Tag Archives: General Mamouri

Sunday 25 June

Perfectly picturesque huttiness of Kokkinomelia. 0ff by 5 a.m. from “Cook and Amelia,” having first drawn some peasants. Astonishing Swiss-like pine-woods! Magnificent view of Gulf of Volo, which we stopped to draw. {sketch ?81B/ ?82} Pines! pines! pines! and a few cattle and goats by Oleander-stream. Came nearer plain. One of our men steals little boy’s jug of wine. About 10 a.m., village of Agra — mulberry tree. Women pretty; they wear dark striped chocolate and red aprons.

Edward Lear, Forest, Sea and Mountains, Kokinamelia 25 June 1848 Private Collection

Arm bad all day. Flea bites additional. At 11 a.m., or earlier, arrived at Kastaniótissa, Mr H. Leeves’ house (a son of a former Maltese Chaplain). Beautiful view. Dog. Woodeny house — garden — piano. Mr. H. L. in Greek dress. Wash, dinner — good Euboean wine. Balcony — sleep. At 5 p.m. we send Janni to see about a boat for crossing to the mainland. General Church writes “rebels out at Lidoriki — danger, etc.” Drew near the village church. C.M.C. and H. Leeves went up the mountain. Little children played with me. Return to house. Janni came back — dreadful stories of affairs in general and about Zeituni [Lamia] in particular. We, however, decide on going to Stylídha. Tea — played and sung.

So far our week’s tour in Euboea from Chalcis had been among scenes remarkable for their natural beauty, especially for the richness of woodland, clothing mountain with pine forest, and lowland with planes, arbutus and oak, but for the most part devoid of historic interest, except at Chalcis and Eretria — all was quiet and there were no signs of danger to the traveller or the occupants of the island. It was indeed later a matter of painful interest that each of the houses where we had been visitors, with letters of introduction, during this tour, became the scene of some violent outrages within the next few years. Brigandage had grown up over the land, through misgovernment, and bands of brigands roamed over the mountain district of Boeotia. Descending on Chalcis in 1855, a gang attacked the house of the Boudouris at Chalcis, carrying off the daughter of the house into the mountain and, though treating her otherwise with respect, holding her to ransom for a large sum, for weeks, until a heavy price was paid. About the same time the house of Mr Noel, at Achmèt Agà was pillaged and his property wantonly damaged by the same villains; and our host at Castaniotissa and his wife, Mr and Mrs Leeves, living in trustful security among their own people, were murdered, for the sake of gain, by a servant of the house, who had been treated with especial trust and kindness.[35]

But now we were about to enter upon new scenes, full of deeply interesting history. Happily, I had with me a pocket volume of Herodotus’ Story of the Great Persian War, which I used from time to time to make a handbook for Lear in his sketches. At Castaniotissa our host’s house and village was on the last slope of the mountain at the north end of Euboea, which looked down upon the plains bordering the Straits of Artemisium, the scene of the naval battles in which the Greeks broke the strength of the Persian Armada which was invading Greece, and the Channel which divided Euboea from Thermopylae; and the scene of undying fame, of the Greek defence on land, was before us. While Lear was sketching in the village on the evening of our arrival, I rode higher up the mountain with our host. There below was the great plain of Oreos (the Histiaeotis), before us the Northern channel, bounded by the great island of Skiathos and the land on each side of the great basin of the Gulf of Volo, ending in the promontory of Trikeri; and the indistinct mass of Pelion in the background. We were on one of the highland points of Euboea, from where the watchers looking out took note of the movements of the Persian fleet during the three days’ tempest which shattered the fleet previous to the fight off the point of shore, the extreme headland of the Euboean Coast, where was the Artemisium, the shrine of the protecting goddess.

Having come so far on our tour without any sense of danger, and in sight of these scenes of historic interest, we decided to cross over, notwithstanding that we should be entering on the frontier land, where we had been warned at Chalcis that the insurgents had broken out, and that the country was not safe for travellers.

The next day we rode over the plain to Oreos, and to the shore, and after some delay, caused by our courier Janni fearing and objecting, we took passage in a half-decked boat at the Scala, for Stylidha, the port of Lamia in the Maliac Gulf and on the opposite shore of the gulf to the mountain above Thermopylae. At first all went well with us, and we sailed down the channel until, at the entrance of the Gulf, the wind dropped and the current and tide kept us out, and we lay outside all night, much to our discomfort, amidst the ballast and packages and cargo and fleas of the hold, which prevented Lear taking advantage of the magnificent scene which opened before us at the entrance of the Gulf under the mountain.

Next morning we drifted into the Gulf and landed on a low shore, at the little port of Stylidha, the “scala” of Lamia, amid a scene of noisy confusion, which made us aware that we had got into a land of’ unrest, the land where the insurgents were about. Men and women were going off in boats heaped up with bedding and household goods, and we were told that there had been a fight between the King’s soldiers and the insurgents, near Lamia, of which the issue was uncertain, and preparations for defence, or flight, were being taken. A ditch of six feet and a barricade of three feet cut off the Marina from the town, and the more timid were taking flight. However, Janni got us ashore and some breakfast at a Khan, and Lear was soon at work sketching the scene on the opposite side of the gulf, and the whole chain of Oeta, from Mt Callidromos, above Thermopylae, to the Trachinian Cliffs, and the mountain range bordering the upper valley of the Spercheius, and over all the conical head of Mt Velukhi above Karpensi, rising up in the distance of nearly 30 miles, at the sources of the Spercheius. This was the first of those sketches in this district, which formed the material from which so many of Lear’s most beautiful pictures have been made in after years, and which have been engraved to illustrate the latest book on the “Great Persian War,”[36] containing the most faithful topographical representations of the scenes in the neighbourhood of Thermopylae. He had constantly before his eyes the lines of the mountain range of Oeta, while in the boat during the previous evening and morning, though unable to sketch; but he lost no time in putting the scene before him on paper from Stylidha, as soon as we got on shore, and afterwards as we rode on to Lamia in the afternoon of that day, filling in the notes of colouring and details of atmosphere and scenery, for after remembrance. His group of drawings in this district of Lamia and the Malian plain bounded by the high and precipitous mountains of Oeta, including the “Trachinian rocks,” and the mountains of “Katavothra” (names of local sections of the great chain), give unique and graphic pictures in illustration of the topography, corresponding with the description of the scenes by Herodotus,[37] and by modern travellers, who vouch for Herodotus as an accurate eye witness of the scenery of the events he has recorded in his book. All were done during the next four days, in the town of Lamia, and in the long ride to Hypata, and on the site of Thermopylae, in great heat and with much fatigue — he was at work all the time, from 3 o’clock in the morning, only resting during the midheat — among the crowd in the market-place, among the soldiers, only intent upon his work, with infinite patience and unflagging good humour and coolness.

That evening we went to Lamia, the frontier town of that district. On the way we had evidence of the disturbed state of the country and reason for the excitement of the people of Stylidha — the road in parts was broken up in attempts at barricade, and a detachment of soldiers met us coming out of Lamia, who, we were told, had driven the insurgents under Velenza and Papacosta[38] over the border into Turkish territory, where they were to be interned by the Turkish authorities. Wild irregulars they looked, bearing out the description of one who comforted us as to our safety, that all the brigands were drafted into either the troops, or the insurgents: “Kleptes all.” The town was in a state of excitement, filled with soldiers strutting and swaggering everywhere. There we rested the next day, Lear, as usual, sketching from morn to eve, in the midst of a crowd, of soldiers chiefly, many of whom he drew — to their delight and exceeding vanity. I paid a visit to the Nomarch, the Prefect of the district, a handsome old gentleman, keeping up some of the style and manner of the benignant Turk, but speaking also French. Seated cross-legged on a divan in the corner of the room, he showed no sign of excitement, and gave easy assurances that all was quiet! — the insurgents were over the border in Turkey! — the King’s soldiers were in the mountains, chiefly at Hypata, the headquarters of the General Mamouri, where he was guarding the frontier — and, as far as he was concerned, all was for the best; all the brigands were with the King’s soldiers, or with the insurgents — we might go where we liked in safety.

Lamia, the frontier town at the head of the Maliac Gulf, was a striking and picturesque place, built on the side and at the foot of a ravine, with a medieval castle in ruins on the crest of the hill, Turkish minarets and some Turkish houses, frequented by multitudes of storks, perched upon the roofs in rows all day, either in silent contemplation, or with a chatter like watchmen’s rattles in chorus for [a] long time together. Soldiers in groups swaggered and skipped about the market place, crowds gathered round Lear as he sketched them in the foreground of his sketches of the distant mountains and the plain and gulf, or made individual sketches of one or another, much to their satisfaction and vanity.

We rode next day from Lamia to Patragik or Hypata (Turkish and Greek names), in a gorge under the highest summits of the range of Oeta, the “Katavothra” mountains, as they are here called. One of Lear’s sketches taken about an hour from Lamia, in the early morning light, describes the solemn purple range, broken by a series of precipitous chasms and sharp cut buttresses, falling down on the dark plain of infinite lines. We crossed the Spercheius, running and swirling swiftly, swollen by rain of the day before, between muddy banks and low shrubs, and entered at last the deep gorge under the peak of the Patragik summit — at first amongst blocks of old masonry, or ruined houses of the most modern time, which had suffered under late skirmishes between the fighters, on the plain and at the entrance of the gorge.

For now we were in the very nest of the rocks which had been the haunt of brigands for 20 days, and in which Velanza and Papacosta’s men had held the frontier in alarm and given occasion to so much trouble of mind at Athens, and now Mamouri, the King’s General, was establishing his headquarters here for the guard of the frontier from Lamia to Karpenisi, of which Mt Oeta was the Greek mountain barrier, with the valley of the Spercheius (the Elladha) at its feet, as the fosse, or moat, of the mountain-fortress. A mountain track led up to the upper village of Hypata, on a ledge under the woods, of the higher summits. We called upon the General and reported ourselves, before we pitched our tent for the mid-day halt, and had dinner in a garden of herbs in the neighbourhood of his quarters. He received us very civilly, assured us “the roads were safe, as all was peace — we could go anywhere, or could have guards, if we were nervous.” While we were there and Lear sketching, Mamouri went down the pass to meet his wife coming from Salona, with an escort of some 20 men, six or seven mounted men among them — a very picturesque sight as they went down the pass. Later in the day, as we were leaving the gorge, we met the party returning. Standing under a plane tree by a wayside fountain at the bottom of the pass, the whole procession passed close to us. First came a led horse, gaily decked, said to have been the horse of the rebel leader Papacosta, then the troop and Mamouri, and his lady on horseback, astride, under an umbrella — a stout ox-eyed dame — and a suite of some ten or twelve mounted men, and 100 or more irregular foot soldiers straggling after. As they stopped to drink at the spring, Lear sketched, putting them in his sketchbook as fast as he could draw {unnumbered watercolour A i?} — all of them looking very surprised, some rather fierce and angry, like half-domesticated wild beasts, a most picturesque sight as they wound up the gorge.

On 30 June Lear was up before dawn and made another sketch of the Katavothra mountains; then we started from Lamia and rode about seven miles across the Southern part of the plain, formed, for the most part, of the land where the sea had retired. We crossed the bridge of Alemanni, where once the Spercheius had ended its course in the waters of the gulf, but now continues for miles lower down through the lands which have been formed by the deposits it has brought down. Here some troopers were riding their horses through the stream running swiftly through muddy banks, “Tiber-like,” as Lear describes them. {sketch 100} Herodotus in hand, I read to Lear his description of the pass, and his story of the great King’s amazement at the audacity of the Spartan handful of men awaiting his mighty host, playing at athletics and combing their hair, and then starting from his throne at seeing his men, whom he had sent to drive them away, themselves driven back with slaughter. Meanwhile Lear was sketching the Trachinian Cliffs, the gorge of the Asopus, and the ravine and plain of Anthela, and the mountain outlines above. Then we rode, in great heat, along the base of the mountain, through the “Western Gate” of Thermopylae, and over the white encrusted plain formed by the deposit of the hot sulphur springs, which cover the track in parts, and run down in streams of deep green water into the plain. At last we pitched our tent for the midday halt at the foot of the hillock (Kolonos) where the Spartans made their last stand. There we saw the great change which the pass has undergone from natural causes in the intermediate time: “The strength of Thermopylae as a pass now depends upon the season of the year, for as the sea, instead of bordering the defile, is now at a distance of three or four miles from it, the difficulty of passing Thermopylæ depends on the dry or marshy state of the plain.”[39]

As the result of that day’s ride, Lear has left a series of most descriptive sketches (a) of the Gorge of the Asopus from the bridge of Alaman and the banks of the Spercheius {sketch 101}; (b) of the mountain, with the side of the ravine, and the hot baths at the foot {sketch 103}; and (c) of the whole range of the mountains receding fold by fold into dim distance above the road at their feet, through the Western and Eastern Gates, looking back from the ascent after the pass, on the ride to Bodonitza {sketch 104}; (d) lastly, the last view in the ascent to Bodonitza, looking upon the gulf and with the chain of Othrys mountains above Stylidha on the opposite shore {sketch 105}.

From Thermopylae we ascended up the mountain side, crossing the path where the Persians had come down behind the Spartan post,[40] to Bodonitza. We made a rest of a day at Bodonitza, in fresh air, on the high ground of a ridge connecting Mt Cnemis with Callidromos, in the simple and welcome accommodation of the priest’s house, who apologised for his poor fare and wine, because of the late exactions of the soldiers.

[35] For the Boudouris abduction and the Noel robbery see Nassau W. Senior, A Journal Kept in Greece and Turkey (1859), pp. 259-60 and p. 340-44; for the murder of the Leeves family see Thomas Wyse, Impressions of Greece (1871), pp. 256-62.

[36] G.B Grundy, The Great Persian War and its Preliminaries: A Study of the Evidence, Literary and Topographical (1901) reproduces ten Lear drawings.

[37]Histories, VII, 198-200.

[38] The European revolutions of 1848 re-ignited conflicts in Greece which had not been completely resolved after the coup of 3 September 1843 and the granting of a new constitution. In the Lamia area insurgents led by Tsamalas Papakostas and Yannis Velentsas were fighting government troops led by Major-General Yannis Mamouris.

[39]Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, 2, 40.

[40]A local man, Ephialtes, betrayed the Greeks by telling the Spartans about the path.

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