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In the fulness of conquest, Mahomet the Second still felt at his bosom this domestic thorn ; his lieutenants were permitted to negotiate 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 bashaws 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 (Scander they afford a strong presumption against their own truth by a Angdom fabulous tale of his exploits, when he passed the Adriatic with A.D. 1461, eight hundred horse to the succour of the king of Naples. 48 Auguste. 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 and death in the ecclesiastical state ; and his resources were almost exA.D. 1467, - hausted, since Scanderbeg died a fugitive at Lissus, on the
Venetian territory.49 His sepulchre was soon violated by the
Turkish conquerors ; but the Janizaries, who wore his bones 1A.D. 1479] enchased in a bracelet, declared by this superstitious amulet
their involuntary reverence for his valour. The instant ruin of his country may redound to the hero's glory; yet, had he balanced the consequences of submission and resistance, a patriot, perhaps,
48 See the marvels of his Calabrian expedition in the ixth and xth books of Marinus Barletius, which may be rectified by the testimony or silence of Muratori (Annali 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 Comines, 1. viii. c. 5). [The date of Scanderbeg's expedition to Italy is fixed by Pisko (p. 86-88) by means of new documents. According to Antonius Guidobonus, the ambassador of Milan at Venice, the troops which Scanderbeg took with him numbered 2000 foot and 1000 horse.]
49 Spondanus, from the best evidence and the most rational criticism, has reduced the giant Scanderbeg to the human size (A.D. 1461, No. 20; 1463, No. 9; 1465, No. 12, 13; 1467, No. 1). His own letter to the pope, and the testimony of Phranza (1. iii. c. 28), a refugee in the neighbouring isle of Corfu, demonstrate his laßt distress, which is awkwardly conoealed by Marinus Barletius (1. x.).
would have declined the unequal contest which must depend on the life and genius of one man. Scanderbeg might indeed be supported by the rational though fallacious hope that the pope, the king of Naples, and the Venetian republic would join in the defence of a free and Christian people, who guarded the seacoast of the Adriatic and the narrow passage from Greece to Italy. His infant son was saved from the national shipwreck; the Castriots 50 were invested with a Neapolitan dukedom, and their blood continues to flow in the noblest families of the realm. A colony of Albanian fugitives obtained a settlement in Calabria, and they preserve at this day the language and manners of their ancestors.51
In the long career of the decline and fall of the Roman Constanempire, I have reached at length the last reign of the princes lunt of the of Constantinople, who so feebly sustained the name and majesty Greek em of the Cæsars.52 On the decease of John Palæologus, who sur-1448, 1st vived about four years the Hungarian crusade, 53 the royal family, 1453, 29th by the death of Andronicus and the monastic profession of Isidore, was reduced to three princes, Constantine, Demetrius, and Thomas, the surviving sons of the emperor Manuel. Of these the first and the last were far distant in the Morea ; but Demetrius, who possessed the domain of Sely bria, was in the (Selymsuburbs, at the head of a party ; his ambition was not chilled by the public distress; and his conspiracy with the Turks and the schismatics had already disturbed the peace of his country. The funeral of the late emperor was accelerated with singular and even suspicious haste; the claim of Demetrius to the vacant throne was justified by a trite and flimsy sophism, that he was born in the purple, the eldest son of his father's reign. But the empresg-mother, the senate and soldiers, the clergy and
50 See the family of the Castriots in Ducange (Fam. Dalmaticæ, &c. xviii. p. 348-350).
51 This colony of Albanese is mentioned by Mr. Swinburne (Travels into the Two Sicilies, vol. i. p. 350-354).
52 (Constantine is generally numbered as Constantine XI., but Gibbon (who counts Constantine, son of Romanus I., as Constantine VIII. ; see above, vol v. p. 222) makes him Constantine XII. He was distinguished by the surname Dr&gases, derived through his mother Irene, who was daughter of Constantine Dragases, a Servian prince.]
53 The chronology of Phranza is clear and authentic ; but, instead of four years and seven months, Spondanus (A.D. 1445, No. 7) assigns geven or eight years to the reign of the last Constantine, which he deduces from a spurious epistle of Eugenius IV. to the king of Ethiopia.
[Jan. A.D. 1449)
people, were unanimous in the cause of the lawful successor ; and the despot Thomas, who, ignorant of the change, accidentally returned to the capital, asserted with becoming zeal the interest of his absent brother. An ambassador, the historian Phranza, was immediately dispatched to the court of Hadrianople. Amurath received him with honour, and dismissed him with gifts; but the gracious approbation of the Turkish sultan announced his supremacy, and the approaching downfall of the Eastern empire. By the hands of two illustrious deputies, the Imperial crown was placed at Sparta on the head of Constantine.54 In the spring, he sailed from the Morea, escaped the encounter of a Turkish squadron, enjoyed the acclamations of his subjects, celebrated the festival of a new reign, and exhausted by his donatives the treasure, or rather the indigence, of the state. The emperor immediately resigned to his brothers the possession of the Morea, and the brittle friendship of the two princes, Demetrius and Thomas, was confirmed in their mother's presence by the frail security of oaths and embraces. His next occupation was the choice of a consort. A daughter of the doge of Venice had been proposed; but the Byzantine nobles objected the distance between an hereditary monarch and an elective magistrate; and in their subsequent distress the chief of that powerful republic was not unmindful of the affront. Constantine afterwards hesitated between the royal families of Trebizond and Georgia; and the embassy of Phranza represents in his public and private life the last days of the Byzantine empire.55
The protovestiare, or great chamberlain, Phranza, sailed from Constantinople as minister of a bridegroom; and the relics of wealth and luxury were applied to his pompous appearance. His numerous retinue consisted of nobles and guards, of physicians and monks; he was attended by a band of music; and the term of his costly embassy was protracted above two years.
On his arrival in Georgia or Iberia, the natives from the towns and villages flocked around the strangers; and such was their simplicity that they were delighted with the effects, without understanding the cause, of musical harmony. Among the crowd was an old man, above an hundred years of age, who had formerly
Embassies of Phranza, A.D. 1450 1452
50[The ceremony was not renewed at Constantinople. The emperor desired to avoid any occasion for quarrels between the Unionists and anti-Unionists.]
55 Phranza (1. iii. c. 1-6) deserves credit and esteem.
been carried away a captive by the barbarians, 56 and who amused his hearers with a tale of the wonders of India, 57 from whence he had returned to Portugal by an unknown sea.58 From this hospitable land Phranza proceeded to the court of Trebizond, where he was informed by the Greek prince of the recent decease of Amurath. Instead of rejoicing in the deliverance, the experienced statesman expressed his apprehension that an ambitious youth would not long adhere to the sage and pacific system of his father. After the sultan's decease, his Christian wife Maria, 59 the daughter of the Servian despot, had been honourably restored to her parents : on the fame of her beauty and merit, she was recommended by the ambassador as the most worthy object of the royal choice; and Phranza recapitulates and refutes the specious objections that might be raised against the proposal. The majesty of the purple would ennoble an unequal alliance; the bar of affinity might be removed by liberal alms and the dispensation of the church; the disgrace of Turkish nuptials had been repeatedly overlooked ; and, though the fair Maria was near fifty years of age, she might yet hope to give an heir to the empire. Constantine listened to the advice, which was transmitted in the first ship that sailed from Trebi. zond; but the factions of the court opposed his marriage; and it was finally prevented by the pious vow of the sultana, who ended her days in the monastic profession. Reduced to the first alternative, the choice of Phranza was decided in favour of a Georgian princess; and the vanity of her father was dazzled by the glorious alliance. Instead of demanding, according to the
Suppose him to have been captured in 1394, in Timour's first war in Georgia (Sherefeddin, 1. iii. c. 50), he might follow his Tartar master into Hindostan in 1398, and from thence sail to the spice-islands.
57 The happy and pious Indians lived 150 years, and enjoyed the most perfect productions of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The animals were on a large scale: dragons seventy cubits, ants (the formica Indica) nine inches long, sheep like elephants, elephants like sheep. Quidlibet audendi, &c.
58 He sailed in a country vessel from the spioe-islands to one of the ports of the exterior India; invenitque navem grandem Ibericam, quâ in Portugalliam est delatus. This passage, composed in 1477 (Phranza, l. iii. c. 30), twenty years before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, is spurious or wonderful. But this new geography is sullied by the old and incompatible error which places the source of the Nile in India.
59 Cantemir (p. 83), who styles her daughter of azarus Ogli, and the Helen of the Servians, places her marriage with Amurath in the year 1424. It will not easily be believed that in six and twenty years' cohabitation the Sultan corpus ejus non tetigit. After the taking of Constantinople, she fled to Mahomet II. (Phranza, 1. iii. o. 22).
primitive and national custom, a price for his daughter, he offered a portion of fifty-six thousand, with an annual pension of five thousand, ducats; and the services of the ambassador were repaid by an assurance that, as his son had been adopted in baptism by the emperor, the establishment of his daughter should be the peculiar care of the empress of Constantinople. On the return of Phranza, the treaty was ratified by the Greek monarch, who with his own hand impressed three vermilion crosses on the Golden Bull, and assured the Georgian envoy that in the spring his galleys should conduct the bride to her Imperial palace. But Constantine embraced his faithful servant, not with the cold approbation of a sovereign, but with the warm confidence of a
friend, who, after a long absence, is impatient to poor his secrets State of the into the bosom of his friend. " Since the death of my mother
and of Cantacuzene, who alone advised me without interest or passion,61 I am surrounded,” said the emperor, “by men whom I can neither love nor trust nor esteem. You are not a stranger to Lucas Notaras, the great admiral: obstinately attached to his own sentiments, he declares, both in private and public, that his sentiments are the absolute measure of my thoughts and actions. The rest of the courtiers are swayed by their personal or factious views; and how can I consult the monks on questions of policy and marriage ? I have yet much enuployment for your diligence and fidelity. In the spring you shall engage one of my brothers to solicit the succour of the Western powers; from the Morea you shall sail to Cyprus on a particular commission; and from thence proceed to Georgia to receive and conduct the future empress.” “Your commands,” replied Phranza, "are irresistible; but deign, great Sir,” he added, with a serious smile, “to consider that, if I am thus perpetually absent from my family, my wife may be tempted either to seek another husband or to throw herself into a monastery.” After laughing at his apprehensions, the emperor more gravely consoled him by the pleasing assurance that this should be his last service abroad, and that he destined for his son a wealthy and noble heiress; for himself, the important office of great logothete, or principal minister of
Bo The classical reader will recollect the offers of Agamemnon (Iliad, I., v. 144) and the general practice of antiquity.
61 Cantacuzene (I am ignorant of his relation to the emperor of that name) was great domestic, a firm assertor of the Greek creed, and a brother of the queen of Servia, whom he visited with the character of ambassador (Syropulus, p. 37, 38, 45).