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romance. For it was filled with change, and with elastic rebound from what seemed final extinction; with the spirit of adventure carried to the utmost limits of heroism; with self-devotion on the sublimest scale, and the very frenzy of patriotic martyrdom; with resurrection of everlasting hope upon ground seven times blasted by the blighting presence of the enemy; and with flowers radiant in promise springing forever from under the very tread of the accursed Moslem.
NOTE.We have thought that we should do an acceptable service to the reader by presenting him with a sketch of the Suliotes, and the most memorable points in their history. We have derived it (as to the facts) from a little work originally composed by an Albanian in modern Greek, and printed at Venice in 1815. This work was immediately translated into Italian, by Gherardini, an Italian officer of Milan; and, ten years ago, with some few omissions, it was reproduced in an English version; but in this country it seems never to have attracted public notice, and is probably now forgotten.
With respect to the name of Suli, the Suliotes themselves trace it to an accident: "Some old men," says the Albanian author, reciting his own personal investigations amongst the oldest of the Suliotes, "replied that they did not remember having any information from their ancestors concerning the first inhabitants of Suli, except this only: that some goat and swine herds used to lead their flocks to graze on the mountains where Suli and Ghiafa now stand; that these mountains were not only steep and almost inaccessible, but clothed with thickets of wood, and infested by wild boars; that these herdsmen, being oppressed by the tyranny of the Turks of a village called to this day Gardichi, took the resolution of flying for a distance of six hours' journey to this sylvan and inaccessible position, of sharing in common the few animals which they had, and of suffering voluntarily every physical privation, rather than submit to the slightest wrong from their foreign tyrants. This resolution, they added, must be presumed to have been executed with success; because we find that, in the lapse of five or six years, these original occupants of the fastness were joined by thirty other families. Somewhere about that time it was that they began to awaken the jealousy
of the Turks; and a certain Turk, named Suli, went in high scorn and defiance, with many other associates, to expel them from this strong position; but our stout forefathers met them with arms in their hands. Suli, the leader and inciter of the Turks, was killed outright upon the ground; and, on the very spot where he fell, at this day stands the centre of our modern Suli, which took its name, therefore, from that same slaughtered Turk, who was the first insolent and malicious enemy with whom our country in its days of infancy had to contend for its existence."
Such is the most plausible account which can now be obtained of the incunabula of this most indomitable little community, and of the circumstances under which it acquired its since illustrious name. It was, perhaps, natural that a little town, in the centre of insolent and bitter enemies, should assume a name which would long convey to their whole neighborhood a stinging lesson of mortification, and of prudential warning against similar molestations. As to the chronology of this little state, the Albanian author assures us, upon the testimony of the same old Suliotes, that "seventy years before," there were barely one hundred men fit for the active duties of war, which, in ordinary states of society, would imply a total population of four hundred souls. That may be taken, therefore, as the extreme limit of the Suliote population at a period of seventy years antecedently to the date of the conversation on which he founds his information. But, as he has unfortunately omitted to fix the exact era of these conversations, the whole value of his accuracy is neutralized by his own carelessness. However, it is probable, from the internal evidence of his book, which brings down affairs below the year 1812, that his information was collected somewhere about 1810. We must carry back the epoch, therefore, at which Suli had risen to a population of four hundred, pretty nearly to the year 1740; and since, by the same traditionary evidence, Suli had then accomplished an independent existence through a space of eighty years, we have reason to conclude that the very first gatherings of poor Christian herdsmen to this sylvan sanctuary, when stung to madness by Turkish insolence and persecution, would take place about the era of the Restoration (of our Charles II.), that is, in 1660.
In more modern times, the Suliotes had expanded into four separate little towns, peopled by five hundred and sixty families, from which they were able to draw one thousand first-rate soldiers. But, by a very politic arrangement, they had colonized with sixty-six other families seven neighboring towns, over which, from situation,
they had long been able to exercise a military preponderance. The benefits were incalculable which they obtained by this connection. At the first alarm of war the fighting men retreated with no incumbrances but their arms, ammunition, and a few days' provision, into the four towns of Suli proper, which all lay within that ring fence of impregnable position from which no armies could ever dislodge them; meantime, they secretly drew supplies from the seven associate towns, which were better situated than themselves for agriculture, and which (apparently taking no part in the war) pursued their ordinary labors unmolested. Their tactics were simple, but judicious; if they saw a body of five or six thousand advancing against their position, knowing that it was idle for them to meet such a force in the open field, they contented themselves with detaching one hundred and fifty or two hundred men to skirmish on their flanks, and to harass them according to the advantages of the ground; but if they saw no more than five hundred or one thousand in the hostile column, they then issued in equal or superior numbers, in the certainty of beating them, striking an effectual panic into their hearts, and also of profiting largely by plunder and by ransom.
In so small and select a community, where so much must continually depend upon individual qualities and personal heroism, it may readily be supposed that the women would play an important part; in fact, "the women carry arms and fight bravely. When the men go to war, the women bring them food and provisions; when they see their strength declining in combat, they run to their assistance, and fight along with them; but, if by any chance their husbands behave with cowardice, they snatch their arms from them, and abuse them, calling them mean, and unworthy of having a wife." Upon these feelings there has even been built a law in Suli, which must deeply interest the pride of women in the martial honor of their husbands; agreeably to this law, any woman whose husband has distinguished himself in battle, upon going to a fountain to draw water, has the liberty to drive away another woman whose husband is tainted with the reproach of cowardice; and all who succeed her, "from dawn to dewy eve," unless under the ban of the same withering stigma, have the same privilege of taunting her with her husband's baseness, and of stepping between her or her cattle until their own wants are fully supplied.
This social consideration of the female sex, in right of their husbands' military honors, is made available for no trifling purposes; on one occasion it proved the absolute salvation of the tribe. In one of
the most desperate assaults made by Ali Pacha upon Suli, when that tyrant was himself present at the head of eight thousand picked men, animated with the promise of five hundred piastres a man, to as many as should enter Suli, after ten hours' fighting under an enfeebling sun, and many of the Suliote muskets being rendered useless by continual discharges, a large body of the enemy had actually succeeded in occupying the sacred interior of Suli itself. At that critical moment, when Ali was in the very paroxysms of frantic exultation, the Suliote women, seeing that the general fate hinged upon the next five minutes, turned upon the Turks en masse, and with such a rapture of sudden fury, that the conquering army was instantly brokenthrown into panic, pursued; and, in that state of ruinous disorder, was met and flanked by the men, who were now recovering from their defeat. The consequences, from the nature of the ground, were fatal to the Turkish army and enterprise; the whole camp equipage was captured; none saved their lives but by throwing away their arms; one third of the Turks (one half by some accounts) perished on the retreat; the rest returned at intervals as an unarmed mob; and the bloody, perfidious Pacha himself saved his life only by killing two horses in his haste. So total was the rout, and so bitter the mortification of Ali, who had seen a small band of heroic women snatch the long-sought prize out of his very grasp, that for some weeks he shut himself up in his palace at Yannina, would receive no visits, and issued a proclamation imposing instant death upon any man detected in looking out at a window or other aperture as being presumably engaged in noticing the various expressions of his defeat which were continually returning to Yannina.
The wars, in which the adventurous courage of the Suliotes (together with their menacing position) could not fail to involve them, were in all eleven. The first eight of these occurred in times before the French Revolution, and with Pachas who have left no memorials behind them of the terrific energy or hellish perfidy which marked the character of Ali Pacha. These Pachas, who brought armies at the lowest of five thousand, and at the most of twelve thousand men, were uniformly beaten; and apparently were content to be beaten. Sometimes a Pacha was even made prisoner ;* but, as the simple
* On the same occasion the Pacha's son, and sixty officers of the rank of Aga, were also made prisoners by a truly rustic mode of assault. The Turks had shut themselves up in a church; into this, by night, the Suliotes threw a number of hives, full of bees, whose insufferable stings soon brought the haughty Mos
Suliotes little understood the art of improving advantages, the ransom was sure to be proportioned to the value of the said Pacha's sword-arm in battle, rather than to his rank and ability to pay; so that the terms of liberation were made ludicrously easy to the Turkish chiefs.
These eight wars naturally had no other ultimate effect than to extend the military power, experience, and renown, of the Suliotes. But their ninth war placed them in collision with a new and far more perilous enemy than any they had yet tried; above all, he was so obstinate and unrelenting an enemy, that, excepting the all-conquering mace of death, it was certain that no obstacles born of man ever availed to turn him aside from an object once resolved on. The reader will understand, of course, that this enemy was Ali Pacha. Their ninth war was with him; and he, like all before him, was beaten; but not like all before him did Ali sit down in resignation under his defeat. His hatred was now become fiendish; no other prosperity or success had any grace in his eyes, so long as Suli stood, by which he had been overthrown, trampled on, and signally humbled. Life itself was odious to him, if he must continue to witness the triumphant existence of the abhorred little mountain village which had wrung laughter at his expense from every nook of Epirus. Delenda est Carthago! Suli must be exterminated! became, therefore, from this time, the master watchword of his secret policy. And on the 1st of June, in the year 1792, he commenced his second war against the Suliotes, at the head of twenty-two thousand men. This was the second war of Suli with Ali Pacha; but it was the tenth war on their annals; and, as far as their own exertions were concerned, it had the same result as all the rest. But, about the sixth year of the war, in an indirect way, Ali made one step towards his final purpose, which first manifested its disastrous tendency in the new circumstances which succeeding years brought forward. In 1797 the French made a lodgment in Corfu; and, agreeably to their general spirit of intrigue, they had made advances to Ali Pacha, and to all other independent powers in or about Epirus. Amongst other states, in an evil hour for that ill-fated city, they wormed themselves into an alliance with Prevesa; and in the following year their own quarrel with Ali Pacha gave that crafty robber a pretence, which he had long courted in vain, for attacking the place with his overwhelming
lems into the proper surrendering mood. The whole body were afterwards ransomed for so trifling a sum as one thousand sequins.