LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XXVII

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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Author arrives at Athens—Its moral and political condition.

We descended from Megara* to the perama, or ferry, and thence to Salamine, named by the moderns Couluri. This island, in itself barren and unproductive, had become a place of refuge for the whole population of Eastern Greece, whenever the enemy threatened to invade it. I spent a day at the house of the governor, a worthy old Hydriot; and then proceeded to Ampelachia, where boats are in constant readiness for the Pirasus. This port had, by a late decree of the senate, been yielded to the Ipsariots, who had requested it, in order to build a town where they might establish themselves with their families. Aware of the advantages, which the commercial spirit of

* The produce of Megaris consisted chiefly in oil, turpentine, resin, pitch, timber, and valonea. This district was the only one where the Turks had no property, and where, consequently, government received only a tenth of the whole. The inhabitants of Condoura, Megara, and the Derveno-Choria (all of Albanian extraction) were, before the revolution, exempt from taxes; and having no Musulman established in their interior, they were merely bound to furnish a certain number of men for the defence of the passes. The insurrection of the Greeks had brought upon them a thousand evils; and, instead of improving their condition, subjected them to vexations from the eparch and capitano, sent by government to make them acquainted with the blessings of liberty. How often have I heard them curse the day and the hour when the revolution first broke out!

those islanders would indubitably bring on their town and surrounding country, the Athenians nevertheless reflected on the many evils and inconveniences which the neighbourhood of this turbulent and barbarous population might produce; since the little trade, existing in the country, would pass entirely into their hands; and thus, instead of the Piræus depending upon Athens, Athens would depend on the Piræus.

Volumes have been written on this city; and every author has carefully sought to transmit to posterity the sentiments, inspired in his mind by the contemplation of the magnificent ruins of its monuments, which, even in a dilapidated state, please and astonish more than the most perfect of our modern fabrics. Aware, that I am unable to add one iota to the stock of information relative to the antiquities of this city; and not having sufficient presumption to suppose, that the feelings an insignificant individual like myself experienced on beholding them for the first time, can interest any one, besides the observer, I shall make no remarks on the antiquities of the city. I shall confine myself, therefore, to its moral and political condition at the time I visited it.

A stranger could not, after a very short examination, refrain from esteeming the population at least fifty years advanced in point of civilization before the rest of the Greeks. The streets were not disgustingly filthy, as in every other town; the houses were much neater, better built, and furnished; hospitality was every where showed him; and an earnest wish to oblige every where evident. The manners and language of the females too were infinitely softer and more elegant; and every citizen, friend to good order, peaceably followed his daily occupation. The vigilant and severe police, established by Odysseus, no less than
the mild and inoffensive temper of the Athenians, prevented their walls from becoming, as in other parts of Greece, the theatre of continual disturbances, riots, and assassinations. Whatever blame this chief may deserve for his despotic principles and criminal actions, the inhabitants of Attica, when comparing their fate with that of other provinces, could not refrain nevertheless from consoling themselves under his despotism by the knowledge, that, after all, the sway of an autocrat occasions, incomparably, fewer and lesser evils, than the reign of anarchy.

The actual Eparch of Attica was Michael Soutzo, one of the few Fanariots, endued with probity and patriotic virtue. Thanks to his enlightened views, the education of the rising generation became one of the chief objects of his care; and, seconded by the primates, he established a Lancasterian school, and another which was chiefly maintained at the expense of the Philo-Muse Society. In these schools five hundred boys received daily instruction.

A few days after my arrival, the whole city was thrown into the greatest alarm, by the news, that Odysseus had appeared with a considerable body of men in the plain of Marathon, and seized the cattle belonging to the Athenians. A peasant, soon after, brought a letter, addressed to the magistrates; in which, after bitterly reproaching them with their ingratitude, he demanded the payment of twenty thousand dollars, which the town, he said, owed him, for the numerous repairs and improvements he had made in the Acropolis, &c. and also, the restitution of a Turkish surgeon, who belonged to him. In case they failed in satisfying his claims and demands, he threatened them with instant revenge. Every one knew, that, of late, Odysseus had offered his services
Omer Pasha of Negropont; and it was so strongly apprehended that his proposals would be accepted, that, hourly expecting the arrival of a Turkish force under his guidance, the whole population of Athens spent every night on the ramparts for upwards of a week, with a view of guarding against a surprise.

Goura had not yet returned from Peloponnesus; and the number of troops, left by him to defend the Acropolis, was insufficient to protect the town against the enemy. Despatch after despatch was therefore sent to him to inform him of the danger which threatened Athens; and to beseech him to arrive in time to defeat the schemes, which the enemy, listening to the counsels of Odysseus, had proposed executing during his absence. The fears of the Athenians proved unfounded; for, after a few days, the capitano, who had inspired them with so much terror, withdrew to his cavern in Mount Parnassus, carrying with him large droves of sheep and oxen.

Whatever eulogies may have been lavished on Goura, by the partisans of government, in whose hands he became the chief instrument to depose the rebels in Attica and Peloponnesus; his merits cannot but lose no small share of their lustre, when it is seen that feelings of patriotism little animated his actions; and that ambition and avarice alone induced him to betray his old friend and companion, Odysseus. The booty, which he brought from Morea, was of immense value, and the sums, with which government bribed him, were far from trifling. Some Athenian ladies having called upon his wife to congratulate her on her husband’s return, found her sitting on a sofa, and amusing herself, with childish vanity, in emptying and filling two bags of sovereigns, which he had given her as pin-money. Goura was a man, who had received not the slightest rudiments
of education. Born in an obscure village of Carpenisi, he had, from his youth upwards, served in the band of Armatolis under Odysseus; and, more than once, polluted his hands with innocent blood. His narrow escape, after murdering a rich aga from Egripo in the bazaar of Athens, was yet in the mouth of every one. He owed on this occasion his life to Odysseus, who, reckoning on his gratitude, made him the confidant of his designs. Goura had the chief hand in putting to death
Alexi Noutzo and BaLasCa1566, whom government had sent to dispossess his friend of the command of Attica. It cannot be denied, however, that he possessed all the merits of a soldier, and what proves beyond doubt, that his courage was innate, is, that the bravery, which characterized him when poor, did not cease to signalize him after the acquisition of immense wealth.

The revenues of Athens consisted chiefly in oil; and as eight olive-trees out of ten were Turkish, and now national property, it may easily be conceived, what a source of wealth government possessed merely in this part of Eastern Greece. For, in the worst seasons, the territory in the immediate vicinity of Athens produced two hundred thousand measures of oil, and every third or fourth year even three hundred thousand*. Each measure contained five oques, or twelve pounds and a half in weight, which on an average was sold for half a dollar. The proprietors of olive-trees paid to government a tenth of the produce; but those, who farmed the trees belonging to the public, were bound to deliver six measures out of ten. Wax, honey, wool, silk, valonea, pourno-cocchi, or red dye berries, alizari (pi’Capi), were

* The truth of this statement has been confirmed to me by Mr. Fauvel, who, for nearly thirty years, was French consul at Athens.

the other principal articles of exportation from Athens. The custom-house at the Piræus must, therefore, have produced an annual revenue of at least fifty thousand dollars. For heavy duties were laid not only on every article of importation but also of exportation*.

Not to enter into further details, I may state, that from repeated inquiries, I feel myself justified in asserting, that the annual revenues of Eastern Greece must have amounted to more than one hundred thousand dollars; and that if this sum did not enter into the public coffers, it arose entirely from the bad administration of the finances and the dishonesty of the functionaries.

Among the individuals, with whom I became acquainted at Athens, the two, who most deserve mention, are Psila an Athenian, and Count Sta. Rosa, who acted as minister of war during the short revolution in Piedmont. The former was the editor of the Athenian Ephemerides, and united to patriotism a sound and cool judgment, a quality rare every where, but especially in this country; where the minds of men are characterized rather by brilliancy than solidity. He bitterly lamented the utter im-

* In order to form some idea of the nature of these, I have deemed it expedient to annex the following table of duties, paid for animals and cattle, which were daily exported in large quantities from peninsular and continental Greece to the neighbouring islands.

For baggage-horses 100, or 10 Spanish dollars.
For mules 150.
For asses 20.
For cows and oxen 50.
For goats and sheep 6.
For hogs from 20 to 10.
For turkeys 3.
For geese 2.
For ducks 1.
For hens and fowls 30 paras.

possibility, which his position and the lawless state of Greece involved him, of writing his paper in a style of true independence. Yet, notwithstanding his endeavour to avoid hurting the feelings of individuals, he was shortly after summoned to appear with his printer, before the senate at Anapli; for an article, relative to
Panoutso Notara’s conduct as president of that body.

Count Santa Rosa had, a few weeks previous, arrived in Greece from England, in consequence of the repeated representations, made to him by the Greek deputies in London. They unwarrantedly represented to him, how happy and proud their government would be, in receiving a person of his capacity and skill in political administration; and the eagerness, with which they would avail themselves of his wisdom in the direction of the infant state. A foreigner alone could succeed in reconciling parties by destroying rivalships; and, certainly, no one was ever better calculated than himself to prove of vital utility to Greece.

These enticing arguments, which his generous sentiments and unfeigned love for liberty, prompted him to credit, induced him to abandon the comforts and repose he enjoyed in England. Leaving the numerous friends, his talents and virtues had procured for him in our hospitable land, regardless of his wife and numerous family, and embarked anew on the turbulent sea of affairs, to court new dangers in the sacred cause for the love of which he had become a roaming exile, and broken asunder the dearest ties of the heart, what was his disappointment, when, on landing at Anapli, instead of meeting with the cordial reception, he naturally expected; he perceived, that the members of government did not even treat him with the common marks of politeness, due to a
stranger; but regarded him at once with a suspicious eye? They soon made him perceive, that his assistance was superfluous; and, at last, bluntly told him, that he would render government a great service by changing his name; since they apprehended, that the Holy Alliance, hearing that he was in Greece, the reproach might be renewed, that their country had become the asylum of carbonari, freemasons, and outlaws.

On Count Rosa’s mentioning to them the words of their own deputies, Papaflessa phlegmatically answered, “The atmosphere of London seems to have made them forget what sort of men we are here.” It now became evident, that the parties had wantonly and designedly sacrificed his interests for their own private ends; and that his departure and that of Cavallo Collegrio, Palma, Pecchio, &c. for Greece had afforded matter for a newspaper puff, calculated to revive for awhile the drooping enthusiasm of John Bull, and to raise the funds.

Such proceedings wounded the count deeply. Not satisfied with slighting the sacrifices, he had made for their sake, the members of the government filled his cup of disappointment to the brim, by advising him to drop in a land of liberty a name, which he would never drop even in countries, where an active police threatened him with perpetual imprisonment, or rather with certain death. With a view of dissipating the melancholy, which now incessantly tortured his mind, the Count undertook a journey to Athens. But solitude, and a contemplation of ruins, aggravate rather than cure a melancholy mind; and the daily discoveries, he made of the Greek character; the fears entertained of seeing Athens besieged by Greeks, converted into friends and counsellors of Mussulmen; the civil wars in Peloponnesus; and
other causes, gradually dissipated all remaining illusions.

Most persons, after meeting such an unfavourable reception, would have, no doubt, formed a resolution to leave a country, where nothing but farther disappointment and vexation could fairly be expected; but the Count was gifted with an inflexible mind, never to be deterred from its purpose. The Greeks, with all their faults, interested him still; if not by themselves, at least by association of ideas. If, therefore, he could not serve them in the capacity of a statesman, he resolved on serving them as a private soldier.

Full of the enthusiasm, which gave rise to this determination, he returned to Anapli, and volunteered, under the orders of a capitano, famed for his valour. In vain did the Count’s friends endeavour to dissuade him by representing to him, how little his frail constitution, at an age like his, qualified him to withstand the continual hardships of a palichari’s life; to march; to fly like him; to sleep like him; exposed to the inclemency of the seasons, with no other covering but his cappa; to imitate his abstemiousness and live a whole day merely on a small biscuit soaked in water. Even the consideration of his children, whom he loved so tenderly as constantly to wear their likenesses, which he repeatedly in the day covered with his unavailing kisses and tears, could not alter his resolution. Equipped, therefore, like a common soldier, hearing that Neocastra was threatened, he left Anapli on foot and hastened thither.