"Moreover, you scorned our people, and compared the Albanese to sheep, and according to your custom think of us with insults. Nor have you shown yourself to have any knowledge of my race. Our elders were Epirotes, where this Pirro came from, whose force could scarcely support the Romans. This Pirro, who Taranto and many other places of Italy held back with armies. I do not have to speak for the Epiroti. They are very much stronger men than your Tarantini, a species of wet men who are born only to fish. If you want to say that Albania is part of Macedonia I would concede that a lot more of our ancestors were nobles who went as far as India under Alexander the Great and defeated all those peoples with incredible difficulty. From those men come these who you called sheep. But the nature of things is not changed. Why do your men run away in the faces of sheep?"
Letter from Skanderbeg to the Prince of Taranto ▬ Skanderbeg, October 31 1460

Himara

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HIMARA: Another Greek Lie

#1

Post by Arta » Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:46 am

HIMARA

One fact that is not very well-known even for many albanians is that anti-ottoman resistance in South Albania didn’t finish with the death of Scanderbeg. His son, Gjon Kastrioti along with his cousin Constandin Muzaka debarked in Himara around 1470-80 and continued the resistance for some more years. They even seized a Turkish castle, won a battle with the Turkish army, took its leader Suleyman Pasha as prisoner and sent him as a gift to King of Naples. Later Gjon was forced to flee back to Italy but the resistance continued. In 1492 Sultan Bayazit II himself came in the head of an army to repress the himariot resistance. The Venetian chronican St Magno refers to the heavy fightings:

…the turks captured the mountains from Vlora (Aulona) to Saranda…and in some of the mountains seized many Albanians (molti albanexi) , the rest dispearsed and fleed…
The result of the resistance was an autonomy granted by Bayazit in 1492-this autonomy was confirmed later by sultan Suleyman in 1534 and lasted till the 20th Cent. But the thoughts for uprising never ceased to exist in Himara. Despite of living in an relative freedom during the 5 centuries of Turkish rule in the Balkans, himariots were always making plans how to get rid of the ottomans once for ever, this anti-turkish feelings became almost an obsession that one has to take into consideration in order to understand the further history.

In 1577 the elders of Himara sent a letter to the Pope asking for weapon supplies, promising to change their religion from Eastern Orthodox into Catholic (or Uniate, I don’t know) . A second letter follows in 1581. The pope began to send at this time roman missionaries of the Bazilian (mainly of arberesh origin) order that were active in Himara throughout the 17th Cent. They developed a very interesting correspondence with Vatican that contains info from the ethnography of Himara at that time. The first bazilian missionary to come from Vatican was Neofit Rodino.

According to his correspondence, he had local followers in his work. They even opened some schools in Dhermi and elsewhere, translated the Bible in local language and asked from Vatican to make a printed version of it. The response from Rome was negative since “…the Christian doctrine has already been printed in Albanian language…” (indeed it was, by Pjeter Budi). Materials from this correspondence and other things have been published by Nilo Borgia in “Studi Orientali” and “Studi Albanesi”. Along with their religious work these missionaries were also agitating for war against the turks. This Roman penetration didn’t like at all to the Patriarch and the sultan in Constandinople. The bishop of Ioannina threatened with curses the people that dared to follow Vatican’s missionaries. The Eastern church, gradually and with the Turkish bless, managed to marginalize them, in the 18th century the roman clergy seems to be almost absent in Himara and the position of the Orthodox church is stronger than ever. It is possible that the presence of the eastern church was accompanied with the greek language school.

At the end of the 18th cent. Himara is visited by Saint Cosmas Aitolos, perhaps the most important preacher of neohellenic language and culture. He used to open greek schools everywhere he went in Epirus region and identified greek language with Orthodoxy. At this time (18th Cent.) greek lang probably begun to gain space in the above mentioned villages. The Greek Revolution was another key point. Himariots actively took part in it and were distinguished. The independent greek state gave a political reference point to their anti-turkish struggle, as a consequence the status of greek language and cultural exchanges with Greece and greek speaking areas were inforced throughout the 19th Cent.

An Himariot says:


Surnames are purely Albanian (as the majority of himariot surnames like Gjini, Gjoka, Gjergji, Koka, Leka Gjika etc etc, the rest being simply orthodox like Stefani, Milo etc), although not very common, the only place in Balkans it can be found at the same form is the highlands of Puka in northern Albania. My great-grandmother (born at the beginning of the 20th Cent) barely spoke Albanian, she spoke the greek-based dialect and had followed 4 classes of the villages greek school. She lived many years, so I can remember her even though I was a child. When my great-grandfather (her husband) died, she gathered the women of the village, according to the costume, all dressed in black, and began mourning with what are called ‘kenge vaji’ (mouning songs) in Albanian. Keep in mind that this woman barely used Albanian in her everyday life, still, in the most important social event, the death rites, strictly regulated by the norms of tradition she used Albanian mourning songs that she had learned by heart from her own mother and so own deep in time. From my other family branch, the grandfather of my grandfather was an well educated man for the Balkan parameters of 19th Cent, he finished the greek Scholarchio (Lycee) of Ioannina around 1880, used to speak 4 languages, worked for some time in Lavrio near Athens and then opened a small business of his own in Albania after 1912 independence.
So he was quite a bourgeois for his time, under the influence of greek culture, but his own grandfather (probably around 1840) named Koco (typical orthodox albanian for Constandin), was a fustanella wearing peasant with opportunistic brigantry activity, most typical for an Albanian of early 19th Cent, can you see the quick transition? Another fact to illustrate the strong role of the greek controlled church in the persistence of greek language: In the late 20s of 20th Cent in the Himara villages Albanian schools were opened alongside with the preexisting greek ones. The greek priest threatened with excommunication from the church the peasants that would think of sending their children in albo school, that would practically mean that they would be excluded from the services of the Christian church (funerals, marriages, baptisms, confessions etc). Many stepped back, but a part of the villagers decided to send their kids anyway, one of them was my family (as my grandfather told me, his mother used to cry for weeks, cause she thought they had been abandoned by god etc). Needless to say that at their first day at school the priest came out in the street and publicly cursed the kids going to classes.
"I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."~Harry S. Truman

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Himara

#2

Post by Arta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:43 pm

INTRODUCTION

Himarë (in Albanian), is the name of a town and region on the south-west Albania area on the Ionian Sea coast of Albania. The Albanian name of the city Himarë comes from the everyday ancient Albanian language of these areas and means "Hi(j) Marë, Eja Marë" - meaning Welcome/Come in Marë (Marë - Albanian woman's name). Himara is located directly opposite the north coast of Korfuz-Corfu. The surrounding district, which includes the town of Himara, also includes nine other villages -Dhërmi (from ancient Albanian - "Dhëri Mbi, Dhër Mbi, Dhër Mi, Dhëri Im"), -Palasë, -Vuno (from ancient Albanian - "Vëne, Vure, Vono"), - Pilur (from ancient Albanian – “Pi Ulur, Pij Ujë Ulur”), - Qeparo (from ancient Albanian - "Që Parë, Që Para, Që Par-o, Më Parë"), - Shën Vasil, - Kudhës (from ancient Albanian - "Kudhër, Kudhësi"), - Ilias, - Jale.

Some of the old well-known families in Himara with deep roots in the region are Gjoleka, Kolila, Gjini, Leka, Bala, Kokaveshi, Gjicali, Marku, Prifti, Koleka, Koka, Zoti, Gjoka, Nikolla, Gjika, Duna, Kushta, Kocana, Pali, Xhagjika, Milo, Vreto, Memi,Duka, Zaho, etc. With the flux of peoples movement for economical and other social reasons, newcomers families have joined Himara community in recent years. Bollano family for example moved recently in Himara from the region of Kurvelesh in southern Albania. Himara welcomes people from every corner of Albania, as Himara is known for its typical Albanian charming hospitality.

GEOGRAPHY

The whole region is characterized by high mountains falling steeply to meet a crystal clear sea. There are long white sandy beaches and the few hills close to the sea are generally terraced and planted with olive, orange and citrus trees. The Himara region as a whole is quite small, about 50 km (31 miles) long by 10 km (6 miles) wide.

Himara is part of the District (Rrethi) of the city of Vlora (where the Independence of Albania from the Turkish Empire was declared in 1912).

At the north the region begins with the rugged mountains, (which the Roman poet Horace mentioned as beautiful and breathtaking). Then from the Logara national park the "Thunder Mountains" (meaning "Malet e Shkrepetimes" in the local Albanian dialect) extend along the northeast with their constantly misty complexion. The national road that winds down from the Llogara canyon towards the sea is one of the steepest and most dangerous high-ways (literally speaking) in Europe. The road's lethality is graphically illustrated by numerous commemorative markers on the spots where unfortunate motorists have rolled down the canyon in the past decades.

The views are breathtaking on the way down to Palase, the first village encountered after passing through the "Rrepire". A short distance south lies Dhermi village, the biggest in the region after the town of Himarë. The English landscape painter Edward Lear visited Palasa and Dhermi while traveling through southern Albania in 1844 and described them as more magnificent in their location than any other village he had seen in Himara and they resemble closely the Arberesh speaking settlements of Arvanite territories in Peloponnese and Thrake in southern Greece and Chameria in northern Greece. The journey then continues through rugged mountainous terrain along the sea coast towards the village of Vuno before reaching the town of Himarë and further south ending in the village of Qeparo, which is the third largest hamlet in the region.
"I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."~Harry S. Truman

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Re: Himara

#3

Post by Arta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:45 pm

ANCIENT HISTORY

In antiquity the region was inhabited by the Chaonian tribe, one of many ancient Albanian speaking Illyrian Epirot tribes in the area (including the Molossians in the south). Roman contemporaries mention the Chaones as very warlike. Illyrian Epirus today extends from southern Albania to the Greek occupied southern Illyrian Epirus where the big Albanian cities of Janina and Arta are situated.

The town of Himarë is believed to have been founded by the Chaones as a trading outpost on the Chaonian shore. Little else is known of the Chaonians, except that the men wore white kilts and they were speaking a very ancient Albanian dialect similar to the ones spoken by the ancient Arberesh villages in Greece. Their music was also referred to as "sheep bleating", probably referring to the polyphonic musical traditions of the region which survive to this day on all of the area called Laberia. This type of singing is at least 4.000 years old yet it is still present in (Albanian) folk music.

Himara was used by people from the backlands as a harbour to expand further in the front island (Korfuz-Corfu). As this mountainous people left their highlands and started building a seaside life, the settlement began to grow further up to being a city with a naval based life and many naturally fortified surrounding villages. Fishing, shepherding and trading were the usual trade and business activities for the poeple of this region in ancient times. It is believed that these business activities created most of the main employment for most of the city men as far as the lands of Himara are to harsh and high to consider agriculture. For sure the city quickly evolved in a trading centre, mainly trading with southern Greeks and Venice who mostly controlled the trade in the Ionian and Aegean seas. This is the time when Italian and Greek started to be used for trading purposes.

The southern Chaones were situated mainly in between the Gramozi mountains, the mountainous seaside of the Ionian sea and river Vjosa. The artifacts found in the modern day village of Kanina on a hill overlooking on the Adriatic ocean and Otranto channel (that separates Ionian and Adriatic waters) from the nearby city of Aulona modern Vlore show strong Albanian influence, from the ancient Arvanite towns of Korfuz-Corfu off Peloponnese.

Following the breakup of Alexander the Great's empire, Himarë became part of Albanian-Illyrian Kingdom under the rule of King Pirro of Illyrian Epirus - a famous Illyrian Epirote of that time known for his Pirro victories against the emerging power of Rome and the Greek wild and primitive tribes and cities. When the region was conquered by the Roman Republic in the 2nd century BC, its settlements were badly damaged and some were destroyed by the Roman General Aemilius Paulus. The remains of one of these settlements, a site close to the shore below the "Rruga" called Via Egnatia, can still be seen today (although with difficulty, as its remains are now mostly submerged). Local tradition identifies the area around Via Egnatia as the site of Julius Caesar's landing in Epirus in pursuit of Pompey the Great during the Roman civil war. He is said to have assembled his army near Himara before marching on to take the town of Oricum on the other side of the mountains, near modern Vlorë. On the journey Caesar's ship ran into a storm, during which he is famously said to have told the ship's pilot, "Go on, my friend, and fear nothing. You carry Caesar and his fortune on your boat."

MIDDLE AGES AND EARLY MODERN TIMES

Himarë and the rest of the Albania passed into the hands of the Byzantine Empire following the fall of Rome, but like the rest of the region it became the frequent target of various attackers including the Goths, Greeks, Avars, Slavs, Bulgarians, Saracens and Normans. The use of the name "Chaonia" in reference to the region apparently died out during the 12th century, the last time it is recorded (in a Byzantine tax collection document).

When Ottoman Empire occupied Albania (around 13th century), it included Himara under the Sanxhak of Albania. Himara became a symbol of resistance to the Turks but suffered an almost continuous state of warfare.

In 1481, one year after the Turks had landed in Otranto in southern Italy, the Himariotes rose again and helped at some extend and Gjon Kastrioti (the son of Gjergj Kastrioti - a famous Albanian King and military strategist known as Skanderbeg, a national hero of Albania who protected Albania, Europe and Christianity against Ottomans for over 25 years) to regain the lands lost after the death of his father. This forced the Turks to abandon their campaign in Italy. The attempt failed, but the Himariotes rose again in 1488, and between 1494-1509, destabilising Turkish control but failing to liberate their territory.

The Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent personally led a large army in 1537 in a particularly bloody confrontation in Himarë. The oral lyrical traditions of the region commemorate the war with many folkloric songs. One such song tells the story of the massacre of the "Rrepira". The Sultan apparently sent word to Palasa inhabitants hiding in the mountains that he wanted to make peace and withdraw from their land and invited them to come down to the "Rrepire" for talks. All those who took the Sultan at his word had all four limbs amputated and the living torsos thrown down the "Rrepire" into the depths of the ravine. Another song tells the story of one Himariot Jannisary officer in the Ottoman service named Xhavara Beylik, who after re-discovering his true identity, cut through to the royal tent and came close to killing the sultan himself, after which point the decimated Ottoman army retreated. Suleiman instead recognized the de facto independence of Himarë as an Albanian territory, setting forth a number of laws (or venomet) to regulate the relationship with the Empire. These included such rights as the exemption of the Himariotes from taxes, the right to sail under their own Albanian flag into any Ottoman port, and the right to carry guns while travelling in Ottoman territory. Despite this agreement, the Ottomans subsequently made several unsuccessful attempts to conquer Himara, first in 1571, then again in 1595, 1690 and 1713. In total three different Ottoman sultans personally led military campaigns against Himara, each failing in turn.

During these years, the people of Himara established close links to the Italian city states, especially Naples and the powerful Republic of Venice, and later with Austro-Hungary, which controlled Korfuz-Corfu and the other Ionian Islands. During this time and thereafter, many Himariotes emigrated to the outside world and brought valuable skills back home with them. In 1848 even a small village like Dhermi could boast two doctors. However, emigration has also been a source of tragedies and disillusions.

Petro Marko - a master of the Albanian language and literature, a writer born in Dhermi, describes this wound: It's said that the big stones below are the men that had returned back and had died here. While the men that had left and died abroad are transformed in clouds. They come, shed tears and leave. And the big stones, near the shore, collect their tears as the rain is collected.
"I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."~Harry S. Truman

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Re: Himara

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Post by Arta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:46 pm

FROM 1799 TO PRESENT TIMES

In 1799, Himarë came under the rule of Ali Pasha (Tepelenë), a fellow Albanian who had risen from being a guerrilla (Komit) leader to the position of ruler of all of Illyrian Epirus where ethnic Albanians lived. Today Illyrian-Albanian Epirus extends from southern Albania to northern Greece where Albanian regions of Chameria and Arta are situated (today there are about 4 million ethnic Albanians living throughout Greece but totally oppressed and without any human rights).

Ali Pasha tried to create good relations with the Himariotes after declaring their enclave part of his emerging semi-independent state, by financing various public works and churches. One church he built still stands today as a major tourist attraction near Himare opposite of the Porto Palermo (in Albanian - Dethyrje e Bukur) Castle and is the largest and most magnificent in the region. Local people says that through his chief commander Tom Xhavarra he ordered the stonemasons to build the most durable structure they had ever attempted to build, so durable that it could withstand earthquakes and cannon bombardment, otherwise they would pay with their lives. After the church was complete he tested if these requirements were met by firing artillery shots at it from the castle. The story goes that Ali ordered his soldiers to set the forest above the village of Dhermi on fire.

During this time many Himariotes migrated to Italy, settling partially to the already established ethnic Albanian-Arberesh villages of Piana degli Albanesi and Santa Cristina Gela Albanese.

Ali Pasha's rule over Himarë lasted about 20 years until it was abruptly terminated by his murder at the hands of the Turks in his castle of Janina - another Albanian town in the Albanian region of Chameria (now under Greek domination). Himarë subsequently reverted to its status quo ante of an enclave surrounded by Ottoman territory. To emphasize the region's special status, the terms that the Himariotes had reached with Sultan Suleiman were inscribed on bronze tablets at the request of their leaders, who wanted to record the agreement on a durable medium so as to stress its importance. These tablets were inscribed in Arberesh and are still preserved to this day in the topkape palace museum in Constantinople (modern Istanbul,Turkey).

In 1912 Himara sent its highest Representatives in Vlora city to join and contribute to the occasion of the declaration of the Independence of Albania from the the Turkish Empire. At the same time all Himara villages raised high the Albanian national flag to commemorate and symbolize the birth of the new Albanian nation.

Himara, as all Albania, was occupied by Italy during the First World War, when the Italians used Austro-Hungarian war prisoners to build a road running through Himarë, which greatly reduced the region's isolation. Following the war, the "Protocol of Corfu" was forced onto Himara by the Greek brutal and canny regime of that time. But as other occupiers before them, Greeks also failed to subdue and assimilate Himariotes into Greeks.

After the fall of communism in 1992, the people of Himarë emigrated in very large numbers, especially to Europe. Many villages were reduced to ghost towns inhabited mostly by old people. Younger people did return temporarily, though, especially during the months of summer. In recent years, the population has expanded somewhat due to a growth in the region's tourist industry. The region has benefitted from the resumption of contacts with the large Himariote diaspora around the world, with communities existing as far afield as the USA, Australia and France.
"I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."~Harry S. Truman

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Re: Himara

#5

Post by Arta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:48 pm

LANGUAGE

Himarë is a society where a great number of people have traveled abroad and besides their mother tongue Albanian have learned Italian, Greek, English and some French.

Himara has opened one of the early Albanian language schools around 1660-1661 (by Onufr Kostandini and Zef Skiroi) under the brutal occupation conditions of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire. This has made Himara one of the early pioneers of Albanian Renaissance as part of the European Renaissance.

CULTURE

Himariotes are a culturally homogenous people, regardless of the linguistic diversity of some of their villages. Out of ten villages of the Himara region, three of them (Qeparo, Vuno and Dhermi) besides speaking their mother tongue Albanian, speak also some Greek for trade purposes. All of the ten villages speak some English also (mostly people who have traveled outside the country).

Himara is well-known throughout southern Albania and beyond for its "këngë vajesh" (elegy songs). These elegy songs are sung while the dead is in repose, and are a combination of singing and reciting the good deeds and legacy of the dead.

Dancing and folks costumes in the region of Himara are similar to those in other regions of southern Albania and particularly with those of Chameria.

RELIGION

Himariotes as their Albanian compatriots in Chameria in northern Greece, Arvanites in Thrake and Peloponnese and all 4 million ethnic Albanians in Greece, practice the Albanian Orthodox Christian faith as part of Albanian Independent Orthodox Christian Church.

ECONOMY

Himara has developed tourism, trade, fishing and hospitality businesses (bars, hotels, motels, restaurants - especially along the sea coast).
"I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."~Harry S. Truman

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Re: Himara

#6

Post by Arta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:50 pm

FAMOUS MODERN HIMARIOTES

· Prof. Paskal Milo, Ph.D. - from Palasë, Chairman of Social Democracy Party of Albania, and Member of Albanian Parliament. Professor of History and world leading Albanian expert of Illyrian Penninsula ancient history, who has traveled and has been invited throughout Europe and US and in many European and US universities to speak about Himara and its deep Illyrian roots, history and its struggle for the independence of Albania.

· Irakli Gjicali - Head of the Society of Intelectuals of Himara, a well-known Intelectual in Himara, and expert in Himara history and its contribution to the Albanian history, culture, literature and science.

· George Tenet - Albanian American (with mother of some Greek Arvanite descent) former Director of CIA, hailing from the village of Qeparo.He held that position from July 1997 to July 2004, making him the second-longest serving director in the agency's history.

· Pirro Dhima - Himara is the home town of the famous Albanian athlete, Pirro Dhima. He is the only weight lifting athlete in the whole world who has achieved to win four olympic medals.The three medals are gold and the last one-from the Athens Olympics, 2004 - is a bronze medal. He is considered to be a national hero of Greece today - an Albanian hero indeed that helped Greek obscure weightlifting reach world records. But this came with a price for Pirro. He has been under constant pressure from Greek racist regime who tries to force him to declare himself as Greek and change his name to Pirros Dhimas despite his ancestry and his frequent exaltations in the media about his Albanian national identity and his home town of Himara.

· Sotir Nini - another Himariot who has become famous in Greece as a young and very promising football player with Panathinaiko FC of Ethëna. Nini has also frequently declared in public his pride in being an Albanian from Himara.
"I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."~Harry S. Truman

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