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Mount Temathea-Turkish Cemetery-Coron-Its History and
present State—The River Pamisus—Nissi—Ruins of Messene -Ruined Villages-River Balyra-A courteous Turk-Dangerous Defile-A Kan--Site of Megalopolis—Greek Songs, Adventure with two Turkish Officers–Tripolizza-Interview with the Pacha-Ruins of a Greek Convent-Desert Country.
On leaving the valley which I have just mentioned, we began to ascend fresh mountains. My guide several times repeated to me names which I had never heard; but, to judge from their position, these mountains must form part of the chain of Mount Temathea. We soon entered a wood of olive-trees, rose-laurels, agnus-castus, and cornel-trees. This wood was overlooked by rugged hills. Having reached the top of these, we beheld the gulf of Messenia, skirted on all sides by mountains, among which the Ithome was distinguished by its insulated situation, and the Taygetus by his two pointed peaks. Í saluted these famous mountains with all the fine verses that I knew in their
praise. A little below the summit of Temathea, as we descended towards Coron, we perceived a wretched Greek farm-house, the inhabitants of which fled on our approach. As we proceeded, we discovered below us the road and harbour of Coron, in which
A TURKISH CEMETERY.
we saw several ships at anchor : the feet of the Captain-pacha lay on the other side of the gulf towards Calamate. On reaching the plain, which lies at the foot of the mountains, and extends to the sea, we left on our right a village, in the middle of which stood a kind of fortified castle : the whole, that is to say, both the village and the castle, were in a manner surrounded by an immense Turkish cemetery, covered with cypresses of all ages. My guide, pointing to these trees, called them Parissos. One of the ancient inhabitants of Messenia would have related to me the whole history of the young man of Amyclæ, only half the name of which is preserved by the Messenian of the present day : but this name, disfigured as it is, pronounced on the spot, within sight of a cypress and of the summit of Taygetus, afforded me a pleasure which the poet will comprehend. I had one consolation in beholding the tombs of the Turks; they showed me that the barbarian conquerers of Greece had also found their end in this country, which they have ravaged. In other respects, these tombs were a pleasing object. The rose-laurel there grew at the foot of the cypresses, which resembled large black obelisks; white turtle-doves and blue pigeons fluttered and cooed among their branches; the grass waved about the small funeral columns crowned with turbans; and a fountain, built by a sherif, poured its waters into the road for the benefit of the traveller. Fain would I have lingered awhile in this cemetery, where the laurels of Greece, overtopped by the cypress of the East, seem to renew the memory of the two nations whose ashes repose in this spot.
From this cemetery to Coron is nearly two hours' journey. We proceeded through an uninterrupted wood of olives; the space between the trees being
75 sown with wheat, which was half cut down. The ground, which at a distance has the appearance of a level plain, is intersected by rough and deep ravines. M. Vial, then the French consul at Coron, received me with that hospitality for which the consuls of the Levant are so remarkable. I delivered to him one of the letters of recommendation to the French consuls, which M. de Talleyrand had, at the request of M. d'Hauterive, politely furnished me with.
M. Vial had the goodness to lodge me in his house. He dismissed my janissary from Modon, and gave me one of his own janissaries to travel with me through the Morea, and to conduct me to Athens. The Captain-pacha being at war with the Mainottes, I could not proceed to Sparta by way of Calamate, which you may take, if you please, for Calathion, Cardamyle, or Thalamæ, on the coast of Laconia, almost opposite to Coron. It was therefore determined that I should make a long circuit; that I should endeavour to find the defile of the gates of Leondari, one of the hermæums of Messenia; that I should proceed to Tripolizza, to obtain from the Pacha of the Morea the firman necessary for passing the isthmus ; that I should return from Tripolizza to Sparta, and thence go by the mountain road to Argos, Mycenæ, and Corinth.
Corone, like Messene and Megalopolis, is not a place of very high antiquity, since it was founded by Epaminondas on the ruins of the ancient Epea. Coron has hitherto been taken for the ancient Corone, agreeably to the opinion of d'Anville. On this point I have some doubts. According to Pausanias, Corone was situated at he foot of Mount Temathea, near the mouth of the Pamisus : Coron, on the contrary, is at a considerable distance from that river; it stands on an eminence, nearly in the
76 position in which the same Pausanias places the temple of Apollo Corinthus, or rather in the position of Colonides.* At the bottom of the gulf of Messenia, on the sea-shore, you meet with ruins, which may be the remains of the ancient Corone, unless they belong to the village of Ino. Coronelli is mistaken in supposing Coron to be the ancient Pedasus, which, according to Strabo and Pausanias, must be sought in Methone.
The modern history of Coron very closely resembles that of Modon. Coron was alternately in the possession of the Venetians, the Genoese, and the Turks, and at the same periods as the latter place. The Spaniards besieged and took it from the Infidels in 1633. The knights of Malta distinguished themselves at this siege, which was of some note. On this subject Vertot has fallen into an extraordinary error, as he supposes Coron to be Cheronæa, the birth-place of Plutarch, which is not, any more than the other, the Cheronæa where Philip enslaved Greece. Having again fallen under the dominion of the Turks, Coron was once more besieged, and taken by Morosini in 1685. At this siege were two of my countrymen.
Coronelli mentions only the commander de la Tour, who there fell gloriously; but Giacomo Diedo speaks also of the Marquis de Courbon. I was pleased to find at my outset the traces of French honour in the genuine country of gloryin the country of a people who were such good judges of valour. But where are not such traces to be discovered? At Constantinople, at Rhodes, in Syria, in Egypt, at Carthage, I was shown the camp of the French, the tower of the French, the castle of the French. The Arab has pointed out to me the
* This is also the opinion of M. de Choiseul.
tombs of our soldiers beneath the sycamores of Cairo, and the Siminole under the oaks of Florida.
It was also in this same town of Coron that M, de Choiseul began his splendid collection of views.* Thus chance conducted me to the same spot where my countrymen had earned the double wreath of talents and of-arms, with which Greece delighted to crown her sons. If I have myself , run without glory, but not without honour, the two careers in which the citizens of Athens and of Sparta acquired such high renown, I am consoled by the reflection, that other Frenchmen have proved more fortunate than I.
M. Vial took the trouble to show me Coron, which is but a heap of modern ruins; he also pointed out to me the spot from which the Russians cannonaded the town in 1770, a fatal epoch for the Morea, whose population has since been swept away by the massacres of the Albanians. The narrative of Pellegrin's travels is dated from 1715 to 1719; according to that writer, the territory of Coron then comprehended eighty villages; I am doubtful if five or six could now be found within the same district. The rest of this devastated tract belongs to Turks, who possess three or four thousand olive-trees, and who consume the patrimony of Aristomenes in a harem at Constantinople. Tears started into my eyes, on observing the hand of the Greek slave steeped, to no purpose, in that oil, which nerved the arms of his forefathers to triumph over tyrants.
The consul's house overlooked the Gulf of Coron. From my window. I beheld the sea of Messenia, painted with the most beautiful azure; on the other side of that sea rose the lofty chain of the snow
* For his Voyage pittoresque de la Grèce.