« AnteriorContinuar »
THE TURK AND HIS CITY. You have heard a great deal of talk lately about the Turks. Here is a picture of one, reclining on his couch, quite at his ease, and caring for nothing but his own idle indulgence. Thousands of Turks may be seen in this attitude, doing nothing but smoking their long pipes, and sipping coffee all the day long.
The Turks did not always live in the country now called Turkey. They were a wild and barbarous race from central Asia, who, mounted on horses, and led by a savage chief, came forth from their own land, about four hundred years ago, and spread desolation and ruin on their path. Attracted by the fame of the great city called Byzantium, or Constan
tinople, then the seat of the Greek Emperors, they besieged and took it after a dreadful contest, and soon all that part of the world became subject to them. They were disciples of the false prophet Mahomet, and their Sultan or Sovereign was regarded as the head of that religion, and his dominions were very extensive in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Often they threatened to subdue Europe, but were prevented. They then became idle and self-indulgent, and suffered all things around them to fall into decay and ruin. But they were proud, tyrannical, and cruel, and as “savage as a Turk" became a common saying.
I could tell you much more about the Turks, but I want to tell you something about their great city. Here is a description of it from a new publication,* with which I think you will be interested :
“Constantinople, the Byzantium of the ancients, the Stamboul of the modern Turks, and which has been called the 'Queen of the Universe,' is, like Rome and Moscow, seated upon seven hills; yet, unlike those cities, it enjoys the advantage of the refreshing ocean breezes. The Sea of Marmora washes it on one side, and an arm of the Bosphorus, called the Harbour of the Golden Horn, on the other. It is built on a promontory of triangular shape, of which the base is landward. The natural beauties of its situation are so great, that writers of history have exhausted their eloquence to describe it. It makes its best impression as approached from the sea, where terrace rises above terrace
* "The Book and its Missions.”—London: Bagster & Sons.
from the margin of the water, interspersed with the marked foliage of the cypress groves.
The new seraglio of the Sultan, with its gardens, is surrounded by a wall flanked with battlements and towers, which is three miles in circumference, and has twelve gates. This wall encircles palaces and mosques, “a city within a city;" from six to seven thousand persons residing within its bounds. Art has here lavished all her power to grace an abode for the king of kings,' as he is called. It contains, besides apartments for the 800 ladies of the harem, chambers filled with robes, brocades, velvet, gold-cloth, bridles and saddles covered with jewels, scimitars and pistols glittering with diamonds, and subterranean vaults of treasure.
The seraglio commands an unrivalled prospect across the Bosphorus. It is opposite to Scutari, the Asiatic suburb, the Chrysophrasus, or Golden City of the ancients, so called, from the magical effect produced upon it by the setting sun; behind which rise the mountains of Asia Minor, with Mount Olympus, snow-clad and supreme, over them all. The matchless harbour of the Golden Horn, five miles in length, yet capable of having its mouth closed by a single chain, has all the flags of Europe floating on its bosom; hundreds of caiques,' or sharp- prowed boats, plying hither and thither among them. On its further side lie the suburbs of Galata and Pera, connected with the city by a floating bridge; these are the Frank quarters, and here the ambassadors have their palaces, the rich Jewish bankers reside, and an air of European civilization is apparent. Looking from Pera across the harbour to the Imperial city, with its 362 mosques, its 30 bazaars, its 300 fountains, and its 100,000 wooden houses, it often lies cut out on the clear sky, like a picture, without a curl of smoke to break the illusion.
But these charms are all external. The illusion vanishes on entering the streets, which we should often call lanes, and finding an indescribable pavement, interlaced with muddy holes, and impeded by heaps of filth, which the herds of unowned dogs, always foraging, do not suffice to clear. The houses present dead walls to the passenger; but they have neither name nor number, and derive their light and air from interior court-yards. Many parts of the city are in ruins, from the fires that are constantly occurring, and which have been known to consume 12,000 dwellings at one time. Indeed, Constantinople is said to be burnt to the ground, and to rise again from its ashes, about every fifteen years;' yet the sufferers rebuild without any attempt at improvement, and make no efforts to prevent such a calamity.
As you pass along, seeking some person, whom it may take you a winter's day to find—for the streets are un-named
hear behind you the sound ' Au, Johnny!' and must move out of the way for a Turkish porter, with some towering burden on his back: or for two or three porters, with a pole on their shoulders, swinging casks or great cases; or, perhaps, for a string of mules, or even camels, filling up the narrow way; and, oh! the thick thronging multitude in various costumes, and speaking many languages. You must give a few piastres to a poor Jew, on the floating bridge, to be your guide and interpreter; for he knows most of the European and many Asiatic languages. He wears
Turkish trousers, and a large fur caftan, with a red fez or skull-cap on his head, wound round with linen. You may know his features among all the strange and motley crowd ; and he will tell you that 170,000 of his brethren are to be found in Turkey. You will, perhaps to your surprise, see many Turks unturbaned, in coats, waistcoats, and trousers, like the Giaour they once despised; the red fez only marks them as not European; the lower orders retain the Asiatic dress; and the ulemas, or Mahommedan priests, preserve the elegant robe and turban. You may, perhaps, meet the Sheik al Islam, their high priest, with his white beard, and robes of green and gold. The Turkish ladies, veiled, wander at will through the gay bazaars; for each merchandize has its bazaar. You may know the Armenian, by his flowing dress and black kalpack, and purple slippers; and the Pasha's troops are in scarlet, with their caps like flower-pots, stuck with large feathers.
Alison says of Constantinople, 'that in every age since its foundation, it has formed a chief object of the ambition of the world's rulers; because it is, from its position, the natural emporium where the cominerce of the West meets that of the East; the midway station where the internal water communications of Europe, Asia, and Africa, unite in a common centre. The waters of the Mediterranean can fill the harbour of 'its Golden Horn with vessels, freighted with the fruits and grains of Egypt, with the gold and ivory of Africa, with the silks and wines of Italy, the wool and oils of Spain. That sea can also waft to her the manufactures of England and France, and the raw produce of all the vast