Page images

chiefs ; and his personal merit overshadowed the dignity of his prouder rivals of Arragon. The offspring of a marriage between a German gentleman of the court of Frederic the Second and a damsel of Brindisi, Roger was successively a templar, an apostate, a pirate, and at length the richest and most powerful admiral of the Mediterranean. He sailed from Messina to Constantinople, with eighteen galleys, four great ships, and eight thousand adventurers *; and his previous treaty was faithfully accomplished by Andronicus the elder, who accepted with joy and terror this formidable succour. A palace was allotted for his reception, and a niece of the emperor was given in marriage to the valiant stranger, who was immediately created great duke or admiral of Romania. After a decent repose, he transported his troops over the Propontis, and boldly led them against the Turks : in two bloody battles thirty thousand of the Moslems were slain : he raised the siege of Philadelphia, and deserved the name of the deliverer of Asia. But after a short season of prosperity, the cloud of slavery and ruin again burst on that unhappy province. The inhabitants escaped (says a Greek historian) from the smoke into the flames; and the hostility of the Turks was less pernicious than the friendship of the Catalans. † The lives and fortunes which they had rescued they considered as their own: the willing or reluctant maid was saved from the race of circumcision for the embraces of a Christian soldier: the exaction of fines and supplies was enforced by licentious rapine and arbitrary executions; and, on the resistance of Magnesia, the great duke besieged a city of the Roman empire. These disorders he excused by the wrongs and passions of a victorious army; nor would his own authority or person have been safe, had he dared to punish his faithful followers, who were defrauded of the just and covenanted price of their services. The threats and complaints of Andronicus disclosed the nakedness of the empire. His golden bull had invited no more than five hundred horse and a thousand foot soldiers; yet the crowds of volunteers, who migrated to the East, had been enlisted and fed by his spontancous bounty. While his bravest allies were content with three byzants or pieces of gold, for their monthly pay, an ounce,

18 Some idea may be formed of the population of these cities, from the 36,000 inha. bitants of Tralles, which, in the preceding reign, was rebuilt by the emperor, and ruined by the Turks. (Pachymer, 1. vi. c, 20, 21.)

The troops of Roger de Flor, accord- + Ramon de Montaner suppresses the ing to his companion Rainon de Montaner, cruelties and oppressions of the Catalans, were 1500 men at arms, 4000 Almoga- in which, perhaps, he shared. - M. vares, and 1000 other foot, besides tne sailors and mariners, vol. ii. p. 137. - - M.

or even two ounces, of gold were assigned to the Catalans, whose annual pension would thus amount to near an hundred pounds sterling: one of their chiefs had modestly rated at three hundred thousand crowns the value of his future merits; and above a million had been issued from the treasury for the maintenance of these costly mercenaries. A cruel tax had been imposed on the corn of the husbandman : one third was retrenched from the salaries of the public officers; and the standard of the coin was so shamefully debased, that of the four-and-twenty parts only five were of pure gold.“'At the summons of the emperor, Roger evacuated a province which no longer supplied the materials of rapine *; but he refused to disperse his troops; and while his style was respectful, his conduct was independent and hostile. He protested, that if the emperor should march against him, he would advance forty paces to kiss the ground before him; but in rising from this prostrate attitude Roger had a life and sword at the service of his friends. The great duke of Romania condescended to accept the title and ornaments of Cæsar; but he rejected the new proposal of the government of Asia with a subsidy of corn and money t, on condition that he should reduce his troops to the harmless number of three thousand men. Assassination is the last resource of cowards. The Cæsar was tempted to visit the royal residence of Adrianople; in the apartment, and before the eyes, of the empress he was stabbed by the Alani guards; and, though the deed was imputed to their private revenge I, his countrymen, who dwelt at Constantinople in the security of peace, were involved in the same proscription by the prince or people. The loss of their leader intimidated the crowd of adventurers, who hoisted the sails of flight, and were soon scattered round the coasts of the Mediterranean.

49 I have collected these pecuniary circumstances from Pachymer (1. xi. c. 21. 1. xii. c. 4, 5. 8. 14. 19.), who describes the progressive degradation of the gold coin. Even in the prosperous times of John Ducas Vataces, the byzants were composed in equal proportions of the pure and the baser metal. The poverty of Michael Palæologus compelled him to strike a new coin, with nine parts, or carats, of gold, and fifteen of copper alloy.

After bis death, the standard rose to ten carats, till in the public distress it was reduced to the moiety. The prince was relieved for a moment, while credit and commerce were for ever blasted. In France, the gold coin is of twenty-two carats (one twelfth alloy), and the standard of England and Holland is still higher.

* Roger de Flor, according to Ramon † Andronicus paid the Catalans in the de Montaner, was recalled from Natolia, debased money, much to their indignation. on account of the war which had arisen - M. on the death of Asan, king of Bulgaria. † According to Ramon de Montaner, Andronicus claimed the kingdom for his he was murdered by order of Kyr (rupos) nephews, the sons of Asan by his sister. Michael, son of the emperor. p. 170. Roger de Flor turned the tide of success M. in favour of the emperor of Constantinople, and made peace.


But a veteran band of fifteen hundred Catalans or French, stood firm in the strong fortress of Gallipoli on the Hellespont, displayed the banners of Arragon, and offered to revenge and justify their chief, by an equal combat of ten or an hundred warriors. Instead of accepting this bold defiance, the emperor Michael, the son and colleague of Andronicus, resolved to oppress them with the weight of multitudes : every nerve was strained to form an army of thirteen thousand horse and thirty thousand foot; and the Propontis was covered with the ships of the Greeks and Genoese. In two battles by sea and land, these mighty forces were encountered and overthrown by the despair and discipline of the Catalans : the young emperor fled to the palace; and an insufficient guard of light-horse was left for the protection of the open country. Victory renewed the hopes and numbers of the adventurers: every nation was blended under the name and standard of the great company; and three thousand Turkish proselytes deserted from the Imperial service to join this military association. In the possession of Gallipoli *, the Catalans intercepted the trade of Constantinople and the Black Sea, while they spread their devastations on either side of the Hellespont over the confines of Europe and Asia. To prevent their approach, the greatest part of the Byzantine territory was laid waste by the Greeks themselves : the peasants and their cattle retired into the city; and myriads of sheep and oxen, for which neither place nor food could be procured, were unprofitably slaughtered on the same day. Four times the emperor Andronicus sued for peace, and four times he was inflexibly repulsed, till the want of provisions, and the discord of the chiefs, compelled the Catalans to evacuate the banks of the Hellespont and the neighbourhood of the capital. After their separation from the Turks, the remains of the great company pursued their march through Macedonia and Thessaly, to seek a new establishment in the heart of Greece. 50

50 The Catalan war is most copiously related by Pachymer, in the with, xiith, and xijith books, till he breaks off in the year 1308. Nicephorus Gregoras (l. vii. 3-6) is more concise and complete. Ducange, who adopts these adventurers as French, has hunted their footsteps with his usual diligence (Hist. de C. P. I. vi. c. 22—46.). He quotes an Arragonese history, which I have read with pleasure, and which the

[ocr errors]

Ramon de Montaner describes his “ chancelier et maitre rational de l'armée" sojourn at Gallipoli: Nous étions si riches, (commissary of rations). He was left que nous ne semions, ni ne labourions, ni governor; all the scribes of the army rene faisions enver des vins, ni ne cultivions mained with him, and with their aid he les vignes : et cependant tous les ans nous kept the books in which were registered recueillions tout ce qu'il nous fallait, en the number of horse and foot employed on vin, froment et avoine. p. 193. This cach expedition. According to this book lasted for five merry years. Ramon de the plunder was shared, of which he had a Montaner is high authority, for he was fifth for his trouble. p. 197. — M.

After some ages of oblivion, Greece was awakened to Rovolu new misfortunes by the arms of the Latins. In the Athens, two hundred and fifty years between the first and the --1456. last conquest of Constantinople, that venerable land was disputed by a multitude of petty tyrants; without the comforts of freedom and genius, her ancient cities were again plunged in foreign and intestine war; and, if servitude be preferable to anarchy, they might repose with joy under the Turkish yoke. I shall not pursue the obscure and various dynasties, that rose and fell on the continent or in the isles; but our silence on the fate of ATHENS 51 would argue a strange ingratitude to the first and purest school of liberal science and amusement. In the partition of the empire, the principality of Athens and Thebes was assigned to Otho de la Roche, a noble warrior of Burgundy 52, with the title of great duke 53, which the Latins understood in their own sense, and the Greeks more foolishly derived from the age of Constantine. 5 1 Otho followed the standard of the marquis of Montferrat : the ample state which he acquired by a miracle of conduct or fortune 55, was peaceably inherited by his son and two grandsons, till the family, though not the nation, was changed, by the marriage of

Spaniards extol as a model of style and composition (Expedicion de los Catalanes y Arragoneses contra Turcos y Griegos : Barcelona, 1623, in quarto : Madrid, 1777, in octavo). Don Francisco de Moncada, Conde de Ossona, may imitate Cæsar or Sallust; he may transcribe the Greek or Italian contemporaries : but he never quotes his authorities, and I cannot discern any national records of the exploits of his countrymen. *

5. See the laborious history of Ducange, whose accurate table of the French dynasties recapitulates the thirty-five passages, in which he mentions the dukes of Athens.

52 He is twice mentioned by Villehardouin with honour (No. 151. 235.); and under the first passage, Ducange observes all that can be known of his person and family.

$$ From these Latin princes of the xivth century, Boccace, Chaucer, and Shakspeare have borrowed their Theseus duke of Athens. An ignorant age transfers its own lan. guage and manners to the most distant times.

** The same Constantine gave to Sicily a king, to Russia the magnus dapifer of the empire, to Thebes the primicerius ; and these absurd fables are properly lashed by Ducange (ad Nicephor. Greg. l. vii. c. 5.). By the Latins, the lord of Thebes was styled, by corruption, the Megas Kurios, or Grand Sire!

*5 Quodam miraculo, says Alberic. He was probably received by Michael Choniates, the archbishop who had defended Athens against the tyrant Leo Sgurus (Nicetas urbs capta, p. 805. ed. Bek.). Michael was the brother of the historian Nicetas; and his encomium of Athens is still extant in MS. in the Bodleian library (Fabric. Bibliot. Græc. tom. vi. p. 405.). †

* Ramon de Montaner, one of the Cata- The autobiography of Ramon de Monlans, who accompanied Roger de Flor, and taner has been published in French by who was governor of Gallipoli, has written, M. Buchon, in the great collection of Méin Spanish, the history of this band of moires relatifs à l'Ilistoire de France. I adventurers, to which he belonged, and quote this edition. - M. from which he separated when it left the † Nicetas says expressly that Michael Thracian Chersonese to penetrate into surrendered the Acropolis to the marquis. Macedonia and Greece. — G.


an heiress into the elder branch of the house of Brienne. The son of that marriage, Walter de Brienne, succeeded to the duchy of Athens; and, with the aid of some Catalan mercenaries, whom he invested with fiefs, reduced above thirty castles of the vassal or neighbouring lords. But when he was informed of the approach and ambition of the great company, he collected a force of seven hundred knights, six thousand four hundred horse, and eight thousand foot, and boldly met them on the banks of the river Cephisus in Bæotia. The Catalans amounted to no more than three thousand five hundred horse, and four thousand foot ; but the deficiency of numbers was compensated by stratagem and order. They formed round their camp an artificial inundation ; the duke and his knights advanced without fear or precaution on the verdant meadow; their horses plunged into the bog; and he was cut in pieces, with the greatest part of the French cavalry. His family and nation were expelled ; and his son Walter de Brienne, the titular duke of Athens, the tyrant of Florence, and the constable of France, lost his life in the field of Poitiers. Attica and Bæotia were the rewards of the victorious Catalans; they married the widows and daughters of the slain; and during fourteen



great company was the terror of the Grecian states. Their factions drove them to acknowledge the sovereignty of the house of Arragon; and during the remainder of the fourteenth century, Athens, as a government or an appanage, was successively bestowed by the kings of Sicily. After the French and Catalans, the third dynasty was that of the Accaioli, a family, plebeian at Florence, potent at Naples, and sovereign in Greece. Athens, which they embellished with new buildings, became the capital of a state, that extended over Thebes, Argos, Corinth, Delphi, and a part of Thessaly; and their reign was finally determined by Mahomet the Second, who strangled the last duke, and educated his sons in the discipline and religion of the seraglio.

Athens 56, though no more than the shadow of her former

self, still contains about eight or ten thousand inhabitants ; of these, three-fourths are Greeks in religion and language; and the Turks, who compose the remainder, have relaxed, in their intercourse with the citizens, somewhat of the pride and gravity of their national character. The olive-tree, the gift of Minerva, flourishes

56 The modern account of Athens, and the Athenians, is extracted from Spon (Voyage en Grece, tom. ii. p. 79—199.) and Wheeler (Travels into Greece, p 337– 414.), Stuart (Antiquities of Athens, passim), and Chandler (Travels into Greece, p. 23—172.). The first of these travellers visited Greece in the year 1676; the last 1765; and ninety years had not produced much difference in the tranquil scene.

Present state of Athens.

« PreviousContinue »