90 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS ;
played their traits of national character. Scrupulous respect was here paid to precedence.
The wife of the bravest man had the first right to fill her urnlike pitcher with water,
and then in succession the rest, according to the reputation of their husbands in war.
When families quarrelled, no man had permission to interfere, lest by chance he might
kill a woman, an act looked upon with horror, and expiated by his own death. On various
occasions they formed themselves into military bodies, armed themselves with their
husbands' weapons, rushed into the melee, and turned the doubtful scale of victory.
As long as this bold and independent christian republic occupied their mountain cities,
they opposed a formidable obstacle to the insatiable ambition of AH Pasha; it was,
therefore, one of the first of the neighbouring states which he determined to destroy.
He made his attempt so early as the year J 792, and its perfidy was the model of all his
future proceedings. He invited the Suliotes to a conference on affairs of mutual interest.
They descended from their mountain, and, having arrived at the appointed plain below,
they laid aside their arms, and engaged in athletic sports and military games, as was
usual with them on such friendly occasions. The Pasha, like a tiger from its lair, rushed
upon them in this defenceless state, and murdered or captured every man present but
three—one of whom escaped, passed up the mountain, and apprised the republic of the
treachery. Among the prisoners was the hero Tzavalles, the great leader of the
Suliotes. With this man in his power, he endeavoured again to treat with the people.
He sent him up the steep, leaving his son behind as a hostage. When arrived at
Suli, he exhorted the people to a strenuous defence. He returned a letter to AH,
written in the stern spirit of antiquity: " You think," said he, "I am a cruel father
to sacrifice my child; but if you had succeeded, all my family would have been exterminated without mercy, and no one left to avenge them. My wife is young, and
I may have many more children to defend their country; if my boy is not willing to be
now sacrificed for it, he is not fit to live, but to die as an unworthy son of Greece." The
enraged Pasha gave orders to ascend, and carry the mountain. While engaged in front,
a band of women, headed by the mother of the boy, attacked the Turks in the rear. They
were driven down with great slaughter, and AH himself narrowly escaped.
Though thus defeated, he never abandoned his intention; for a series of years he
renewed his attempts both openly and secretly, till at length, having become sovereign of
the whole country of Albania, he united the whole of its forces for a final attack on this
stubborn rock. More than 40,000 men were leagued round it below, while the defenders
above, reduced by various combats, did not amount to 2000. Unsubdued by force, but
reduced by famine, they at length agreed to abandon their strong-hold. A safeguard was
guaranteed to them, to migrate where they pleased; and the remnant left alive, divided them,
selves into two bodies, which took different routes through the mountain. They were both
attacked and massacred without mercy. The women rushed with their children to the edge
of a precipice, where they cast themselves down, and were dashed to pieces, rather than fall
into the hands of their loathed conquerors. A few men escaped into a fortress in which was
a depot of ammunition. They were headed by an ecclesiastic, who had distinguished
himself by his devoted attachment to the religion and liberty of his country. He here