Page images
[ocr errors][merged small]

of Epirus, his partial biographers may safely indulge the latitude of romance; but their fictions are exposed by the light of Italian history; and they af. ford a strong presumption against their own truth, by a fabulous tale of his exploits, when he passed the Adriatic with eight hundred horse to the succour of the King of Naples *. Without disparagement to his fame, they might have owned that he was finally oppressed by the Ottoman powers. In his extreme danger, he applied to Pope Pius the Second for a refuge in the ecclesiastical state; and his resources were almost exhausted, since Scanderbeg died a fugitive at Lissus, on the Venetian territory f. His sepulchre was soon violated by the Turkish conquerors; but the Janizaries, who wore his bones enchased in a bracelet, declared by this superstitious amulet their involuntary reverence for his valour. The instant ruin of his country may redound to the hero's glory; yet, had he balanced the consequences of submission and resistance, apatriot, perhaps, would have declined the unequal COInteSt * See the marvels of his Calabrian expedition in the 9th and I oth books of Marinus Barletius, which may be rectified by the testimony or silence of Muratori (Annali d'Italia, tom. xiii. p. 291.), and his original authors (Joh. Simonetta de Rebus Francisci Sfortiae, in Muratori, Script. Rerum Ital. tom. xxi. p. 728. et alios). The Albanian cavalry, under the

name of Stradiots, soon became famous in the wars of Italy, (Memoires des Comines, 1. viii. c. 5.).

+ Spondanus, from the best evidence, and the most rational

criticism, has reduced the giant Scanderbeg to the human

size, A. D. 1461, No. 20. 1463, No. 9. 1465, No. 12. 13. 1467, No. 1.). His own letter to the Pope, and the testimony of Phranza, (l. iii. c. 28.), a refugee in the neighbour

-ing isle of Corfu, demonstrate his last distress, which is awk

wardly concealed by Marinius Barletius, (l. x.).

contest which must depend on the life and genius c H. A. P.

of one man. Scanderbeg might indeed be sup, ported by the rational, though fallacious hope, that the Pope, the King of Naples, and the Venetian republic, would join in the defence of a free and Christian people, who guarded the sea-coast of the Adriatic, and the narrow passage from Greece to Italy. His infant son was saved from the national shipwreck; the Castriots" were invested with a Neapolitan dukedom, and their blood continues to flow in the noblest families of the realm. A colony of Albanian fugitives obtained a settlement in Calabria, and they preserve at this day the language and manners of their ancestors f.

[ocr errors]

In the long career of the decline and fall of constan.

the Roman empire, I have reached at length the last reign of the Princes of Constantinople, who so feebly sustained the name and majesty of the Caesars. On the decease of John Palaeologus, who survived about four years the Hungarian crusade j, the royal family, by the death of Andronicus, and the monastic profession of Isidore, was reduced to three princes, Constantine, Demetrius, and Thomas, the surviving sons of the


* See the family of the Castriots, in Ducange, (Fam. Dalmaticae, &c. xviii. p. 348—352.).

+ This colony of Albanese is mentioned by Mr Swinburne, (Travels into the two Sicilies, vol. i. p. 350–354.).

t The chronology of Phranza is clear and authentic ; but instead of four years and seven months, Spondanus (A. D. 1445, No. 7.) assigns seven or eight years to the reign of the Aast Constantine, which he deduces from a spurious epistle of Eugenius IV. to the King of Ethiopia.

tine, the last of the Roman or Greek Emperors, A. D. 1448, Nov. 1A. D.

1453, May 29.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Emperor Manuel. Of these the first and the last were far distant in the Morea; but Demetrius, who possessed the domain of Selybria, was in the suburbs, at the head of a party; his ambition was not chilled by the public distress; and his conspi

racy with the Turks and the schismatics had al

ready disturbed the peace of his country. The funeral of the late Emperor was accelerated with singular and even suspicious haste; the claim of Demetrius to the vacant throne was justified by a trite and flimsy sophism, That he was born in the purple, the eldest son of his father's reign. But the Empress-mother, the senate and soldiers, the clergy and people, were unanimous in the cause of the lawful successor; and the despot Thomas, who, ignorant of the change, accidentally returned to the capital, asserted with becoming zéal the interest of his absent brother. An ambassador, the historian Phranza, was immediately dispatched to the court of Adrianople. Amurath received him with honour, and dismissed him with gifts; but the gracious approbation of the Turkish Sultan announced his supremacy, and the approaching downfall of the Eastern empire. By the hands of two illustrious deputies, the Imperial crown was placed at Sparta on the head of Constantine. In the spring, he sailed from the Morea, escaped the encounter of a Turkish squadron, enjoyed the acclamations of his subjects, celebrated the festival of a new reign, and exhausted by his donatives the treasure, or rather the indigence, of the state. The Emperor imme

diately resigned to his brothers the possession of - the

the Morea, and the brittle friendship of the two princes, Demetrius and Thomas, was confirmed in their mother's presence by the frail security of oaths and embraces. His next occupation was the choice of a consort. A daughter of the Doge of Venice had been proposed; but the Byzantine nobles objected the distance between an hereditary monarch and an elective magistrate; and in their subsequent distress, the chief of that powerful republic was not unmindful of the affront. Constantine afterwards hesitated between the royal families of Trebi

zond and Georgia; and the embassy of Phranza

represents in his public and private life the last
days of the Byzantine empire *.
The protovestiare, or great chamberlain, Phranza,
sailed from Constantinople as minister of a bride-
groom; and the relics of wealth and luxury were

applied to his pompous appearance. His numerous

retinue consisted of nobles and guards, of physicians and monks; he was attended by a band of music; and the term of his costly embassy was protracted above two years. On his arrival in Georgia or Iberia, the natives from the towns and villages flocked around the strangers; and such was their simplicity, that they were delighted with the effects, without understanding the cause, of musical harmony. Among the crowd was an old man, above an hundred years of age, who had formerly been carried away a captive by the bar.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Vol. XII. N barians,

* Phranza (l. iii. c. 1-6) deserves credit and esteem.

* . .” ** * *

c H A P. barians", and who amused his hearers with a tale ët of the wonders of India f, from whence he had re

turned to Portugal by an unknown seat. From this hospitable land, Phranza proceeded to the court of Trebizond, where he was informed by the Greek Prince of the recent decease of Amurath. Instead of rejoicing in the deliverance, the experienced statesman expressed his apprehension, that an ambitious youth would not long adhere to the sage and pacific system of his father. After the Sultan's decease, his Christian wife Maria ||, the daughter of the Servian despot, had been honourably restored to her parents: on the fame of her beauty and merit, she was recommended by the ambassador as the


* Suppose him to have been captured in 1394, in Timour's first war in Georgia, (Sherefeddin, l. iii. c. 50.), he might follow his l'artar master into Hindostan in 1398, and from thence sail to the spice-islands.

+ The happy and pious Indians lived 1.5o years, and enjoyed the most perfect productions of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The animals were on a large scale; dragons seventy cubits, ants (the formica Indica) nine inches long, sheep like elephants, elephants like sheep. Quidlibet audendi, &c.

st He sailed in a country-vessel from the spice-islands to one of the ports of the exterior India; invenitoue navem grandem Ibericam, qua in Portugalliam est delatus. This passage, composed in 1477, (Phranza, l. iii. c. 3c.), twenty years before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, is spurious or wonderful. But this new geography is sullied by the old and incompatible error which places the source of the Nile in India.

| Cantemir, (p. 83.), who styles her the daughter of Lazarus Ogli, and the Helen of the Servians, places her marriage with Amurath in the year 1424. It will not easily be believed, that in six-and-twenty years cohabition, the Sultan corpus ejus non tetiget. After the taking of Constantinople, she fled to Mahomet II. (Phranza, l. iii, c. 22.).

« PreviousContinue »