Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
From a Venetian viceroy, moreover, Ottaviano Buono, the Acingani of Nauplion in the Peloponnesus received about 1398 a confirmation of the privileges granted them by his predecessors; and Hopf from two facts infers that Gypsies must have been early settled in the peninsula--one, the frequency of ruins called Gyphtokastron ('Gypsy fortress'); the other, that in 1414 the Byzantine rhetorician Mazaris 1 reckoned Egyptians as one of the seven races dwelling there. Nauplion is on the east coast, Modone on the west; and at Modone the Cologne patrician, Arnold von Harff, who went on pilgrimage 1496-99, found a whole suburb of 'poor naked people in little reed-thatched houses, well on to three hundred families, called Suyginer, the same as those whom we call Heiden (Heathen) from Egypt, and who wander about in our lands. Here the race plies all sorts of handiwork--shoemaking, cobbling, and also the smith's craft, which is right curious to behold. The anvil stands on the ground, the man sat in front of it, like a tailor with us; near him sat his wife, also on the earth, and span. Between them was the fire. Near it were two little leather bags, like a bagpipe's, half in the ground and pointing towards the fire. So the wife, as she sat and span, sometimes lifted up one of the bags and then pressed it down again; this sent wind through the earth to the fire, so that the man could get on with his tinkering.' Harff then says that the race originates from a
country called Gyppe, some forty miles distant from Modone 'Sixty years ago' [i.e. about 1436] 'the Turkish emperor seized this territory, whereupon some counts and lords, who would not submit to his authority, fled to Rome to our spiritual father, and demanded his comfort and succour. So he gave them commendatory letters to the Roman emperor and to all princes of the empire, to render them conduct and assistance as exiles for the Christian faith. But though they showed the letters to all princes, they found, nowhere assistance. So they died in wretchedness, but the letters passed to their servants and children, who still wander about in our lands, and call themselves from Little Egypt. But that is a lie, for their parents came from the territory of Gyppe, called also Suginia, which is not so far from our city of Cologne as it is from Egypt. But these vagabonds are rascals and spy out the lands.' This passage, modernised from Harff's narrative by Hopf (pp. 14-17), is of high interest, though there was no Turkish occupation of the Morea about 1436, and though we know of no territory there called Gyppe or Suginia.
xx:1 E. A. Sophocles in the Introduction to his Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (Boston, U.S., 1870, p. 32) regards Mazaris as probably an imaginary character of an anonymous writer of the fourteenth century, according to whom 'Peloponnesus was at that time inhabited by a mongrel population, the principal elements being Lacedæmonians, Italians, Peloponnesians, Slays, Illyrians, Egyptians (Αἰγύπτιοι), and Jews.'