A Place To Find Your Family History

 Part 1 - ORIGINS OF GRECI


There are two areas in Albania that bear the name Greci; one of about six thousand inhabitants in central Albania, above Tirana, and another composed of a few houses in Alta Albania, High Albania, near the Triepsei tribe on the boundary between Albania and Montenegro. However, the name Greci has not been taken from the country of origin of the Albanese refugees in Italy because Greci already existed with this name when the refugees came to live there. Also, we see that while the two above mentioned areas are found in central and high Albania, the Albanese of Greci have a preference for lower Albania since they speak the Tosk dialect and not Gheg.

To understand the origin of the name Greci we must remember its first inhabitants. History records that in the year 535, Giustiniano, Emperor of Constantinople, wanting to drive the Goths out of Italy, ordered the famous Belisario here, thus giving rise to the formation of many Greek colonies in our southern provinces to restrain and keep in check the conquered towns, and to inspire in the defeated people a spirit and love for the government of the East. Also he wanted to lay foundations as the great emperor in these distant lands and consolidate his rights of authority as a feudal lord.

We know also that the rule of the Greeks in Italy did not end in 568 as some suggest with the call of the Longobardi for part of Narsete. The Greeks maintained many of their colonies in southern Italy after that and would later give the baresi an opportunity to reconquer other land too. The Baresi, seeing that many Saracens from Africa based in Taranto made raids and incursions into Benevento and routed Prince Adalgisio that year, feared they would fall into the hands of the barbarians too. They summoned the Greek general Gregorio from Otranto , who quite willingly came to take charge.

The domain of the Prince of Benevento included the city of Bari, and after many years he looked to claim it. However he did not succeed. Later, Simplicio, general of Leone the Wise, Emperor of Constantinople, (mosse?) war against Orso, young brother of Ajone, and besieged Benevento. The city surrendered after a brief resistance and fell under the rule of the Greeks. Such conquest however would be of brief duration. After only three years and ten months the Greeks were no longer found in this principality, and besides, had given back everything they possessed.

Many places of Calabria and of Puglia, like Conversano, Matera and other lands remained subject to the Greeks of the East. And those powerful people, for a much longer time, (piu che scemare?) went to battle reaching out and redeeming the masters of Ascoli Satriano in 950, and occupying the city of Bovino afterward. And in 969 when Ottone I, called “The Great”, came against them and surrounded and beseiged the occupied city (Bovino), he was unable to drive out the Greek garrison.

Therefore it is very probable, rather, almost certain that Greci had been built by the Greeks after 535, that is to say during the expedition that Giustiniano, Emperor of Constantinople, sent to southern Italy under the command of general Belisario (facendovi?) to establish many greek colonies, including the colony of Greci. And my conviction is strengthened also by the fact that in 1018 Boggiano (1), the catapano (the greek governor) at the time of emperor Basilio, building the other Greek colony of Troja (formerly Ekla) in memory of the old Troja (diede?) to (this last?) along with the pre-existing Greek colony of Greci, in order to keep the town boundaries of the Greek colonies unified and compact. Boundaries for the two aforesaid were the Sannoro and Lavello rivers and the road that led from Lucera to Bovino. (2)

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Footnotes:
(1)-Boggiano, in order to leave a record of himself in Italy, removed a part of Puglia near the principality of Benevento, and created a new province there, that is to say another Troja, and also Dragonara, Ferenzuala etc. And from then on this new province was named Capitanata.

(2)- The great religious schism of the East had not erupted yet and the Greeks who established themselves in this area (to which they gave the name) although (fossero) .of the Greek rite, were catholic. However, the other Greeks that later came to live in the principality of Benevento, Puglia and Calabria, were almost all of Greek schism rite.

Historians of the time record that in the 9th century Emperor Leone the Sensible, relying only on the patriarch of Constantinople and without the consent of the Pope in Rome, established in all these provinces, several Byzantine convents, along with six Dioseses with Greek rite, among which were Morcone, Civitate and Rossano.

These dioceses of the Greek rite survived in the said provinces until the 13th century. Although the Greeks removed the Longobardi and the control they had in Italy, they never were able to remove them completely.

These people, with or without their respective bishops, continued to live as Greeks with their habits and rites, and also with their barbarians. And the insolence of all these Greeks was a sign that they expected they could only be excommunicated by the patriarch of Constantinople. For them the authority of the Greek patriarch extended as far as imperial authority.

Later, however, Nilo Doxopater, impassioned Byzantine writer of the 12th century, would confess that in Lombardy and in Puglia, the Greek patriarch had the maritime cities, but all the other cities belonged to the holy see of the pope of Rome, whose authority was recognized by the Eastern emperor, Basilic. 

In the meantime, to suppress the insolence of the Greeks that were firmly established in Italy, pope Giovanni spoke up, which is the privilege of the confirmation. Summoning the excommunication, he retorted: Osive graecus sit sive quicumque alter homo. And following the example of the pope of Rome, and the illustrious presuli of the metropolis of Benevento, cardinal Savelli and Cardinal Orsini, who did not fail to sanction of the providence, he acted to restrain the Greek haughtiness.

On 14 April 1567 Cardinal Savelli called together a provincial synod principally pro reformatione graecorum, eorumque erroribus tollendis placing all the Greeks living in his ecclesiastic province under his jurisdiction and that of the other bishops. In Capo? IV, against the same Greeks, who demanded that their priests had to be ordained by the patriarch of Constantinople, sanctioned that the said priests Ononnisi a propriis ordinariis [already submitted to the obedience of the Roman pope] Ostatu ritu ac tempore ordinentur.

And cardinal Orsini, who afterwards was pope with the name Benedetto XIII, in the provincial council that he celebrated on the 6, 13 and 16 April 1693, (occupando anche lui dei?) Greeks, in Chapter V, of the title XLVIII, confirming (quanto dallOaltro suo?) predecessor had been established, (sanciva?) this new canon, that closed forever the bad (epresse?) Byzantine claims of the Greeks, Graeci, episcopo latino subiecti, nonnisi ab eo ad ordines suscipiendos dimissi feurint, in poenas et censuras, ut latini subditi, incurrunt.

“Progressu temporis” therefore the Greek rite in the southern provinces of Italy, “sensim sine sensu”, went vanishing interamente?

Translation Draft by Dick Vara - 4/17/97