Balkan Tours 2020 2021

Balkan Peninsula has always been one of the attractive and mysterious destinations around the world. With Balkan Tours 2020 – 2021 you have the chance to breathe in the specific,  mysterious air on the Balkans. In addition, you can discover, enjoy and feel the modern and elite today and at the same time feel the mystic scent of history in the Balkan countries. These countries have the body of an old person but a very young and mature soul. Shortly, Balkan tours that you will experience in these geographical regions you will remember as your unique moment.

Here, briefly, you can learn some general characteristics of the countries involved in this Balkan entity.

Balkan Tours 2020 – 2021 “Greece”

“You should see the landscape of Greece. It would break your heart.” – Lawrance Durrell

Greece is a nice mixture of colours and cultures. When in Greece, you feel like you constantly travel in time. From present to past, then past to present. Different pictures tell you vivid stories about history, culture, traditions, people. The capital of Greece, Athens is a whole country where you will find much more than the ancient streets …

Balkan Tours “Bulgaria”

Small country as Bulgaria is, big in history and archaeological sites it is. Due to the fact that Thracian, Slavic, Byzantine and Ottoman states were dominant on its lands, Bulgaria is such a colourful country. Its capital Sofia is one of Europe’s leading cultural cities.

The Kazanlak Tomb in the town of Kazanlak, the Thracian tombs in Sveshtari, the Rila monastery (which is the largest Orthodox monastery on the Balkan Peninsula) are under the protection of UNESCO.

Balkan Tours 2020 – 2021 “Croatia”

Croatia or “the Pearl of the Adriatic”, is at the intersection of Central Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Its area of 56,594 square km can offer many and interesting places to see. Croatia is famous for its coastline and amazingly clear water. Dubrovnik is a city that has a striking architecture of the Renaissance period. This beautiful city admires with magnificent palaces, monasteries, churches. Also, museums, fountains, immaculate sea and nature. Surrounded by walls, the Old Town, considered World Heritage, is one of the most picturesque places in Europe. The beaches are so impressive and beautiful …

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Balkan Tours

Balkan tours – adventurous and relaxing journey

Balkan tours – reading books and watching films about Balkan countries is a good start. Thus you get some knowledge and a desire to see. This can make you dream about visiting these places and experiencing the culture. Balkan tours can be the door for an exciting, relaxing and adventurous journey through some of the most interesting places on the Balkans.

We are a tour operator based in Bulgaria. And one of the people who live on the Balkans. Believe us, it’s worth travelling around and learning more about the Balkan Peninsula. Even if you have already been to that mystique part of the world, you still have many things to discover and understand.

At first sight, the Balkans look like any other place on the world. But getting to know it better, travelling around, will take you deeper and deeper in its breathing, full of life organism. An organism composed of many cells like culture, history, food, entertainment, people…

Balkan tours – the countries

Balkan tours is not a fixed tour. It is a tailor-made-by-you tour. The tour which best suits you – preference like, time like… Shortly, you are the designer of the tour which will take you to the Balkan countries. Countries, each one of which veiled in mysticism characteristic for the Balkan Peninsula only. You will be able to visit Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia. Also North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro. 

If we divide the Balkans according to their uniqueness and yet their sameness, a probable division would take Bulgaria to the group of breath-taking landscapes. Then, Romania – the country of mysterious castles and the legends that go with them. Follows Croatia – beautiful coastlines. And Montenegro – again the coastlines which go with quality beaches and seasides that surround lovely old towns. We shouldn’t forget about Bosnia and Herzegovina with its nature and amazing waterfalls. Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be leaders for those who like the history of communism and socialism. Of course, Balkan tours and Turkey – warm hospitality, delicious cuisine along with profound history. Greece – history, friendly people, interesting archaeological sites, vibrant nightlife, and relaxing beaches. Serbia, the magnificent country in the heart of the Balkans conceals precious treasures. Then, North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo. 

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Ottoman Travel Bulgaria

Travel Ottoman Bulgaria to see, taste and feel a past not forgotten. No doubt it’s not forgotten. How could it be?! It’s 500 years of ‘common coexistence’. Coexistence not very peaceful most of the time. However, by far these are the most controversial times of Bulgarian history. These were the times when Bulgaria had its indisputable heroes.

”We are within time and time is within us, it changes us and we change it”

travel ottoman bulgaria vasil levski

Vasil Levski together with Hristo Botev and a lot other Bulgarians are our heroes. Heroes who fought for a free Bulgaria. And they made it. They granted a state with “freedom of the people, of every individual, and of every religion” to us.

We, today’s Bulgarians live in a country of great heroes and inheritance from those days. Travel Ottoman Bulgaria and you can be surprised how often locals and even tourist signs refer to some bridges as ‘Roman’. This, probably, is normal because everything is so old that its true history has been forgotten. In that sense, it’s easier to think that ‘everything-old-is-Roman’ rule.

However, many are that things that stayed on Bulgarian lands after the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria’s largest and also quite probably the most beautiful mosque is in Shumen. Its name is Tombul Mosque. The mosque’s name comes from the shape of its dome. Tombul Mosque is the second largest on the Balkan Peninsula after the Sultan Selim Mosque in the Turkish town of Odrin (Edirne).

travel ottoman bulgaria tombul mosque

When you do tours Sofia, you shouldn’t miss the National Archaeological Museum. It’s in the centre of Sofia and it occupies the building of the largest and oldest former Ottoman mosque in the city. Originally, people knew it as Koca Mahmut Pasa Camii.

The mosque of the seven girls

When we talk about wonders and mysteries, we surely mention the Rhodope mountains. This completely wooden mosque, an example of an old construction technology, is located in the Rhodopean village of Podkova. Although it is a mosque, people of different religions visit it. It’s, in fact, the temple of belief. Due to that, most probably, this mosque was constructed without the use of nails. For such places there are usually many legends. The legend here is of seven girls who sent their beloved ones to the battlefield to never see them again. As their fiances didn’t come back, the girls sold their trousseau to buy materials. They built the mosque for a night and nobody saw them ever again. The legend doesn’t finish here. But I am not going to tell you more.

travel ottoman bulgaria devils bridge

Travel Ottoman Bulgaria and find out. Do you know what is interesting? Together with the Ottoman heritage, the ones who come to Bulgaria can also become part of its traditions. Nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours and many more traditions attract with enormous energy. A wonder or a strong belief is everything in Bulgaria.

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Nestinarstvo Bulgaria Tours

Wonder or strong belief

Is it a wonder or a strong belief? Do the nestinari (fire dancers) have special skills or energy? Where does this ritual come from? Why is it on UNESCO’s World Heritage List? These and may be different questions tease people’s imagination. Not only that of tourists’ but of Bulgarians as well. Nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours might have some of the answers: Do you want to try?!

There are many stories for where nestinarstvo originates from. The biggest group of supporters, though, believe that the fire dancing on live coals ritual comes from the Thracians. Why Thracians? The Thracian tribes worshipped their God Sun. Which is, when scattered in a circle the live coals symbolise exactly the Sun.

Like other rituals in Bulgaria, nestinarstvo has both Christian and pagan elements. The most precious about this ritual is the enigma that stays behind it. There are constant arguments about the ritual’s origin, the mysticism that veils it, the different stories about it. 

Chrisitianity and paganism, nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours 

When Constantine, the Emperor of the Roman Empire, and his mother Helena start to enforce Christianity on the Bulgarian lands, the fire dancers had to accept the Christian symbols in order to stay alive. Therefore, it was very natural that Constantine and Helen became the new idols for nestinari. Before these were the pagan idols. With the spreading of Christianity, the new idols are the Emperor and his mother. 

In the past people practiced nestinarstvo in Aegean Thrace. Actually, the villages where nestinari performed the ritual were five. They are in Strandzha Mountain (the Black Sea region). Today it is practiced in its authenticity in one village only. More specifically, in the village of Bulgari (nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours).  

The ritual

What is the ritual like!? Every source that tells about nestinarstvo adds new things or at least a little bit different to the ritual. They more or less explain the same thing. Let us be part of nestinarstvo Bulgaria tours and get into the world of this enigmatic ritual.

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Stoletov Bulgaria Tours

Stoletov Bulgaria tours to remember

‘And today, every time there’s a storm in the mountain,
The summit recalls this grim day and, recounting
The story, its echoing glory relays
From valley to valley, from age unto age!’ (Ivan Vazov)

Stoletov Bulgaria tours introduces a monument that stays proudly on a peak and reminds the Bulgarians of their glorious past. This monument is Shipka Monument and it is a symbol of the Russo-Turkish War. It speaks of the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. The war follows the April Uprising from April 1876. It broke out prematurely and was quickly put down. That didn’t the least discourage the Bulgarians who were, against their will, part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. On the contrary, that increased their desire for independence. After the sultan refuses to implement a series of reforms in European Turkey, that were proposed to him, Russia declares a war to the Ottomans.

A hope reborn

That is a hope reborn for the Bulgarians. Stoletov Bulgaria tours, Stoletov Peak remembers the heroism of the Bulgarian and Russian people. Bulgarian volunteers were spies for the Russian fighting forces. They were interpreters, assistants, as well as builders of road army devices. Bulgarians also fought alongside the Russian army. They were part of the epic battle for Shipka Pass, as well.

The battle at Shipka Pass, just like the pass itself, was very strategic and important. It was as well the scene of fierce fighting during that war, Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878).

”….. Our men have no bullets, with bravery girded,
Their bayonets broken, their breasts ever sturdy,
They’re all to a man ready gladly to die ……. Our men have no bullets, with bravery girded, Their bayonets broken, their breasts ever sturdy,
They’re all to a man ready gladly to die ……….. Each stone is a bomb and each tree-trunk a sword is. Each object – a blow, and each soul – flame that sears……….”

The man behind Shipka Monument

Stoletov Bulgaria tours doesn’t forget the man who feared no bad conditions on the peak. The man who was not an engineer but one of the few for the time that could read drawings. The man, Penyo Atanasov – Bombeto (bombe – bowler hat) is the one who gathered a team and built the monument, Shipka Monument. The entrance of the monyment is guarded by a big, bronz and proud lion.

There are interesting stories related to the building of the monument. First of all, the peak is a very cold place. One that hasn’t been on the peak doesn’t know how severe and cold the wind can be there, even in the summer. The construction of Shipka Monument took three years. People worked from early April until the end of October in the years 1928, 1929 and 1930. However, it officially opened in 1934.

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Vitosha Bulgaria Private Tours

Vitosha Bulgaria private tours

Doesn’t Vitosha Bulgaria private tours sound like a flying carpet to you? One that likes to take you on an imaginary journey around the mountain Vitosha. This is the fourth highest mountain in Bulgaria after Rila, Pirin and Stara Planina (Old Mountain or the Balkan). The mountain is relatively young and it’s in close proximity to the capital of the country, Sofia. That makes the city unique because it is situated at the foot of the mountain. Not many places can be that lucky.

On the territory of Bulgaria there are 37 mountains. 36 of them are in the southern part of the country. There are biggest and highest, most beautiful and alpine mountains.

Vitosha mountain is one of these 37 mountains (Vitosha Bulgaria private tours), as well as the symbol of Sofia. The mountain is also the oldest nature park on the Balkan Peninsula. What is more, Vitosha is the only dome-shaped mountain of volcanic origin in the country. The mountain has the shape of a big dome. Cherni Vrah (or Black Peak) is Vitosha’s highest peak (2290 m). It is one of the 10 peaks in Vitosha over 2000 m high. Characteristic of the mountain are the stone rivers. They are heapings of rock blocks, in the shape similar to that of a cube. They are a result of the water flowing which gradually smoothened their edges.

Interesting legends

People used to praise Bulgarian mountains in the old songs. Mountains were always people who later turned into rocks. Not only songs but legends as well are likely to animate mountains and thus making them part of human relationships.

Let me not postpone it any longer but tell you the legend that lies behind Vitosha Mountain. Once upon a time there used to be two ridges, The Big Ridge and The Long Ridge. In the nearby villages lived a girl named Vita. She was a shepard and used to trake the herd of sheep to the Big Ridge. She had a beautiful voice and could sing. On the other ridge, the Long Ridge, there was a quiet and humble boy, a shepard as well. He could play the rebec. His name was Lyulin. Whenever he heard Vita’s strong voice, he accompanied her. If the girl didn’t sing, the villagers would hear the boy calling her, ‘Vitooo!’. To that Vita would say. ‘Shtoooo?’ (meaning ‘What?’) And what actually villagers could understand was ‘Vitoshoooooo’.

In short, these two young people became the reason for Vitosha Bulgaria private tours. Funny, isn’t it?

Love at first sight

Vitosha Bulgaria private tours, Vita’s mother cursed Vitosha and Lyulin to turn into rocks. The reason for that was the fact that Vita declined all the good marriage proposals for Lyulin. Eventually, she ran away from her family. That day the villagers heard the young people in love calling each other from the Big and the Long Ridges. It was a clear and sunny day. All of a sudden, a scary thunder split the earth where Vita was standing, the Big Ridge and Vita fell. A thunder hit Lyulin on the other ridge. Since then people call the Big Ridge – Vitosha and the Long Ridge – Lyulin. The peak, where the thunder hit Vita, is Black Peak (Cherni Vrah).

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Borovets Bulgaria Tours

The comfort to be with family and friends

Borovets Bulgaria tours, Borovets – the closest to the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia and the biggest interntional mountain resort in the country. The resort is only 70 km away from Sofia which makes it a preferred place to relax and enjoy with friends and family.

What more can people who live in the capital ask for? On one hand, the big city with lots of opportunities and of course, lots of stress. On the other hand, the solution for a more relaxed life. After a busy day or week in the city a visit to the mountain, which is only 10 km away from Sofia, Vitosha can mean one thing only. A stress free escape from everything. Vitosha – ‘the lungs of Sofia’. The mountain is the ideal place for education in responsible attitude towards nature. Green and sports schools in the mountain are something common and preferred. Children learn how to know and love nature.

And then, of course, close to Sofia is also the first mountain resort in Bulgaria and on the Balkans, Borovets.

Borovets Bulgaria tours, holiday site

Since 1896 people have known Borovets as a very good place to relax. Actually, the guilty for that is a general (at that time he was a lieutenant colonel). He built the first holiday vila at the site. Thus he announces Borovets, verbally, a place to rest and enjoy the nature.

Later, between 1898 and 1906, the Bulgarian Tzar Ferdinand also built his summer residence there. Tsarska Bistritsa. The residence included several hunting cabins as well. Back then, before the today resort became what it is now, Borovets was originally established as a hunting place for the Bulgarian Kings. The architectural look of the residence is quite traditional. It’s been influenced by the Revival Period but there are also European elements in it.

Rila mountain and Borovets

Once Chamkoria, soon Borovets becomes favourite place for many aristocrats and wealthy families. They follow the example of the Tzar and build their holiday villas on the site, Borovets. Chamkoria is a Turkish word and it means pine forest. Borovets is the exact translation of the word Chamkoria.

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Rila Lakes Bulgaria Tours

Seven Rila lakes Bulgaria tours

Magic and love are everywhere in Bulgaria. Everywhere you look around. Everywhere you go, you see and feel them. The seven Rila lakes Bulgaria tours are no exception. The Rila Mountain is not far from the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. A personal Sofia tour can be a good start of a two day tour around Sofia and then The Seven Rila Lakes.

Firstly, the fact that the lakes are in the beautiful Rila Mountain. This is the highest mountain in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula. In Europe it takes the prestigious sixth place. The nature and beauty of Rila attract thousands of tourists every year.

Thracians, who lived on these lands, gave the mountain the name Dounkas. later, they changed it to Roula, which in its turn was altered to today’s Rila. Dounkas means a place with lots of water. And Roula means water mountain which relates to the water abundance of the mountain. There are 200 lakes in Rila Mountain and lots of mineral springs. The Seven Rila lakes (Rila lakes Bulgaria tours) are some of the most clear and heavenly beautiful lakes in the mountain.

Play truth or legend on Rila lakes Bulgaria tours

Truth or legend for Rila lakes Bulgaria tours? Legend, of course. Every fairytale starts with ‘Once upon a time…’. So, once upon time there was a couple of young giants very much in love with each other. There lived nobody else but them only in Rila Mountain. Their home was very warm, cosy and welcoming, and full of love. All the nature was in harmony with the love the giants had.

As it sometimes happens when there is happiness around, evil is not late. So, the evil forces felt the great times that the married couple was having and envied a lot. they had to do something in order to destroy that love and hapiness forever. Dark clouds veiled the mountain, strong winds tried to blow everything away and devastating earthquakes shook the ground. At first, the husband fought back. He fiercely defended his home and protected his wife. He managed to save every blade of grass, every little flower, the smallest living ctreature. Unfortunately, that only made the evil forces even more vicious. They used all their power and the young male giant was killed.

The evil force left a devastated widow behind. They also left destruction behind.

How did lakes form

The wife’s sorrow and pain for her husband were so big, that she couldn’t stop crying. A great amount of tears gushed out in a never-ending flow. They reached the valleys and formed clear lakes of striking purity.

These lakes are seven and can beseen in Rila lakes Bulgaria tours. Each one of them has its name related to a specific characteristic that the lake has. The highest lake is The Tear. The name comes from the lake’s clear waters. Next one is The Eye (or The Heart). Its shape is almost perfectly oval. The lake to follow is The Kidney. That lake has the steepest shores of all in the group. Before you reach that lake, there is a big rock that resembles the figures of a big man and woman. According to the legend these are the giants who will always be there to protect their beautiful home.

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Balkan tours 2018

Balkan Peninsula is among the most visited regions in the world. With Balkan Tours 2018 you will discover the modern and elite today and at the same time feel the mystic scent of history in the Balkan countries. These are countries that know a lot and lived a lot. Balkan tours that you will experience in these geographical regions you will remember as your unique moment.

In the Balkan tours 2018 you will be able to visit 16 cities including Kotor in a 14-day tour. 2018 Balkan tours include: Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia. Also, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Montenegro. Istanbul and Edirne in Turkey. Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece. Then, Kazanlak, Melnik, Sofia and Haskovo in Bulgaria. Dubrovnik in Croatia. Skopje and Ohrid in North Macedonia. Certainly, Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And last but not least, Albania and Montenegro.

Let us continue with brief explanations of the history and general characteristics of the countries involved in this Balkan entity.

Balkan Tours 2018 – Turkey…

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The best period to visit Turkey with its unique geography, which you can experience differently in the four seasons, varies according to the region you like to visit. When you think of Turkey, Istanbul is the first city to come to mind. City tours of Istanbul – the home to many visits throughout the year. The city where the East and the West meet. With magnificent mosques, lively bazaars and rich history, Istanbul is a complete civilization.

Balkan Tours 2018 – Greece…


 “You should see the landscape of Greece. It would break your heart.” – Lawrance Durrell

Neighbouring Greece is another Balkan country that offers both sea and cultural holiday with their very old history, beautiful islands and people. Athens, the capital of Greece, is a whole country where you will find much more than the ancient streets…

Balkan Tours 2018 – Bulgaria…

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The Thracian, Slavic, Byzantine and Ottoman states were always dominant in Bulgaria. Proofs of that dominance are everywhere around the country. Due to them, the nature and the hospitable people, Bulgaria is a famous and preferred destination. The country’s capital Sofia, where you can go sightseeing Sofia, is one of Europe’s leading cultural cities and it is also improving day by day.

The Kazanlak Tomb in the town of Kazanlak, the Thracian tombs in Sveshtari, the Rila monastery (117 km south of Sofia) – the largest Orthodox monastery on the Balkan Peninsula, are UNESCO protected historic centres in Bulgaria.

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War with the Normans part 22

And I could mention several of them, had not time obliterated their names from my memory. All this took place before my father was elevated to the throne. On his accession he found all education here in a very poor way and the regular study of letters apparently banished afar, he lost no time in raking the ashes together to see whether some live sparks might perchance be bidden under them.

Those who were inclined to learning (and they were but few and had not passed beyond the vestibule of Aristotelian philosophy) he did not cease from encouraging but bade them prefer the study of the sacred writings to Greek literature. He found Italus throwing everything into confusion and leading many astray, so he deputed the Sebastocrator Isaac to examine him, as he was very literary and accustomed to undertaking important duties. When Isaac found that Italus was as report said, he openly censured him in a public meeting and then passed him on to the ecclesiastical tribunal by order of the Emperor, his brother.

But Italus was unable to hide his own ignorance, and there he vomited forth doctrines quite foreign to the church’s, and in the midst of the ecclesiastical dignitaries he did not cease from acting like a buffoon, and doing other things of a boorish and uncultured nature; the president of the church then was Eustratius Garidas who condemned him to detention within the precincts of the great church in the hopes of bringing him to a better state of mind.

Whole population of Constantinople

But, report says that Garidas would more quickly have shared the other’s evil doctrines than brought him back to the right path, and Italus won him over entirely to his side. What was the consequence? The whole population of Constantinople surged into the church, shouting for Italus. Probably he would have been thrown down from the top into the middle of the church, had he not escaped to the roof of the sacred edifice and hidden himself in some hole he found.

But as the wrong doctrines he had promulgated were much discussed by some of the courtiers, and not a few nobles had been corrupted by those pernicious dogmas, the Emperor’s soul was vexed; and the heretical doctrines taught by Italus were summarized in eleven chapters and dispatched to the Emperor. Then the Emperor made Italus recite these chapters from the pulpit in the great church with his head uncovered, and pronounce a curse upon them, while all the congregation listened and repeated the curse.

When this had been done, Italus still remained uncontrollable, and again taught these same doctrines to many quite openly, and on being reprimanded by the Emperor, he turned away abruptly and rudely, then he himself was excommunicated. Later on, when he professed penitence, his sentence of excommunication was lightened somewhat. And although his doctrines are still recited and cursed, his name is only mentioned indirectly, as it were, and secretly, and the anathema pronounced on him by the church is not pronounced in a voice audible to the congregation.

For in his later years he changed his opinions and repented of the error into which he had been led. Furthermore, he denied a belief in metempsychosis and retracted his insulting words about the holy icons of the saints; he also remodelled his teaching about ” ideas ” so as to make it conform to orthodoxy, and it was quite evident that he condemned himself for having formerly strayed from the straight path.

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War with the Normans part 21

IX This man then was the acknowledged master of all philosophy and the youth flocked to him. (For he expounded to them the doctrines of Plato and Proclus, and of the two philosophers, Porphyry and Iamblichus, but especially the rules of Aristotle; and he gave instruction in the system to those who wished, as affording a serviceable tool and it was on this that he rather prided himself and to this he devoted his attention.) Yet he was unequal to exerting a very good influence on his pupils as his violent temper and his general instability of character stood in the way.

And look, I pray, at his pupils-there were Solomon John, and an Iasitas and Serblias and others devoted to learning maybe; most of them I saw myself later, as they often came to the palace. They knew no literary subject accurately, but would pose as dialecticians, making ungainly movements and mad contortions of their limbs, they understood nothing sound but put forth ideas, even those about metempsychosis, in a shadowy way and other similar equally monstrous notions.

The didactic Fathers

Is there any learned man who on visiting the court has not seen that holy couple, utterly absorbed in their study of the interpretation of the Divine writings both at day- and nighttime? I mean my royal parents. And here I will tell a little tale, for the laws of oratory allow that. I remember the Empress, my mother, when breakfast was already on the table, carrying a book in her hands and poring over the writings of the didactic Fathers, especially those of the philosopher and martyr Maximus. For she was not so much interested in the physical disputations as in those about the dogmas, because she wished to gain true wisdom.

And I was often seized with wonder at her and one day in my wonder I said to her, ” How can you spontaneously rise to such sublime heights? for I tremble and dare not listen to such things even with the tips of my ears? For the purely abstract and intellectual character of the man makes one’s head swim, as the saying goes.”She smiled and said ” I know that kind of quite laudable dread; and I myself do not touch these books without a tremor and yet I cannot tear myself away from them. But you wait a little and after you have dipped into other books, you will taste the sweetness of these.”

The remembrance of these words pricks my heart and I have plunged into an ocean, so to speak, of other tales. But the rules of history forbid them, therefore let us run back to the tale of Italus – when he was at the height of his popularity with the students, some of whom I have named, he treated them all with contempt and turned many of the feebler-minded to rebellion and made not a few of his own pupils tyrants.

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War with the Normans part 20

Consequently his language was not adaptable nor at all polished. For the same reason, too, his character was austere and entirely unadorned with grace. His studies too had contracted his brows and he literally exhaled harshness. His writings were crammed full of dialectic exordiums and his language in disputations redounded with ‘attempted proofs,’ more so in his discourses than in his written works. He was so strong in his arguments and so difficult to beat that his opponent would automatically be reduced to silence and to despair.

Temper annulled and obliterated the credit

For he would dig a pit either, side of his question and hurl his interlocutor into a well of difficulties. Such skill the man had in dialectics, and by a rapid succession of questions he would overwhelm his opponents by confusing and daunting their minds. And it was impossible for anyone, who had once argued with him, to free himself from these labyrinths. In other ways he was most unrefined, and subject to violent temper; and this fierce temper annulled and obliterated the credit he gained from his learning.

For in arguments this man used fists as well as words and he did not allow his interlocutor simply to lose himself in embarrassment nor was he satisfied with sewing up his opponent’s mouth and condemning him to silence, but forthwith his hand flew out to tear his beard and hair, and insult quickly followed insult, in fact the man could not be restrained in the use of his hands and tongue. The only unphilosophic trait he had was that after the blow his anger left him, tears and evident remorse followed.

If it would interest anyone to know his appearance, his head was large, his brow very prominent, his face open, his nostrils wide and of free exhalation, his beard rounded, his chest broad and his limbs well-knit together, in stature shorter than the very tall. His pronunciation was such as you would expect of a Latin who had come to our country as a young man and learnt Greek thoroughly but was not quite clear in his articulation, for he mutilated his syllables here and there.

This want of clearness in his utterance and his dropping the last letters did not escape even ordinary people and made rhetoricians call him ‘rustic’ in his speech. As a result, although his writings were crammed with dialectical commonplaces, drawn from all sources, they were decidedly not free from faults of composition and solecisms scattered broadcast.

Read More about The Story of Abou Hassan the Wag or the Sleeper Awakened part 8


War with the Normans part 19

This man had not studied very much under learned professors, but through his natural cleverness and quick intelligence and further by the help of God (which he had obtained by his mother’s ardent supplications, for she often spent whole nights in the church of God weeping and making invocations to the holy picture of the Virgin on her son’s behalf) he had reached the summit of all knowledge, was thoroughly acquainted with Greek and Chaldoean literature and grew famous in those days for his wisdom. Italus, then, became this man’s disciple, but he was never able to plumb the depths of philosophy for he was of such a boorish and barbarous disposition that he could not endure teachers even when learning from them. He was full of daring and barbarous rebelliousness and even before learning a thing, imagined he surpassed everybody else and from the very start he entered the lists against Psellus himself.

Being well versed in dialectics he caused daily commotions in public meeting places by stringing together sophistical quibbles, putting forward something of the kind and then maintaining an argument to match it. The reigning Emperor, Michael Ducas, and his brothers, made a friend of him; they certainly placed him after Psellus in their estimation, yet they were fond of him, and used him in literary contests; for the Ducases, the Emperor’s brothers, and even the Emperor Michael himself, were very literary. Italus would always cast heated, furious glances at Psellus when the latter, like an eagle, soared above his quibbles.

Italus to Epidamnus

What happened next? The war of the Latins and Italians with the Romans broke out, and the occupation of Lombardy, nay even of the whole of Italy, was under consideration. The Emperor of that time sent Italus to Epidamnus on the supposition that he was his friend and an honest man, and understood Italian affairs. Then to cut my story short, he was detected in treachery to us and an official was sent to expel him, and Italus getting wind of this, escaped to Rome. Later, as was his nature, he repented and sent imploring letters to the Emperor who ordered him back to Constantinople and gave him as dwelling-place the monastery called Pege, and the church of the Forty Saints.

Later when Psellus left Byzantium after taking the tonsure, Italus became the foremost teacher of all philosophy and was styled the highest, ‘Hypatus,’ of philosophers and he gave lectures explaining the books of Aristotle and Plato. He was generally supposed to be very learned. and he undoubtedly was far cleverer than [134] all others in expounding that most wonderful philosophic system, the Peripatetic, and especially the dialectics of it. But for other branches of literature he had not a very good head, for he stumbled over grammar and had never tasted the nectar of rhetoric.

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War with the Normans part 18

VIII When he arrived he found the church in a very perturbed condition, and did not even have a short period of relaxation. But as he was a true apostle of the church, and now found it vexed by the teachings of Italus, although he was anxious to march against Bryennius (the Frank who had taken Castoria, as we have said) yet even under these circumstances he did not neglect his faith. For at this time the doctrines of Italus had obtained a great vogue and were upsetting the church.

Now this Italus (for it is necessary to give his history from the beginning) was a native of Italy and had spent a considerable time in Sicily; this is an island situated near Italy. For the Sicilians had rebelled against the Roman rule and were preparing for war against them and invited the Italians to join them; amongst those w1lo came was the father of Italus who brought his son with him, although he was not of military age, and the boy accompanied and tripped along with him and received a military education, as is the custom of the Italians.

That is how Italus spent the early years of his life, and that was the first foundation of his education. When the famous George Maniaces during the reign of Monomachus mastered and subdued Sicily, the father of Italus with his child only escaped with difficulty and betook themselves in their flight to Lombardy which was still under the Romans. From there (I do not know how) this Italus came to Constantinople, which was not ill supplied with teachers of every subject and of the art of language.

Basil Porphyrogenitus down to the Emperor Monomachus

For from the time of Basil Porphyrogenitus down to the Emperor Monomachus, the study of letters, although neglected by the many, had nevertheless not entirely died out; it blazed up again and revived and was seriously pursued by the lovers of letters in the reign of the Emperor Alexius. Before that time men for the most part lived luxuriously and amused themselves, and due to their effeminacy they busied themselves with quail-hunting and other more disgraceful pastimes, and treated letters, and in fact any training in arts, as a secondary consideration.

Therefore when Italus found the majority of this character he consorted with the scholars, gloomy men of uncouth habits (for such were to be found in the capital even then) and after he had gained an education in letters from them he later associated with the renowned Michael Psellus.

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War with the Normans part 17

And Bohemund seeing them come rejoiced as ‘a lion who has met with mighty prey,’ to use a Homeric expression, even so he, when he saw the men and the Protostrator Michael with his own eyes, dashed at them with all his forces in an irresistible rush, whereupon they immediately turned and fled. Uzas (who was thus named after his race), a man famous for his bravery and skilled, as Homer says, ‘in wielding, now right now left, the tough bull’s hide that formed his target,’ bent to the right as he was coming out of the entrance and, turning sharply, hit the Latin following him, who straightway f ell headlong to the ground. But Bohemund pursued the fugitives as far as the river Salabrias.

During the flight this same Uzas pierced Bohemund’s standard-bearer with his spear and plucking the standard from his hands waved it aloft a minute, and then lowered it to the ground. When the Latins saw their standard lowered, they were confounded and fled along another path by which they reached Tricala which had already been seized by some of Bohemund’s men who were fleeing to Lycostomium. And there they entered the town and stayed awhile and afterwards seized Castoria.

Emperor soon left Larissa

But the Emperor soon left Larissa and entered Thessalonica and with his usual sagacity very soon began sending offers of rich rewards to the Counts in Bohemund’s train on condition that they would ask Bohemund for the pay he had promised them, and that if he could not pay them, they should persuade him to journey down to the sea and ask his father Robert for it, or better still, cross the sea himself to fetch it. If they accomplished this, they should all enjoy his respect and numberless benefits.

And if any of them were willing to serve under him as mercenaries, he would enrol them in his army and give them the pay they required, and to those who preferred to return to their own homes, he would give a safe passage through Hungary. In response to the Emperor’s suggestion, the Counts unfeelingly demanded their pay for the last four years, but as Bohemund had not got it, he temporized awhile.

However on their insisting in their reasonable demands, he did not know what to do, so appointed Bryennius Governor of Castoria, as well as Peter, son of Aliphas, who was guarding Polobi; and himself journeyed down to Valona. On receipt of this news, the Emperor packed up and entered the Queen of Cities in triumph.

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