Friday, October 31, 2008

Epos of Albanians

Epos of Albanians
North Albanian epos, or the cycle of heroes, was brought to the attention of scholars a century ago. It was made manifest precisely at the end of the epoch of National Renaissance, which has been justly called a century of the “the cult of epopee”.
Albanian literature was born and developed for a long time as the literature of heroes. Those who were not aware of the existence of the oral tradition of the epos of heroes tried to create “fictional epopees” and introduce them as oral heritage. Later on, there were attempts at recreating an integral epopee according to the pattern of poems of antiquity.Like in any other epos, in Albanian epos, too, time runs in accordance with a calendar different from the humans’ calendar, which reminds one of the mentality of “The Feats of Gilgamesh” where one day in the time of deities is as much as a thousand years in the time of humans. Mythological heroes of Albanian epos remain dead for a hundred years and upon waking they say, “I have been taking a nap”. As Muj, one of the main heros meditates, “is able to observe the grass growing”. In epos there is only a distant and undefined past. Time in the mythological imagination does not respect human time.

Two important features of the mythological northern cycle figures testify the remote ancientness of Albanian epos: their matriarchal character, on the one hand, and chthonic character, on the other hand. This is another aspect of the question of autochthony – or allochthony – of the population that has created them. In the Hellenic epos deities are matriarchal and patriarchal. They coexist and conflict, win and suffer defeat, fight for power and protect it. The cycle of Artrides ends up in the tragic dilemma of Orestes, who has to break through a tradition and establish a new one: protect the right of fatherhood against that of motherhood.

The heroes of Albanian epos are the sons of Ajkuna. Quite unlike the cycle of ballads, where “a wise old man”, advising a sacrifice of the bride over the bridge, reminds one of the patriarch, in Albanian epos there is no patriarch. For the first time, the father in the epos appears in the figure of Muj, as contrasted to Omer (or “seven Omers”). In one of the songs, Omer has to release “father and uncle” from the king’s prison. The rhapsodist entitled the song "Omer from Muj" and this is the only case where a shade of a patriarch appears. Ajkuna plays the central figure and authoritative role. Muj and Halil do not have a father in formal terms; they are sons of the same mother running the house and they take their power from the deities. After Omer, there are no more heroes. Their power and glory is not inherited.

The matriarchal feature of mythological characters of legendary epic is made more emphatic by the general feeling of the well-known rhapsody of Gjergj Elez Alia. It is commonly stated that, in this song, the earth powers are matched against the powers of the sea (“a black giant has emerged out of the sea”). Traces of Byzantine culture have been tracked and found, such as is the exacting of tribute by the giant, as the laws of the empire government demanded. In fact, the main source of Gjergj Elez Alia rhapsody is the end of the era of human (woman) sacrifice for an act, campaign or tribute. Gjergj Elez Alia rises from his deathbed to rescue an era from the morality inherited from the distant past when people could be sacrificed alive – as in the case of the walled bride in the Balkan ballads. He beats the giant, who demands “a roast ram” and “a young maiden” every night. The defeat of the giant marks the end of that convention which legitimised woman sacrifice. Gjergj Elez Alia ensures a permanent deliverance of women from sacrifice.

The chthonic (earthy) character of the deities of Albanian epos defines the autochthonous character of the people. Unlike homeric poems, where the deities have a multilevel hierarchy (underground, semi-earthy -- Persephone spends half of the year underground and the second half on heavenly – chthonic and uranic – earth), in Albanian epos this hierarchy does not exist. The mythological figures of Albanian world are earthy ones. In narrative folklore, including the epic and tales, "the seraph of heaven" does not exist. Along with the "earth nymph" (of this earth), in the ethno-folkloric tradition of the country, fairy characters emerge and merge.

The chthonic feature of Albanian mythological actors of Albanian epos corresponds to that level of thought when, in Hellenic literature of antiquity "Gods descended from the Olympus", and yet they remained important figures of the conscience of belief. This goes back to a later date than the Uranic (heavenly) layer of mythological figures, but, however, earlier than the time when Greek Gods made a laughing stock of themselves in Aristophane's comedies. The two calendars of time in the epos and history of human life are connected with the distinctions between the mythological perception of time in the ancient and modern mentalities. One of the interesting folkloric facts in this regard is the use of time for space and vice-versa, which is viewed as a universal feature of the epos. In Albanian epos, distance is usually shown by expressions such as “nine houses away” or "nine years' travel".

This resembles the literary idiom of Sumerians, where distance is not measured by units of space, but units of time: "The eagle clutched me with iron claws, / And hovered me into space for four hours”. Or, "We went whither, twice twenty hours, / Until we discerned from afar a corner of the earth”. The use of time for space and vice-versa is linked with that level of mental development of human world, where the process of movement from the past to the present was perceived as unidimensional. Time and space were unified almost indistinctively into this dimension. These mentalities of an ancient and antique stage constitute the primary artistic arguments for the debate on the origin in point of time of Albanian epos. The cycle of Albanian heroes contains an intertwining of features of antique and Medieval European eposes. But we know of a greater number of antique eposes than European Medieval European ones. There are a number of arguments in favour of a relative chronological determination of the source of epos in the period of transition from Illyrians to Albanians, from Illyrian to Albanian language, from the end of Romanticism to the confrontation with Slav invasions.

In Slav science, the northern cycle is considered as a recreation of the motifs of Serbo-Bosnian epos following a massive Islamisation of Albanians, sometime in the 18th century and on. Some of the local scholars share the opinion that Albanian epos is "of the Byzantine period" and its origin should be connected with the time of creation of "Digenis Akritas" among the Greeks. By tying its origin with the birth of the Slav or Byzantine eposes, these views, at times openly and at times implicitly, at times for certain purposes and at times owing to a lack of trust in facts, put the formation of Albanian epos at a chronologically much later date. The data concerning the overall cultural development of Albanians indicate that the northern epos was created in a period of divergent development. This is the period of the largest territorial division of Albanian ethnos (into Gheg and Tosk) – in fact there can be found no traces of the epos south of Shkumbin River. This is the period of the separation of South polyphony from the North homophony. This is the period of rhotacism in the South and nasality in the North. This is the period of the preservation of “a” in Gheg and its transformation into “ë” in Tosk. From the cultural viewpoint, epos was born when the most important two-branched changes in Albanian culture – Gheg and Tosk – occurred. This does not mean that epos is a folk tradition isolated in the North. There are abundant data proving that the northern cycle is not that northern as to be called self-segregated. Its fundamental motifs are found to have developed in the folklore of southern territories in the form of narratives, tales or legends.

From the historical perspective, epos may not arise at any time and following any event. Albanian epos itself is totally prevailed by the conflict between its carriers and the population, which had moved to the Balkans; it bears the stamp of Slav invasions. Albanian epos rules out the idea of its creation from the first contacts with the newly-settling population, drawing the attention of the audience to the fact that other things had occurred before the time "when there was an allegiance to the king”. A more tendentious research could also explore data which bear witness of a danger from the sea and which could be connected in the underground with an echo from the time of Roman conquest. Both these facts and reasoning enable one to develop the view that in epos, irrespective of its multilayered character, there exists, however, a “first time”. It coincides with the 7th and 8th centuries AD, when the most important divergent internal changes occurred in the ethnic culture, when qualitative cultural transformations occurred, such as the transition from Illyrian to Albanian, the consolidation of Gheg and Tosk koines (instead of the narrow speech of tribes). This process of divergence was progressive because, by separating the northern cultural koine from the southern one, it developed convergence within them, in the same way as the four dialects of Greek language had developed in antiquity. It was just in this period that the local population was faced with Slav invasions in the Balkans and recognised step by step their expansive character.

In addition, the data concerning the notion of a mythological space in the epos favour a connection of its origin with the period of these great transformations. If a researcher were to explore a prehistoric “habitat” of the world of epos characters and events, of a "spiritual fatherland", of a "patria poesis", this would be found in the cult of the land of forefathers, myth of native land, sanctification of highlands, deification of land, in the sense the Germans use this word when they say “land”. Though limited, certain data on the ethnically separatory character of the people have been inherited in the Albanian spiritual world. These start with the distinction “we-others”, which is one of the earliest signs of community conscience. Most likely, the “champion-enemy” position is the same as the “Hellenes-barbarians” position among old Greeks. Although one might speak of the notion of land, the native land, Albanian Ithaca, as the notion of Moré is among the Arbëresh (in their historical songs), rather than of a well-defined space, yet the conscience of a fatherland which makes carriers of the epos feel “at home” among them, is at times evident. It is worth recalling that in ancient Hellenic epos, fatherland was used in two senses: Odysseus was son of Hellas, but he finds no peace unless he reaches “the fatherland”, Ithaca.

Evidence of the presence of ancient cultures in the Albanian subject, especially of Greek-Roman culture, constitutes a testimony of its ancientness and its neighbourhood with these ancient civilisations. Lambertz argues that the northern epos comprises “over 40 topics similar” to Akritas' songs. Selection of Muj (“having both strength and power”) is like the selection of Heraclitus. In a well-known Albanian song, little Omer must release “father and uncle” from prison, in the same way as Armouropulos (little Armour) in Akritas' songs. These traces drive one to come to the conclusion that Albanian epos, called “northern cycle”, in view of its artistic connection with the entire local folklore, is not that northern and limited as denoted by the term. Even historical geography does not matter much here.

Layering epos on the basis of types of characters is especially important. Belonging to the infancy of mankind, mythological characters need more attention and depth. The main heroes of the epos (Muj) represent the cult of power, just like Achiles in Homeric poems; whereas transition to the stage of the cult of knowledge-craft (the cult of Odysseus) is not confirmed entirely. The focus of Albanian epos is the war hero, whereas the peace hero, "second hero" -- Halil -- is more inclined to the cult of beauty. In Hellenic epos, Odysseus had to subdue temptations of adventure and escape, far away from his country as he was; as such he had to resolve situations with wisdom; whereas in Albanian epos, Halil is living in his native country and has to win the hearts of "chicks" of human grace.

Author Dr. Shaban Sinani

1. Albert Lord, "The Singer of Tales", 1962.
2. Maximillian Lambertz, "Die Volksepik der Albaner", Leipzig,
East Germany, 1958.
3. "Epi i Gilgameshit", 1999.
4. "Shah Name", translation of Vexhi Buhara, hand-written manuscript.
5. Çështje të Folklorit, "Albanian", 1-6.
6. Fatos Arapi, "Këngë të moçme Albanian", 1986.
7. Berndardin Palaj - Donart Kurti, "Visaret e Kombit"-2, 1937.
8. Gjergj Zheji, "Vargu i këngëve të kreshnikëve”, 1987.
9. Eqrem Çabej, “Problemi i autoktonisë së shqiptarëve në dritën e emrave të vendeve”, 1958/2.
10. Faik Konica: "Shqipëria -kopsht shkëmbor në Evropën Juglindore", 1993.
11. Stavro Skëndi, “Albanian and South Slavic Oral Poetry”, Philadelphia 1954.
12. Vladimir Propp, "Morfologija skaskih",1958.
13. Shaban Sinani, "Mitologjia në eposin e kreshnikëve", 1998.
14. “Bernardin Palaj - opere”, Roma 1969.
15. Celentano. L. “Letteratura greca”, Napoli 1995.
16. Clarotti-Crussi, “Viaggio nell’epos”, Torino 1996.
17. Robert Elsie, “Albanian Folktales and Legends”, Tiranë 1994.
18. Vladimir Propp, “Ruskij geroiçeskij epos”, M. 1958.
19. Sigmund Freud, “Psicoanalisi dell’arte e della letteratura”, Roma 1993.

The whole world had heard of the heroic deeds of Gjeto Basho Mujo before he had even reached the prime of his life. He had stalked hordes of wild beasts in the mountains and slain many an enemy from the Kingdom of the Christians and from beyond the sea. Mujo defended the country and the poor people. His heroic deeds and his courage were famous throughout the Krahina and especially in Jutbina. No foreigners dared cross the border of the Krahina to plunder and maraud. Together with his band of thirty warriors, Mujo had conducted many raids in the Krahina and the Kingdom of the Christians, penetrating right to New Kotor and even farther, and every time he returned home victorious. Such a man was Gjeto Basho Mujo.
The days, months and years passed until, as is the custom, the time came for him to marry. One day, therefore, Mujo mounted his steed as the first rays of dawn struck the peaks, and crossed the mountain passes into the Kingdom of the Christians in order to find himself a bride. He chose a fair maiden from a good family whom his friends had recommended and who was fitting for Mujo’s lineage.
As soon as Mujo had arranged for his marriage, he returned to Jutbina and assembled three hundred attendants to collect the bride, all of whom were his friends. The three hundred shone in their robes of sparkling gold and bore golden swords, arrows and lances. All of them rode white steeds with saddles of gold. All were young with the exception of their leader, an old man with grey hair called Aga Dizdar Osman who was second in command only to Gjeto Basho Mujo.
Before the attendants set off to claim the bride in the Kingdom of the Christians, Mujo spoke to them, saying, “Listen to my words, attendants! When you reach the mountain pastures, you will come across three shady resting spots. Take care not to revel and not to dismount for a rest. Be careful not to drink from the springs there for it is inhabited by three evil Zanas. They may be having their afternoon nap there or refreshing themselves at the water and you may disturb and upset them. They never let anyone escape unharmed.” Mujo warned the attendants strictly and they promised to follow his instructions.
The next morning, the attendants saddled and mounted their horses and set off in what was a joyful spectacle for all of Jutbina. They departed for the Kingdom of the Christians to pick up Mujo’s bride, singing songs and playing music with their horns. When they reached the mountain pastures, they remembered Mujo’s warning, stopped chanting and making music, dismounted and led their horses by the reins in silence. Nowhere did they pause, nowhere did they drink from the springs, nowhere did they rest in the shade, nowhere did they stop to dance and make merry. They carried on over the mountains and arrived safe and sound on the other side at the bride’s home in the Kingdom of the Christians.
Her father welcomed the attendants, giving them food and drink and entertaining them with games and amusements. The music and dancing echoed until midnight. When the stars faded and the next day dawned, the attendants rose, girded their weapons, collected the bride and set off for Jutbina. They continued singing and revelling on their way. The peaks and valleys echoed their mirth.
And so they arrived at one of the three resting spots. Here they remembered Mujo’s words, stopped singing and revelling and carried on in silence. But then Aga Dizdar Osman, the old man with grey hair, spoke, “Listen, attendants of the bride. I have accompanied many a bride. We have always stopped and revelled at this resting spot and quenched our thirst at this spring. We have always dismounted to dance. Nothing has ever happened to us here. So let us make merry!” When the other attendants heard this, they stopped at the resting spot right away, dismounted and began to sing and dance. They muddied the springs and streams, set up targets and shot at them with their bows and arrows. The mountain pastures echoed with their mirth once again.
Suddenly there was a terrifying clap of thunder. The din resounded through the mountains, a strong gale began to blow through the trees, the mountain pastures thundered and quaked. Hovering over the peaks in the midst of the storm were the three evil Zanas. They gnashed their teeth, spewed smoke and fire and descended upon the resting spot where the attendants of the bride had chosen to stop. In the blink of an eye, the three Zanas turned the attendants to stone and transformed their horses into tree trunks. Where but a moment ago song and merriment had resounded, no human voice or neighing of horses was to be heard. Silence and death reigned. The mountain peaks echoed no more, the wind ceased to blow, the resting spots, the meadows and springs were emptied. Left all alone in her horror and shock was Mujo’s bride. She alone had survived, but did not know what to do or where to go. The Zanas lunged forth to attack her, seized her by the arm and dragged her off into a cavern deep in the mountains where no human being had ever set foot. There they kept the maiden prisoner, forcing her to feed them and bring them water so that she never had a moment’s rest.
Gjeto Basho Mujo knew nothing of what had happened. He waited for the attendants to bring him his bride. He waited and waited but they did not come. The longer they were away, the more Mujo began to worry. He listened for singing or for the neighing of horses, but there was nothing to be heard. Finally he realized what had happened. The attendants of the bride had broken their word. He was in despair for he knew that the three Zanas were evil to the core and had unimaginable skills.
He waited no longer. Heaving a sack filled with bread and meat over his shoulder, he mounted his steed and set off for the mountain pastures. ‘What can all the warriors possibly be doing in their garments of gold and with their golden swords, arrows and lances?’ he wondered. ‘What has happened to the horses that speed like the wind?’ He looked everywhere but could see nothing but stones and tree trunks. Mujo approached the stones and recognized their form as that of his warriors. Yes, the white stone was their leader, Aga Dizdar Osman; the reddish one was like Ali Bajraktar and the next was like Butali Tali. One by one, he recognized them all: Basho Jona, Zukut Bajraktar, Shaban Evimadhi, Kazi Mehmet Aga and the rest. Once beings of flesh and blood, they were now turned to stone. But nowhere could Mujo find his bride. He was in such despair that he almost broke into tears!
But Mujo was a man of courage. He concentrated his thoughts on how to turn the stones and tree trunks into living beings again. He did not restrain his horse or dismount but rode back and forth over the desolate mountain pastures looking for the spring of the Zanas, for their resting spots, and for his bride. He entered a dark grove of beech trees, riding deeper and deeper to where the sun’s rays no longer penetrated. He continued on his way until he came to a spring with water as sparkling as tears. There he stopped and dismounted to rest for a while. He took a good look at the beech trees but could find no path through them, only bushes and scrub. Rising above the grove was a cliff covered in grass. At the foot of it he saw a number of boulders buried in scree. The branches of the ancient trees were so entwined with one another that no sunlight or wind could get through. Eternal twilight reigned here.
“This must be the home of the Zanas,” Mujo thought to himself. He put his horse to pasture among the beech trees and sat down beside the spring, waiting patiently for the Zanas to arrive. Three days passed and no one came. Mujo saw deer approach the watering hole but he did not string his bow. He saw fair feathered birds but he did not shoot at them. He had not come to hunt but for something more important. When three days had passed, he caught sight in the twilight of a young maiden in her bridal gown bearing a water jug in her hands. She was as fair as the moon in May, but so sorrowful. Mujo wondered what the young maiden was doing in such a dark and gloomy place. Perhaps she was a vision. But no, she came closer and closer. Suddenly Mujo recognized her and his heart began to beat rapidly. The maiden with the jug arrived at the spring, saw Mujo but did not recognize him. “Good day, young man!” she said. “Good day, young maid,” he replied. She put her jug down to fill it. “Whom are you fetching the water for, maid? Whom are you taking it to?” “Oh, do not ask me, young man. I am of a noble family and have just been married. My attendants were taking me to my husband when…” The maiden proceeded to tell him the whole story of how the Zanas had petrified the men and horses and of how she had been taken prisoner.
Mujo asked her, “Who were you marrying, maid? What was the man’s name?” “Oh, wretch that I am, I left my mother and father, I left my brothers and sisters to marry a famous warrior. His name is Gjeto Basho Mujo. Do you know him, young man? Have you ever heard of him, Gjeto Basho Mujo of Jutbina? Mujo neither laughed nor responded. He stared at the fair maiden and said, “Do you recognize me, fair maid?” “How could I possibly know you. I’ve never seen you before. But when I look at you, I am reminded of what I heard of Mujo. You could be Gjeto Basho Mujo.”
Mujo could wait no longer and laughed out loud, “I am Mujo, fair maid! You have recognized me indeed. But if you are the daughter of a noble family, will you now listen to me and to what I have to say?” “I give you my word,” she replied, “by the ruler over the sun and the moon, over heaven and earth, that I will listen to what you have to say, Mujo. I would have faith in you even if I knew you were going to behead me.” “No, I would never behead you, for I loved you and still do. I am going to try and save you and bring your attendants back to life. To do this, however, I must know the source of the Zanas’ power. Therefore, when you return to the cavern, say to them that you know they are very powerful and ask them where they get their power.” “Do you really think that the Zanas will tell me the source of their power, Mujo?” “Do not lose heart, maiden. Do as I tell you. The sun is now setting behind the mountains and the moon is rising over the beech trees. The Zanas will soon come to the spring to dine in the moonlight. When they sit down to dinner, stand at a distance and do not eat or drink anything. The Zanas will take pity on you and will not want to eat without you. Then, if you remember what to say, they will divulge their secret. Say to them, ‘Mountain Zanas, may you always have bread to eat, may you always have the high mountains to live in, may you always have resting spots for your afternoon naps and springs to refresh yourselves in. I have been living with you for some time now and will live with you forever as your prisoner. Why don’t you tell me where your power comes from?’ Ask them, for there is no reason why they should not believe you. And even if they should turn you to stone, I shall do everything in my power and save you. I will wait for you here tomorrow.” “All right, Mujo. I will do as you say.” The maiden picked up her water jug, said good bye to Mujo and disappeared into the darkness. Mujo watched her as long as he could and then returned to the Green Valleys.
The maiden went back to the cavern. The Zanas asked her, “Why are you so late, dear bride?” “The water was muddy, dear Zanas, and I had to wait for it to clear.” “You have done well, my dear.” The sun set and the moon rose, shining over the tips of the beech trees and spreading its rays into the valleys and gorges. There was a light breeze which caused the leaves to rustle. The birds twittered among the branches. The deer came out of the forest to graze and drink. The mountain Zanas waited no longer. They went off to the spring and set the table to have dinner. The young bride stood near by, broke the bread for them and brought them their water, but did not sit down with them to eat. She stood there, her eyes downcast. The youngest of the Zanas asked her, “What is wrong, dear bride? Why are you not eating or drinking? You are not ill, are you? Or are you homesick for your fellow human beings?” “No,” replied the maiden, “I am neither ill nor homesick. I am content to be here where I am. You love me. That is why you wanted to keep me with you. If you did not love me you would have turned me to stone as you did the others, but I simply cannot eat or drink anymore until you answer a question I have to ask you. Therefore I swear in your presence, dear mountain Zanas, may you always have bread to eat, may you always have the high mountains to live in, may you always have resting spots for your afternoon naps and springs to refresh yourselves in, may you always have the light of the moon to dance by… Why don’t you tell me where your power comes from? You have become my sisters. I will always be with you. I can find no better place to live than here with you because nowhere on earth could I find more kind and understanding sisters.”
The moment the two elder Zanas heard this they leapt to their feet to turn the poor maiden to stone, but in a flash the youngest Zana intervened, stretched out her hands and covered their mouths so that they could not pronounce the fatal words. She called out, “May God damn you, sisters. What could this young bride possibly do to us if we told her of our power? She is a human, we are Zanas. She is of the earth, we are of the heavens and earth. She is our prisoner, we are the rulers. She has given us her word of honour and we must not doubt it. She breaks our bread for us and brings us our water. We must tell her the truth.”
The elder Zanas stepped back. The youngest one turned to the bride and said, “Listen, daughter of man, we have three wild goats with golden horns grazing in the Green Valleys. No one on earth can capture these goats because they are so light footed and can jump from rock to rock and leap from cliff to cliff. Even the bears and wolves fear them because they attack with their golden horns. But if someone were to capture them I shudder at the thought we would have no more power. We would no longer be able to fly and turn humans to stone. We would be women like all the others.” When the bride heard this, she smiled, sat down and ate dinner with them as usual.
When the three Zanas had finished their meal, they refreshed themselves in the spring, picked flowers and made wreathes of them which they placed on their heads. Then they sang and danced. The moon and the stars looked down upon them from above. Mujo’s bride watched them from below. The oaks and beeches made no sound. When the three Zanas had finished singing and dancing they joined hands and returned quickly to their cavern. Silence reigned.
When the new day dawned and the Zanas were still asleep, Mujo’s bride rose, took her water jug and went to the spring. There she found Mujo waiting for her. He was delighted to see her. “You have survived, I see.” “Yes, I was almost turned to stone. But ask no more questions. I know you are brave, but they are mountain Zanas and have tremendous power.” “And where do they get their power?” Mujo asked. The maiden then told him about the three wild goats with the golden horns. Mujo listened attentively and said, “I understand, maiden. Now it is my turn. Go back to the Zanas, wait there and do not be afraid. Simply pretend you know nothing. I will return to fetch you safe and sound. I will also bring your attendants back to life and then we will hold our wedding a second time with an even bigger celebration so that the very mountain pastures will resound with the merriment. The Zanas themselves will be your bridesmaids and accompany you in a golden carriage right to my fortress.” The maiden looked bewildered and, though she was not too sure, she believed him. She had to smile, however, at the thought of the Zanas with her in the bridal carriage.
Mujo waited no longer. He said farewell, mounted his steed and rode off to Jutbina. He stood in the middle of the square and shouted at the top of his voice so that all of the Krahina could hear him, “Listen to me, men! Gjeto Basho Mujo is speaking to you. Let all brave hunters come to my fortress tonight with their hounds. I will give you as much to eat and drink as your hearts desire, and tomorrow we will set off for the hunt. Do you hear me?” Then he returned home, slaughtered sheep and lambs, had bread baked and the ovens heated. As soon as they heard Mujo’s call, three hundred brave hunters gathered with over a thousand hounds and marched towards Mujo’s fortress. “You called, Mujo?” “Yes, my brothers, I called you. Come in!” Mujo received them cordially and invited them to dinner. He asked Halil to take out his lahuta and play for their entertainment.
At the break of dawn, Mujo said to his friends, “Listen, hunters, to why I have called you. There are three wild goats with golden horns grazing in the Green Valleys. I want to take these three goats alive. We will therefore encircle the mountain pastures and hunt them until they tire and fall into our hands. But take care to use neither arrow nor lance, for if you wound or kill them, none of you will ever return to Jutbina alive.” “We shall do as you order, Mujo,” replied the hunters.
Mujo then led them into the Green Valleys. There they encircled the mountain pastures and took up their positions. There was no room for even a bird to escape. Mujo entered the circle with a few light footed friends and some of the hounds. The others lay in wait. Then, sounding their horns unceasingly, the hunters pursued the goats from rock to rock and from cliff to cliff. The very mountain pastures trembled. When three days and three nights had passed, the goats grew tired, fell to the ground and lay their heads on the earth to rest. Mujo thus captured them alive, took them back to Jutbina and locked them up in a pen, bringing them fresh grass and water from the mountain pastures. He invited the hunters to dine with him once more, gave them presents and bid them farewell.
And what happened up on the mountain pastures? The mountain Zanas suddenly lost their power. They tried to fly but they could not. Their bodies had become stiff and heavy. They ordered the wind to blow through the beech trees, but it refused. They concentrated their thoughts on the wild goats, but the goats did not come. The Zanas then set off to look for the goats; they searched the valleys and the cliffs, but the goats were nowhere to be seen. The eldest Zana clapped her hands and said, “Zanas, my dear Zanas of the mountain cliffs, someone has captured our goats!” Mujo’s bride smiled. “Listen to me, Zanas, I have something to tell you. Gjeto Basho Mujo send his greetings and tells you that since you stole his bride and turned his attendants and their horses to stone, he has captured your goats and is holding them hostage.”
When the Zanas heard this, they tried to turn the bride to stone, but they could not for their power had dissipated. They then set off for Jutbina, though not in flight, but on foot like human beings. Their feet were battered by the stones and roots of trees on the way. Thorns scratched their hands. And so they arrived at Mujo’s door. “Mujo, have you taken our goats prisoner?” “Yes, I have captured them and locked them up in my pen. They receive fresh grass and spring water.” With tears in her eyes, the eldest Zana then begged him, “We are in your hands, Gjeto Basho Mujo. Either kill us here at your house or give us back what is ours. Otherwise we must perish. We will throw ourselves from a mountain peak. But we are willing to give you back the attendants the way they were. We will return their horses and bring them to you. We will even bring your bride to your door in a golden carriage. You will have them all as they were before.”
Mujo answered calmly, “I do not want the attendants. I am not even interested in the bride. Leave them where they are, the attendants as stones and the bride in slavery. I can find a new wife in the Krahina or in the Kingdom of the Christians whenever I want. But I cannot let the three goats go for I have never caught anything like them before, although I have combed the mountain pastures many a time. When I remarry I will slaughter them and feed them to the guests. I will hang their golden horns on the wall to shine for me day and night.”
When the three Zanas heard this they broke into tears, moaning and groaning so that the very rocks and trees took pity on them as if they had been women, not Zanas. But Mujo was not to be moved. The youngest Zana advanced, wiped the tears from her eyes with her hair, clutched Mujo’s hand and swore, “Listen Gjeto Basho Mujo, whenever you arrange for a marriage and have a bride to accompany over the mountain pastures, whenever you have a Baloz to kill, whenever you go hunting, whenever you need a place to rest and refresh yourself, come to our meadows, take your rest, refresh yourself or do battle. We give you our word of honour that we will do no harm to anyone, that we will say nothing harmful to anyone.”
Mujo hesitated. He reflected a moment and then said, “You are Zanas and Zanas you must remain! A word of honour is a word of honour and a promise is a promise. I shall give you back your wild goats.” He then turned and called to Halil, “Halil, release the goats from the pen!” The moment the goats were out of the pen, the Zana’s faces changed and they regained their vigour. They transformed themselves into light and flew off to the mountain pastures, leaving the Green Valleys behind them.
There they returned to the attendants of stone and their horses and brought them back to life as they had promised, saying, “Arise and depart! We wish you a safe journey. Return to Jutbina where Gjeto Basho Mujo awaits you!” The attendants rubbed their eyes and said, “Oh, look how long we have been sleeping!” They did not remember having been turned to stone. They went to the spring, washed, refreshed themselves and mounted their steeds.
In the meantime, the Zanas had placed Mujo’s bride in a golden carriage and taken her back to Mujo in Jutbina. When the attendants descended into the valley on their way to Jutbina, they began to sing and dance. Mujo and Halil went out to welcome them. The mountain pastures echoed with the song of the Zanas:
“Zanas we are and Zanas we remain,
A word of honour is a word of honour,
And a promise is a promise.”
The song of the good Zanas resounded from cliff to cliff in the mountains as a second and even bigger wedding was celebrated in Jutbina.

Albanian literature

Albanian literature

The internal and external history of Albanians has left its deep imprint on their culture.
Albania, part of the ancient Illyrian territories, a cross-road of civilisations and geopolitical interests during the barbaric onslaughts and later on a province of the Eastern and Western Empires, Rome and Byzantium, after, over centuries, having constituted and dissolved independent despotisms and principates, and after having eventually constituted the state of Scanderbeg .

The country jumped backwards to a historically remote stage of economic and social development. The normal process of Albanian culture, which kept pace with European humanism, was interrupted. The first consequence of invasion was the outflow of intellectual elite to the West. Among such elite, many personalities became renowned in the humanist world, as, for e.g., historian Marin Barleti (1460-1513) who in 1510 published in Rome a history of Scanderbeg, which was translated almost into all European languages, or Marin Beçikemi (1408-1526), Gj. Gazulli (1400-1455), L. Tomeu (1456-1531), M. Maruli (15th century), M. Artioti (1480-1556) and many others who were distinguished in various fields of science, art and philosophy.
The resistance in the cultural field was first of all expressed through the elaboration of the Albanian language in the area of church texts and publications, mainly of the Catholic confessional region in the North, but also of the Orthodox in the South.
The Protestant reform invigorated hopes for the development of the local language and literary tradition when priest Gj. Buzuku brought into the Albanian language the Catholic liturgy, trying to do for the Albanian what Luther did for the German language.
The “Missal” by Gj. Buzuku, published by him in 1555, is considered to date as the first work of written Albanian. The refined level of the language and the stabilised orthography must be a result of an earlier tradition of writing Albanian, a tradition that is not known. But there are some fragmented evidence, dating earlier than Buzuku, which indicate that Albanian was written at least since 14th century AD:
The first known evidence dates from 1332 AD and deals with the French Dominican Guglielm Adae, Archbishop of Tivar, who in a report in Latin writes that Albanians use Latin letters in their books although their language is quite different from Latin. Of special importance in supporting this are: a baptising formula (Unte paghesont premenit Atit et Birit et spertit senit) of 1462, written in Albanian within a text in Latin by the bishop of Durrës Pal Engjëlli; a glossary with Albanian words of 1497 by Arnold von Harf, a German who had travelled through Albania, and a 14th century fragment from the Bible according to Saint Mathew, also in Albanian, but in Greek letters.
Albanian writings of these centuries must not have been religious texts only, but historical chronicles too. They are mentioned by the humanist M. Barleti who, in his book “Rrethimi i Shkodrës” (The Siege of Shkodër) (1504), confirms that he has leafed through such chronicles written in the language of the vulgus (in vernacula lingua).
Despite the obstacles generated by the Counter-reform which was opposed to the development of national languages in Christian religious literature, this process went on uninterrupted. During the 16th to 17th centuries, the catechism “E mbësuame krishterë” (Christian Teachings) (1592) by L. Matrënga, “Doktrina e krishterë” (The Christian Doctrine) (1618) and “Rituale romanum” (1621) by P. Budi, the first writer of original Albanian prose and poetry, an apology for George Castriot (1636) by F. Bardhi, who also published a dictionary and folk-lore creations, the theological-philosophical treaty “Cuneus Prophetarum” (The Band of Prophets) (1685) by P. Bogdani, the most universal personality of Albanian Middle Ages, were published in Albanian.

The Bogdani's work is a theological-philosophical treaty that considers with originality, by merging data from various sources, principal issues of theology, a full biblical history and the complicated problems of scholasticism, cosmogony, astronomy, pedagogy etc. Bogdani brought into Albanian culture the humanist spirit and praised the role of knowledge and culture in the life of man; with his written work in a language of polished style, he marked a turning point in the history of Albanian literature.
During 18th century, the literature of Orthodox and Muslim confessional cultural circles witnessed a greater development. An anonymous from Elbasan brings into Albanian language a number of sections from the Bible; T. H. Filipi, also from Elbasan, brings the “Dhiata e Vjetër dhe e Re” (The Old and the New Testament). These efforts multiplied in the following century with the publication in 1827 of the integral text of the “Dhiata e Re” (The New Testament) by G. Gjirokastriti and with the big corpus of (Christian) religious translations by K. Kristoforidhi (1830-1895), in both dialects of the Albanian, publications which helped in the process of integrating the two dialects into a unified literary language and in setting up the basis for the establishment of the national church of the Albanians with the liturgy in their own language.

Although in opposite direction with this tendency, the culture of Voskopoja is also to be mentioned, a culture that during the 17th century became a great hearth of civilisation and a metropolis of the Balkan peninsula, with an Academy and a printing press and with personalities like T. Kavaljoti, Dh. Haxhiu, G. Voskopojari, whose works of knowledge, philology, theology and philosophy assisted objectively in the writing and recognition of the Albanian.
Although the literature that evolved in Voskopoja was mainly in the Greek language, the need to erect obstacles to Islamisation made necessary the use of national languages, encouraging the development of national cultures. Walachian and Albanian were also used for the teaching of Greek in the schools of Voskopoja, and books in Walachian were also printed in its printing presses.
The works of Voskopoja writers and savants have brought in some elements of the ideas of European Enlightenment. The most distinguished of them, Teodor Kavaljoti, is an erudite of the time. According to the notes of the German albanolog H.E. Thunman, the work of Kavaljoti, which remained unpublished, in most part deals with issues from almost all branches of philosophy. It shows the influence of Plato, Des Cartes, Malebranche and Leibnitz.

A result of the influence of Islam and the culture of the invader was the emergence, during 18th century, of a school of poetry, or of a literature written in Albanian but in the Arab alphabet. Its authors such as N. Frakulla, M. Kyçyku, S. Naibi, H.Z. Kamberi, Sh. and D. Frashëri, Sheh Mala, and others dealt in their works with motifs borrowed from Oriental literature, wrote religious texts and poetry in a language suffocated by orientalisms and developed religious lyric and epic. This school did not have a long life or any specific influence on the later literary developments.
In order to complete the framework of cultural developments of Albania during 17th and 18th centuries, it should be mentioned that local authors produced distinguished works in the field of architecture and iconic painting. Distinguished names were Onufri and his son Nikolla (16th century) and K. Shpataraku and D. Selenica (18th century) who carried on the tradition of the post-Byzantine religious art, but not without influence from the European Renaissance. Most religious buildings may be mentioned regarding the Islamic art.

The 19th century, the century of national movements in the Balkans, found Albanians without a sufficient tradition of a unitary development of the state, language and culture but, instead, with an individualistic and regionalist mentality inherited from the psychology of clan and kinship and consequently with an underdeveloped national conscience, though with a spirit of spontaneous rebellion. In this historical cultural situation, an organised mental and literary movement, which was called the Albanian National Renaissance, started to emerge. It was inspired by the ideas of national Romanticism and Enlightenment, which were cultivated among the circles of Albanian intelligentsia, mainly émigrés in the old Albanian settlements in Italy and the more recent ones in Istanbul, Bucharest, USA, Sophia and Cairo.
National Renaissance, nurturing the Albanian as a language of culture, the organisation of national education and the establishment of a national literature on the cultural level as well as the creation of the independent state – these were the goals of this movement which gave birth to the school of Albanian Romanticism. It was a typical Balkan Romanticism, imbued with the spirit of national liberation, with the nostalgia of the émigré and the rhetorical pathos of evoking the Albanian Middle Ages, that is, the wars of George Castriot. This literary school developed the poetry most. Regarding the motifs and poetical forms, its hero was the ethical man, the fighting Albanian, and to a lesser degree the tragic man. It is closely linked with the folklore tradition. The pursuit of this tradition and the publications of “Rapsodi të një poeme arbëreshe” (Rhapsody of an Arbëresh Poem) in 1866 by De Rada, of “Përmbledhje të këngëve popullore dhe rapsodi të poemave shqiptare” (Collection of Albanian Folk Songs and Rhapsodies of Albanian Poems) in 1871 by Z. Jubani, “Bleta shqiptare” (Albanian Bee) in 1878 by Th. Mitko, etc., were part of the cultural programme of the National Renaissance for establishing the ethnic and cultural identity of Albanians.
Two are the greatest representatives of Albanian Romanticism of 19th century: J. De Rada (1814-1903), born and dead in the Albanian Diaspora in Italy and educated there, and N. Frashëri (1846-1900), born in Albania, educated at Zosimea of Ioannina, but emigrated and deceased in Istanbul. The first is the Albanian romantic poet brought up in the climate of European Romanticism, the second is the Albanian romanticist who merges in his poetry the influence of Eastern poetry, especially Persian, with the spirit of the poetry of Western Romanticism.

De Rada wrote a cycle of epical-lyrical poems in the style of Albanian rhapsodies: “Këngët e Milosaos”(The Songs of Milosao), 1836, “Serafina Topia” 1839, “Skënderbeu i pafat” (Unlucky Scanderbeg) 1872-1874 etc. with the ambition of creating the national epos for the century of Scanderbeg.
Following the traces of Herder, De Rada raised the love for folk songs in his poetry and painted it in ethnographic colours. His works reflect both the Albanian life with its characteristic customs and mentalities, and the Albanian drama of the 15th century, when this land's indomitable folk fell to the Ottoman yoke. The conflict between the happiness of the individual and the tragedy of the nation, the scenes by the riversides, women gathering wheat in the fields, the man going to war and the wife embroidering his belt, all represented with a delicate lyrical feeling – this is the poetry of this romantic poet who grew up in the political climate of the national movement of Albanians and in the literary climate of Calabrian Romanticism.

Naim Frashëri wrote a pastoral poem “Bagëti e bujqësia” (Shepherds and Farmers) (1886), a collection of philosophical, patriotic and love lyrics “Lulet e verës” (Summer Flowers), (1890), an epical poem on Scanderbeg “Histori e Skënderbeut” (The History of Scanderbeg) (1898), a religious epical poem “Qerbelaja” (1898), two poems in Greek “O Eros” (i.e.O Love) and “O alithis pothos ton skipetaron” (i.e. The True Desire of Albanians), a bunch of lyrics in Persian “Tehajylat” (The Dream) and many erudite works in Albanian. He is recognised as the greatest national poet of Albanians.
Naim Frashëri established modern lyrics in Albanian poetry. In the spirit of “Bucolics” and “Georgics” of Vergil, in his “Bagëti e bujqësia” (Shepherds and Farmers) he sang to the works of the land tiller and shepherd by writing a hymn to the beauties of his fatherland and expressing the nostalgia of the émigré poet and the pride of being Albanian. It is not surprising that though living in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in Istanbul, he felt so deeply about the fate of his fatherland. The longing for his birthplace, the mountains and fields of Albania, the graves of his ancestors, the memories of his childhood, feed his inspiration with lyrical strength and impulse.
The inner experiences of the individual freed from the chains of medieval, Oriental mentality on one hand and the philosophical pantheism of the Sufi doctrine, imbued with the poetical pantheism of the European Romanticism on the other hand, give to the lyrical meditations of Frashëri a universal human and philosophical dimension. The most beautiful poems of “Lulet e verës” (Summer Flowers) collection are the philosophical lyrics on life and death, on time that goes by and never comes back leaving behind tormenting memories in the heart of man, on the Creator melt with the Universe.

Spiritual by nature and a member of the Bektashi sect, Frashëri is a metaphysical poet, one who fused his lyrical meditations, Hellenistic mystique with ancient, Oriental and Islamic mystique. Being in the crossroads of Eastern and Western philosophical and poetical traditions, N. Frashëri blends them with each other, but without suppressing his Albanian nature. The Western culture and civilisation determined the illuminist underlay of the work of Frashëri, Eastern civilisation its philosophical-mystical underlay, while the Albanian world the backbone of his work. But one should single out the French spirit in his work as well. The French spirit in Greece and Turkey was a representative of the European culture. It found a hotbed in the Balkan countries like Albania, because it brought to the people of the peninsula the ideas of the French uprising and generally the idea of freedom and modern nationalism. Knowing the French language and being an admirer of Voltaire and Rousseau as a thinker and of Lamartine as a poet, Frashëri envisaged the future of his nation “to rise from the side of the sunset”. The romanticism of Naim in this point does not differ from the Greek or Turkish Romanticism, they are all offspring of France.
Naim Frashëri is the founder of the national literature of the Albanians and of the national literary language. He raised Albanian to a modern language of culture, evolving it in the model of the popular Albanian speech.
The inner world of the romantic hero with its vehement feelings is brought to Albanian Romanticism by the poetry of Z. Serembe. The poetry of N. Mjeda and A. Z. Çajupi, who lived at the end of Renaissance, bears the signs of disintegration of the artistic system of Romanticism in Albanian literature.

A.Z Çajupi (1866-1930), is a rustic poet, the type of a folk bard, called the Mistral of Albania; he brought to Albanian literature the comedy of customs and the tragedy of historical themes. Graduated from a French college in Alexandria and the Geneva University, a good connoisseur of French literature, A.Z. Çajupi was among the first to bring into Albanian language La Fountaine’s fables, thus opening the way to the translation and adoption of works of world literature into Albanian, which has been and remains one of the major ways of communication of Albanians with the world culture.
With the establishment of the Albanian state (1912), the romantic school, born from the ground of the national movement, lost its historical base; the national idea gives way to the human one and new tendencies and styles appear in the development of Albanian literature.
The main direction taken by the Albanian literature between the two World Wars was realism, but it also bore either any aspects of a belated sentimentalism (F. Postoli), or remnants of romanticism.

Gjergj Fishta (1871-1940), wrote a poem of national epos breadth “Lahuta e malësisë” (The Lute of the Highlands) in which, in a romanticising spirit and a high patriotic pathos, he depicts the struggles of Northern mountaineers against Slav onslaughts.
With this work he remains the greatest epical poet of Albanians. A Franciscan priest, erudite and a member of the Italian Academy, Gjergj Fishta is a multifaceted personality of Albanian culture: epical and lyrical poet, publicist and satirist, dramatist and translator, active participant in the Albanian cultural and political life between the two Wars.
His major work, "Lahuta e malësisë” (The Lute of the Highlands) with 17.000 verses, written in the spirit of Albanian historical and legendary epos, is a reflection of the Albanian life and mentality, a poetical mosaic of historic and legendary exploits, traditions and customs of the highlands, a live fresco of the history of an old people, which places on its centre the type of Albanian carved in the Calvary of his life along the stream of centuries which had been savage to him. Fishta’s poem is distinguished by its vast linguistic wealth, is a receptacle for the richness of the popular speech of the highlands, the live and infinite phraseology and the diversity of clear syntax constructions, which give vitality and strength to the poetic expression.

The poetical collections “Mrizi i Zanave” (The Fairies’ Mead) with patriotic verse and “Vallja e Parrizit” (Paris’s Dance) with verses of a religious spirit, represent Fishta as a refined lyrical poet, while his other works “Anzat e Parnasit” (Parnassus' Anises) and “Gomari i Babatasit” (Babatas' Donkey) represent him as an unrepeatable satirical poet. In the field of drama, “Juda Makabe” and “Ifigjenia n’ Aulli” may be mentioned along his tragedies with a biblical and ancient mythology themes.
Albanian literature between the two Wars did not lack manifestations of sentimentalism (F. Postoli, M. Grameno) and of belated classicism, especially in drama (E. Haxhiademi). Manifestations of the modern trends, impressionism, symbolism etc. were isolated phenomena in the works of some writers (Migjeni, Poradeci, and Asdreni), that did not succeed in forming a school. Deep changes were seen in the system of genres; prose (Migjeni, F. S. Noli, F. Konica, E. Koliqi, M. Kuteli, etc.) drama and satire (Gj. Fishta, K. Floqi) developed parallel to poetry.

The typical representative of realism was Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, Migjeni (1913-1938). His poetry “Vargjet e lira” (Free Verse), 1936, and prose are permeated by a severe social realism on the misery and tragic position of the individual in the society of the time. The characters of his works are people from the lowest strata of Albanian society.
Some of Migjeni’s stories are novels in miniature; their themes represent the conflict of the individual with institutions and the patriarchal and conservative morality. The rebellious nature of Migjeni’s talent broke the traditionalism of Albanian poetry and prose by bringing a new style and forms in poetry and narrative. He is one of the greatest reformers of Albanian literature, the first great modern Albanian writer.

L. Poradeci (1899-1987), a poetical talent of a different nature, a brilliant lyrical poet, wrote a soft and warm poetry, but with a deep thinking and a charming musicality “Vallja e yjeve” (The Dance of Stars), 1933, “Ylli i zemrës” (The Star of Heart) 1937.
F. S. Noli (1882-1965) F.S. Noli is one of the most versatile figures -- he was a distinguished Poet, historian, dramatist, aesthete and musicologist, publicist, translator and master of the Albanian language, on top of being a statesman and diplomat, he is the genius of Albanian culture of the 20th century.
Born in Qytezë, in Edrene region, he did odd jobs in his youth to earn a living; he wrote the plays “The Awakening” and “Israelites and Philistines”; he published articles and translated in Greek S. Frashëri’s work “Albania -- her Past, Present and Future”. In 1906 he went to the U.S.A where he played a role in bringing together the Albanian societies in the “Vatra” federation and two years later he was ordained priest. He intended to found the Albanian Church as independent from the Greek Church. He supported the activity of the armed bands and uprisings of 1910 to 1912.
After the proclamation of Independence, Noli returned to Albania in 1913 and offered his contribution to the national government of Vlorë. During the period of 1920-1924 he expressed his views about how the Albanian State should be organized and implementing an internal and foreign policy based on the principles of Western democracy. It's for these views that he became the leader of Albanian opposition. From 1920 to 1924 he was the leader of the Albanian opposition in parliament and after the June Revolution he became the head of the Democratic government. After the failure of the Revolution he immigrated to Europe where he was acquainted with the Communist ideas as well. There he made a self-critical assessment of his actions up to that time. These years' experience wad embodied in a series of creations of a high artistic level

In 1908 he was ordained a priest, initiating the idea of an autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church, which he established in 1922. After moving around in Europe as a political émigré, in 1932 he settled for good in the USA, where he died.
The experience of the defeated 1924 revolution inspired him for a cycle of lyrics with biblical motifs, included in the book “Album”. In 1907 he had published the drama, again with a biblical theme, “Izraelitë dhe filistinë” (Israelites and Philistines), trying to bring to his time the biblical legend in an analogy with his own experience as a spiritual leader of the movement for national and social liberation of Albanians. In 1947 he published in English the study “Beethoven and the French Revolution”. He translated into Albanian many liturgical books and works of world class writers such as O. Khayyam, W. Shakespeare, H. Ibsen, M. de Cervantes and others. With his poetry, non-fiction, scientific and religious prose, as well as with his translations, F.S. Noli has played a fundamental role in the development of the modern Albanian.
Distinguished writers of short prose were E. Koliqi (1903-1975), M. Kuteli (1907-1967) and F. Konica (1875-1942). The first one wrote subtle prose, full of colouring from his town of Shkodër, (“Tregtar flamujsh”, (Trader of Flags), 1935, the second is a magician of the Albanian language, the writer that cultivated the folk style of narration into a charming prose, “Net shqiptare” (Albanian Nights) 1938; “Ago Jakupi” 1943; “Kapllan aga i Shaban Shpatës” (Kapllan Aga of Shaban Shpata), 1944.

F. Konica is the master who gave Albanian prose a modern image, the intellectual that brought the proper Western mentality to Albanian culture. He was born in Konica, a small Albanian town, which following the decisions of the London Conference of 1913 that shrank the Albanian state to the present borders, remained with Greece. He came from a renowned family, inheriting the title of Bey and the conscience of belonging to an elite, which he manifested strongly in his life and work, but he did not inherit the Oriental backward mentality which he discarded with a joking smile that he translated into a cutting sarcasm in his work.
He attended for one year the Jesuit college of Shkodër, then the Imperial Lyceum in Istanbul, studied literature and philosophy at Dijon University, France, and completed his higher studies at Harvard University, where, in 1912, got a Master's degree (Master of Arts) from that University. Erudite, knowledgeable in all major European languages and some Eastern ones, a friend of G. Apollinaire, called by foreigners “a walking encyclopaedia”, F. Konica became the model of Western intellectual for the Albanian culture. Since his youth he was dedicated to the national movement, but contrary to the mythical, idealising and romanticising feeling of the Renaissance, he brought in it the spirit of criticism and experienced the perennial pain of the idealist who suffers for his own thoughts.
He established the “Albania” magazine (Brussels 1897-1900, London 1902-1909), that became the most important Albanian press organ of the Renaissance. Publicist, essayist, poet, prose writer, translator and literary critic, he, among others, is the author of the studies “L’Albanie et les turcs” (Paris 1895), “Memoire sur le mouvement national albanais (Brussels, 1899), of novels “Një ambasadë e Zulluve në Paris” (An Embassy of the Zulu in Paris) (1922) and “Doktor Gjilpëra” (Doctor the Needle) (1924), as well as of the historical-cultural work “Albania -- the Rock Garden of South-Eastern Europe” published posthumously in Massachusetts in 1597. The two novels of Konica share the satirical spirit and the allegoric expression of the conflict between knowledge and ignorance, between the backward Oriental mentality and modern Western mentality. Both his non-fiction writings and fiction prose are a model of the elaborated literary Albanian and of an elegant style.
He spent the last years of his life (1926-1939) as the ambassador of the Albanian Kingdom to Washington, where he died in 1942. His remains were brought to Albania recently.

The literature of the Albanians of Italy in the period between the two Wars continued the tradition of the romanticist school of the 19th century. Z. Skiro (1865-1927) through his work “Kthimi” (Return), 1913, “Te dheu i huaj” (In Foreign Soil), 1940, wanted to recover the historical memory of Albanians emigrated since the 15th century after the death of Scanderbeg.
During the Antifascist Struggle of the Albanian people (1939-1944), a literature of resistance developed. It was born underground through the press of the Communist Party of Albania. The products of this literature were mainly non-fiction writings, literary sketches and texts of partisan songs. Its authors were antifascist fighters of the youngest generation (Sh. Musaraj, A. Çaçi, F. Gjata, K. Jakova, Q. Buxheli).

After World War II, Albanian literature witnessed a massive development. The main feature of literature and arts of this period was their ideologically oriented development and the elaboration of all genres, especially of novel, which despite of the lack of any tradition came to the lead of the literary process.
The most elaborate type of novel was the novel of socialist realism of ethical and historical character, with a linear subject matter (J. Xoxa, S. Spasse), but novels with a rugged composition, open poetics and a philosophical substratum issuing from association of ideas and historical analogies (I. Kadare, P. Marko) as well as the satirical novel are not lacking (D. Agolli, Q. Buxheli).
The short story and novel were developed by Dh. Shuteriqi, N. Prifti, Z. Çela, T. Laço, Dh. Xhuvani, N. Lera and others, and poetry by I. Kadare, D. Agolli, F. Arapi, Xh. Spahiu, M. Ahmeti and others.
Drama (K. Jakova, “Toka jonë”) (Our land), 1955, and comedy (S. Çomora, “Karnavalet e Korçës”) (The Carnival of Korça), 1961, developed to a lesser degree.
The literature of this period developed within the framework of socialist realism, the only direction allowed by official policy. But beyond this framework, powerful talents created works with an implicit feeling of opposition and with universal significance.
The disidend trend in literature was expressed in different forms in the works of K.Trebeshina, M.Myftiu, I Kadare, D. Agolli, M. Jero, K. Kosta, etj, who either tried to break out the canons of the socialist realism method or introduced heretic ideas for the comunist dictatorship ideology.

I. Kadare (born in 1936), with the poem (“Përse mendohen këto male” (What Are These Mountains Musing On?) 1964, “Motive me diell” (Sunny Motifs) 1968, “Koha” (Time) 1976, and especially with his prose (“Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur” (The General of The Dead Army) 1963, “Kështjella” (The Castle) 1970, “Kronikë në gur” (Chronicle in Stone) 1971, “Dimri i madh“ (The Great Winter) 1977, “Ura me tri harqe” (The Three-Arched Bridge) 1978, “Piramida” (The Pyramid) 1992; “Spiritus” 1996 etc., defied the limitations of the time and revived Albanian literature with forms and motifs which integrate it into the modern streams of world literature.
The work of Kadare represents an artistic encyclopaedia of Albanian life, a broad fresco of historical and contemporary events, experienced with a philosophical attitude, sometimes expressed openly and at other times in Aesop’s speech. The philosophy, beliefs, dramas and historical and cultural traditions of Albanians, filtered through the artistic thinking of the writer are represented in Kadare’s work as an expression of the national identity and the vitality of the spiritual culture of his own people and as a factor in the people’s historical resistance and survival.
Kadare creates a modern prose making wide use of historical analogies, parables and associations, national legends and mythology. His work has an open poetics, which emanates from the intertwining of times, levels of artistic speech and the real with the unreal, and from the uneven mosaic nature of composition.
Kadare's work brings to European literature a characteristic Mediterranean, Balkan, flavour, and enriches it with the coloration of an area typical for its ethno-cultural distinctness. Starting from the epical world of medieval legends and ballads, the prose of Kadare overcomes time distance and brings to resonance the medieval artistic conscience and mentality with those of our time.
The message of Kadare’s prose and poetry simultaneously gains historical depth and a universal humane note through a deep creative elaboration of the richness of ancient folk traditions.
Kadare, a writer with a strong critical conscience, has not only raised to poetry the spiritual values of his nation, but has also castigated outdated traditions, oldish mentalities, provincial psychology and backward life conventions of Albanian society.
Through its spirit of dissidence in the conditions of dictatorship when it was made, Kadare's work has helped to erode the foundations of the totalitarian regime in Albania. His political exile to France in 1990, at a time when democratic processes had just started in Albania, gave an impulse to these processes. It is for these values that Kadare’s work enjoys wide popularity and has been translated in all of the major languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Arabic, etc.). Kadare has been praised by foreign critique as one of the most distinguished contemporary writers of the world literature and has won several international awards. Kadare is currently the most eminent representative of Albanian culture in the world.

A fine lyrical poet and satirical writer, D. Agolli (1931) has brought in Albanian poetry the freshness of a spontaneous meditative inspiration, and in Albanian novel the subtle popular humour which stretches to the grotesque “Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo” (The Shine and Fall of Comrade Zylo) 1973, “Arka e djallit” (Devil’s Arc) 1997). He is a master of the psychological, philosophical short story (“Zhurma e erërave të dikurshme” (The Noise of Remote Winds) 1964, “Njerëz të krisur” (Crazy People) 1995.
Agolli's most important collections of poems include “Shtigje malesh dhe trotuare” (Mountain Paths and Sidewalks) 1965, “Fjala gdhend gurin” (Word Carves the Stone) 1977, “Udhëtoj i menduar” (Walking Deep in Thoughts) 1985, and “Lypësi i kohës” (Beggar of the Time) 1995.

D.Agolli was born in a village of southeastern Albania and at a very young age participated in the Antifascist Resistance. The close connection with the life of the people and the antifascist ideals determined the content of his work. A feature of Agolli’s novels on the resistance is the updating of its moral values through an artistic synchronisation of war events with present-day ones. The work of Agollli has become very popular; it is translated in several languages and has been appraised by foreign critique.
Albanian literature in Albanian lands in Kosova and Western Macedonia as represented by many names (E. Mekuli, A. Pashku, A. Podrimja, R. Kelmendi, R. Qosja, D. Mehmeti, M. Isaku etc.), although developed in a different political and cultural context, even after World War II maintained links with the mother culture and brought into art the national and human dramas and ravages of the individuals in those lands. There has not been any proper literary movement in the Albanian Diaspora in Europe after World War II. The only important author of that Diaspora is M. Camaj (1925-1992). In his poetry and prose he tries to uncover the identity roots of the Albanian émigré.

The most important result in the post-war Albanian culture in terms of the language development is the unification of the standard Albanian, elaborated to the level of a modern language.
In the current stage of transition of post-Communist society, Albanian literature is experiencing the advantages of its opening to the world, but also the problems that are faced in such conditions by the culture of any nation to preserve its own identity.

Author Prof. Jorgo Bulo
1. Historia e letërsisë shqipe I, II (History of Albanian Literature) (Published by the Institute of History and Linguistics of Tirana University, Tirana, 1960.
2. Historia e letërsisë shqiptare (History of Albanian literature) (Published by the Academy of Sciences), Tirana, 1983.
3. E. Çabej. Shqiptarët midis Perëndimit dhe Lindjes (Albanians between the West and the East), Tirana, 1994

Albanian Folk Culture

Albanian Folk Culture

Albania has a very rich folk culture.It was first studied in the 19century,initially mostly by foreign scholars who were interested in linguistics.The ballad of Doruntina was the object of a pionieering study by the German poet Burger.In general,there is a marked difference between the northern and the sourthern traditions.
In the north songs are usually sung by a single individual,and the dominant pattern is of heroic narrative,on historical themes,usually the struggle against the Turks. In the south music and song are more communal,with songs and poems for several performers,often with a choral element.

There are also many different folk dances for each region.In the south dances are often accompanied by polyphonic songs,of great antiquity.In the commoner dances the performers move in a rectilinear pattern,and with pirouettes.Albanian music uses a variety of traditional instruments,some of which are unique to the country.The flute is the most common instrument,along with the bagpipes,the drum and the lahuta.

The lahuta is a stringed instrument resembling the medieval and Renaissance lutes of northern Europe and is one of the most ancient instruments still in use in Europe.It was used by the ancient oral poets to call the attention of the audience to their the north the ciftelia is widely played,a small mandolin with a very long thin neck and two strings.

The Institute of Popular Culture in Tirana has been collecting traditional songs,dances and poetry since the war,and has over a million verses, 40,000 proverbs,and about 10,000 musical recordings.A useful volume for those who do not read Albanian is Chansonnier Epique Albanais, which includes many well popular verses.

Citadel of Berat

Citadel of Berat

The citadel of Berat is one of the great historic monuments of the Balkans: a vast , imposing fortress dominating the Osum valley.
It is remarkably well preserved considering its long and turbulent history. Within the citadel complex are the important churches, domestic buildings, an icon museum and a ruined mosque.

The magnificent views of the surrounding country are breathtaking in their extent. The citadel was built to a roughly triangular plan, following the contours of the top of the hill, and is only accessible from the south-east.
Viewed from below, that side of the citadel almost seems to be part of the hill , a human extension of a great natural fortress that has offered control of the Osum river valley in all periods of history.
It is approached up a broad, well-paved road, dating from the late Ottoman period. The hour-long walk can be strenuous particulary on a hot day, and you may prefer to find a taxi.

Visitors with cars can park at the top. Above the winding road on the left are attractive hanging gardens which on a hot summer day waft the scent of coriander everywhere, and olive groves line the outskirts of the city to the right.

The entrance gate is reached at the top, with a roughly paved courtyard outside it. The tower, a brutal-looking square structure would be an ideal set in a film of one of Shakespeare´s darker tragedies.
Just inside the entrance , after walking up the path to the left, is the Church of Shen Todri. ST Theodore, with a very fine frescoes by Onufre the Great, a 16C Albanian painter.

It is a small building with an exterior polygonal apse. It was built on the foundations of an older church and most of what can be seen dates from the 16C.

The paintings of the Virgin with outstretched arms, the Church Fathers and of Christ and the Angel Gabriel are particulary fine.
St Theodore´s also contains some icons, of Christ Pantokrator, from the 16C, John the Baptist, from the 17C, Virgin Mary with Child, 19C and St Theodore in a struggle with a dragon, dated 1741.

The citadel was always famous for its churches, with no fewer than 14 hidden within the walls of the fortress. They were severely damaged, in many cases during the anti-religious campaigns of the state in the 70´s.

[Things to See ]

The inner entrance tower contains masonry blocs dating back to the original Illyrian fortifications, which were constructed in the 4C and 3C BC.
An outer perimeter wall with 24 towers encircled the top of the hill. The high central tower on the edge of the inner fortifications is also Illyrian in origin.

The outer walls that can be seen today date originally from the reconstruction of the citadel under the rule of Michael Comnenos, under the despotate of Epirus, between 1204 and 1215.
The central north tower was reinforced then, and walls running above the river Osum extended to the south-east , and the outer entrance gate built.
In the 16C further refortification was undertaken by the Turkish conquerors, and under Ali Pasha modifications were made to enable the fortress to be defended with modern artillery.

Follow through into the inner bailey area. In the centre is the Church of Shen Maria (St Mary), which also contains Onuphre Icon Museum. The church was built in the late 18C and completed in 1797.

Citadel of Rozafat

Citadel of Rozafat

The Legend

The name of Rozafat Citadel is derived from a version of the woman built into the castle wall, which is common in folklore in many Balkan countries.
According to local folk stories in northern Albania, three brothers who were working on the construction of the castle found that the work they had done during the day was always demolished during the night.

An old man who lived near the castle told the brothers that the Devil was acting against them.
According the old man the only way to frustrate the efforts of Devil was to wall someone up in the bulding as a human sacrifice to appease him.
The brothers therefore decided to kill whichever of their wives was the first to bring them food on the following day, and say nothing to any of the women about their murderous pact.
But the two elder brothers did tell their wives about the plan , so the wife of the youngest ,Rosapha , was the only one to come with food next day, and she was duly built into the wall of the citadel..."

Shkodra Citadel is the earliest major building in the Balkans with a tradition of human sacrifice in its construction.
The legend was classified by the 19C German folklorist Jacob Grimm as a characteristic example of a legend of Immurement.Elsewhere in Albania similar legends are associated with castles , and also with bridges in Albanian inhabited regions, such as the Saint's Bridge in Kosova, the bridge arta in northern Greece and Qine Bridge in Cameria.

The Shkodra legend received its earliest exposition in Barleti's Chronicle, written in Shkodra in 1504.

The Rozafat Citadel is magnificently situated on a rockt outcrop of limestone 135m high above the point where the river Buna meets the river Kir.

For most visitors, it has everything, in terms of romance and drama of its setting, that a large medieval castle in the Balkans could be expected to have.

Below the citadel , and to the left of it , was the old bazaar quarter of the Ottoman town.
It can be approached by car up a steep winding road from the south side, with very fine Ottoman paving,although parking at the top is difficult.It began to take on military importance as early as the 2C BC, and never lost it until the Firts World War.
There are spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from all sides,particaluary of Lake of Shkodra, the river Buna and the drained marshlands and flood plains of the rivers .

Even if the visitor does not have time to make an exhausted tour of the citadel, for which at least three hours is needed , a short visit should be made simply to enjoy the outstanding situation and to contemplate the scene of so many seminal events in Albanian history.

Rozafat citadel was , in a general sense, quite impregnable, built on sheer cliffs, with its own water supply and secret passages leading down to the riverside below.
It hence gave rise to some of the most blood-soaked sieges ever seen in Europe, particulary the final heroic defence in 1479.

This cataclysmic event was the subject of Veronese frescoes of 1585 in the Doge's Palace in Venice.


[from Mitrush Kuteli (ed.) Tregime të moçme shqiptare (Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1965, reprint 1987, 1998). Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

The legend of Rozafat Castle, now the ruins of a no doubt originally Illyrian fortification soaring above the town of Shkodra in northern Albania, involves one of the grimmest motifs of Balkan legendry, that of immurement. The story of a woman being walled in during the construction of a bridge or castle in order to stabilise the foundations is widespread in oral literature in Albania, the Balkans and elsewhere. Variants in Albania are also told of the castle of Turra south of Kavaja, of the castle of Petro Petroshi in Lleshan south of Elbasan, and of the fortress of Elbasan itself. The earliest version outside Albania may be that of the Bridge of Adana in southern Turkey, which was constructed in 527-565 A.D. The best known variant in the Balkans itself is that of the Bridge of Arta in northern Greece, which was constructed in 1602-1606. Other variants are known to the Romanians in the legend of the Monastery of Argesh, the Bulgarians in the legend of the Bridge of Struma, also called Kadin Most, the Bosnians in the legends of Teshanj Castle and the Bridge of Mostar, and the Serbs, who indeed have a Serbian variant for the legend of Rozafat Castle, “Grad gradili na Skadar,” recorded by Vuk Karadzic (1787-1864). Also related are the Hungarian ballad of the castle of Deva and the German legend of the castle of Henneberg. The Albanian version of the legend of Rozafat Castle was first recorded by Thimi Mitko (1820-1890) in his folklore collection ‘Albanike melissa / Belietta sskiypetare’ (The Albanian Bee) in 1878. The immurement legend is based no doubt upon a Balkan reality. Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, animals such as sheep, goats and chickens were still being sacrificed on such occasions in Albania and their remains were immured in the foundations of bridges and other buildings. The practice is still widely encountered today. Here is a prose summary of the Rozafat legend.

Fog lay over the Buna for three days and three nights, blanketing the river completely. When three days and three nights had passed, a strong wind began to blow, dissipating the mists and making Mount Valdanuz visible once again. Up on the mountain there were three brothers at work building a castle. The foundations they built during the daytime always collapsed at night, so that they could never finish the castle. One day, an old man came by and greeted the three brothers, saying, “I wish you success in your work!” “We wish you success, too, old man, though we ourselves are not doing very well. Day after day, we work and build and, at night, the foundations collapse. Do you know what we can do to make the walls stay put?” “Yes, I do,” replied the old man, “but it would be a shame if I told you.” “Let the shame be ours, because we are the ones who want to build the castle.” The old man reflected for a while and then asked, “Are you married? Do you all have wives?” “Yes, we are married,” they replied, “Each of us has a wife. But tell us what to do to build the castle.” “If you really want to finish the castle, you must swear never to tell your wives what I am going to tell you now. The wife who brings you your food tomorrow must be buried alive in the wall of the castle. Only then will the foundations stay put and last forever.” Thus spoke the old man and departed. But alas, the eldest brother broke his promise and revealed to his wife at home everything that had happened and told her not to approach the place where the castle was being built. The second brother broke his promise, too, and told his wife everything. Only the youngest brother kept his word and said nothing to his wife at home.
The next morning, the brothers rose early and went off to work. Their axes resounded, rocks were crushed, the walls rose and their hearts beat faster and faster… At home the mother of the three brothers knew nothing of their plot. She said to the wife of the eldest brother, “The men need bread and water and their flask of wine, daughter in law.” She replied, “I’m sorry, dear mother, but I really cannot go today. I am ill.” The mother then asked the second wife, who answered, “My word, dear mother, I cannot go either, for I must visit my parents today.” The mother then turned to the youngest wife, saying, “My dear daughter in law, the men need bread and water and their flask of wine.” She got up and said, “I would willingly go, mother, but I have my young son here and am afraid he will need weaning and will cry.” “You go ahead,” said the other two daughters in law, “we shall look after the boy. He won’t cry.”
So the youngest and best wife stood up, fetched the bread and water and the flask of wine, kissed her son good bye on both cheeks and set off. She climbed up Mount Valdanuz and approached the place where the three workers were busy. “I wish you success in your work, gentlemen!” But what was wrong? The axes stopped resounding, their hearts beat faster and faster, and their faces turned pale. When the youngest brother saw his wife coming, he hurled his axe into the valley and cursed the rocks and walls. “What is the matter, my lord,” his wife asked, “why are you cursing the rocks and walls?” Her older brothers in law smiled grimly and the oldest one declared, “You were born under an unlucky star, sister in law, for we have sworn to bury you alive in the wall of the castle.”
“Then may it be so, brothers in law,” replied the young woman. “I have but one request to make. When you wall me in, leave a hole for my right eye, for my right hand, for my right foot and for my right breast. I have a small son. When he starts to cry, I will cheer him up with my right eye, I will comfort him with my right hand, I will rock him with my right foot and I will wean him with my right breast. Let my breast turn to stone and may the castle flourish. May my son become a great hero, the ruler of the world!”
They then seized the poor young woman and walled her into the foundations of the castle. This time the walls did not collapse, but stayed put to rise higher and higher. Even today, at the foot of the castle, the stones are still damp and mildewed from the tears of the mother weeping for her son.

The Environs of Korca

The Environs of Korca

The villages around Korca are a synonim of history.Those villages make delightful excursions . The villages are generally on or near the Plain, rather than in the mountains thus it is possible to reach them with taxi from the city. This area is very mixed and the visitor will meet an extraordinary diversity of people within a small geographical area.Albanian language is universally understood , while in some quite small villages it is possible to hear as many as four languages spoken in a community of a few hundred people.
The hilltown of Voskopoja is 21km near Korca.This city is one of the msot evocative and atmospheric places in this part of the Balkans, with Orthodox churches of the highest architectural and historical interest, remarkable fresco paintings, and the remains of a small urban settlement . Until mid-18C was Voskopoja one of the msot flourishing and prosperous cities in the region.This region is largely inhabited by Vlach shepherds (a small minority in Albania).

History of Voskopoja :
Voskopoja first appears as a place of any importance in medieval chronicles in the 14C. It was then known by the Greek name of Moschopolis.In the 15C the region developed as a trade centre.It grew rapidly, and was particulary prosperous after the Venetian expansion in the Balkans, acting as an entreport between Venice and Constantipole. Merchants from Vlora had a large interests in the town, and business connections existed in palces as far as away as Saxony,Budapest,Constanza,Trieste and Poland.

By the middle of the 18C as many as 50,000 people may have lived in the vicinity, and 30,000 in the town itself. It was the second largest city in " Turkey in Europe" after Constantinople. The first churches were constructed in the 17C. In 1720 the first printing press in the Balkans was said to be established, and in 1760 books were being printed. The writers Theodore Kavalioti and Theodore Haxhifilipi lived here.The town declined at the end of 18 century as Korca grew as the regional capital .

Onuphre Icon Museum

Onuphre Icon Museum

Onuphre Icon Museum was opened in Berat in 1986. It contains some of the finest examples of religious art in Albania.This museum is named after the great 16C painter of the Albanian school, Onuphre.
In the Room 1: facing the entrance, displays one of the most beautifull icons in the museum, a work by Onuphre in which the Virgin Mary is shown holding the infant Jesus on her right arm, enclosed by metalwork beautifully decorated with geometric and natural motifs. The style developed in albania at this time was closely related to the icon painting school developed in Byzantine art in the time of Emperor John Paleologus, and the work of the Albanian painters drew on , and developed, a tradition already 200years old.

An icon representing Tyron and Stratiliate is exhibited at the entrance to the naos.The two warrior saints are shown dressed as soldiers and kneeling in prayer. The room also contains objects made for liturgical use and ornate Bible covers made by the Berat master Agathangjel Mbrica. a particulary fine example shows the life of the Prophet Isaiah.

In the Room 2 : is a large space with many icons exhibited in it. On the left is an icon 'Candlemas' from the citadel Church of the Annunciation. It is a complex, elegant , richly-coloured composition. The western side of the room is taken up with several other icons representing the Annunciation. Another outstanding icon in this room is that of the Virgin: made in 17C, it is heavily influenced in style by the contemporary icon painting school on the island of Crete. It has a delicate style , and very fine colour gradation. Icons of St Michael and St George of outstanding interest are also found in this room.

In the upper Room : Most of the icons in this room , reached by the central wooden staircase, are from the citadel church of St Demetrius. The finest is perhaps the icon of St Nicholas, attributed to Onuphre, or the icon of John the Baptist, by the same artist. At the end of the room is an interesting icon giving a picture of the citadel and town of medieval Berat in the background, an example of the work of Cetiri, other smaal objects also are displayed in this room.

Antic city of Apollonia

The view from the top row of the seats offers a fine prospect of the sea and the coastal plain. To the right of the odeon are the remains of a small stoa, and a small square building that formed the foundations and lower walls of a Roman bath.
Between the odeon end the bouleuterion are the foundations of four large columns. To the left of the odeon is the finely preserved large stoa, an impressive oblong building in front of an earth bank.

It is about 75m long, with a twin series of marble columns running from north to south, with 17 insets for the display of statues. The lower floor has a perimeter of Dorian columns, while the upper floor was supported by Ionic columns.

It dates from the 3C AD and is an outstanding axample of late-imperial stoa design and construction , and evokes perfectly the mercantile atmosphere and wealth af the ancient city.
To the west of the stoa is the theatre, a large Hellenistic structure dating from the 2C BC, but in poor state and in need of restoration. It could accommodate about 7500 people. It has only been partly axcavated.

It appears to follow Dorian design concepts, and shows little trace of Roman or native influence. It is the largest theatre of this period to have been found in Albania. To the west of the theatre is a length of Roman street, and the foundations of a large Roman house with a mosaic floor.

Other foundations of Roman domestic buildings can be seen to the south of the theatre. Behind the stoa, it is possible to climb over the earth bank through brambles and other undergrowth, and over the remains of a Byzantine wall that was built across the site running north-south behind the stoa, to the original acropolis, which can be seen rising in the dinstance.
To reach it involves walking across a flat area about 500m wide, partly covered with grass, partly with undergrowth. Very little of this side of the site has been exavated and much of the ancient city lies near surface.

The area is thought to have been occupied largely by mercantile buildings during the Roman period, the masonry from which was removed and used to build houses and agricultural buildings in the medieval and modern periods in the nearby villages of Mbrostar and Pojan.

Below the acropolis to the north-west are the remains of the nympheum, known in antiquity as the Fountain of Cephisus .
This was supplied with water from a dammed spring at the base of the acropolis. It is in a good state of preservation, largely thanks to being covered with debris after an earthquake in 4C AD.

The water from the spring, after being contained in a structure 70m long, was piped into a large central basin surrounded with five Doric columns. It is generally thought to have been built in the 3C BC.

Returning across the site by the original route, to the east is a small acropolis , 1.27 hectares in area, with a few olive trees growing on it.
This was the site of a temple dating from late antiquity, probably dedicated to Apollo or Artemis, the foundations of which have been axcavated and can be seen. Excavators found some resemblances to the Temple of Assos, in asia Minor.

The acropolis itself is thought to have been one of the first parts of the site to be occupied, with the wall on the east side having foundations that are thought to date from about 600BC, and indicate Illyrian settlement.

The wall here was about 3m thick. In the 4C BC, the city is thought to have spread to the south and south-west of this acropolis.
Re-entering the central complex of buildings, you pass through the base of the entrance tower to the old upper city, and a monument to Apollo. Climb up the slope to the south side of the odeon, and immediately the massive masonry of the perimeter walls of the site are in front of you.

A walk around the walls in this direction towards the church of St Mary is a rewarding experience, as they are on the whole in a well- preserved state and there is a wonderful viewover the valley east of the odeon.

After a short walk to a corner tower, turn towards the church and follow the walls south. In total they are about 4km in length and were constructed in different stages.
The first large-scale fortification of the city undertook place in the 4C BC and with later construction in the 3C and in the time of Roman monarchs.

At the base of the walls a short walk from this point is a monument to Apollo, dating from the 3C BC. After walking in this direction, climb up to the entrance in the walls at the base of the Monastery and Church of Shenmeri.

This is one of the most interesting and beautifull Byzantine buildings in Albania, and it also contains the Apollonia Museum, most of its treasures have been removed in Tirana for safekeeping. A few statues can be seen under the monastery closter´s roof.
The monastery and church in general are thought to date from the first part of 13C, although there has been much learned discussion about dating of different phases of construction, and all authorities agree that substantial rebuilding has taken place in later periods.

Masonry from ancient Apollonia is incorporated in the walls, in a way reminiscent of the original Athens cathedral, in Plaka. The surrounding closters were inhabited by the monks, and their cells and a variety of domestic and agricultural buildings can be seen around the perimeter.

Archaeological investigations have revealed that for hunderds of years the Illyrian and Greek inhabitants of the site appear to have lived in separate communities.Aristotel took Apollonia as a model in his analysis of oligarchy.

The economic prosperity of apollonia grew on the basis of tradein slaves ,and the local pastoral agriculture ,with coins having been found as far as the Danube basin.

In the years from 214 BC onwards the city was involved in the war between the Illyrian Taulanti and Casander,the King of Macedonia; and in 229 BC came under Roman control.
In 148 BC it was integrated into the province of Macedonia.For 200 years it was of central importance in the Roman effort to colonise the east and may have been an originalterminus of the Egnatian Way.

In the civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar it was a vital stronghold for Caesar.In 45 and 44 BC, Octavian ,later to become the Emperor Augustus studied for six months in Apollonia.
It was in Apollonia that Octavian heard the news of Julius Caesar´s death, in 44 BC it was noted by Cicero, in the Philipics,as magna urbs et gravis, a great and important city.
Strabo mentions a Fountain of Cephissus near the gymnasium at Apollonia.Under the Roman Empire it remained a prosperous centre,but began to decline as the Vjosa silted up and the coastline changed after the earthquake.

Apollonia was an early centre of Christianity in the region,with a bishop attending the Counsil of Ephesus in 431, and the Counsil of Chalkis in 451.

Entering the site through the small iron gate,you walk towards the central group of ancient religious and mercantile buildings.
In spring,this part of the site is particulary beautiful thanks to profusion of wild flowers here. Tortoises are also wery common.

Passing the foundations of Roman houses to the left of the path you see the bouleuterion,an elegant and compact building from the Hellenism period whose facade with six marble Corinthian columns was restored in the 1960s.

Most of the marble architrave is original.The building measures 15m by 20m and the columns stand 9m high.The interior behind the columns is a U-shaped room surrounded by marble-faced brick walls.
A Greek inscription on the architrave states that the building was constructed by Quintus Villius Crispinus Furius Proculus,in honour of his deceased brother.His identity is unknown.

Excavation in the interior of the building has revealed that it was used as the office of the imperial administration in the city,in particular for the official concerned with administration of the imperial cult ceremonies.

The date of the inscription is also unknown,but the bulding as a whole is thought to date from the second quarter of the 2C AD.Immediately beyond the bouleuterion is the odeon,a small Roman building dating from the 2C AD.
It seats about 600 spectators,and thesteps have been restored to allow it to be used for modern concert performances. The two buildings are thought to have formed the edges of a small square.

The remains of buildings on either side of the odeon were probably used in connection with the imperial cult,of some other religious function.