"They rose to where their sovran eagle sails,
They kept their faith, their freedom, on the height,
Chaste, frugal, savage, armed by day and night
Against the Turk; whose inroad nowhere scales
Their headlong passes, but his footstep fails,
And red with blood the Crescent reels from fight
Before their dauntless hundreds, in prone flight
By thousands down the crags and through the vales.
O smallest among peoples! rough rock-throne
Of Freedom! warriors heating back the swarm
Of Turkish Islâm for five hundred years,
Great Tsernagora! never since thine own
Black ridges drew the cloud and broke the storm
Has breathed a race of mightier mountaineers."
TENNYSON, Nineteenth Century, May, 1877.
"In my deliberate opinion the traditions of Montenegro, now committed to His Highness (Prince Nicholas) as a sacred trust, exceed in glory those of Marathon and Thermopylæ, and all the war-traditions of the world."
MR. GLADSTONE, October 18, 1895




THE country on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, which we are accustomed to call Montenegro or the "Black Mountain," is usually supposed to derive its name from the black forests of pines which once 24
353 354 FROM EARLIEST TIMES TO BATTLE OF KOSSOVO. clothed its grey limestone rocks. From the western half of the country, which composed the original principality, all vestiges of wood have long since disappeared, and the sea of stones, which meets the eye of the traveller in every direction, cannot by any stretch of language be called dark. It has therefore been suggested that the mountain took its title from the "Black Prince," or Crnoiević, who founded a Montenegrin dynasty in the fifteenth century. No trace of the name can be discovered before that period, and it is more rational to suppose that the country was called after its rulers than that the Turks gave it its present designation because of the "black hearts" of its people. But, whatever be the origin of the name "Montenegro"—the Venetian variant of the ordinary word "Monte Nero"—the fact remains that in such different languages as French, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, modern Greek, and Albanian, we find the country described by a name which in each case has the meaning of "Black Mountain." The title of Crnagora, which the natives have bestowed upon their highland home, has the same significance.

The origin of the nation is much less obscure than that of its name. When the Serb kingdom fell on the fatal field of Kossovo in 1389, the mountain-fastnesses between the Adriatic and the valley of the Zeta became the last refuge of those Serb families who preferred freedom in a barren land to a fertile soil and the yoke of the Ottoman invader. The present inhabitants of Montenegro are descended from the aristocracy of ancient Servia, and a believer in the doctrine of heredity may detect in their ex 355 MONTENEGRIN MANNERS. qluisite manners a proof of their aristocratic lineage. it has been truly said that the Montenegrin is the exact opposite of the Bulgarian. Put both in a drawing-room, and the Montenegrin, who has never bowed his neck to a foreign master, will look and behave like a gentleman, while the Bulgarian, but lately set free from the Turkish bondage, will look and behave like a boor. But put the two upon a waste plot of ground, and the Bulgarian will convert it into a garden of roses, while the Montenegrin will look on. This is the result of the national history. For five centuries the Montenegrins have had to fight for their existence. War has become the great object of their lives, their annals are one long series of heroic struggles for independence, and even now they have not emerged from the military into the industrial state of society. Their history, based as it is in large measure upon oral tradition and the stirring war-songs of the native bards, reminds the reader at every page of the Homeric era of ancient Greece, with its god-like heroes, its hard-fought battles, its raids and forays, its ghastly trophies, and its kings, who, like the Vladikas of Montenegro, were "shepherds of the people," its chiefs in council, its judges in peace, its leaders in war.

Although the existence of Montenegro as an independent state dates from the battle of Kossovo, the country had shared the vicissitudes of the Balkan Peninsula for several centuries before that memorable disaster. It was in the earliest times a part of Illyria, called Prævalitana by the Romans, of which Scutari in Albania, or Skodra, as the Turks call it, was the 356 FROM EARLIEST TIMES TO BATTLE OF KOSSOVO. capital. When the Romans first crossed the Adriatic in 229 B.C. to suppress the piracy which crippled their commerce, it was against Teuta, queen of the Illyrians, that they directed their attacks. Teuta at first resisted, but was soon forced to flee, and Rizona, which is mentioned by Polybius as her place of refuge, is the present Podgorica, the largest town in Montenegro and its chief commercial centre. Sixty years later, the prætor Lucius Anicius Paulus defeated Gentius, King of Illyria, and pursued him to Skodra. The country was, however, allowed to remain independent for a time, and formed part of a loose confederation of states. Subsequently administered, like Cisalpine Gaul, direct from Rome, it was not formed into an actual province and finally united to the Roman Empire till the reign of Augustus. Then, as now, it was, in a sense, the meeting-place of the East and West, for Skodra was the dividing-line between the eastern and western dominions of the triumvirs when for the second time they, distributed the world between them. Henceforth Roman influence was felt in Montenegro and its borderlands. Roman cities rose at Ascrivium, the modern Cattaro, and at Rhizinium, the modern Risano. The labour of antiquaries has laid bare the remains of Dioclea, an ancient town situated at the junction of the rivers Zeta and Moraća, not far from Podgorica, and famous as the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Marble altars and pieces of columns still recall the Roman period, and Prince Nicholas possesses at Cetinje several silver coins, dug up at Dioclea, which bear the image and superscription of the Roman 357 DIOCLEA. Cæsars. The numerous inscriptions which have been discovered in the neighbourhood prove that the influence of the Flavian Emperors was powerful even in that remote spot. Dioclea, were it in Italy or Greece, would be the wonder of tourists, the admiration of scholars.

RUINS OF DIOCLEA. <i>(From a Photo by Mr. C. A. Miller)</i>

As might have been expected from its position, Montenegro oscillated between the Eastern and Western Empires. Now it was assigned to the one, and now to the other. At first it was included in the Eastern division, but from the reign of Honorius down to the close of the fifth century after Christ it was transferred to the Western. When that fell, it 358 FROM EARLIEST TIMES TO BATTLE OF KOSSOVO. came back, together with the other districts on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, to the Eastern Empire, whose ecclesiastical supremacy it had already owned. This was a decisive moment in its history, for it was the origin of that firm connection with the Eastern Church which has distinguished Montenegro from the Roman Catholic Albanians along its southern frontier. The inroads of the barbarians now began. Even the bare Montenegrin mountains became a prey to the invaders. In the middle of the sixth century the Slavs entered Illyria, as the western part of the Balkan Peninsula was called, in large numbers, overthrew the armies which met them, and swept over the land. A century later, the Greek Emperor Heraclius, true to the time-honoured policy of casting out one horde of barbarians by another, summoned the Croats and Serbs from the southern slopes of the Carpathians to repel the advance of the terrible Avars. Their efforts were successful. A Serb state, or confederation of seven states, was founded, and of this Montenegro became a member, just as it had in olden time belonged to an Illyrian group. At this period the Montenegrin portion of the confederation took its name from Dioclea, its principal town, and was governed by a governor, or Župan, dependent upon the Grand Župari, who pre- sided over the seven confederate states and was in his turn a vassal of the Emperor at Constantinople. The arrangement was somewhat similar to, the Heptarchy in our own early history. The Župan of Dioclea, like his fellows, enjoyed a large measure of independence, and spent a considerable portion of his time in fighting with his fellow-princelings. 359 THE PRINCIPALITY OF THE ZETA. Whichever of them became the strongest was recognised by the rest as their head. Presently the slender tie between the Empire and the Serb Heptarchy snapped, and fresh swarms of invaders attacked the confederates. The Župan of Dioclea ruled at this period over a much larger region than the Montenegro of to-day. The village communities of the Herzegovina on the north, and the territory of Albania as far south as Skodra, the coveted coast-strip from Dulcigno to Cattaro and the whole shore of the splendid gulf to which that town gives its name, then obeyed the master of Dioclea. His country became known as the Principality of the Zeta, or Zenta, from the river on which his capital was situated. Gradually the power of the separate confederate chiefs became greater, and the union of the confederation looser. The Župan of Dioclea first assumed the title of his superior lord, and then, under the name of Ban, which survives in the Croatia of our own time, declared himself free from all federate control. Obscure as is the history of the old Illyrian province at this era, the importance of the present Montenegro is clear even in those misty centuries. Samuel, the famous Bulgarian Czar, did, indeed, succeed in destroying its capital. But Dioclea rose from its ashes, and in 1050 we find its Prince proclaiming himself King of Servia. The celebrated Pope Hildebrand confirmed his title, and he reigned for thirty years in his Montenegrin capital over the undivided Serb race. His son, Bodin, succeeded him, and even extended his dominion, adding "lofty Bosnia" to his possessions. But discord broke out in his family, his descendants were unable 360 FROM EARLIEST TIMES TO BATTLE OF KOSSOVO. to maintain his position, and the principality sank once more under the Imperial sway.

But it did not long remain an appanage of the Greek Empire. Early in the twelfth century—as narrated in the third part of this book—Stephen Nernanja reunited the Serb states, and made them, including Montenegro, into a substantial kingdom. The Herzegovina and the valley of the Zeta were then separated from the western part of the present principality, and formed three of the nine divisions into which he split up his kingdom. From that date, down to the downfall of the Serb monarchy at Kossovo, the history of Montenegro is part and parcel of that of Servia, which has already been described. A Župan or Ban continued to reside at Dioclea, but for the next two hundred years he was nothing more than a Serb viceroy. The place continued, however, to have more than local importance. Its situation at the confluence of two rivers, not far from the Lake of Scutari and the coast, combined with its historic traditions to prevent it sinking to the level of a village. It was the seat of an Archbishop, whose jurisdiction extended over the wild mountaineers and lonely shepherds of the region beyond the river; St. Sava, the saint whom every true Serb reveres, dwelt within its walls, and thence issued his orders to the Serb priesthood far and near. From him the first Bishop of Montenegro received consecration, and it was at his call that a council of holy men met at Dioclea to consider the best remedy for the abuses in the Church. Rather more than a century later, the great hero of Serb legend, Stephen Dušan, was 361 RISE OF BALSHA. made viceroy of all the old Principality of the Zeta by his father, the King of Servia, and transferred the seat of government to Skodra. Dioclea vanishes from view in the fourteenth century, and is now only a heap of marble ruins.

During the reign of Stephen Dušan there lived in the Principality of Zeta a noble Serb named Balsha, whose family is thought to have come from Baux in Anjou and settled on the eastern coast of the Adriatic a generation earlier. Balsha was a man of some local importance at the death of Dušan, and took advantage of the weakness of the great monarch's successor to seize the fortress of Skodra and make himself master of the lower part of the Zeta as far as the walls of Cattaro. His three sons further extended his conquests; the western half of the present Principality of Montenegro came beneath their sway, and the proud Republic of Ragusa did not disdain their alliance. When Lazar mounted the Servian throne the power of the Balsha family grew in all directions. Their sovereignty stretched as far as Valona in Albania on the one side, and included Trebinje in the Herzegovina on the other. They even made war with ten thousand men against Stephen Tvartko, the redoubtable King of Bosnia. Both combatants found willing allies. The city of Cattaro joined Tvartko, the Republic of Ragusa aided the Balshas, and the latter compelled Cattaro to sue for peace. A little later a much more dangerous foe appeared upon their frontiers. The Turks were advancing through Albania, and the chief of the Balshas at once set out to oppose them. The attempt was useless; Balsha's 362 FROM EARLIEST TIMES TO BATTLE OF KOSSOVO. army was annihilated, and his head carried as a trophy to the Turkish Vizier. George Balsha II., who succeeded him, endeavoured to strengthen his position by a great alliance. He accordingly married the daughter of King Lazar of Servia, who was the widow of Šišman, King of Bulgaria. But his close relationship with the Servian sovereign availed him little. His subjects were ready to hand over the Zeta to Tvartko of Bosnia; the Turks were daily approaching, and had seized Durazzo, Antivari, and Budua in rapid succession. They even traversed the valley of the Zeta, and threatened the heights of Ostrog and the plain of Nikšić, the scenes of many a Turkish defeat in the later annals of Montenegro. George Balsha signed a disastrous peace, by which he surrendered part of Albania to the invaders. But at the time of the battle of Kossovo in 1389 he still ruled over a large tract of territory, stretching from Ragusa to the mouth of the Drin, south of Dulcigno, the south of the Herzegovina and the whole of Western Montenegro, with Skodra as a capital. In that great battle he and his people took no part, for he was on his way to join his father-in-law with all his forces when the fatal news arrived. He returned at once to his own land, determined to defend his mountains to the last gasp against the Turk. Many a noble Serb family sought safety under his protection; Montenegro became the asylum of the Serb race, the house of free men struggling for their liberty. Every Montenegrin looks back to the great disaster of Kossovo with the same keen regret as if it had happened but last year. Every rising of the Serb 363 THE MONTENEGRIN CAP. race is justified by the national bards as revenge for Kossovo, and, more striking still, the headgear of the mountaineers bears even in our own days the traces of the national grief. The crimson pork-pie cap, or kapa, which the Montenegrins, female as well as male, wear, has a broad border of black silk as a token of mourning for that defeat; the crimson centre signifies the sea of blood with which the Black Mountain has been washed since then; and the five gold bands, which enclose in one corner the initials of the Prince ("H.I.," or Nicholas I.) in Cyrillic characters, represent the five centuries of Montenegro's stormy history.