II.

FROM THE BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO THE LAST OF THE BLACK PRINCES.

(1389-1516.)

GEORGE BALSHA was not long allowed to remain unmolested in his mountain retreat. While Durazzo voluntarily surrendered to the growing power of Venice, which had already obtained facilities for her commerce in the Principality of the Zeta, the Prince was compelled to buy the aid of the mighty Republic of St. Mark against the Turks. The price was a high one, but it was paid, for the need was great. Venice received, in 1394, from Balsha, his capital of Skodra in exchange for a petty fortress and an annual subsidy of a thousand gold ducats, the first instance of such an annuity being paid by a foreign state to a Montenegrin Prince. But the assistance of the Republic was less valuable to Balsha than the diversion created by Timour the Tartar's defeat and capture of the Sultan Bajazet in 1402 at the battle of Angora. For a brief space the land had rest from the Turks, and George Balsha's son, the last of the dynasty, who succeeded his father three years later, 364 365 THE BLACK PRINCE. was bold enough to recapture Skodra and the other places in the Principality occupied by the Venetians. A series of campaigns followed, in which the Montenegrins and Venetians were alternately successful. Mariano Caravella, the Republican commander, reconquered Skodra and most of the lower Zeta. But Balsha, who had fled with his mother, speedily came back and once more drove out the Venetian garrisons. The proud Doge was compelled to seek an intermediary between the valiant mountaineers and himself. A treaty was concluded; Venice gave up most of the territory which she had acquired in the Principality, and agreed to pay to Balsha the subsidy promised to his father. But the peace was soon disregarded. Stephen Crnoiević, the "Black Prince," of whom we now hear for the first time, and whose race played an important part in Montenegrin history, possessed the confidence of Balsha, whose relative he was on the female side. Acting on Stephen's advice, Balsha summoned his forces and attacked Skodra, the great object of contention between Venice and himself The Venetians were now seriously alarmed. Two of their ablest commanders, Bembo and Dandolo, were unable to retake the town, and, as a last resort, they sent an envoy to Constantinople to ask the aid of the Sultan. But even the assistance of eight thousand Turkish troops availed but little against the stubborn valour of the Montenegrins. A fresh Venetian force under another general was sent, only to be twice defeated, and at last, in 1421, the Republic was compelled to sue for peace. It was no small triumph for these 366 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. undisciplined bands of Highland warriors to have humbled two such redoubtable foes. Balsha, however, did not long enjoy the fruits of his victories. In the same year he died while on a visit to Servia, and with him his dynasty became extinct.

Balsha had appointed his relative, the "Black Prince," regent during his absence, but an interregnum lasted for some years after his death. Montenegro, at this period, was very far from being a compact state; it consisted of loose agglomerations of territory, varying in size according to the fortunes of war, and inhabited by a migratory population of shepherds and exiles. From every neighbouring land the persecuted or the lawless fled thither for refuge, and a community was thus formed in the fastnesses of the Black Mountain, much in the same way that Rome herself was founded. Every man who had weapons and knew how to use them was welcome there, and when one of the inhabitants fell in battle, another soon filled his place. When not engaged in fighting, the people looked after their flocks of mountain sheep, and the early occupation of these primitive mountaineers has left its mark upon the geography of the country in the name of Katunska, or "shepherds' huts," which is still applied to the nahia, or district, in which Cetinje is situated. The Crnoiević dynasty, however, which held sway for the next three generations, consolidated the independence of the Black Mountain. At first, however, Stephen Crnoiević showed no desire to rule over so wild a land. He had retired to Italy on the death of Balsha, and only the entreaties of the people, who 367 MONTENEGRO INDEPENDENT. needed a leader, brought him back. Meanwhile, the Venetians had renewed hostilities. One after another the fortresses of the lower Zeta fell into their hands. Stephen Lazarević, the King of Servia, intervened as Raisin's next of kin, and in two campaigns inflicted severe defeats upon the Venetian armies. Skodra itself, after a long siege, surrendered to George Branković, his nephew, who was invested by Lazarević with the overlordship of the Zeta. The Venetians recognised him as ruler of the Principality, and promised to pay him the usual annuity of one thousand ducats in exchange for the town of Skodra.

But the people were not disposed to admit the shadowy claims of the phantom King of Servia. That latter country was for all practical purposes dependent on the Turk, and Montenegro has never owned the suzerainty of the Sultan. Accordingly, Stephen Crnoiević was summoned from Italy, and had made himself master of the Zeta before his rival had ever arrived in the Principality. Branković wisely gave way before the superior claims of his popular competitor. He shortly after succeeded to the throne of Servia, and left the "Black Prince" undisturbed. But to mark the complete independence of their land from the fallen monarchy of Servia, the people gave to their new ruler the title of Voïvode, or Duke, of the Zeta, a title which is borne to-clay by one of the present Prince's sons.

Stephen Crnoiević, at his succession, found himself lord of a large expanse of country. The whole of the present Principality of Montenegro, all the islands in the Lake of Skodra, and the shores of the Bocche 368 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. di Cattaro, belonged to him; but Skodra itself, which had been regarded by his predecessors as their capital since the decline of Dioclea, was still under the Venetian sway. He accordingly fortified Žabljak, at present a town of one thousand inhabitants, not far from the north-east shore of the Lake of Skodra, and made it his capital. His reign was at first an almost continuous struggle with the Turks. M. Vaçlik, the late secretary of the Prince and an excellent authority on Montenegrin history, estimated that in the twelve years between 1424 and 1436 there were no fewer than sixty-three battles with, and sixty-three victories over, the Ottoman armies. Foreseeing the dangers of a Turkish invasion, the "Black Prince" came to terms with Venice, and on the island of Vranina, in the Lake of Skodra, a solemn league and convention was signed. The Republic promised to pay him a subsidy such as she had paid to the Balshas, and he agreed to assist her in time of war. As soon as he found that the Turks were too much occupied with their enemies in Asia Minor, Servia, and Albania, to farther molest him in his own country, he joined his forces to that of his relative, George Castriotes, or Skanderbeg, who had headed the Albanian tribes against the Ottoman invaders. Skanderbeg is the most remarkable name in the records of Albania. Round his heroic figure all the legendary glories of that strange and incomprehensible race centre. As a boy of nine years of age, he was brought to the court of Murad II., who had him educated in the faith of Islam, loaded him with favours, and gave him the command of a troop of horse with the title of Bey. It was from this title, 369 SKANDERBEG. corrupted by the Christians into Beg, and joined with Iskander or Skander, the Turkish form of Alexander, that Skanderbeg derived the name by which he still lives in Albanian history. On many a field the young Bey fought under the standard of the Crescent, but the tragic death of his father at the hands of the Turks determined him to become his avenger. At a critical moment, when the fortune of battle was undecided, he deserted to the enemy, proclaimed himself Prince of Albania, and declared war against the unbelievers. From that moment he became the heart and soul of the Christian cause. The national ballads tell how he slew two thousand Turks with his own hand; and when he died, the Sultan exclaimed with relief that the Christians had "lost their buckler and the arm which protected them." Stephen Crnoiević and his two sons, Ivan and George, fought gallantly by his side, and Mohammed II., the future conqueror of Constantinople, was routed by the Montenegrins in a narrow defile and forced to beat an ignominious retreat into Macedonia. Soliman Pasha, who was sent to ravage the lower Zeta in revenge for this defeat, succeeded in enticing the mountaineers into the open, where their army was almost annihilated. But the siege of Constantinople provided the Turkish forces with other occupation, and Montenegro was spared.

Stephen Crnoiević died about 1466, and was buried in the little monastery on the island of Kom in the Lake of Skodra, which he had founded. His eldest son Ivan, surnamed the Black, succeeded him, and with the new ruler commences a new era in the 25 370 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. history of the mountain state. For the reign of Ivan witnessed the downfall of the last of those bulwarks which had hitherto stemmed the tide of Ottoman invasion in its advance upon Montenegro. The Turkish conquest of Servia in 1459, and Bosnia in 1463, was followed in 1476 by the subjugation of the Herzegovina, while the death of Skanderbeg left Albania at the mercy of the Mussulman. Montenegro was henceforth the refuge of fugitives not merely from Servia, but from all the South Slavonic lands; the beach, as Mr. Gladstone has said, upon which all that remained from the wreck of Balkan freedom was cast up by the waves. From this time onwards the Montenegrins fought for their very existence, and at the same time, in saving themselves, they saved others too. It is no exaggeration to say that Italy herself owes a debt of gratitude to this handful of warriors, who acted as her outpost on the farther shore of the Adriatic against the Turk. But neither from Venice nor from any other Italian city did they receive much assistance in their own hour of need. So long as the Venetian possessions were in actual danger, the Republic of St. Mark was glad to accept Ivan's assistance. When Soliman Pasha besieged Scutari in 1474, with an army of seventy thousand men, it was he and his people who raised the siege, and when Mohammed II. renewed the attempt in person four years later, Ivan in vain tried to create a diversion and so save the place. Venice did, indeed, confer upon him and his heirs for ever the title of patrician and his name was inscribed in the Golden Book of the Republic. But when Skodra fell, Ivan had to 371 CETINJE THE CAPITAL. defend himself and his capital of Žabljak single-handed. Mohammed II. and his successor resolved to root out the bold allies of Venice, who had dared to resist the Ottoman power. Meanwhile the Republic of St. Mark looked on, heedless of Ivan's appeals for aid, while the Turks came nearer. To assist the Montenegrins would have injured the commerce of Venice with the Levant. Ivan, abandoned by those for whom he had done so much, took the bold resolution of setting fire to Žabljak and seeking a new capital in a safer spot, rather than allow it to fall a prey to the Turks. The year 1484 witnessed this important event. Žabljak was destroyed, and Ivan and his warriors retired to the lofty plateau of Cetinje, four thousand feet above the sea. From that time onwards Cetinje has been the Montenegrin capital. The site is not an ideal one, for the plain, in which the town stands, is often blocked by snow in winter, and the situation is not so central as could be desired. But the recent idea of transferring the seat of government to Nikšić, which has much to recommend it, has been hindered by considerations of expense, and Cetinje, though several times plundered by the Turks, has always risen, phœnix-like, from its ashes. There Ivan built the monastery called after his name, which, after its destruction in 1714, was restored in the form which it still possesses. There, too, he established the see of a bishop, with authority over the Zeta. The lower part of that region now fell under the sway of the Turks and was annexed to the district of which Skodra was the chief town. Deserted by the Venetians, robbed of the most fer 372 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCE. tile portion of his territory and driven back to the wilderness of rocks which separates the Zeta valley from the sea, Ivan offered his people the alternative of holding out to the last gasp under his command, or of finding another prince, who would make terms for them with the Turks. As for himself, he vowed that he would never surrender. The answer of the Montenegrins was unhesitatingly given. They swore to serve him till death, and promised that, while they would never provoke an attack from the Turks, they would defend themselves, if attacked, with might and main. Every Montenegrin who should becoward enough to leave the battlefield was condemned to an insulting punishment. Deprived of his arms, the craven was to be dressed in woman's garb, a spindle put in his hand, and then the wives and maidens of the Black Mountain would drive him before them over the border with blows as an exile and a renegade. The vow was worthy of the nation which took it, and the Spartan mother, who bade her son return either with his shield or on it, found imitators in Montenegro. As late as the Montenegrin code of the present century we find similar enactments against cowardice, and to-day the same spirit, which animated the subjects of Ivan the Black, breathes in their descendants.

For the rest of his reign he was unmolested, and devoted himself to the erection of a fortress at Obod, near Rjeka, and to the foundation of the first Montenegrin printing-press at the same spot. His son and successor, George Crnoiević, anxious that his country should be no longer dependent upon Venice for its 373 THE PRESS AT OBOD. books of devotion, continued his father's work at Obod. Type of extreme beauty was obtained from abroad, and the first volumes ever printed in Cyrillic character were issued from the Montenegrin Press. The earliest of them, published in 1493, or only twenty-two years after Caxton set up his press at Westminster, was a missal, of which a page is still preserved in the monastery at Cetinje, while two years later a psalter and a ritual were produced. Montenegro may well he proud of such an early advancement of learning at a time when even great nations had hardly adopted the new invention. In 1893, the four hundredth anniversary of this Slavonic printing-press was celebrated with much rejoicing, as one of the most memorable events in the history of the nation. Unfortunately, the Turks destroyed the machinery in one of their numerous invasions. It was not till 1832 that the art of printing was reintroduced into the country, and to-day a few pieces of stone in the churchyard are all that remains of the press at Obod.

Ivan the Black died in 1490, while his son George was returning from Venice with the noble Venetian lady whom he had chosen as his bride. The memory of the second Crnoiević Prince lingers even now among the people, whom he prepared so boldly for the dangers which lay before them in the centuries to come. With him the unceasing struggle with the Turks may he said to have begun; under him the fastnesses of Western Montenegro, the kernel of the present State, with Cetinje as capital, became the stronghold of resistance to the Ottoman sway. 374 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. His name lingers in the monastery which he founded and where he was buried, in springs of water, in caves, and in many an ancient ruin. And a picturesque ballad represents him as sleeping in a fairy grotto above his castle at Obod, like Kaiser Barbarossa in the German legend, till the hour when the trumpet shall awaken him to lead the Montenegrin nation to the conquest of Albania. The reign of Ivan the Black has also prompted one of the finest poems of the national muse. The story of his elder son Stanicha, or Maximus, and his betrothal to the daughter of the Venetian Doge Mocenigo, doubtless contains much that is of historical value, though the facts have been embellished by the fancy of the bard. "'Listen to me, Doge,' writes Black Ivan to the lord of mighty Venice, 'men say that thou hast in thy house the fairest of roses, and I have in mine the fairest of pinks. Doge, let us unite the rose with the pink.' The Doge of Venice answers in a flattering tone, and Ivan hies him to his court, with three loads of gold, to woo the fair Latin in the name of his son. When he had lavished all his gold, the Latins promised him that the marriage should take place at the next vintage. Ivan, wise though he was, yet uttered foolish words as he departed. 'Friend and Doge,' quoth he, 'soon shalt thou see me return with six hundred chosen comrades; and, if among them all there be one fairer than my son Stanicha, give me neither dower nor bride.' The Doge rejoiced and shook his hand and gave him the golden apple, symbol of wedlock and of beauty. So Ivan returned unto his own people. And as he came near to his 375 STORY OF STANICHA. castle of Žabljak, his faithful spouse spied him from the turret and rushed forth to meet him, and covered the borders of his cloak with kisses and carried his terrible weapon with her own hands into the tower and placed before the hero a chair of silver. So the winter passed away amid rejoicings. But when spring came, small-pox fell upon Stanicha and marked his face all over. So, when autumn drew near, and the old Prince had gathered his six hundred comrades together, it was, alas! easy for him to find among them a warrior fairer than his son. Then his brow was wrinkled, and the black moustache, which reached even to his shoulders, grew limp. His spouse, aware of his grief, rebuked him for the pride which had led him to seek an alliance with the proud Latins. Ivan, stung by her reproaches, raged like a living fire; he would hear no more of the nuptials, and bade his comrades depart to their homes. Years passed away; when, on a sudden, a ship arrives with a message from the Doge. 'When thou enclosest the hedges of a meadow, thou dost mow it or else leave it to another, that the snows of winter may not spoil the grass. When thou askest and dost obtain the hand of a fair maid in marriage, thou must come and fetch her, or else write and set her free from her engagement.'

"Jealous of his word, Ivan decided at last to go to Venice. He assembled all his noble brothers-in- arms from Dulcigno and Antivari, the Drekalović, the Kontchi, the Bratonić, the falcons of Podgorica and the sons of Paul the White, the Vassoiević and all the chivalry as far as the green waters of the Lim. He bade all the warriors come, each in the garb of 376 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. his tribe, and all in their goodliest array, that the Latins might marvel at the splendour of the Serbs. Many things do they possess, those noble Latins; they can work metals with skill and weave precious stuffs, but what is more enviable still, they lack the

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lofty brow, the sovereign look, of the sons of the Black Mountain.

And when the six hundred comrades were assembled, Ivan told them of the rash promise which he had made to the Doge, and the divine punishment 377> STANICH'S WOOING. which had fallen upon his son, smitten with the small- pox, and added: 'Brothers, let us put one of you in place of Stanicha on the journey, and give him on our return half the presents, offered to him as the real bridegroom.' All the comrades applauded this device, and the young lord of Dulcigno, Obrenovo Djuro, who was recognised as the fairest of them all,

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was begged to play the part. Long did he refuse, and it needed the richest gifts to make him consent. Then, crowned with flowers, the comrades set sail. The whole artillery of the Black Mountain saluted them at their departure, and the two huge cannons Kernio and Sclenko, which have not their like in the seven Frank kingdoms, nor yet among the Turks.

378 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES.

"Arrived at Venice, they are received at the Doge's Palace. The festivities of the betrothal last a week, and then Ivan cries unto the Doge: 'My friend, our mountains call us home.' Then the Doge rises and calls for the bridegroom Stanicha. All point to Djuro, and the Doge gives him the kiss and the golden apple of wedlock. The Doge's two sons approach, bearing two inlaid muskets worth a thousand ducats. They embrace him as their sister's husband, and give him their presents. After them come the two sisters-in-law of the Doge, each with a robe of the finest linen, woven with gold. Satisfied with the success of their device, Ivan and the men of the Black Mountain return to their own land."

The bride then learnt the trick which had been played upon her. But, according to the legend, she had less objection to give up her handsome Djuro than to relinquish the share of the bridal presents, which he claimed as his due for the part he had played. "'I cannot,' she cried to Stanicha, with tears in her eyes, 'part with this wondrous gold tunic woven by my hands, beneath which I dreamed of caressing my husband. It has well-nigh cost me my two eyes, while I laboured night and day for three years at it. Thou must fight to recover it, even though a thousand splinters of lances should be thy bier, or else I will turn my horse's head and ride down to the seashore. There I will gather an aloe-leaf; with its thorns I will tear my face, and with the blood of my own cheeks I will write a letter, which my falcon will bear swiftly to mighty Venice, whence my faithful Latins will hasten to avenge me.' At 379 STANICHA'S CRIME. these words Stanicha lashed his black charger; like a tiger it sprang forth till it reached Djuro. Stanicha struck him with his javelin in the middle of the brow, and the fair lord fell at the mountain foot."

The results of this crime were disastrous for Montenegro. The "comrades" of the legend challenged one another to battle; all day long they fought, and in the evening the plain was strewn with the slain. But Stanicha fled on horseback to Žabljak, leaving his wife to go back to Venice. From Žabljak the

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murderer went to Constantinople, embraced the faith of Islâm, and offered to reduce his native country under the Sultan's sway. The attempt was unsuccessful. His younger brother George, who had followed Ivan as Prince of the Black Mountain, defeated him at Lieckopolje, and he withdrew first to Skodra, of which he became Pasha, and then to the Albanian village of Bouchati, where his family settled and took the name of Bouchatlia. Three centuries later we shall find Kara Mahmoud, one of Stanicha's descendants, the bitterest foe of Montenegro, and it was only sixty years ago that Moustapha 380 BATTLE OF K0SSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. Bouchatlia, the last of the race, was driven by the Sultan from Albania. But the apostasy of Stanicha had a still wore fatal influence upon the,future of the Black Mountain. The renegade Montenegrins who had been taken prisoners after Stanicha's defeat were all allowed to remain and practise their new faith in their old country. Ready at all times to join hands with the Turkish invaders, these Mussulman inhabitants became a constant source of danger to the principality. The terrible "Montenegrin Vespers" in the reign of Danilo I. were the result.

George Crnoiević, allied as he was to a noble Venetian lady, and destitute of the martial qualities of his father, soon longed for safety and civilisation, neither of which he could find in his mountain home. It is not certain whether Stanicha invaded the Black Mountain a second time in 1496 and drove him out, or whether he retired of his own accord to Venice in that year, thus setting an example which was followed by the last of his successors. One account of his death says that it occurred in his Venetian palace; another that it took place in Asiatic Turkey, where he is said to have received large domains from the Turks. At any rate, his cousin Stephen succeeded him in 1496 and made good his title over Cetinje and the mountains, where the former inhabitants of Zeta had now finally entrenched themselves. From this time the name of Montenegro became the designation of the principality. But Stephen himself is a mere shadow. It is clear from the letters of Stanicha, which have recently been published, that Stephen and the renegade Pasha of Skodra lived upon 381 BISHOP BABYLAS. good terms, although the latter grandiloquently describes himself as "lord of the Black Mountain." On Stephen's death, in 1515, 110 opposition was offered to the succession of his son Ivan, who a few months later made way for his son George. This prince, the last of the Crnoiević rulers of Montenegro, remained barely a year in his rough domain. The son of one Venetian lady and the husband of another, himself a patrician of the Republic and long time a resident on her lagoons, he had the utmost distaste for a life of solitude and privation in the monastery at Cetinje. His wife joined her complaints to his own. Without society and amusements, she sighed for the gaiety of her home, and her husband readily agreed to leave Montenegro for ever. He summoned the chiefs and people, told them his intentions, and entrusted them with the weapons which his great ancestors Stephen and Ivan the Black had wielded in defence of their liberties. To the Bishop Babylas, as the next most important personage to himself, he confided the task of governing the country. Thus it came about that Montenegro, like some of the German States in medieval times, was ruled by an ecclesiastic, who combined the functions of priest, lawyer, and leader in war. This arrangement, commenced in 1516, continued in one form or another down to 1851, and the Vladikas or Prince Bishops of the Black Mountain formed a curious exception to the usual class from which sovereigns are selected. The Bishop's selection having been ratified by the assembled chiefs and people, George and his wife, accompanied by not a few Montenegrin nobles, set sail from Cattaro. It 382 BATTLE OF KOSSOVO TO LAST OF BLACK PRINCES. was a sad spectacle, this parting of Prince and people. Under the Crnoiević family, the Black Mountain had preserved its liberties from the Turks when every other neighbouring land had been subdued. People wondered if its independence could be maintained in the future.