name of Corvinus, from the place of his nativity, might suggest a thin pretence for mingling his blood with the patricians of ancient Rome.S! In his youth he served in the wars of Italy, and was retained, with horsemen, by the bishop of Zagrab: the valour of the white knight 32 was soon conspicuous; he increased his fortunes by a noble and wealthy marriage; and in the defence of the Hungarian borders he won in the same year three battles against the Turks. By his influence Ladislaus of Poland obtained the crown of Hungary; and the important service was rewarded by the title and office of Waivod of Transylvania. The first of Julian's crusades added two Turkish laurels on his brow; and in the public distress the fatal errors of Varna were forgotten. During the absence and minority of Ladislaus of Austria, the titular king, Huniades was elected supreme captain and governor of Hungary; and if envy at first was silenced by terror, a reign of twelve years supposes the arts of policy as well as of war. Yet the idea of a consummate general is not delineated in his campaigns; the white knight fought with the hand rather than the head, as the chief of desultory barbarians, who attack without fear and fly without shame; and his military life is composed of a romantic alternative of victories and escapes. By the Turks, who employed his name to frighten their perverse children, he was corruptly denominated Jancus Lain, or the Wicked: their hatred is the proof of their esteem; the kingdom which he guarded was inaccessible to their arms; and they felt him most daring and formidable when they fondly believed the captain and his country irrecoverably lost. Instead of confining himself to a defensive war, four years after the defeat of Varna he again penetrated into the heart of Bulgaria, and in the plain of Cossova sustained, till the third day, the shock of the Ottoman army, four times more numerous than his own. As he fled alone through the woods of Wallachia, the hero was surprised by two robbers; but while they disputed a gold chain that hung at his neck, he recovered his sword, slew the one, terrified the other, and, after new perils of captivity or death, consoled by his presence an afflicted His defence kingdom. But the last and must glorious action of his life of Belgrade,

was the defence of Belgrade against the powers of Mahomet the Second in person. After a siege of forty days

the Turks, who had already entered the town, were com31 See Bonfinius, decad iii, 1. iv. p. 423. Could the Italian historian pronounce, or the king of Hungary hear, without a blush, the absurd flattery which confounded the name of a Wallachian village with the casual, though glorious, epithet of a single branch of the Valerian family at Rome?

32 Philip de Comines (Mémoires, 1. vi. c. 13), from the tradition of the times, mentions him with high encomiums, but under the whimsical name of the Chevalier Blanc de Valaigne (Vallachia). The Greek Chalcocondyles, and the Turkish annals of Louvolavius, presume to accuse his fidelity or valour.

and death, A.D. 1456, July 22Sept. 4.



pelled to retreat; and the joyful nations celebrated Huniades and Belgrade as the bulwarks of Christendom.33 About a month after this great deliverance the champion expired ; and his most splendid epitaph is the regret of the Ottoman prince, who sighed that he could no longer hope for revenge against the single antagonist who had triumphed over his arms. On the first vacancy of the throne Matthias Corvinus, a youth of eighteen years of age, was elected and crowned by the grateful Hungarians. His reign was prosperous and long : Matthias aspired to the glory of a conqueror and a saint; but his purest merit is the encouragement of learning; and the Latin orators and historians, who were invited from Italy by the son, have shed the lustre of their eloquence on the father's character.34

In the list of heroes John Huniades and Scanderbeg are commonly associated ; 35 and they are both entitled to our notice, since Birth and their occupation of the Ottoman arms delayed the ruin of education of the Greek empire. John Castriot, the father of Scander- prince of beg, 36 was the hereditary prince of a small district of Epirus, 405-1413, or Albania, between the mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Unable to contend with the sultan's power, Castriot submitted to the hard conditions of peace and tribute : he delivered his four sons as the pledges of his fidelity; and the Christian youths, after receiving the mark of circumcision, were instructed in the Mahometan religion and trained in the arms and arts of Turkish policy.37 The three elder brothers were confounded in the crowd of slaves; and the poison to which their deaths are ascribed cannot be verified or disproved by


33 See Bonfinius (decad iii. 1. viii. p. 492) and Spondanus (A.D. 1456, No. 1-7). Huniades shared the glory of the defence of Belgrade with Capistran, a Franciscan friar; and in their respective narratives, neither the saint nor the hero condescends to take notice of his rival's merit.

34 See Bonfinius, decad iii. 1. viii.--decad iv. 1. viii. The observations of Spondanus on the life and character of Matthias Corvinus are curious and critical (A.D. 1464, No. 1; 1475, No. 6; 1476, No. 14-16; 1490, No. 4, 5). Italian fame was the object of his vanity. His actions are celebrated in the Epitome Rerum Hungaricarum (p. 322412) of Peter Ranzanus, a Sicilian. His wise and facetious sayings are registerea by Galestus Martius of Narni (528-568), and we have a particular narrative of his wedding and coronation. These three tracts are all contained in the first vol. of Bel's Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum.

25 They are ranked by Sir William Temple, in his pleasing Essay on Heroic Virtue (Works, vol. iii. p. 385), amoug the seven chiefs who have deserved, without wearing, à royal crown: Belisarius, Narses, Gonsalvo of Cordova, William first prince of Orange, Alexander duke of Parma, John Huniades, and George Castriot, or Scanderbeg.

35 I could wish for some simple, authentic memoirs of a friend of Scanderbeg, which would introduce me to the man, the time, and the place. In the old and national bistory of Marinus Barletius, a priest of Scodra (de Vitâ, Moribus, et Rebus gestis Georzii Castrioti, &c., libri xiii. pp. 367, Argentorat. 1537, in fol.), his gaudy and cumbersome robes are stuck with many false jewels. See likewise Chalcocondyles, 1. vii. p. 185, 1. viii. p. 229 [p. 350 and 432, ed. Bonn).

» His circumcision, education, &c., are marked by Marinus with brevity and reluctanco (1. i. p. 6, 7).

any positive evidence. Yet the suspicion is in a great measure removed by the kind and paternal treatment of George Castriot, the fourth brother, who, from his tender youth, displayed the strength and spirit of a soldier. The successive overthrow of a Tartar and two Persians, who carried a proud defiance to the Turkish court, recommended him to the favour of Amurath, and his Turkish appellation of Scanderbeg (Iskender beg), or the lord Alexander, is an indelible memorial of his glory and servitude. His father's principality was reduced into a province; but the loss was compensated by the rank and title of Sanjiak, a command of five thousand horse, and the prospect of the first dignities of the empire. He served with honour in the wars of Europe and Asia; and we may smile at the art or credulity of the historian, who supposes that in every encounter he spared the Christians, while he fell with a thundering arm on his Musulman foes. The glory of Huniades is without reproach : he fought in the defence of his religion and country; but the enemies who applaud the patriot have branded his rival with the name of traitor and apostate. In the eyes of the Christians the rebellion of Scanderbeg is justified by his father's wrongs, the ambiguous death of his three brothers, his own degradation, and the slavery of his country; and they adore the generous, though tardy, zeal with which he asserted the faith and independence of his ancestors. But he had imbibed from his ninth year the doctrines of the Koran: he was ignorant of the Gospel; the religion of a soldier is determined by authority and habit ; nor is it easy to conceive what new illumination at the age of forty 38 could be poured into his soul. His motives would be less exposed to the suspicion of interest or revenge, had he broken his chain from the moment that he was sensible of its weight: but a long oblivion had surely impaired his original right; and every year of obedience and reward had cemented the mutual bond of the sultan and his subject. If Scanderbeg had long harboured the belief of Christianity and the intention of revolt, a worthy mind must conaemn the base dissimulation that could serve only to betray, that could promise only to be forsworn, that could actively join in the temporal and spiritual perdition of so many thousands of his unhappy brethren. Shall we praise a secret correspondence with Huniades while he commanded the vanguard of the Turkish army? Shall we excuse the desertion of his standard, a treacherous desertion which

** Since Scanderbeg died a.d. 1466, in the lxiiid year of his age (Marinus, l. xii. p. 370), he was born in 1403; since he was torn from his parents by the Turks when ho was novennis (Marinus, 1. i. p. 1, 6), that event must have happened in 1412, nide years before the accession of Amurath II., who must have inherited, not acquired, the Albanian slave. Spondanus has remarked this inconsistency, A.D. 1431, No. 31; 1443, No. 14,

A.D. 1443,

abandoned the victory to the enemies of his benefactor? In the confusion of a defeat, the eye of Scanderbeg was fixed on the His revolt Reis Effendi, or principal secretary: with the dagger at Turks, his breast, he extorted a firman or patent for the govern- Nov. 28. ment of Albania; and the murder of the guiltless scribe and his train prevented the consequences of an immediate discovery. With some bold companions, to whom he had revealed his design, he escaped in the night by rapid marches from the field of battle to his paternal mountains. The gates of Croya were opened to the royal mandate; and no sooner did he command the fortress than George Castriot dropped the mask of dissimulation, abjured the prophet and the sultan, and proclaimed himself the avenger of his family and country. The names of religion and liberty provoked a genera. revolt: the Albanians, a martial race, were unanimous to live and die with their hereditary prince; and the Ottoman garrisons were indulged in the choice of martyrdom or baptisin. In the assembly of the states of Epirus, Scanderbeg was elected general of the Turkish war; and each of the allies engaged to furnish his respective proportion of men and money. From these contributions, from his patrimonial estate, and from the valuable salt-pits of Selina, he drew an annual revenue of two hundred thousand ducats ; 39 and the entire sum, exempt from the demands of luxury, was strictly appropriated to the public use. His manners were popular; but his discipline was severe; and every superfluous vice was banished from his camp: his example strengthened his command; and under his conduct the Albanians were invincible in their own opinion and that of their enemies. The bravest adventurers of France and Germany

His valour, were allured by his fame and retained in his service: his standing militia consisted of eight thousand norse and seven thousand foot; the horses were small, the men were active: but he viewed with a discerning eye the difficulties and resources of the mountains; and, at the blaze of the beacons, the whole nation was distributed in the strongest posts. With such unequal arms Scanderbeg resisted twenty-three years the powers of the Ottoman empire ; and two conquerors, Amurath the Second and his greater son, were repeatedly baffled by a rebel whom they pursued with seeming contempt and implacable resentment. At the head of sixty thousand horse and forty thousand Janizaries, Amurath entered Albania : he might ravage the open country, occupy the defenceless towns, convert the churches into mosques, circumcise the Christian youths, and punish with death his adult and obstinate captives: but the conquests of the

» His revenue and forces are luckily given by Marinus (1. ii. p. 44)

sultan were confined to the petty fortress of Sfetigrade; and the garrison, invincible to his arms, was oppressed by a paltry artifice and a superstitious scruple.40 Amurath retired with shame and loss from the walls of Croya, the castle and residence of the Castriots; the march, the siege, the retreat, were harassed by a vexatious, and almost invisible, adversary;“ and the disappointment might tend to embitter, perhaps to shorten, the last days of the sultan.“ In the fulness of conquest Mahomet the Second still felt at his hosom this domestic thorn; his lieutenants were permitted to negociate a truce, and the Albanian prince may justly be praised as a firm and able champion of his national independence. The enthusiasm of chivalry and religion has ranked him with the names of Alexander and Pyrrhus; nor would they blush to acknowledge their intrepid countryman : but his narrow dominion and slender powers must leave him at an humble distance below the heroes of antiquity, who triumphed over the East and the Roman legions. His splendid achievements, the bashas whom he encountered, the armies that he discomfited, and the three thousand Turks who were slain by his single hand, must be weighed in the scales of suspicious criticism. Against an illiterate enemy, and in the dark solitude of Epirus, his partial biographers may safely indulge the latitude of romance; but their fictions are exposed by the light of Italian history, and they afford a strong presumption against their own truth by a fabulous tale of his exploits, when he passed the Adriatic with eight hundred horse to the succour of the king of Naples.43 Without disparagement to his fame, they might have owned that he was finally oppressed by the Ottoman powers; in his extreme danger he applied to pope Pius the Second

for a refuge in the ecclesiastical state; and his resources were almost exhausted, since Scanderbeg died a fugitive at Lissus, on the Venetian territory.“ His sepulchre was

and death, A.D. 1467, Jan. 17.

40 There were two Dibras, the upper and lower, the Bulgarian and Albanian: the former, 70 miles from Croya (1. i. p. 17), was contiguous to the fortress of Sfetigrade, whose inhabitants refused to drink from a well into which a dead dog had traitorously been cast (l. v. p. 139, 140). We want a good map of Epirus.

“ Compare the Turkish narrative of Cantemir (p. 92) with the pompous and prolix declamation in the ivth, vth, and vith books of the Albanian priest, who has been copied by the tribe of strangers and moderns.

42 In honour of his hero, Barletius (1. vi. p. 188-192) kills the sultan, by disease indeed, under the walls of Croya. But this audacious fiction is disproved by the Greeks and Turks, who agree in the time and manner of Amurath's death at Adrianople.

43 See the marvels of his Calabrian expedition in the ixth and xth books of Maridus Barletius, which may be rectified by the testimony or silence of Muratori (Andali d'Italia, tom. xiii. p. 291), and his original authors (Joh. Simonetta de Rebus Francisci Sfortiæ, in Muratori, Script. Rerum Ital. tom. xxi. p. 728, et alios). The Albanian cavalry, under the name of Stradiots, soon became famous in the wars of Italy (Mémoires de Coinines, 1. viü. c. 5).

* Spondanus, from the best evidence and the most rational criticism, has reduoed

« ForrigeFortsett »