« PreviousContinue »
Marriage Procession of Giovanni Melas—Marriage Feast and various
Entertainments-Reflections upon the State of Female Society in Greece—Story of Phrosini—Story of Gelisem—Marriage Ceremonies --Albanian Wedding.
OUR friend Mr. Cockerell had not left us many days before we had opportunities of witnessing many interesting and curious scenes, in the enjoyment of which we would most gladly have had his participation. One of these was the marriage feast of Giovanni Melas, a young Greek merchant, one among the best educated, most intelligent, and most respectable men of the city. It was on a Saturday evening that we went with Signore Nicolo to view the nocturnal procession which always accompanies the bridegroom in escorting his betrothed spouse from the paternal roof to that of her future husband : this consisted of near a hundred of the first persons in Ioannina with a great crowd of torch-bearers and a band of music. After having received the lady they returned, but were joined by an equal number of ladies, who paid this compliinent to the bride; these were also attended by their maid-servants, many of whom carried infants in their arms dressed in prodigious finery. The little bride who appeared extremely young, walked with slow and apparently reluctant steps, according to custom, supported by a matron on each side and ano her behind *. The streets were crowded with people, among whom
* This ceremony may throw some light upon the expression of St. Paul, yurāıka repubyeuy (Cor. is ix. v. 5.) misunderstood by many commentators.
MARRIAGE FEAST AND ENTERTAINMENTS.
Signore Melas threw several handfuls of money at the door of his dwelling: we ourselves were here introduced to him, and with great politeness he ordered the band of music to accompany us back.
Next day, being Sunday, we understood that the Archbishop of loannina attended at the house of Signore Melas to place the tinsel crowns upon the heads of the new couple, light the tapers, put the rings on the fingers, and perform all the other tedious ceremonies of a Greek wedding. The consummation of the marriage rite and the unloosening of the mystic zone is deferred till the third day of the ceremonials.
On this day a grand nuptial entertainment was given, as is usual, to which all the particular friends and connexions of the bride and bridegroom were invited. In the evening we sent our congratulations to Signore Melas, with an intimation that if agreeable we would pay our respects to him personally on his marriage. This, as we had foreseen, was considered as a compliment; the band of music was sent to precede us to the house, at the door of which we found our host waiting to receive us : from thence he led us into the festive chamber and introduced us to his guests, I mean to the male part of them, since, as it has been before observed, in this semi-barbarous country the sexto are separated at all convivial entertainments; a custom which, more than every other, stops the progress of refinement, throwing over the amusements of society languid insipidity or tainting them with sottish degradation. We found Signore Melas’s friends, after having partaken of the equal feast, pouring out copious libations to the rosy god, and singing hymeneal songs to the discordant harmony of fiddles and guitars. All rose up at our entrance, receiving us with every mark of attention, and seating us at the upper end of the divan, one on each side of Signore Alessio, the governor of Zagori, a great favourite with the vizir, who it seems acted for the bridegroom as master of the ceremonies*.
• "He was the chief bridesman or napávvupos on this occasion.
MARRIAGE FEAST AND ENTERTAINMENTS,
In the interval between our introduction and supper, a fool or zany
upon the clown's pate, which strongly excited the risi-
We were much more pleased with the next species of entertainment, which consisted of an exhibition of the Albanitico or national dance of the Albanian palikars, performed by several of the most skilful among the vizir's guards who had been invited to the feast. The evolutions and figures of this exercise served to display the astonishing activity and muscular strength of these hardy mountaineers, who grasping each other lightly by the hands, moved for a time slowly backwards and forwards, then hurried round in a quick circular movement according to the excitement of the music and their own voices, whilst the coryphæus or leader, who was frequently changed, made surprising leaps, bending backwards till his head almost touched the ground, and then starting up into the air with the elastic spring of a bow, whilst his long hair flowed in wild confusion over his shoulders*. After
* This Albanitico has been considered by many as a remnant of the ancient Pyrrhic dance: but it is astonishing how ancient authors differ amongst themselves regarding the nature of the Pyrrhic, which seems generally allowed to have had its origin in Crete, or at least to have been first made known to the rest of Europe from that island. Την Πυρριχην πρώτος ευρε Πυρριχος Κυδωνιάτης Κρής το γένος. Νic. Damasen. de Mor. Gent, in Stobæi, Serm. xlii
. See also Lucian, who refers it to Crete, though he derives it from the sacred dances of the Curetes: de Saltatione, ş 8. Aristoxenus, quoted by Athenæus (lib. xiv. c. 7.) says it was an invention of Pyrrhicus, a Spartan at Lacedæmon, and calls it a military exercise: but as the laws and constitution of this country were brought from Crete, a mistake concerning the origin of a custom might easily arise. Strabo asserts (lib. x. p. 701, ed. Ox.) that the Pyrrhic was different from the armed dance, évondíos ópxúois, and Aristophanes refers it to a species of that lascivious and immodest dance called the Kópoat, for delighting in which Philip of Macedon is so severely upbraided by Demosthenes: and hence the satirical poet condemns all those who practise it to punishment in the infernal regions, Kan. 153, Most authors however consider the Pyrrhic as a military dance, and many ascribe its origin to Pyrrhus the son of Achilles, who is said greatly to have excelled in it. From a consideration of all circumstances I should think it not improbable that there were two kinds of Pyrrhic, the one a vile lascivious movement, the other a manly and martial exercise: and this latter was chiefly practised at Sparta, where children were taught it at the early age of five years; and of this latter Pyrrhic it is not improbable that the Albanitico is a remnant, since we learn from Lucian that the Spartaps in their dance began like wrestlers, catching fast hold of each others hands, which practice was called åxpoxepíopos. It is also singular that amongst the Mainotes or Eleuthero-Lacones, as they are called, the Albanitico or military dance is still best performed and held in highest repute. In the wild
MARRIAGE FEAST AND ENTERTAINMENTS.
this was finished, the bridegroom with several of his guests imitated their example, with less agility, but with much more grace and elegance. Dancing is still considered by the moderns as it was by the ancient Greeks, a requisite accomplishment in the composition of a gentleman*.
When supper was announced we all sat down, except the bridegroom, whose presence was excused, at a long table plentifully supplied with poultry, game, pilau, various made-dishes, and pastry. In token of extreme civility, every person near us heaped food upon our plates, which sometimes presented such an heterogeneous mixture of fish, flesh, and fowl, that if we had been obliged to eat it this probably would have been our last meal. I observed a beautiful boy about six
years old who sat next me cramming himself till he could scarcely breathe; the little urchin seemed so determined that I should follow his example that he generally put half his mess upon my plate. Mr. Parker happening to sneeze at this entertainment, he was quite electrified by the boisterous congratulatory vivas of the guests. This custom is very general in the south of Europe, and seems to be a remnant of a very ancient superstitiont. In the mean time the guests poured down co
songs and intensely stretched voices of these palikars during the exercise, one may perhaps recognise those õpfius pu pubs which Athenæus says ought to accompany the Pyrrbic. That ihe name of this dance at least was acknowledged as coinciding with a martial exercise in the time of the Byzantine emperors appears from a passage of Curopalatas, who says, speaking of it as an occupation of the soldiers under Romanus Diogenes, ήσαν γάρ οι των άλλων μάλισα την Πυρρίχιον εκμεμελετηκότες όρχησιν. Except. app. ad Hist. Comp. Cedreni, p. 839.
By similar feats was Ulysses entertained at the Court of Alcinous, who seems to have spoken of his dancers with a regal pride.
'Αλλ' άγε: Φαιάκων βητάρμονες όσσοι άριστοι
Ναυτιλία και ποσσί και ορχησύι και αοιδή: Οd. 9. 250. + The custom of “ adoring the sneeze” is alluded to by many authors. Athenæus mentions it by the phrase atapues a pookuveiv, referring the origin of the custom to that general idea of sanctity which was attached to the head : öti iepòv évómišov Tùy kapalov. lib. ii. c. 25. Xenophon in his Expedition of Cyrus (lib. iii.) relates the curious effect which an accidental sneeze had upon the whole Grecian army, who all with one accord adored it as a deity--mią opun üs Géov. By many however the sneeze was considered rather in the light of a disease, or at least as ihe indication of one, and thence arose the ancient form of civility from the bystanders in the words ZEY ZAZON, from which the Viva is derived, and the English expression of " God bless you."
pious draughts of wine, toasting the bride and bridegroom, the English Milordi, Signore Alessio, and others : and now it was that I fancied I could discover the meaning of old Anacreon in some of his Bacchanalian expressions from the manner in which these Grecian topers drank, (epuri) many of whom filled two and others even three goblets with wine*; then taking up one with the right hand they applied it to their lips pouring the contents of the other two into it with the left, and never moving the cup from the mouth till the whole of the liquor was dispatched : these triplets were received by the rest of the company with unbounded applause. Possibly the celebrated Thracian Amystis may have been a similar trial of Bacchanalian skill, and not a goblet, as it is generally rendered.
Neu multi Damalis meri
The feast was kept up with great merriment and noise till Signore Melas came in to pay us the highest compliment in his power, by introducing us into the gynæconitis, where the ladies were assembled.
* A great distinction between the ancient and the modern topers of Greece seems to be, that the latter never mingle water with their wine, though the former observed this custom as a very general rule:
Οι μεν άρ οινον έμισγον ενί κρητηρσι και ύδωρ" They even worshipped the Acrotopotes or pure-wine-drinker as a being so superior in strength of head as to be worthy of divine honours (Athenæi, lib. ii. p. 39): they classed their wines into two sorts, the óliyopópoi and Tolupópol, according to the proportion of water they would bear. Plutarch mentions three different mixtures in use amongst wine-drinkers: 1st. Three parts of water to two of wine : 2d. Two of water to one of wine: and 3d. Three of water to one of wine (Symp. 1. iii. Q. 9). Athenæus however reports that there was another mixture in vogue amongst the determined votaries of Bacchus; this was the névte-kar-dów or five parts of wine to two of water. Some wines are reported to have been so strong as to admit of twenty parts of water to one of wine ! Vid. Od. 1. 209, and Hippocrat. lib. ii. de Morb. in fin. The ancients tempered their wines with cold or warm water, according to the season of the year or the state of their stomachs; but that custom which sounds the most extraordinary to a modern is the mixture of sea-water with the wine, the divov Jalacrójevov, as it is called by Hippocrates. I used to have my doubts about the passage of Horace respecting the Chium maris expers, and was inclined to agree with those commentators who considered it as home-brewed, until I found the custom most explicitly mentioned by Athenæus (lib. i. c. 19), who says that under it the allegory of Bacchus Aying to the sea is veiled: ηδυν γάρ ειναι τον δινον, παρεγχεομένης θαλάσσης Certainly this mixture could not be more revolting or nauseous than the vino resinato of the moderns, which becomes palatable by habit. It is curious that the Romaic name for wine is kpagi, which, like the word crater, is derived from the ancient custom of mixing water with it.