Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea/5
CONSTANTINOPLE, AND VOYAGE TO SYRIA
Saturday, Feb. 26: To-day, by appointment, I had an audience with the sultan. Accompanied by the Dragoman of our legation, I took a caique, and proceeded three miles up the Bosporus, to the palace of “Cherighan,” mentioned before.
We landed at the palace stairs, and leaving our overshoes, which etiquette required us to bring, we ascended a broad and lofty flight of stairs, and passing through an ante-chamber, were ushered into a room which overlooked the Bosporus, and was occupied by Sheffie Bey, the chief and confidential secretary of the sultan. It was handsomely furnished, but no more.
With the secretary, was an Armenian, a great favourite of the monarch, and superintendent of the public works in and near Constantinople.
Shortly after we were seated, as many pipe-bearers as there were visitors entered the apartment, and, with heads bowed down and their left hands upon their breasts, presented each of us with a chiboque; then retiring backwards a few paces, dropped on one knee, and lifting the bowl of the pipe, placed a gilt or golden saucer (I could not tell which) beneath it.
I am not a smoker, and hold, with King James I., that
Most opposite to God’s herb of grace,”
it is tobacco; but as an opportunity of inhaling the odour of the weed of royalty might never again present itself, my inclinations jumped accordant with the rules of etiquette, and I puffed away with as much vivacity as any Turk.
In a short time the attendants reappeared, one of them bearing a golden salver, covered with a crimson cloth, gorgeously embroidered. The latter was presently withdrawn, and exhibited upon the massive piece of plate a number of tiny coffee-cups, set in stands or holders, in shape exactly like the egg-cups we use at home. The cups were of the choicest porcelain, most beautifully enameled, and the holders were rich filigree gold, set with turquoise and emerald.
Again an attendant approached each of us, and, in the same manner as before, presented a cup of coffee. Like the tobacco, it was flavoured with some aromatic substance, which rendered it delicious.
As I sat upon the divan, a cup of priceless value in one hand, and the other holding a chibouque, the bowl of which was eight feet distant, with a jasmine stem between, having a mouthpiece of the purest and costliest amber, encircled with diamonds, I could scarce realize my position. But I had been under a royal roof before, and my nerves preserved their equanimity.
The secretary had the most prepossessing countenance of any Turk I had yet seen, and in he conversation evinced a spirit of inquiry and an amount of intelligence that far surpassed my expectations.
To this tribute he is not indebted to the pipes and coffee, which form as indispensable a part in a Turkish welcome to a visitor, as, with us, the invitation to be seated.
His history is a pleasing one. He was a poor boy; a charity scholar in one of the public schools. The late sultan, Mahmoud, requiring a page to fill a vacancy in his suite, directed the appointment to be given to the most intelligent pupil. The present secretary was the fortunate one, and by his abilities, his suavity and discretion, has risen to the highest office near the person of majesty. The empty cups and exhausted pipes were removed by the attendants, who, in all their approaches and retirings, were careful not to turn their backs upon us. Observing this, I began to distrust my ability to make a retrograde movement in a direct line, from the sublime presence into which I was about to be ushered.
One of the pashas had preceded me, and I was compelled to wait nearly half an hour. At length, we were summoned. Descending the flight of stairs and resuming our overshoes, we were led across the court, into which, when passing in a caique a few days before, I had looked so eagerly. It is oblong, and contains about four acres, laid out in parterres and gravel walks, with many young and thrifty trees, and a great variety of plants: flowers there were few, for it was yet early in the season. In the centre, with a gravelled walk between, were two quadrangular, artificial ponds, in which a number of gold and silver fish were gambolling in security, protected as they were from the talons of the cormorant by nets drawn over a few feet above the surface of the water.
The fish sporting beneath, the bird of prey poised above, ready for a swoop through the first rent of the flimsy screen, seemed fitting emblems of the feeble Turk and the vigorous and grasping Russian.
There was nothing imposing, but all was rich and in exquisite taste. The bronze gates, with alternate gilt bars, which open on the Bosporus between the centre building and the northern wing, were exceedingly light and beautiful. A part of the court, most probably that appropriated to the harem, or apartments of the women, was screened off by a lofty railing of like material and construction.
We were led to the entrance of the southern wing, and again throwing off our overshoes, entered a lofty and spacious hall, matted throughout, with two broad flights of stairs ascending from the far extreme to an elevated platform or landing, whence, uniting in one, they issued upon the floor above.
On the right and left of the hall were doors opening into various apartments, and there were a number of officers and attendants on either side and stationed at intervals along the stairway, all preserving a silence the most profound.
The secretary, who had gone before, now approached and beckoned to us to follow. But here an unexpected difficulty was presented. The chamberlain in waiting objected to my sword, and required that I should lay it aside. I replied that the audience was given to me as an officer of the United States; that the sword was part of my uniform, and that I could not dispense with it. My refusal was met with the assurance that the etiquette of the court peremptorily required it. I asked if the custom had been invariably complied with, and inquired of the dragoman whether Mr. Carr, our minister, had, in conformity with it, ever attended an audience without his sword; but even as I spoke, my mind, without regard to precedent, had come to the alternative, no sword, no audience. Whether the secretary had, during the discussion, referred the matter to a higher quarter, I could not tell, for my attention had been so engrossed for some minutes, that I had not noticed him. He now came forward, however, and decided that I should retain the sword. At this I truly rejoiced, for it would have been unpleasant to retire after having gone so far. It is due to Mr. Brown, the dragoman, to say that he sustained me.
The discussion at an end, we ascended the stairway, which was covered with a good and comfortable but not a costly carpet, and passed into a room more handsomely furnished and more lofty, but in every other respect of the same dimensions as the one immediately below it. A rich carpet was upon the floor, a magnificent chandelier, all crystal and gold, was suspended from the ceiling, and costly divans and tables, with other articles of furniture, were interspersed about.the room; but I had not time to note them, for on the left hung a gorgeous crimson velvet curtain, embroidered and fringed with gold, and towards it the secretary led the way. His countenance and his manner exhibited more awe than I had ever seen depicted in the human countenance. He seemed to hold his breath, and his step was so soft and stealthy that once or twice I stopped, under the impression that I had left him behind, but found him ever beside me. There were three of us in close proximity, and the stairway was lined with officers and attendants, but such was the death-like stillness that I could distinctly hear my own footfall, which, unaccustomed to palace regulations, fell with untutored republican firmness upon the royal floor. If it had been a wild beast slumbering in his lair that we were about to visit, there could not have been a silence more deeply hushed.
Fretted at such abject servility, I quickened my pace towards the curtain, when Sheffie Bey, rather gliding than stepping before me, cautiously and slowly raised a corner for me to pass. Wondering at his subdued and terror-stricken attitude, I stepped across the threshold, and felt, without yet perceiving it, that I was in the presence of the Sultan.
The heavy folds of the window-curtains so obscured the light that it seemed as if the day were drawing to a close instead of being at its high meridian.
As with the expanding pupil the eye took in surrounding objects, the apartment, its furniture and its royal tenant, presented a different scene from what, if left to itself, the imagination would have drawn.
The room, less spacious, but as lofty as the adjoining one, was furnished in the modern European style, and like a familiar thing, a stove stood nearly in the centre: On a sofa, by a window, through which he might have looked upon us as we crossed the court, with a crimson tarbouch, its gold button and blue silk tassel on his head, a black kerchief around his neck, attired in a blue military frock and pantaloons, and polished French boots upon his feet, sat the monarch, without any of the attributes of sovereignty about him. A man, young in years, but evidently of impaired and delicate constitution, his wearied and spiritless air was unrelieved by any indication of intellectual energy. He eyed me fixedly as I advanced, and on him my attention was no less intently riveted. As he smiled I stopped, expecting that he was about to speak, but he motioned gently with his hand for me to approach yet nearer. Through the interpreter, he then bade me welcome, for which I expressed my acknowledgments.
The interview was not a protracted one. In the course of it, as requested by Mr. Carr, I presented him, in the name of the President of the United States, with some biographies and prints, illustrative of the character and habits of our North American Indians, the work of American artists. He looked at some of them, which were placed before him by an attendant, and said that he considered them as evidences of the advancement of the United States in civilization, and would treasure them as a souvenir of the good feeling of its government towards him. At the word civilization, pronounced in French, I started; for it seemed singular, coming from the lips of a Turk, and applied to our country. I have since learned that he is but a student in French, and presume that, by the word “civilization,” he meant the arts and sciences.
When about to take my leave, he renewed his welcome, and said that I had his full authority to see anything in Stambohl I might desire.
While in his presence, I could not refrain from drawing comparisons and moralizing on fate. There was the Sultan, an Eastern despot, the ruler of mighty kingdoms and the arbiter of the fate of millions of his fellow-creatures; and, face to face, a few feet distant, one, in rank and condition, among the very humblest servants of a far-distant republic; and yet, little as life has to cheer, I would not change positions with him, unless I could carry with me my faith, my friendships, and my aspirations.
My feelings saddened as I looked upon the monarch, and I thought of Montezuma.
Evidently, like a northern clime, his year of life had known two seasons only, and he had leaped at once from youth to imbecility. His smile was one of the sweetest I had ever looked upon, his voice almost the most melodious I had ever heard; his manner was gentleness itself, and everything about him bespoke a kind and amiable disposition. He is said to be very affectionate, to his mother in especial, and is generous to the extreme of prodigality. But there is that indescribably sad expression in his countenance, which is thought to indicate an early death. A presentiment of the kind, mingled perhaps with a boding fear of the overthrow of his country, seems to pervade and depress his spirits. In truth, like Damocles, this descendant of the Caliphs sits beneath a suspended fate. Through him, the souls of the mighty monarchs who have gone before, seem to brood over the impending fate of an empire which once extended from the Atlantic to the Ganges, from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean.
Returning from the room of audience to that of the secretary, we were again presented with pipes, and, instead of coffee, sherbet was handed round; a drink so cool and so delicious, that my unaccustomed palate treasures its flavour in grateful remembrance. One circumstance occurred to me as singular. Neither on the palace stairs, nor in the court, nor in the palace itself, did I see a single soldier; and, but for the obsequiousness of the Sultan’s officers and attendants, I might have fancied myself on a visit to a wealthy private gentleman.
One trifling circumstance will serve to show the generous disposition of the Sultan. On the day succeeding the audience, he expressed to the Grand Vizier his desire to tender me a present, such as became a sovereign to make, and directed him to ascertain in what mode it would be most acceptable to myself. When his wish was made known to me, I replied, that I felt sufficiently compensated by an audience, which, I had been given to understand, was never before granted to any but officers of the highest rank; and that, even if the constitution of my country did not prohibit it, I could not accept a remuneration for an act of duty that had been rendered so grateful in its performance. I further added, that more than any present, I would prize the granting of the firman. The peculiar honour intended to be conferred by the audience, I ascribed to the high standing and corresponding influence of our minister, Mr. Carr. That gentleman’s reputation needs not my shallow tribute to swell his tide of merited popularity. In every manly and political relation, he was all that we could desire to see in a representative of our country. Sparing no exertion in our behalf, he had failed in one thing only, for which I was most solicitous, that the officers who were with me should also be admitted to the audience. The application was courteously, but firmly refused, and the audience granted was strictly a private one.
My instructions from the Navy Department, when I left the United States, were to apply, through our Minister at the Ottoman Porte, for a firman, authorizing our party to pass through the Turkish dominions, in Syria, to the Dead Sea. It was asked as a matter of respect to the Turkish government, and to procure facilities from its officials, when in their vicinities. As to protection against the Arabs, it could afford none whatever; for Eastern travelers well know that, ten miles east of a line drawn from Jerusalem to Nabulus, the tribes roam uncontrolled, and rob and murder with impunity. Mr. Carr fully carried out the instructions he had received, and did his best to procure the firman. [a royal order to insure a traveler protection and assistance.]
Before leaving Constantinople, in part with the officers, in part alone, I visited some of the principal mosques, the seraglio, the arsenal, and the fleet, and found that the permission given by the Sultan was not an idle compliment.
We first visited the mosque of Victory, built by the late Sultan, to which I have before alluded. It is throughout of white marble, situated in the midst of a large quadrangular court, near the inlet of the Golden Horn, from the Bosporus. It has a colonnade all around it; the columns supporting it, lofty and well-proportioned. Drawing slippers over our boots, we lifted a corner of the mat which hung as a curtain over the door-way, and entered within the mosque. It is a lofty rotunda, the vaulted roof sweeping gracefully above it, at the height of upwards of a hundred feet. It has high windows, with Saracenic arches at the sides, and Arabic sentences from the Koran are inscribed in gilt characters around the walls. Fronting the entrance, the mihrab (a stone set in a recess) indicates the direction of the Kebla of Mecca, towards which the faithful turn, when they make their prostrations and recite their prayers. A little to the right of the mihrab was the minber (an elevated pulpit), where the Cheatib, or Imaum, reads the chapters from the Koran. There were no paintings, no sculpture, no furniture. The only ornaments, the mihrab and the minber, being of a semi-transparent alabaster and pea-green marble. Further to the right was a gallery, screened by Arabesque gilt lattice-work, for the accommodation of the Sultan, when he attends the mosque.
Besides the characters from the Koran, which formed a kind of zone around the cornice, the walls were covered with chequered lines of various colours, which gave them a light and not unpleasing appearance. The floor was richly carpeted, and two large chandeliers hung suspended from the ceiling. Ascending to the gallery, we found several apartments, the floors covered with carpets of English manufacture, which led to the latticed gallery-room, overlooking the interior of the mosque. It had simply a carpet on the floor, and a divan with cushions on one side; on the other side was a beautiful boudoir, with Persian carpet, French curtains and mirrors, and with divans of rich sky-blue damask silk. This last is intended as a place of repose, when the Sultan returns from his devotions.
Over the door of the former was inscribed in large gilt characters, the words “the Sultan is the shadow of God on earth.” Beside the mosque were two cylindrical, hollow shafts of marble, called minarets, with a gallery running around each near the top, whence the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer. Within the mosque there were no devotees — no officiating dervishes. Perhaps, like some fashionable churches with us, it is too aristocratic for daily worship, and set forms on set days alone indicate the object of its institution.
Thence we crossed the Golden Horn in caiques, and landing on Seraglio Point, by an old kiosk, proceeded to the mosque of St. Sophia, — externally, an indescribable mass of blocks and domes, with outstanding minarets beside it. This former Christian church, built by Constantine the Great in the fourth, and rebuilt by Justinian in the sixth century, has often passed through the scathing ordeal of fire, and witnessed many revolutions around it. Unfortunately, a number of workmen were employed in repairing it, and from near the floor to the roof of the dome, its interior presented one entangled network of scaffolding. This church, first called the “temple of Divine Wisdom,” was built of granite and porphyry, and white, blue, green, black and veined marbles. It has eight porphyry columns, taken by Aurelius from the great temple of the sun at Baelbec; eight jasper ones from the temple of Diana at Ephesus; and others from Troas, Cyzicus, Athens and the Cyclades. Its dome and roof are supported by columns of the temples of Isis and Osiris; of the sun and moon, at Heliopolis and Ephesus; of Minerva, at Athens; of Phoebus, at Delos; and of Cybele, at Cyzicus. Over the main cross, were inscribed the words of the vision, “In hoc signo vinces.”
After its destruction by fire, it was sixteen years rebuilding. When completed, Justinian entered with the Patriarch on Christmas day, and running alone to the pulpit, cried out, “God be praised, who hath esteemed me worthy to complete such a work. Solomon, I have surpassed thee!”
This church is in the form of a Greek cross, 180 feet high, 269 long, and 143 broad. It has one large central and two side domes; its walls are of polished stones, and it is paved with large flags. Within the cupola, is inscribed the verse of the Koran, “God is the light of the heavens and the earth.” It has two banners, one on each side of the minber, denoting the victories of Ismalism over Judaism and Christianity; and on the nights of the Ramadan, when this, as well as all the other mosques, are illuminated, the Imaum mounts it with a wooden sword in his hand. On each minaret is a gilt crescent.
Upon the interior surface of the great dome and the vaulted roofs of the transept, we counted many crosses in mosaic, the work of its Christian architect. A number of workmen were employed scaling off the plaster, which, in a more bigoted day, had been spread over the interior walls of this once rich and beautiful church. When Constantinople was taken by Muhammed II., he forced his charger through a throng of priests and nuns, who had fled to the sacred temple, and riding up to the high altar, sprang from his horse and exclaimed, “there is no God but God and Muhammed is his prophet!” This desecration was the signal for murder, violation and every horrible excess.
Ascending to the gallery, supported on columns of jasper, we were led out upon the swelling roof, dazzling with reflected light, to look upon the bee-hive city and its circumjacent scenes. On leaving the mosque, our curiosity ungratified from its condition, we were accosted by many boys, proffering for sale pieces of mosaic, that had fallen from the ceiling.
We next visited the mosque “Sultan Ahmed,” which, unlike the rest, has six minarets beside it. It seemed larger even than St. Sophia, but is entirely destitute of decoration, save a multitude of small lamps, each suspended by a separate chain, and reaching from the ceiling to within eight feet of the pavement. There are also four enormous columns supporting the dome, their height scarce twice exceeding their diameter; they are 108 feet in circumference. Their disproportioned bulk, with the numerous chains and small parti-coloured lamps, very much impair the effect of an otherwise magnificent interior.
There were sparrows flitting about among groups of worshippers; and in a remote corner was a Nubian, with his head bent to the pavement in prostration. Just within the great door, a Turkish scribe was copying the Koran. In the gallery were many boxes, said to be filled with the treasures of the faithful, who had deposited them there, when starting on the pilgrimage to Mecca. There were some twenty or thirty persons present; a few, like the black, engaged in their devotions, but the greater number wandered about, with little reverence in their deportment; and the boys, who had followed us from St. Sophia, were importunate in offering their mosaics for sale. If a stranger could be justified in forming an opinion on so grave a subject, founded on the observation of a few weeks, he might be led to conclude, from the universal apathy prevailing around him, that the religion of Muhammed is now in about the same condition as was the Polytheism of Pagan Rome, immediately prior to the introduction of Christianity.
Justinian and Muhammed II., the rebuilder and desecrater of the great temple, lie together in a mosque erected by the last on the site of the church of the Holy Apostles. There are none so wholly evil as not to possess some redeeming trait. It is related of this Muhammed, that, when building his mosque, a poor woman refused, on any terms, to dispose of her dilapidated house, which stood within the precincts; and the monarch, respecting her rights, allowed it to stand, a monument of his own justice, until, at her death, he became peaceably possessed of it. The same mosque contains the tomb of Sultan Selim, the conqueror of Egypt. On it, the following words are inscribed ——
“On this day, the Sultan Selim passed to his eternal kingdom, leaving the empire of the world to Suleiman.”
From the mosque “Sultan Ahmed” we passed into the Hippodrome, formed by the emperor Severus. It is now upwards of 700 feet long, and nearly 600 broad. In it is the great obelisk of Thebaic stone, a four-sided pyramidal shaft, of one entire piece, fifty feet high, and covered with hieroglyphics. A short distance from it is the fragment of another, composed of different pieces of marble, and once covered with brass plates. At one end stands the “brazen column,” consisting of three serpents embracing in spiral folds, and supposed to have been brought from Delphi, where it supported the golden tripod, which the Greeks, after the battle of Plataea, found in the camp of Mardonius. While standing here, our minds absorbed in the past, we were brought back to the present by the muezzin’s call to prayer from the numerous minarets around. The sonorous tones of the muezzins, and the solemn import of the words, appeal strongly to the senses, and in a crowded city are more appropriate, as they are certainly more impressive, than the discordant sounds of our clanging bells. But, if “use doth breed a habit in a man,” so a habit, once acquired, becomes frequently a mere physical matter, independent of and sometimes apart from the mind. The Turks passing to and fro in the Hippodrome paid no attention to the muezzin’s call, which, if not unheard, was wholly unheeded.
Within the Hippodrome we saw what we had all been taught to consider the dromedary, viz., a camel with two humps upon its back. But we learned from good authority that the dromedary differs from the camel only in possessing more agility and swiftness; the first bearing the same relation to the second that the thorough bred horse does to the heavy, plodding hack. ‘The camel and the dromedary have each one hump; those with two are rare exceptions, and an authentic writer states that in a caravan of five thousand camels, he saw not more than eight or ten with two humps. The one we saw was a Bactrian camel, the camel of central Asia, which, unlike the others, has frequently two humps. It is found in the Crimea, and the countries bordering on the Caucasus. But the Hippodrome, or the Atmeidan, is interesting as the theatre of the most fearful tragedy of modern times — the slaughter of the Janissaries.
From the Hippodrome we were conducted to the mausoleum containing the tomb of the Sultan Mahmoud and several of his family. It is a lofty circular room, with a vaulted ceiling, — the whole admirably proportioned and exquisitely finished. The architect was an Italian, and the groined roof and beautiful foliage of flowers in stucco, around the cornice, proved that he was a master in his calling. Everything, save the tombs, is of the softest and purest white.
The tomb of Mahmoud is a sarcophagus about eight feet high and as many long, covered with purple cloth embroidered in gold, and many votive shawls of the richest cashmere thrown over it, any one of which would excite attention and awaken cupidity in the female breast. At the head is the crimson tarbouch which the monarch wore in life, with a lofty plume secured by a large and lustrous aigrette of diamonds.
The following words are inscribed in letters of gold on the face of the tomb. . .
This is the tomb
Of the layer of the basis of the civilization
Of his empire
Of the monarch of exalted place,
The Sultan victorious and just,
Son of the victorious Abd’ al Hamid Khan.
(May the Almighty make his abode in the gardens of Paradise.)
Born, Rebuel Evol 14, 1199.
Accession, Jemaji Evol 4, 1228.
Death, m. 9, 1255.
According to the impelling motive, the hero or the butcher of the Almeidan, he died peaceably in his bed, by whose word of command, thousands of his fellow-creatures were swept from existence. Whether the dictates of an unfeeling, or a sound yet reluctant policy, the massacre of the Janissaries is a fearful page in his life’s history. How difficult, and how thankless, is the task of a reformer! Mahmoud, who sagaciously discerned the superiority of the arts of civilization over wild barbaric force, commenced the radical reform of a people universally regarded as the most impracticable in the world. With an indomitable energy, worthy of a better result, he persevered to the hour of his death. How his efforts were seconded by the Christian kingdoms of Europe, let the destruction of his fleet at Navarino, and the partial dismemberment of his empire, attest. By destroying the turbulent and rapacious Janissaries, although his people were benefited, he crushed, perhaps forever, that fanatic courage, founded on fatalism and bigotry, which had so often led the Muslim troops to victory.
Whether the efforts made by the late Sultan, and now making by Abd’ al Medjid, his successor, will result in the civilization or the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, remains to be determined. From the eager employment of Franks, the introduction of foreign machinery, and the adoption of improved modes of cultivating the land, the present Sultan gives the strongest assurance of his anxiety to promote the welfare of his people. But the very attempt at a higher development of national character, has led to greater military weakness; and the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb, its actors represented by Russia and the Porte, will ere long be transferred to the page of history.
After the tomb of Mahmoud, we were shown the “Burnt Column,” so called from its having been charred and blackened by numerous conflagrations around it. It is of porphyry, and was brought from Rome by Constantine the Great, whose statue, it is supposed, stood upon its summit — others say, an Apollo by Phidias, which was struck by lightning. Constantine placed some relics beneath it, whence Christians make the sign of the cross in passing it. It is composed of eight stones, the joints covered with copper; hence, some travelers have described it as a monolith. At present, it is disfigured and unsightly. Constantine inscribed these words on the pedestal:— Oh Christ! king and master of the universe, I consecrate this humble tower, this sceptre, and the power of Rome, to thee! Have them in thy holy keeping, and preserve them from misfortune.
We were also taken to the cistern of a thousand and one columns. Descending a long flight of wooden stairs, dimly lighted from the low door, we came upon a subterraneous colonnade of apparently unknown dimensions. A subterranean palace, its vaulted roof supported by some hundreds of white marble columns of double height, will give the best idea of the wonderful cisterns of this ancient capital. Now, the whole interior is filled with earth and rubbish half the height of the lower tier of columns, and we found it occupied by silk spinners, who seemed merrily to ply, their tasks, despite the damp and gloom of their singular work-shop. From the summit of a tower similar to that at Galata, we had all Constantinople at our feet. From above, the dense masses of dingy roofs loomed up the magnificent domes of St. Sophia, Sultan Ahmed, and other mosques, with their alabaster-like minarets beside them, — and beyond, semi-girdled by the sea, is the Seraglio, or palace of the Sultans, covering the site of the ancient Byzantium. It is rather a collection of palaces and gardens, relieved and beautifully ornamented by the light airy forms of the arrowy cypress. But it is impossible to portray the striking and beautiful effect of a scene like this, which so charmed “The charming Mary Montagu.”
On our way to the bazaars, we stumbled upon the mosque of Bajazet, the court of which is surrounded by a row of old columns, evidently pillaged from one or more heathen temples of remote antiquity. Ten were of verde antique, six of Egyptian granite, and four of jasper. In the court is a fountain and some wintry trees, their branches darkened by many pigeons. The love of animals inculcated by the prophet is beautifully shown in the court of this mosque, where some thousands of pigeons were being fed by an old Turk from a chest of grain. This chest is supported by charitable contributions, and we saw an old, poor man, drop in his copper mite. When the pigeons came down from tree, and roof, and cornice, they darkened the air, and while feeding presented an immense surface of blue backs and tails.
The bazaars form a labyrinth of narrow streets, arched over like some of our arcades, with mean-looking shops on each side. We were compelled to pick our way over round paving-stones coated with mud, jostled every moment by people of all nations hurrying hither and thither in their busy pursuits. The Turk sits smoking dignified and silent until you express a desire to see an article in his shop; but the Christians, and more particularly the Jews, fix upon you with a tenacity that renders it difficult to shake them off. At length, we struck up a trading friendship with Mehemet Effendi, a Turkish dealer in perfumes and embroidery, which continued during our stay at Constantinople. In his neat back shop we were always sure to be regaled with pipes, coffee, and a cool, delicious preparation of cream. He seemed to possess Aladdin’s lamp, for we could call for nothing that was not immediately forthcoming, from a jasmine pipe-stem to the golden embroidery of Persia; from the attar of roses to the Indian cashmere.
It is customary here, for a merchant to ask a great deal more than he expects you to give. You offer, perhaps, one-third of his demand — he abates a little; you become somewhat more liberal, until at length the bargain is closed, much to the annoyance of those accustomed to the one price system; for one never knows that he has not been cheated. We had provided ourselves with a few Turkish phrases for the occasion, and our shopping proceeded much after this manner. Taking up an amber mouthpiece, of a pure lemon colour, (the most prized among the Turks,) “Katch krutch?” (How many piastres?) we asked.
Mehemet Effendi. — “Yus eli,” (150 piastres, about six dollars). That being altogether too much, we replied, “Chock paxhali” (It is too dear).
Whereupon Mehemet, with oriental gravity, entered upon a long dissertation on the virtues and value of the mouthpiece, — which, being in a language we did not understand, had no effect whatever. However, we offered fifty piastres; and after much talking, smoking divers pipes, and drinking divers tiny cups of coffee, the bargain was closed at one hundred piastres.
Feb. 22. All good Musselmen go to mosque on Fridays, besides praying five times a day. The Sultan goes every Friday to a different mosque, which is known beforehand. For the purpose of seeing his sublime majesty in public, we went this morning to the convent of dervishes in Pera, where he was to be present. A small collection of the faithful had assembled in the court of the mosque, together with many Christians, Greeks, Armenians, and Franks. The convent is a mean-looking building, in the rear of a street of small shops and cafes, with a neglected burial-ground in front and beside it. None but the faithful being permitted to enter a mosque when the Sultan attends, we were conscaravaned to remain in the court, taking our position near the entrance. At the gate of the adjoining grave-yard were a number of females, forming a separate crowd of yashmaks and gay-coloured ferajes, with black eyes and henna-stained fingers.
Here it is not the custom for men to notice, much less speak to, women in public; and yet the constant presence of Turkish women in the streets and public places, shows that they are prone to gad about as much as some of their Christian sisters in America; but if restricted from the use of that little instrument the tongue, they contrive to do considerable execution with their almond-shaped eyes, inky eyebrows, and half-an-alabaster nose, which is all that is exposed to view. There was one little beauty in a pink feraje, with an extremely thin yashmak, who might have been an Odalisque. The rest of them looked like ghouls risen from the graves, upon the tomb-stones of which they were standing. Most of the grave-yards we had seen were much neglected, many of them like open commons, the turbaned tomb-stones standing at all angles, and frequently trampled under foot.
It was amusing to observe the crowd, like ourselves, waiting in patient expectation to see the grand seignor. All the soldiers and more respectable people wore pantaloons and the red tarbouch; but the lower classes, ever the first to move and the last to be benefited by a revolution, adhered to the turban and capacious breeks, with a kind of tunic to match. The dervishes were moving about with serious faces, wearing faded brown or green cloaks, with felt hats, shaped like inverted funnels, upon their heads.
We waited for some time; and as the Sultan was about to appear in public, our imagination pictured the magnificent entrée of a great Ottoman monarch, — troops of warriors; splendidly caparisoned horses, and all the barbaric pomp of an oriental court, — when a low murmur indicated that the cortege was approaching.
First came, walking backwards, the Imaum of the dervishes, in a high green felt hat, swinging a censer filled with burning incense, and followed by a grave, melancholy-looking young man, with a rather scanty black beard, the red tarbouch upon his head, and wearing a blue military frock-coat and fawn-coloured pantaloons; the coat fringed or laced, with a standing collar, fawn-coloured gloves upon his hands, and a short blue cloak thrown lightly over his shoulders. It was the Sultan! He was followed, in single file, by six or eight persons, attired in blue, some wearing swords, and others carrying small leather portfueilles, richly embossed with gold.
Contrary to expectation, the Sultan had dismounted outside, and his gait, as he passed us, was feeble and almost tottering. Indeed, most of the Turks walk what is termed “parrot toed,” — very much like our Indians. Ascending a covered stairway to an upper gallery, with windows towards the court, he approached one of them, and looked intently down upon us; but our interpreter imprudently exclaiming, “Voila le Sultan! le Sultan!” he turned slowly away, we presume, to his devotions.
Without the court, were his horses; splendid steeds, caparisoned in richly-embroidered, but chaste saddle-cloths, which, as well as the reins and the pommels of the saddles, were studded with precious stones; the headpieces were embossed gold, and the frontlets glittered with gems.
The Sultan’s figure was light, and apparently feeble. I thought so when I saw him before, in a semi-obscure apartment, and his appearance this day confirmed the impression. The expression of his features at the moment of passing, was that of profound melancholy. Like the Mexican prince, of whom he so much reminded me, his mind may be overshadowed by the general and spreading opinion, that the Ottoman rule upon the European side of Turkey is drawing to a close. This impression has become so prevalent, that hundreds, when they die, direct their remains to be interred on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus. It is sad to think that, from the destruction of the Janissaries by Mahmoud to the present time, the very advancement of the Turks in civilization should increase the weakness, and precipitate the dismemberment, if not the downfall, of the empire! It was a singular scene! A few ragged Turks in the old turban, the only relic of the past; the mixture of European costumes and the red tarbouch; a company of Christian officers, from a far-off land; the mild-looking young Sultan, so humble! so gentle! with so little parade! so different from his haughty Osmanlie ancestors! And then there was a back-ground of veiled women — the ghouls peeping out of the grave-yard.
Our visit to the Seraglio deserves an especial notice, not that we saw so much, but that we saw what Franks are rarely permitted to look upon. We landed at the old kiosk with the green curtains, and exhibiting our firman, were permitted to enter the precincts of the Seraglio. Serai is the Turkish word for palace, whence this principal one of the Sultan’s is called, par excellence, the Seraglio. Passing through an arched gateway, between files of sentinels, we came upon an open space. Near us, on the left, looking towards the sea of Marmara, was a large caserne or infantry barracks. To the right, crowning the elevation of the hill, were the halls of audience, the treasury, the library, and the kiosk for the entertainment of foreign ambassadors. On the declivity of the hill were the royal stables, and further beyond, but yet upon the slope, looking out upon the sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus, were the royal palaces and harem. Between the latter and the wall, which rounds with the sweep of the sea, is an extensive court, where the annual caravan to Mecca assembles in order that the sovereign and his harem may witness its departure. Immediately looking upon it, are the windows of the harem, screened with fine gilt lattice work. The buildings are oriental, very ancient, and well adapted to the climate. The Turks believe, and with some reason, that, in a changeable climate, like this, frame houses are drier and healthier than those constructed of a more durable material.
We first visited the barracks, where a large number of Turkish soldiers, shaved and dressed like Europeans, except the moustache and the tarbouch, received us with the Asiatic salute. Elsewhere in Europe, the soldier touches his cap; here, they bring the hand first to the lip and then to the forehead, with a quick and graceful motion. The whole caserne was scrupulously clean, the bread dark coloured, but well baked and sweet. The colonel, who politely accompanied us, said that the bastinado had been discontinued, on account of its injuring the culprit’s eyes. Their mode of punishment is now similar to our own.
Before entering the sacred precincts of the Seraglio proper, we were required to take off our overshoes, which we had donned for the purpose. Turks of both sexes wear a loose half-boot of thin morocco, either red or yellow, which fits into a similarly coloured slipper, with a hard rounding sole, but open at the heel. The custom of throwing off this loose slipper on entering an apartment, is not so much a superstitious one, as it is a matter of absolute necessity in a country where everybody sits upon the floor. These palaces are rarely occupied, the Sultan usually residing at Beschich Tasch or Cherighan.
Ascending a broad flight of stairs, we passed at once through extensive suites of apartments, furnished in a costly but gaudy and tasteless manner. The most modern articles of furniture were of French manufacture. Each suite consisted of three or four sleeping apartments, two baths, two sitting rooms, and a banqueting hall, the latter circular, large, and lofty. We passed through a variety of saloons and their corresponding apartments, including those of the harem. They were but partially furnished. In most of them were one or two couches, profusely gilt, and covered with golden fret-work — some oblong, and some oval. The apartments directly over the court are truly beautiful, and command a glorious view of the sea of Marmara and the shipping in the Golden Horn.
The harem looks out both upon the court and the water, but to the windows were fitted gilt Arabesque gratings, to screen the sultanas within. What scenes have been enacted in these apartments! What intrigues, murders and sewing up in sacks! Alas, poor woman! Here are marble baths with alabaster fountains, and domes thickly studded with glass-lights overhead — the bath of the harem! where many a Circassian form has laved!
A bath with us signifies a trough of some kind for one to get into, but the Turkish bath is different. The marble floor of the apartment is highly heated, and hot and cold water, flowing through cocks into alabaster basins, is thence thrown lavishly upon it. Here you are scraped, scrubbed, lathered, and washed off.
There are two long galleries looking out upon the court. Along the inner wall of each, opposite to the latticed windows, were a series of engravings, mostly French, with but two or three oil paintings. Napoleon must have been a great favourite with the reigning monarch when the modern engravings were placed in this sensual sanctuary, for besides a likeness of himself, nearly every one portrayed some scene in his eventful career. The other gallery was furnished mostly with mere daubs — strange to say, naval pieces — in which the most outré looking Turkish ships, in most grotesque rig, and under most impossible circumstances, were represented as triumphant over adversaries more formidable and far more frightful than themselves. In the harem there was little tangible to feed the imagination, and it was thrown back upon the sad associations connected with its mysterious history.
In one of the palaces is a chair, looking very French notwithstanding its Persian embroidery. It is the Sultan’s throne — but nothing more in fact than a large armchair covered with crimson velvet, embroidered in gold, and placed on a semi-circular platform elevated about six inches above the floor. Although gorgeous to the eye, it is less comfortable than one of those formerly in the east room in Washington.
On one side of most of the rooms were divans, but others had only the more modern substitutes of sofas and chairs. The cushions of the divans were each one as large as a double feather bed, and covered with the richest damask or velvet, profusely embroidered. The prevailing colours were crimson and blue. The tables, with costly covers upon them, were of plain mahogany; the chairs had embroidered backs and seats; but the palace and harem being unoccupied, the carpets were up and the curtains removed, except one suite, kept always in order for the Sultan. The divan, carpet, curtains, chairs, sofa, and bed-coverings of this suite, were blue, embroidered with silver.
Passing through a retired garden of the harem, with its orangery, its pond of gold-fish, and evergreens cut in most, fantastic shapes, but not many flowers, we sat for a few moments in its kiosk or summer pavilion, and thence proceeded to the “hall of ambassadors,” in the old palace. It was here that, with barbaric pomp, foreign ambassadors were received, after going through divers ceremonies, compared to which, the Chinese Kotan is a reasonable affair.
When, on such occasions, the proper officer announced to the Grand Seignor that the ambassador of one of the European powers craved an audience, the reply was, “Take the Christian dog, and feed him.” When the feeding was over, and the second application made, the order was given, “Clothe the Christian dog, and bring him in.” A cloak was then thrown over the shoulders of the ambassador, who, previously disarmed, was led into the presence, a eunuch holding him on each side. The latter custom having originated, it is said, (although history is silent upon the subject,) in the assassination of a Sultan by an ambassador. At a respectable distance the humble representative of a Christian prince was permitted to state his business, when he was abruptly dismissed to undergo a second feeding.
Over the ambassadors’ gate is written, — “The chief of wisdom is the fear of God.”
The old divan upon which the Sultans formerly reclined when they gave audience, looks like an overgrown four-poster, each post covered with carbuncles of precious stones, turquoise, amethyst, topaz, emeralds, ruby, and diamond: the couch was covered with Damascus silk and Cashmere shawls. Here, we saw the last of the white eunuchs; the present enlightened Sultan having pensioned off those on hand, and discontinued their attendance forever.
The outer walls of the seraglio are said to cover the site of ancient Byzantium, and to be three miles in circuit. We had not time to see one-half of what they contained; but wandered about so much, — up and down flights of stairs, through corridors, saloons, baths, sleeping-apartments, &c., — that we were exceedingly fatigued, even when we left the harem.
We visited the armory, and saw a vast store of muskets, pistols and swords, kept in admirable order, besides a large collection of Saracenic armour. There were morions and shirts of mail; plate-armour, inlaid with golden verses from the Koran; huge two-handed swords; gigantic blunderbusses, of every shape and kind; long, sharp spears, and other formidable weapons of war. In a court, were several large porphyry tombs, — sarcophagi, it is supposed, of some of the imperial families of Rome. In an extensive, but nearly vacant building, was an abortive attempt at a museum.
Next came the royal stables, in which were about thirty stallions, tethered to the ground-floor by their feet, and not separated by stalls, as with us. Two or three were splendid Arabians — the remainder, ordinary in appearance. They were kept for state, and rarely used.
Returning, we should have passed the “Sublime Porte” unnoticed, had not our attention been directed to a large yellow-arched gateway, with a remarkable turtleshell-like canopy above the entrance. From this gateway, the divan or supreme council, which holds its sitting in an ordinary building within, is called the “Sublime Porte.”
Crossing the bridge of boats over the Golden Horn, we observed a neat little steamer, which had been presented to the Sultan by the Pasha of Egypt; and the former, shortly after, was about to pass on board, when, unfortunately, one of his slippers fell off, and the contemplated excursion was instantly abandoned — never to be resumed.
We reached our quarters wearied in body, but exceedingly gratified. How beautiful is the seraglio! What magnificent structures are the mosques! How light and graceful the minarets! yet how mean and filthy the streets! what smells! What numbers of mangy dogs! On Sunday afternoon we strolled along the banks of the Bosphorus. There are three Sabbaths in each week, one for each religion: Friday, the Muhammedan; Saturday, the Jew; and Sunday, the Christian. Of all, the latter is held most sacred, and the first are becoming less and less observant of the injunctions of the Koran, with regard to Friday.
From the brow of a steep hill, we had the great burying-ground of Pera beneath us. It is an article of Muslim faith, that the soul of a deceased person cannot be admitted to Paradise until the body is interred, (unless he die in battle); hence there is but a brief interval from the death-bed to the grave. These densely-crowded burial-grounds, in the midst of a populous city, must be exceedingly detrimental to health. It is related of a boy, deaf, dumb and blind, that he fainted from the noxious exhalations of a grave-yard he was passing, his smell having been rendered acute by the deprivation of other senses.
Although more than half the people we met were dressed precisely as in Paris or New York, yet there were many curious costumes. The Armenian priest, with his long beard and high, square, black cap, from which depended a coarse black veil, concealing his features; — the gay-looking Albanian, with his bright eye and well-trimmed moustache; and stranger than all, the Turkish women, shuffling along in slippers, or tottering in high wooden clogs, — dressed in bright-coloured ferajes and shrouded up to the eyes in the ugly yashmak, giving to their sallow complexions a yet more ghastly hue.
The yashmak is wrapped round the head and brow, brought over so as to cover the face down to the eyebrows, and again across over the bridge of the nose, giving a disagreeable prominence to that feature. Ladies of high rank wear the yashmak so thin, as scarcely to conceal the face more than the finest veil worn by our ladies; but in general it is of a close texture and of a dead white, that reminds one of cerements (burial garment) and the grave.
The feraje is a narrow-skirted cloak of silk or woollen, and either purple or a light fancy colour, entirely covering the fair incognita, saving a pair of bright yellow morocco boots, coming loosely a few inches above the ankles, not unfrequently exhibiting streaks of alabaster skin above them as they carefully pick their way along the muddy streets.
Emerging from filthy lanes, we came out upon a broad avenue leading into the country. On one side was a handsome range of barracks; on the other the parade-ground. Among the city offals beyond, more than a hundred dogs lay crunching. A regiment of soldiers was being drilled in the trenches, actually delving and shovelling with pick and spade for exercise. Up and down the promenade might be seen caracoling the handsome steed of a Frank or Greek merchant of Pera. Still further on was the Armenian burying ground, resembling a tesselated pavement from the number of tombstones or tablets. A grave-yard here is a familiar thing, and their general condition fully confirms the copper-plate maxim, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In this one there were no cypresses, that tree being consecrated only to the faithful.
About a mile on this road was a large, rural-looking café, with a band of music. Round about, a great many Franks of both sexes were seated, enjoying pipes and sherbet. Although February, they were in the open air. It was like our Hoboken in a more genial season.
Monday. Caiqued up the Bosporus, a short distance beyond the mosque of Victory, to Barbarossa’s tomb, of which Lieut. Dale took a sketch. It is on the water’s edge, overgrown with moss, and has a large fig-tree beside it. Within the tomb is a small mosque, with the same word, Wao (Jehovah), inscribed as on the outside. The court was much neglected, and in the rear of the tomb were some filthy habitations. An old man told us that there was a great person buried beneath, — he knew not exactly whom. Such is fame! This tomb commemorates the ablest sea-captain of his age, “Chiareddin,” who succeeded his brother, the celebrated corsair, Barbarossa of Algiers. He was the great rival of Doria, and the terror of the Christian world. We then pulled over to Scutari, and saw its vast cemetery, shrouded in cypresses, and densely paved with grave-stones. It is miles in extent, and in all that space there does not seem room for an additional tenant. In one place there was a beautiful green lawn, where several companies of soldiers were going through the exercise. They were dressed in blue, with the red cap, and the commander’s magnificent charger stood by. A group of female spectators seated on a bank, in their white yashmaks and gay-coloured ferajes, gave additional life to the scene, the whole relieved by a back-ground of the melancholy cypress. The drum and fife sounded discordant in these gloomy shades.
Tuesday, Feb. 29. Visited the same convent which we had seen the Sultan enter, to witness an exhibition of dancing dervishes. Casting off our overshoes, and passing through the door, beside which sentries were stationed, we took our places within a railing, which ran around the circular floor of the mosque. There was a similar gallery above. Some thirty dirty-looking dervishes, in faded brown and green cloaks, with white felt conical hats upon their heads, were prostrate around the circle, while the Imaum, the same who had preceded the Sultan, chanted a prayer before the mihrab on the eastern side. There was music from the gallery, plaintive, yet barbarous, mingled with the occasional tap of a drum.
After repeated prostrations, at a signal the Imaum led the way, in a slow march, round the apartment. As each one passed the mihrab, he bowed three times, gracefully, without stopping, or turning his back towards the holy place. After marching round three times, making the same reverence, they halted with their faces inwards, and the Imaum resumed his seat upon his rug before the mihrab. The others, all barefooted, crossing their feet one after the other, in slow succession, began to twirl around, keeping admirable time to the music; and when all in motion, looked like so many teetotums spinning. The word spinning conveys a better idea than turning; for they seemed to move about without the slightest effort, and their flowing garments, flying out in extended circles below, gave the movement a most graceful appearance. As the music became louder and faster, they spun round with increasing rapidity, until the eye became dizzy with looking upon them. At a tap of the drum, they stopped simultaneously, with no perspiration upon their forehead, and neither frenzy nor fatigue expressed in the eye.
They were of all ages, from the old Imaum, with the benevolent features, to a boy of sixteen, whose melancholy face excited interest. Indeed, they all had an air of sadness and profound resignation: nothing ferocious, nothing sinister, nothing fanatical. Renewing the march, and repeating the prostrations, the exercises continued about an hour, and concluded as they began. The audience either stood erect, or sat upon the floor, and preserved deep silence. The whole affair did not strike us in the ridiculous light we had anticipated. Indeed, some of the customs of Christianity are equally absurd.
The religious sentiment is the same all over the world, and must find expression. Humanity rejoices, when such expression, harmless in itself, as in the present instance, neither assails the opinions nor the rights of others. Such is the necessity of religion for the support of all human institutions, that any form of worship, however false and corrupt, is preferable to the atrocious enormities which follow in the caravan of absolute impiety.
The paganism of Rome, with all its monstrous errors and superstitions, even to the human sacrifice, with the faint shadow of morality which it inculcated, formed the cement and support of the political fabric: and the philosophy of Epicurus and his followers, by denying the superintendence of a Supreme Being, struck at the root of all social and political morality, thus undermining the ancient institutions of the government, and paving the way for an iron and blood-thirsty despotism.
The gross fables and puerile mythology with which mankind had been so long deluded could not resist the assaults of sensual infidelity. The last was soon enabled to dissipate the shadows that had so long enveloped the human intellect, and to burst the bonds of a superstition, whose head was hidden in the clouds, and whose foot was on the neck of nations.
But, instead of inculcating a purer system of morals for that which had been abolished, and erecting an altar to Truth amid the broken shrines of the divinities it had dethroned, in the pride of its heart, sensual philosophy exalted its own form for the adoration of mankind, and by removing all the sanctions of religion — by corrupting the motives and inducements to virtue — by stifling all the aspirations of the heart, yearning and restlessly striving for a higher and purer existence — it unbridled the wildest excesses of passion; it recalled the divine principle from its heavenward flight, and bade it seek in pandering to the grossest sensuality the proper end and object of its being. The result was inevitable. Crime on a gigantic scale ensued. Rome grew drunk with blood. Men looked with horror upon the present, and to the future with despair. One universal night of gloom brooded over her empire, and it seemed as if the impious dogma of the philosopher had been realized, and that the Deity had abandoned man to his fate. The religious sentiment of Turkey, misled and faint as it is, is the best protection it possesses against such debaucheries as the Saturnalia of Rome, or the utter debasements of the Parisian worship of the Goddess of Reason.
MARCH 1. Impatient about the firman, Mr. Carr addressed a note to the minister of foreign affairs upon the subject. In reply, the latter gave the assurance that there would be no difficulty, but that on the contrary the Sultan was anxious to promote our views.
MARCH 2. Went again to St. Stefano, the residence of our hospitable minister. In the afternoon there were a number of revellers assembled on the village green, dancing in a circle round a shepherd from Bulgaria, in a sheepskin coat, wool inside, blowing himself red in the face on a bagpipe, — a veritable bagpipe, — the people dancing as their ancestors did two thousand years ago.
Spent the evening at Dr. Davis’s, with Osman Pasha, a German, holding an office in the Turkish army, just returned from Kurdistan, where he had distinguished himself in quelling a rebellion. There were also Ohannis Didian, the Sultan’s man of business, Bocas Aga, the rich man of the village, his nephew, the Barout ji Bashi (chief of powder-works), and several younger Armenians. The next evening we spent between Didian’s and the Barout ji Bashi; the latter has an immense house with ragged retainers lounging about the court and lower rooms. We had pipes, coffee, sherbet, and sweetmeats — the latter presented by a daughter of fourteen, followed by a very pretty daughter-in-law, with the coffee. The master of the house hospitable and fussy, — the mistress and daughters gorgeously, but badly dressed. When we had partaken of refreshments, exeunt the beautiful visions, with the skirts of their dresses tucked in their pockets. The Armenians are the great business men of the nation, and are believed to be less cunning and more faithful than the Greeks.
Tuesday, MARCH 6. Received the long-expected firman from the Grand Vizier. It was addressed to the Pashas of Saida and Jerusalem, the two highest dignitaries in Syria. It was briefly couched. The following is a literal translation:—
“Governors of Saida and Jerusalem! — Captain Lynch, of the American navy, being desirous of examining the Dead Sea (Bahr Lût), his legation has asked for him, from all our authorities, all due aid and assistance.
“You will, therefore, on the receipt of this present order, give him and his companions, seventeen in number, all due aid and co-operation in his explorations.
“Protect, therefore, and treat him with a regard due to the friendship existing between the American Government and that of the Sublime Porte.
(Signed) “ MUSTAFA RESCHID PASHA,
“ Grand Vizier.
“ MUSTAFA PASHA, Governor of Saida.
“ ZARIF PASHA, Governor of Jerusalem.
“STAMBOHL, MARCH 7, 1848 ” <\p>
In half an hour after the receipt of the firman, I was on board the French steamer Hellespont, the rest of the party having preceded me.
For the last time, I gazed up the beautiful Bosporus, its rippling waters and its bold headlands basking in the rays of the setting sun. his stream teems with classic and historical associations, from the time when Europa was borne across in the arms of Jove, to the navigation of the Argonauts, and the passage of the Persians under Darius. The word “Bosporus” literally means “Cattle Ford,” a name now wholly inapplicable, for it is deep enough to float a heavy line-of-battle ship. The origin of this strait, in connection with that of the Dardanelles, has been the subject of much discussion. It was the opinion of the ancients, that the Euxine became so swollen by the Danube, the Dnieper, the Dniester, and other rivers, that it burst through to the Mediterranean. But Count Andreossy, French Ambassador to the Porte in 1812, discovered indubitable evidence of a great volcanic cataclism at the mouth of the straits. He inferred, that this opening of the escarped rocks on the Black Sea once made, the waters of the Euxine must have rushed into the Propontis, or sea of Marmara, enlarged the Hellespont to its present width, and thence, expanding over an immense plain, have left only the slopes and summits of the mountains visible (the present Grecian Archipelago), and united with the Mediterranean. The parallel direction of the Grecian islands, Candia excepted, confirms this theory; and the longitudinal position of that island is accounted for, by the supposition that the waters of the flood were deflected by the high mountains of Syria.
Spent the night on the sea of Marmara. Passed the next day in sweeping down the Hellespont, and skirting the Phrygian coast, and, on the morning of the 9th, rejoined the ship Supply.
Friday, MARCH 10. Sailed from Smyrna for the coast of Syria, and passed through the straits of Spalmatori and Scio, and by the island of Nicaria (ancient Icaria), named after him, whose waxen pinions so signally failed him.
Monday, MARCH 13. The wind hauled to the southward and eastward, and freshened to a gale — a genuine levanter.
P.M. The gale increasing, we were compelled to bear up, and run for a lee. Scudded through the dark night, and in the morning anchored in the bay of Scio (Chios).
In the afternoon, the weather partially moderating, visited the shore. From the ship, we had enjoyed a view of rich orchards and green fields; but, on landing, we found ourselves amid a scene of desolation — an entire city, with all its environs, laid in ruins by the ruthless Turks during that darkest hour of Turkish history, the massacre of Scio. Invited into one of the dwellings, we tasted some Scian wine, and at the same time caught a glimpse of a pair of lustrous eyes peering at us from above: — the wine was light in colour, and, to our tastes, unpalatable; but the eyes were magnificent. The Greek costume differs little from the Turkish, in the capital. The tarbouch is higher; the shakshen (petticoat-trowsers) shorter, with leggings beneath. The Greeks are more vivacious than the Turks, but much less respected in the Levant.
We rode into the country. Our steeds were donkeys — our saddles made of wood! It was literally riding on a rail. What a contrast between the luxuriant vegetation, the bounty of nature, and the devastation of man! Nearly every house was unroofed and in ruins — not one in ten inhabited, although surrounded with thick groves of orange trees loaded with the weight of their golden fruit.
MARCH 14. Weighed anchor and again endeavoured to pass through the Icarian Sea; but encountering another gale, were compelled to bear away for Scala Nouva, on the coast of Asia Minor, not far from the ruins of ancient Ephesus. While weather-bound, we availed ourselves of the opportunity to visit the ruins about ten miles distant. There are no trees and very few bushes on the face of this old country, but the mountain slopes and the valleys are enamelled with thousands of beautiful flowers, among which the most conspicuous, from its brilliant colour, is the purple anemone (anemone coronaria), one of the lavenders, and known to the ancient Greeks. Winding around the precipitous crest of a mountain, we saw the river “Cayster” (modern “Meander”) flowing through an alluvial plain to the sea, and on its banks the black tents of herdsmen, with their flocks of goats around them. At length turning another point we descried the walls of Ephesus, which, according to Strabo, was the principal mart of Asia this side of Mount Taurus.
Climbing over fragments of marble and stone which lay confused bnly upon the hill-side, we first came to a ruined building on a high elevation to the left, called “St. Paul’s prison:” crossing a shoulder of the mountain, we beheld the ruins of the city, lying dispersedly in the amphitheatre of hills below. It was a sad yet interesting sight. First was the theatre, where the town clerk quelled the tumult of the silversmiths. It consists of piles of stones, of the Grecian era, with arches of brick, evidently Roman. This theatre is almost wholly destroyed, and there are no seats visible. The inscriptions over the gateway and triumphal arches are almost entirely defaced. On the east side is a ruined aqueduct, with reversed inscriptions of Marcus Aurelius. Amid the tall grass are shafts of porphyry columns, one fragment bright and beautifully polished.
Thence passing some Roman arches on the left, said to have been granaries, and crossing a cultivated field, we reached the site of the great temple of Diana, covered with fragments of columns, pilasters, entablatures, &c., which seem to have been crushed where they stood. It appears to have been a Doric temple; some of the columns are fluted three and a half inches deep, and they are about four feet in diameter. One of the fragments measured twenty-nine feet, a part of its capital lying about ten feet distant. A corner-stone of a pediment formed a striking mass of sculpture, — the whole of white marble, mellowed by time, and beautifully cut, particularly an exquisite fragment of a lion’s head.
This temple, for its extent, architecture, and decoration, was esteemed one of the wonders of the world. It was 425 feet long, 220 broad, and was supported by 127 pillars of marble, each seventy feet high. Twenty-seven of them were curiously wrought, and the rest exquisitely polished. It was planned by Ctesiphon, the architect, and was 200 years under construction. It was seven times destroyed by fire, once on the same day that Socrates was poisoned, the last time by Erostratus, on the night that Alexander the Great was born; whence it was said that Diana was that night so busy superintending the birth of a hero, that she could not protect her own temple. It was rebuilt the last time by female contribution. Alexander wished to erect it at his own expense, but his offer was refused with the flattering remark that it was not seemly for one god to contribute to the erection of a temple dedicated to another. This temple, the metropolitan shrine of all others dedicated to Diana, was near the Ortygian grove and Cenchrian stream, where she and Apollo were reputed to have been born of Latona. It was finally destroyed by the Goths in the third century.
The amphitheatre and the stadium, like the theatre and the temple, present a surface of marble fragments, glittering in the sun-light. To the north-east on the brow of a hill, in full view, is the cave of the seven sleepers, with the ruins of a chapel adjoining it. The seven sleepers were seven brothers professing the Christian faith, who, with their dog, were walled up in this cave by the emperor Decius. They are fabled to have slept 157 years. Their names, and that of their dog, are engraved on the rings and amulets of good Muslims, and are considered charms against the perils of the sea. They are Yemlika, Moksilina, Meslina, Mernoos, Dobernoos, Shadnoos, Kastitiyus, and their dog Kitmir.
The rocks in this vicinity are mostly marble and coarse limestone. One part of our road here led through a rocky chasm of micaceous slate. The mountain precipices over Ephesus present the wildest forms, and rise seven or eight hundred feet high. Their faces are perforated with many quarries, whence, doubtless, was drawn the marble for the construction of the city.
The Turkish village of Ayasalouk, a paltry collection of huts, constructed without taste, of the scattering fragments around, is the forlorn representative of the glories of ancient Ephesus. The relics of Gentiles and of Christians lie subverted and unknown among the habitations of the poor and ignorant herdsmen, just without the vestibule of the great church of St. John, the first of the seven churches of Asia. There is not one Christian among them. Before the Muslim village is the noble gateway of the once magnificent church. Looking upon the crumbling walls which once echoed the eloquence of two apostles, one fears for the “angel of Ephesus” as he recollects the awful message, —
“Or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance.”
Over the massive portal were originally fine basso-relievos, now all removed but one. From a cleft in the wall a tree shoots up and partly shades the portal within. It is the beautiful emblem of faith, springing from and surviving the ruins of its earthly temple. Passing through the gateway, over columns of porphyry and massive fragments of sculptured marble, we came to a broad pedestal near the upper end, which must have been the site of the grand altar. How it moves the heart to its inmost depths to reflect, that before that high altar have stood the Beloved Disciple and the Apostle of the Gentiles! In fancy, one hears the tremulous tones of the first, as he repeats over and over his favourite exclamation, “My children, love one another.”
On the southern slope of the hill, near its base, is a large marble building, with a dome and turrets, overgrown with moss. It is called the “Bishop’s Palace,” and has been converted into a mosque. The stones, with inverted inscriptions, prove it to be of comparatively modern construction.
We returned by a different road, striking directly across the plain, which lay in front of the ruins of the ancient city, and covered a space of three miles in extent. Through this extensive plain, which is cultivated in patches, amid clusters of the tamarisk and much scattering shrubbery, winds the river Cayster, which, from its serpentine course, is called the “Meander” — by the Turks, the “Lesser Mendere.”
There can be no question that this alluvial plain was once a noble bay, and on its shores stood the city of Ephesus; which, according to Pliny, has frequently changed its name with its condition. In the Trojan war, it was called “Alope;” then “Ortygia,” “Morgas,” “Ephesus;” and now, “Ayasalouk.”
The plain has doubtless been formed by the depositions of the Cayster river in Turkey, in its overflow, and the mountain torrents, in the winter season. It seems improbable that the city should have been originally built on a mountain side, three miles from the sea, with a morass between, through which flowed a shallow and insignificant stream. The bay of Scala Nuova is annually lessening in depth; and the inhabitants maintain that, within the present generation, the land has materially encroached upon the sea.
SATURDAY, MARCH 18. While the rest were making necessary preparations for a visit to the ruins yesterday, I called upon the Governor, who seated me beside him on the divan, and entertained me handsomely with pipes, sherbet and coffee. This day he returned the visit. He was a noble-looking Constantinopolitan, with a fine black beard and moustache, and was dressed in a blue military frock-coat, with red tarbouch, and a coloured kerchief wound around it as a turban. He wore green spectacles, and was followed by a long suite, headed by his pipe-bearer. Like most other Turks of condition whom we had seen, in consequence of taking but little exercise, he was quite corpulent, and puffed like a porpoise in clambering over the side. He evinced much interest in our naval improvements, arms, &c., and was exceedingly gratified with the salute we gave him.
P.M. Some of the Greek fashionables came on board. The men were of the soap-lock order: the ladies were dressed pretty much as our ladies, except that their clothes did not fit well, and nothing seemed exactly in good taste. There was much brilliancy, but little cleanliness; — for instance, a dirty hand adorned by a magnificent ring, as old as the temple, — perhaps the workmanship of Demetrius himself. We feasted them, and sent them on shore rejoicing, and shortly after left the port.
The town of Scala Nuova (ancient Neapolis) contains about 10,000 inhabitants, of whom all are Turks or natives, except about fifty Greek and ten or twelve Armenian families. This little place exports annually about 150,000 kilos of wheat, each kilo weighing sixty pounds; also a large quantity of an inferior kind of maize, or Indian corn. This vessel is the first bearing the American flag, which has ever entered the port. Why will not some of our trading-vessels touch here? It would doubtless pay well. We were assured, but we cannot believe it, that we were the first visitors from the New World to the ruins of Ephesus. The authorities here do not seem to anticipate the necessity of defence. The ancient walls, with, their projecting turrets, are ungarnished with artillery.
We obtained here, besides Grecian coins, two antique marble heads of Diana, from the ruins of her temple, and part of an inscription from the once magnificent church of St. John.
SUNDAY, MARCH 19. The wind was light, and we advanced slowly. Read prayers this day in the Forni passage, between Samos and Icaria, in sight of “the island which is called Patmos.” Samos, the birth-place of Pythagoras and of one of the Sibyls, as well as Chios and Mitylene, were visited by St. Paul. At night, observed the eclipse of the moon by the chronometer.
MARCH 20. All day in sight of Patmos; where St. John wrote the Apocalypse. How grateful, yet how awe inspiring, would be a visit to the cave where the Scribe of the Almighty dwelt!
Patmos is a small, rocky isle, with not a tree visible upon it, like most of the islands we have seen. There is little cultivation, although a considerable hamlet is seen clustering on the hill-side, while a castellated building crowns the summit. It is said that the inhabitants are supported almost entirely by the proceeds of the sponge fisheries along its rocky shores.
MARCH 21. The wind strong, but adverse-freshened to a gale. We were now under the lee of Cos, where, as well as at Cyprus and Tyre, the god Phoebus was worshipped. This island was also visited by St. Paul, on his way to Rhodes. 10 P.M. A fair wind, and a lunar rainbow! Bore away under full sail, leaving Candia broad upon the weather-quarter, and the sandy coast of Asia Minor glittering in the moonlight on our lee.
Candia (ancient Crete), once called Macarios (happy island), lies across the entrance of the Aegean Sea, and is nearly equidistant from Europe, Asia, and Africa. In early ages, Saturn, the father of Jupiter, reigned here, while the latter was nursed secretly among the hills of Ida. Here, also, reigned Minos and Rhadamanthus, feigned by poets to be the judges in hell. Here, too, is the intricate labyrinth made by Daedalus. The inhabitants of this island were accounted great liars; hence came the term, “a Cretan lie.” From one of its ports, Falconer’s Britannia went forth, breasting the lofty surge, which was so soon to dash her in fragments upon the rocky shore.
We have passed through the scenes of the “Shipwreck;” — the only nautical epic that has ever been published, for the Voyage of Argonauts is unworthy of the name.
With a flowing sheet, we sailed past Rhodes and Cyprus, — the first famed for its brazen colossus, which no longer spans the entrance of the harbour. It was an ancient seat of learning, and Cicero and Caesar were among the pupils of its school. In more modern times, under the Knights of St. John, it was for a long time the bulwark of Christendom against the Saracen.
Cyprus, the “Chittim” of the Old Testament, had in its Paphian Grove, a bower erected to the Goddess of Beauty. It was captured by the lion-hearted Richard, on his way to the Holy Land; and in yet more recent times, the eccentric Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope was wrecked upon its shores. Jews are not permitted to reside on this island.
SATURDAY, MARCH 25. This morning the mountains of Lebanon are before us — their shadows resting upon the sea, while their summits are wreathed in a mist, made refulgent by the rays of the yet invisible sun. Brilliant as the bow of promise, the many-coloured mist rests like a gemmed tiara upon the brow of the lofty mountain. Like the glorious sunset on the eve of our departure, I hail this as an auspicious omen.