LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XXIV

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
‣ Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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Ligovitzi—Illness of Mavrocordato—Chrysovitza—Spiro Milio—Zagoriots or itinerary quacks.

Mavrocordato was now on the eve of departing for Ligovitzi. He therefore appointed a commission of three members, to act in his room during his absence. These members were, Praidi, Jani Tricoupi, and Tazzi Mangina.

Ligovitzi, though about two thousand feet above the level of the sea, becomes towards the latter end of summer, and during the whole of the autumn, very unhealthy, on account of the miasmata, that emanate from the numerous extensive lakes in its neighbourhood. The soldiers soon began to experience their noxious influence, and were attacked with severe agues. Although the paroxysm yielded easily to bark, yet the continuance of the same causes of the complaint, inevitably brought on relapses, a few days after the patient looked upon himself as convalescent. To avoid this evil, the following method was adopted as soon as a fever made its appearance: a brisk emeto-cathartic was administered. The next day, if no further indication of cleansing the primes vice existed, sixteen drachms of bark were given; and the patient removed to some healthy village near Dragomesta, or in the Zugo mountains, where he was directed to take the medicine, prescribed, in two days. It may not be amiss here to remark, that repeated experience demonstrated that the febrifuge powers of bark were strikingly increased
by the addition of one-eighth of a grain of tartar-emetic to every drachm. Being myself attacked with the same complaint, I got rid of it quickly by following the treatment, which I had found so successful with my patients.

Scarcely was I convalescent, when notice was brought me that Mavrocordato had fallen seriously ill. With all possible haste I returned to the camp, and found him labouring under a bilious fever, brought on by the unwholesomeness of the water, the pestilential nature of the air at the convent, improper diet, and, above all, by the uninterrupted mental agitation, with which a thousand vexations hourly embittered his existence.

Convinced that, in this case, the removal of moral causes was of more importance, than medical treatment, or at least that the omission of the former would baffle the best directed efforts of the latter, I insisted on his leaving the camp instantly. He was consequently removed to Chrysovitza; a village four hours to the west of Ligovitzi.

The landscape around this place is beautiful; the ancient ruins crowning its insulated mountain, and overshadowed by the lofty oaks that adorn it, present a highly picturesque appearance. Xeromero (dry district) is the name, under which this part of the country is known, owing to the scarcity of water. On this account it is little cultivated; yet its hills and the country throughout are in general more Wooded than any other parts of Greece. Its forests were the favourite retreats of the Kleftes, and are often celebrated in their songs, as the theatre of their encounters with the Armatolis.

A few days after our arrival in this village, Spiro Milio presented himself to Mavrocordato, with a
corps of two hundred picked Chimariots, the most martial-looking men in the whole army. They are not to be distinguished from Albanians, their dress and language being perfectly similar; but though their religion is Greek, they do not understand one syllable of Romaic. This young man belonged to some of the best families in the Chimara mountains. His uncle, who during many years served as major in the Albanian regiment in the service of Naples, took him, when a youth, over to that country, where he remained several years. Born in a country, the inaccessible nature of which had ever preserved it independent, he learned in Italy to appreciate the blessings of civil liberty; and education, by awakening patriotism, taught him his duty, stimulated his courage, and armed his hand. He explained to the capitani, who received him, the motives, by which he had been induced to leave his native mountains; why he had resolved to devote himself to the assistance of his coreligionaries, as long as the struggle, in which they were engaged, should last; and all this in a plain, unadorned manner, yet with a grace and dignity, a fluency and harmony that captivated all his hearers. To much penetration and judgment, he united a modesty, rare at his age, particularly among his countrymen. He was brave and disinterested; and every Philhellene, that knew him, could not forbear exclaiming, “Happy were Greece, did she possess more men like this!” Mavrocordato ordered him to repair with his men to the camp at Ligovitzi.

About this time, also, two very different individuals made their appearance at Chrysovitzi. The one Mr. Scoulo from Smyrna, a petit-maître; the other Mr. Constantine Polychroniades, an infirm pedagogue, sixty years of age. The former regaled us, during
three days, with his political dissertations and plans; but his remarks and conversation were characterized by the most disgusting vanity and pretension. Little inclined to relish the hardships of a Greek soldier’s life, and finding the secondary situations, proposed to him by Mavrocordato, to be below his notice, he hastened to return to Mesolonghi, whence he proceeded to Anapli. The latter volunteered to act as Mavrocordato’s secretary.

This gentleman was born at Zagori, a district not far from Ioanina, famous throughout the Levant for its breed of itinerant quacks. The male population consists solely of M.D.’s; Zagoriot and doctor being synonymes; and indeed, the medical profession becomes, in their hands, so lucrative, as entirely to supersede the necessity of any other. An idea of their wealth may be formed from their houses, which are well-built, spacious, and the best furnished in Turkey. When at home, they live like gentlemen at large.

It may not prove uninteresting to those, who wish to ascertain the state of medicine in Turkey, to hear some particulars relative to the education and qualifications, requisite to obtain a degree at this singular university. The first thing taught to the young men is the professional language; a dissonant jargon composed purposely to carry on their business, hold consultations, &c. without being understood by any being in existence but themselves. They are then taught reading sufficiently to decipher the pages of their ιστροσοϕι, or manuscript, containing a selection of deceptive formulæ, for all possible diseases, incident to human nature. When a candidate has given before the elders proofs of his proficiency in these attainments, they declare him to be, dignus entrare in docto nostro corpore; and he then prepares to leave
Zagori. The Zagoriots generally travel about Turkey in small bands, composed of six or eight different individuals, each of whom has a separate part to perform, like strolling players. One is the Signor Dottore. He never enters a town, but mounted on a gaudy-caparisoned horse, dressed in long robes, with a round hat and neckcloth; never opening his mouth but ex cathedrâ, his movements are performed with due professional gravity, and he is at all times attended by his satellites. One is the apothecary; the second the dragoman; for it is the doctor’s privilege not to comprehend a syllable of any other language but the Zagoriot; a third is the herald, who, endued with a surprising volubility of tongue, announces through the streets and in the public squares, the arrival of the incomparable doctor; enumerates the wonderful cures he has performed; and entreats the people to avail themselves of this providential opportunity: for not only does he possess secrets for the cure of actual diseases, but of insuring against their future attacks. He possesses the happy talent too of ingravidating the barren, and leaves it to their choice, to have male or female, &c. &c. He is skilled in the performance of operations for the stone, cataracts, hernia, dislocations, &c.

Two others, who pass under the denomination of servants, employ their time in going from house to house in quest of patients; and as, from their menial employment, they are thought to be disinterested, credit is the more easily given to their word. Thus they journey from town to town, hardly ever remaining more than a fortnight in any place. After a tour of five or six years, they return for a while to their families, and divide in equal shares the gains of their charlatanism. On a second journey, they all change parts, in order to escape detection. The dottore
yields his dignity to the servant, and does the same offices to him, as he was wont to receive; the dragoman becomes herald, the herald apothecary, &c.

The wealth of the Zagoriots attracted the cupidity of Ali Pasha. Some of the richest had time to escape over to Europe. The rest of the population had to pay the enormous impositions, this despot annually laid upon their province. For these motives, had Mr. Polychroniades fled from his country; but although during his prolonged stay in Europe he picked up some information, he did not yet become a great proficient in science, which indeed he only cultivated as a Zagoriot does medicine.

We were also honoured by the society of Mr. Prassino, eparch of Xeromero and Vonitza, who came to pay a visit to Mavrocordato, emissary of the Hetareia; he informed us of the apathy, testified by the Greek population to the calls of liberty, when before the bursting out of the revolution he travelled about the country, to ascertain the state of the public feeling. He never expected, he said, that, of their own accord, his countrymen would throw off the yoke, to which they seemed so well accustomed. Ali Pasha’s death, and Sultan Mahmoud’s cruel conduct towards the Greeks at Constantinople, and the clergy throughout Turkey, were the chief causes of the insurrection, according to his judgment.

There can be little doubt but the Albanian Pasha’s long resistance and fall were the principal circumstances, which opened the eyes of the Greeks; by making them acquainted with the weakness of Turkey; and also by removing the only fear that could keep them under direct control. If Ali Pasha had continued to govern Albania, so universal was the dread of his power, that even the thought of a revolution would never have entered the minds of the Greeks;
or, most assuredly, if it had ever arisen, it would have been quelled in a moment, by the troops he could instantly have poured into the Morea, in the same manner as the insurrection of 1779.

Mr. Prassino had become civilized in Russia; not the best school certainly to learn liberal principles. He did not, at least, show himself better than the generality of Logiotati; hence, in the administration of his prefecture, he sacrificed every consideration to the shrine of self-interest. They did not act in so glaring a manner as the capitani; but, uniting more cunning to equal rapacity, they imitated those birds of prey, who profit by the obscurity and silence of night, to commit the greater havoc.