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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at


What it was first directed my attention to the Komodromoi of Byzantine writers I cannot be positive, but I am pretty sure it was something somewhere in Pott. Not in any of the 1034 pages of his Zigeuner in Europa and Asien (2 vols.; Halle, 1844-45), for I have once more gone through that stupendous work, but perhaps in a letter, perhaps in a conversation, or perhaps in one of his contributions to the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft. Anyhow, I am sure no work hitherto on the Gypsies has cited this extract from Du Cange's Glossarium ad Scriptores Mediæ et Infimæ Græcitatis (Paris, 1688):--

'κωμοδρόμοι, interdum κομοδρόμοι, Circulatores, atque adeò Fabri ærarij qui per pagos cursitant: ut hodie passim apud nos, quos Chaudroniers dicimus. Lexicon MS. ad Schedographiam:

Βαβαὶ, θαυμαστικόν ἐστι, Βάναυσος, ὁ χαλκεύς τε,
Καὶ χρυσοχόος, λέγεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ κωμοδρόμος.

[paragraph continues] Glossæ Græcobarb. Ἀκμὼν, σίδηρον ἐφ᾽ ᾧ χαλκεὺς, χαλκεύει, ἤγουν ἀκμόνιν ὁπου κομοδρομεύει ὁ κομοδρόμος. Alibi, Ἀκροφύσια, τὰ ἄκρα τῶν ἀσκῶν, ἐν οἷς οἰ χαλκεῖς τὸ πῦρ ἐκφυσῶσιν· αἱ ἄκραι, ἤγουν ἡ ἄκρες τῶν ἀσκῶν ἤ ἀσκιῶν, μεθ᾽ αἷς ὁποίαις φυσοῦσιν οἱ κομοδρόμοι τὴν φωτίαν. Theophanes, an. 17 Justiniani: τὶς ἐκ τῶν Ἰταλῶν χῶρας κομοδρόμος,--ἔχων μεθ᾽ ἑαυτο̃υ κύνα ξανθὸν καὶ τυφλὸν, etc. Constantinus de Adm. Imp. c. 50, p. 182, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ θέματος τῶν Ἀρμενιακῶν εἰς τὸ τοῦ Χαρσιανοῦ θέμα μετέθησαν ταῦτα τὰ βάνδα, ἤτοι ἡ τοῦ κομοδρόμου τοποτηρεσία Ταβίας, καὶ εἰς τὴν τούρμαν τοῦ Χαρσιανοῦ τὴν εἰρημένην προςετέθησαν. Anonymus de Passione Domini:

p. xxv

[paragraph continues] καί ὅτε φθάσωσιν εἰς τὸυ τόπον, ἐλθὼν ὁ κομοδόμος ἀς σταυρώσει αὐτὸν, etc. Occurrit præterea in Annalib. Glycæ.'

Dictionaries are not as a rule lively reading; but every line almost in this extract has its interest. Komodromos, 'village-roamer,' is certainly a vague term, but no vaguer than landlooper, which does in Dutch stand for 'Gypsy,' as landlouper does for 'vagrant' in Lowland Scotch. Du Cange's own definition of komodromoi as roamers (circulatores) and coppersmiths who rove about the country, like those in our midst whom we call Chaudronniers, must have been meant by him to apply to Gypsies, and to Gypsies only. The modern Roumanian and Hungarian Gypsies are divided into certain classes--Caldarari (chaudronniers or caldron-smiths), Aurari (gold-workers), etc.; and Bataillard's note prefixed to most of his monographs runs--'L’auteur recevrait avec reconnaissance toute communication relative aux Bohémiens hongrois voyageant hors de leur pays (vrais nomades pourvus de tentes et de chariots, la plupart chaudronniers).' Next, the six passages quoted by Du Cange show that the komodromos was variously or conjointly a coppersmith (chalkeus) and a gold-worker (chrysochoos, defined by Du Cange as 'aurifer, aurarius'). The Gypsy Aurari have practised gold-washing in Wallachia and Transylvania from time immemorial (Grellmann, Die Zigeuner, 2nd ed. 1787, pp. 105-112); but we have also many indications of the Gypsies as actual goldsmiths. Captain Newbold says that the Persian Gypsies 'sometimes practise the art of the gold and silver smith, and are known to be forgers of the current coin of Persia. These are the zergars (lit. "workers in gold") of the tribe' (Jour. Roy. Asiatic Soc., vol. xvi. 1856, p. 310). The Egyptian Gypsies, he tells us, at Cairo 'carry on the business of tinkers and black-smiths, and vend ear-rings, amulets, bracelets, and instruments of iron and brass' (ib. p. 292). The Gypsy bronze and brass founders of Western Galicia and the Bukowina--the only Gypsy metallurgists of whom, thanks to Kopernicki, we possess really full information--are called Zlotars and Dzvonkars, Ruthenian words meaning 'gold-smiths' and 'bell-makers.' They are no longer workers in gold, but they do make rings, crosses, clasps, ear-rings, etc., of brass and German silver (Bataillard, Les Zlotars, 1878, 70 pages). Henri van Elven, in 'The Gypsies in Belgium' (Gypsy Lore Journal, ii. 139), says: 'The women wear bracelets and large earrings of gold, copper, or bronze, seldom of silver; while all the Gypsies wear earrings [cf. supra, p. xii.]. It appears to me that the Gypsy jewels and the metal-work of their pipes have not yet been sufficiently studied. In the fabrication of these objects they

p. xxvi

must have preserved something typical and antique, which would contribute to the comparative study of their ancient industries. I remember seeing some rings, cast in bronze, of which the setting was ornamented with a double or a single cross, and whose ornamentation recalled the motifs of the Middle Ages, the style being evidently Oriental. Their walking-sticks are topped with copper or bronze hatchets, but more frequently with round knobs, which are hollow, and which hold their money, the lid being screwed off and on. These Gypsies were tin-workers, repairing metal utensils, and also basket-makers.' The Gypsies, says Dr. R. W. Felkin, 'appear to be on friendly terms with the natives of the country, and curiously enough they are said to have introduced the art of filigree work and gold-beating into Darfûr' ('Central African Gypsies,' Gypsy Lore Journal, i. 221). Even the Brazilian Gypsies of 1816, as we have seen from Koster's Travels, sold gold and silver trinkets.

The reference to the anvil and to the bellows of skins with which the komodromoi blew up their furnace recalls the passage cited from Arnold von Harff on p. xx., where, about 1497, he described the anvil and the bellows of the Modone Gypsies. Gypsy bellows are figured in Bataillard's Les Zlotars, in Van Elven's article, and in Die Metalle bei den Naturvölkern of Richard Andree (Leip. 1884, p. 83). Arthur J. Patterson in The Magyars: their Country and Institutions (1869, ii. 198) writes: 'A curious consequence of their practising the art of the smith is that a Gypsy boy is in Hungary called purde, which is generally supposed to be the equivalent in the Gypsy language for "boy." It is really the imperative mood of the verb "to blow," for, while the Gypsy father is handling the hammer and the tongs, he makes his son manage the bellows.' Small points enough these, but they must be viewed in relation to the metallurgical monopoly still largely enjoyed by the Gypsies in south-east Europe and in Asia Minor. So exclusively was the smith's a Gypsy (and therefore a degrading) craft in Montenegro that, when in 1872 the Government established an arsenal at Rieka, no natives could be found to fill its well-paid posts. And in a very long letter of 21st January 1880, the late Mr. Hyde Clarke wrote to me that 'over more than one sanják of the Aidin viceroyalty the Gypsies have still a like monopoly of iron-working; the naalband, or shoeing-smith, being no smith in our sense at all. He is supplied with shoes of various sizes by the Gypsies, and only hammers them on.' It is most unlikely that, if recent comers to the Levant, the Gypsies should have acquired such a monopoly; it is obvious that, if they possessed that monopoly a thousand years ago, these komodromoi must have been Gypsies.

p. xxvii

For Du Cange's first three quotations I can assign no dates, but Theophanes Isaurus was born in 758 and died in 818; the seventeenth year of Justinian would be 544 A.D.--a very early date at which to find a Gypsy from Italy, 'having with him a blind yellow dog.' The dates of the Emperor Constantinus Porphyrogenitus are 905-959; I own I can make little of this passage from his Liber de administrando Imperio, but thema, bandon, topoteresia, and tourma seem all to be words for administrative divisions.


xxiv:1 According to Captain Newbold, the Gypsies of Syria and Palestine 'vend charms, philtres, poisons, and drugs of vaunted efficacy'; in 1590 Katherene Roiss, Lady Fowlis, was 'accusit for sending to the Egyptianis, to haif knawledge of thame how to poysoun the young Laird of Fowlis and the young Lady Balnagoune.'

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