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Re: Text and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:30 pm
by Zeus10
Piri Re'is:
'Bahriye', a Sailor's Handbook

Piri Re'is was a noted navigator in the service of the Sublime Porte. In Egypt he was appointed Admiral of the Fleet and took part in several expeditions to the Indian Ocean, until he was decapitated at the behest of the Ottoman authorities at some point before 1554. His major work, the 'Bahriye', is a sort of sailor's handbook complete with maps which he dedicated to Sultan Selim I in 1521 and subsequently to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1525. The 'Bahriye', composed in 130 chapters, provides a nautical description of all the Mediterranean coastline, including Albania (chapters 55, 56).


This chapter describes the Roumelian coast of Chimara (Himara) up to Avlona (Vlora). Accordingly, we shall endeavour first to describe the coast of Himara, beginning beyond the Cape of Himara, and then the coast from Vlora to Drac (Durrës). What we call Himara is situated on a lofty hill two miles inland from the sea. It is a castle belonging to the Sanjak of Janina. To the west of this castle there flows a large river which has water in both summer and winter. To the east, there is a harbour called Punar (1), which many people call the 'Harbour of the Hare'. It is a small port. Twenty five miles from here in the direction of Vlora is the island of Sazana (Sazan). Drinking water and a place to put ashore are to be found on the eastern side. On the island are the ruins of a church. You attach the ship's rope to the land here in front and drop anchor towards the east with the water at a depth of ten fathoms. If you cast anchor at a lesser depth, the floor of the sea will be rocky. There is also a rock in the water in the form of a threshing floor. it cannot be seen and is covered by seven fathoms of water. Opposite the island is the Albanian coast of Karaburun at a distance of four miles. It is eighteen miles from Vlora. Vlora is a well known settlement. The site best suited for landing a ship is as follows. In front of Vlora, there is a low and narrow spit of land at water level with shoals. They must be kept to the northwest and you must cast anchor on both sides because of the shoals. The ship must not approach the coastline. Only small vessels can sail into the narrow entrance (of the lagoon) and moor at the village. The interior of the lagoon is a large lake full of fish. Six miles from here, to the southeast of Vlora, there is a large course of water called Iring Suyu. This river is so big that when Venetian galleys tank water there, many of the soldiers can avail themselves of stores of drinking water, too. At the end of the bay in this body of water is a sandbank called Vaskalon (Orikum). Eighteen miles to the northwest of Vlora, there is a river called the Viyusa (Vjosa). Ships can sail into it. At times, however, the river deposits sand in its estuary, and then, galleys cannot enter it. As soon as the mouth of the river is open, any ship can sail in. From here to Durrës there are other well known waterways aside from the one just referred to. Of these, we shall only mention those of significance to navigators because there are shoals along the whole coast. It is ninety miles northwards from the island of Sazan to Durrës. The rest is noted on the map, so that not all the details need to be mentioned here. Map of Vlora with the Castle of Durrës.


This chapter describes the coast of Durrës. Durrës is a fortress situated on the coast. There is a sandbank in front of the fortress. Anyone wanting to conquer it with large ships would need an experienced pilot to reach the fortress so as not to run aground in the shoals. Once you get there, you must cast anchor on both sides because it is necessary to keep clear of the coast. The only way to put ashore with a large ship would be to proceed from the south, taking soundings along the coast which is to the east, and put ashore so that the low land spit remains to the northwest. Once the land spit is to the northwest, you must drop anchor right away. This is a good place for mooring. If you are sailing from Dubrovnik to Durrës, the Durrës shoals lie in a southwest to northeastly direction. Three miles to the northeast of these shoals is a harbour called Porto Palo, i.e. the 'Harbour of Piles'. At the end of the golf situated to the northeast of this harbour is a river called the Bojana (Buna), which flows past Arnaud Iskenderiyesi (Shkodra) into the sea. It is so large that ships can sail into its lower course. To the northwest of this river on the coast is a castle called Dulcigno (Ulcinj). This castle belongs to Venice. To the northwest of this castle on the coast, there is a castle called Antibar (Bar). To the west of this castle, there is a little island. There is a harbour in which you can moor with anchor and rope towards the island. It should be noted that this site holds anchors very well. The landmark of this castle, seen from the sea, is the high mountain rising above it. You must take course in the direction of this mountain in order to get to the castle. Twenty miles west of this castle lies the castle of Budua (Budva). Across from Budva there is an island which large ships can call at by the western entrance. You cast anchor in the middle between the island and the coast and tie the rope in the direction demanded by the wind, i.e. against it. Thereafter comes Kotor, a castle situated up on a high hill at the end of a bay. There is a small island in this bay, the narrow entrance of which provides a good harbour. It is called Ostro (Oštrirt). You can sail in and out from all directions. From there to S. Pellegrino, it is twenty miles westwards. On this promontory there is a castle called Castelnuovo, i.e. Newcastle (Hercegnovi). It belongs to the Sanjak of Albania. From this castle to Dubrovnik, it is forty miles west-northwest. Map of Dubrovnik and Albanian Shkodra.



(1) Probably the Bay of Palermo (Panormus).

[Extract from: Hans von Mzik: Beiträge zur Kartographie Albaniens, Budapest 1929, p. 637 640. Translated from the German by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 56-58.]

Re: Text and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:31 pm
by Zeus10
A Physical Description of Albania and the Defence of Ulcinj

The name of the author of this report, first published by Sime Ljubic in 1880, is unknown, but he was probably one of the Venetian proveditors of Kotor. He seems, at any rate, to have visited many areas of Albania personally. His report provides much information, including many useful details, on the state of a country firmly now under Turkish rule.


The country of Albania is that which ancient authors called Macedonia, i.e. only a part of Macedonia since the latter contains many lands and regions which are not Albanian. Albania itself is the part which has the Adriatic Sea as its western border. The said land of Albania extends from the north southwards from between the towns of Antivari (Bar) and Dulcigno (Ulcinj), settlements which are a mere fifteen miles apart. As such, Bar constitutes the end of Dalmatia and Ulcinj the beginning of Albania. The peoples there differ in their languages, since from Bar up to Istria they speak the Slavic language, whereas from Ulcinj down to Vallona (Vlora) and the region thereof, they also speak the Greek language.

Thus, this province of Albania, which begins in Ulcinj, extends down the coast of the Adriatic Sea to Vlora and to the so called Cimariotti (Himariot) mountains, known in ancient times as Acroceraunia. In this Albania, only the town of Ulcinj belongs to the Christians under the rule of the most serene Signoria of Venice, whereas the town of Alessio (Lezha), formerly under [Venetian] rule, now belongs to the Turks. Lezha is situated on the banks of the river Drino (Drin), three miles from the sea. Between the said town of Lezha and Ulcinj is the river Bojana (Buna) of which we shall later come to speak. Travelling southwards from the first mouth of the river Drin, one arrives at the other mouth of that river, because this noble river flows into the sea in two outlets, about four miles from one another. And from the second mouth, travelling southwards, one comes upon the river Isano (Ishëm), eight miles away. The river Ishëm constitutes the border and end of the region known as Mattia (Mat) and the beginning of the region known as Reddoni (Rodon). The region of Rodon comprises the land between the aforementioned river Ishëm and the river Arzenta (Erzen) which flows into the sea near the headland now known as the Cape of Palli (Palla) towards the west. All this part of the sea from the Cape of Palla back in a circle past the aforementioned rivers to Ulcinj constitutes a gulf in a north south diameter. Thus, from Ulcinj down to the Cape of Palla there is a distance of fifty miles. From Ulcinj past the aforementioned mouths of the river Drin at the east, with Ulcinj itself to the northwest and the Cape of Palla to the southwest, one follows the curve of a gulf for thirty miles, which is situated between these two places, i.e. between Ulcinj and the Cape of Palla. Thus, travelling along the gulf of the Drin from Ulcinj to the river Buna, from the Buna to Lezha, from the mouths of the Drin to the Mat, from the Mat to the Ishëm, from the Ishëm to the base of Rodon, from Rodon to the river Erzen and from the Erzen to the Cape of Palla, where the gulf of the Drin comes to an end, one covers a circuit of about seventy five miles. Setting off from the Cape of Palla southwards, one comes to the ancient city of Durazzo (Durrës), twelve miles from the Cape of Palla.

The city of Durrës is now small, compared to the former and ancient grandeur of its walls. Durrës lies by the sea with ancient and weak walls, but is stronger in location as it has been strengthened somewhat by the construction of two fortifications, one to the east built five years ago and the other to the west. The city is quite strong with respect to its natural setting, surrounded as it is by cliffs. As such, galleys cannot dock here, but must anchor quite a distance out at sea, and little boats would have to be used to land soldiers who could not even disembark at the base of the town, but would rather have to wade ashore over the distance of an arrow's shot. The city of Durrës, which once belonged to the most serene Signoria of Venice, is commanded by two hundred janissaries, two hundred azaps and three hundred Turkish irregulars, all on guard, who are convinced that they are going to be attacked by the mighty forces of the most serene Signoria. For this reason, they have taken all necessary precautions to defend themselves and evacuated the women and children. Nonetheless, landwards the city is weakly defended because nearby there are earthen mounds there, devoid of stones, which rise higher than the fortress itself. The fortress is surrounded by a moat, but one which is both narrow and shallow such that anyone could position his artillery there and pound the walls, which have not been kept up, but are rather worn down and no more than one stride thick, made of dry rock and limestone. The city is situated on the western slope of the hill facing eastwards and stretches down to the seaside. It has no rivers or springs and as such, is lacking in water. At a shot's distance outside the town, there is a well from which the city draws its water. Further on, there is a source of flowing water, but its flow is very limited. On the other hand, [Durrës] is abundant in brackish water, marsh and saltwater. Since it is at the centre of Albania, the city can always be aided by the Turks of the region who can get there with substantial forces of cavalry to defend it within the space of one or two days. The port in Durrës consists of a long bay stretching from north to south for over four miles down the coast. The diametrical distance from Durrës to the Cape of Lacchi (Lagji) is eighteen miles north south, whereas the coastline itself curves around to the east of these two places like a gulf.

From the Cape of Lagji, travelling southwards for six miles, one comes upon the mouth of the river Scunbine (Shkumbin), which resembles more of a stream than a river because it has little water in the summer, and in the winter, is no more than three and a half feet deep at its mouth. From this river to the next one which is called Pirgo (Pirgu), known to others as Dies Carvastri, stretches a sandy beach covered with trees and vines. These two rivers are about twenty five miles from one another. This stretch [of the coast] is part of a swamp, or rather a lake from which springs the river of Appollona (Apollonia), a haven and lair for pirates. At the mouth of the Apollonia, there are usually three and a half to four feet of water. From Apollonia, sailing southwards down along the aforementioned beach, one comes to the mouth of a river known as the Voiussa (Vjosa) with many sandbanks in the water. From the Vjosa, one continues to the Plava, where the aforementioned beach comes to an end and where the little bay of Vallona (Vlora) begins. From the Plava, one can see Cape Lenguetta (Karaburun) from the south to the north, with the island of Saseno (Sazan) to the west and the coast of Vlora to the east. As Karaburun belongs to the land of the Himariots, Albania comes to an end here at the water's edge.

Let us come back now to describe the other borders [of Albania] in the north and the east. From Ulcinj, one sets off in a southeastern direction to Scuttari (Shkodra), a mighty city with regard to its site and which once belonged to the most illustrious Signoria of Venice. Being located on top of a high hill of hard rock, the city has no fear of being ravaged by artillery because, though there is another hill to the east, the latter is at a distance and much lower than the level of the town. It was from this site that the Turks planned to bombard the town, but was unable to do any more damage than hitting some of the roofs of the houses. The city was taken by siege, but by contemporary methods. I do not believe there is any fortress with such a site which could be taken otherwise. The city is situated between two noble rivers, for the Buna flows from the lake they call that of Shkodra, at the mouth of which the city is situated. After a course of a mere twenty four miles, the Buna flows into the sea, the outlet of this river being between Ulcinj and Lezha with the river Drin. The town of Ulcinj is only twelve miles from the mouth of the Buna and eighteen miles from the Drin. The mouth of the Buna is six, seven to eight feet deep, especially in the summer. The bed of this river is very deep such that large ships can enter it and, in the past, Venetian galleys used to sail up the river for a number of miles to a village called Serzi (Shirq) near Shkodra. From there to Shkodra itself, the course of this river, which divides into many channels, is shallow and can only be navigated by vessels made of one tree and by lightweight boats. This region, which extends from Ulcinj to Shkodra, with a distance of only twenty four miles between the two towns, is exceptionally beautiful and is fertile in all manner of produce. It produces great quantities of grain and honey not only for domestic use. It also exports grain by sea in great quantities, though secretly and against the will of the Turks. Shkodra has wine and meat in abundance, as well as fish in great numbers, because its aforementioned lake has a circumference of over ninety miles of fresh water, containing every sort of fish for all seasons. The fishermen there provide a great source of income to the Grand Turk.

The other river is the Drin, which is ten miles from Shkodra, and between these two rivers, the Buna and the Drin, are exceptionally beautiful and fertile plains. The river Drin then flows southwards through a very beautiful plain called the Sadrina (Zadrima) and continues on to the ancient town of Lezha which now has a fortress at the top of the mountain, and below it, on the banks of the said river, there is a settlement inhabited by Christians only. It flows westwards into the sea with two outlets, as has been stated, and gives its name to the aforementioned gulf, called the Gulf of the Drin or Ludrino. At the upper outlet of the said river, to the north, there are two harbours, one called S. Zuanne della Medoa (St. John of Medua / Shëngjin) three miles north of the said outlet, and the other called Sacca (Saka) which is to the south.

To continue the description, it must be noted that, beyond Shkodra, to the southeast, Albania is bordered by mountains called the Spani. At the foot of these mountains and of the Docagini (Dukagjin) mountains, flows the aforementioned river Drin, which arises in the lake of Ocrida (Ohrid), a town in the interior. This lake is extremely pure, has a circumference of forty miles, and is very abundant in excellent fish, in particular, in great quantities of trout. The river Drin takes its origin in this lake and, stemming from the southeast, it flows in a northwesterly direction through many rocky gorges and joins the other river, which is known to the natives as the White Drin, above the Dukagjin mountains, forming the end and border of Albania, and separating it from certain places called Hassi (Has). Since those places are to the east, it can be said that Albania itself has on its eastern border the aforementioned Dukagjin mountains, as well as those of Taudi and the region of Terra Nuova (New Town), now called Albassan (Elbasan) by the Turks, above which are the mountains of Spateteria (Shpat) and the mountains of Corza (Korça), stretching down and terminating in the southeast and south at the aforementioned Himariot mountains, which are called Himariot on the coast, but which have other names in the interior.

The mountains of Albania are covered with all manner of trees and are abundant in springs. There are inhabited and cultivated hillsides and beautiful broad plains, beginning with the spacious plain of Savra, known also as Mussachia (Myzeqe) which extends between Vlora and the city of Belgradi (Berat), and in the north, stretches up to the river [Shkumbin] and to the fortress of Daisti. There are the plains of Elbasan, the above mentioned New Town, the plains of Tiranna (Tirana) which stretch from the castle of Petrella (Petrela) to the city of Croja (Kruja), the plains of Curbin (Kurbin), through which, as mentioned above, the river Mat flows into the sea in two outlets, and the fair and pleasant plain of Zadrima. There are also extremely fertile plains known as Sopra Scuttari (Upper Shkodra) as well as those of Sotto Scuttari (Lower Shkodra) which extend to the river Buna. These are all most abundant in every sort of grain, meat, fish, wine and fruit. Some of these places have soft tars, as have the mountains of Dukagjin in great quantities, which are often transported down to the wharves at Lezha on the Drin. I have seen them being sold at three or four big pounds for a soldo. The region of Vlora produces hard tars from the earth, which nature offers much as it does minerals. There is an infinite amount. I remember that in Vlora, tar was being sold at forty-five aspers for a miaro, and in recent times, it has become quite expensive because of certain individuals who have taken over all the tar trade.

Albania is rich in water, rivers and springs. It has seaports, though Durrës alone is capable of receiving large numbers of ships due to the aforementioned bay which extends to the south of it. There are two other harbours, mentioned above, which belong to Lezha: St. John of Medua (Shëngjin) and Saka, which are both large enough. There are also other disembarcation points which might be called harbours in the summer: at Rodon near the river Ishëm, the Cape of Palla and the Cape of Lagji, all near to the shoreline.

The cities in Albania under the Turks are of little importance because most of them were destroyed in the wars of the past. One, for example, is Shkodra with its fine location, near which is an ancient and extensive town, though virtually deserted, called Drivasto (Drisht), situated across from Shkodra to the east, Shkodra being accordingly to the west. [Drisht] was built on a high and spacious hill at the foot of the mountains called the Spani which are most abundant in springs, torrents, mills, fish, grain, wine, fruit and all the other necessities of life. It is inhabited by the Turks, but is not well off because of the surrounding Albanians who live in those mighty mountains and who refuse to give the Turks their full obedience. This town has a relatively well fortified castle on the summit of the hill.

But now, wishing to continue [the description] from north to south, twenty-four miles from Shkodra is situated the castle of Lezha on the top of a mountain, with low and weak walls encompassing about eighty houses which are inhabited by Turks only. Thirty miles to the south of this castle is the town of Croia (Kruja), famous for its wars and for the defence put up by the great and valorous captain Scanderbeg of Albania. This town is twelve miles from the sea where the river Ishëm comes to an end. It is situated at the foot of a high mountain, on a promontory of solid stone with high cliffs, from which it cannot be attacked. It has ancient style walls of small circuit, but is rich in water and flowing fountains everywhere. In the middle of the town, there is an open cavern at the end of which water flows out of the solid rock, as if from a cistern. It flows westwards out of the rock face below the town with so much water that it could turn a millstone. Indeed, this source of water is similar to the many other fountains of fresh water of which the town disposes. The inhabitants use it for cooking and for watering their horses. To my taste, it is very good to drink. This city is strategically positioned from all sides; only from the north could it be attacked from a hill which is of the same height. But between the city and this place, there is a rather deep valley. The Turks consider the city of Kruja to be formidably strong because they were never able to take it by force, but won it over only by siege. It is situated in an extremely fair site with strong and fitting winds. It abounds in grain, oil and meat, not to mention its wood, Albania being everywhere very rich in all types of wood. On the coast in particular and along the rivers, it is full of forests and of wood suitable for every sort of work and for all types of vessels, big and small, as well as for large fleets.

Beyond the said city of Kruja, to the west, is a castle known as Pressia (Preza) in the region of Rodon, constructed by the Turks not too many years ago. It is a very weak [fortification] and serves only to keep the local inhabitants under control. From this castle towards the southwest on the coast is the aforementioned city of Durrës. Returning up to the east, one comes upon two castles built on hills which are at quite a distance from one another. Of the two, the one called Andronellio (Ndroq) is the weak one, whereas the other, called Petrela is the strong one. From the latter, travelling in a southeastwardly direction over certain mountain peaks, one descends to the fine, fruit-bearing plains of the aforementioned city of Elbasan. This New Town is of a good size, situated as it is on the plain, and has a thousand Turkish households, surrounding which is a large quarter of Turks and Christians. It is a trading centre very rich in all sorts of goods. The town has walls, a quadrangular tower and a moat, though all very weak. There are no watchmen by day or by night, nor do they lock the gates. There are many fountains, in addition to the water channels used by individual homes. Almost everyone has flowing water. Inside the town are water mills driven by water brought in from not far away. From New Town, one may proceed to Berat which is situated on a high hill not far from a lofty mountain called Tomor. This town is very weakly defended on the north side, though it is surrounded by walls and is quite large. Beneath it is an exceptionally beautiful quarter with all sorts of goods. In these cities, Berat and New Town, they produce large quantities of hides and silk. All of this region abounds in the necessities of life.

There are five sanjaks in Albania: i.e. Vlora of which I have not spoken because it is known to everyone, the Sanjak of Elbasan which is the same as that of Durrës, the Sanjak of Ohrid, the Sanjak of Dukagjin and the Sanjak of Shkodra. Of these, Shkodra and Vlora are sanjaks of importance with many irregular cavalrymen, though last March, the sanjakbeys of Vlora, of Elbasan and of Ohrid set off with all of their cavalry, summoned by the Grand Turk, to go, as they said, to Caramania for the war in Cyprus, whereas the sanjakbeys of Shkodra and Dukagjin remained at home.


The city of Ulcinj, which we touched upon earlier, is situated upon a cliff, partly over the sea and partly over land. Towards the sea, if they were to construct walls on the western side or to build a bastion at what is called San Domenico with six to eight pieces of artillery the cliff descending there and the [existing] walls being delapidated and old they would have nothing to fear from any fleet, regardless of its size, since the site of San Domenico is quite narrow and the rest of the city is higher up on inaccessible cliffs, from which those inside could bombard a fleet from many sides without being attacked themselves. But there is danger from that place and, as I have said and as experts realize, it would have to be fortified and rendered impregnable. To tell you the truth, with the state it is in at the moment, it constitutes an extreme danger. On the inland side, the town is situated on high cliffs and the walls are thin and aged. If they were to be repaired, as is done nowadays with supports and other facilities, enemies would never be able to penetrate it. And though it has a castle in the highest part of the town, constructed on a high and eminent site, and though the walls are high - thin and worn down as they are - the town could nonetheless be attacked here with artillery from the nearby hills. But even if the walls were to crumble, the enemy would not be able to penetrate [the town] because they would have to climb to quite a height. If measures were taken here to fortify the site and its flanks, and to equip it with requisite material, the town would not need to fear an enemy [attack]. Since it is the first and the last town in Albania to find itself under the rule of the most serene [Signoria] and since it is a gateway to all of Dalmatia, this city would, like a cliff overhanging the sea, be the one to endure the fury of the storm, which would break its back. All the Turkish fleets which have entered the Gulf of Venice in recent times, have passed near to [Dulcigno] and, by the grace of God, it still remains under the dominion of the most serene [Signoria]. The sanjaks of Shkodra and of Dukagjin border on Ulcinj and during the last war, they invaded with a great number of troops and ravaged the whole country. But since the invasion took place after the harvesting of the grain and the grapes, the faithful population did not suffer so much as they are now suffering during the present war. For this reason, the current year has been one of mourning for the whole region. The war came quite suddenly when the three sanjakbeys, with over 20,000 infantrymen and over 5,000 cavalrymen, pillaged and burnt down the villages and everything in them. Since that time, as large numbers of people massed into the city, there has been great hunger. But because private and public supplies of grain reached the town from Albania before the war, the people have not all died of starvation and have helped one another. Even though the price of grain has risen terribly, they have managed to survive. Now that harvest time has come, since the inhabitants are not able to reap the grain, they will certainly die of starvation unless they are given assistance from the sea with at least two galleons or corvettes. As they cannot reap what they have sown and as they have no stocks of grain, all of them will perish: the townspeople, the villagers who have taken refuge in the town and the soldiers, too, who have been sent there by Your Grace to guard the city. It must be made known and believed for sure that these faithful souls who have never broken faith, will be overcome by famine or will have to take to the sea in boats with their women and children, abandoning the city and taking upon themselves all the perils of the waves in search of a new life, or they will die faithful and steadfast in the face of the enemy, who is making sorties and ambushes more and more often in the vicinity of the town. If Ulcinj can be saved by two or three galleys or corvettes, the people of the town will be able to escape to Rodon, where they will be received with great care and attention by the Albanians of that region who, despite the Turkish war, have never given the Turks their full obedience. They [the people of Ulcinj] will be able to return from Rodon with great quantities of grain of various types, not only for themselves, but also for the salvation of the city of Antivari (Bar), which is virtually encircled since it is not on the coast. They will also help sustain Budua (Budva), Cattaro (Kotor) and Dalmatia in view of the fact that, in peace time, up to 50,000 stara of grain of various types are exported from the Gulf of the Drin to the city of Venice.

Thus, if there is an interest in keeping these towns: Kotor, Budva, Bar and Ulcinj, which is proven by the fact that soldiers and all sorts of arms have been sent there, it will be absolutely essential to send an armed vessel to save them and to guard the coastline from the Bay of Kotor down to Rodon, because there are [only] two frigates of ten benches each and a corvette of sixteen benches at Durrës which have arrived there to lay siege to the town again. If the fleet of the Signoria leaves the Gulf of the Drin, the aforementioned pirates will not permit sailing there, such that the aforementioned towns will be endangered without blood even being shed.



[Extract from: Relazione dell'Albania e sue città, fiumi, monti, laghi, piani, confini etc. fatta l'anno 1570. in: Sime Ljubic (ed.): Starine, Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti, Zagreb, 12 (1880), p. 193 200, and Injac Zamputi (ed.): Dokumente të shekujve XVI XVII për historinë e Shqipërisë, vëllimi 1 (1507-1592), Tirana 1989, p. 273 288. Translated from the Italian by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 59-66.]

Re: Text and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:32 pm
by Zeus10
Carlo Ranzo:
Report on a Voyage from Venice to Constantinople

In this report, Carlo Ranzo describes the overland passage of Venetian Ambassador Giacomo Soranzo through the mountains of Albania to and back from Constantinople. Soranzo was ambassador to London around 1553-1557 and to Constantinople in 1576-1581. This extract recounts the Albanian portion of his harrowing voyage.

Report of Carlo Ranzo, gentleman of Vercelli, on a voyage from Venice to Constantinople, after having returned from the naval Battle of Lepanto. It is very interesting because of all the incidents that are mentioned in it. From it one can learn about military strategies, about the attitudes of the fighters and about the different types of peoples and countries […]

When this gentleman [Ambassador Soranzo] was elected, he put into action all the notable preparations that are required on such occasions. He chose the men from his own court whom he wanted to take with him. There were about forty of them, few of whom were Venetian nobles. Many of them were from other parts of his country. He ordered them to wear long Turkish garments of silk when they were on foot, and short garments when they were on horseback, all in crimson and brownish reds. He bought much silverware, gold brocade, velvet, arras cloth, and crimson and brownish red damask as well as other textiles of similar colours and woven of gold and silk. He ordered several clocks and a quantity of candles and torches of white wax to be taken, as well as many large blocks of Piacenza cheese. He bought these things as presents for the sultan and his pashas, thereby spending a hundred thousand sequins. […]

Janissary band, 18th century

Having left this town [Dubrovnik], we travelled to Castelnovo [Herceg Novi] that had belonged to the Lords of Venice and was recently captured by the Turks. Passing through a large, eighteen-mile channel, we sailed in to have a look at Cattaro [Kotor], a town belonging to the above-mentioned Lords. It is protected by a very high and very beautiful castle that is splendidly situated and has a good garrison. The town has few citizens because of the plague that raged there recently. [The Ambassador] exacted one hundred thousand sequins from this town. Returning through the said channel, we sailed towards Alessio [Lezha], a town held by the Turks, leaving on our left Dulcigno [Ulqin] and Antivari [Bar], towns that were recently in possession of the said Lords and are now in possession of the Turks.

When we got to within three miles of the said town of Lezha, as we could not advance further with our galleys, we anchored there to disembark. An Ottoman adjutant, i.e. an emissary, came out, accompanied by two voivods, some Turkish nobles, four janissaries and some servants. When on the galley, the adjutant kissed His Excellency Soranzo on the hand and informed him that, on orders from his master, he had come out to meet and welcome him and to accompany him to Constantinople so as to ensure his safety along the dangerous roads and to procure horses and other necessities for the journey. He also noted to this effect that he had full authority over all towns and places they might pass through and over the men needed to escort him, and had been asked to serve His Excellency. Having said this, he took leave of us and returned to the town from where he sent us four skiffs covered in carpets and flowers. He also sent porters for the baggage and men to sail the boats and conduct His Excellency into town. Thus, we all disembarked from the galleys to a volley of artillery and arquebuses and to the blowing of trumpets and beating of drums. We got into the skiffs and were taken up a river of fresh water to Lezha, a town destroyed by war. We spent five days in this town waiting for the adjutant to bring us horses because we intended to travel overland from there to Constantinople. In the meantime, the Sandjak Bey of the province presented His Excellency with a fine sorrel horse with a gold-embroidered saddle that had silver studs. He also gave him some castrated sheep and a sack of white bread, as well as many other kind gifts. His Excellency sent the Sandjak Bey a beautiful clock one hand high that marked the hours and quarters of an hour, at a value of one hundred sequins, and embroidered crimson velvet with which to make a long Turkish-style garment, and sent the steward of the place a garment of crimson arras cloth. Many Albanian nobles came to pay homage to His Excellency and brought him many castrated sheep, calves, hares, chickens and ducks, loads of biscuits, white bread, casks of wine of various kinds, and great quantities of salted fish. They showed signs of great affection for the Serene Lords of Venice under whose dominion they had once lived. When the horses were made ready, we set off from this town, accompanied by the said adjutant, the voivods and the four janissaries. We rode over a fair plain that stretches for 22 miles and arrived at the foot of the mountains through which we were to travel for several days. As it was late, we raised our tents to spend the night there. In the meantime, the adjutant sent the voivod to the nearest settlement to bring back a number of men who would guard us on our way. Thus, at midnight, we were presented with two hundred Albanians, inhabitants of a mountainous region called the Upper Black Mountains [Karadaku i Shkupit / Skopska Crnagora], where because of the height of the mountains, they never see the sun. In the mountains, we could hear the drum that was being beaten to inform the inhabitants that a large group of men was passing through. The man beating the drum looked like a bird to us. These people are dark-skinned. Their heads and beards were shaven, except for their moustaches. Their shirts were black with filth and they were very poorly dressed. They looked like men from hell – savage and frightening in appearance. They carried wooden bows and arrows next to their rusty swords, with wooden sheathes. On their heads, they wore caps like red berets, all greasy and ugly, and when they clambered down their mountains, they gave out cries that seemed not to be human but rather like the raging of a bull. The women, dark-skinned, too, were strong and healthy-looking, more so than the men. They wore three chains of aspers as necklaces and bracelets. These aspers, silver coins, are worth sixty to a sequin. These women brought food to our tents. There were so many women that it looked like market day. They were Christians. Accompanied by these Albanians, we rode for fourteen days through the mountains called the Black Mountains of Skopje. When we got to the highest and last mountain, we could see the Black Mountains of Armenia where it is said that Noah’s Ark was. But they were difficult to distinguish because there were a lot of trees. Not even a bird could be seen. During the journey we did not stay in any of the villages or other places, but always spent the night in our tents. So, too, did the adjutant with the voivods and janissaries, while the said Albanians kept guard on the mountain passes and around our tents. Nonetheless, we were full of suspicion and fear because there were many killings in those mountains, on the roads and in the forests. We were afraid because we did not feel secure and had no confidence in those men who had come to guard us and accompany us, because they were of an evil, barbaric nature and respected and submitted to no one. Indeed they lived unbridled like the wild beasts. They ate only dough baked in coals and ashes, nothing else. When we got through the mountains, we arrived at a town called Scoppia [Skopje] which is inhabited primarily by Jews from Ragusa [Dubrovnik], Turks and other merchants who conduct much trade and have made the town very popular. We stayed for three days in that town, where we were put up very comfortably at the home of a very wealthy Dubrovnik merchant. His Excellency presented the governor of that province with calves, castrated sheep and sacks of bread. The many Jews brought him sweets, marzipan, candies, castrated sheep and yellow candles. His Excellency gave the governor a little clock worth 50 scudi and gave his steward, called Diacali, a scarlet garment. Here, the adjutant had the horses changed and, having released the Albanians, he ordered others to come and guard us. We set off with them and continued for three days, once again through the mountains, but the terrain was not as difficult as it had been. We crossed a river on boats, but the boats were so small that no more than three or four men could cross at one time. I was first to cross with two companions. Then His Excellency Soranzo crossed. He ordered us to remain there until all the baggage had been brought over. This took until evening […]

In the meantime, Gabriello Zerbellone and Don Giovanni da Mariano and the knight Birago and Tomaso Costanza, a Cypriot, arrived to pay their respects to His Excellency and have a meal with the said ambassador. They had been taken prisoner in the fighting when Goletta was captured as they happened to be in that city with others who were taken prisoner in Famagusta and were jailed in a tower on the Black Sea. Let out, i.e. freed of their chains, they were being escorted by the Turks, who were taking them to Dubrovnik to be released in exchange for some Turkish prisoners who had been held in Rome and were being sent to Dubrovnik […]

Sheep pen in southern Albanian
(Photo: Robert Elsie, March 2008)

When the order was given [for the return journey], we left the city [Constantinople] after His Excellency had hosted a magnificent dinner for the Ambassador of France and the two representatives of Venice. One of them, the Most Illustrious Tiepolo, was to leave Constantinople two or three days after our departure, whereas the other one, the Most Illustrious Giovanni Correr, remained at his post. His Excellency Soranzo was accompanied to the border of the State of the Grand Turk by two janissaries on horseback. These janissaries had authority to order all subjects of the Sultan to provide all requisite assistance and support for our personal safety and for our belongings, as well as for food and lodging along the way. This trip was very different from the outward journey because, not only were we now faced by bad winter weather, but we also took a different route. This time we travelled along a very bad road through a mostly mountainous wilderness with few inhabitants. For this reason, we often had to seek shelter in stables built of wood. There were no towns on the way and we could not use our tents because of the inclement weather. There was much snow and a very icy wind and, after spending many days on the road, we arrived at a city called Salonika, a large and populated town by the sea, inhabited more by Jews than by Muslims. We stayed there for three days. In this town, there is a building made entirely of porphyry, with columns and vases made of the same. It is estimated to be worth 400,000 sequins as it is all covered in porphyry. Many of the Jews of this town came to meet His Excellency and gave him gifts, including baskets of bread, barrels of wine, many biscuits, sweets and wax candles. Having departed, we rode over the mountains with the janissaries to Bastia, a place not far from Corfu, which is the border of the State of the Grand Turk. Here, His Excellency Soranzo was planning to sail over to Corfu without entering Bastia, that is situated on a high mountain over four miles from the sea, but since the galleys that were coming through the Channel of Corfu to pick him up had not yet arrived and since there was heavy rain and we had no other place of shelter, a decision was taken that we go up to Bastia and stay there until the galleys arrived. Riding up the mountain, Soranzo encountered the local Cadi, that is, the judge, and the Emin, an important figure who was responsible not only for customs and other revenues of the Sultan, but looked after other affairs of state and had authority over the army in that border region, in particular over the guards. Indeed, not only did they come out to meet His Excellency and accompany him to the town, but they also brought with them gifts such as kid meat and other foods, and spoke most hospitably. As such, His Excellency Soranzo, who had brought with him about thirty expensive horses purchased in Constantinople, having been received with such great courtesy, was promised that they would allow him to take the thirty horses abroad with him, even though His Excellency had not had this included in the orders issued by Mehmet Pasha concerning the people and goods he might take with him anywhere. The orders mentioned only two horses, a dapple and a sorrel one, that had been given to him by the sultan and the said pasha. There would have been a heavy penalty for taking the horses out of the country without permission and a special order from Mehmet. His Excellency had faith in the courtesy and good intentions these people had shown him. However, the janissaries, who had accompanied him from Constantinople, having learned of this, secretly intervened and expressed their opposition to the Cadi and Emin and stated that if the latter were to allow the horses to pass without permission or some other order, they would have them charged before the sultan as soon as they returned to Constantinople. Thus, terrified by the words and ill-intent of the janissaries, they began to excuse themselves in front of His Excellency for not being able to satisfy him in this matter, because the janissaries would otherwise carry out their threats. As such, things did not turn out as had been hoped. In the meantime, when the galleys arrived, His Excellency requested permission to use the horses to ride down to the place where he would embark, and since the horses could go no further, he would leave them there so that they could be bought by someone who needed them. They accepted this proposal and granted his request. When we got to the galleys, they noticed a large number of soldiers from the Corfu garrison disembarking, who were preparing to welcome His Excellency Soranzo with a volley of fire. Fearing that they had come to assist us in loading the said horses and taking them with us without their permission, they gave immediate orders to the Albanian rabble, armed with iron rods, to pursue us and force us to leave the horses there, not even allowing us to reach the galleys. Thus, some of the peasants, as if they had been lying in wait and preparing for this action, rushed up behind us and began beating us savagely. Others arrived on the spot and acted with even greater fury, as did some spahees or light cavalrymen, who serve in border regions, so that we were overwhelmed and forced to submit to the fury of the rabble and hand over the horses to them, among which was the horse that the Sandjak Bey of Lezha had given to His Excellency. With every man trying to save himself in the scuffle, we scrambled onto skiffs to get to the galleys and were not able to take more than three horses. When His Excellency arrived in Corfu, he wrote to Mehmet Pasha about the barbaric treatment and insult he had been subjected to, noting that they had forcefully and illegally taken away not only the horses he had bought in Constantinople for the journey, that he had promised to leave in the country, but also another horse he was particularly fond of, given to him by the Sandjak Bey of Lezha […]Later, soon after we arrived in Zara [Zadar], the horse was returned to him in good condition, on orders from the said pasha, and all the other horses that had remained behind in Bastia were paid for […]

[Extract from Carlo Ranzo, Relazione d’un viaggio fatto da Venezia a Constantinopoli, 1616; published in: Giovanni Sforza, Viaggio attraverso i Balcani nel 1575 (Siena: Stab. Lazzeri, 1915), p. 21-52; Marziano Guglielminetti, Viaggiatori del Seicento (Turin: UTET Libreria 2007); and in Injac Zamputi, Dokumente të shekujve XVI-XVII për historinë e Shqipërisë, Vëllimi 1, 1507-1592 (Tirana: Akademia e Shkencave, 1989), p. 327-340. Translated from the Italian by Robert Elsie.]

Re: Text and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:34 pm
by Zeus10
Jean Carlier de Pinon:
Pirates in Vlora

Jean Carlier de Pinon was a French squire who lived in Paris and Cambray. He is the author of the work “Mon voyaige en Levant, faict l’an 1579” (My Voyage to the Levant, made in 1579). In it, he gives an account to his trip to the Holy Land with his German companion Hans Jacob Breuning from February 1579 to March 1580. Sailing from Venice to Constantinople and Alexandria, they stopped in the Ottoman port of Vlora, which he describes in the following extract.


A crew in the Bay of Vlora
(early 20th century postcard)

On the 11th [May 1579], we sailed with a favourable wind, seeing nothing but sea and sky until, in the evening on the left side, we began to distinguish the mountains of Albania, formerly known as Epirus.

On the 12th, having advanced somewhat, we viewed the mountain across from Vallona [Vlora] and the mountain of Chimera [Himara] that is beyond Vlora.

On the 13th, having approached to four miles to the continent of Albania, where Vlora is situated, with the bonazzablowing behind us, we cast anchor after dinner. There, a Turk [Muslim], native of that region, disembarked on a frigate or small bark, and with him were some Greeks [Orthodox] endeavouring to get to Vlora that was not more than two or three miles away by land. They were going to Vlora to get some barks to unload goods they wished to leave in Vlora. Leading them was the ship scribe and the owner with four infantrymen or sailors. But when the frigate was no more than two miles from the ship, a fusta suddenly appeared before it, which had been lying in wait behind some rocks. We fired several cannons at it but were unable to hit it. We did not move from the spot all day where the owner had decided to drop anchor, and waited for the return of our frigate, but when it did not return by the end of the day, we suspected that something had happened to it.

On the 14th of May, in order to find out what had happened to the frigate, having raised anchor, we entered the port of Vlora. At the entrance of the said port from the northwest, there is a mountain or rock in the form of an island called Saseno [Sazan]. Having lowered our sails, we fired our cannons several times, which is the usual custom observed for entering ports. At that moment, the Emin or customs chief came out, accompanied by several other Muslims and Jews with whom talks were held on a carpet laid out for them in accordance with their customs. We were informed of what had happened to those who had gone to land the day before. They noticed the fusta pursuing them and swiftly hid the frigate among some bushes to save it. Having taken fright on realizing that they would most certainly be captured on land on their way to Vlora, the men abandoned this road and took the mountain path to the left, keeping more than twenty miles ahead of the thieves. At a certain place there was a little river and while they were there, exhausted as they were, they stirred up the water so that, when the thieves arrived, they would think they had crossed the said stream and would follow them over it. As they were very tired, they procured the assistance of a shepherd to escort them to a safe place, turned back along the road, and climbed the mountain on the right side where there was a village. When they got there, they found shelter in the home of a local Muslim, because custom has it in Turkey that one may not extract anyone from the home of a Muslim by force. The pirates, hearing that the shepherd had conducted them there, arrived at the said village. Here, by promises or by other means, they made themselves masters of the place, and our men were forced out of the home of the Muslim and out of the village and, since they were now in the hands of the pirates, they were led farther away. The pirates took counsel among themselves, considering the perils they would encounter if they sold their prisoners because they had learned that their chief had been apprehended in Vlora at the request of the Venetian Council the moment they heard what had happened to the scribe of our vessel and the others. They also feared that they would be chased by people on horseback and so they let their prisoners go for the sum of 60 zechins. The prisoners were only able to pay 20, but a Moor who happened to be there, paid the other 40 and was promised by the prisoners that they would pay him back in Vlora. For this reason, he released some of the prisoners to go and get the said money, but, not waiting for their return, he arrived in Vlora a little later with the rest of them.


View of Vlora
(early 20th century postcard)

On the 15th, we went onto land in Vlora although there was still some danger for us in view of our clothing which was not in Venetian style. We could easily have been taken for subjects of the King of Spain because the ceasefire between the King of Spain and the Sultan had not yet come into effect so they you could have captured and enslaved us, or sentenced us to death as suspected spies. All westerners run such risks in distant islands and places. But there is no danger in large cities where there are ambassadors and consuls of the Christian kingdoms and republics. On that day, we witnessed justice being done to those who had been responsible for the kidnapping of our men. The men of justice were on the porch or vestibule of the city hall. Below them, in the courtyard, were the accused and the crowds. The leader or mayor of the village where our men had been captured was lying on his back with his legs in the air, and his legs were being held by a man on each side. In front of him was the henchman who, with the thrash of his rod, whipped him on the soles of his bare feet hundreds of times, and for each lash, the accused paid to the court, according to custom, one asper, sixty of which make a ducat or zechin and fifty make an écu. The Moor who had tried to profit from the ransom was whipped on the belly, and our men were released and had only to pay 40 ducats or zechins.


Of the town and fortress of Vlora


Like most of the towns of Turkey, Vlora has no moats or walls. It is six hundred miles from Venice. It is situated in Albania and subject to Turkey that maintains a sandjak here. The location is most pleasant. There are many cypress trees and the soil is fertile. It was built alongside a river that is wider than it is deep and flows into the sea across from the town. There are some five mosques, as the Muslim churches are known, that are embellished with high white towers or clock towers.  The town is inhabited by Turks [Muslims], Jews and Greeks [Orthodox]. Wheat, wine and meat are cheap here. To the south, at an arrow’s distance, there is a fortress commanding the port. It is quite large and built round. Half of it touches the hills and the other half faces the sea. Inside the fortress there is a round bastion that is very solid. The man in command is called an aga or castellano. Above this fortress, a little farther away over the mountain there is another similar fortress. There are many pirates and buccaneers in this region, and much booty is brought back every day, taken from the Christians who are not allies of the Sultan. A few years ago, the Sultan sent Caracossa here with several galleys. He was killed in 1571 in a battle waged between the army of the Ottoman Sultan Selim and that of the Christians. There were no galleys in the harbour at that time, only fustas.

On the 16th of May, having unloaded what our seamen wished to leave here and having procured provisions of meat and fresh water, the owner sent the Emin a gift consisting of four baskets full of Murano glasses and goblets from Venice, and placed in each basket sweetbread and some jams. There were also soap, two small chaires [chamois?] and some small espoussettes [dusting cloths?]. The gift did not please the Emin because it was not given to him on our arrival. That day, we saw three Turkish fustas enter the port that were towing a marsiliana, i.e. a type of vessel or howker captured from the Christians.

On the 17th of May, having lost our frigate, we set sail. As a result, the carpenter of the vessel built another one on deck during our journey. Having left the port, and keeping the mountains of Himara to our left, we saw several islands on our right, among which the first one was Fano that is uninhabited.


[Excerpt from: Jean Carlier de Pinon, Mon voyaige en Levant, faict l’an 1579; reprinted in: Jean Carlier de Pinon, Voyage en Orient, publié avec des notes historiques et géographiques par E. Blochet (Paris: E. Leroux, 1920), p. 36-46; and in: Injac Zamputi (ed.): Dokumente të shekujve XVI-XVII për historinë e Shqipërisë, Vol. 1 (1507-1592 (Tirana: Akademia e Shkencave 1989), p. 345-351. Translated from the French by Robert Elsie.]

Re: Texts and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:24 pm
by Zeus10
Lorenzo Bernardo:
Journey of the Venetian Ambassador

The Venetian ambassador or bailie to Constantinople, Girolamo Lippomano, was accused of high treason and sentenced in absentia to death by the Council of the Ten. Senator Lorenzo Bernardo, himself a former Venetian ambassador to Constantinople (May 1584-mid-1587), was charged with travelling to the Ottoman capital to carry out the sentence. Bernardo set out from Venice by boat on April 26, 1591. On his arrival in Albania, he chose the rarely used route overland through the country so as to maintain the secrecy of his mission. The accused Lippomani was eventually arrested and sent back to Venice. In the conclusion of his report, Bernardo recounts how at the vessel's arrival in Lido, Lippomani plunged into the sea and drowned. As to Albania, Bernardo offers many interesting details of life in the country at the time, as he experienced it on his secret journey.


Report of the journey made by Lorenzo Bernardo, who was previously bailie in Constantinople and who is now being seconded once again to Sultan Murad III to reside there and, if successful, to send back to Venice the knight Girolamo Lippomano who has been accused of revealing to the princes the secrets of the senate and has been found to be unfaithful to his country.


Tuesday, May 7, 1591

We arrived at the port of Rose to have lunch at the entrance of the Bay of Kotor and, having loaded drinking water and firewood, we headed for the city. At the Stradiotti Rock we encountered His Eminence the Lord Inspector of the Fleet who was there with his galleys: the Leona of Lord Paolo, the two Bellegnas of Lord Francesco and Lord Giusto Antonio his brother, and the Donata of Lord Marco. At 21 o'clock we arrived at the town of Kotor where we found out that if we disembarked at Lezha, we would find a good road through the Sanjak of Shkodra. His Excellency Bernardo immediately seconded Vincenzo Decca of Bar to the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra, who was said to be a good friend and to maintain good neighbourly relations [with Venice], to talk to him, show him the patents of his Serene Highness and endeavour to get letters of recommendation from him to travel through his sanjak, and janissaries to accompany us on horseback. He also seconded a messenger forthwith to Dubrovnik to invite the dragoman Spinelli to take part. Eight litter bearers were also summoned to come and serve according to custom, it being that the voyage would take place for the most part by litter.


Wednesday, May 8, 1591

Spinelli arrived in Kotor from Dubrovnik on the frigate sent to get him. He could not find any janissaries or other Turks there to serve en route, but he brought with him a caravan leader from whom he had arranged to hire 36 horses at 950 aspers each to take us to Constantinople. The conditions were that he change the horses in Skopje and arrange in their place for two or three wagons at a cost he would judge reasonable himself. [But] the said caravan leader called Zarco, who was a Christian, was dismissed, although he was the son of the brother of the Aga of Castelnuovo, and the down payment given to him by Spinelli was left with him, i.e. four zecchini, indeed one other zecchino was given to him, too. This was done because we would be using other horses which Decca was to find for us.

His Eminence the Lord Inspector of the Fleet sent His Eminence Lord Francesco Bellegno to the Stradiotti Rock to offer to accompany His Excellency Bernardo with his ships to Lezha. Thanking him by letter, the gentleman replied that he did not in any manner wish to impede his voyage to the Levant and that it would be sufficient, if he could not find any other accompaniment, for him to have only the galley Calba. But he would be wholly satisfied by any decision His Excellency might take without prejudicing public service.


Thursday, May 9, 1591

After lunch, we embarked once again on the galley Calba and set off for Budva in it with the Bellegna of Lord Francesco... His Excellency took with him from Kotor Mr Vincenzo Polizza (1) to help him in his departure from Lezha where he had acquaintances and relations. He also took Mr Pitkovic on the journey as a dragoman for the Slavic language. At 22 o'clock we arrived at Rose of the Bay of Kotor where His Eminence the Lord Inspector of the Fleet was awaiting us with other accompanying vessels. We left Rose after midnight, but we were faced with a strong scirocco wind and were forced to turn back.


Friday, May 10, 1591

One hour and a half after sunrise, the frigate of patron Raffael del Zuanne arrived here at Rose from Kotor. It was being sent to Venice by His Eminence the Governor. It was carrying letters from His Excellency the Bailie in Constantinople dated the 19th and 20th of the previous month. It arrived yesterday in Kotor, shortly after our departure from there... The Lord Inspector of the Fleet prepared a banquet in honour of the illustrious guest, inviting the officers of the galleys, too.


Saturday, May 11, 1591

We set sail from the port of Rose at the first hour of daylight and arrived at the port of Gianizza (2) with only three galleys, i.e. that of the Lord Inspector, the Calba and the Leona. The other two were forced to return to Rose, not having been able to advance against the strong wind. Here in Gianizza, we came upon two schirazzi from Perast which were en route from Corfu and were loaded with salt, one for Kotor and one for Venice. At 16 o'clock the galley Donata arrived at Gianizza.

At noon on the said day, we set sail and arrived at Budva where Mr Zuanne Bolizza had been sent in advance with the galley Leona in order to find out if Mr Vincenzo Decca had left any message with regard to the order he had been entrusted with of finding horses and janissaries, for which he had been sent to the Sanjak Bey of Shkodra. We learned that a messenger of his had gone back to Kotor and, not having found His Excellency there, returned to Bar. At about 23 o'clock, the two other Bellegna galleys arrived and Lord Francesco presented an envelope to His Excellency stating that the messenger who had been sent to Dubrovnik to invite Spinelli and Mr Zuanne Bolizza was on his way back from that city ...

Continuing our journey from Budva, we arrived to have dinner at Pastrovic at the fortress of Saint Stephan (3) and then we withdrew towards the valley of Bar where we arrived at about 4 o'clock at night, advancing against the wind.


Sunday, May 12, 1591

We set off at the third hour before dawn, and arrived after two hours of daylight at Old Ulcinj, where we stayed due to a strong easterly wind which had arisen. We departed in the afternoon, advancing with oars at times and with sails at others because there was a slight northwesterly wind. At 21 o'clock we arrived at Shëngjin. We sent Mr Zuanne Bolizza to Lezha immediately to get news of Mr Vincenzo Decca, of the state of the roads and of how to procure horses and other necessities for the journey. Soon after we got there, Lord Francesco Bellegno arrived, bringing with him someone he had acquired in Old Ulcinj after we had left. This man presented letters from Mr Vincenzo Decca, written that day in Markovic, and some other letters from Bar, dated on the 9th.

He stated that a new Sanjak Bey had been elected in Shkodra before the ninth of the month. The former Sanjak Bey had departed three days earlier so that Decca had not been able to speak to him. He added that the road through Dukagjin was unsafe due to Albanian uprisings and proposed that we take the Elbasan Salonika road about which he had been informed by one Pietro Volvizza of Bar, who was willing to accompany us. For this reason, Decca had sent a messenger to Kotor for our reaction, but the messenger had been unable to find us, as was mentioned earlier. He further stated that he had found two janissaries. In the second letter, the one dated on that day, he informed us that he had waited for a reply to the said letter of the 9th and had taken the road to the coast while we were in the valley of Bar. From there he had carried on to the said site in Markovic to board the galley if possible in order to give account of his duties. The janissaries had gone back on their agreement because they had wanted to be sure they would be paid the sum in question and he did not wish to conclude the agreement without confirmation from his Lordship, even though he was authorized to do so, because the sum they were demanding seemed to him to be exorbitant. He also sent someone off to Lezha to make ready the horses.

Mr Zuanne Bolizza returned about three o'clock from Lezha and informed us that he had not heard anything of Decca except that the latter had written to a Turk to get horses. Concerning the Sanjak of Shkodra, the road through Dukagjin was said to be unsafe. As to the Elbasan road, he confirmed what Decca had told us.


Monday, May 13, 1591

His Excellency, Lord Bernardo, set off early this morning on the galleys of His Eminence the Lord Inspector of the Fleet to convey information from the honourable gentleman as to the most comfortable means of travelling from here to Constantinople. He received a positive reply since the eminent governors of Corfu and His Eminence had good relations with the Turkish ministers.

On the same day, His Eminence sent the dragoman Marchiò Spinelli and Mr Zuanne Bolizza to Ulcinj with two galleys, i.e. the Leona and the Bellegna belonging to Lord Francesco, because His Eminence the Lord Inspector did not wish to send one galley by itself for fear that something might happen to it. Spinelli and Bolizza were to negotiate with the Aga for two janissaries. His Eminence sent the Aga four loaves of sweetbread, four boxes of jam and four large candles as presents and ordered Spinelli to conclude the deal for the said janissaries as best he could, and not to come back without them. The two said galleys set off for Ulcinj at the second hour of daylight. After lunch, at noon, Mr Vincenzo Pitkovic arrived on the galley which had been sent to Lezha that morning to find 40 horses either for Skopje, or at least for Elbasan or for Salonika, whichever was best, and to get more information on the best road to be taken. He brought with him two Turks with whom he had made a deal for the 40 horses, paying 90 aspers per horse to Elbasan.

It is said that merchants usually charge 80 aspers per horse, but the Muslims said that on top of the 80 aspers, they had their expenses, too. If we would agree to this, there would be no one else to pay but the keeper of the caravanserai. With the above mentioned Pitkovic came the Albanian horseman called Mr Tomà Pellessa, Mr Vincenzo Decca and Mr Piero Volvizza of Bar, who said that the road to Skopje was the safest and easiest, but was four days longer. The Turks confirmed this, too. His Excellency thus decided to take the Elbasan road both in order to make up for time which had been lost by bad weather at sea and which would be lost because of the difficulties of the land road. Because this route was seldom taken by dignitaries, there would be less possibility for the news of his arrival in Constantinople to get there before he did. And so he gave the Turks a down payment for 40 horses, of which 14 were to be saddled, in addition to two horses which were to transport the litter. The decision to take the road to Elbasan, which was not used by ambassadors or bailies, is what caused me to write this Itinerary so that, whatever happened, it could serve as information for anyone who might happen to consider taking the same road in the future.

At 13 o'clock in the night of the same 13th of the month, the two galleys sent to Ulcinj returned with Spinelli who brought back two janissaries with him to accom-pany us on our journey.


Tuesday, March 14, 1591

Early in the morning, before we went to church, His Eminence the Lord Inspector of the Fleet arrived with all his magnificent officers to bid farewell to His Excellency Bernardo, who had only been informed shortly before of their arrival. Thereafter, when all the baggage had been loaded onto one boat and the servants onto another which belonged to the horseman Pellessa, His Excellency got into the caique of the Lord Inspector of the Fleet. Artillery from all the galleys gave a salute and we set off for the mouth of the river Drin to continue on to Lezha. We arrived in two hours' time, although it is no more than about three miles away. Our delay was caused by the flow of the river and the fact that we had to wait for the other two vessels which were more heavily laden. The river stems, as mentioned above, from Lake Ohrid which produces big carp like those of Lake Garda (4), as the local Albanians tell us. It meanders for a space of seven days although the lake is only three miles away from here (5). Below Lezha, it divides into two navigable channels which flow into the sea at the gulf called Lodrino (the Drin) after the river, one being three miles from the other. The two branches form an island with fair and fertile fields which is said to have been the site of Lezha when it was ruled by our lords of Venice who sent the lord inspectors. Today, Lezha is a modestly fortified castle with a small circumference. It is constructed in the ancient fashion and is situated on a hill of fertile land perhaps half a mile from the river. From here the hill rises gently, and on the south side, there is a higher mountain half a mile across from it. On the other riverbank on the western side, there is a rock face, but much lower. The river flows slowly and has low banks, part of which for a mile and a half towards the sea are marshy and covered in reeds. At other parts, the boats can be hauled by ropes, as is done elsewhere, if one removes the logs in the way, which for the most part are from willow trees. We celebrated mass at the house where the Franciscan friars were staying. They have rebuilt the church on the opposite bank.

From here to the foot of the mountain of Lezha overlooking the wide river stretches the open town of Lezha. Here, also, is the home of the Customs Officer and the caravanserai where traders and travellers can spend the night. It is uncomfortable and in a bad state. Lezha is a trading post. There was much trade in former times, but it is of little importance now because there is no security to be had on the roads, which are infested by Albanians from the Dukagjin region. Here we only met two Venetian merchants, Mr Zaccaria Colleoni from Bergamo who works both for himself and for Fabricio Soleri, and Mr Alessandro Cocco who trades on behalf of the eminent Mr Vettor Soranzo of Merzaria. In Shëngjin we also came across Mr Domenico Surbi and Mr Nicolò Grassa of Lezha, having arrived aboard a Pastrovic vessel. These men are merchants who trade with Venice and who helped us very much and who were very hospitable to us in Lezha.


Wednesday, March 15, 1591

At the second hour of daylight, we mounted our horses although we had gotten up two hours before sunrise. We had to waste much time to arrange our luggage on this first day of the journey. Towards midday, we arrived at the village of Laç in the region of Kruja and spent the night at the house of Malcoz Aga, a relative of Mustafa, steward of Kruja, who had come from Ulcinj to accompany His Excellency. We stayed in a house down the road, though not far away.

The trip took five to six hours and was a distance of perhaps eighteen miles, judging from the time we took and the stretch of road we covered on horseback. In Muslim territory, however, one does not count in hours or miles but simply in days. The road was flat all the way and was in good condition. On the left side were the mountains of Dukagjin and on the right, the plain which stretches eight miles out to the sea at the gulf of Lodrino. It is at its widest from here to the Mat because on the Lezha side it is narrower. Outside of Lezha, we took the road southwards and about half a mile further on, we came upon water which was flooding the road at many points because the land is lower here. They say that there is always water here and it reaches the height of a horse's knees. We continued onwards for about a mile and entered a pleasant and not very dense forest of mostly ash and poplar trees. We rode for two hours or more through this forest so that it was probably seven or eight miles long. When we got out of the forest, we came upon fields well sown with wheat and oats. We rode over the fields for about a mile and then we forded the broad river Mat at three places. This river has a very large bed similar to the river Tagliamento, and flows swiftly. The water came right up to the horses' thighs. From the house of Malcoz Aga where we spent the night, one can see the sea and the surroundings which form the gulf of the Drin from the cape of Ulqin to the cape of Rodon. It should also be noted that from Lezha to this point there was no bread or wine to be bought, and nowhere to spend the night. As we had been informed of this in advance, we took provisions with us.


Thursday, May 16, 1591

We rose two hours before dawn and, one hour later, mounted our horses and rode for almost four hours, stopping in the countryside to have lunch. The caravan advanced for another two miles and then stopped to unload the luggage in order to give the horses a rest. We rested for about an hour and a half and then, mounting the horses once again, accompanied the caravan to the house of an army corporal near the village of Saint John where we arrived at about 22 o'clock. The next morning, descending from the hillside where we had spent the night, we advanced, leaving the plain of Mat to our right. We continued along the mountainside and climbed a hill covered in great oak trees, which we took two hours to cross. This is called the forest of Shpërdhet. We crossed two streams and a torrent and, leaving the forest, entered the great and famous plain of Scanderbeg, called Tirana. Surrounded by the mountains of Kruja, this is a noble town in Albania which used to be in the possession of our lords (of Venice) and which is now subject to the Sanjak of Ohrid. On those mountains, one can see the town of Kruja and its castle which is still inhabited. It is situated on the left side of the aforementioned plain. To the right of the plain at the top of the mountains, one can see the fortress of Preza. They say that the men there are strong and healthy, and when they turn Turk, many of them become famous horsemen. After one hour of travel across the plain, we forded a river called the Tërkuza which comes down from a canyon in the mountains of Kruja called Gamera (6). Near the place where we spent the night, we crossed another river with little water in it. The river Ishëm flows down past the mountain on which the fortress of Preza is situated, twelve miles in the direction of Rodon. It flows into the sea at the gulf of the Drin. Along this river, the Albanians were wont to transport great quantities of local wheat which was shipped from Redon to the Christian countries. Eighteen years ago, Sultan Selim, the father of the present emperor of the Turks, therefore had a fortress built at the mouth of the said river and for this reason it is also called Ishëm. The fortress serves to keep the people here in submission and stops the export of grain.

On today's journey, we passed three villages (7): Gjonëm before entering the forest, then Rudrue (8) which is situated in the forest, and thirdly, Dervent at the end of the said forest. Aside from these, there are also various private houses which can be seen on the hilltops in passing. On the hills to the left is a large village called Zheja, the inhabitants of which are known as thieves since it is said that they come down into the forest and kill and rob travellers who are not in large groups and where they know they can do so in safety. Before we entered the plain of Tirana, we passed through a small forest at the plain of Povaza (9). Leaving it, we came upon a spring on the left side with good cold water. Some of our entourage enjoyed themselves by taking the water to refresh the caravan. Yesterday and today we encountered a lot of horses from various caravans loaded with wheat and on their way to Lezha. This grain is brought from Struga, a town in Bulgaria on the border of Albania, three days away from here. Every horse bore a little less than two Venetian stara and there were over five hundred of them. His Excellency Bernardo advised and ordered Mr Zuanne Bolizza of Kotor, who was to return from Elbasan, to buy some of the grain for Venice because he would not only make a profit, but would also be doing a good deed for the people and would be esteemed by them this year, now that grain has become a rare commodity. The grain is bought in Struga for two and a half talers a sack and it is calculated in Lezha that it could be worth two talers for a Venetian stara.


Friday, May 17, 1591

We mounted our horses one hour before sunrise and arrived at Elbasan two hours after nightfall, having rested en route half way for only two hours. This day was extremely wearisome for us because we had travelled for seventeen hours on horseback and because the road was in bad condition. The road was only good for three hours along the plain of Tirana. Farther along, we passed the fortress of Petrela which is a castle on the top of a mountain on the right side. At the end of it towards the east, there is a crescent shaped bastion and across from it there is a high mountain rising above it. Below this fortress flows the river Erzen which we forded. Its water is crystal clear and its bed contains pure white gravel. This is perhaps the reason why it is called Erzen (10). In Petrela, where one first enters the mountains, the road gets bad. The farther up one travels, the worse it gets. The ascents and descents were so narrow and steep so that it was difficult to travel with the luggage. In many places, the litter bearers had to carry the litters with their own hands.

Elbasan is a town on the plain and has ancient walls. The sanjak bey of this province resides here. The present sanjak bey is called Mehmet Bey, brother of a Persian lord who submitted to the Turkish sultan during the last war. Lord Bernardo paid him a visit, taking the usual presents with him, to ask for assistance and for men in order to cross his sanjak safely. He graciously granted our request. This is a trading post for hides and wool. There are two caravanserais. Near the town flows the river Egrede (11) which must be forded twice before arriving at Elbasan.


Sunday, May 19, 1591

We delayed in Elbasan yesterday and today to find new horses for Salonika. His Excellency preferred this road over the one to Skopje because, according to the information we received, it was shorter, better and safer. We also received word that the recently deposed Sanjak Bey of Shkodra, had used this route on his way to Constantinople.

It rained today and there was a long and severe storm.


Monday, May 20, 1591

We left Elbasan two hours after sunrise because we had not been able to solve the horse problem earlier. At 21 o'clock we arrived at the village of Dardha accompanied all the time by a heavy rainstorm. From Elbasan we had travelled about three miles along flat land. From there on, the road was bad all the way, with rocky canyons, mountains and forests. We crossed the river Shkumbin which has a broad bed and is swift flowing. We also had very bad accommodation in little houses belonging to poor peasants. There was neither bread nor wine to be had. On today's journey, the litter was carried by the bearers almost all day long because the road was so bad.


Tuesday, May 21, 1591

We set out from Dardha one hour after sunrise and arrived shortly before noon at Përrenjas for lunch. There was no caravanserai or bread here, but we did find some wine. The road was mountainous and steep but not as difficult as the day before. It passed through a beautiful valley. We crossed the Shkumbin river once again, but over a wooden bridge. After leaving Përrenjas, we entered a broad plain. Then, travelling over the mountain, we arrived at a beautiful and open site from which we could first see Lake Ohrid. At 22 o'clock that evening we arrived at Struga. Here we spent the night at a place called Jakuf (12). We had excellent eel and trout from Lake Ohrid, which, we were told, also produced carp. In Struga we found good wine and a caravanserai for the horses.

Although they call Struga a town, it is more like a village and is the first settlement in Bulgaria after leaving Albania. Through it flows a small river (13) which is said to arise in Lake Ohrid and to be the source of the river of Lezha. One crosses a bridge separating the border between Albania and Bulgaria shortly before one enters the plain of Struga, which is almost totally cultivated and which is very fertile. The Bulgarians speak Slavic and are of Greek rite. Storks make their nests on the roofs of their houses. All the people respect the birds and believe that they bring good luck to those on whose houses their nests are built.


Wednesday, May 22, 1591

We left Struga in the first hour of the morning and arrived at noon at the village of Crusse (14), where there is no caravanserai. On leaving Struga we had walked about one hour across its fair plain. We then crossed a mountain and continued along the plain of Ohrid. On a hill on the right side, at the end of the valley overlooking the lake, we saw the town of Ohrid, where there is a castle. It is a town of few inhabitants, although it is the capital of a sanjak. We had lunch at Crusse and continued on to the village of Prespa at which a river called Prespa flows. There is also a lake called Prespa which is smaller than that of Ohrid. At 23 o'clock in the evening we arrived at the village of Zoposco in the driving rain. There is no caravanserai here. We spent a difficult night at the house of a janissary, but there was good wine to be had.


Thursday, May 23, 1591

We left Zoposco along a good road in the first hour after sunrise. At 19 o'clock we arrived at Monasterio (Bitola). We ate lunch at a spring where there was a rundown water mill. Bitola is a town in Bulgaria with a large population. They say there are 1,500 houses of which 200 are of Jews. There are no walls around the town, nor is there a sanjak bey. It has a timar of the Grand Vizier who receives from Bitola an income of 20 loads of aspers. It has a kadi and is abundant in grain. It is also a trading post for wax, wool and hides. There are good Muslims here because it is a place of learning and, as such, there are men here capable of administering justice. For this reason, they are sent as kadis to various parts of the Turkish Empire. It is abundant in water and fountains, and through the town flows a river called the Macofro (15). When it rains in the winter, the town is flooded and with the water come huge boulders, causing great damage. Bitola has a covered bazaar, beautiful mosques and a good caravanserai for horses, though not for men.


Friday, May 24, 1591

We spent the day here because we wanted to change the horses, and the young men did not come. We were hosted by Rabbi Samuel Namias, consul of the Jews...




The author may be confusing names here, for he refers below to Zuanne Bolizza.


Unidentified toponym Janica, possibly near Trašte.


Sveti Stefan, ca. 10 km. south of Budva.


Lago di Garda in northern Italy.


The actual air distance between Lezha and Lake Ohrid is ca. 100 km.


Unidentified toponym, possibly Gamti, i.e. Mount Gamti.


Here the author is recapping the itinerary because the villages in question are all north of Kruja and Preza.


Unidentified toponym, somewhere near Mamuras.


Unidentifed toponym.


i.e. Ital. Arzenta, from argento 'silver'.


Unidentified toponym. The river meant is probably the Kusha or Zaranika.


Possibly a misspelling for vakëf 'land belonging to a Muslim religious or educational institution'.


The Black Drin arises in Struga and, merging with the White Drin at Kukës, flows as the Drin until it empties into the Adriatic Sea near Lezha.


Unidentified toponym, perhaps Korošišta.


Presently known as the Dragor.

[Extract from: Monumenti storici pubblicati dalla R. Deputazione di Storia Patria. Seria Quarta. Miscellanea. Vol. IV, Venice (1887), p. 19 47; and Injac Zamputi (ed.): Dokumente të shekujve XVI XVII për historinë e Shqipërisë. Vëllimi 1 (1507 1592), Tiranë 1989, p. 386 403. Translated from the Italian by Robert Elsie. First published in R. Elsie: Early Albania, a Reader of Historical Texts, 11th - 17th Centuries, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 67-76.]

Re: Texts and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:20 am
by TeuAL
Kater te dhena per Historine e Popullit Shqiptar

Nga enciklopedia:
jepen keto te dhena ne fleten nr. 31 (nga libri i plote ne www).

Re: Texts and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:04 am
by TeuAL
Dy tituj terheqes, permendet Iliria ne shek VIII AD. Nuk i kam gjetur ende per lexim. Shpresoj te kete te dhena per popullin tone, per gjuhen, emra etj. sepse eshte nje periudhe me shume pak te dhena ne librat shkollore te historise sone.

Re: Texts and documents about Albanian history

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:40 am
by TeuAL
Nje e dhene per Ilirine ne shek. IV(354 - 356), koha e perandorit Constantius, djali i Konstantinit te Madh.

germa "p" prane emrit te personit qendron per postet "praetor" ose "praefectus".