through until past midnight. Her beautiful eyes were closed like asleep, her mouth not fully closed so the pearls of her fair teeth could gleam; one could imagine she wants to speak or smile chastely and lovely like she often did. Only after midnight, i. e. after 24 hours decay began, a little blood and water flew out of her mouth, and in the morning (Tuesday) an odour was sensible, the eyes were not disfigured but the half moons under them a little distorted, the mouth and the beautiful front remained unaltered. The odour intensified but stayed tolerable.

The procession was to leave the house at 7 ½ in the morning and head for the church of St. Irene. Many friends who wanted to accompany the one in eternity came earlier and wanted to see her; the day before many had come to see her and admired the holy calm of her angel’s face; but the day of the funeral I did not give permission to see her anymore because on the occasion of speaking to me about the funeral of Minister Brockhausen Bettina once told me no unintentionally “ horrbile to see such a distorted corpse and to keep in mind such a displeasing impression, specially if the deceased is dear and precious to us. When I die, II would never want to be a subject of disgust. My body must only be seen as long as it is looking human.” On the occasion of the death of a little, in Greece born child of v. Lesuire she repeated this remark.

That is why I let nobody in and when the Greek clergy arrived I took only one priest into the room to read a short prayer after which I put the one in eternal immediately into the very beautiful coffin which was closed directly.

The procession then went to the church, Hill wearing his robe followed the Greek clergy. Inside the church (of Saint Irene) only the Greek priests (7 of them) said the prayers, then the procession set off again to the cemetery which is at least half an hour outside the city. On the way the odour increased because it was one of the hottest days (but also the last very hot one); the coffin was carried by 8 strong, very beautiful and very well dressed young men who rotated often.

Arriving, the coffin was put down in front of the grave, the Greek clergy said the last prayer, then Mr. Hill said the prayers of the Anglican Church with dignity and emotion and so the angel was buried in the earth. Her body now lies quietly beyond the temple of Jupiter and her beautiful soul has reached the  superior destination which she was longing for.
 Bettina, age 5.

Previous entries for  Bettina Schinas:
Copyright © Brigitte Eckert 2012

Ruth Steffen: Leben in Griechenland 1834–1835. Bettina Schinas, geb. von Savigny. Briefe und Berichte an ihre Eltern in Berlin. Verlag Cay Lienau, Münster 2002.   ISBN 3-934017-00-2.