29 March 2013

Unless it falls into the earth and dies

Western Easter comes in two more days.  The tulips will open a day or two later.  All over the city, the flowering trees are radiant. Our chill sunny days have begun to warm and we are in the period between the flowering of most of the early short spring flowers, and then the explosion of the tall ones.   The daffodils started early to make constellations about the yard, half of them, like these, replanted from cheap little pots of forced bulbs from the grocery store.  The hellebores have tripled in size from the plants we bought.  One was broken down last month by someone's dog running through, but the other two plants have done splendidly.

Our hyacinths also come from grocery store pots, one pt a year.  The blues apparently double faster than the others.  I don't know where the hyacinth the color of rayon underwear comes from -- I'm sure I would not have bought that color. 

Pan has emerged from the winter tangle of fern for a few weeks of visibility before he is buried again in the new growth.  He sits where it is chill and damp, and may never know that spring has come. The squirrels are constantly over him, looking for left-over hazel nuts dropped from the tree above.

The dollar-size anemones are growing in the walkway, a good two feet beyond and across the barrier from where they were planted. 

The exquisite hermodactylus iris, pale golden-green and black, 8 inches tall, are opening, this one 40 feet away from where it was planted. These awe me -- I feel they should be planted on holy ground, or perhaps, they make the ground where they are holy. 

A single meleagris appeared early in the week, then a flock yesterday, my favorite of the springlings, a reminder of Iliad 9, and apparently also part of the Latin name of the wild turkey, and of the guinea fowl.  We had guinea fowl long ago, but apparently they were found unsuitable for eggs and food, and were discontinued when I was too young for my protests to be regarded.  They -- the flowers -- have been given a remarkable assortment of names, including snake's head, chess flower, frog cup, leper lilly, and Lazarus bell. 

Lazarus brings us back to dying, and Good Friday, and Good Friday is good only because of the assurance of Easter.

For a real garden blog, read Sparoza.

26 March 2013

Evliya's Mistra

Turkish Fountain, lower city.

Evliya Çelebi visited Mistra in September 1668. Here are parts of his description from Pierre MacKay's translation of the Morea portion of the Seyahatname. Evliya's numbers should not be taken for court evidence.  The section headings are Evliya's from his manuscript.  The text is taken from folios SN VIII.274a29 through SN VIII.275a31.
* * * * * * * * * *

[Coming from Longaniko.]
Passing through this town, I continued southeast along the foothills of the Falcon Mountain of Ma'ni, and came through frightful and dangerous places to the villages of Ag. Vasi'l, Koki'tsa, Ago'riani and Alevru'. These are all in the foothills of the mountains of Ma'ni, and together they comprise three or four hundred houses. They are Greek villages with gardens and orchards, and belong to the juridical district of Mistra' command. From there it was 4 hours to Mistra'. 
Conquests of the province of Mesokhori, which is the description of the castle of Mistra
Some write the name Misistra, but in the Imperial registers, they write "The Province of Mesokho'ri," and in official titulatures it is known as the Mezistra command. According to the statements of ancient Greek historians, it was built first by King Solomon, and the next builder was Rehoboam, son of the prophet Solomon. Then King Philip, having built the city of Athens, was so pleased with the air and water of this city of Mistra' that he edified it still further, and because the actual work on the building was done by his vizier, Meso Khor, the lower city is called Mesokho'ri in the Greek histories. In the Frankish tongue they call it . . . , and in the Latin tongue it is Mistir. This ancient city and mighty fortress was taken by the Conqueror Sultan Mehmed Khan in person, in the year. . . . 

It was formerly the capital city of the King of the Venetian Franks, and is now the capital city of the Bey of the Mistra' command. According to the cadastral register, the special reserve for the Pasha is 219000 aspers. There are 11 zeamet-class and l9 timar-class fiefs. There is a Levy Commander (Alay Beyi) and a Captain of Troops (Çeri başi), and according to the code the total levy of men-at-arms is a force of three thousand men. The Bey (Sancak Beyi) is assigned to naval duties under the Grand Admiral, who is Commander-in- chief for the Governorate, and he takes three galleys on campaign. He derives nine purses of revenue annually from the administration of justice in this command.

Religious law is the province of a sacred jurisdiction valued at three hundred aspers, and there are . . . district villages. The Judge's annual income from the administration of justice is eight purses. The Chief Mufti is the Excellent Hamdi Efendi, a creature perfect in knowledge, outstanding in temperament, rich in elevated nobility and majestic in scholarship. There is a Marshal of the descendants of the Prophet and a Judge-substitute for the lower city. There is a Local Commander of Troops (Sipa^h Ka^hya Yeri), a Captain of Janissaries and many magnates and notables. There is a Castle Commandant and twenty-four garrison personnel. There is an Inspector of Commerce with the rank of Ag"a, a Commissioner of Customs Duties, a Commissioner of Tribute Taxes, a Collector of Transit Dues, a Chief Architect with the rank of Ag"a, a City Intendant and a . . .. There is a Proto'geros for the Greek infidels, a Chief of the Congregation for the Jews and Consuls for the Franks, because this is a well-ordered city.

A chapter on the entire appearance of the city of Mistra'
According to the personal observations of your poor and humble servant, this high castle is at the foot of the mountains of Ma'ni on a steep smooth white rock, attached to the Falcon Mountain. There is a strong fortress and a mighty rampart reaching to the very sky, an almond-shaped masonry citadel of archaic workmanship. Together with its lower circuit it forms three subdivisions, making up a stalwart and well-built defense. There are three gates. One opens to the east, and this is the gate to the inner keep, located in that line of defense. The gate of the middle castle opens to the southeast and the gate of the outer division opens west and is in a very dark and shady place. In front of this gate is the Station of the Conqueror Mehmed Khan. This is a smooth slab of hard stone where the Conqueror performed a prostration of heartfelt thanksgiving, just as the castle was taken. In the place where his forehead touched the stone during the prostration of worship, there is now a little polished depression, and when the blessed rain collects here, epileptics and people with fevers come here and drink the rainwater, in which, by the will of God, they find recovery.

In the central keep of this three-part citadel is the residence of the Castle Commandant, and there is also an armory, a provisions store and a water cistern, but nothing else. In this entire three-part citadel there is a total of eighty lofty tile-roofed houses with splendid views, and the mosque of Sultan Mehmed Khan is here in this citadel too, an old-fashioned place of worship with no minaret. The entire circumference of this citadel complex, measured around the battlements, is eight hundred paces. If a man looks down from this castle -- God's truth -- his gall-bladder will burst from terror, for it is such a lofty castle, reaching up to the very sky, that even to look up at it sets a man's mind to whirling as if he were staring into the center of a narcissus flower.

The station of the Excellent Ak Sems u"d-Din
Outside the castle, on the rock where he worshipped, there are the holes worn away by his tears falling drop by drop, and traces of the place where his holy knees touched the hard rock. For this reason they say that the castle of Mistra' was taken by the tears of Ak S,ems u"d-Din. Down the hill from this holy place is the lower castle. Commendation of the construction of the mighty lower castle This is a huge fortress, surrounding the citadel on the east, north and west sides, while on the south side, as God is my refuge, the steep rock cliff, which is a hundred fathoms deep and precipitous as the pits of Hell, results in there being neither walls nor towers, for they are not needed.

The entire circumference of this five sided castle is nine thousand long paces all round. There is no moat on any side, for the castle is built on a hard, steep, solid rock. There are eight gates altogether. One is the little gate to the prayer ground, and this opens westward. Another is the market gate, which also opens west. Then there is the. . . gate which opens to the east, the gate of the Kurd Ag"a mosque, which opens north, and the lower market gate which opens south . In addition to these, there is a number of small arched posterns in the city, whereas the ones mentioned above are the big gates on the main thoroughfares. Inside the city there are altogether one thousand one hundred inhabited and prosperous masonry houses built by the infidels, storey upon storey, one up against the other, with no yards but with a fine view. Only this year, however, a raging fire burned down six hundred of them and many of the houses are still undergoing repairs or rebuilding. The houses are built one above another, and are lofty dwellings with a view out to the east and north, over the plain of St. Nikon.

A count of the mosques in this castle
There are seven places of worship. First the Fethiye mosque, which is a mosque of Sultan Mehmed Khan, then the market mosque and the Zal mosque. The rest are neighborhood mosques for the faithful. There is one college for burning scholars, two primary schools for 5 well-born and properly raised heart's darlings, one convent for elders in the way of asceticism, one bath to refresh and soothe, two hundred shops for artisans and craftsmen, one inn for merchants, one caravanserai for travelers, and seven churches and monasteries for the meaningless mumblings of infidels. Of these, the monastery of St. Nikon is the best built.

A noteworthy marvel
Inside this castle, in the Greek and Jewish quarters, and in other places too, there are twenty-nine places called "cool- rooms," great cellars and natural caves worked into a finished shape. Each of these will hold a thousand people, and in July, the whole city, from the best of Muslim society to the worst of dissolute drunkards make themselves comfortable in these cellars and carry on their enjoyments, pleasures and festivities there. Even during the dog-days a man cannot sit near the entrance of these cellars without wearing furs. The people of the city chill their water, their wine and their sweet fruit drinks here. These are remarkable cellars to visit, where one cannot endure the cold even in July. Outside the castle, the mosque of Kurd Çelebi has just been built, and it is a very fine mosque. Then you go two thousand paces down a steep slope to the suburb of Mesokho'ri.

Praise of the suburb of Mesokhori
There are five hundred spacious tile-roofed masonry houses with gardens and orchards on a level plain here. There are ten Muslim neighborhoods, five congregations of Jews, and eleven Greek neighborhoods. There are six Muslim places of worship and one is a very well-appointed mosque . . .. There are also four neighborhood mosques. There is one upper school for burning scholars, two primary schools for children's youthful ABCs, two dervish chapels, and two open prayer grounds. One of these is north of the castle and one south of it. There is one damp and rather dirty little bath, four inns for merchants, and one caravanserai for travellers which the judge of Mistra', {{Zekeriya}} Efendi, has just built. Among the great houses are the Palace of the Pasha, the palace of Ako Bey, the . . . Ag"a palace, the . . . palace and the law-court palace, which are all fine residences. There are eighty shops, of which the tanners' hall and the silk- workers' market are the richest.

You cross the river . . . that runs in front of this suburb by way of a single arched bridge. This river goes on to join the great Eurotas  river that flows through the plain of St. Nikon and then runs on close by the E'los plain and empties into the Mediterranean close to Bardhu'nia and Pa'ssava castles. Inside the city there are seventy water-mills. There are altogether three thousand gardens, orchards and flower-plots, and there are abundant lemons, oranges, figs and grapes. The vineyards are spread all over the hills west of the castle, and the plain is all set out in gardens irrigated with running water. Roses, hyacinths and herbs flourish in these gardens as in the gardens of Paradise. In the month of July, however, the air is heavy and thick, although it is very pleasant in winter. The water is very tasty and pleasant, and there are thousands of springs flowing abundantly, so that in every trellised melon patch there is a spring of sweet digestive water. The lovely boys and girls are famous, and both boys and girls are doe-eyed, or gazelle-eyed, sweet-voiced, radiant-faced fairy creatures, fit for a king to gaze on.

Among the celebrated products are silk cloth and thread, crimson (pirnokok) vegetable dye, tart black mulberries and black figs. All the people are Greekish, and since they mingle continually with the Greek infidels in their buyings and sellings, they are Muslims who speak the purest form of the Greek tongue.

19 March 2013

I will not do it again

Two delightful items, signed confessions to the Patriarch of Constantinople, by people who were behaving quite badly. They are found in volume 2 of Miklosich & Müller (I can send the Greek if you need it). Pierre MacKay made the translations.

* * * * * * * * * *

Confession by the monk Theodosius Thoudoules of
the practice of magic,
and a solemn promise never to do so again

Since I have many times been found making charms and magic spells, and have corrupted not only my own soul but that of others, and fallen away from faith in Christ, following the works of Satan, have corrupted others’ souls of many who came to me, on account of which (δι’ ἅ) Ι have undergone abuse, violence (ηὕρις, for ὕβρις) and persecution both at the hands of the church of Christ and those of all Christians, now that I have come to old age age and see death before my eyes I have sought safety with our lord, the ecumenical Patriarch, the defender in common of all Christians and the help and guide to salvation for all sinners. I have acknowledged in all truth whatever I did and sought assistance how I might be saved (πῶς ἵνα σοθῶ = πῶς νὰ σωθῶ). And, since he has imitated the loving God and has accepted my acknowledgement and change of heart, but insisted on a promise of commitment, I make this written promise, committing myself before his great holiness and that of the entire church, never again to be found, as I am now found, to be performing any magic or any other Satanic work. I do not limit this to occasions when someone might in future come to investigate me but I shall watch and guard myself until my last breath above ground and, keeping myself free of and, as nearly as I can untouched by, any suspicion of those Satanic works, I shall keep myself to my change of heart and in tears and utmost misery so that I may find God merciful and accepting on the day of divine retribution. I give this guarantee: that if I am caught in the sort of activity I once engaged in I am to be sentenced, not merely to expulsion and imprisonment, nor to bodily maiming, but to outright death, to be consumed by fire. To this end, I have written this out in my own hand, this month of May in the 7th indiction.
+ The wretched Theodosios Theodoules, monk +

Scottish verdict” against Demetrius and Andronicus Hatzikis,
freeing them from a fine for a
not-proven charge of taking silver from an icon
CCCCLV, (1394)

We Demetrios and his son Andronikos Hatzikis, promise to our most holy lord, the ecumenical Patriarch, that if we are discovered to be receivers of church silver stolen from the church of Ag. Sofia or from any other holy monastery or church, that we will penalize ourselves with a fine of 200 hyperpers payable to the great church of God. For the present we are set free of any penalty or fine, because we have not been convicted of being the thief who took the icon of the Virgin Comforter from the monastery of the Palatine Concord. But if, in future, we are found to be involved in anything else, we surrender ourselves to the payment of the 200 hyperpers.
Guaranteed by the present signed promise, which we have signed with our own hands in the month of January, 2nd indiction.  
+ Dimitrios Hatzikis +    + Andronikos Hatzikis +


12 March 2013

The Battle of the Echinades


With the news from last week about the purchase of six of the Echidnades by the Emir of Qatar, I thought it would be interesting to read about the battle of the Echidnades of early spring 1428, a battle that is usually called the last triumph of the Byzantine fleet. The single documentary source for the battle is an anonymous encomium to Manuel II and John VIII Palaiologos and it is printed in volume 2 of Spyridon Lampros' Παλαιολόγεια καὶ Πελοπονησιακά (I can send this to anyone who needs it). The text is, I think, not quite in the right order, and I have indicated where there appears to be a gap in the copyist's work. Pierre MacKay made the translation.

* * * * * * * * * *

(194) There is a certain Carlo, an Italian by race, a keen and audacious man, who was very well treated by the emperors and honored in no small way, even to the point that he rose to the rank of despot He began by claiming an ancestral command over the islands of Ithaka, Zakynthos, Leucas and Cephallonia, to which he added, little by little, territory ranging from Aetolia to Thesprotia and Molossia, which amounts to a part, but not all, of Epirus, together with the part of Achaia between the Achelous and the Evenus rivers. Greeks occupied all the settlements along the sea there, but inland it was barbarians, then and now. These he threw out, some by deceit and persuasion, some by trickery, and some even by force, until he ruled it all, lands that in ancient times had held many races: Aetolians, Acarnanians, Amphilochians, Cassopeans, Dolopes, Ambraciots, Athamanians, Thesprotians, Molossians and the part of the Chaonians that is associated with the Acroceraunian mountain. These many ancient populations had in the past been strong and numerous, but are now left in extreme poverty and even the names of some have vanished. “Long ages bring long forgetfulness.” The entire land is now inhabited sparsely and in small settlements by Albanians, an Illyrian race living entirely in villages. They are a nomadic race, leading a wretched life without cities, fortifications, towns, fields or vineyards, who love only the mountains and the plains. Cities, two of which are important, still preserve the Greek race. Ambracia [Arta] situated close to the gulf or that name and lying above the innermost recess. It was settled by Golgos, son of Cypselus, located well up from the sea and the Aracthus river flows by it. Later it was moved a little inland (195) and changed its name. The other is something more recent, but still not all that recent, by the lake of Acherousia, which was established by a certain Johannes and bears his name [Ioannina]. It might be Ephyra of the Thesprotians, since that was close by this location in antiquity.

Having once gained possession of these, he purchased a town in Peloponnesus named Kyllene, from a certain Oliveri [taken by Oliveri in Spring, 1418, sold to Carlo in summer 1421]. I think it is said to be the port of Elis, and after it was captured by the Italians, it was enlarged to make a great city and was named Clarentza. I shall omit other details, since they are matters for a historian. Once in control of Kyllene, as has been told, he incorporated into his holdings the territory between the mouth of the Alpheios river and the Achelous river, near which is Dyme, an ancient Achaean city and he collected under his rule everything belonging to Hollow Elis and whatever extended from there to Mount Pholoe [142227], in some cases persuading Prince Centurione [by this time incapacitated by severe gout], who had earlier, from what the story tells, taken the cities of Messenia, and in some cases taking possession by force.

Having all this, and not wishing to stop there, but rather showing total ingratitude to his benefactors, in the middle of the winter season, when three years [142427] had passed, he seized all the livestock of the Albanians, a great many horses, cattle, sheep and pigs, and since there was a truce, this was a complete violation, but still he took them. Elis was a place most suitable for them, especially because of its depopulation, for it had in recent years gone through periods of great scarcity. So he got the animals through the winter easily, and had abundant fodder. He went down into a warmer area near the shore of Hollow - - - [Here there seems to be a gap in the copy] - - the place is visible. Gathering their forces against him they [the Byzantine forces] settled in and dug a trench around the place, and laid siege to the Eleian town, (196) bringing together foot troops on the landward side and, on the seaward side, encircling it with galleys. Carlo, learning about the investment of Clarentza and fearing it, brought together a fleet from the islands, and another from Epirus---he called also on some ships from Marseilles---and sent the combined force out under the command of one of this sons, named Turnus. The emperor sent out his own galleys with the good Leontarios as commander and general, putting everything regarding general safety and the maintenance of the men under his supervision along with the planning for a victorious engagement.

They set sail toward the Echinades until they came to the first islands opposite them, at which point they raised a banner, sang paeans, sounded trumpets and beat a sort of deep [- - -]-shaped kettledrum. Emboldened by this encouragement and artifice, they charged in and smashed their opponents, crushing the outriggers of some of them. They killed a great many of their opponents, first with archery and missiles and then with javelins and catapult bolts as they closed in as if they were fighting a land battle. They took some ships with their crews and reduced others to such ruinous states that they turned and fled. The flagship was nearly taken, together with its commander, since most of the troops on deck had fallen. Of the remainder, many threw their javelins aside and shouted to the glory of the emperor as they called out, naming themselves as his servants and begging for mercy. The rowers in the belly of the galley melted away. The flagship was almost captured, and this would have happened if there had not been an intervention of fate. Since they thought that it could not escape, the imperial warships turned to other matters.

The Tocco flagship had fallen away from its mooring and from the back-curved fluke of the iron anchor by which it had been held in place, for that had broken off. It tried make a turn (197) but could only swing about and alter its heading slowly owing to the weight it was dragging. Then it suddenly veered toward its enemy. The sails slackened, and then a strong sea breeze blew up, bellied out the canvas, and granted it the freedom of flight. It was pursued, and ran ashore on Lefcas, thus stealing its safety by running away. 
Fifty percent of the Tocco forces were captured and among these many of good family, including one of Carlo's nephews. Most of those who took flight were wounded or killed. Our side gained an almost tearless victory. This triumph shook Carlo's soul; it destroyed the spirit of the opposition and it dragged down and lowered all Carlo's expectations. It gained for us all the cities of Elis, made us friends instead of enemies, relatives instead of strangers, and it gave us an alliance rather than conflict. Carlo, abandoning arms and war, exchanged them for cheer and festivity, for he gained a son-in-law in the despot, the good and noble brother of the most holy emperor, whose superior qualities would require many encomia. 


05 March 2013

Crowns and other valuables

Empress Helena of Byzantium (?) 1437-39.

Lesnovo, Macedonia  

(This entry is taken from an article by Raymond-Joseph Loenertz, the professor of my professor, to which you will find a link at the end.)

Being a Palaiologos emperor in the last 100 years of the Eastern Empire meant being in a perpetual state of humiliation. Several times before 1400, the Emperors had to pawn icons, jewels, and relics in order to obtain money and ships, mostly because of the shameful civil war among members of the ruling families.   In 1390, Manuel II was driven out of Constantinople by his nephew John VII.  He took refuge with the Knights of Rhodes with whom he pawned a remarkable assortment of religious items and crowns to get money and ships. (I have not been able to find any study of the precious items from these various episodes of pawning, and I hope readers will be able to direct me.)

Manuel was finally able to pay off this loan, and on 21 November 1398 he signed off on an inventory to Friar Renaud de Giresme who returned his deposit. This, as best as I can translate, is what Manuel had pawned for his ships:
  • silver box containing a piece of the true cross, with gold fastenings
  • enkolpion* (engol phium) with precious stones, figure of Christ, with gold "pearls"
  • another similar image
  • gold enkolpion, form of a cross, with two pearls
  • image of St. George with 18 precious stones, and with pearls around his head and shield
  • image of the Saints Causoni (? sancti causoni ?) overlaid with gilded silver image of St. Theodore overlaid with gilded silver
  • image of Jesus Christ being taken from the cross overlaid with gold
  • enkolpion with image of the Hodegetria (odigitora) with gold cover
  • small image of the Hodegetria with gold cover
(Now we get to the crowns. For this first one, look at three of the four pictures here, and speculate.)

  • crown with 11 peaks with 11 large green stones and 18 small green stones, and 11 large red stones (rubeos) and 24 small red stones, and two small green stones, and 88 pearls.
  • 2 pearl fillets, one with 24 pearls, and the other with 10

  • silver thurible ** with its cover.
  • large gilded silver cup with a cover.
  • 2 silver ewers with covers.
  • pearl crown with 126 pearls.

  • book of the holy evangelists, completely ornamented, with a key.

Elena of Serbia.

* Enkolpion = sacred image or relic worn on the chest.

Thurible = censer.