Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

They were conducted to a Greek church on the borders of the lake near the gardens of the Kiosk, and presently afterwards about twenty frail women of the lower ranks were conveyed to the same place of confinement. There they all passed the night in prayer, expecting every moment to be their last. The next day bowever came to a close without the fatal order being given. The despot himself seemed struck with remorse, and hesitated before he could sign the sentence of death: he has even declared since, that he waited only for proper intercession to spare their lives. One man indeed, a poor Greek, did present himself before him to beg the life of his guilty spouse, who was one of the unfortunates locked up with Phrosini. The vizir laughing aloud, asked him if he were content to live in wedlock with a whore? and on the man's replying in the affirmative, he gave an order for her release. The execution of the rest took place at night : they were taken in a barge from the church to some distance on the lake, tied up in sacks, and precipitated into the deep: Phrosini and her faithful maid, watching an opportunity, before the guards could prevent them, clasped each other in their arms and plunged into the water to rise no more.

Drowning is the general punishment for incontinency inflicted by the Mahometan rulers upon their female subjects both Turkish and Greek : but if one of their own women should be caught intriguing with a Christian, such an insult upon the faith is not to be expiated but by the severest retribution, and the most public example. The following scene is copied from Mr. Jones's MS. Journal, having occurred during his residence in Ioannina.

“ The day on which I took my leave of Ali Pasha for the north of Albania, a Turkish girl, of extraordinary beauty, was stoned to death. As my two friends and myself were proceeding to the palace, we heard a person proclaiming something in the Turkish language, and on inquiring of our interpreter, we found it was an order

STORY OF GELISEM.

person to

for every true believer in the faith of Mahomet to go and throw a stone at this poor girl. Her crime was that of intriguing with a Christian (a Neapolitan in the vizir's service) for which the laws of Turkey subjected her to this horrible punishment.

“ The interviews between herself and her lover had been facilitated by a Jew; but this worthy descendant of Iscariot was the first betray them. He supped at the Neapolitan's table on the fatal evening, and he had scarcely retired from it half an hour before his information caused them to be arrested by the Turkish guard. The following morning, Gelisem (this was the unfortunate girl's name) was condemned to die. Soon after sentence was passed, her face was uncovered and exposed to the public gaze, which is the greatest indignity that can be offered to a Turkish female. She was then conducted, amidst the groans and curses of the Mahometans, to a plain at a short distance from the town. She had no sooner reached the fatal spot than she was partly stripped, and her long black tresses loosened about her neck and shoulders. One would

suppose ance at this moment might have disarmed even Turks of their venge

But no! she was obliged to descend into a hole dug for the purpose, when these barbarians began to pelt her with stones, uttering at the same time a volley of groans

and curses.

She was tortured in this manner for nearly a quarter of an hour, the pebbles being inconsiderable in size and striking her mostly about the neck and shoulders. At length an Albanian soldier, who had probably more humanity than the rest, took up a large stone, and, throwing it upon her head, put an end to her misery. She was then left buried under the mass.

“ The fate of the Neapolitan can be considered as little less severe. After having been permitted to remain at Ioannina long enough to witness the cruelties exercised upon his mistress, he was himself sent in charge of an Albanian escort to the town of Argyro-Castro, in the interior of Albania, where the plague was violently raging, and where two-thirds of the inhabitants had already fallen victims to its fury.

that her appear

ance.

VOL. II.

G

[blocks in formation]

“ What rendered the fate of these unfortunate persons more melancholy was, that the girl, who was but nineteen years old, was in a state of pregnancy, and the Neapolitan wished to marry ber; but this could not be permitted, according to the laws of the country. I was informed, however, at Ioannina, that he might have saved her life as well as his own by renouncing his religion. The girl too, had means of escaping the punishment of death; but she afforded a singular instance of female heroism as well as of that extraordinary attachment which all the Turks bear to the religion of Mahomet.

When she arrived at the fatal hole dug in the ground, she was desired by the priest to leap into it, if a true believer in Mahomet :---if not, to leap over it. She took the former resolution, though the consequence of her not doing so would have been the preservation of her life. She would indeed have been degraded, scouted, and spit upon by the Turks; but her life would have been spared.

“Of course, we had no wish to be spectators of this horrible scene; nor should we have been permitted if we had had that wish, so enraged were the Mahometans against the Christians, or, as they are pleased to term them, the Infidels. Indeed it was said at the time (and considering the source from whence I received the information, I have reason to believe it true) that a dervish went to the vizir next day, and

represented to him the necessity of sacrificing thirty Christian heads, in order to save the girl's soul; but the vizir had him turned immediately out of the room. Had this measure been adopted, my head might possibly have counted one.

“ We walked through the streets on this day as usual'; but we were afterwards told that we had acted imprudently in doing so. There are certainly many parts of Turkey where we might have been exposed to the fury of the Mahometans. But considering the high authority of Ali Pasha at Ioannina, as well as his extreme care not only to protect but even to please the English, I believe we incurred very little danger on this occasion."

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Thus it is these barbarians treat that weak and gentle sex, whom they themselves drive into error, instead of endeavouring to retain them within the path of virtue: not only do they totally neglect their education and improvement, but by their polygamical institution, that gross violation of Nature's law* and the social compact, they destroy at once all those tender affections which are the strongest inducements to chastity and virtue. The emancipation of females from tyrannical prejudices will be slow but certain among the Greeks, and they will ultimately attain the proper station to which they are entitled; but with the Turks the case is very different, and almost hopeless: there amelioration is opposed by the detestable principles of religion, if indeed it can be called a religion, which teaches that women are born but for the gratification of man and the propagation of the species, which turns them into slaves, and perpetuates the degrading inferiority by denying them participation even in the public worship of their Creator.

The marriage ceremony among the Mahometans is extremely simple, being merely a civil contract signed and witnessed before the cadi. The Greek rites are numerous and absurd in the highest possible degree ; they have been so often described that a repetition is unnecessary, but as an Albanian wedding may possibly be new to the reader, I shall finish this chapter with the description of one which I received from a friend who was present at the ceremony.

“ The bridegroom goes on horseback to the dwelling of the bride : he is there presented with an immense loaf, which he breaks into pieces and throws to the spectators at the door, who are all very eager procure a piece. When he enters he is invited by the parents to sit down to eat and drink, a ceremony which is generally most voraciously com

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

to

* Polygamy must be considered as an infringement of the law of Nature from the general equality of males and females born into the world, in all places, and in all climates: the preponderance indeed, though small, is said to be on the side of the males, which seems a wise and providential regulation to counterbalance the dangers and accidents to which this sex is so much more exposed than the other.

1

[blocks in formation]

plied with. The mother kisses the bridegroom, and ties round his neck a handkerchief, a present from his fair one and sometimes embroidered by her hands. The duty of the priest is generally performed in the house or garden, it not being at all necessary that it should take place in the church. They then mount on horseback, the bridegroom first dressed in his best apparel, and carefully wrapped in cloaks, looking very downcast, and supported by his friends, as if he were unable to endure so awful a ceremony : the bride is veiled, but loaded with finery, which is either her own, or borrowed for the occasion : at some distance from the house they are met by their friends and the young girls of the neighbourhood, who dance before them to music, which is accompanied by the voices of the party: this is by far the most interesting part of the ceremony. On arriving at the house, the father of the bride receives her in his arms at the door, and while she is apparently forced to enter, throws a pomegranate against the wall as an omen of fertility; the mother of the bridegroom presents her with honey, corn and oil, and winding a shawl round them both, she, together with the relations, drag them into the apartment, the bride affecting great reluctance and resistance. She is there unveiled, and is obliged to stand with downcast eyes, like a statue, against the wall. She is then saluted by the relations and friends, and is ready to receive any little presents which they may be generous enough to offer.

generous enough to offer. After this they sit down to a feast, prepared according to the means of the family, all except the bride, who frequently remains standing many hours whilst the company eat, and bows with great complaisance to every one that drinks her health.”

« PreviousContinue »