The way they were: an enlightening Balkan lexicon of two centuries ago



Around the end of the eighteenth century, a priest named Daniel --a Vlach-speaking native of Moschopolis--compiled a quadrilingual lexicon of Greek, Vlach, Bulgarian and Albanian, with the purpose of helping speakers of Vlach, Bulgarian and Albanian to learn Greek. This work, which was first published in 1793-4 and republished in 1802, was entitled:

INTRODUCTORY INSTRUCTION: Comprising a Quadrilingual Lexicon of the Four Common Dialects, Simple Romaic, Moesian Vlach, Bulgarian and Albanian. Compiled primarily to Assist the Learning of Young Philologists speaking other Tongues by the Very Reverend and Most Learned Teacher, Oekonomos, and Preacher Master Daniel of Moschopolis. Also Embellished and Augmented by the Addition of diverse Necessary Words Meriting Interest, and respectfully Dedicated to the Most Revered and Most Learned Metropolitan of Pelagonia, Hypertimos and Exarch of All Bulgarian Macedonia, Grand Seigneur Nectarius of Mudania, at Whose Expense it is Published for the Benefit of the Pious Christians of His Diocese. In the Year of Our Lord MDCCCII.

The foreword to this most rare of books was written by Daniel himself in verse which, though artless, is nevertheless most expressive of the spirit which inspired both the compiler of this astonishing lexicon and Metropolitan Nectarius himself, who, Daniel's foreword makes plain, not only financed the endeavour but also conceived the original idea. In his foreword, Daniel writes, inter alia, as follows:

Albanians, Vlachs, Bulgars, speakers of other tongues, rejoice!

And prepare yourselves one and all to become Greeks,

Leaving behind you your barbaric tongue, speech, and customs

That shall seem as myths to your descendants.

Do honour to your divers peoples and likewise to your native lands

And make your Albanian and Bulgarian nations Greek.

No longer it is arduous to learn the Romaic speech,

No more shall you commit barbarisms with five or ten words.

In your hands you hold this newly printed book:

Take it and study it often wherever you may go.

Herein shall you find matters to your hearts' content,

That you may practise well the language of the Greeks.

O you who once spoke other tongues, while yet revering God,

Acquire now the language and speech of the Greeks ...

Young Bulgars hail! Albanians and Vlachs,

Deacons, presbyters, and hieromonks withall,

Awaken from your deep, benighted sleep

And learn the Greek tongue, which is the mother of wisdom.

The worthy Oekonomos Daniel, of Moesia and Dacia,

Has as a lawful priest this book compiled,

While the good pastor and Bishop of Pelagonia

Published it and printed it as the holy leader of his flock,

Desiring to teach the Romaic tongue to all

And to change the Bulgarian and Albanian ways,

Adorning your homelands and establishing schools,

That the children may learn with Romaic letters.

In his Introductory Instruction, Daniel also enjoins his readers to "proceed by degrees in the Romaic tongue" and urges parents to purchase the book for their children, "that they may learn to read and count a little in order to pursue their parents' business or profession". Daniel's foreword also attests that Metropolitan Nectarius of Pelagonia had founded schools for the education of the children of his diocese.

[From: "The Bulgarian National Awakening and its Spread into Macedonia", by Antonios-Aimilios Tachiaos, pp. 21-23, published by Thessaloniki's Society for Macedonian Studies, 1990.]

Back to the "garden"