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THE ISLAND OF IMBROS IN THE TIME OF MOUSTOXYDIS AND BARTHOLOMEW: a 19th century account of its history, physiography and legends

Posted by on 29 Ιανουαρίου 2015
The «Historical Memorandum on theislandofImbros» which was written by Andreas Moustoxidis and Bartholomew Koutloumousinos printed in 1845 in Constatinople, was reissued in Greek,  English and Turkish inIstanbulin 2010.The introduction of this version translated into English by Harry Rigas.


The Historical Memorandum Concerning the Island of Imbros, edited by the Imbrian priest, Bartholomew of Koutloumousion and printed by A. Koromilas and Paspallis in 1845 at Constantinople, constitutes the earliest known attempt to bring together fragmentary pieces of historical information about the island of Imbros scattered in various texts, and to portray the picture of the island at the time of the publication.

The book consists of 88 pages including the front page, the introduction and a dedication, while a map of the island sketched from the life and published in Greek in April 1842 by German Geographer, Heinrich Kiepert was attached at the back1.Under the title, on the front page of this rather small book we read the following description: “Composed by the most scholarly gentleman, A. Moustoxydis of Corfu, and completed and edited by Bartholomew Koutloumousian of Imbros”. We are thus informed of who the author and the editor are, while the bottom of the page, right under an ornamental picture of an amphora and a torch, features the place and date of publication together with the name of the publishing house.

The second page bears the epigram “nothing is sweeter than home and parents”2 from the 10th Book of Homer’s Odyssey. A similar message is conveyed when two pages later, in a double framed space, the author will make his articulate dedication:“to you, dearest homeland of Imbros, your own offspring B.K. dedicates this book in filial gratitude”.

In the foreword which he had been composed in Halki [Heybeliada] shortly before the book’s publication, Bartholomew informs us of how the book was written, its content and subject-matter. We thus hear that the premium mobile behind the “Historical Memorandum Concerning the Island of Imbros”3 has been Andreas Moustoxydis’ own willingness to record systematically all the information “he managed to find” in the works of authors (from antiquity to his days) concerning Imbros. The material collected by Moustoxydis4 comprised the first part of the book, “consisting  of authors’ references to the island” as its explanatory subtitle  states, and to which Moustoxydis has not intervened but for his division to chapters (“articles”) and a few footnotes that end with the initial “B”, while the second part of the book is written exclusively by Bartholomew and therefore constitutes first-hand evidence.

The text extends over 119 paragraphs and includes a series of bibliographic references, placed as footnotes under the numbering (a), (b), (c) etc, at the first part and (1), (2), (3) at the second, while occasionally the reader comes across comments that were Supposedly inserted the last moment, bearing the sign (*).

In terms of layout the Memorandum follows closely the stylistic and aesthetic principles of 19th century printing and institutes an extraordinary, flawless example of the high Standards of Greek Printers inIstanbulat that time.

The material of the book is divided in two parts, I and II.

Part I, consisting of 75 out of the 119 paragraphs of the whole book, is further divided in 15 titled, small chapters “for the convenience of the reader” as he notes in the foreword. This I division is indeed helpful to the specialized reader and scholar I in order to locate the specific information he is after.

In terms of methodology the presentation of the material  is made along classical lines, starting with the geographical location of the island and moving to the parameters that relate to its geography: observations on its geology, its soil, its flora and fauna, and its natural products.

This geographical outline is followed by a two-paragraph- long chapter on the origin of the name “Imbros”, moving in turn to a narration of historical facts since the time of the Trojan War. In the ensuing 7 chapters, the author resorts to a detailed study of written and archaeological findings (inscriptions) from |Imbros, in a very serious effort to determine the demographic, religious, cultural, social and economic and overall, political developments that took place on the island from the dawn of history to the 18th century. This part concludes with a chapter titled “theChurchofImbros” where the author has included as I much information as he could gather about the administrative conditions of the island’s church in the period between the 13th land 17th centuries.

Part II consisting of some 44 paragraphs, revolves around the ”natural” and “politeiograhic” state of Imbros at the time, las the author himself sates. It consists of 12 small Chapters, numbered with capital letters (A’, B’, etc.) just as those of Part I. Nevertheless, unlike Part I these chapters are further subdivided into smaller units that follow the modem numerical system, U 2, 3, etc.

In these 12 Chapters Bartholomew presents the picture of Imbros he had grown to know during his own lifetime. The information he gives constitutes therefore first-hand, primary historical evidence.

In Chapter 1 the 6 villages of Imbros of Bartholomew’s time are presented one by one, together with descriptions of their geographical, demographic, and social conditions followed by references to their agricultural production and their economic, communal and ecclesiastical affairs.

Chapter 2 talks of the fortresses and old settlements of the island and functions as a supplement to the first chapter. The next five chapters offer information pertaining to the soil and climate of the island, and their effect on its fauna and flora and its agricultural production (through a quantitative list of produced goods per year5 as the main parameter of the Imbrian economy.

Chapters 8 and 9 consist of an anthropological account of the demographic condition of the island, including the number of its inhabitants (8000), their identity (“all of them Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ”6, their characteristic qualities, their professions, their dwellings, their rituals and customs at large.

The next chapter deals with the Ottoman administrative system, the tax-system and the developments that occurred as a result of the 1836 Tanzimat-i Hayriye Reform.

The last two chapters summarize the ecclesiastical administration of the island followed by a catalogue of the 17 known Arch-Hierarchs of the island from the 16th century to Bartholomew’s time, including the three Bishops mentioned in Part I, Chapter 15 (“the Church of Imbros”).

Paragraph 119 concludes the book with a direct address to Metropolitan of Imbros Neophytus III, urging him to see to the completion of the School whose construction had started in 1839 but had remained unfinished ever since7.

Concerning the deeper significance of the Memorandum, one should not forget that as we have already noticed this work constitutes the very first known effort to collect everything relevant to Imbros and make it easily accessible to the reader.

As we have already mentioned, the work begun out of Moustoxydis’ initiative to collect all the information he had come across in the works of various historians. It was in 1836 when Moustoxydis, having recently dealt with the loss of his childhood friend and Governor of GreeceJohn Capodistria, together with Capodistria’s brother, Viaro invited Bartholomew to teach at the Ecclesiastical School of Corfu, on behalf of the Ionian Parliament 8.  

Second we should note Moustoxydis’ extensive bibliographical research in order to exact as much information as possible about Imbros. When looking at the references, in particular, the reader will be struck by the huge volume of material that Moustoxydis went through in order to locate information that was relevant to the issue at hand. Among his sources we see a plethora of Ancient Greek, Byzantine and Roman Authors, together with many contemporary travellers: Homer, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Isocrates, Plutarch, Pausanias, Ptolemy, Philostratus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Strabo, Pliny, Ovid, Titus Livy, Photius, Eustathius, Chalcocondyles, Doukas, Frantzis, Christoforo Buondelmonti, Cyriaco d’ Angona, Beneditto Bordone, Francesco Piacenza, Michel le Quine, George Wilier, 0l. Dapper,ChoiseulGouffier.

A mere look at the above list of names gives us a perspective of the depth of Moustoxydis’ research, the time and efforts invested in the arduous task of locating references to Imbros inside the thousands of pages written by these authors and many others that have not been mentioned here. Even if he had simply left us a mere list of these references without even penning Part I of the Memorandum, Moustoxydis would have still accomplished a huge service to posterity for which we would have been equally grateful. Still he conducted the research, systematized the emerging material and composed the Memorandum himself, leaving us an exemplary piece of scholarship: a work that artfully balances brevity with richness of information and has set the bibliographical canon for all ensuing historical research on theislandofImbros. At the same time it is a work of impartial historiography, free from bias and fanaticism, despite the fact that it was written in the “Golden Age” of European Nationalisms.

While abstaining from excessive patriotism and localism Bartholomew completed this laborious achievement in Part II of the Book in his accurate and scientific depiction of the state of Imbros, as witnessed in his time9. His privileged access to historical events, personalities and social realities pertaining to the island allowed him to compose a sophisticated text that conveys a full picture of 19th century Imbros and skillfully complements the first part of the book.

Having spent 23 years away from Imbros Bartholomew returns in 183710 set on furthering the educational mission he had initiated 30 years earlier and on establishing a School that could offer advanced studies of the highest caliber. Until 1839, when he was recalled by Patriarch Gregory VI to teach at the Patriarchical Theological School in Fener, and fight the teachings of Kairis11, he had the opportunity to study and produce relevant notes that must have come handy during the composition of Part II of the Memorandum. In some cases he even tried to locate sites and events narrated by ancient authors and included in Part I, such as the “sterilizing and intoxicating natural spring” at the western comer of Imbros (Avlakas), mentioned by Philostratus or the “body of a Giant” that was said to have been revealed by an avalanche12. Following  Moustoxydis’ own call for the necessity of empirical verification of the story, Bartholomew appears to have left his home at Gliki, which was at the other end of the island, in order to inspect the site with his own eyes. He  summarizes his findings in a small footnote on page 7 of the original: “Meticulous examination conducted on the site was  unable to retrieve any trace of the bones of the Giant or spring”. This is an indication of the close examination under which Bartholomew placed the text before its publication and demonstrates clearly how responsibility vis-a-vis historical facts I was felt strongly by the two authors.

After the invitation by the Patriarch13, it appears that Bartholomew reached Constantinople with a notebook full of I notes, and information that was necessary for completing Part II of the book. After his appointment as Director of the Greek Commercial School of Halki by the new Patriacrh Anthimus IV I in 184014 he worked on his material further, composed15 Part II I of the Memorandum corrected and amended Moustoxydis’ text and published it in 1845, a year before his departure for Mount Athos16.

Since the day it was published the Memorandum has served I as a basic tool for learning the history of Imbros, on account of Hits sophistication and quality. Still, in the 163 years that have passed since then contemporary scholarship has belied some of I the statements of Part I through the new evidence and sources that have come to light.

The issue of the Ottoman annexation of Imbros is indicative. The Memorandum follows Doukas in placing it before the H conquest of Constantinople17. However by now we know with I certainty, through the evidence offered by the Historian of the I conquest and direct negotiator for the capitulation to Mehmet II, Michael Kritoboulos from Imbros, that the island’s capitulation was the consequence of the panic and despair that overtook the islanders as the result of the Fall of Constantinople18.

One comes across other similar flaws or inaccuracies in the Memorandum that advances in historical scholarship have worked to expose, such as the identity of Athenodorus of Imbros, a Greek mercenary at the service of the Satrap Artabazus. Given that “the name Imbros had also been given to a stronghold of the city at Kaunos”19 whose inhabitants also bore the name “Imbrians” indicated by an anathematic stele in form its ancient dock20 it is highly probably that Athenodorus was an Imbrian from Kaunos, given his ties with Artabazus and Mentor and Memnon from Rhodes and in turn Artabazus’ links to the satrap of Lydia, both of which are located on the Anatolian Coast of the Aegean.

For all the improvements that can be made to the factual information included in the Memorandum, the work remains a precious tool for the study of the history of Imbros and a fine example of historiography. The modem editor’s decision to reprint the original together with Turkish, English and Modem Greek translations that follow the original closely offers a valuable opportunity to the Turkish-speaking public to study an original text that constitutes a first-hand source for the history of one of the islands ofTurkey, information about which typically comes from second- and third- hand sources.

It is worth noting that this is the first translation of the Memorandum, while there have been two previous re-prints in the original Greek. The first was released in 1904 by an Imbrian under the name G. D. Ekosidyos, by Kosmos Publishing House in Alexandria. In his foreword Ekosidyos noted the necessity for a reprint since the first edition had sold out, but does not clarify why he had omitted Bartholomew’s original foreword and paragraph 119 from his edition21, together with a total of 6 1/2 pages, that is more than 4/5 of Chapter 13 and Chapter 14 in its entirety (2 pages), while altering the numbering of Chapters and pages22. Furthermore the 1904 edition does not carry Kiepert’s map in the appendix. Instead the editor has added many information to Part II that was deemed necessary in order for the reader to follow the narrative. Ekosidyos’ blunders indicated the hurried manner in which that edition was completed together with ignorance of editorial and writer’s conventions, both of which resulted in a grave violation of the text despite the editor’s noble intentions.

The second reprint of the Memorandum took place in 1978, as the 12th volume of a series published by “Koultoura”, an Athens-based publishing house specializing in reprints of old and antiquarian books. This edition is a photocopied reprint of the original one, differing only with respect to the front page, in which the date and place of publication have been transferred from the amphora and torch motif, while the original Publishers have been replaced by the new date and place of publication (Athens, 1978). This edition too lacks the Kiepert map that was attached to the original23.

This first attempt to publish the Memorandum in different languages stems from a series of reasons which have been elaborated above24.

Finally I would like to clarify that this text was never intended as an analysis or critical evaluation of the Memorandum. My intention was rather to offer a presentation j of the historical text with which the reader is confronted; to present its content while reminding the reader of the paramount importance it holds for the historiography of Imbros. Its degree of success will be evaluated by no other than the zealous readers themselves.

I would be truly happy if this introduction somewhat contributed to the reading of the book and facilitated the better I reception and evaluation of its content.

Giorgos Xeinos

Vasilika,Thessaloniki, August 13,2001



1 .The copy in my possession, a scanned reprint of the first folio by the publishing house “Koultoura”, does not feature a map, even though its presence in the original is testified by the author himself in the “Introduction”. “Koultoura”, chose not to include the map cither because they did not have it in their hands or in order to avoid further printing costs.

2.Translated from the original Greek by the translator

3. Forthwith Memorandum

4. Historian, Scholar and archaeologist fromCorfu(1785-1860). He studied inPaduaand worked laboriously in accordance with the European methodology of his time. His work is concerned with the continuity of Hellenism from antiquity to his days. He was a childhood friend and admirer of Capodistria. During the latter’s governorship ofGreece, Moustoxydis acted as his close associate with respect to the organizing of the education system of the new state and assumed the post of director of theAeginaSchool. He held Bartholomew of Koutloumousion in high esteem on account of his personality and work, to whom he was “a most honest friend” as he writes in the introduction, a friendship that is further confirmed by their correspondence (c.f. Dimitrios Stratis, Bartholomew Koutloumousianos [1772-1851] (forthwith “Stratis”) Holy Monastery of Koutloumousion Publ. 2000, pp 415-450). After all it was Moustoxydis that introduced Bartholomew to Capodistria.

5. Memorandum, pp 172-174.

6. Memorandum, p 177.

7. Bartholomew Kutlumusian was known for his zeal for the establishment of a Greek school on Imbros and the pains and sacrifices he went through for the sake of Imbrian education in general. Unfortunately we cannot address the very lengthy issue of his contribution to Imbrian education. There is however a very rich bibliography in Greek on this matter. Among others I would recommend to the reader Metropolitan Myron Chrysostomos’, “To ekpedeftiko provlima stin Imvro ta teleftea 300”, in the proceedings of the conference: / Pnevmatiki Parousia ton Imvrion ston Ellinismo, Eteria Meletis, Thessaloniki 2002, pp 85-134 and Athanasios E., Karathanasis’ contribution to the same volume: “Bartholomeos Koutloumousianos o Imvrios: Didaskalos tou Genous”, pp 135-150.1. Ch. Xatziapostolou’s “Vartholomeos Koutloumousianos” in Lefkoma tis nisou Imvrou,Athens, 1938 and 2000 (reprint), pp 64-78 is also easily accessible. On the other hand the Funeral Oration delivered by Bartholomew’s own student, Metropolitan of Methymna, Nicephorus Glykas from Imbros (henceforth Glykas) at his funeral, in Logi Epitafii ke Panigiriki,Constantinople, 1887, pp 3-24 is somewhat more difficult to find. A book by D. Stratis deals with the issue touched upon in ftn 5 in greater detail.

8. c.f. Stratis, pp 113-118 and 524-528 (correspondence of Moustoxydis with Batholomew) together with copies of handwritten letters of Bartholomew to Moustoxydis, dated November 1833, and to Viaro Capodistria (December 1833), in the Imbros Archive (Apxεio ‘Iμβρου) of the  of Imbros and Tenedos Studies Association(Εταιρία Μελέτης Ίμβρου και Τενέδου).

9. Translated from the original Greek by the translator.

10. Stratis, p 119.

11. Batholomew Archontonis (metropolitan of Philadelhpia), Batholomew Koutloumousian of Imbros and theTheologicalSchoolin Fener (forthwith Archontonis) in:Xeniato Jacobus Archbishop of North and South America,Thessaloniki, 1985, pp 137-140.

12. Memorandum, pp 53-55.

13. cf. ftn 11.

14. Archontonis, p 140.

15. c.f. Glykas, p 2 where he also gives information about the Memorandum Concerning the Holy Marry Monastery in Halki and theCommercialSchool.

16. Stratis, p 131.

17. Memorandum, p 131.

18. Diether Roderich. Reinsch, Kritoboulos of Imbros: Scholar, raya and patriot, in: The Intellectual Presence of Imbrians within Hellenism (Conference Proceedings), Centre for Imbrian and Tenedian Studies,Thessaloniki, 2002, pp 72-4. For more on Critoboulos see Critobuli Imbriotae Historiae, rec. Diether Roderich Reinsch (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae), Berling -New York1983.

19. Memorandum, p 63.

20. Giorgos Xeinos, «Τhe Imbrians of Ancient Kaunos», in: Imbriotica, 21(85) 2003, p 1794-1797.

21. c.f. ibid., p 3.

22. The way the material has been presented allows us to assume that this omission was not intentional but was rather due to the absence of pages 45-50 from the original copy.

23. c.f. ftn 1.

24. The choice of the editor to publish a 163 years-old historical work and to have it transplanted, instead of opting for a more recent work was founded on a series of reasons: apart from the Memorandum’s exceptional authenticity, the work combines exemplary historiography with brevity and succinctness, qualities that are rarely found in more contemporary and extensive histories of Imbros, which by and large tend to specialize thematically in a specific historical period. Giorgos Xeinos’ Imbros and Tenedos: Parallel Histories, published by the Research Centre “Kathimas Anatoli” in 2005 stands out as an exception, but despite its density, conciseness and lack of temporal specialization rests on a comparative approach with respect to the histories of Imbros and Tenedos.




August 13,2001