« PreviousContinue »
HIS PLAN FOR FORMING AN INDEPENDENT POWER IN EPIRUS.
Soon afterwards Ali obtained from the Porte the important office of Derven-Pasha of Rumelie, which not only materially increased his revenue but
him the means of creating an influence in many provinces of the Turkish empire. That proud family which had formerly rejected his alliance now gladly accepted his overtures, and Ibrahim pasha of Berat affianced his three daughters to the two sons of Ali, and his favourite nephew Mahmoud.
Having thus established his interest on a firm footing as well in Constantinople as Albania, and wielding the resources of an extensive dominion, he began to act upon a larger scale, and to pursue his grand plan of consolidating an independent power in Epirus, a country which nature herself seems to have marked out for independence by the impregnable mountain barriers with which she has surrounded and protected it. The means which he resolved to take for the completion of this plan, were to amass treasures, to keep agents in pay at the Ottoman court, to infuse suspicion of other powers into the minds of the Divan, to render himself useful to whatever European state was most able to return his services, and finally to seize upon the property of his neighbours whenever and by whatever methods he could. In the execution of these measures, his rapacity has been boundless, his penetration deep, his aggressions innumerable, his perfidy more than Punic, but his success complete.
After the projects of Russia with regard to Greece had failed, and all confidence in that power was lost by the insensible and cruel conduct of its agents, Ali's enemies at Constantinople endeavoured to undermine his credit, by disclosing as much as they knew or suspected of his correspondence with Potemkin : fertile however in expedients, and fearful of a rupture with his sovereign, he found means to counteract these plots, and allay the coming storm, principally, as it is asserted, by the good offices of the French minister at the Porte, whom he contrived to engage in his interests. Being now secure in his most important posi
TAKES KLISSURA, PREMETI, OSTANIZZA AND KONITZA.
tion he soon found a pretext for quarrelling with his neighbour the Pasha of Arta, conquered his territories, and annexed them, as well as the whole of Acarnania, to his own dominions. Thus he secured the free navigation of the Ambracian Gulf and gained possession of many valuable ports in those districts. His next step was to open a free and safe intercourse between loannina and bis native territory of Tepeleni. To this end he attacked and took possession of the strong post of Klissura, where the Aous or Voïussa enters that deep defile called the Fauces Antigoneæ, or Stena Aoi, which was occupied by Philip in the first Macedonian war, where he stopped the advance of the Roman legions, until the key of his position being betrayed to Flaminius by a shepherd of Charopus he was driven from this strong post and obliged to evacuate Epirus*. The occupation of Klissura was followed by the reduction of Premeti, Ostanizza and Konitza, all capitals of most important districts which secured the whole course of the Voïussa from its source in Mount Pindus as far as Tepeleni.
We have now traced the course of this extraordinary personage by that imperfect light which his early annals afford, from his infancy to the time when he fixed his seat in the Great Despotate of Epirus. One would have thought that this success might have satisfied the am
* His occupation of this pass is thus described by Livy, lib. xxxii. c. 5.“ Principio veris (Philippus) cum Athenagora omnia externa auxilia, quodque levis armaturæ erat, in Chaoniam per Epirum ad occupandas, quæ ad Antigoniam Fauces sunt (Stena vocant Græci) misit. Ipse post paucis diebus graviore secutus agmine, quum situm omnem regionis aspexisset, maxime idoneum ad muniendum locum credidit esse præter amnem Aoum : is inter montes, quorum alterum Æropum, alterum Asnaum incolæ vocant, angusta valle fluit, iter exiguum super ripam præbens." The mountains forming the defile are now called, those on the north side Trebechina and Mejourani, those on the south Melchiovo. The defile is about ten miles in length from Klissura (which from the remains of Cyclopéan masonry observable there I take to have been Antigonea) to the junction of the Aous with the river of ArgyroCastro, above Tepeleni. The precipices on each side are tremendous, being apparently inore than a thousand feet in perpendicular height. The positions of Philip and Athenagoras must have been about mid-way in the defile, as Flaminius, when he arrived at the Aous with his army is said by Livy to have encamped at the distance of five miles from the Macedonians. (cap. 6.) Many persons have fixed upon Premeti, about twelve miles higher up the Aous, for Antigonea; but I am confirmed in my opinion of' its being succeeded by Klissura, from a passage of Polybius, who speaks of these straights as being close to A nea: δια των παρ 'Αντιγόνειαν τενών. ii. c. 5.
SECURES THE COURSE OF THE VOIUSSA.
bition of an Albanian kleftes! but ambition's path is deceitful as the mountain, which tempts the traveller's ascent to its false summit, and then exhibits to his view another equally precipitous and lofty, to which it served but as a base.
The remainder of his history, when it became connected with European politics and important enough to engage the attention of his contemporaries, offers itself much more readily to historic elucidation.
Account of the Suliots-Country, Government, Habits, Manners, and
Customs— Ali's first Attempts against them—His Stratagem—How defeated—Anecdote of Tzavella and his Son-Ali attacks Suli-Desperate Resistance of the Suliots Heroine Mosco_Ali's Defeat and Flight to Ioannina—Peace concluded-Ali's Policy with regard to foreign Powers, and his own Government—French Occupation of the Ionian Islands Ali's Intrigues with Bonaparte-Attends the Grand Vizir against Paswan Oglou—War between Turkey and Francem Ali takes Advantage of it-- Ionian Isles pass under the Protection of Russia—Ali takes all the Continental Dependencies except PargaTerms on which these are conceded to the Porte-Ali, for his Services, is made Rumelie-Valisee, with the Title of Vizir-Commences a second War with the Suliots-Interprets the Prophecies of the Koran to encourage his Adherents-Leads his Troops against SuliJoined by the Traitor Botzari-Bad Success in several Engagements—Turns the Assault into a Blockade.
ACCOUNT OF THE SULIOTS.
WHILST Ali was extending the limits of his sway towards the north, the southern districts of his dominions were subjected to the incursions of a clan, contemptible to all appearance for their numbers, but impregnable in their mountain-holds, and capable, by their daring courage and enthusiastic love of liberty, of attacking him in his capital, and alarming him in the very recesses of his harem. These were the Suliots: a people which sustained the character of ancient Greece, and assumed the spirit of its independent sons.
Their abode was like the dwelling of a race of genii, upon a kind of natural citadel, amidst the wild Cassopæan mountains, where the Acheron rolls down a dark and truly infernal chasm, overhung with rocks and woods of deepest gloom. The high peaks of precipices bounding this mysterious glen were surmounted by fortified towers, whilst the paths leading to the impending heights above scarcely admitted two persons to walk abreast. During the worst eras of Grecian slavery, the flame burned bright upon this hill-altar of liberty, and its worshippers breathing a purer air, and excited as it were by those stupendous energies of nature which they constantly had in view, preserved their physical and moral strength 'unimpaired, not only defying tyranny, but pouring down from their rocky fastnesses over the plains of the oppressor,
and carrying off that booty which was considered as their lawful property. At Suli the rebellion was planned, under Lambro Canziani, to liberate Greece from the Ottoman yoke, and the conspirators had their headquarters in these impregnable fastnesses.
Four large villages constituted the principal seats of this independent clan, in a situation so singular, as probably to be unique*. They lay upon a fine concave plain at the perpendicular height of about 2000 feet above the bed of the Acheron; a grand natural breast-work descended precipitously to the river ; 'whilst behind them rose a tower
• The distance of Suli from Ioannina is 14 hours ; from Prevesa '13 ; from Arta '14; from Parga 8; from Margariti 6; from Paramithia 8.