78 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS ;
JOANNINA, THE CAPITAL OF ALBANIA
The city of Joannina, formerly scarcely known in England to have an existence,
became, in later times, highly celebrated, as the capital of the extraordinary man,
AH Pasha, and attracted distinguished visitors from every part of Europe. It seems
singular, that the security of its site, the fertility of the plains that surround it, and the
beauty and natural advantages of its magnificent lake, should not have attracted the
notice of either Greeks or Romans, who in succession held rule in Epirus and Albania,
in the latter of which it lies. No trace of any city is discernible here before the reign
of John Cantacuzene, in the fourteenth century, and no classic ruins ennoble the barbarous
remains of the middle ages. It is supposed to be called Joannina from the Christian
name of its founder. It is usually written Yannini.
It continued a Byzantine city till the year 1432, when Amurath II. sent a letter and
summons to the inhabitants of Joannina, like that of Sennacherib to the inhabitants of
Jerusalem. It reminded them of the calamities inflicted by the conqueror on other cities,
and warned them to avoid them by a speedy surrender. The terrified Christians at once
submitted, and the Mahomedans took possession of it. Their first act was to raze some
of the Christian churches to the ground, and their next was a deed in imitation of the
rape of the Sabines:—a body of armed men watched the return of the Christian congregation from the place of worship left yet standing; each man seized upon the girl which
best pleased him, as she issued from the porch; and the parents, after in vain exclaiming
against the violence, were compelled at length to assent to it. The women became
reconciled to their lot, and so a Christian and Moslem population amalgamated, like
the Romans and Sabines, and lived in harmony together.
In the year 1611, however, an unfortunate attempt was made to expel the Turks.
A fanatic bishop dreamed that he saw the sultan rise up on his throne at Constantinople
to greet him, and gave out that this portended his reign in Joannina. He collected some
followers, and attacked the Turks; but was speedily defeated, and his skin stuffed, and
sent to the capital, where the Sultan, excited by curiosity, rose to look at it, and so
completed the prediction of his dream. From that time the Christian inhabitants live
in more abject subjection to the Turks than in any other part of the empire.
The present population is estimated at 40,000, for whom there are nineteen mosques,
five tekes, six Greek churches, and two synagogues. It is distinguished for its schools,
and has produced many learned men. It carries on a considerable traffic with Russia,
Venice, and Malta, and is famous for its embroidery, cunning skill in ornamenting swords
and other weapons, and particularly for its beautiful chiboques.