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Title: Constantinople, Vol. I (of 2)
Author: De Amicis, Edmondo
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Constantinople, Vol. I (of 2)" ***

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(This file was produced from images generously made

[Illustration: The Mihrab of the Mosque of Roustem Pasha, Showing
Persian Tiles.]






  VOL. I.





  THE ARRIVAL                                                          7

  FIVE HOURS LATER                                                    33

  THE BRIDGE                                                          43

  STAMBUL                                                             59

  ALONG THE GOLDEN HORN                                               85

  THE GREAT BAZÂR                                                    121

  LIFE IN CONSTANTINOPLE                                             159

  ST. SOPHIA                                                         247

  DOLMABÂGHCHEH                                                      279



Photogravures by W. H. GILBO.



  MOSQUES OF SULTAN AHMED AND ST. SOPHIA                              21

  VIEW OF PERA AND GALATA                                             29

  ANCIENT FOUNTAIN                                                    39

  BRIDGE OF GALATA                                                    45

  FOUNTAIN OF COURT OF THE MOSQUE OF AHMED                            65

  BURNT COLUMN OF CONSTANTINE                                         70

  TOWER OF GALATA                                                     90

  PANORAMA OF THE ARSENAL AND GOLDEN HORN                            105

  DATE-SELLER                                                        131


  SERPENTINE COLUMN OF DELPHI                                        167

  GROUP OF DOGS                                                      179

  TYPES OF TURKISH SOLDIERS                                          189

  A TURKISH OFFICIAL                                                 200

  TÜRBEH OF SULTAN SELIM II. IN ST. SOPHIA                           216

  INTERIOR OF MOSQUE OF AHMED                                        227

  ENTRANCE AND TOWER OF SERASKER                                     243

  ENTRANCE TO ST. SOPHIA                                             249

  FOUNTAIN OF AHMED                                                  251

  MOSQUE OF ST. SOPHIA                                               255

  INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE OF ST. SOPHIA                               260

  FIRST COLUMNS ERECTED IN ST. SOPHIA                                263

  PALACE OF DOLMABÂGHCHEH                                            281

  PALACE OF THE SULTAN ON THE BOSPHORUS                              296


The arrival at Constantinople made such an overpowering impression
upon me as to almost efface what I had seen during the previous ten
days’ trip from the Straits of Messina to the mouth of the Bosphorus.
The Ionian Sea, blue and unruffled as a lake; the distant mountains
of Morea, tinged with rose color in the early morning light; the
archipelago, gilded with the rays of the setting sun; the ruins of
Athens; the Gulf of Salonika, Lemnos, Tenedos, the Dardanelles, and
a crowd of persons and events which had caused me infinite amusement
during the voyage,--faded into such indistinct and shadowy outlines
at the first sight of the Golden Horn that were I now to undertake a
description of them it would be an effort rather of imagination than
of memory; and so, in order to impart something of life and warmth to
the opening pages of my book, I shall omit all preliminaries and begin
with the last evening of the voyage at the precise moment when, in the
middle of the Sea of Marmora, the captain came up to my friend Yunk
and me, and, laying his two hands on our shoulders, said, in his pure
Palerman accent, “Gentlemen, to-morrow at daybreak we shall see the
first minarets of Stambul.”

Ah! you smile, my good reader, you who have plenty of money and are
tired of spending it--who, when a year or so ago the fancy seized you
to go to Constantinople in twenty-four hours, with your purse well
lined and your trunks packed, set forth as calmly as if it were a trip
to the country, uncertain up to the last moment whether, after all, it
might not pay better to take the train for Baden-Baden instead. If the
captain had said to you, “To-morrow morning we shall see Stambul,” you
would probably have answered, quite calmly, “Indeed? I am very glad to
hear it.” But suppose, instead, you had brooded over the idea for ten
years; had passed many a winter’s evening mournfully studying the map
of the East; had fired your imagination by reading hundreds of books on
the subject; had travelled over one-half of Europe merely to console
yourself for not being able to see the other half; had remained nailed
to your desk for a whole year with this sole object in view; had made
a thousand petty sacrifices and calculations without end; had erected
whole rows of castles in the air, and fought many a stiff battle with
those of your own household; and finally had passed nine sleepless
nights at sea haunted by this intoxicating vision, and so blissfully
happy as to have a twinge of something like remorse at the thought of
all your loved ones left behind;--then you would have some idea of the
real meaning of those words: “To-morrow at daybreak we shall see the
first minarets of Stambul;” and instead of replying phlegmatically,
“I am glad to hear it,” you would have given a great thump on the
bulkhead, as I did.

One great source of satisfaction to my friend and myself was our
profound conviction that, boundless as our expectations might be,
they could not possibly be foiled. About Constantinople there is no
uncertainty, and the most pessimistic traveller feels that there,
at least, he is safe, since no one has ever been disappointed;
and this, moreover, has nothing to do with the charm of its great
associations or the fashion of admiring what every one else does. It
has a beauty of its own, at once overmastering and triumphant, before
which poets, archeologists, ambassadors, and merchants, the princess
and the sailor, people of the North and of the South, one and all,
break forth into loud exclamations of astonishment. In the opinion of
the whole world it is the most beautiful spot on earth. Writers of
travels on arriving there at once lose their heads. Perthusier falls
to stammering; Tournefort declares that human language is powerless;
Pouqueville thinks himself transported to another world; Gautier cannot
believe that what he sees is real; the Viscount di Marcellus falls
into ecstasies; La Croix is intoxicated; Lamartine returns thanks to
God; and all of them, heaping metaphor upon metaphor, endeavor to
make their style more glowing, and search their imaginations in vain
for some simile that shall not fall miserably short of their ideas.
Chateaubriand alone describes his arrival at Constantinople with such
apparent tranquillity of soul as to strongly suggest the idea of
stupor, but he does not fail to observe that it is the most beautiful
thing in the world; and if the celebrated Lady Montague, in pronouncing
a similar opinion, has allowed herself the use of a _perhaps_, she
clearly wishes it to be tacitly understood that the first place belongs
to her own beauty, of which she had a very high opinion. It is, after
all, a cold German who declares that the most beautiful illusions of
youth, the very dreams of first love, become poor and insipid when
contrasted with the delicious sensations which steal upon the soul at
the first sight of those charmed shores, while a learned Frenchman
affirms that the first impression made by Constantinople is one of

Imagine, then, if you can, the effect produced by all these impassioned
statements on the ardent brains of a clever painter of twenty-four and
a bad poet of twenty-eight! But still, not satisfied with even all
this illustrious praise of Constantinople, we turned to the sailors
to see what they would have to say about it; and here it was the
same thing. Ordinary language was felt by even these rough men to be
inadequate, and they rolled their eyes and rubbed their hands together
in the effort to find unusual words and phrases in which to express
themselves, attempting their description in that far-away tone of voice
and with the slow, uncertain gestures used by uneducated persons when
they try to recount something wonderful. “To arrive at Constantinople
on a fine morning,” said the helmsman--“believe me, gentlemen, _that is
a great moment in a man’s life_.”

The weather, too, smiled upon us. It was a fine, calm night; the water
lapped the sides of the vessel with a gentle murmuring sound, while
the masts and rigging stood out clear and motionless against the sky
sparkling with stars. We seemed hardly to move. In the bow a crowd
of Turks lay stretched out at full length, blissfully smoking their
hookahs with faces turned to the moon, whose light, falling upon their
white turbans, made them look like silvery haloes; on the promenade
deck was a concourse of people of every nationality under the sun,
among them a company of hungry-looking Greek comedians who had embarked
at Piræus.

I can see before me now the pretty face of little Olga, one of a
bevy of Russian children going with their mother to Odessa, very
much astonished at my not understanding her language, and somewhat
displeased at having addressed the same question to me three
consecutive times without obtaining an intelligible answer. Here on
one side a fat, dirty Greek priest, wearing a hat like an inverted
bushel-measure, is looking through his glass for the Sea of Marmora,
and on the other, an English evangelical clergyman is standing stiff
and unyielding as a statue, who for three days past has not spoken to
a soul nor looked at any one; near by are two pretty Athenian girls in
their little red caps, with hair hanging down over their shoulders, who
turn simultaneously toward the water whenever they find any one looking
at them, in order to show their profiles, while a little farther off
an Armenian merchant is telling the beads of his Greek rosary. Near
him is a group of Hebrews, dressed in their antique costume, some
Arabians in long white gowns, a melancholy-minded French governess, and
a few of those nondescript personages one always meets in travelling,
about whom there is nothing particular to indicate their country or
occupation; and in the centre of all this mixed company a little
Turkish family, consisting of a father wearing a fez, a veiled mother,
and two little girls in trousers, all four curled up under a tent on a
pile of many-colored pillows and cushions, and surrounded by a motley
collection of luggage of every shape and hue.

How one realized the vicinity of Constantinople! On all sides there was
an unwonted gayety, and the faces lit up by the ship’s lights were all
happy ones. The group of children skipped around their mother shouting
the ancient Russian name of Stambul: “Zavegorod! Zavegorod!” Passing
near one and another of the little groups, I caught the names of
Galata, Pera, Skutari, Bujukdere, Terapia, which acted upon my excited
brain like stray sparks from the preliminaries of some grand display of
fireworks. Even the sailors were delighted to be nearing a place where,
as they said, one forgets, if only for a single hour, all the troubles
of life. Among the white turbans in the bow as well there were unusual
signs of life: the imaginations of even those sluggish and impassive
Mussulmen were stirred as there began to float before their minds the
magic outlines of _Ummelunia_, “Mother of the World”--that city, as
says the Koran, “which commands on one side the earth, and on two,
the sea.” It seemed as though, had the engine been stopped, the ship
must still have gone on, impelled forward by the sheer force of that
impatient longing which throbbed and palpitated from her decks. From
time to time, as I leaned over the side and looked down at the water,
a hundred different voices seemed to mingle with the murmur of the
waves--the voices of all those who cared for me. “Go,” they said, “son,
brother, friend! Go and enjoy your Constantinople. You have well earned
it; now enjoy yourself, and God be with you!”

It was midnight before the passengers began to disperse, my friend and
I being the last to go, and then with lingering steps. We could not
bear to shut up between four walls an exuberance of joy as compared
with which the Circle of Propontis seemed narrow and contracted.
Halfway down the stair we heard the captain’s voice inviting us to
come on the bridge the next morning. “Be up before sunrise,” he cried,
appearing at the top of the companion-way; “whoever is late will be
thrown overboard.”

A more superfluous threat was never made since the world began. I did
not close my eyes, and I don’t believe that the youthful Muhammad II.
on that famous night of Adrianople when he tore his bed to pieces,
agitated by visions of Constantine’s city, tossed and turned more than
did I throughout those four hours of expectation. In order to quiet my
nerves I tried counting up to a thousand, keeping my eyes fixed on the
line of white spray thrown up against my port by the movement of the
vessel, humming monotonous tunes set to the throbbing of the engine,
but all in vain. I was hot and feverish, my breath was labored, and the
night seemed endless. At the first glimmer of dawn I leaped out of bed,
to find Yunk already up; we tore into our clothes, and in three bounds
were on deck.

Despair! It was foggy.

A thick, impenetrable mist concealed the horizon on every side,
and it looked like rain; so the great spectacle of the approach to
Constantinople was lost, all our hopes dashed, the voyage, in short, a
failure. I was completely stunned.

At this moment the captain appeared, wearing his accustomed cheerful
smile. Explanations were unnecessary. The instant his eye fell on
us he took in the situation, and, patting me on the shoulder, said,
consolingly, “That will be all right; don’t give yourselves the
slightest concern. This fog, for which you ought to be very thankful,
will help us to make the most glorious entrance into Constantinople one
could possibly desire. In two hours, you may take my word for it, the
sky will be absolutely clear.” At these brave words my blood began to
circulate freely again, and we followed him to the bridge.

The Turks were already assembled in the bow, seated cross-legged upon
strips of carpet, with their faces turned toward Constantinople.
Presently the other passengers began to appear, armed with glasses of
all sizes and styles, and took their places, one after another, along
the port rail of the vessel, like people in the gallery of a theatre
waiting for the curtain to rise. A fresh breeze was blowing; no one
spoke, but gradually every glass was levelled upon the northern shore
of the Sea of Marmora, where, as yet, nothing could be seen.

The fog, however, had lifted so rapidly that it was now little more
than a filmy veil hanging over the horizon, while above it the heavens
shone out clear and resplendent. Directly ahead of us could be seen
indistinctly the little archipelago of the three Isles of the Princes,
the _Demonesi_ of the ancients, and the favorite pleasure-grounds of
the court in the time of the Byzantine Empire, now a popular resort and
place of amusement for the people of Constantinople.

Both shores of the Sea of Marmora were still completely hidden.

It was not until an hour had gone by that at last there appeared----

But there is no use in attempting to understand a description of the
approach to Constantinople without first having a clear idea of the
plan of the city. Supposing the reader to stand facing the mouth of the
Bosphorus, that arm of the sea which separates Asia from Europe and
connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmora, he will have on his
right the continent of Asia, on his left, Europe; here ancient Thrace,
there ancient Anatolia. Following this arm, he will find on his left,
immediately beyond its mouth, a gulf, or rather an extremely narrow
bay, forming with the Bosphorus almost a right angle, and stretching
for some miles into the continent of Europe, in the shape of an ox’s
horn; hence the name Golden Horn, or Horn of Abundance, because, when
the capital of Byzantium was here, the wealth of three continents
flowed through it. On that point of land, bathed on the one hand by
the Sea of Marmora and by the Golden Horn on the other, on the site
of ancient Byzantium, rises, on its seven hills, Stambul, the Turkish
city; across from it, on the other point, washed by the waters of
the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, lie Galata and Pera, the Frankish
cities; while on the Asiatic shore, directly opposite the opening
of the Golden Horn, Skutari rises from the sea. Thus what is called
Constantinople is, in reality, three large cities separated by the
sea--two lying opposite each other, and the third facing them both,
and all so near together that from each of the three it is possible to
distinguish the buildings of the other two nearly as distinctly as one
can see across the widest parts of the Thames or the Seine. The point
of the triangle occupied by Stambul, which curves back toward the Horn,
is the celebrated Cape Seraglio, which conceals up to the very last
moment, from any one approaching from the Sea of Marmora, the two banks
of the Golden Horn; that is to say, the largest and most beautiful part
of Constantinople.

It was the captain at last, with his trained sailor’s eye, who
discovered the first shadowy outline of Stambul.

The two Athenian ladies, the Russian family, the English clergyman,
Yunk, I, and a number of others, all of whom were going to
Constantinople for the first time, had gathered around him in a group,
silent, absorbed, every eye intent on trying to pierce through the fog,
when, suddenly throwing his left arm out toward the European shore, he
exclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, I see the first building!”

It was a white peak, the summit of some very high minaret whose base
remained as yet completely hidden. Immediately every glass was levelled
at it, and every eye began to burrow in that little rent in the haze
as though trying to make it larger. The ship was now steaming rapidly
ahead. In a few minutes an uncertain shape was visible beside the
minaret, then another, then two, then three, then many more, which,
stretching out in an endless line, gradually assumed the appearance of
houses. On the right and ahead of us everything was still concealed by
the fog. That which was now coming into view was the part of Stambul
which extends like the arc of a circle for about three miles, from
Cape Seraglio along the northern shore of the Sea of Marmora to the
Castle of the Seven Towers; but the Seraglio hill was still invisible.
Beyond the houses, one after another, the minarets now flashed into
sight, white, lofty, their peaks touched with rose color by the rising
sun. Below the houses we could begin to distinguish the dark line
of the ancient walls, uneven and tortuous, strengthened at regular
intervals by massive towers, their foundations partially washed by
the sea-waves, and encircling the entire city. Before long fully two
miles of the city lay before us in full view, but, to tell the truth,
the sight fell decidedly short of my expectations. It was just here
that Lamartine asked himself, “Can this be Constantinople?” and cried,
“What a disappointment!” The hills being still hidden, nothing
was to be seen but interminable lines of houses along the shore, and
the city was apparently perfectly flat. “Captain,” I too cried, “is
this Constantinople?” The captain seized me by the arm and pointed
ahead. “O man of little faith!” said he, “look there!” I looked,
and an exclamation of amazement escaped me. A shadowy form, vast,
impalpable, towering heavenward from a lofty eminence, rose before us,
its graceful outlines still partially obscured by a filmy cloud of
vapor, and surrounding it four tall and graceful minarets whose peaks
shone like silver as they caught the first rays of the morning sun.
“St. Sophia!” cried a sailor, and one of the Athenian ladies murmured
in an undertone, “Hagia Sofia!” (Holy Wisdom). The Turks in the bow at
once rose to their feet. And now before and around the great basilica
were discernible through the fog other vast domes and minarets crowded
close together like a forest of gigantic branchless palms. “The mosque
of Sultan Ahmed!” cried the captain, pointing; “the Bayezid mosque, the
mosque of Osman, the Laleli mosque, the Suleimaniyeh!”

[Illustration: Mosques of Sultan Ahmed and St. Sophia.]

But no one was listening. The mist was now rapidly melting away, and
in every direction there leaped into view mosques, towers, masses of
green, tier above tier of houses. The farther we advanced, the more the
city unfolded before us her charming outlines, irregular, picturesque,
sparkling, and tinged with every hue of the rainbow, while the
Seraglio hill now emerged completely from the fog and stood out clear
and distinct against the gray mass of cloud behind it. Four miles of
city, all that part of Stambul which overlooks the Sea of Marmora,
lay stretched out before us, her black walls and many-colored houses
reflected in the limpid water as in a mirror.

Suddenly the vessel came to a standstill. Every one crowded around the
captain to know what had happened. He explained that we would have to
wait, before proceeding any farther, until the fog had lifted a little
more. And indeed the mouth of the Bosphorus was still completely hidden
behind a thick veil of mist. In less than a minute, however, this had
begun to disperse, and we were able to move forward, howbeit with

We were now approaching the hill of the Old Seraglio, and here the
general excitement and curiosity became intense.

“Turn your back,” said the captain, “and don’t look until we are
directly opposite.”

I obediently did as I was told, and tried to fix my attention upon a
camp-stool, which seemed to dance before my eyes.

“Now!” cried the captain, after a few moments, and I spun around.
The boat had again stopped, this time opposite and very close to the

It is a large hill, clothed from top to bottom with cypress,
terebinth, fir, and huge plane trees, whose branches, reaching out
across the city-walls, throw their shadow on the water below; and
from the midst of this mass of verdure, separately and in groups, as
though dropped at haphazard, rise in a confused, disorderly mass, the
roofs of kiosks and pavilions crowned with gilded domes and galleries,
charming little buildings of unfamiliar shape, with grated windows and
arabesqued doorways, white, small, half hidden, suggesting a labyrinth
of avenues, courtyards, and recesses--an entire city enclosed in a
wood, shut off from the world, full of mystery and sadness. The sun was
now shining full upon it, but above there still hovered a nebulous veil
of haze. No one was to be seen, not the faintest sound could be heard.
All the passengers stood perfectly motionless, their eyes fixed upon
that hill invested with centuries of associations--glory, pleasure,
love, intrigue, bloodshed; the citadel, palace, and tomb of the great
Ottoman monarchy. For a little while no one moved or spoke. Suddenly
the first mate called out, “Gentlemen, Skutari is in sight!”

Every one turned toward the Asiatic shore. Skutari, the Golden City,
barely visible to the naked eye, lay scattered over the summits and
sides of her great hills, the morning mist throwing a delicate veil
over her radiant beauty, smiling and fresh as though just called into
being by the touch of a fairy wand. Who can give any idea of that
sight? The language we employ to describe our own cities is altogether
inadequate to depict that extraordinary variety of color and form,
that marvellous mixture of town and country, at once gay and austere,
Oriental and Western, fantastic, graceful, imposing. Imagine a city
composed of thousands of crimson and yellow villas, thousands of
gardens overflowing with verdure, a hundred snow-white mosques rising
in their midst; above it a forest of enormous cypresses, indicating the
site of the largest cemetery of the East; on the outer edge huge white
barracks, groups of houses and cypresses, villages built on the brows
of little hills; beyond them others, again, half hidden in foliage, and
over all, the peaks of minarets and summits of domes, sparkling points
of light, halfway up the side of a mountain which closes in the horizon
as it were with a curtain. A great metropolis scattered throughout
an enormous garden and overhanging a shore here broken by steep
precipices, there shelving gently down in green gradations to charming
little inlets filled with shade and bloom; and below, the blue mirror
of the Bosphorus reflecting all this splendor and beauty.

As I stood gazing at Skutari my friend touched me on the elbow to
announce the discovery of still another city, and, sure enough,
turning toward the Sea of Marmora, there, on the same Asiatic shore
and a little beyond Skutari, lay a long string of houses, mosques, and
gardens which we had but lately passed in front of, but which, up to
this moment, had been entirely hidden by the fog. With the help of the
glass it was now easy to distinguish cafés, bazârs, European-looking
houses, flights of stairs, the walls of the market-gardens, and
boats scattered along the shore. This was Kadi Keui (Village of the
Judge), erected on the ruins of ancient Chalcedon, the former rival of
Byzantium--that Chalcedon founded six hundred and eighty-four years
before Christ by the Megarians, to whom the Delphic Oracle gave the
surname of The Blind for having selected that rather than the opposite
site, where Stambul is now situated.

“That makes three cities,” said the captain, checking them off on his
fingers as each moment brought a fresh one into view.

The ship was still lying stationary between Skutari and the Seraglio
hill, the fog completely concealing everything on the Bosphorus beyond
Skutari, as well as Galata and Pera, which lay directly before us.
Boats began to pass close by--barges, steam-launches, sailboats--but
no one paid any attention to them. Every eye was glued to that gray
curtain which hung over the Frankish city. I trembled with impatience
and anticipation. Yet a few moments and there would be unfolded before
my eyes that marvellous spectacle which none has here been able to
behold unmoved. My hands shook so violently that it was with difficulty
I could hold the glass to my eyes. The captain, worthy man, watched
my excitement with keen delight, and, presently clapping his hands
together, cried, “There it is! there it is!”

And, true enough, there did at last begin to appear through the mist
first little specks of white, then the vague outlines of a lofty
eminence, then scattered beams of light where some window caught and
reflected the sun’s rays, and finally Galata and Pera stood revealed
before us--a mountain, a myriad of houses, of all colors, heaped one
above another, a lofty city crowned with minarets, domes, and cypress
trees, and towering over all the monumental palaces of the foreign
ambassadors and the great tower of Galata; beneath, the vast arsenal
of Top-Khâneh and a forest of shipping; and still, as the fog lifted,
more and more of the city came into view stretching along the banks of
the Bosphorus; and in bewildering succession there leaped into sight
streets and suburbs extending from the hilltops to the water’s edge,
closely built, interminable, marked here and there with the sparkling
white tips of the mosques--line upon line of buildings, little bays,
palaces built upon the shore, pavilions, kiosks, gardens, groves; and,
dimly outlined through the distant haze, other suburbs still, their
roofs alone distinguishable, all gilded by the sun’s rays--a luxuriance
of color, a profusion of verdure, a succession of vistas, a grandeur, a
grace, a glory sufficient to make any one break forth into transports
of incoherent delight. Every one on board, however, stood speechless,
staring, with mouth and eyes wide open--passengers, seamen, Turks,
Europeans, children. Not a whisper was heard. No one knew in which
direction to look. On one side lay Skutari and Kadi Keui; on the other,
the Seraglio hill; opposite, Galata, Pera, and the Bosphorus. To see
it all one had to keep revolving around in a circle like a teetotum,
and revolve we did, devouring with our eyes first this and then that,
gesticulating, laughing, but speechless with admiration. Heavens above!
what moments in a man’s life!

But yet the most beautiful and imposing sight of all was to come. We
were still lying stationary off Seraglio Point, and until this has been
rounded you cannot see the Golden Horn or get the most wonderful of all
the views of Constantinople.

“Now, gentlemen and ladies, pay attention!” cried the captain before
giving the order to proceed. “This is the _critical moment_; in three
minutes we shall be opposite Constantinople.”

I felt myself grow hot and cold. For a moment all was still. How my
heart beat! How feverishly I waited for that blessed word, “Forward!”

“Forward!” shouted the captain. The ship began to move.

On we go! Kings, princes, potentates, ye great ones of the earth! at
that moment I felt nothing but compassion for you. All your wealth and
power seemed but little in comparison with my place on that boat, and
an empire a poor thing to offer in exchange for one look.

A minute passes, then another. We are gliding by Seraglio Point, and
see opening before us an enormous space flooded with light and a huge
mass of many shapes and colors. The point is passed, and behold! before
us lies Constantinople--Constantinople, boundless, superb, sublime!
The glory of creation and mankind! A triumph of beauty, far surpassing
one’s wildest dreams!

And now; poor wretch, attempt to describe it. Profane with your
commonplace words that divine vision. Who indeed can describe
Constantinople? Chateaubriand? Lamartine? Gautier? What things you have
all stammered and stuttered about it! and yet no one can resist trying.
Words, phrases, comparisons crowd through the brain and drop off the
end of one’s pen. I gaze, talk, write, all at the same time, hopeless
of success, and yet compelled to the attempt by some overmastering

[Illustration: View of Pera and Galata.]

Let us see, then. The Golden Horn lies directly opposite us like a
wide river; on each bank there extends a ridge; upon them stretch
two parallel lines of the city, embracing eight miles of hill and
valley, bay and promontory, a hundred amphitheatres of buildings and
gardens, an enormous space dotted over with houses, mosques,
bazârs, seraglios, baths, kiosks, of an infinite variety of color
and form, and from their midst the sparkling points of thousands of
minarets reaching heavenward like great pillars of ivory; then groves
of cypresses descending in dark ranks from the hilltops to the water’s
edge, fringing the outskirts, outlining the inlets; and through all
a wealth of vegetation, crowning the heights, pushing up between the
roofs, overhanging the water, flinging itself up in radiant luxuriance
wherever it can obtain a foothold. To the right, Galata, her foreground
a forest of masts and flags; above Galata, Pera, the imposing shapes
of her European palaces outlined against the sky; in front, the bridge
connecting the two banks, across which flow continually two opposite,
many-hued streams of life; to the left, Stambul, scattered over her
seven hills, each crowned with a gigantic mosque with its leaden dome
and gilded pinnacle: St. Sophia, white and rose-tinted; Sultan Ahmed,
flanked by six minarets; Suleiman the Great, crowned by ten domes;
the Validêh Sultan, reflected in the waves; on the fourth hill the
mosque of Muhammad II.; on the fifth, that of Selim; on the sixth, the
seraglio of Tekyr; and, high above everything else, the white tower
of the Seraskerat, which commands the shores of two continents from
the Dardanelles to the Black Sea. Beyond the sixth hill of Stambul on
the one hand, and Galata on the other, nothing can be distinguished
save a few vague outlines of buildings, faint indications of towns and
villages, broken up by bays and inlets, fleets of little vessels, and
groups of trees hardly visible through the blue haze, and which appear
more like atmospheric illusions than actual objects.

How can one possibly take in all the details of this marvellous scene?
For a moment the eye rests upon a Turkish house or gilded minaret close
by, but, immediately abandoning it, roams off once more at will into
that boundless space of light and color, or scales the heights of those
two opposite shores with their range upon range of stately buildings,
groves, and gardens, like the terraces of some enchanted city, while
the brain, bewildered, exhausted, overpowered, can with difficulty
follow in its wake.

An inexpressible majestic serenity is diffused throughout this
wonderful spectacle, an indefinable sense of loveliness and youth which
recalls a thousand forgotten tales and dreams of boyhood--something
aërial, mysterious, overpowering, transporting the imagination and
senses far beyond the bounds of the actual.

The sky, in which are blended together the most delicate shades of blue
and silver, throws everything into marvellous relief, while the water,
of a sapphire blue and dotted over with little purple buoys, reflects
the minarets in long trembling lines of white; the cupolas glisten in
the sunlight; all that mass of vegetation sways and palpitates in the
morning air; clouds of pigeons circle about the mosques; thousands of
gayly-painted and gilded pleasure-boats flash over the surface of the
water; the zephyrs from the Black Sea come laden with the perfumes of a
thousand flower-gardens; and when at length, intoxicated by the sights
and sounds and smells of this paradise, and forgetful of all else, one
turns away, it is only to behold with fresh sensations of wonder and
amazement the shores of Asia, with their imposing panorama of beauty;
Skutari and the nebulous heights of the Bithynian Olympus; the Sea of
Marmora dotted over with little islands and white with sails; and the
Bosphorus, covered with shipping, winding away between two interminable
lines of kiosks, palaces, and villas, to disappear at last mysteriously
amid the most smiling and radiant hillsides of the Orient. To deny that
this is the most beautiful sight on earth would be churlish indeed, as
ungrateful toward God as it would be unjust to his creation; and it is
certain that anything more beautiful would surpass mankind’s powers of

On recovering somewhat from my own first overwhelming sensations I
turned to see how the other passengers had been impressed. Every
countenance was transfixed. The eyes of the two Athenian ladies were
suspiciously moist; the Russian mother had, in that supreme moment,
clasped her little Olga to her breast; even the voice of the icy
English priest was now heard for the first time, murmuring to himself,
“Wonderful! wonderful!”

The vessel having in the mean time dropped anchor not far below the
bridge, we were quickly surrounded by small boats from the shore, which
a moment later discharged a rabble of Greek, Armenian, and Hebrew
porters upon our decks, and these, while anathematizing the aliens
from the other world, at the same time took possession of our property
and our persons. After making some feeble show of resistance, I shook
hands with the captain, gave a kiss to little Olga, and, bidding our
fellow-passengers farewell, went over the side with my friend, where a
four-oared barge rapidly transported us to the custom-house. Thence,
after threading a labyrinth of tortuous streets, we finally reached our
quarters in the Hotel de Byzance on the summit of the hill of Pera.


The visions of the morning have disappeared, and Constantinople, that
dream of light and beauty, turns out to be a huge city, cut up into
a succession of hills and valleys, a labyrinth of human anthills,
cemeteries, ruins, and desert-places--a mixture without parallel of
civilization and barbarism, reflecting something of every city in
the world, gathering within its borders every aspect of human life.
That comparatively small part enclosed within the walls forms, as it
were, the skeleton of a mighty city; as for the rest, it is a vast
aggregation of barracks, an enormous Asiatic encampment, in which
swarms a population of every race and religion under the sun. It is
a great city in a state of transformation, composed of ancient towns
falling into decay, of new ones built but yesterday, and of still
others in process of erection. Everything is topsy-turvy; on all
sides are seen the traces of some gigantic undertaking--mountains
tunnelled through, hills levelled, suburbs razed to the ground, great
thoroughfares laid out, heaps of stone, and the traces of disastrous
fires, portions of the earth’s surface for ever undergoing some
alteration at the hand of man. The disorder and confusion and the
never-ending succession of strange and unexpected sights make one dizzy.

Walk down a stately street, and you find it ends in a precipice; come
out of a theatre, and you are surrounded by tombs; climb to the summit
of a hill, beneath your feet you discover a forest, while a new city
confronts you from some neighboring hilltop; the street you have this
moment left suddenly winds away from you through a deep valley half
hidden by trees; walk around a house, you discover a bay; descend a
lane, farewell to the city: you find yourself in a lonely defile, with
nothing to be seen but the sky above you; towns appear and disappear
continually. They start into view over your head, beneath your feet,
over your shoulder, far off, near by, in sun and shadow, on the tops
of mountains and on the shore below. Take a step forward, an immense
panorama is spread out before you; backward, and you see nothing at
all; lift your head, and the points of a thousand minarets flash before
your eyes; turn it, and not one is in sight. The network of streets
winds in and out among the hills, overtopping terraces, grazing the
edges of precipices, passing beneath aqueducts, to break up suddenly
in footpaths leading down some grassy incline to the water’s edge, or
else, skirting piles of ruins, meanders away among rocks and sand to
the open country. Here and there the huge metropolis stops, as it
were, to take breath in the solitude of the country, then recommences,
more crowded, gay, noisy, bewildering, than before; here it spreads
out flat and monotonous, there scales the hillside, disappears over
the summit, disperses; then once more gathers itself together. In one
section it ferments with life, noise, movement; in another there is
the stillness of death; one quarter is all red, another white, a third
shines with gilding, a fourth looks like a mountain of flowers: stately
city, village, country, garden, harbor, wilderness, market, cemetery,
in endless succession, rear themselves, one above another, in such a
manner that certain heights command in a single view all the aspects of
life which are usually found embraced in an entire province. In every
direction a series of strange and unfamiliar shapes is outlined against
the sea and sky, so close together and so indented and broken up by
the extraordinary variety of architectural forms that the eye becomes
confused and the various objects seem to melt one into another.

In among the Turkish dwelling-houses European palaces rise suddenly up,
spires overtop the minarets, and cupolas crown the garden-terraces,
with battlemented walls behind them; roofs of Chinese kiosks appear
above the façade of a theatre; barred and grated harems face rows of
glazed windows; side by side with open balconies and terraces are found
Moorish buildings with recessed windows and small forbidding doorways.
Shrines to the Madonna are set up beneath Arabian archways; tombs stand
in the courtyards; towers arise amid the hovels; mosques, synagogues,
Greek, Catholic, Armenian churches, crowd one upon the other, as though
each were striving for the mastery, and, from every spot unoccupied by
buildings, cypress and pine, fig and plane trees stretch forth their
branches and tower above the surrounding roofs.

An indescribable architecture of expedients, following the infinite
caprices of the soil, portions of buildings cut up into sections,
triangular, upright, prone, surrounded and connected by bridges, props,
and defiles, heaped up in confused masses, like huge fragments detached
from a mountain-side.

At every hundred steps the scene changes. Now you are in a suburb of
Marseilles; turn, and it becomes an Asiatic village; another turn, and
it is a Greek settlement; still another, a suburb of Trebizond. The
language and dress, the faces you meet, the look of the houses in the
various quarters, all suggest a different country from the one you
have just left; they are bits of France, slices of Italy, samples of
England, scraps of Russia. One sees depicted in vivid colors on the
great surface of the city that battle which is here being waged between
the various groups of Christians on the one hand fighting to repossess
themselves of, and Islamism on the other defending with all its
remaining strength, the sacred soil of Constantinople. Stambul,
once entirely Turkish, is assailed on all sides by settlements of
Christians, before whose advance it is slowly giving way all along the
banks of the Golden Horn and the shores of the Sea of Marmora; in other
directions the conquest is proceeding much more rapidly: churches,
hospitals, palaces, public gardens, schools, and factories are rending
asunder the Mussulman’s quarters, encroaching upon his cemeteries, and
advancing from one height to another, until already, on the dismayed
soil, there are sketched the vague outlines of another European city,
as large as the one now covering the banks of the Golden Horn, and
destined one day to embrace the European shore of the Bosphorus.

[Illustration: Ancient Fountain.]

But from such general observations as these the attention is distracted
at every step by some fresh object of interest: on one street it is
the monastery of the dervishes, in another a great Moorish building,
a Turkish café, a bazâr, a fountain, an aqueduct. In the course of a
quarter of an hour, too, one is obliged to alter his gait at least a
dozen times. You must descend, mount, climb down some steep incline or
up by stairs cut out of the rock, wade through the mud and surmount a
thousand different obstacles, threading your way now through crowds
of people, then in and out among shrubbery; here stooping to avoid
lines of clothes hung out to dry; at one moment obliged to hold your
breath, at the next inhaling a hundred delicious odors. From a
terrace flooded with light and commanding a magnificent view of the
Bosphorus, Asia, and the blue arch of heaven one step will bring you
to a network of narrow alley-ways, leading in and out among wretched,
half-ruined houses and choked up with heaps of stone and rubbish;
from some delicious retreat filled with verdure and bloom you emerge
on a dry, dusty waste littered with débris; from a thoroughfare
glowing with life, movement, and color you step into some sepulchral
recess, where it seems as though the silence had never been broken
by the sound of a human voice; from the glorious Orient of one’s
dreams to quite another Orient, forbidding, oppressive, falling into
decay, and suggestive of all that is mournful and depressing. After
walking about for a few hours amid this medley of strange sights,
one’s brain becomes completely confused. Were any one to suddenly
put the question to you, “What sort of a place is Constantinople?”
you would only stare at him vacantly, quite incapable of giving any
intelligible reply. Constantinople is a Babylon, a world, a chaos.--Is
it beautiful?--Marvellously.--Ugly?--Horribly so.--Do you like it?--It
fascinates me.--Shall you remain?--How on earth can I tell? Can any one
tell how long he is likely to stay on another planet?

You return at last to your lodgings, enthusiastic, disappointed,
enchanted, disgusted, stunned, stupefied, your head whirling around
like that of a person in the first stages of brain fever. This
condition gradually gives way to one of complete prostration, utter
exhaustion of mind and body; you have lived years in the course of a
few hours, and feel yourself aged.

And the population of this huge city?


The best place from which to see the population of Constantinople is
the floating bridge, about a quarter of a mile long, which connects the
extreme point of Galata with the opposite shore of the Golden Horn,
just below the mosque of the Validêh Sultan. Both banks are European
territory, but, notwithstanding this fact, the bridge may be said to
connect Europe and Asia, since nothing in Stambul but the ground itself
is European, and even those quarters occupied by Christians have taken
on an Asiatic character. The Golden Horn, though in appearance a river,
in reality separates two different worlds, like an ocean. European news
reaches Galata and Pera, and at once it is in every one’s mouth, and
circulates rapidly, fresh, minute, and accurate, while in Stambul it
is heard only like some vague, far-away echo; the fame of worldwide
reputations and the most startling events roll back from before that
little strip of water as from some insuperable barrier, and across that
bridge, daily traversed by a hundred thousand feet, an idea does not
pass once in ten years.

[Illustration: Bridge of Galata.]

Standing there, you can see all Constantinople pass by in the course
of an hour. Two human currents flow incessantly back and forth from
dawn to sunset, affording a spectacle which the market-places of India,
the Pekin fetes, or the fairs of Nijnii-Novgorod can certainly give
but a faint conception of. In order to get anything like a clear idea
you must fix your attention on some particular point and look nowhere
else. The instant you allow your eyes to wander everything becomes
confused and you lose your head. The crowd surges by in great waves of
color, each group of persons representing a different nationality. Try
to imagine the most extravagant contrasts of costume, every variety of
type and social class, and your wildest dreams will fall short of the
reality; in the course of ten minutes and in the space of a few feet
you will have seen a mixture of race and dress you never conceived of

Behind a crowd of Turkish porters, who go by on a run, bending beneath
the weight of enormous burdens, there comes a sedan chair inlaid with
mother-of-pearl and ivory, out of which peeps the head of an Armenian
lady; on either side of it may be seen a Bedouin wrapped in his white
cape, and an old Turk wearing a white muslin turban and blue caftan; a
young Greek trots by, followed by his dragoman dressed in embroidered
zouaves; next comes a dervish in his conical hat and camel’s-hair
mantle, who jumps aside to make room for the carriage of an European
ambassador preceded by liveried outriders. One can hardly be said to
actually see all of these, only to catch glimpses of them as they flash
by. Before you have time to turn around you find yourself surrounded
by a Persian regiment in their towering caps of black astrakhan;
close behind them comes a Hebrew, clad in a long yellow garment open
up the sides; then a dishevelled gypsy, her baby slung in a sack on
her back; next a Catholic priest, with his staff and breviary; while
advancing among a mixed crowd of Greeks, Turks, and Armenians may be
seen a gigantic eunuch on horseback, shouting _Vardah!_ (Make way!),
and, closely following him, a Turkish carriage decorated with flowers
and birds and filled with the ladies of a harem, dressed in green
and violet and enveloped in great white veils; behind them comes a
Sister of Charity from one of the Pera hospitals, and after her an
African slave carrying a monkey, and a story-teller in the garb of a
necromancer. One point which strikes the stranger as being singular,
although it is in reality the most natural thing in the world, is that
all this queer multitude of people pass one another without so much
as a glance, just as though it were some London crowd; no one stops;
every one hurries on intent upon his own affairs, and out of a hundred
faces that pass by not one will wear a smile. The Albanian in his
long white garment, with pistols thrust in his belt, brushes against
the Tartar clad in sheepskin; the Turk guides his richly-caparisoned
ass between two files of camels; close behind the aide-de-camp of
one of the imperial princes, mounted on an Arabian charger, a cart
rumbles along piled up with the odd-looking effects of some Turkish
household. A Mussulman woman on foot, a veiled female slave, a Greek
with her long flowing hair surmounted by a little red cap, a Maltese
hidden in her black _faldetta_, a Jewess in the ancient costume of her
nation, a negress wrapped in a many-tinted Cairo shawl, an Armenian
from Trebizond, all veiled in black--a funereal apparition; these and
many more follow each other in line as though it were a procession
gotten up to display the dress of the various nations of the world.
It is an ever-changing mosaic, a kaleidoscopic view of race, costume,
and religion, which forms and dissolves with a rapidity the eye and
brain can with difficulty follow. It is quite interesting to fix your
gaze on the footway of the bridge and look for a while at nothing
but the feet: every style of footwear that the world has known, from
that which obtained in Eden up to the very latest phase of Parisian
fashion, goes by--yellow _babbuccie_, the red slipper of the Armenian,
turquoise-blue of the Greek, and black of the Israelite--sandals, high
boots from Turkistan, Albanian leggings, slashed shoes, _gambass_ of
the Asia Minor horsemen of all colors, gold-embroidered slippers,
Spanish _alpargatas_, feet shod in leather, satin, rags, wood,
crowded so close together that in looking at one you are aware of a
hundred. And while thus engaged you must be on your guard to avoid
being knocked down. Now it is a water-carrier with his huge water-skin
on his back, or a Russian lady going by on horseback; now a troop of
imperial soldiers wearing the uniform of zouaves, who advance as though
charging the enemy; now a procession of Armenian porters, who pass
two by two, carrying huge bales of goods suspended from long poles
across their shoulders; then a crowd of Turks push their way to right
and left through the throng in order to embark on some of the many
little steamboats which, starting from the bridge, ply up and down
the Bosphorus and Golden Horn. It is one continuous tramp and roar, a
murmur of hoarse gutturals and incomprehensible interjections, among
which the occasional French or Italian words which reach the ear seem
like rays of light seen through a thick darkness. The figures which
strike the fancy most forcibly of all are, perhaps, those of the
Circassians. These wild, bearded men, who pass with measured tread
in groups of four or five, wearing large fur caps like those of the
ancient Napoleon guard, and long black caftans, with daggers thrust
in the belt and a silver cartridge-box suspended on the breast, look
like veritable types of brigands, or as though their sole business
in Constantinople might be the sale of a sister or daughter dragged
thither by hands already imbued with Russian blood. Then there is
the Syrian, clad in a long Byzantine dolman, with a gold-striped
handkerchief wrapped about his head; the Bulgarian, in sombre-colored
tunic and fur-edged cap; the Georgian, with his casque of dressed
leather and tunic gathered into a metal belt; the Greek from the
Archipelago, covered with lace, silken tassels, and shining buttons.
From time to time it seems as though the crowd were receding somewhat,
but it is only to surge forward once more in great, overpowering waves
of color crested with white turbans like foam, in whose midst may
occasionally be seen a high hat or umbrella or the towering headgear of
some European lady tossed hither and thither by that Mussulman torrent.

It is stupefying merely to note the diversity of religions represented.
Here gleams the shining pate of a Capuchin father; there towers aloft
the _ulema’s_ Janissary turban; farther on the black veil of the
Armenian priest floats in the breeze; _imams_ pass in their white
tunics; nuns of the Stigmata; chaplains of the Turkish army clad in
green and carrying sabres; Dominican brothers; pilgrims returned from
Mecca wearing talismans about their necks; Jesuits; dervishes; and
these last, queerly enough, carry umbrellas to protect them from the
sun, while in the mosques they may be seen tearing their flesh in
self-inflicted torture for their sins.

To one who watches attentively a thousand amusing and interesting
little incidents detach themselves from the general confusion. Now
it is a eunuch, who glares out of the corner of his eye at a young
Christian dandy caught peering too curiously into the carriage of
his mistress; a French _cocotte_, dressed in the latest fashion,
who follows the gloved and bejewelled son of a pasha; a sergeant of
cavalry in full-dress uniform, who, stopping short in the middle of
the bridge, and, seizing his nose between two fingers, emits a trumpet
blast loud enough to make one jump; or a quack, who, in return for
some poor wretch’s piece of money, makes a cabalistic sign on his
forehead supposed to restore his eyesight; here a large family-party,
newly arrived, have gotten separated in the crowd: the mother rushes
hither and thither, searching for her children, who, on their part, are
weeping at the tops of their voices, while the men of the party try
to mend matters by laying about them in all directions; a lady from
Stambul passes by, and under pretence of adjusting her veil gets a good
look at the train of a lady from Pera. Horses, camels, sedan chairs,
carriages, ox-carts, casks on wheels, bleeding donkeys, skinny dogs,
pass in a long file, dividing the crowd in two. Sometimes a big fat
pasha _of the three horse-tails_ goes by in a magnificent carriage,
followed on foot by a negro, his guard, and his pipe-bearer. The Turks
all salute him, touching the forehead and the breast, while a throng
of Mussulman beggars, horrible, meagre-looking wretches, with muffled
faces and bare chests, hurl themselves at the carriage-windows, begging
vociferously for alms. Eunuchs out of employment pass in groups of
two and three or a half dozen at a time, with cigarettes in their
mouths, easily distinguished by their corpulency, their long arms, and
great black cloaks. Pretty little Turkish girls, dressed like boys in
green trousers and red or yellow waistcoats, run and jump about with
catlike agility, pushing their way through the crowd with soft little
crimson-tinted hands; shoe-cleaners with their gilded boxes; wandering
barbers, their stool and basin ready at hand; venders of water and
Turkish sweetmeats can be seen in every direction, threading their way
through the press and shouting out their wares and avocations in Greek
and Turkish. At every step you meet a military uniform, officers in
fiery and scarlet trousers, their breasts glittering with decorations;
grooms of the Seraglio gotten up like generals in command of an army;
policemen carrying whole arsenals at their belts; _zeibeks_, or free
soldiers, wearing those enormous breeches with pockets behind which
give them outlines like the Hottentot Venus; imperial guards with
nodding white plumes on their helmets, and breasts covered with gold
lace; city guards, who march about carrying handcuffs--Constantinople
city guards! One might as well speak of people who had been charged
with the duty of keeping down the Atlantic Ocean. One curious contrast
is that which is found between the rich clothing on the one hand and
the miserable rags on the other, between persons so laden down with
the quantity and magnificence of their apparel as to look like walking
bazârs and others who scarcely may be said to have any apparel at all.
The nakedness alone is a noteworthy sight. Every tint of human skin
can be found, from the milk-white Albanian to the jet-black slave from
Central Africa or blue-black native of Darfur; breasts which look as
though they would resound at a blow like a bronze vase or break in
pieces like an earthenware pot; hard, oily, wooden surfaces, or shaggy
like the hide of a wild boar; brawny arms tattooed with outlines of
leaves and flowers or rude representations of ships under full sail,
and hearts transfixed by arrows. All such particulars, however, as
these cannot possibly be noted in the course of a single visit to the
bridge. While you are trying to make out the designs tattooed on an
arm, your guide is calling your attention to a Serb, a Montenegrin,
a Wallach, an Ukrainian Cossack, a Cossack of the Don, an Egyptian,
a native of Tunis, a prince of Imerezia. There is hardly time even
to make a note of the different nationalities. It is as though
Constantinople still maintained her former position as queen of three
continents and capital of twenty tributary kingdoms. Yet even this
would hardly account for the extraordinary features of that spectacle,
and one amuses himself by fancying that some mighty deluge has swept
over the neighboring continent, causing a sudden influx of immigration.
An expert eye can still distinguish in that mighty human torrent the
distinctive features and costumes of Caramania and Anatolia, of Cypress
and of Candia, of Damascus and Jerusalem--Druses, Kurds, Maronites,
Telemans, Pumacs, and Kroats, and all the innumerable variety of the
innumerable confederations of anarchies extending from the Nile to the
Danube and from the Euphrates to the Adriatic. Those in search of the
beautiful and those with a craving for the horrible will find, equally,
their wildest hopes surpassed. Raphael would have been in ecstasies,
Rembrandt beside himself with delight. The purest examples of Grecian
beauty and that of the Caucasian races appear side by side with snub
noses and receding foreheads. Women pass with the look and bearing of
queens, others who might pose as furies. There are painted faces and
faces disfigured by disease and wounds, colossal feet and the tiny feet
of the Circassian no longer than your hand; gigantic porters, great fat
Turks, and negroes like dried-up skeletons, ghosts of human beings who
fill you with horror and pity; every aspect of human life, extremes of
asceticism and voluptuousness, utter weariness, radiant luxury, and
wasted misery; and, still more remarkable than the variety of human
beings, is that of the garments they wear. Any one with an eye for
color would find himself in clover. No two persons are dressed alike.
Some heads are enveloped in shawls, others crowned with rags, others
decked out like savages--shirts and undervests striped or particolored
like a harlequin’s dress; belts bristling with weapons, some of
them reaching from the waist to the arm-pits; Mameluke trousers,
knee-breeches, tunics, togas, long cloaks which sweep the ground, capes
trimmed with ermine, waistcoats encrusted with gold, short sleeves and
balloon-shaped ones, monastic garbs and theatre costumes; men dressed
like women, women who seem to be men, and peasants with the air of
princes; a ragged magnificence, an exuberance of color, a profusion
of ornament, braid, fringe, frippery of all sorts; a childish and
theatrical display of decoration, which makes one think of a ball given
by the inmates of an insane asylum, who have decked themselves out with
the contents of all the peddlers’ packs in the world.

Above the babel of sounds made by all this multitude one hears the
piercing cries of the Greek newsboys selling newspapers in all
languages under heaven, the stentorian tones of the porters, loud
laughter of the Turkish women; the infantile voices of the eunuchs; the
shrill falsetto of a blind beggar reciting verses from the Koran; the
hollow-resounding noise of the bridge itself as it sways under this
multitude of feet; the bells and whistles from a hundred steamboats,
whose smoke, coming in great puffs, from time to time envelops the
entire throng of passers-by. This vast concourse of people embarks in
the boats which leave every moment for Skutari, the villages along the
Bosphorus, and the suburbs on the Golden Horn; spreads out over the
bazârs and mosques of Stambul, the suburbs of Fanar and Balat, to the
most distant points on the Sea of Marmora; flows like an advancing
tide in two great currents over the Frankish shore, to the right in
the direction of the sultan’s palaces, to the left toward the ancient
quarters of Pera, and, receding once more across the bridge, is fed
by innumerable little streams flowing down the steep, narrow lanes
and byways which cover the hillsides of both banks, connecting ten
cities and a hundred villages, and binding together Asia and Europe in
an intricate network of commerce, intrigue, and mystery, at the mere
thought of which one’s mind becomes hopelessly confused.

One would naturally expect all this to make an amusing and enlivening
spectacle, but it is quite otherwise: after the first sensations of
excitement and wonder have died down the brilliant coloring begins
to pale; it no longer wears the aspect of a gay Carnival procession,
but humanity itself seems to be passing in review--humanity with all
its miseries and follies, its infinite discord of clashing beliefs
and irreconcilable customs, a pilgrimage of decayed races and
humbled nations; a boundless tide of human misery; wrongs to be set
right, stains to be washed out, chains to be broken; an accumulation
of tremendous problems which blood alone, and that in torrents, is
capable of solving--a sight at once overpowering and depressing. One’s
interest, too, is rather blunted than aroused by the enormous number
and variety of strange sights and objects. What sudden mysterious
changes the mind is subject to! Here was I, not a quarter of an hour
after reaching the bridge, leaning listlessly against the side,
scribbling on the wooden beam with a pencil, and acknowledging, between
my yawns, that Madame de Staël was pretty near the truth when she
pronounced travelling to be the most melancholy of human pleasures.


In order to restore one’s equilibrium after the bewildering scenes
of the bridge it is only necessary to follow one of the many narrow
streets which wind up the hillsides of Stambul. Here there reigns
a profound peace, and you may contemplate at your leisure those
mysterious and evasive aspects of Oriental life of which only flying
glimpses can be obtained on the other bank amid the noise and confusion
of European manners and customs. Here everything is Eastern in its
strictest sense. After walking for fifteen minutes the last sounds
have died away, the crowds entirely disappeared; you are surrounded
on every side by little wooden, brightly-painted houses, whose second
stories extend out over the ground floor, and the third again over
those; in front of the windows are balconies enclosed with glass
and close wooden gratings, which look like little houses thrown out
from the main dwelling, and lend to the city an indescribable air
of secresy and melancholy. In some places the streets are so narrow
that the overhanging parts of opposite houses nearly touch, and you
walk for long distances in the shadow of these human bird-cages and
literally beneath the feet of the Turkish women, who pass the greater
part of the day in them, seeing nothing but a narrow strip of sky.
All the doors are tightly shut, and the windows on the ground floor
protected by gratings. Everything breathes of jealousy and suspicion;
one seems to be traversing a city of convents. Sometimes the stillness
is suddenly broken by a ripple of laughter close at hand, and, looking
quickly up, you may discover at some small opening or loophole the
flash of a bright eye or a shining lock of hair, which, however,
instantly disappears; or, again, you surprise a conversation being
carried on in quick, subdued tones across the street, which breaks off
suddenly at the sound of your footsteps, and you continue your way
wondering what thread of mystery or intrigue you may have broken in
your passage. Seeing no one yourself, you have the consciousness of a
thousand eyes upon you; apparently quite alone, you yet feel yourself
to be surrounded by restless, palpitating life. Wishing, possibly, to
pass unobserved, you tread lightly, walk rapidly, but all the same you
are watched on all sides. So profound is the silence that the mere
opening and shutting of a door or window startles you as though it
were some tremendous noise. One might suppose that the aspect of these
streets would become monotonous and tiresome, but it is not so. A mass
of foliage out of which issues the white point of a minaret, a Turk
dressed in red coming toward you, a black servant standing immovable
before a doorway, a strip of Persian carpet hanging from a window,
suffice to form a picture so full of life and harmony that one could
stand gazing at it by the hour. Of the few persons who do pass by,
none appear to notice you; only occasionally you hear a voice at your
shoulder call out “_Giaour!_” (infidel), and turn just in time to see
a boy’s head disappearing behind a window-shutter. Again, hearing a
door being opened from within, you pause expectantly, fully prepared
to see the favorite beauty of some harem come forth in full costume,
instead of which an European lady in bonnet and train appears and, with
a murmured _Adieu_ or _Au revoir_, walks rapidly away, leaving you
open-mouthed with astonishment.

In another street, entirely Turkish and silent, you are suddenly
startled by the sound of a horn and the stamping of horses’ feet;
turning to see what it means, you find it difficult to believe your
eyes when a large car rolls gayly into sight over some tracks which up
to that moment you had not noticed, filled with Turks and Europeans,
with its officials in uniform and its printed tariff of fares, for all
the world like a _tramway_ in Vienna or Paris. The effect of such an
apparition, seen in one of those streets, is not to be described: it is
like a burlesque or some huge joke, and you laugh aloud as you watch
it disappear, as though you had never seen anything of the kind before.
With the omnibus the life and movement of Europe seem to vanish, and
you find yourself back in Asia, like a change of scene at the theatre.
Issuing from almost any of these silent, deserted streets, you come out
upon small open spaces shaded by one huge plane tree: on one hand there
is a fountain out of which camels are drinking; on the other, a café in
front of which a number of Turks recline on mats, smoking and gazing
into vacancy; beside the door stands a large fig tree, up whose trunk
a vine clambers, extending out over the branches and falling in waving
garlands to the ground, and between whose leaves enchanting glimpses
are caught of the blue waters of the Sea of Marmora dotted all over
with white sails. The flood of light and the death-like stillness give
these places a certain character, half solemn, half melancholy, which
makes an indelible impression upon the mind: one is carried on and on,
drawn, as it were, out of himself by a subtle sense of mystery which
steeps the senses little by little, until he loses all idea of time and
space and seems to float on a vague cloud of dreams.

[Illustration: Fountain in Court of the Mosque of Ahmed.]

From time to time you come upon vast barren tracts devastated by some
recent fire; hillsides with a few houses scattered here and there,
and grassy spaces between them, intersected with goat-paths; tops of
hills from which can be seen hundreds of houses and gardens,
streets and lanes, but not a living creature, a wreath of smoke, an
open door, or the faintest indication of human life, until one almost
begins to think himself alone in the midst of this immense city, and,
thinking so, to become a trifle uncomfortable. But just follow one of
those steep little streets down to the bottom, and in an instant the
whole scene changes. You are now on one of the great thoroughfares of
Stambul, flanked by splendid buildings, whose beauty almost defies your
powers of admiration. On every side rise mosques, kiosks, minarets,
arcades, fountains of marble and lapis lazuli, mausoleums of sultans
glowing with arabesques and inscriptions in gold, their walls covered
with mosaics, their roofs of inlaid cedar-wood, and everywhere that
exuberance of vegetation which, pushing its way through gilded
railings and scaling garden-walls, fills the air with the perfume of
its blossoms. Here are met the equipages of pashas, aides-de-camp in
full uniform, officials, employés, eunuchs belonging to great houses,
and files of servants and parasites coming and going in a continual
succession between the residences of the ministers: one recognizes the
fact that he is in the metropolis of a great empire, and admires it in
all its magnificence of display. The brilliant atmosphere and graceful
architecture, the murmuring of the fountains, the bright sunshine
and delicious coolness of the shade, all affect the senses like
subdued music, and a hundred smiling images crowd through the mind.
Following these thoroughfares, you emerge upon the large open squares,
from which arise the mosques of the various sultans, before whose
stately magnificence you pause in wondering awe. Each one of these
mighty buildings forms the centre, as it were, of a small separate
city, with its colleges, hospitals, stores, libraries, schools, and
baths, whose existence is at first hardly suspected, so overshadowed
are they by the huge dome which they encircle. The architecture, so
simple in appearance when seen from a distance, now presents a mass
of detail attracting the eye in all directions at once. There are
little cupolas overlaid with lead, oddly-shaped roofs rising one above
another, aërial galleries, enormous porticoes, windows broken by little
columns, festooned archways, spiral minarets, lines of terraces with
open-work carving, and capitals supported on stylobates, doorways and
fountains covered with ornament, walls picked out in gold and every
color of the rainbow--a mass of carving and fretwork, light, graceful,
exquisite, across which the shadows chase each other from great oak
and cypress trees and willows, while clouds of birds, issuing from the
overspreading branches, fly in slow circles around the interiors of
the domes, filling every corner of the immense edifice with harmony.
And now, for the first time, you begin to be conscious of a feeling
stronger and more underlying than a mere sense of the beautiful. These
huge structures seem like the marble witnesses of an order of thought
and belief altogether different from that in which you have been
born and reared--the imposing framework of a hostile race and faith,
testifying in a mute but expressive language of lofty heights and
glorious lines to the might of a God who is not your God, and a people
before whom your fathers have trembled, filling you with admiration not
unmixed with awe, which, for a time at least, checks your curiosity and
holds you at a distance.

Within the shady courtyards Turks may be seen at the fountains busied
about their ablutions, peasants crouched at the foot of the great
pillars, veiled women who pass with deliberate steps beneath the lofty
arcades: over all there broods a profound quiet, a tinge of sadness and
voluptuousness, whose source you try in vain to discover, exercising
your mind as upon some enigma. Galata, Pera--how far away they seem! It
is as though you were in another world alone, in a different age. This
is the Stambul of Suleiman the Magnificent or Bayezid II., and you feel
dazed and confused when, on turning away from the square and losing
sight of the stupendous monument of the power of the Osmans, you find
yourself once more confronted by the Constantinople of to-day, of wood,
poverty, and decay, filled with dirt, wretchedness, and misery.

As you go on and on the houses gradually lose their bright coloring,
the vine-trellises disappear, moss creeps over the basins of the
fountains, the mosques become small and mean, with wooden minarets
and cracked, discolored walls, around which brambles and nettles have
sprung up; ruined mausoleums, broken stairways, tortuous lanes choked
with rubbish and reeking with damp; deserted quarters full of gloom,
whose silence is unbroken save for the flapping of birds’ wings or
the guttural cry of a muezzin calling out the word of God from some
distant unseen minaret. On the face of no city in the world is written
in such plain characters the nature of her people’s beliefs. Everything
grand or beautiful comes from God, or the sultan--His representative
upon earth. All the rest, being merely temporary, is not worthy of
consideration and bears the stamp of an utter indifference to mundane
things. This pastoral tribe has become a nation, but the instinctive
love of nature, of a life of contemplation and idleness, is as strong
among its people as ever, and has lent to their metropolis the look of
an encampment. Stambul is not a city; she neither works nor thinks,
nor does she create; civilization knocks at her doors, lays siege to
her streets, and she dozes and dreams in the shadow of her mighty
mosques and pays no heed. It is more like a city let loose, scattered,
disfigured, representing rather the halt of a wandering race than the
stronghold of an established state; a number of cities sketched in
outline, an immense spectacular show, rather than a great metropolis,
of which no just idea can be obtained without traversing every part.

Taking, then, for our starting-point the first hill, we are at that
point of the triangle bathed by the Sea of Marmora. This is, so
to speak, the crown of Stambul, an imposing district crowded with
associations and filled with magnificent buildings. Here is the ancient
Seraglio, occupying the site where arose first, Byzantium, with her
acropolis and temple of Jupiter, and then the palace of the empress
Placidia and the baths of Arcadius; here stand the mosques of St.
Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed; and here is the At-Meidan, covering the
space formerly occupied by the Hippodrome, where once, in the midst
of an Olympus of marble and bronze and urged on by the frantic cries
of a multitude clad in silk and purple, gilded chariots were driven
furiously seven times around the course beneath the impassive gaze of
the pearl-bedecked emperors. Descending the first hill into a shallow
valley, we come upon the western walls of the Seraglio, marking the
confines of ancient Byzantium,[A] and directly before us rises the
Sublime Porte, containing the offices of the prime minister, foreign
minister, and minister of the interior--silent, gloomy regions where
seem gathered all the sombreness and melancholy of the fate of the

    [A] Other authorities place the walls of ancient Byzantium
        considerably farther west than this point.--TRANS.

From here we ascend the second hill, where rise the Nûri Osmaniyeh
mosque (Light of Osman) and the Burnt Column of Constantine, formerly
surmounted by a bronze statue of Apollo, whose head was a likeness of
the great emperor himself. This column marked the centre of the forum,
and was surrounded by marble porticoes, triumphal arches, and statues.
On the farther side of this hill opens the Valley of Bazârs, extending
from the Bayezid mosque all the way to that of the Validêh Sultan, and
including a huge labyrinth of covered streets filled with noise and
confusion and crowded with people, from which you issue with your ears
deafened and your head in a whirl.

Upon the summit of the third hill, overlooking both the Sea of Marmora
and the Golden Horn, stands the gigantic rival of St. Sophia, the
mosque of Suleiman--_joy and glory of Stambul_, as it is called by
the Turkish poets--and the marvellous tower of the minister of war,
erected on the ruins of the ancient palace of the Constantines, at one
time occupied by Muhammad the Conqueror, and converted later on into a
seraglio for the old sultanas.

[Illustration: Burnt Column of Constantine.]

Between the third and fourth hills the enormous aqueduct of the emperor
Valens stretches like an aërial bridge composed of two tiers of
delicate arches, around which vines trail and clamber, falling in
graceful festoons as far as the roofs of the houses crowded together in
the valley beneath.

Passing under the aqueduct, we now ascend the fourth hill. Here, on the
ruins of the celebrated church of the Holy Apostles, founded by the
empress Helena and rebuilt by Theodosius, rises the mosque of Muhammad
II., surrounded by schools, hospitals, and khâns. Alongside the mosque
are the slave-bazâr, the baths of Muhammad, and the granite column of
Marcian surmounted by a marble capital, on which is a cippus still
ornamented with the imperial eagles. Near by is the Et-Meidan, where
the famous massacre of the Janissaries took place.

Traversing another valley, likewise closely built up, we mount the
fifth hill, surmounted by the mosque of Selim, near the site of the
ancient cistern of St. Peter, now converted into a garden. Beneath us,
along the shores of the Golden Horn, extends Fanar, the Greek quarter
and seat of the Patriarch, where ancient Byzantium has taken refuge,
the scene of the revolting carnage of 1821.

Descending into a fifth valley and ascending a sixth hill, we find
ourselves upon the territory once occupied by the eight cohorts of
Constantine’s forty thousand Goths, beyond the circuit of the earlier
walls, which only embraced the fourth hill: this is the precise spot
assigned to the seventh cohort, hence the name Hebdomon given to that

On the sixth hill may be seen still standing the walls of the palace[B]
of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, where the emperors were formerly
crowned, now called by the Turks Tekfûr Serai--Palace of the Princes.
At the foot of the hill lies Balat, the Ghetto of Constantinople, a
filthy quarter extending along the banks of the Horn as far as the
city-walls: and beyond Balat is the ancient suburb of Blachernæ, where
once arose the mighty palace with its gilded roofs, a favorite resort
of the emperors, and famous for the sacredness of the relics contained
in the church erected by the empress Pulcheria. Now the whole quarter
is filled with decay and ruin and melancholy. At the Blachernæ begin
the turreted walls which extend from the Golden Horn across to the Sea
of Marmora, enclosing the seventh hill, on which stood the Forum of
Arcadius, and where may still be seen the pedestal of the column of
Arcadius--the largest and most eastern of the hills of Stambul, between
which and the other six flows the little river Lycus, which, entering
the city near the Charsiou[C] Gate, empties itself into the Sea of
Marmora near the ancient gate of Theodosius.

    [B] Prof. A. Van Millingen places the site of the Hebdomon Palace
        on the shore of the Sea of Marmora, outside the walls, near
        the village of Makri Keui; other authorities state that there
        are unanswerable arguments in favor of this view.--TRANS.

    [C] The Lycus enters the city near the Gate of Pusæus and empties
        into the Sea of Marmora at Vlanga-Bostan.--TRANS.

From the walls of the Blachernæ we overlook the suburb of Ortajilar,
inclining gently to the water’s edge and crowned with its many gardens;
beyond it lies that of Eyûb, the consecrated soil of the Mussulman,
with its charming mosques and vast cemetery shaded by a forest of
cypresses and white with mausoleums and tombstones; back of Eyûb is the
elevated plain which was formerly used as a military camp, and where
the legions elevated the newly-made emperors upon their shields;[D] and
beyond this, again, other villages are seen, their bright colors set in
a framework of green woods and bathed by the farthermost waters of the
Golden Horn.

    [D] This ceremony more probably took place near Makri Keui on the
        Sea of Marmora.--TRANS.

Such is Stambul, truly a divine vision. But when it is remembered
that this huge Asiatic village surmounts the ruins of that second
Rome, of that great museum of treasures stripped from all Italy, from
Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, one’s heart sinks within him: the mere
thought of such an accumulation of works of art makes one dizzy. And
where are they now, those great arcades which traversed the city from
wall to sea, those gilded domes and colossal equestrian statues which
surmounted the mighty columns before baths and amphitheatres, those
brazen sphinxes seated upon pedestals of porphyry, those temples and
palaces which once reared their mighty façades of granite in the midst
of an aërial throng of marble deities and silver emperors? All have
disappeared or been changed past recognition. The equestrian statues
of bronze have been recast into guns, the copper coverings of the
obelisks converted into money, the sarcophagi of the emperors turned
into fountains. The church of St. Irene is an armory: the cistern of
Constantine[E] is a workshop; the pedestal of the column of Arcadius
is occupied by a blacksmith; the Hippodrome is a horse-market; the
foundations of the royal palaces are heaps of stones overgrown with
ivy; the pavements of the amphitheatre, grass-grown cemeteries. A few
inscriptions, half obliterated by fire or defaced by the simetars of
the invaders, are all that remain to tell us that on these hills once
stood the marvellous metropolis of the Empire of the East. And over all
this mass of ruin and decay Stambul sits brooding, like some odalisque
above a sepulchre, awaiting her hour.

    [E] The Cistern Basilica, ascribed to Constantine the Great, is
        still used for its original purpose. The Cistern Philoxenes
        is occupied by silk-spinners.--TRANS.


And now, if my readers will kindly accompany me back to the hotel, we
will rest for a while. The greater part of what I have described thus
far having been seen by my friend and myself on the very day of our
arrival, one may easily imagine what a condition our brains were in
as we wended our way toward the hotel at about nightfall. As we passed
through the streets neither of us opened our lips, but on reaching
our room we dropped on the sofa, and, facing about, asked each other

“Well, what do you think of it? How does it strike you?”

“Fancy my having come here to paint!”

“And I to write!”

And we laughed in each other’s faces with amused compassion.

Indeed, that evening and for many days after His Majesty Abdul-Aziz
might have offered me a province in Asia Minor as a reward for a
half-dozen lines of description of the capital of his state, and I
could not have produced them, so true is it that you must get a little
distance away from great objects before you can describe them, and
if you wish to remember them correctly, you must first forget them

And then how could one possibly do any writing in a room from whose
windows could be seen the Bosphorus, Skutari, and the summit of the
Olympus? The hotel was a sight in itself. At all hours of the day
people of every country in the world were coming and going through
the halls and corridors, up and down the stairs. Every evening twenty
different nationalities were represented at table. I could not get the
idea out of my head during dinner that I must be an envoy sent out by
the Italian government, and that it devolved upon me to introduce some
grave question of international importance with the dessert. There were
many charming countenances of ladies; rough, uncombed artist heads;
seamy adventurers lying in wait for your money; profiles like those
of the Byzantine Virgin, lacking nothing but the golden nimbus; queer
faces and sinister ones; and every day this motley company changed.
At dessert, when every one was talking, it sounded like the Tower of
Babel. On the day of our arrival we struck up an acquaintance with
a party of Russians infatuated with Constantinople, and after that
every evening, when we met at table, we would compare notes. Each
one had visited some point of interest during the day and had some
interesting experience to relate. This one had been to the top of the
Serasker Tower, that one to the Eyûb cemetery; another had spent the
day in Skutari; another was just back from a trip on the Bosphorus.
The conversation glowed with vivid descriptions, life, color, and when
one’s command of language failed him the delicious perfumed wines of
the Archipelago were at hand to loose his tongue and stimulate him
to fresh efforts. There were, it is true, some fellow-countrymen of
mine there who made me furiously angry--moneyed idiots who from soup
to dessert never left off abusing Constantinople, and Providence for
bringing them there. There were no sidewalks, the theatres were badly
lighted, there was no way of passing the evening--apparently they had
come to Constantinople to pass their evenings. One of them having made
the trip on the Danube, I asked him how he had liked the famous river,
upon which he assured me that there was no place on earth where they
understood so well how sturgeon should be cooked as on the Austrian
Royal and Imperial line of steamboats! Another was a charming example
of the lady-killer style of traveller, whose main object in going
about the world is to make conquests, carefully recorded in a notebook
kept for the purpose. He was a tall, lanky blond, liberally endowed
with the greatest of the three gifts of the Holy Spirit. Whenever the
conversation turned upon Turkish women, he would fix his eyes upon
his plate with a meaning smile and take no part in it, except for an
occasional word or two, when he would break off suddenly, taking a sip
of wine as though he feared he had said too much. He always hurried
into dinner a little behind time, with an important air suggestive of
his having been unavoidably detained by the Sultan, and between the
courses would busy himself in changing mysterious-looking little notes
from one pocket to another, evidently intended to look like billetsdoux
from frail fair ones, but which, oddly enough, bore the unmistakable
stamp of hotel-bills.

But one certainly does run across all sorts of queer subjects in
the hotels of those cosmopolitan cities: no one would believe it
without seeing for himself. For instance, there was a young Hungarian
there, about thirty years old, a tall, nervous fellow with a pair of
diabolical eyes and a quick, feverish way of talking. After acting for
some time as private secretary to a rich Parisian, he had enlisted
among the French Zouaves in Algiers, was wounded and taken prisoner
by the Arabs, and, escaping later from Morocco, had made his way
back to Europe, where he hastened to The Hague, hoping to receive an
appointment as officer in the war with the _Achins_; failing in this,
he determined to enlist in the Turkish army, but while passing through
Vienna on his way to Constantinople for that purpose he had gotten
mixed up in some affair about a woman. In the duel which ensued he had
received a ball in his neck, the scar from which could still be seen.
Unsuccessful at Constantinople as well, “What,” said he, “is there left
for me to do?--je suis enfant de l’aventure. Fight I must. Well, I have
found the means of getting to India;” and he brought out a steamer
ticket. “I shall enlist as an English soldier: there is always some
fighting going on in the interior, and that is all I care for. Killed?
Well, what if I am? My lungs are all gone, anyhow.”

Another queer creature was a Frenchman whose life seemed to have been
one prolonged struggle with the postal authorities all over the world.
He had lawsuits pending with the post-office departments of Austria,
France, and England; he wrote protesting articles to the _Neue Freie
Presse_, and fired off telegraphic messages of defiance to every
post-office on the Continent; not a day went by without his having some
noisy altercation at a window where mail was received or distributed;
he never, by any chance, received a letter on time or wrote one that
reached its destination. At table he would give us an account of all
his misfortunes and consequent disputes, invariably winding up with the
statement that the postal system had been the means of shortening his

Then there was a Greek lady with a strange, wild look and very
curiously dressed: she was always alone, and every day would start
suddenly up in the middle of dinner and leave the table after making a
cabalistic sign over her plate whose significance no one was ever able
to make out.

I have never forgotten, either, a good-looking young Wallachian couple,
he about twenty-five, she just grown, who only appeared one evening:
it was an undoubted case of elopement, for if you looked fixedly at
them they both turned red and appeared uneasy, and every time the door
opened they jumped as though they were on springs.

Let me see: what others can I remember? Hundreds, I suppose, were I to
give my mind to it. It was like a magic-lantern show.

On the days when the steamers were due my friend and I used to find
the greatest amusement in watching the new arrivals as they came into
the hotel, exhausted, confused, some of them still under the influence
of the approach to Constantinople--countenances which seemed to say,
“What world is this? What on earth have we dropped into?” One day a boy
passed us, that instant landed; he was entirely beside himself with
joy at having actually reached Constantinople, the culmination of his
dreams, and was squeezing his father’s hand between both his own in an
ecstasy of delight, while the father, equally moved by the sight of his
son’s happiness, was saying, “Je suis heureux, de te voir heureux, mon
cher enfant.”

We used to pass the hot part of the day gazing out of our windows at
the Maiden’s Tower, which rises up, white as snow, from a solitary
rock in the Bosphorus just opposite Skutari, and while we told each
other stories about the legend of the young prince of Persia who sucked
the poison from the arm of the beautiful sultana bitten by a snake, a
little fellow of five years old would chatter across at us from the
window of an opposite house, where he appeared every day at the same

Everything about that hotel was queer: among other things, we would run
every evening against one or two doubtful-looking characters hovering
around in front of the entrance. They evidently gained a livelihood by
providing artists’ models, and, taking every one for a painter, would
assail all who came and went with the same low-voiced inquiries: “A
Turk? A Greek? An Armenian? A Jewess? A Negress?”


But suppose, now, we turn our attention again to Constantinople itself,
and wander about as unrestrainedly as birds of the air? It is a place
where one may give free rein to his caprices. You can light your
cigar in Europe and knock the ashes off in Asia, and, getting up in
the morning, ask yourself what part of the world it would be pleasant
to visit during the day, with two continents and two seas to choose
from. Saddled horses stand waiting for you in every square; boats with
their sails spread are ready to take you anywhere you may choose to
go; steamboats lie at every pier awaiting nothing but the signal to
depart; kâiks manned with rowers and skiffs fitted with sails crowd the
landing-places; while an army of guides, speaking every language of
Europe, is at your disposal for as long a time as you may want any of
them. Do you care to hear an Italian comedy? see the Dancing Dervishes?
listen to the buffooneries of Kara-gyuz, the Turkish Punchinello?
be treated to the licentious songs of the Parisian café chantant?
watch the gymnastic performances of a band of gypsies? listen to an
Arabian story-teller? attend a Greek theatre? hear an _imam_ preach?
see the Sultan pass on his way to the mosque? You have but to say
what you prefer and it is ready at hand. Every nationality is at your
service--Armenians to shave you, Hebrews to clean your shoes, Turks to
row your boat, negroes to dry you after the bath, Greeks to bring your
coffee, and one and all to cheat you. Perhaps you are heated from your
walk? here are ices made from the snows of Olympus. Thirsty? you can
drink the waters of the Nile as the Sultan does. Should your stomach
be a little out of order, here is water from the Euphrates to set it
straight, or, if you are nervous, water from the Danube. You can dine
like the Arab of the desert or a gourmand of the _Maison dorée_. If you
want to doze and drowse, there are the cemeteries; to be stirred up
and excited, the bridge of the Validêh Sultan; to dream dreams and see
visions, the Bosphorus; to pass Sunday, the Archipelago of the Princes;
to see Asia Minor, Mt. Bûlgurlû, the Golden Horn, the Galata Tower,
the world, the Serasker Tower. It is, above all, a city of contrasts.
Things which we never think of connecting in our minds are seen there
at a single glance side by side.

Skutari is the starting-point for the caravans for Mecca, and also
for the express trains for Brusa, the ancient metropolis; the Sofia
railroad passes close by the mysterious walls of the old Seraglio;
Catholic priests bear the Holy Sacrament through the streets escorted
by Turkish soldiers; the common people have their festivals in the
cemeteries; life and death, sorrow and rejoicing, follow so close
upon one another’s heels as to seem all a part of the same function.
There are seen the movement and energy of London side by side with the
lethargic inertia of the East. The greater part of existence is led in
public before your eyes, but over the private side of life there hangs
a close, impenetrable veil of mystery; under that absolute monarchy
there exists a liberty without bounds.

It is impossible, for several days at least, to get a clear impression
of anything: it seems every moment that if the disorder is not quelled
at once a revolution must break out. Every evening you feel, on
reaching your lodgings, as though you had just returned from a long
journey, and in the morning ask yourself incredulously if Stambul can
really be here, close at hand. There seems to be no place where you can
go to get your brain a little clear; one impression effaces another;
you are torn by conflicting desires; time flies. You think you would
like to spend the rest of your life here, and the next moment wish you
could leave to-morrow. And when it comes to attempting a description of
this chaos--well, there are moments when you are strongly tempted to
bundle together all the books and papers on your table and pitch the
whole thing out of the window.


It was not until the fourth day after our arrival that my friend and I
attempted to introduce anything like method into our sightseeing. We
were on the bridge quite early in the morning, still uncertain as to
how we would spend the day, when Yunk proposed that we should make our
first regular expedition with tranquil minds and a well-defined route
for purposes of study and observation. “Let us,” said he, “explore
thoroughly the northern bank of the Golden Horn, if we have to walk
till nightfall to do it; we can breakfast in some Turkish restaurant,
take our noonday nap under a sycamore tree, and come home by water in
a käik.” The suggestion being accepted, we provided ourselves with a
stock of cigars and small change, and, after glancing over the map of
the city, set forth in the direction of Galata.

If the reader really cares to know anything about Constantinople, I
am afraid he will have to make up his mind to go too, with the clear
understanding, however, that whenever he finds himself getting bored he
is at perfect liberty to leave us.


On reaching Galata the excursion begins. Galata is situated on the hill
which forms the promontory between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus,
the former site of ancient Byzantium’s great cemetery. It is now the
“city” of Constantinople. Its streets, almost all of them narrow and
tortuous, are lined with restaurants, confectioners’, barbers’, and
butchers’ shops, Greek and Armenian cafés, business-houses, merchants’
offices, workshops, counting-houses--dirty, ill-lighted, damp, and
narrow, like the streets in the lower parts of London. A hurrying,
pushing throng of foot-passengers comes and goes all day long, now
and then crowding to right and left to make room in the middle of the
street for the passage of porters, carriages, donkeys, or omnibuses.
Almost all the business conducted in Constantinople flows through this
quarter. Here are the Bourse, the custom-house, the offices of the
Austrian Lloyd and the French express company, churches and convents,
hospitals and warehouses. An underground railroad connects Galata
and Pera. Were it not for the ever-present turban or fez, one would
hardly know he was in the East at all. On every side is heard French,
Italian, and Genoese. The Genoese are, in fact, almost on their native
soil here, and are still somewhat inclined to assume the airs of
proprietors, as in the days when they opened and closed the harbor at
their will and replied to the emperor’s threats with volleys from their
cannon. Of this ancient glory, however, nothing now remains except a
few old houses supported on great pilasters and heavy arches, and the
ancient edifice which was once the residence of the Podesta.

Old Galata has almost entirely disappeared. Thousands of squalid houses
have been razed to the ground to make room for two wide streets, one
of which mounts to the summit of the hill toward Pera, while the other
runs parallel with the sea-wall from one end of Galata to the other.
My friend and I took the latter, seeking refuge from time to time in
some shop or other when a huge omnibus rolled by, preceded by Turks
stripped to the waist, who cleared the street by means of long sticks,
with which they laid about them. At every step some fresh cry assailed
the ear, Turkish porters yelling, “_Sacun ha!_” (Make room!); Armenian
water-carriers calling out, “_Varme su!_” and the Greek, “_Crio nero!_”
Turkish donkey-drivers crying, “_Burada!_” venders of sweetmeats,
“_Scerbet!_” newsboys, “_Neologos!_” Frankish cab-drivers, “_Guarda!

After walking for ten minutes we were completely stunned. Coming to a
certain place, we noticed with surprise that the paving of the street
suddenly ceased: it had evidently been removed quite recently. We
stopped to examine the roadway and discover, if possible, some reason
for this eccentricity, when an Italian shopkeeper, seeing what we were
about, came to the rescue and satisfied our curiosity. This street, it
seemed, led to the Sultan’s palace, and a few months previously, while
the imperial cortège was passing along it, the horse of His Majesty
Abdul-Aziz stumbled and fell. The good Sultan, much annoyed by this
circumstance, commanded that the pavement should be removed all the
way from the spot where the accident occurred, to the palace; which of
course had been done. Fixing upon this memorable spot as the eastern
boundary of our walk, we now turned our backs upon the Bosphorus
and proceeded, by a series of dark, crooked little streets, in the
direction of the


The city of Galata is shaped like an open fan, of which the tower,
placed on the crest of the hill, represents the pivot. This tower is
round, very lofty, dark in color, and terminates in a conical point
formed by a copper roof, directly beneath which runs a line of large
glazed windows, forming a sort of gallery enclosed with glass, where
a lookout is kept night and day ready to give warning of the first
appearance of fire in any part of the immense city. The Galata of the
Genoese extended as far as this tower, which stands on the exact line
of the walls which once divided it from Pera--walls of which at
present no trace remains;[F] nor is the present tower the same as
that ancient Tower of Christ, erected in memory of the Genoese who
fell in battle, having been rebuilt by Mahmûd II., and prior to that
restored by Selim III.,[G] but it is none the less a monument to the
glory of Genoa, and one upon which no Italian can gaze without feeling
some pride at the thought of that handful of soldiers, merchants, and
sailors--haughty, audacious, proud, stubborn--who for centuries floated
the flag of the mother republic from its summit and treated with the
emperors of the East as equals.

    [F] A few traces of these walls may still be seen near the Galata

    [G] The Galata Tower, called in the Middle Ages the Tower of
        Christ or of the Cross, was built in 1348, probably on
        the foundations of an earlier Byzantine tower ascribed to
        Anastasius Dicorus, and in the present century was repaired
        by Mahmûd II.--TRANS.

[Illustration: Tower of Galata.]

Immediately beyond the tower we came upon a Mussulman cemetery.


This is called the Galata Cemetery. It is a great forest of cypress
trees, extending from the summit of the hill of Pera all the way
down the steep declivity, nearly to the edge of the Golden Horn, and
casting its thick shadows over myriads of little stone and marble
pillars--inclining at every angle and scattered irregularly over
the hillside. Some of these are surmounted by round turbans on which
may be seen traces of coloring and inscriptions; others are pointed
at the top, many lie prone upon their sides, while from others the
turbans have been cut clean off, making one fancy that they belong to
Janissaries, whom, even after death, Sultan Mahmûd took occasion to
degrade and insult. The greater part of the graves are merely indicated
by square mounds of earth, having a stone at either end, upon which,
according to Mussulman belief, the two angels Nekir and Munkir take
their seats to judge the soul of the departed. Here and there may be
seen small enclosures surrounded by a low wall or railing, in the
middle of which stands a column surmounted by a huge turban, and all
around it other smaller columns: this is the grave of some pasha or
person of distinction buried in the midst of his wives and children.
Footpaths wind in and out among the graves and trees, crossing and
recrossing one another in all directions from one end of the cemetery
to the other. A Turk seated in the shade smokes tranquilly; boys
run about and chase each other among the tombs; here and there cows
are grazing, and a multitude of turtle-doves bill and coo among the
branches of the cypress trees; groups of veiled women pass from time to
time; and through the leaves and branches glimpses are caught of the
blue waters of the Golden Horn streaked with long white reflections
from the minarets of Stambul.


Coming out of the cemetery, we passed once more close to the base of
the Galata Tower and took the principal street of Pera. Pera lies
more than three hundred feet above the level of the sea, is bright
and cheerful, and overlooks both the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
It is the “West End” of the European colony, the quarter where are
to be found the comforts and elegancies of life. The street which we
now followed is lined on both sides with English and French hotels,
cafés of the better sort, brilliantly lighted shops, theatres, foreign
consulates, clubs, and the residences of the various ambassadors,
among which towers the great stone palace of the Russian embassy,
commanding Galata, Pera, and the village of Fundukli on the shore of
the Bosphorus, for all the world like a fortress.

The crowds which swarm and throng these streets are altogether unlike
those of Galata. Hardly any but stiff hats are to be seen, unless we
except the masses of flowers and feathers which adorn the heads of the
ladies: here are Greek, Italian, and French dandies, merchant princes,
officials of the various legations, foreign navy officers, ambassadors’
equipages, and doubtful-looking physiognomies of every nationality.
Turkish men stand admiring the wax heads in the hairdressers’ windows,
and the women pause open-mouthed before the showcases of the milliners’
shops. The Europeans talk and laugh more loudly here than elsewhere,
cracking jokes in the middle of the street, while the Turks, feeling
themselves, as it were, foreigners, carry their heads less high than in
the streets of Stambul.

As we walked along my friend suddenly called my attention to the
view, behind us, of Stambul. Sure enough, there lay the Seraglio
hill, St. Sophia, and the minarets of the mosque of Sultan Ahmed, all
faintly veiled in blue mist--an altogether different world from the
one in which we stood. “And now,” said he, “look there!” Following
the direction of his finger, I read the titles of some of the books
displayed in the window of an adjacent stationer’s shop--_La Dame
aux Camelias_, _Madame Bovary_, _Mademoiselle Giraud ma Femme_--and
experienced so curious a sensation at the rapid and violent contrast
thus presented that for some moments I was obliged to stand quite still
in order to adjust my ideas. At another time I stopped my companion to
make him look in a wonderful café we were passing. It was a long, wide,
dim corridor, ending in a large open window, through which we beheld,
at what seemed to be an immense distance, Skutari flooded with sunlight.

When we had proceeded for some distance along the Grande Rue de Pera
and nearly reached the end, we were startled by hearing a voice,
quite close at hand, exclaiming in tones of thunder, “Adèle, I love
thee! I love thee better than life itself! I love thee even as much
as it is given to men to love upon earth!” We gazed at one another in
astonishment. Where on earth did the voice come from? Looking about
us, we discovered on one side of the street a wooden fence through the
cracks of which a large garden could be seen filled with benches, and
at the farther end a stage on which a troupe of actors were rehearsing
the performance for the evening. A Turkish lady not far from us stood
peeping in as well, and laughed with great enjoyment at the scene,
while an old Turk, passing by, shook his head disapprovingly. Suddenly
with a loud shriek the lady fled down the street; other women in the
neighborhood echoed the shriek and turned their backs rapidly. What
could have happened? Turning around, we beheld a Turk about fifty years
old, well known throughout all Constantinople, who elected to go about
the streets clad with the same severe simplicity which the famous monk
Turi was so anxious to impose upon all good Mussulmen during the reign
of Muhammad IV.; that is, stark naked from head to foot. The wretched
creature advanced, leaping on the stones, shouting and breaking forth
into loud bursts of laughter, followed by a crowd of ragamuffins making
a noise like that of the infernal regions. “It is to be devoutly hoped
that he will be promptly arrested,” said I to the doorkeeper of the
theatre. “Not the smallest likelihood of anything of the sort,” replied
he; “he has been going about like that for months.” In the mean while I
could see people all the way down the street coming to the doors of the
shops, women getting out of the way, young girls covering their faces,
doors being shut, heads disappearing from the windows. And this thing
goes on every day, and no one so much as gives it a thought!

       *       *       *       *       *

On issuing from the Grande Rue de Pera we find ourselves opposite
another large Mussulman cemetery shaded by groves of cypress trees and
enclosed between high walls. Had we not been informed later on of the
reason for those walls, we should certainly never have guessed it. They
had evidently been quite recently erected, to prevent, it would seem,
the woods consecrated to the repose of the dead from being converted
into a trysting-spot where the soldiers from the neighboring artillery
barracks were wont to meet their sweethearts. A little farther on we
came upon the barracks, a huge, solid, rectangular structure, built
by Shalil Pasha in the Moorish style of the Turkish Renaissance, its
great portal flanked by light columns and surmounted by the crescent
and golden star of Muhammad, and having balconies and small windows
ornamented with carving and arabesques. In front of the barracks
runs the Rue Dgiedessy, a continuation of the Grande Rue de Pera, on
the other side of which stretches an extensive parade-ground; beyond
that, again, are other suburbs. During the week this neighborhood
is buried in the most profound silence and solitude, but on Sunday
afternoons it is crowded with people and equipages, all the gay world
of Pera pouring out to scatter itself among the beer-gardens, cafés,
and pleasure-resorts which lie beyond the barracks. It was in one of
these cafés that we broke our fast--the café _Belle Vue_, a resort of
the flower of Pera society, and well deserving its name, since from
its immense gardens, extending like a terrace over the summit of the
hill, you have, spread out before you, the large Mussulman village of
Fundukli, the Bosphorus covered with ships, the coast of Asia dotted
over with gardens and villages, Skutari with her glistening white
mosques--a luxuriance of color, green foliage, blue sea, and sky all
bathed in light, which form a scene of intoxicating beauty. We arose
at last unwillingly, and both of us felt like niggards as we threw our
eight wretched sous on the counter, the bare price of a couple of cups
of coffee after having been treated to that celestial vision.


Coming out of the Belle Vue, we found ourselves in the midst of the
Grand Champs des Morts, where the dead of every faith except the
Jewish are buried in distinct cemeteries. It is a vast, thick wood of
cypress, sycamore, and acacia trees, in whose shadow are thousands
of white tombstones, having the appearance, at a little distance, of
the ruins of some great building. In between the trunks of the trees
distant views are caught of the Bosphorus and the Asiatic coast. Broad
paths wind in and out among the graves, along which groups of Greeks
and Armenians may be seen passing to and fro. On some of the tombs
Turks are seated cross-legged, gazing fixedly at the Bosphorus. One
experiences the same delicious sense of refreshment and peace and rest,
as on entering a vast, dim cathedral on some hot summer’s day.

We paused in the Armenian cemetery. The stones here are all large,
flat, and covered with inscriptions cut in the regular and elegant
characters of the Armenian language, and on almost every one there
is some figure to indicate the trade or occupation of the deceased.
There are hammers, chairs, pens, coffers, and necklaces; the banker is
represented by a pair of weights and scales, the priest by a mitre,
the barber has his basin, the surgeon a lancet. On one stone we saw a
head detached from the body, which was streaming with blood: it was
the grave of either a murdered man or else one who had been executed.
Alongside it was stretched an Armenian, sound asleep, with his head
thrown back.

We passed on next to the Mussulman cemetery. Here were to be seen the
same multitude of little columns, either in rows or standing about in
irregular groups, some of them painted and gilded on top, those of the
women culminating in ornamental bunches of flowers carved in relief,
many of them surrounded with shrubs and flowering plants. As we stood
looking at one of them, two Turks, leading a child by the hand, passed
down the path to a tomb some little distance off, on reaching which
they paused, and, having spread out the contents of a package one of
them carried under his arm, they seated themselves on the tombstone
and began to eat. I stood watching them. When the meal was ended the
elder of the two wrapped what appeared to be a fish and a piece of
bread in a scrap of paper, and with a gesture of respect placed it in
a hole beside the grave. This having been done, they both lit their
pipes and fell to smoking tranquilly, while the child ran up and down
and played among the trees. It was explained to me later that the fish
and bread were that portion of their repast which Turks leave as a
sign of affection for relatives probably not long dead; the hole was
the small opening made in the ground near the head of every Mussulman
grave in order that the departed may hear the sobs and lamentations of
their dear ones left on earth, and occasionally receive a few drops of
rose-water or enjoy the scent of the flowers. Their mortuary smoke
concluded, the two pious Turks arose, and, taking the child once more
by the hand, disappeared among the cypress trees.


On coming out of the cemetery we found ourselves in another Christian
quarter--Pankaldi--traversed by wide streets lined with new buildings
and surrounded by gardens, villas, hospitals, and large barracks. This
is the suburb of Constantinople farthest away from the sea. After
having seen which, we turned back to redescend to the Golden Horn. On
reaching the last street, however, we came unexpectedly upon a new
and strikingly solemn scene. It was a Greek funeral procession, which
advanced slowly toward us between a dense and perfectly silent crowd
of people packed together on either side of the street. Heading the
procession came a group of Greek priests in their long embroidered
garments; then the archimandrite wearing a crown upon his head and
a long cape embroidered in gold; behind him were a number of young
ecclesiastics clad in brilliant colors, and a group of friends and
relatives, all wearing their richest garments, and in their midst the
bier, covered with flowers, on which lay the body of a young girl of
about fifteen dressed in satin and resplendent with jewels. The face
was exposed--such a dear little face, white as snow, the mouth slightly
contracted as if in pain, and two long tresses of beautiful black
hair lying across the shoulders and breast. The bier passes, the crowd
closes in behind the procession, which is quickly lost to sight, and we
find ourselves standing, sobered and thoughtful, in the midst of the
deserted street.


We now descended the hill, and, after crossing the dry bed of a
torrent and climbing up the ascent on the other side, found ourselves
in another suburb, San Dmitri. Here almost the entire population is
Greek. On every side may be seen black eyes and fine aquiline noses;
patriarchal-looking old men and slight, sinewy young ones; girls with
hair hanging down their backs, and bright intelligent-looking lads,
who disport themselves in the middle of the street among the chickens
and pigs, filling the air with their musical cries and harmonious
inflections. We approached a group of these boys who were engaged in
pelting one another with pebbles, all chattering at the same time.
One of them, about eight years old, the most impish-looking little
rascal of the lot, kept tossing his little fez in the air, every few
minutes calling out, “_Zito! zito!_” (Hurrah! hurrah!) Suddenly he
turned to another little chap seated on a doorstep near by, and cried,
“_Checchino! buttami la palla!_” (Checchino! throw me the ball).
Seizing him by the arm as though I were a gypsy kidnapper, I said,
“So you are an Italian?”--“Oh no, sir,” he answered; “I belong to
Constantinople.”--“Then who taught you to speak Italian?”--“Oh that?”
said he; “why, my mother”--“And where is your mother?” Just at that
moment, though, a woman carrying a baby in her arms approached, all
smiles, and explained to me that she was from Pisa, that she and her
husband, an engraver from Leghorn, had been in Constantinople for
eight years past, and that the boy was theirs. Had this good woman
had a handsome matronly face, a turretted crown upon her head, and a
long mantle floating majestically from her shoulders, she could not
have brought the image of Italy more forcibly before my eyes and mind.
“And how do you like living here?” I asked her. “What do you think of
Constantinople on the whole?”--“How can I tell?” said she, smiling
artlessly. “It seems to be like a city that--well, to tell you the
truth, I can never get it out of my head that it is the last day of
the Carnival;” and then, giving free rein to her Tuscan speech, she
explained to us that “_the Mussulman’s Christ is Mahomet_,” that a Turk
is allowed to marry four wives, that the Turkish language is admirable
for those who understand it, and various other pieces of equally
valuable information, but which, told in that language and amid those
strange surroundings, gave us more pleasure than the choicest bits of
news--so much so, indeed, that on parting we were fain to leave a small
monetary expression of our esteem in the hand of the little lad, and
exclaimed simultaneously as we walked off, “After all, there is nothing
that sets one up so as a mouthful of Italian now and then.”


Recrossing the little valley, we came to another Greek quarter,
Totaola, where our stomachs gave us a hint that this would be a
favorable moment in which to investigate the interior of one of those
innumerable restaurants of Constantinople, all of which, built on the
same plan, present the same extraordinary appearance. There is one
huge room, which might on occasion be turned into a theatre, lighted,
as a rule, only by the door through which you enter; around it runs
a high wooden gallery furnished with a balustrade. On one side is an
enormous stove at which a brigand in shirt-sleeves fries fish, bastes
the roast, mixes sauces, and devotes himself generally to the business
of shortening human life; at a counter on the other side another
forbidding-looking individual serves out red and white wine in glasses
with handles; in the middle and front of the apartment are low stools
without backs and little tables scarcely higher than the stools,
looking for all the world like cobblers’ benches. We entered with some
slight feeling of hesitation, not knowing whether the groups of Greeks
and Armenians of the lower orders already assembled might not evince
some disagreeable signs of curiosity; on the contrary, however, no one
deigned so much as to look at us. It is my belief that the population
of Constantinople is the least inquisitive of any on the face of the
globe. You must be the Sultan at least, or else promenade through the
streets without any clothes on, like the madman of Pera, for people to
show that they are so much as aware of your existence. Taking our seats
in a corner, we waited some time, but, as nothing happened, we finally
concluded that it must be the custom in Constantinopolitan restaurants
for every one to look out for himself. Advancing then boldly to the
stove, we each got a portion of the roast--Heaven only knows from what
quadruped--and then, providing ourselves with a glass apiece of the
resinous Tenedos wine, we returned to our corner, spread the repast out
on a table barely reaching to our knees, and, with a sidelong glance
at one another, fell to and consumed the sacrifice. After resignedly
settling the account we walked out in perfect silence, afraid on our
lives to open our lips for fear a bray or a bark should escape them,
and resumed our walk in the direction of the Golden Horn, somewhat
chastened in spirit.

[Illustration: Panorama of the Arsenal and Golden Horn.]


A walk of ten minutes brought us once more into real Turkey, the great
Mussulman suburb of Kassim Pasha, a city in itself, filled with mosques
and dervishes’ monasteries, which, with its kitchen-gardens and
shaded grounds, covers an entire hill and valley, and, extending
all the way to the Golden Horn, includes all of the ancient bay of
Mandsacchio, from the cemetery of Galata quite to the promontory
which overlooks the Balata quarter on the other shore. From the
heights of Kassim Pasha a most exquisite view is to be had. Beneath,
on the water’s edge, stands the enormous arsenal of Tersâne; beyond
it extends for more than a mile a labyrinth of dry-docks, workshops,
open squares, storehouses, and barracks, skirting all that part of the
Golden Horn which serves as a port of war. The admiralty building,
airy and graceful, seeming to float upon the surface of the water,
stands out clearly against the dark-green background of the Galata
cemetery; in the harbor innumerable small steamboats and käiks, crowded
with people, shoot in and out among the stationary iron-clads and old
frigates of the Crimea; on the opposite bank lie Stambul, the aqueduct
of Valens, bearing aloft its mighty arches into the blue heavens above,
the great mosques of Muhammad and Suleiman, and innumerable houses
and minarets. In order to take in all the details of this scene we
seated ourselves in front of a Turkish café and sipped the fourth or
fifth of the dozen or more cups of coffee which, whether you wish to
or not, you are bound to imbibe in the course of every day of your
stay in Constantinople. This café was a very unpretending place, but,
like all such establishments--Turkish ones, that is--most original,
probably differing but little from those very first ones started in
the time of Suleiman the Great, or those others into which the fourth
Murad used to burst so unexpectedly, cimeter in hand, when he made his
nocturnal rounds for the purpose of wreaking summary vengeance upon
venders of the forbidden beverage. What numbers of imperial edicts,
theological disputes, and bloody quarrels has this “enemy of sleep and
fruitfulness,” as it has been termed by ulemas of the strict school,
“genius of dreams and quickener of the mind,” as the more liberal sects
have it, been the cause of! And now, after love and tobacco, it is the
most highly prized of all luxuries in the estimation of every poor
Osman. To-day coffee is drunk on the summits of the Galata and Serasker
towers; you find it on the steamboats, in the cemeteries, in the
barber-shops, the baths, the bazârs. In whatever part of Constantinople
you may happen to be, if you merely call out, “Café-gi!” without taking
the trouble to leave your seat, in three minutes a cup is steaming
before you.


Our café was a large whitewashed room, with a wooden wainscoting five
or six feet high, and a low divan running around the four walls. In one
corner stood a stove at which a Turk with a hooked nose was making
coffee in little brass coffee-pots, from which he poured it into
tiny cups, adding the sugar himself: this is the universal custom in
Constantinople. The coffee is made fresh for every new-comer and handed
to him already sweetened, together with a glass of water, which the
Turk always drinks before approaching the cup to his lips. At one side
hung a small looking-glass, and beside it a rack filled with razors:
almost all the cafés in Constantinople are barber-shops as well, the
head of the establishment combining these duties with those of leech
and dentist, and operating upon his victims in the same apartment as
that in which his guests are drinking their coffee. On the opposite
wall hung another rack filled with crystal _narghilehs_, their long,
flexible tubes wound around like snakes, and terra-cotta pipes with
cherry-wood stems. Five Turks were seated on the divan thoughtfully
smoking their _narghilehs_, and in front of the door three others sat
upon very low straw-bottomed stools, their backs against the wall,
side by side, with pipes in their mouths; a youth belonging to the
establishment was engaged in shaving the head of a big, fat dervish
clad in a camel’s-hair tunic. No one looked up as we took our seats, no
one spoke, and, with the exception of the coffee-maker and the young
man, no one made the slightest movement of any sort. The gurgling
sound of the water in the _narghilehs_, something like the purring
of cats, was all that broke the profound stillness. Every one gazed
fixedly into vacancy, with faces absolutely devoid of all expression,
like an assembly of wax figures. How many just such scenes as this
have impressed themselves indelibly upon my mind! A wooden house, a
cross-legged Turk, broad shafts of light, an exquisite far-away view,
profound silence,--there you have Turkey. Every time I hear that word
pronounced these objects rise up before me in the same way that one
sees a canal and a windmill when any one mentions Holland.


From there, skirting along the edge of a large Mussulman cemetery which
extends from the top of the Kassim Pasha hill to Tersâne, we proceeded
again in a northerly direction, and, descending into the valley,
reached the little district of Piale Pasha, almost buried in her trees
and gardens, and paused before the mosque from which the quarter
takes its name. It is white and surmounted by six graceful domes; the
courtyard is surrounded by arches supported on airy columns; there is
a charming minaret, and surrounding the whole a circle of enormous
cypress trees. At that hour all the neighboring houses were tightly
closed, the streets empty, and even the courtyard of the mosque itself
deserted; the drowsiness and heat of noonday brooded over everything,
and, except for the dull buzzing of the insects, not a sound was to be
heard. Looking at our watches, we found it wanted just three minutes to
twelve o’clock, one of the Mussulman’s five canonical hours, at which
the _muezzin_, appearing upon the gallery of every minaret, announces
to the four quarters of the globe the religious formula of Islam. We
were perfectly well aware that in all Constantinople there is not a
minaret upon which, punctual as clockwork, the messenger of the Prophet
does not appear at his appointed hour; at the same time we could hardly
bring ourselves to believe that in that farthest outpost of the immense
city, on that solitary, out-of-the-way mosque as well, and amid that
profound silence and apparent desertion, the figure would rise up,
the message be delivered. Watch in hand, I stood waiting with lively
curiosity the stroke of the hour, glancing now at the minute-hand, now
at the small doorway opening out on the gallery of the minaret, about
as high from the ground as the fourth story of an ordinary house.
Presently the minute-hand reaches the sixtieth little black speck:
no one appeared. “He is not there,” said I.--“There he is,” replied
Yunk; and, true enough, there he stood. The balustrade of the gallery
concealed all his person but the face, of which the distance was too
great to distinguish the features clearly. For a few seconds he stood
perfectly motionless: then, closing both ears with his fingers and
raising his face toward heaven, he chanted slowly, in high, piercing
accents, solemnly, mournfully, the sacred words which at the same
moment were resounding from every minaret in Africa, Asia, and Europe:
“God is great! there is but one God! Mahomet is his Prophet! Come to
prayer! come and be saved! God is great! there is none other! Come to
prayer!” Then, proceeding a part of the way around the balcony, he
repeated the same words toward the north, then to the west, and then to
the east, and finally disappeared as he had come. At the same instant
we caught the faint far-away tones of a similar voice in the distance,
sounding like some one calling for help. Then all was still, and we
two were left standing motionless and silent, with a vague feeling of
hopelessness, as though those two voices had been addressed solely to
us, calling upon us to fall down and pray, and with the disappearance
of the vision we had been left alone in that still valley, like beings
abandoned by God and man. No tolling or chime of bells has ever
appealed to me so strongly, and I then understood for the first time
why it was that Mahomet decided in favor of the human voice as a means
of summoning the faithful to their devotions, rather than the ancient
trumpet of the Israelites or tymbal of the Christians. He hesitated for
some time before making up his mind, so that the entire Orient narrowly
escaped wearing an aspect totally different from that of the present
day. Had he selected the tymbal, which must inevitably have become a
bell later on, it is very certain that the minaret would have gone, and
with it would have disappeared for ever one of the most charming and
distinctive features of both town and country in the East.


Mounting the hill to the west of Piale Pasha, we reached a vast open
plain from which there is a view of Stambul and the entire length of
the Golden Horn from Eyûb to Seraglio Point, four miles of mosque and
garden--a scene so overpoweringly beautiful that one is tempted to
fall upon his knees as before some heavenly vision. On the Ok-Meidan
(Place of Arrows) the sultans used formerly to practise shooting with
the bow and arrow, after the custom of the Persian kings. A number
of small stone obelisks and pillars scattered about irregularly bear
inscriptions each to the effect that upon that spot some imperial arrow
has fallen. The beautiful kiosk is still standing from whose tribune
the sultan was wont to draw his bow; on the right were drawn up a
long line of pashas and beys, living exclamation-points indicative of
the admiration excited by their lord’s dexterity; to the left stood
a group of twelve pages belonging to the imperial family, whose duty
it was to run after and pick up the arrows, marking the spots on
which they fell; hidden behind the surrounding trees and shrubbery
a few venturesome Turks peeped out who had stolen thither to gaze
fearfully upon the sublime countenance of the vicar of God; while in
the tribune, in the attitude of some haughty athlete, stood the sultan
Mahmûd, the mightiest archer of the empire, his flashing eye compelling
the bystanders to avert their gaze, and that famous beard, black as
the raven’s feathers of Mt. Taurus, gleaming afar against the white
tunic all spotted with the blood of the Janissaries. All this has now
changed and become utterly commonplace. The Sultan practises with a
revolver in the courtyard of his palace, while Ok-Meidan is used by the
infantry for target-practice. On one side stands a dervish monastery,
on the other a solitary café, and the whole place is as melancholy and
deserted as a steppe.


Descending from the Ok-Meidan toward the Golden Horn, we came to
another little Mussulman quarter called Piri Pasha, possibly after the
famous vizier of the time of the first Selim, who educated Suleiman the
Magnificent. Piri Pasha faces the Jewish quarter of Balata, situated
on the opposite bank of the Golden Horn. We met nothing as we passed
through it except a few dogs and occasionally an old Turkish beggar; we
did not regret this, however, as it gave us an opportunity to examine
its construction at our leisure. It is a very curious fact that on
entering any quarter of Constantinople, after having seen it from the
water or some adjacent height, you invariably experience precisely the
same shock of astonishment as on going behind the scenes of a theatre
after having witnessed some beautiful spectacular effect from the
stalls. You are filled with amazement to find that the combination of
all these mean and ugly objects is what has just produced so charming
a whole. I suppose there is no other city in the world whose beauty is
so entirely dependent on general effect as Constantinople. Seen from
Balata, Piri Pasha is the prettiest little village imaginable, smiling,
radiant with color, decked with foliage, its charming image reflected
in the Golden Horn like the features of some beautiful nymph, awakening
dreams of love and pleasure in the breast. Enter it and the whole thing
changes: you find nothing but rude, mean little houses colored like
booths at a country fair, filthy courts looking like witches’ dens,
groups of dusty fig and cypress trees, gardens littered with rubbish,
narrow, deserted streets--dirt, misery, wretchedness. But run down the
hillside, jump into a käik, and give half a dozen strokes with the
oars, behold! the fairy city has reappeared, beautiful and fascinating
as before.


Continuing along the shore of the Golden Horn, we descended into
another suburb, vast, populous, wearing an entirely different aspect
from the last, and where we saw quite plainly, after taking half a
dozen steps, that we were no longer among Mussulmans. On all sides
dirty children covered with sores were rolling about on the ground;
bent, ragged old crones sat working with their skinny fingers in the
doorways, through which glimpses could be caught of dusky interiors
cluttered up with heaps of old iron and rags; men clad in long, dirty
cloaks, with tattered handkerchiefs wound around their heads, skulked
along close to the wall, glancing furtively about them; thin, meagre
faces peered out of the windows as we went by; old clothes dangled from
cords suspended between the houses; mud and litter everywhere. It was
Haskeui, the Jewish quarter, the Ghetto of the northern shore of the
Golden Horn, facing that on the other shore, with which, at the time
of the Crimean War, it was connected by a wooden bridge, all traces of
which have since disappeared. From here stretches another long chain
of arsenals, military schools, barracks, and drill-grounds, extending
nearly all the way to the end of the Golden Horn. But of these we
saw nothing, our heads and our legs having given out equally. Of all
that we had seen, there only remained a confused jumble of places and
people; it seemed as though we had been travelling for a week, and we
thought of far-away Pera with a slight sensation of home-sickness. At
this point we should certainly have turned back had not our solemn
compact made upon the bridge come into our minds, and Yunk, according
to his helpful custom, revived my drooping spirits by chanting the
grand march from _Aida_.


Forward, then! Traversing another Turkish cemetery and climbing
still another hill, we found ourselves in the suburb of Kaliji
Oghlu, inhabited by a mixed population. In this little city, at
every street-corner, you come upon a new race or a new religion. You
mount, descend, climb up, pass among tombs and mosques, churches and
synagogues. You skirt gardens and cemeteries, encounter handsome
Armenian women with fine matronly figures, slender Turkish ones who
steal a look at you through their veils; all around you hear Greek,
Armenian, Spanish--the Spanish of the Jews--and you walk on and on and
on. “After all, you know,” we say to one another, “Constantinople must
end somewhere.” Everything on earth has an end. We have been told so
ever since we were children. On and on and on, and now the houses of
Kaliji Oghlu grow fewer, woods begin to appear; there is but one more
group of dwellings. Quickening our pace, we passed them by, and at last


Merciful Heavens! what did we reach? Nothing in the world but another
suburb, the Christian settlement of Sudludji, built on a hill
surrounded by woods and cemeteries, the same hill at whose base was
formerly one end of the only bridge which in ancient times connected
the two banks of the Golden Horn. But this suburb, by a merciful
providence, was actually the last, and our excursion had finally come
to an end. Quitting the houses, we cast about us for some spot where
we might seek a little much-needed repose. Back of the village there
rises a bare, steep ascent, up which dragging our weary limbs, we
found before us the largest Jewish cemetery in Constantinople. It is a
vast open space, filled with innumerable flat gravestones, presenting
the desolate appearance of a city destroyed by an earthquake, and
unrelieved by a tree or flower or blade of grass, or even so much as
a footpath--a desert solitude as depressing to look upon as the scene
of some great disaster. Seating ourselves upon one of the tombs, we
turned in the direction of the Golden Horn, and while resting our tired
bodies feasted our eyes upon the superb panorama which lay spread out
before us. At our feet lay Sudludji, Kaliji Oghlu, Haskeui, Piri Pasha,
a chain of picturesque villages set in the midst of green gardens and
cemeteries and blue water; to the left, the solitary Ok-Meidan and the
hundred minarets of Kassim Pasha, and farther on the huge, indistinct
outlines of Stambul; beyond, fading away into the distant sky, the blue
line of the mountains of Asia; directly facing us on the opposite shore
of the Golden Horn lay the mysterious quarter of Eyûb, whose gorgeous
mausoleums, marble mosques, deserted streets, and shady inclines,
dotted with tombstones, could be clearly distinguished from where we
sat, rural-looking solitudes full of a melancholy charm; to the right
of Eyûb lay still other villages covering the hillsides and peeping
at their own reflections in the water; and then the final bend of the
Golden Horn, lost to view between two lofty banks covered with trees
and flowers.

Half asleep, exhausted in mind and body, we sat there, allowing our
eyes to wander at will over the whole exquisite scene; put all we had
done and seen to music, and chanted antiphonally a rigmarole of I don’t
know what nonsense; discussed the history of the dead man upon whose
tomb we were sitting; poked into an ant-hill with bits of straw; talked
of all manner of foolish and irrelevant things; asked ourselves from
time to time if it were really true that we were in Constantinople;
reflected upon the shortness of life and vanity of all human desires,
at the same time drawing in deep breaths of pleasure and delight; but
away down in the bottom of our secret souls we each realized through
it all that nothing on earth, no matter how charming and beautiful it
may be, can quite satisfy a man, provided he does not while enjoying it
feel in his the hand of the woman he loves.


Toward sunset we descended to the Golden Horn, and, taking our places
in a four-oared käik, had scarcely pronounced the word “Galata!” before
the graceful little boat was already in mid-stream. Of all varieties of
boats which skim over the surface of the water, there is certainly none
so delightful as the käik. Longer than the gondola, but narrower and
lighter, carved, painted, and gilded, it is without seats or rudder;
you sit in the bottom upon a cushion or bit of carpet, only your head
and shoulders visible above the sides; both ends are shaped alike, so
that it can be propelled in either direction, and it is easily upset
by any sudden movement. Shooting out from the shore like an arrow from
the bow, it seems to fly like a swallow, barely touching the water;
overtakes and passes all other craft, and disappears in the distance,
its bright and varied colors reflected in the waves like a dolphin
flying from its pursuer. Our oarsmen were a couple of good-looking
young Turks dressed in white trousers, light blue shirts, and red
fezzes, with bare arms and legs--a pair of lusty athletes of twenty
or so, bronzed, clean, cheerful, and frank. At each stroke the boat
bounds forward its whole length. Other käiks fly by, hardly seen before
they are lost sight of; we pass flocks of ducks; large covered barges
filled with veiled women; clouds of birds circle over our heads; from
time to time the tall sea-grass shuts out everything from view.

Seen thus from the other end of the Golden Horn and at that hour, the
city presents an entirely new aspect. The Asiatic coast, owing to the
bend of the shore, is entirely hidden, Seraglio Point shutting in the
Golden Horn as though it were a great lake. The hills on either bank
seem to have grown larger, and Stambul, far, far away, is a blending
of delicate blues and grays, huge and indistinct. Like an enchanted
city, it seems to float upon the water and lose itself among the
clouds. The käik flies on; the two banks recede, inlet after inlet,
grove after grove, suburb after suburb; our surroundings widen out.
The colors of the city grow dim, the horizon seems to be on fire, the
water is full of purple and gold reflections; on and on, until at last
a profound lethargy steals over us, a sense of boundless content, in
which we remain silent and happy, until finally the boatman is obliged
to call in our ears, “_Monsù! arrivar!_” before we can arouse ourselves
sufficiently to know where we are.


After giving a superficial glance over all of Constantinople, including
both banks of the Golden Horn, it seemed now time to penetrate into
the heart of Stambul, to explore that world-embracing, perpetual fair,
that hidden city, dim, mysterious, crammed with associations, wonders,
and treasures, which, extending from the Nùri Osmaniyeh to the Serasker
hill, is called The Great Bazâr.

We will start from the square in front of the Validêh Sultan mosque.
Here the epicurean reader may like possibly to pause long enough to
inspect the Baluk Bazâr, that fish-market famous ever since the days
of thrifty old Andronicus Palæologus, who, we are told, met the entire
culinary expenses of his court with the profits made from fish caught
only along the walls of the city, where, indeed, they are still most
plentiful, and, seen on one of its principal days, the Baluk Bazâr
would afford as succulent and tempting a subject for the author of the
_Ventre de Paris_ as one of those well-covered tables one sees in old
Dutch pictures. The venders, almost without exception Turks, are drawn
up all around the square behind their fish, which are spread out on
mats stretched upon the ground or else on long tables, around which
a crowd of customers and an army of dogs fight for precedence. Here
may be found the delicious mullet of the Bosphorus, four times the
size it attains to in our waters; oysters from the island of Marmora,
which the Greeks and Armenians alone understand how to cook properly,
broiling them on the live coals; sprats and tunnies, the salting of
which is an industry confined almost entirely to the Jews; anchovies,
which the Turks have learned how to put up in the Marseillaise fashion;
sardines, with which Constantinople provides the entire Archipelago;
the _loufer_, that most delicious of all the Bosphorus fish, which is
caught by moonlight; mackerel from the Black Sea, which make seven
invasions successively into the waters of the city, accompanied by a
noise so loud that it can be heard in the towns on both shores; the
colossal _isdaurid_; enormous sword-fish; turbots, or, as they are
called by the Turks, _kalkau-baluk_; shellfish, and a thousand and
one other varieties of the smaller kinds of fish which dart and frisk
about from one to the other of the two seas, chased by dolphins and
_falianos_, and preyed upon by innumerable kingfishers, from whose very
mouths the booty is often snatched by the _piombini_.

Cooks from great houses, old Mussulman bons-vivants, slaves, and young
employés from the various restaurants surround the tables, examine
the fish with a meditative air, bargain in monosyllables, and walk
off, each carrying his purchase suspended by a bit of twine, grave,
taciturn, self-contained as though it were the head of an enemy. By
mid-day the square is deserted and the venders have repaired to the
various cafés in the neighborhood, where they will sit with their backs
against the wall and the mouthpiece of a narghileh between their lips,
in a sort of waking sleep, until sunset.

To reach the Great Bazâr we take a street opening out of the
fish-market, so narrow that the projecting parts of the opposite houses
almost touch one another; on either side are rows of low, ill-lighted
tobacconist shops, that “fourth support of the tent of voluptuousness,”
coming after coffee, opium, and wine, or “the fourth of pleasure’s
couches,” as it is sometimes called. Like coffee, tobacco has been
blasted by imperial edicts and denounced by the _mufti_, with the
usual result of adding fresh zest to its use and making it a fruitful
source of tumult and punishment; and now this entire street is devoted
to traffic in it alone. The tobacco is displayed upon long shelves in
pyramids and round piles, each one surmounted by a lemon. All kinds
are to be found here: _latakia_ from Antioch; Seraglio tobacco as fine
and smooth as spun silk; tobacco for pipe and cigarette of every grade
of strength and flavor, from that smoked by the gigantic porter of
Galata to that used by the indolent _odalisques_ of the Seraglio to
put them to sleep. There is the _tombeki_, so powerful that it would
set the head of even a veteran smoker spinning did its fumes not reach
his mouth first purified by the water of the narghileh, and which
is kept in glass jars like a drug. The tobacconists are all Greeks
or Armenians, with ceremonious manners, somewhat inclined to give
themselves airs. The customers assemble before the shops in groups.
Many of them are employés of the various foreign ambassadors or of the
Seraskerat, and occasionally one sees some personage of importance. It
is a great place for gossip of all kinds; politics are discussed; the
doings of the great world talked over; and merely to walk through this
little, retired, aristocratic bazâr leaves a strong impression upon
one’s mind of the joys to be obtained from conversation _and_ tobacco.

We now pass beneath an old arched doorway festooned with vines, and
come out opposite a large stone edifice, from which opens a long,
straight, covered street lined with dimly-lighted shops and filled
with people, packing-boxes, and heaps of merchandise. Entering this,
we are immediately assailed by an odor so powerful as to fairly knock
one down: this is the Egyptian Bazâr, where are deposited all the wares
of India, Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, which later on, converted into
essences, pastilles, powders, and ointments, serve to color little
hands and faces, perfume apartments and baths and breaths and beards,
reinvigorate worn-out pashas, dull the senses of unhappy married
people, stupefy smokers, and spread dreams, oblivion, and insensibility
throughout the whole of the vast city. After going but a short distance
in this bazâr your head begins to feel dull and heavy, and you get out
of it as fast as you can; but the effect of that hot, close atmosphere
and those penetrating odors clings long to your clothing, and remains
for all time in your memory as one of the most vivid and characteristic
impressions of the East.

After escaping from the Egyptian Bazâr you pass among a crowd of noisy
coppersmiths’ shops, Turkish restaurants, from which issue endless
nauseous smells, and all manner of wretched booths, shops, and stands,
dark little dens containing trash of all sorts, and finally come to
the Great Bazâr itself, not, however, before you have been obliged to
defend yourself from a vigorous attack.

About a hundred feet from the main entrance there lie in ambush like so
many cutthroats the agents or middlemen of the merchants and the agents
of the agents. These fellows are so well up in their business that at a
single glance they learn not only that this is your first visit to the
bazâr, but usually make so clever a guess as to your nationality that
they rarely make a mistake in the language which they first address you

Approaching, fez in hand, they proceed, with an engaging smile, to
offer their services.

There usually then follows a conversation something like this: the
traveller, declining the proffered service, remarks,

“I do not propose to make any purchases.”

“Oh, sir, what difference does that make? I only want to show you the

“I don’t care to see the bazâr.”

“But I will escort you gratis.”

“I don’t wish to be escorted gratis.”

“Very well; then I will just go to the end of the street with you,
merely to give you certain points, which you will find very useful some
other day when you come to buy.”

“But suppose I don’t want to even hear you talk about buying?”

“Very well, then, let us talk about something else. How long have you
been in Constantinople? Is your hotel comfortable? Have you gotten
permits to visit the mosques?”

“But when I tell you that I don’t want to talk about anything--that I
wish, in short, to be alone--”

“All right; then I will leave you alone, and follow a dozen steps
behind you.”

“But why should you follow me at all?”

“Merely to prevent you from being cheated in the shops.”

“But I tell you I am not going into the shops.”

“Well, then, to save you from annoyance on the street.”

And so you must finally either pause to take breath and collect your
ideas, or else yield and allow him to accompany you.

There is nothing about the exterior of the Great Bazâr to either
attract the eye or give the faintest idea of what it is within. It is
an immense stone edifice in the Byzantine style, irregular in form and
surrounded by high gray walls, lighted by means of hundreds of small
lead-covered domes in the roof. The principal entrance is through a
high, vaulted doorway of no architectural pretensions. Outside, in the
neighboring streets, no sounds can be heard of what is going on within,
and half a dozen steps away from the entrance one might easily believe
that only silence and solitude reigned within those prison-like walls;
once inside, however, this delusion is quickly dispelled. You find
yourself not in a building at all, but in a labyrinth of streets with
vaulted roofs, lined with columns and carved pilasters--a veritable
city, with mosques and fountains, thoroughfares and open squares,
pervaded with the dim, subdued light of the forest, where no ray or
gleam of sunshine ever penetrates, and thronged with immense crowds of
people. Every street is a bazâr, generally leading out of the principal
thoroughfare--a street covered by a roof composed of white and black
stone arches and decorated with arabesques like the nave of a mosque.
Processions of horses, camels, and carriages pass up and down the
dimly-lighted streets, in the midst of the throng of foot-passengers,
with a deafening, reverberating noise. On all sides attempts are being
made by word and gesture to attract your attention. The Greek merchant
hails you with loud, imperious voice, while his Armenian rival, by
far the greater knave of the two, assumes a modest, retiring manner,
addressing you in soft, obsequious tones; the Jew murmurs gently in
your ear; while the Turk, silent and reserved as ever, squats on a
cushion in his doorway and contents himself with addressing you solely
with his eye, leaving the results to Fate. Ten voices appeal to you at
once: “Monsieur! captain! caballero! signore! eccelenza! kyrie! milor!”
Down every cross-street you catch glimpses of new vistas, long lines of
columns and pilasters, corridors, other streets opening out of these
again, arcades and galleries, confused far-off views of new bazârs,
shops, merchandise suspended on the walls and from the roofs, bustling
merchants, heavily-laden porters, figures of veiled women, noisy
groups, which constantly form, dissolve, and form again--a mingling of
sights, sounds, colors, and movement to set one’s head in a whirl. The
confusion, however, is only apparent: in reality, this enormous mart is
arranged with as much system and order as a barracks, and it takes but
a few hours for one to become sufficiently at home in it to find
his way to any object without difficulty or the help of a dragoman.
Every separate kind of merchandise has its own especial quarter,
its little street, corridor, and square; there are a hundred small
bazârs opening one into another like the rooms in some vast suite of
apartments, and each bazâr is at the same time a museum, a promenade,
a market, and a theatre, in which you can look at all without buying
anything, can drink your cup of coffee, enjoy the open air, chat in a
dozen different languages, and make eyes at the prettiest girls to be
found in the East.

[Illustration: Date Seller.]

Dropping at random into any one of these bazârs, half a day goes by
without your so much as knowing it: take, for instance, the bazâr
of stuffs and costumes. Here are displayed such a dazzling array of
beautiful and rare objects that you at once lose your head, to say
nothing of your purse, and the chances are that, should you in any
unguarded moment be tempted to satisfy some small caprice, you will end
by having to telegraph home for assistance. You pass between pyramids
and heaps of Bagdad brocades; rugs from Caramania; Brusa silks; India
linens; muslins from Bengal; shawls from Madras; Indian and Persian
cashmeres: the variegated fabrics of Cairo; gold-embroidered cushions;
silken veils striped with silver; striped blue and red gauze scarfs,
so light and transparent as to look like clouds; stuffs of every
variety of color and design, in which blue and green, crimson and
yellow, all the colors which disagree most violently, are combined and
blended together in a harmony so perfect and exquisite that you can
only gaze in open-mouthed admiration; table-covers of all sizes upon
whose background of red or white cloth are outlined intricate silken
designs of flowers, verses from the Koran, and imperial monograms,
which it would take a day to examine, like a wall in the Alhambra.
Here one has as good an opportunity to see and admire, one by one,
each of the various articles which go to make up the costume of a
Turkish lady as though it were the alcove of a harem, from the green
or orange or purple mantles which are thrown over everything in public
down to the silken chemise, gold-embroidered kerchief, and even the
satin girdle upon which no eye of man other than that of the husband
or eunuch is ever allowed to fall. Here may be seen red-velvet caftans
edged with ermine and covered with stars; yellow satin bodices;
trousers of rose-colored silk; white damask undervests thickly covered
with gold flowers; wedding veils sparkling with silver spangles;
little greencloth jackets edged with swan’s down; Greek, Armenian,
Circassian costumes of a thousand fantastic shapes, so thickly covered
with ornamentation as to be as hard and glittering as breastplates;
and mixed in with all this magnificence the sombre, commonplace,
serviceable stuffs of England and France, producing much the same
effect upon the mind as would the sight of a tailor’s bill introduced
into the pages of a volume of poems. If there is a woman anywhere in
the world whom you care for, you cannot walk through this bazâr without
longing to be a millionaire or else feeling the passion for plunder
blaze up within you, if only for a moment.

To free yourself from these unhallowed desires you have but turn a
little to one side and you find yourself in the pipe-bazâr, where the
soul is gently conducted back to more tranquil pastures. Here you come
upon collections of cherry, maple, rosewood, and jessamine pipes, and
of yellow amber mouth-pieces from the Baltic Sea, polished until they
shine like crystal, and of every grade of color and transparency, some
of them set with diamonds or rubies; pipes from Cæsarea, their stems
wrapped with silk and gold thread; tobacco-pouches from Lybia decorated
with many-colored lozenges and gorgeous embroidery; silver, steel, and
Bohemian glass narghilehs of exquisite antique shapes, engraved and
chased and studded with precious stones, their morocco tubes glittering
with rings and gilding, all wrapped in raw cotton and under the
constant surveillance of two glittering eyes whose gaze never wavers;
but let any one short of a vizier or a pasha who has spent years in
bleeding some province of Asia Minor approach, and the pupils dilate
in such a manner as to cause the modest inquiry as to the price to
die away upon one’s lips. Here the purchaser must be some envoy of the
sultana anxious to present a slight token of her appreciation to the
pliable grand vizier; or a high court dignitary, who on assuming the
cares of his new office is obliged, in order to maintain his dignity,
to expend the sum of fifty thousand francs upon a rack of pipes; or a
newly-appointed foreign ambassador who on departing for some European
court wishes to take to its royal master a magnificent memento of
Stambul. The Turk of modest means gazes mournfully upon these treasures
and passes by on the other side, paraphrasing for his consolation that
saying of the Prophet, “The flames of the infernal regions shall rage
like the bellowing of the camel in the stomach of him who shall _smoke
a pipe_ of gold or silver.”

Passing from here into the perfumery bazâr, we once more find ourselves
beset with temptations. It is one of the most distinctively Oriental
in character of all the bazârs, and its wares were very dear to the
heart of the Prophet, who classes together women, children, and
perfumes as the three things which gave him the greatest pleasure.
Here are to be had those famous Seraglio pastilles designed to perfume
kisses; packages of the scented gum prepared by the hardy daughters
of Chio to be used in strengthening the gums of delicate Mussulman
women; exquisite essence of jessamine and of bergamont and powerful
attar of roses, enclosed in red-velvet, gold-embroidered cases, and
sold at prices that make one’s hair stand on end; here can be bought
ointment for the eyebrows, antimony for the eyes, henne for the nails,
soap to soften the Syrian beauty’s skin, and pills to prevent hair
from growing on the face of the too masculine Circassian; cedar and
orange-water, scent-bags of musk, sandal oil, ambergris, aloes to
perfume cups and pipes--a myriad of different powders, pomatums, and
waters with fanciful names and destined to uses undreamed of in the
prosaic West, each one representing in itself some amorous fancy or
seductive caprice, the very refinement of voluptuousness, and exhaling,
all together, an odor at once penetrating and sensual, and dreamily
suggestive of great languid eyes, soft caressing hands, and the subdued
murmur of sighs and embraces.

These fancies are quickly dispelled on turning into the jewelry bazâr,
a narrow, dark, deserted street, flanked by wretched-looking little
shops, the last places on earth where one would expect to find the
fabulous treasures which, as a matter of fact, they do contain. The
jewels are kept in oaken coffers, hooped and bound with iron, which
stand in the front of the shops under the ever-watchful gaze of the
merchant, some old Turk or Hebrew with long beard, and piercing eyes
which seem to penetrate into the very recesses of your pocket and
examine the contents of your purse; occasionally one or another of
them, standing erect before his door, as you pass close by first
regards you fixedly in the eye, and then with a rapid movement flashes
before your face a diamond of Golconda, a sapphire from Ormus, or a
ruby of Gramschid, which at the slightest negative movement on your
part is as quickly withdrawn from sight. Others, circulating slowly
about, stop you in the middle of the street, and, after casting a
suspicious glance all around, draw forth from their bosoms a dirty bit
of rag in whose folds is hidden a fine Brazilian topaz or Macedonian
turquoise, watching like some tempting demon to see its effect upon
you. Others, again, after scrutinizing you closely, come to the
conclusion that you have not the precious-stones look, as it were, and
do not trouble themselves to offer you anything, and you may wear the
face of a saint or the airs of a Crœsus, and it will not avail to open
those oaken boxes. The opal necklaces, emerald stars and pendants,
the coronets and crescents of pearls of Ophir, the dazzling heaps of
beryls, agates, garnets, of crystals, aventurine, and lapis lazuli
remain inexorably hidden from the eyes of the curious, provided he has
no money, or, at all events, from those of a poor devil of an Italian
writer. The utmost such an one can accomplish is to ask the price of
a coral or sandal-wood or amber _tespi_ which he runs through his
fingers, as the Turk does, to pass away the time in the intervals of
his forced labors.

If you want to be really amused, though, just go into the Frankish
shops, those which deal in everything, and where there are goods to
suit all pockets. Hardly has your foot crossed the threshold before
a crowd of people spring up from you don’t know where, and in an
instant you are surrounded. It is out of the question to transact
your business with one single person. What between the merchant
himself, his partners, his agents, and the various hangers-on of the
establishment, you never have to do with less than a half dozen at
least. If you escape being floored by one, you are, so to speak, strung
up by another. There is no way by which final defeat can be warded
off. Words fail to describe their patience, art, and persistency,
the diabolical subterfuges to which they resort in order to force
you to buy what they choose. Finding everything put at an exorbitant
price, you offer a third, upon which they drop their arms in sign of
profound discouragement or beat their foreheads in dumb despair, or
else they burst into an impassioned torrent of appeal and expostulation
calculated to touch your feelings as a man and a brother. You are hard
and cruel; you are evidently determined to force them to close their
shops; your object is to reduce them to misery and want; you have no
compassion for their innocent children; they wonder plaintively what
injury they could ever have done you that you should be so bent upon
their ruin. While you are being told the price of an article an agent
from a neighboring shop hisses in your ear, “Don’t buy it; you are
being cheated.” Taking this for a piece of honest advice, you soon
discover that there is an understanding between him and the shopkeeper;
the information that you are being imposed upon in the matter of a
shawl is only given in order to fleece you far worse in the purchase
of a hanging. While you are examining the various articles they talk
in broken sentences among themselves, gesticulating, striking their
breasts, casting looks full of dark meaning. If you understand Greek,
the conversation is in Turkish; if you are familiar with that, it is in
Armenian; if you show any knowledge of Armenian, they employ Spanish;
but whatever language is adopted, they know enough of it to cheat you.
If after some time you still preserve an unbroken front, they begin
stroking you down--tell you how beautifully you talk their tongue; that
you have all the air and manner of a real gentleman; that they will
never be able to forget your attractive face. They talk of the land of
your birth, where they have passed so many happy years. They have, in
fact, been everywhere. Then they make you a cup of fresh coffee and
offer to accompany you to the custom-house when you leave in order to
interpose between you and the overbearing authorities; which means,
being interpreted, in order to secure a final opportunity for cheating
you and your fellow-travellers, in case you may have any. They turn
their whole shop upside down for you, and should you finally leave
without having bought anything, you get no black looks, as they have a
sustaining conviction that the harvest is only deferred; if not to-day,
then some other day: you are certain to return to the bazâr, when their
bloodhounds will scent you out, and should you escape falling into
their clutches, you will undoubtedly be caught in the toils of one of
their associates; if they do not fleece you as shopkeepers, they will
flay you as agents; if they fail to overreach you in the bazâr, they
will get the better of you at the custom-house. Of what nationality
are these men? No one knows: by dint of having a smattering of so many
different languages they have lost their original accent, and the
constant habit of acting a part has ended by altering the natural lines
of their faces to such a degree as to efface their national traits.
They belong to any race you choose, and their profession is whatever
you may have need of at the moment--shopkeeper, guide, interpreter,
money-lender, and, above all, past master in the art of gulling the

The Mussulman shopkeepers present an altogether different field
of observation. Among them may still be found examples of those
venerable Turks, rarely enough to be seen now-a-days in the streets
of Constantinople, who look like living representatives of the days
of the Muhammads and Bayezids, remnants left intact of that mighty
Ottoman edifice whose walls received their first rude shock in the
reforms of Mahmûd, and which since then, year by year, stone by stone,
have been crumbling into ruins. One must now go to the Great Bazâr
and search in the dimmest shops of the most obscure streets to behold
those enormous turbans of the time of Suleiman, shaped like the dome
of a mosque, and beneath them the impressive face, the expressionless
eye, hooked nose, long white beard, antique purple or orange caftan,
full, plaited trousers confined about the waist by a huge sash, and
the haughty and melancholy bearing of a once all-powerful people. With
expressions dulled by opium or lighted up with the fire of fanaticism,
they sit all day in the backs of their dens with crossed legs and
folded arms, calm and unmoved like idols, awaiting with closed lips
the predestined purchaser. If business is brisk, they murmur, “_Mach
Allah!_” (God be praised!); if dull, “_Ol-sun!_” (So be it!), and bow
their heads resignedly. Some employ their time in reading the Koran;
others run the beads of the _tespi_ through their fingers, murmuring
under their breath the hundred epithets of Allah; others, whose affairs
have prospered, _drink their narghilehs_, as the Turks express it,
slowly revolving around them their sleepy, voluptuous-looking eyes;
others sit with drooping lids and bent brow in an attitude of profound
meditation. Of what are they thinking? Possibly of their sons killed
beneath the walls of Sebastopol, of their far-off caravans, of the
lost pleasures of youth, or possibly of the eternal gardens promised
by the Prophet, where, in the shade of the palm and the pomegranate,
they will espouse those dark-eyed brides never yet profaned by mortal
or geni. There is about each individual one of them something striking
and original, and all are picturesque. The shop forms a framework for
a picture full of color and suggestion; one’s mind is instantly filled
with images taken from history or what is known of the domestic life
of this strange people. This spare, bronzed man with a bold, alert
expression is an Arab; he has led his train of camels laden with gems
and alabaster from the interior of his far-off country, and more than
once has felt the balls of the robbers of the desert whiz past him.
This one in the yellow turban, bearing himself with an air of command,
has crossed the solitudes of Syria on horseback, carrying with him
treasures of silk from Tyre and Sidon. Yonder negro, with his head
enveloped in an old Persian shawl, is from Nubia; his forehead is
covered with scars made by magicians to preserve him from death, and he
holds his head aloft as though still beholding before him the Colossus
of Thebes or summits of the Pyramids. This good-looking Moor, with his
black eyes and pallid skin, wrapped in a long snow-white cloak, has
carried his _caic_ and his carpets from the uttermost western limits of
the Atlas chain. That green-turbaned Turk, with the emaciated face,
has this very year returned from the great pilgrimage. After seeing
relatives and companions die of thirst amid the interminable plains of
Asia Minor, he finally reached Mecca in the last stages of exhaustion,
and, after dragging himself seven times around the _Kaaba_, finally
fell half swooning upon the Black Stone, covering it with impassioned
kisses. This giant with a pale face, arched brows, and piercing eyes,
who has far more the air of a warrior than of a merchant, his entire
bearing breathing nothing but pride and arrogance, has brought his
furs hither from the northern regions of the Caucasus, and in his day
struck at a blow the head from off the shoulders of more than one
Cossack. And this poor wool-merchant, with his flat face and small
oblique eyes, active and sinewy as an athlete, it is not so long since
he was saying his prayers in the shadow of that immense dome which
rises above the sepulchre of Tamerlane. Starting from Samarcand, he
crossed the desert of Great Bûkharia, and, passing safely through the
midst of the Turkoman hordes, crossed the Dead Sea, escaped the balls
of the Circassians, and, after returning thanks to Allah in the mosques
of Trebizond, has at last come to seek his fortune in Stambul, from
whence, as he grows old, he will surely return once more to his beloved
Tartary, which always claims the first place in his heart.

The shoe bazâr is one of the most resplendent of all, and possibly
fills the brain more than any other with wild longings and riotous
desires. It consists of two glittering rows of shops, which make the
street in which it is situated look like a suite of royal apartments
or like one of those gardens in the Arabian fairy-stories where the
fruit trees are laden with pearls and have golden leaves. There are
shoes enough there to supply the feet of every court in Europe and
Asia. The walls are completely covered with slippers of the sauciest
shapes and most striking and fanciful colors, made out of skins,
velvet, brocade, and satin, ornamented with filigree-work, gold,
tinsel, pearls, silken tassels, swan’s down; flowered and starred in
gold and silver; so thickly covered with intricate embroidery as to
completely hide the original texture; and glittering with emeralds and
sapphires. You can buy shoes there for the boatman’s bride or for the
Seraglio belle; you may pay five francs a pair or a thousand. There are
morocco shoes destined to walk the paved streets of Pera, and beside
them Turkish slippers which will one day glide over the thick carpets
of some pasha’s harem; light wooden shoes which will resound on the
marbles of the imperial baths; tiny slippers of white satin on which
ardent lovers’ kisses will be showered; and it may well be that yonder
pair encrusted with pearls will some day stand beside the couch of the
Padishâh himself, awaiting the pretty feet of some beautiful Georgian.
But how, you ask yourself, is it possible for any feet to get into
such tiny little receptacles? Some of them seem intended to fit the
houris and fairies--long as the leaf of a lily, wide as the leaf of
a rose, of such dimensions as to throw all Andalusia into despair;
graceful as a dream--not slippers at all, but jewels, toys, objects
to stand on one’s table full of bonbons or to keep billetsdoux in.
Once allow your imagination to dwell upon the foot which could wear
them, and you are seized with an insane desire to behold it yourself,
to stroke and caress it like some pretty plaything. This bazâr is one
of those most frequented by strangers: it is not unusual to encounter
young Europeans wandering about with slips of paper in their hands upon
which are inscribed the measurements of some small French or Italian
foot, of which they are possibly quite proud, and it is amusing to
see their faces fall and the look of incredulous astonishment which
follows the discovery that some slipper which has attracted their fancy
is far too small; while others, having asked the price of a pair they
had thought of buying, receive so overwhelming a reply that they make
off without a word. Here, too, may sometimes be seen Mussulman ladies
(_hanum_) with long white veils, and one can often catch, in passing,
fragments of their lengthy dialogues with the shopkeepers, brief
sentences of that beautiful language, uttered in sweet, clear tones,
which fall upon the ear like the notes of a mandolin: “_Buni catscia
verersin!_” (How much is this?) “_Pahalli dir_” (It is too high).
“_Ziade veremem_” (I won’t pay any more). And then a childish, ringing
laugh, which makes you feel like patting them on the head or pinching
their cheeks.

But the richest and most picturesque of all is the armory bazâr. It is
more like a museum, really, than a bazâr, overflowing with treasures
and filled with objects which at once transport the imagination
into the realms of history and legend. Every sort and shape of
weapon is there, fantastic, horrible, cruel-looking, which has ever
been brandished in defence of Islamism from Mecca to the Danube,
polished and set out in warlike array, as though but now laid down
by the fanatical soldiery of Muhammad and Selim. You seem to see the
glittering eyes of those formidable sultans, those savage Janissaries,
those _spahis_ and _azabs_, drunk with blood, amid the gleaming
blades--those _silidars_, to whom pity and fear were alike unknown,
and who strewed Europe and Asia Minor with severed heads and stiffened
corpses. Here are displayed those renowned cimeters capable of cutting
through a floating feather or striking off the ears of audacious
ambassadors; those heavy Turkish daggers which cleaved downward at
a blow from the skull to the very heart; mighty clubs which crashed
through Servian and Hungarian helmets; _yataghans_, their handles
inlaid with ivory and encrusted with amethysts and rubies, and on
their blades the engraved record of the number of heads they have cut
off; poniards with silver, velvet, or satin sheaths and agate or ivory
handles set with coral, turquoise, and garnets, inscribed in golden
lettering with verses from the Koran, their blades curved backward as
though feeling for a heart. Who can tell whether amid all this strange
and terrible array there may not be the cimeter of Orcano or the sabre
with which the powerful arm of the warrior-dervish Abd-el-Murad struck
off the heads of his enemies at a single blow; or that famous yataghan
with which Sultan Moussa clove asunder the body of Hassan from shoulder
to heart; or the huge cimeter of the Bulgarian giant who set the first
ladder in place against the walls of Constantinople; or the club with
which Muhammad II. felled his rapacious soldiers beneath the roof of
St. Sophia; or the mighty Damascus sabre with which Scanderbeg cut down
Firuzi Pasha beneath the walls of Stetigrad? All the most horrible
massacres and blood-curdling murders of Ottoman history, revolts of
the Janissaries, and black deeds of treachery come crowding into one’s
mind at the mere sight of these terrific weapons, and one fancies that
bloodstains can be detected upon the gleaming blades, and that those
old Turks lurking in the dim recesses of their shops have gathered
them from the field of battle--yes, and the bodies of their owners
as well--and that even now their shattered skeletons are occupying
some obscure corner close at hand. In among the arms are great blue
and scarlet velvet saddles, worked with gold stars and crescents and
embroidered in pearls, with plumed frontals and chased silver bits;
saddle-cloths magnificent as royal mantles; trappings which remind one
of the _Thousand and One Nights_, seemingly intended for the use of a
king of the genii making his triumphal entry into a golden city in the
land of dreams. Suspended on the walls above all these treasures are
antique firelock muskets, clumsy Albanian pistols, long Arabian guns
worked and chased like pieces of jewelry; ancient shields made out of
bark, tortoise-shell, or hippopotamus skin; Circassian armor, Cossack
shields, Mongolian head-pieces, Turkish bows, executioners’ axes, great
blades of uncouth shape and full of horrible suggestions, each one of
which seems to bear witness to a crime committed, and brings before one
frightful visions of death-agonies.

Seated cross-legged in the midst of all these objects of magnificence
and horror are the merchants who, of all those to be found in the Great
Bazâr, present the most striking and distinctive examples of the true
Mussulman. They are, for the most part, old, of forbidding aspect, lean
as anchorites, haughty as sultans, belonging apparently to another age
and wearing the dress of a bygone era: it would seem as though they
had arisen from the dead for the purpose of recalling their degenerate
descendants to the forgotten austerities of their ancient race.

Another spot well worth seeing is the old-clothes bazâr. Rembrandt
would simply have taken up his abode here, and Goya have expended his
last _peseta_. Any one who has never been in an Oriental second-hand
shop can form no idea of the variety and richness of the rags, pomp
of color, and irony of contrast to be found in them--a sight at once
fantastic, melancholy, and repellent. They are a sort of rag-sewer, in
which the refuse of harem, barrack, court, and theatre await together
the moment when some artist’s caprice or beggar’s necessity shall once
more call them forth into the light of day. From long poles fastened
to the walls depend antique Turkish uniforms, swallow-tailed coats,
fine gentlemen’s cloaks, dervishes’ tunics, Bedouins’ mantles, all
greasy, torn, and faded, looking as though they had been taken by force
from their former owners, and strongly resembling the booty found on
footpads and assassins which may be seen on exhibition in the Court of
Assizes. In among all these rags and tatters one catches the glitter of
an occasional bit of gold embroidery; old silk scarfs and turbans, all
unwrapped, dangle to and fro; a rich shawl with ragged edges; a velvet
corsage looking as though some rude hand had torn off its trimming
of pearls and fur; slippers and veils which may once have belonged
to some beautiful sinner, whose body, sewn up in a bag, now sleeps
quietly enough beneath the rippling waters of the Bosphorus;--these
and countless other feminine garments and adornments, of all manner of
charming shapes and colors, hang imprisoned between rough Circassian
caftans, long black Jewish capes, rusty cartridge-boxes, heavy cloaks
and coarse tunics beneath whose folds who knows how often the bandit’s
musket or dagger of the assassin may have been hidden? On toward
evening, when the subdued light from the roof above becomes still
more uncertain, all these garments, as they sway back and forth in
the wind, assume the look and air of human bodies strung up there by
some murderer’s hand, and just then, as your eye catches the sinister
glance of one of those old Jews seated watchfully in the rear of his
gloomy den of a shop, you cannot avoid fancying that the skinny claw
with which he scratches his forehead can be no other than the one
which tightened the rope--a soothing idea which causes you to glance
involuntarily over your shoulder to see if the entrance to the bazâr is
still open.

One day of wandering here and there will not suffice if you really
wish to see every part of this strange city. There is the fez bazâr,
in which are to be found fezzes of every country in the world, from
that of Morocco to the Vienna fez, ornamented with inscriptions from
the Koran, which serve to ward off evil spirits; the fez which is
worn perched on the tops of their heads by the pretty Greek girls
of Smyrna, surmounting their coils of black hair intertwined with
coins; the little red fez of the Turkish women; soldiers’, generals’,
sultans’, dandies’ fezzes, of all shades of red and every style, from
the primitive ones worn in the days of Orcano to the large and elegant
fez of Mahmûd, emblem of reform and an abomination in the eyes of
Mussulmans of the old school.

Then there is the fur bazâr, where may be seen the sacred fur of the
black wolf, which at one time none but the Sultan himself and his grand
vizier were allowed to wear; the marten, used to trim state caftans;
skins of white and black bears; astrakhan, ermine, blue wolf, and rich
sable skins, upon which in old times the sultans would expend fabulous
sums of money.

Then the cutlery bazâr is worth a visit, if only to examine those huge
Turkish shears whose bronzed and gilded blades, adorned with fantastic
designs of birds and flowers, open with a murderous sweep wide enough
to swallow up entirely the head of an unfavorable critic.

There are the gold-thread embroidery, china, household utensils, and
tailors’ bazârs, all differing from one another in size, shape, and
character, but all in one respect alike, that in none of them do you
ever see a woman either attending to the customers or working apart. At
the very most, it may occasionally happen that a Greek woman, seated
for a moment in front of some tailor’s shop, will timidly offer to
sell you a handkerchief she has just finished embroidering. Oriental
jealousy forbids shopkeeping to the fair sex, as offering too wide a
field for coquetry and intrigue.

In other parts of the Great Bazâr it is as well for a stranger not
to venture unless he is accompanied by a dragoman or one of the
shopkeepers. Those are the interior parts of the various districts
into which this strange city is divided--the islands, as it were,
about which wind and twist the rapid currents of streets and byways.
If it is a difficult matter to keep from losing your way among the
main thoroughfares, in here it is quite impossible. From passage-ways
scarcely wider than a man’s shoulders, where it is necessary to
stoop to avoid striking your head, you come out upon tiny courtyards
encumbered with bales and boxes, where hardly so much as a single ray
of light can penetrate. Feeling your way down flights of wooden steps,
you come to other courts lighted only by lanterns, from which you
descend below ground, or, climbing up again into what passes for the
light of day, stumble with bent head through long, winding corridors,
beneath damp roofs and between black and moss-grown walls, to come at
last upon some small hidden doorway, and suddenly find yourself exactly
where you started. Everywhere shadowy forms are seen coming and going;
dusky shapes stand immovable in dark corners, outlines of persons
handling merchandise or counting money; lights which flash ahead of you
at one moment, and the next, disappear; a sound of hurrying footsteps,
of low, eager voices, coming from you don’t know where; reflections
thrown from unseen lights; suspicious encounters; strange odors like
those one might expect to escape from a witch’s cave; and apparently
no possible means of escape from it all. The dragoman is very apt to
conduct his victim through these quarters on his way to those shops,
usually somewhat apart, which contain a little of everything, like
Great Bazârs in miniature or a superior sort of second-hand shop,
extremely curious and interesting, but extremely perilous as well,
since they contain such a variety of rare and attractive objects as to
woo the money out of the pocket of the veriest miser. The shopkeepers
here are great solemn knaves, thoroughly well versed in every art
appertaining to their business, and, polyglot like their brothers of
the trade, have a certain dramatic power which they employ in the most
entertaining manner to tempt people to buy, sometimes rising to the
level of genuinely good acting. Their shops usually consist of dark
little holes cluttered up with boxes and chests of drawers, where
lights have to be lit in order to see anything, and there is barely
enough space to turn around in. After displaying a few trifles inlaid
with ivory and mother-of-pearl, some bits of Chinese porcelain, a
Japanese vase or two, and some other things of the same sort, the
shopkeeper informs you with an impressive air that he sees what sort
of person you are, and will now bring out something especially suited
to you. He then proceeds to pull out a certain drawer, whose contents
he empties upon the table. There are all manner of knick-knacks and
gewgaws--a peacock-feather fan, a bracelet made of old Turkish coins,
a little leather cushion with the Sultan’s monogram embroidered upon
it in gold, a Persian hand-glass painted with a scene from the _Book
of Paradise_, one of those tortoise-shell spoons with which Turks
eat cherry compôte, an ancient decoration of the Order of Osmanieh.
You don’t care for any of these, either? Very well. He turns out the
contents of another, and this is a drawer which, as a matter of fact,
was being reserved for your eye alone. There is a broken elephant’s
tusk; a Trebizond bracelet, looking as though it had been made from a
lock of silver hair; a Japanese idol; a sandal-wood comb from Mecca; a
large Turkish spoon, chased and filigreed; an antique silver narghileh,
gilded and inscribed; bits of mosaic from St. Sophia; a heron’s
feather, which once ornamented the turban of Selim III.: for the truth
of this last statement the merchant, as a man of honor, is willing to
vouch. And still there is nothing which suits your fancy? Here, then,
is another drawer, crammed full of treasures--an ostrich egg from
Sahara; a Persian inkstand; a chased ring; a Mingrelian bow, with its
quiver made out of an elk’s skin; a Circassian two-pointed head-piece;
a jasper rosary; a smelling-bottle of beaten gold; a Turkish talisman;
a camel-driver’s knife; a box of _attar-gul_. In Heaven’s name, is
there still nothing that tempts you? Have you no presents to make? no
beloved relatives? no dear friends? Perhaps, though, your tastes run
to stuffs and carpets. Well, here too he can assist you as a friend.
“Behold, milor, this striped Kurdistan mantle, this lion skin; yonder
rug is from Aleppo, with its little steel fastenings, while this
_Casablanca_ carpet, three fingers thick, is guaranteed to last for
four generations; here, Your Excellency, are old cushions, old brocade
scarfs, old silken coverlids, a little faded, a little frayed out at
the edges, it is true, but such embroidery as you could not get in
these days, even if you were to offer a fortune. You, _caballero_, have
been brought here by a friend of mine, and for that reason I am going
to let you have this ancient sash for the sum of five napoleons, and
live myself on bread and garlic for one week in order to make up the
loss.” Should even this magnificent offer fail to move you, he whispers
in your ear that he has in his possession, and is moreover willing to
sell, the very rope with which the terrible Seraglio mutes strangled
Nassuh Pasha, Muhammad Third’s grand vizier. And if you laugh in his
face and decline to swallow it, he gives it up at once like a sensible
man, and proceeds to make his final effort, displaying before you, in
rapid succession, a horse’s tail such as were once carried before and
after every pasha; a janissary’s helmet, spattered with blood, which
his own father picked up on the day of the famous massacre; a scrap of
one of the flags carried in the Crimea, showing the silver star and
crescent; a wash-basin studded with agates; a brazier of beaten copper;
a dromedary-collar with its shells and bells; a eunuch’s whip made of
hippopotamus leather; a gold-bound Koran; a Khorassan scarf; a pair of
slippers from a kadyn’s wardrobe; a candlestick made from the claw of
an eagle,--until at length your imagination is fired. The longing to
possess breaks forth, and you are seized with a mad impulse to throw
down your purse, watch, overcoat, everything you have, and fill your
pockets with booty. One must indeed be an uncommonly well-balanced
person, a very mountain of wisdom, to be able to withstand the
temptations of this place, whence many an artist has come forth as poor
as Job, and where more than one rich man has thrown away his fortune.

But before the Great Bazâr closes let us take a turn around to see how
it looks at the end of the day. The crowd moves along more hurriedly;
shopkeepers call out to you and gesticulate more imperiously than ever;
Greeks and Armenians run through the streets calling aloud, with
shawls or rugs hung over their arms, or form into groups, bargaining
and discussing as they move about, then break up and form again into
other groups farther off; horses, carriages, beasts of burden, all
moving in the direction of the gateway, pass by in endless files. At
this hour all those tradespeople with whom you have had fruitless
negotiations during the day start to life again, circling around you
in the dusk like so many bats: you see them peeping out from behind
columns; come suddenly upon them at every turn; they cross in front
of you or pass close by you gazing abstractedly in the air, to remind
you by their presence of that certain rug or that bit of jewelry, and,
if possible, reawaken your desire to possess it. Sometimes you are
followed by a whole troop of them at once: if you stop, they do the
same; if you slip down a side street, you find them there before you;
turning suddenly, you are aware of a dozen sharp eyes fixed upon you
which seem to fairly devour you whole. But already the fading light
warns the crowd to disperse. Beneath the vaulted roof can be heard the
voice of an invisible muezzin announcing the sunset from some wooden
minaret. Some Turks have spread strips of carpet in the street before
their shop-doors and are murmuring the evening prayer; others perform
their ablutions at the fountains. The centenarians of the armor bazâr
have already shut to their great iron doors; the smaller bazârs are
empty; the farther ends of the corridors are lost in shadow, and the
openings of the side streets look like the mouths of caves. Camels
suddenly loom up close to you in the uncertain light; the voices of the
water-carriers echo distantly among the arched roofs; the Turk quickens
his step and the eunuch’s eyes grow more alert; strangers are seen
hurrying away; the entrance is closed; the day ended.

And now on all sides I can hear the questions: What about St. Sophia?
and the old Seraglio? and the Sultan’s palaces? and the Castle of the
Seven Towers? and Abdul-Aziz? and the Bosphorus. All in good time: each
one of them shall be fully described in turn, but for still a little
while longer let us wander here and there about the city, touching at
every page upon some new theme just as some new idea strikes our fancy
at every step.



[Illustration: View of Stamboul. Mosque of Validêh and Bridge.]

And first of all I must speak of the light. One of my chief pleasures
at Constantinople was to watch the sun rise and set from the bridge of
the Validéh Sultan. At daybreak in the autumn there is almost always
a light fog hanging over the Golden Horn, through which the city can
only be seen indistinctly, as though one were looking through those
thin gauze curtains which are lowered across the stage of a theatre in
order to hide the details of some grand spectacular effect. Skutari
is quite invisible; only her hills, a vague outline, can be faintly
traced against the eastern sky. The bridge, as well as both banks, is
deserted. Constantinople is buried in slumber, and the profound silence
and solitude lend solemnity and impressiveness to the scene. Presently
behind the Skutari hills the sky begins to show streaks of gold, and,
one by one, against that luminous background, the inky points of the
cypress trees stand out clear and defined, like a company of giants
drawn up in battle-array on the heights of her vast cemetery. Now a
single ray of light flashes from one end to the other of the Golden
Horn, like the first faint sigh of returning consciousness, as the
great city stirs and slowly awakens once more to life. Then, behind
the cypresses on the Asiatic shore, a fiery eye shines forth, and
immediately upon the white summits of St. Sophia’s four minarets an
answering blush is seen. In rapid succession from hill to hill, from
mosque to mosque, to the farthest end of the Golden Horn, every minaret
turns to rose, every dome to silver. The crimson flush creeps down
from one terrace to another; the light increases, the veil is lifted,
and all of Stambul lies revealed, rosy and resplendent on the heights,
tinged with blue and violet shadows on the water’s edge, but everywhere
fresh and sparkling as though just risen from the waves. In proportion
as the sun rises higher and higher the delicacy of the first coloring
disappears, swallowed up in the flood of dazzling light, which becomes
so white and blinding as in turn to slightly obscure everything, until
toward evening, when the glorious spectacle recommences. So clear does
the atmosphere then become that from Galata you can easily distinguish
each separate tree on the farthermost point of Kadi-keui. The huge
profile of Stambul is thrown out against the sky with such distinctness
and accuracy of detail that it would be quite possible to note one
by one every minaret, every spire and cypress tree, that crowns her
heights from Seraglio Point to the cemetery of Eyûb. The waters of
the Bosphorus and Golden Horn turn to a marvellous ultramarine; the
sky, of the color of amethysts in the east, grows fiery as it reaches
Stambul, lighting up the horizon with a hundred tints of crimson and
gold, making one think of the first day of creation. Stambul grows
dim, Galata golden, while Skutari, receiving the full blaze of the
setting sun upon her thousand casements, looks like a city devoured
by flames. And this is the most perfect moment in all the twenty-four
hours in which to see Constantinople. It is a rapid succession of the
most exquisite tints--pale gold, rose, and lilac--mingling and blending
one with another on the hillsides and water’s surface, lending to
first one part of the city and then to another the finishing touch
to its perfect beauty, and revealing a thousand modest charms of
hill- and country-side, which were too shy to thrust themselves into
notice beneath the blaze of the noonday sun. It is then that you see
the great melancholy suburbs losing themselves amid the shadows of
the valleys--little purple-tinted hamlets smiling on the hilltops;
towns and villages which languish and droop as though their life were
ebbing away; others disappear from view, as you look at them, like
fires which have been suddenly extinguished; others, again, apparently
quite dead, come unexpectedly to life again, all aglow, and sparkle
joyously for still some moments longer in the last rays of the sun.
Finally, however, nothing remains but two shining summits on the
Asiatic shore--Mt. Bûlgurlù and the point of the cape which guards the
entrance to the Propontis. At first they are two golden coronets, then
two little crimson caps, then two rubies; and then Constantinople is
plunged in shadow, while ten thousand voices from ten thousand minarets
announce that the sun has set.


Constantinople possesses a grace and gayety all her own emanating from
her myriads of birds of every species, objects of especial veneration
and affection among the Turks. Mosque and grove, ancient wall and
garden, palace and courtyard, are full of song, of the cheerful sound
of twittering and chirping; everywhere there is the rush of wings,
everywhere the busy, active little lives go on. Sparrows come boldly
into the houses and eat from the women’s and children’s hands; swallows
build their nests over the doorways of cafés and beneath the roofs of
bazârs; innumerable flocks of pigeons, maintained by means of legacies
from different sultans as well as private individuals, form black and
white garlands around the cornices of the domes and terraces of the
minarets; gulls circle joyously about the granaries; thousands of
turtle-doves bill and coo among the cypress trees in the cemeteries;
all around the Castle of the Seven Towers ravens croak and vultures
hover significantly; kingfishers come and go in long lines between the
Black Sea and Sea of Marmora; while storks may be seen resting upon
the domes of solitary mausoleums. For the Turk each one of these birds
possesses some pleasing quality or lucky influence. The turtle-dove is
the patron of lovers; the swallow will protect from fire any building
where her nest is built; the stork performs a yearly pilgrimage to
Mecca; while the halcyon carries the souls of the faithful to Paradise.
Hence they feed and protect them both from religious motives and from
gratitude, and in return the birds make a continual festival around
their houses, on the water, and among the tombs. In every quarter of
Stambul they soar and circle about, grazing against you in their noisy
flights, and filling the entire city with something of the joyous
freedom of the open country, constantly bringing up before one’s mind
images of nature.


In no other city of Europe do the sites and monuments, either legendary
or historical, act so forcibly upon the imagination as at Stambul,
because in no other spot do they record events at once so recent and so
picturesque. Elsewhere, in order to get away from the prose of modern
every-day life, one is obliged to go back for several centuries; at
Stambul a few years suffice. Legend, or what has all the character
and force of legend, dates from yesterday. It is not many years since,
in the square of Et-Meidan, the celebrated massacre of the Janissaries
took place; not many years since the waters of the Sea of Marmora
cast up upon the banks of the imperial gardens those twenty sacks
containing each the body of a beauty of Mustafa’s harem; not long since
Brancovano’s family was executed in the Castle of the Seven Towers, or
European ambassadors were pinioned between two _kapuji-basci_ in the
presence of the Grand Seigneur, upon whose half-averted countenance
there glowed a mysterious light; or within the walls of the old
Seraglio that life--so extraordinary--a mingling of horrors, love, and
folly, ceased finally to exist, which now seems to belong to such a
far-distant past. Wandering about the streets of Stambul and reflecting
upon all these things, you cannot help a feeling of astonishment at the
calm, cheerful aspect of the city, gay with color and vegetation. “Ah,
traitoress!” you cry, “what have you done with all those mountains of
heads, those lakes of blood? How is it possible that everything has
been so cleverly concealed, so wiped out and obliterated, that not a
trace remains?”

On the Bosphorus, beneath the Seraglio walls and just opposite
Leander’s Tower, which rises from the water like a lover’s monument,
you may still behold the inclined plane down which the bodies of
the unfaithful beauties of the harem were rolled into the sea;
in the middle of the Et-Meidan the serpentine column still bears
witness to the force of Muhammad the Conqueror’s famous sabre; on the
Mahmûd bridge the spot is still pointed out on which the fiery sultan
annihilated at a single blow the adventurous dervish who had dared to
fling an anathema in his face; in the Holy Well of the Balukli church
the miraculous fish still swim about which foretold the fall of the
City of the Palæologi; beneath the trees of the Sweet Waters of Asia
you can visit those shady retreats where a dissolute sultana was wont
to bestow upon the favorite of the hour that fatal love whose certain
sequence was death. Every doorway, every tower, every mosque and park
and open square, records some strange event--a tragedy, a love-story,
a mystery, the absolutism of a padishah or the reckless caprice of a
sultana; everything has a history of its own, and wherever you turn the
near-by objects, the distant view, the balmy perfumed air, the silence,
all unite to transport him whose mind is stored with these histories
of the past out of himself, his era, and the city of to-day, so that
not infrequently, when suddenly confronted with the suggestion that
it is high time to think of returning to the hotel, he asks himself
confusedly what it means, how can there be a “hotel.”

[Illustration: Serpentine Column of Delphi.]


In those early days, fresh from reading masses of Oriental literature,
I kept recognizing in the people I met on the streets famous personages
who figure in the legends and history of the East: sometimes they
answered so entirely to the picture I had drawn in my own mind of some
celebrated character that I would find myself stopping short in the
street to gaze after them. How often have I seized my friend’s arm,
and, pointing out some passer-by, exclaimed, “There he goes, by Jove!
Don’t you recognize him?” In the square of the Sultan Validéh I have
many a time seen the gigantic Turk who hurled down rocks and stones
upon the heads of Baglione’s soldiers before the walls of Nicea; near
one of the mosques I came across Unm Dgiemil, the old witch of Mecca
who sowed thorns and brambles in front of Mohammed’s house; coming out
of the book bazâr one day, I ran against Digiemal-eddin, the great
scholar of Brusa, who knew all the Arabian dictionary by heart, walking
along with a volume tucked under his arm; I have passed close enough
to Ayesha, the favorite wife of the Prophet, to receive a steady look
from those eyes “like twin stars reflected in a well.” I recognized in
the Et-Meidan the beautiful and unfortunate Greek killed at the foot of
the serpentine column by a ball from the huge guns of Orban; turning
a sharp corner of one of the narrow streets of Phanar, I found myself
suddenly face to face with Kara-Abderrahman, the handsomest young Turk
of the days of Orkhan; I have seen Coswa, Mohammed’s she-camel, and
recognized Kara-bidut, Selim’s black charger; I have encountered poor
Fighani, the poet, who was condemned to go about Stambul harnessed
to an ass for having made Ibrahim’s grand vizier the subject of a
lampoon; I saw in one of the cafés the unwieldy form of Soliman, the
fat admiral, whom the united efforts of four powerful slaves could
with difficulty drag up from his divan; and Ali, the grand vizier, who
failed to find throughout all Arabia a horse fit to carry him; and
Mahmûd Pasha, that ferocious Hercules who strangled Suleiman’s son;
and, established before the entrance of the copyists’ bazâr near the
Bayezid square, that stupid Ahmed II., who would say nothing all day
but “_Kosc! kosc!_” (Very well! very well!) Every character in the
_Thousand and One Nights_--the Aladdins, the Zobeids, the Sinbads, the
Gulnars, the old Jew dealers with their magic lamps and their enchanted
carpets for sale--passed before me one after another like a procession
of so many phantoms.


This is perhaps the very best period in which to study the dress of
the Mussulman population of Constantinople. In the last generation,
as will probably be the case in the next, it presented too uniform an
appearance. You find it in a sort of transition stage, and presenting,
consequently, a wonderful variety of form and color. The steady
advance of the reform party, the resistance of the conservative Turks,
the uncertainty and vacillation of the great mass of the people,
hesitating between the two extremes--every aspect, in short, of the
conflict which is being waged between ancient and modern Turkey--is
faithfully reflected in the dress of her people. The old-fashioned Turk
still wears his turban, his caftan and sash, and the traditional yellow
morocco slippers, and, if he is one of the more strict and precise
kind, a veritable Turk of the old school, the turban will be of vast
proportions. The reformed Turk wears a long black coat buttoned close
up under the chin, and dark shoes and trousers, preserving nothing
Turkish in his costume but the fez. Some among the younger and bolder
spirits have even gone farther, and, discarding the black frock-coat,
substitute for it an open cut-away, light trousers, fancy cravat and
jewelry, and carry a cane, and a flower in the buttonhole. Between
these and those, the wearers of the caftan and the wearers of the coat,
there is a deep gulf fixed. They no longer have anything in common but
the name of Turk, and are in reality two separate nations. He of the
turban still believes implicitly in the bridge Sirat, finer than a
hair, sharper than a cimeter, which leads to the infernal regions; he
faithfully performs his ablutions at the appointed hours, and at sunset
shuts himself into his house. He of the frock-coat, on the contrary,
laughs at the Prophet, has his photograph taken, talks French, and
spends his evening at the theatre. Between these two extremes are
those who, having departed somewhat from the ancient dress of their
countrymen, are still unwilling to Europeanize themselves altogether.
Some of them, while wearing turbans, yet have them so exceedingly
small that some day they can be quietly exchanged for the fez without
creating too much scandal; others who still wear the caftan have
already adopted the fez; others, again, conform to the general fashion
of the ancient costume, but have left off the sash and slippers as well
as the bright colors, and little by little will get rid of the rest as
well. The women alone still adhere to their veils and the long mantles
covering the entire person; but the veil has grown transparent, and not
infrequently reveals the outline of a little hat and feathers, while
the mantle as often as not conceals a Parisian costume of the latest
mode. Every year a thousand caftans disappear to make room for as many
black coats; every day sees the death of a Turk of the old school, the
birth of one of the new. The newspaper replaces the _tespi_, the cigar
the chibuk; wine is used instead of flavored water, carriages instead
of the _arabà_; the French grammar supersedes the Arabian, the piano
the _timbur_; stone houses rise on the sites of wooden ones. Everything
is undergoing change and transformation. At the present rate it may
well be that in less than a century those who wish to find the traces
of ancient Turkey will be obliged to seek for them in the remotest
provinces of Asia Minor, just as we now look for ancient Spain in the
most out-of-the-way villages of Andalusia.


Often, while gazing at Constantinople from the bridge of the Sultan
Validéh, I would be confronted by the question, “What is to become
of this city in one or two centuries, even if the Turks are not
driven out of Europe?” Alas! there is but little doubt that the great
holocaust of beauty at the hands of civilization will have been already
accomplished. I can see that Constantinople of the future, that
Oriental London, rearing itself in mournful and forbidding majesty upon
the ruins of the most radiant city in the world. Her hills will be
levelled, her woods and groves cut down, her many-colored houses razed
to the ground; the horizon will be shut in on all sides by long rows of
palatial dwellings, factories, and workshops, broken here and there by
huge business-houses and pointed spires; long, straight streets will
divide Stambul into ten thousand square blocks like a checker-board;
telegraph-wires will interlace like some monster spider-web above
the roofs of the noisy city; across the bridge of the Sultan Validéh
will pour a black torrent of stiff hats and caps; the mysterious
retreats of the Seraglio will become a zoological garden, the Castle
of the Seven Towers a penitentiary, the Hebdomon Palace a museum of
natural history; everything will be solid, geometrical, useful, gray,
hideous, and a thick black cloud of smoke will hide the blue Thracian
heavens, to which no more ardent prayers will be addressed nor poets’
songs nor longing eyes of lovers. At such thoughts as these I could
not help feeling my heart sink within me, but then quickly there came
the consoling fancy that possibly--who knows?--some charming Italian
bride of the next century, coming here on her wedding journey, may
be heard to exclaim, “What a pity! what a dreadful pity it is that
Constantinople has changed so from what it was at the period of that
old torn book of the nineteenth century I found in the bottom of my
grandmother’s clothes-press!”


In those coming days another feature of Constantinopolitan life will
also have disappeared, which is now one of the most curious of her
curiosities--the dogs. And, as this is a subject which really merits
attention, I am going to devote some little space to it. Constantinople
is one huge dog-kennel; every one can see this for himself as soon as
he gets there. The dogs constitute a second population in the city,
and, while they are less numerous than the first, they are hardly less
interesting as a study. Every one knows how the Turks love and protect
them, but just why they do so is not so easy to decide. I could not,
for my own part, make out whether it is because the Koran recommends
all men to be merciful to animals, or because they are supposed, like
certain birds, to bring good luck, or because the Prophet loved them,
or because they figure in their sacred books, or because, as some
insist, when Muhammad the Conqueror made his victorious entry into the
city through the breach in the gate of St. Romanus he was accompanied
by a following composed principally of dogs. Be this as it may, the
fact remains that many Turks leave considerable sums at their death for
their maintenance, and when Sultan Abdul-Mejid had them all transported
to the island of Marmora the people murmured, so that they were brought
back amid public rejoicings, and the government has not attempted to
interfere with them since. At the same time, the dog, having been
pronounced by the Koran to be an unclean animal, not one out of all the
innumerable hordes which infest Constantinople has an owner; any Turk
harboring one would consider his house defiled. They are associated
together in a great republic of freebooters, without collars or masters
or kennels or homes or laws. Their entire lives are passed in the
streets. There, scratching out little dens for themselves, they sleep
and eat, are born, nourish their young, and die; and no one, at least
in Stambul, interferes in the smallest degree with their occupations or
their repose. They are the masters of the road. With us it is customary
for the dogs to withdraw to allow horses and people to pass by. There
it is quite different, people, camels, horses, donkeys, and vehicles
making sometimes quite a considerable circuit in order not to disturb
the dogs: sometimes in one of the most crowded quarters of Stambul
four or five of them, curled up fast asleep directly in the middle of
the street, will make the entire population turn out for half a day.
And in Pera and Galata it is nearly as bad, only there it is done
less out of respect for the dogs themselves than for their numbers.
Were you to attempt to clear the road, you would have to keep up an
uninterrupted series of blows and kicks from the moment you set out
until your return. The utmost they will do voluntarily is, when they
see a carriage and four coming like the wind down some level street,
at the last moment, when there is no possible hope of its turning
out and the horses’ hoofs are fairly grazing their backs, they will
slowly and unwillingly drag themselves a couple of feet to one side,
nicely calculating the least possible distance necessary to save
their precious necks. Laziness is the distinguishing quality of the
Constantinople dogs. They lie down in the middle of the street, five or
six or a dozen of them in a row or group, curled up in such a manner as
to look much more like heaps of refuse than living animals, and there
they will sleep away the entire day, undisturbed by the din and clamor
going on about them, and not rain or sun, wind or cold, has the least
power to affect them. When it snows, they sleep under the snow; when it
rains, they stay on until they are so completely covered with mud that
when they finally get up they look like unfinished clay models of dogs,
with nothing to indicate eyes, ears, or mouth.

The conditions of society, however, in Pera and Galata are not quite
so favorable to the contemplative life as in Stambul, owing to the
greater difficulty in obtaining food: in the latter place they live
_en pension_, while in the former they eat _à la carte_. They take the
place of scavengers, falling with joy upon refuse which hogs would
decline as food, willing, in fact, to eat pretty much everything short
of stones. No sooner have they swallowed sufficient to sustain life
than they compose themselves to slumber, and continue to sleep until
aroused again by the pangs of hunger. And they almost always sleep
in the same spot. The canine population of Constantinople is divided
into settlements and quarters, just as the human population is. Every
street and neighborhood is inhabited, or rather held possession of, by
a certain number of dogs, the relatives and friends of one family, who
never leave it themselves or allow strangers to come in. They have a
sort of police force, with outposts and sentries, who go the rounds
and act as scouts. Woe to that dog who, emboldened by hunger, dares to
adventure his person across the boundaries of his neighbors’ territory!
A crowd of infuriated curs give chase the instant his presence is
discovered; if he is caught, they make short work of him; otherwise he
is pursued as far as the confines of their own quarter, but no farther,
as the enemy’s country is nearly always both feared and respected.
It would be impossible to convey any just idea of the skirmishes and
pitched battles which arise over a disputed bone, a reigning belle, or
an infringement of territorial rights. Two dogs encounter one another;
a dispute follows, and instantly reinforcements pour in from every
street, lane, and alley; nothing can be seen but a confused, moving
mass enveloped in clouds of dust, out of which there issues such a
deafening hurlyburly of howls, yelps, and snarls as would crack the
ear-drums even of a deaf man. At last the group breaks up again, and,
as the dust subsides, the bodies of the fallen may be seen extended
on the ground. Love-passages, jealousies, duels, bloodshed, broken
limbs, and lacerated skins are the affairs of every hour. Occasionally
they assemble in such noisy troops in front of some shop that the
owner and his assistants are obliged, in the interests of trade,
to arm themselves with stools and bars and sally forth in approved
military style, taking the enemy by storm; and then there follows a
pandemonium of howls, yells, and lamentations mingling with the sound
of cracked heads and ribs, enough to fairly make the welkin ring. In
Pera and Galata especially these wretched beasts are so ill treated, so
accustomed to expect a blow whenever they see a stick, that at the mere
sound of a cane or umbrella on the sidewalk they make preparations for
flight: even when they seem to be fast asleep they frequently have the
corner of one eye, just the point of a pupil, open, with which to watch
attentively, for a quarter of an hour at a time, the slightest movement
of some distant object bearing a resemblance, no matter how slight, to
a stick. So unused are they to humane treatment that if you pat the
head of one of them in passing, a dozen others come running up, fawning
and gambolling and wagging their tails, to receive a like caress, and
accompany the generous patron all the way to the end of the street,
their eyes shining with joy and gratitude.

[Illustration: Group of Dogs.]

The condition of a dog in Pera and Galata is worse, all said, than that
of a spider in Holland, and their’s is usually admitted to be the most
persecuted race in all the animal kingdom. When one sees the existence
led by these miserable dogs, it is impossible not to think that there
must be for them, as well, some compensation in another world. Like
everything else in Constantinople, the sight of them recalled an
historical reminiscence, but in their case it seemed like the
bitterest irony to picture the life of Bayezid’s famous hunting-pack,
who ran about the imperial forests of Olympia wearing purple trappings
and collars set with pearls. What a contrast of social conditions!
Their unfortunate state has no doubt a great deal to do with their
hideous appearance, but, apart from that, they are almost all of the
mastiff breed or wolf-dogs, bearing some resemblance to both foxes and
wolves, or rather they do not bear a resemblance to anything, but are
a horrible race of mongrels, spotted over with strange colors--about
as large as the so-called butcher’s dog, and so thin that each rib
can be counted twenty feet off. Most of them, moreover, have become
so reduced in the course of a life of incessant warfare that if you
did not see them moving about you would be apt to take them for the
mutilated remains of dogs. You find them with their tails cut off,
ears torn, with skinned backs, sides laid open, blind in one eye, lame
in two legs, covered with wounds, devoured by flies, reduced to the
last possible stages to which a living dog can be brought--veritable
types of war, famine, and pestilence. The tail may be spoken of, in
connection with them, as an article of luxury: rare is it, indeed, for
a Constantinople dog to enjoy the possession of one for more than a
couple of months, at most, of public life. Poor creatures! they would
move a heart of stone to pity, and yet at times they are so grotesquely
maimed and altered, you see them going along with such a singular
gait, such odd, ungainly movements, that it is almost impossible not
to laugh outright. And, after all, neither hunger nor blows, nor even
warfare, constitutes their most serious trial, but a cruel custom which
has prevailed for some time in Pera and Galata. Sometimes in the middle
of the night the peaceful inhabitants of a quarter are aroused from
their slumbers by a diabolical uproar: rushing to their windows, they
behold a crowd of dogs leaping and dancing about in agony, bounding
high in the air, striking their heads against the walls, or rolling
over and over in the dust: presently the uproar subsides, and in the
morning, by the early light, the street is seen all strewn with dead
bodies. It is the doctor or apothecary of the quarter, who, being in
the habit of studying at night, has distributed a handful of pills in
order to obtain a fortnight’s quiet. Through these and other means it
happens that there is some slight decrease in the number of dogs in
Pera and Galata; but what does this avail, since at Stambul they are
so rapidly on the increase that it is merely a question of time when
the supply of food there will prove insufficient for their support, and
colonists will be sent over to the other shore to supply the places
of those families which have been exterminated and fill up all blanks
caused by war, famine, or poison.


But there are other beings in Constantinople who arouse a far more
profound sentiment of pity than the dogs. The eunuchs, who were first
introduced among the Turks in spite of the clear and unmistakable voice
of the Koran, which denounced this infamous form of degradation in no
measured terms, continue to exist in defiance of recent legislation
prohibiting the inhuman traffic, since stronger than either law or
religion are the abominable thirst for gold which induces the crime
and the cowardly egotism which derives advantage from it. These
unfortunates are to be met at every street-corner, just as they are
encountered on every page of history. In the background of every
historical scene in Turkey may be traced one of these sinister forms
grasping the threads of a conspiracy, laden with gold, or stained with
blood--victim, favorite, or instrument of vengeance; if not openly
formidable, secretly so; standing like a spectre in the shadow of the
throne or blocking the approach to some mysterious doorway. And the
same way in Constantinople: in the midst of a crowded bazâr, among the
throng of pleasure-seekers at the Sweet Waters, beneath the columns of
the mosques, beside the carriages, on the steamboats, in käiks, at all
the festivals, wherever people are assembled together, one sees these
phantoms of men, these melancholy countenances, like a dark shadow
thrown across every aspect of gay Oriental life. With the decline of
the absolutism of the Sultan their political power has waned, just
as the relaxing of Oriental jealousy has diminished their importance
in private life; the advantages they once enjoyed have consequently
become greatly reduced, and it is only with considerable difficulty
that they are now able to acquire sufficient wealth or power to in any
measure compensate them for their misfortune. No Ghaznefér Aghà would
now be forthcoming to submit voluntarily to mutilation in order to
become chief of the white eunuchs; all those of the present day are
unwilling victims, and victims who receive no adequate compensation.
Bought or stolen as children in Abyssinia or Syria, about one in every
three survives the infamous knife, to be sold in defiance of the law,
and with a pretence of secresy far more revolting than if it were
done openly. There is no need to have them pointed out: any one can
recognize them at a glance. They are usually tall, fat, and flabby,
with smooth, colorless faces, short waists, and long legs and arms.
They wear fezzes, long black coats, and European trousers, and carry
a whip made of hippopotamus skin, their badge of office, walking with
long strides, and softly like big children. When on duty they accompany
their mistresses on foot or horseback, sometimes preceding, sometimes
following after, the carriage, either singly or in pairs, and looking
around them with an ever-watchful eye, which, at the slightest
suggestion of disrespect either by look or gesture on the part of a
passer-by, becomes so full of angry menace as to send a cold chill
down one’s backbone; but, except in some such case as this, they have
either no expression at all or else an utter weariness of everything
in the world. I cannot recollect ever having seen one of them laugh.
Some among them, while very young, look fifty years old, and others,
again, give one the impression of youths who have suddenly, in the
course of a few hours, grown into old men; many of them, sleek, soft,
and well-rounded, look like carefully-fattened animals. They wear fine
clothing, and are as scrupulously neat and redolent of perfume as some
vain young girl. There are men so heartless as to laugh in the faces
of these unhappy creatures as they pass them on the street; possibly
they imagine that, having been accustomed to it from infancy, they
are unconscious or nearly so of the gulf which divides them from the
rest of the human family. But it is perfectly well known that this is
not the case; and, indeed, who, after giving the subject a moment’s
thought, could suppose that it was? To belong to neither sex; to be
merely the phantom of a man; to live in the midst of life, and yet
not of it; to feel the billows of human passion surging all about
you and be obliged to remain cold, impassive, unmoved, like a reef
in the storm; to have your very thoughts, the natural, promptings
of your whole being, held in check by an iron band that no amount of
virtuous effort on your part will ever avail to bend or break; to
have constantly presented before your eyes a picture of happiness
toward which all around you tends, the centre about which everything
circulates, the illuminating cause of all the conditions of life, and
to know yourself immeasurably far away in the outside darkness, in a
cold immensity of space, like some wandering spirit accursed of God;
and to be, moreover, yourself the guardian of that happiness in which
you can never participate, the actual barrier which the jealousy of man
has reared between his own felicity and the outside world, the bolt
with which he makes fast his door, the cloth he uses to conceal his
treasures; to be obliged to live in the very midst of that sensuous,
perfumed existence of youth and beauty and enjoyment, with shame upon
your brow and fury in your soul, despised, set aside, without name,
without family, without a mother or so much as one tender memory, cut
off from the common ties of nature and humanity,--who could doubt
for one instant that theirs is a life of torment which the mind is
powerless to grasp, like living with a dagger thrust into one’s heart?

And this outrage still continues: these unhappy creatures walk the
streets of a European city, live among men, and, wonderful to relate,
refrain from tearing, biting, stabbing, spitting in the face of that
cowardly humanity which dares to look them in the eye without either
shame or pity, while it busies itself with international associations
for the protection of dogs and cats! Their whole existence is nothing
but a series of tortures: as soon as the women of the harem find that
they are unwilling to connive at their intrigues, they look upon them
as spies and jailers, and hate them accordingly, punishing them by
every device of coquetry that lies in their power until they sometimes
drive them quite beyond all bounds, as in the case of the poor black
eunuch in the _Lettere persiane_, who put his mistress in the bath. The
very names they bear are a bitter irony, being called after flowers
and perfumes, in allusion to the ladies whose guardians they are, as
_possessors of hyacinths, guardians of lilies, custodians of roses and
of violets_. And sometimes, poor wretches! they fall in love and are
jealous and chafe, and become shedders of blood, or, seeing that some
ardent glance directed toward their lady is returned, they lose their
heads altogether and strike, as happened once during the Crimean War,
when a eunuch struck a French officer in the face, and had his own
head cut open in consequence by the other’s sword. Who can tell what
they suffer or how the mere sight of beauty must sometimes torture
them, a caress enrage, a smile torment them, the sound of a kiss given
and returned cause their hands to steal toward the dagger’s hilt? It
is hardly to be wondered at that in their great empty hearts little
flourishes beside the cold passions of hate, revenge, and ambition;
that they grow up embittered, cowardly, envious, and savage; that
they have either the dumb, unreasoning devotion of an animal for
their owners, or else are cunning and treacherous; or that, when they
do get into power, they use it to revenge themselves upon mankind
for the affront put upon them. The more desolate and isolated their
lot, so much the more do they seem to feel a necessity for female
companionship. Unable to be her lover, they seek to be the friend of
woman. They even marry, sometimes choosing for their wives women who
are pregnant, as Sunbullin, Ibrahim’s chief eunuch, did, so as to have
a child to love as his own, or, like the head eunuch of Ahmed II.,
they have harems filled with virgins in order that they may enjoy the
contemplation and society of female loveliness; others adopt young
girls, so that in old age they may have a female breast upon which to
recline and not go down to the grave ignorant of all tenderness and
loving care, having had nothing all their lives but scorn and contempt,
or at best indifference. It is not uncommon for those who have grown
wealthy at court or in some princely establishment, where they have
combined with the duties of chief eunuch those of intendant, to
purchase in old age a pretty villa on the Bosphorus, and there to pass
the remainder of their days in feasting and gayety, seeking by these
means to blot out the recollection of their misfortune.

Among all the various tales and anecdotes which were told me about
these unfortunate beings one stands out with peculiar clearness in
my memory. It was related by a young doctor of Pera in denial of the
statement, sometimes made, that eunuchs do not suffer.

“One evening,” said he, “I was leaving the house of a wealthy
Mussulman, one of whose four wives was ill with heart disease; it
was my third visit, and on coming away, as well as on entering, I
was always preceded by a tall eunuch who called aloud the customary
warning, ‘Women, withdraw,’ in order that the ladies and female slaves
might know that there was a man in the harem and keep out of sight. On
reaching the courtyard the eunuch returned, leaving me to make my way
out alone. On this occasion, just as I was about to open the door, I
felt a light touch on my arm: turning around, I found, standing close
by me, another eunuch, a good-looking youth of eighteen or twenty, who
stood gazing silently at me, his eyes filled with tears. Finding that
he did not speak, I asked him what I could do for him. He hesitated a
moment, and then, clasping my hand convulsively in both of his, he said
in a hoarse voice, in which there was a ring of despair, ‘Doctor, you
know some remedy for every malady; tell me, is there none for mine?’ I
cannot express to you the effect those simple words produced upon me:
I wanted to answer him, but my voice seemed to die away, and finally,
not knowing what to do or say, I pulled the door open and fled. But all
that night and for many days after I kept seeing his face and hearing
those mournful words; and I can tell you that more than once I could
feel the tears rising at the recollection.”

Philanthropists, journalists, ministers, ambassadors, and you,
gentlemen, deputies to the Stambul Parliament and senators of the
Crescent, raise an outcry in God’s name that this hideous ignominy,
this black stain on the honor of mankind, may in the twentieth century
be merely another dreadful memory like the Bulgarian atrocities.


[Illustration: Types of Turkish Soldiers.]

Although I was fully aware before going to Constantinople that no
traces of the magnificent army of former days were still to be seen,
nevertheless, as soldiers are always a source of lively interest to
me, I had no sooner arrived than I began to look about for them with
eager curiosity. What I found, however, fell short of even what I
had been led to expect. In place of the ancient costume, flowing,
picturesque, and eminently warlike, they have adopted an ugly, forlorn
uniform, consisting of red trousers, little scant jackets, stripes
like a lackey’s livery, belts like those of college students, and
on every head, from the Sultan’s down to the lowest man in the ranks,
that miserable fez, which, besides being undignified and puerile,
especially when perched on the head of a big, stout Mussulman, is the
direct cause of any amount of ophthalmia and headache. The brilliancy
of the Turkish army is lost, without any of that which belongs to the
European military having been gained. The soldiers looked to me a
mournful, half-hearted, dirty set of men. They may be brave, but they
are certainly not impressive; and as to the nature of their training,
one may form some idea of that from seeing officers and men employing
their fingers in the street in place of handkerchiefs. One day I saw
the soldier on guard at the bridge, where smoking is not allowed, bring
this fact to the knowledge of a vice-consul by snatching the cigar out
of his mouth; and on another occasion, in the mosque of the Dancing
Dervishes, on the Rue de Pera, a soldier informed three Europeans
that they were expected to uncover by knocking their hats off before
my eyes: I knew very well that to raise a protesting voice on such
occasions would mean nothing less than being seized and carried off
bodily, like a bundle of old rags, to the guard-house. Hence throughout
my entire stay at Constantinople my attitude toward the military was
one of profound deference. On the other hand, one ceases to wonder
at the uncouthness of the soldiers after seeing what sort of people
they are before donning the uniform. One day in Skutari a hundred or
so recruits, probably brought from the interior of Asia Minor, passed
close by me, and it was a sight which aroused both my compassion and my
disgust. They looked like those terrible bandits of Hassin the Mad who
passed through Constantinople toward the close of the sixteenth century
on their way to die by the Austrian cannon on the plain of Pesth. I
can see before me now their wild, sinister faces, rough shocks of
hair, half-naked, tattooed bodies, and barbarous ornaments, and I seem
to smell again the close, sickening odor, like that of wild animals’
dens, which they left behind them in the street. When the first news
was brought of the massacres in Bulgaria, at once my thoughts turned
to them. “My Skutari friends, beyond a doubt,” I said to myself. It is
a fact, however, that they form the one solitary picturesque feature
which I am able to recall of the Mussulman army.

O glorious pageant of Bayezid, of Suleiman, of Muhammad! could one but
behold you just once from the walls of Stambul, drawn up in glittering
array upon the plain of Daûd Pasha! Every time I passed the triumphal
gate of Adrianapolis I would be haunted by this brilliant vision, and
pause to gaze fixedly at the opening, as though expecting each moment
to see the pasha quartermaster come forth, heralding the approach of
the imperial troops.

It was, in fact, the pasha quartermaster who marched at the head of
the army, with two horse-tails, his insignia of rank, while behind him
for a great distance flashed and glistened in the sunlight certain
objects which were nothing less than the eight thousand brazen spoons
fastened in the folds of the Janissaries’ turbans; in their midst could
be seen the waving herons’ plumes and glittering armor of the colonels,
followed by a crowd of servants laden with arms and provisions. Behind
the Janissaries came a small troop of volunteers and pages dressed in
silk, with iron mail, and shining head-pieces, accompanied by a band of
music; after them, the cannoneers, with the cannon fastened together
by means of metal chains; and then another small band of aghas, pages,
chamberlains, and feudal soldiers, mounted on steeds with plumes
and breast-plates. All of these were only the advance-guard, above
whose closely-packed ranks floated thousands of brilliantly colored
standards, waving horse-tails, and such a sea of lances, swords,
bows, quivers, and arquebuses that it was not easy to distinguish the
lines of swarthy faces burned by exposure in the Candian and Persian
wars; accompanying them was the discordant sound of drum and flute,
of trombone and kettledrum, mingling with the voices of the singers
who escorted the Janissaries, and, with the rattle of arms, clanking
of chains, and hoarse cries of Allah, forming a mighty roar, at once
inspiriting and terrible, which could be heard from the Daûd Pasha
camp to the other bank of the Golden Horn. O poets and painters, you
who have dwelt with loving touch upon every picturesque detail of that
vanished life of the Orient! come to my aid now, that together we may
recall to life the Third Muhammad’s famous army and send it forth,
brilliant and complete, from the ancient walls of Stambul.

Passed the advance-guard, we see another glittering body of troops.
Is it the Sultan? No, as yet the deity has barely quitted his temple.
This is only the favorite vizier’s retinue, consisting of forty aghas
clad in sable, and mounted upon horses caparisoned with velvet and
with silver bits in their mouths; behind them are a crowd of pages and
gorgeous grooms, leading other forty horses by the bridle, with gilded
harness, and laden with shields, maces, and cimeters.

Another troop advances. This is not the Sultan, either, but a body
of state officials--the chief treasurer, members of the council, and
the high dignitaries of the Seraglio--and with them a band of players
and a throng of volunteers wearing purple caps decorated with birds’
wings and dressed in furs, scarlet silk, leopard skins, and Hungarian
_kolpaks_, armed with long lances entwined with silk and garlands of

Still another sparkling wave of horsemen pours out of the Adrianapolis
gate, but it is not the Sultan yet. This is the train of the grand
vizier. First comes a crowd of mounted arquebusiers, _furieri_, and
aghas, all high in favor with the Grand Seigneur; after them forty
aghas of the grand vizier, surrounded by a forest of twelve hundred
bamboo lances, borne by twelve hundred pages, and then the forty pages
of the grand vizier clad in orange color and armed with bows, their
quivers richly ornamented with gold. Following them are two hundred
more youths, divided into six bands, each band having a distinctive
color, and, riding in their midst, the governors and relatives of the
chief minister; after these come a throng of grooms, armor-bearers,
employés, servants, pages, and aghas, wearing gold-embroidered
garments, and a troop of standard-bearers carrying aloft a multitude of
silken flags; and last the _kiâya_, minister of the interior, escorted
by twelve _sciau_, or legal executioners, followed by the grand
vizier’s band.

Another host pours out from the city-walls, and still it is not the
Sultan, but a throng of _sciau_, _furieri_, and underlings, gorgeously
attired and forming the retinues of the jurisconsults, the _molla_
and _muderri_; close behind them are the head-masters of the falcon,
vulture, hawk, and kite hunts, followed by a line of horsemen
carrying on their saddles leopards trained for the chase, and a crowd
of falconers, esquires, grooms with ferrets, standard-bearers, and
drummers, and packs of caparisoned and bejewelled dogs.

Another brilliant concourse sweeps out: the crowds of spectators
prostrate themselves. At last the Sultan? No, not yet. This is not
the head of the army, but its heart, the holy flame of courage and
religious enthusiasm, the sacred ark of the Mussulman, around which
mountains of decapitated heads have been reared, torrents of human
blood have flowed--the green ensign of the Prophet, the flag among
flags, taken from its place in the mosque of Sultan Ahmed, and now
floating in the midst of a ferocious mob of dervishes clad in lion and
bear skins, a circle of rapt-looking preaching sheikhs in camel’s-hair
cloaks, and two companies of emirs, descendants of the Prophet, wearing
the green turban; all of whom together raise a hoarse clamor of shouts,
prayers, shrill cries, and singing.

Another imposing troop of horsemen herald the approach, not of the
Sultan yet, but of the judiciary, the judge of Constantinople and chief
judge of Asia and Europe, whose enormous turbans may be seen towering
above the heads of the sciau, who brandish their silver maces to clear
a space for them through the crowd. With them ride the favorite vizier
and vizier kaimakâm, their turbans decorated with silver stars and
braided with gold; all the viziers of the Divan, before whom are borne
horse-tails dyed with henné, attached to the ends of long red and
blue poles; and last of all the military judges, followed by a train
of attendants dressed in leopard skins and armed with lances--pages,
armor-bearers, and sutlers.

The next company pours out, glittering, magnificent. Surely the Sultan?
No--the grand vizier, wearing a purple caftan lined with sable and
mounted upon a horse fairly covered with steel and gold, he is followed
by a throng of attendants clad in red velvet, and a crowd of high
dignitaries, and the lieutenant-generals of the Janissaries, among whom
the _muftis_ shine out like swans in the midst of a flock of peacocks;
after these, between two lines of spearmen carrying gilded spears and
two lines of archers with crescent-shaped plumes, come the gorgeous
grooms of the Seraglio, leading by the bridle a long file of horses
from Arabia, Turkestan, Persia, and Caramania, their saddles of velvet,
reins gilded, stirrups chased, and trappings covered with silver
spangles, and laden with shields and arms glittering with jewels;
finally the two sacred camels are seen, bearing one the Koran, the
other a fragment of the Kaaba.

The grand vizier’s retinue has passed, and a deafening clamor of drums
and trumpets assails the ear. The spectators fly in every direction,
cannon roar, a multitude of running footmen pour through the gate
brandishing their cimeters, and here at last, in the midst of a thick
forest of spears, plumes, and swords, the central point of those
dazzling ranks of gold and silver head-pieces, beneath a cloud of
waving satin banners, behold the Sultan of sultans, King of kings,
the dispenser of thrones to the princes of the world, the shadow of
God upon earth, emperor and sovereign lord of the White Sea and of
the Black, of Rumelia and Anatolia, of the province of Salkadr, of
Diarbekr, of Kurdistan, Aderbigian, Agiem, Sciam, Haleb, Egypt, Mecca,
Medina, Jerusalem, the coasts of Arabia and Yemen, together with all
the other dominions conquered by the arms of his mighty predecessors
and august ancestors or subdued by his own flaming and triumphant
sword. The solemn and imposing train sweeps slowly by. Now and again,
the serried columns swaying a little to right or left, a glimpse is
caught of the three jewelled plumes which surmount the turban of
the deity, the serious, pallid countenance, the breast blazing with
diamonds; then the ranks close in once more, the cavalcade passes on,
the threatening cimeters are lowered, the bystanders raise their bowed
heads, the vision disappears.

After the imperial retinue a crowd of court officials come, one
carrying on his head the Sultan’s stool, another his sabre, another his
turban, another his mantle, a fifth the silver coffee-pot, a sixth the
golden coffee-pot; then more troops of pages, and after them the white
eunuchs; then three hundred mounted chamberlains in white caftans, and
the hundred carriages of the harem with silvered wheels, drawn by oxen
hung with garlands of flowers or horses with velvet trappings, and
escorted by a troop of black eunuchs; then three hundred mules file by
laden with baggage and treasures from the court; after them a thousand
camels carrying water and a thousand dromedaries laden with provisions;
next a crowd of miners, armorers, and workmen of various kinds from
Stambul, accompanied by a rabble of buffoons and conjurers; and finally
the bulk of the fighting ranks of the army--hordes of Janissaries,
yellow _silidars_, purple _azabs_, _spahis_ with red ensigns, foreign
cavalry with white standards, cannon that belch forth blocks of lead
and marble, the feudal soldiery from three continents, barbarian
volunteers from the outlying provinces of the empire, seas of flags,
forests of plumes, torrents of turbans--an iron avalanche on its way to
overrun Europe like a curse sent from God, in whose track will be found
nothing but a desert strewn with smoking ruins and heaps of skulls.


Although at certain hours of the day Constantinople wears an air of
bustle and activity, in reality it is probably the laziest city in
Europe, and in this respect both Turk and Frank meet on common ground.
Every one begins by getting up at the latest possible hour in the
morning. Even in summer, at a time when our cities are up and doing
from one end to the other Constantinople is still buried in slumber.
It is difficult to find a shop open or so much as to procure a cup
of coffee until the sun is well up in the heavens. Hotels, offices,
bazârs, banks, all snore together in one joyous chorus, and nothing
short of a cannon would arouse them. Then the holidays! The Turks keep
Friday, the Jews Saturday, and the Christians Sunday, besides which
regular weekly ones are all the feast-days of the innumerable saints
of the Greek and Armenian calendars, which are scrupulously observed;
and although all of these holidays are supposed to affect only certain
parts of the community respectively, in reality they provide large
numbers, with whom, properly speaking, they have nothing whatever to
do, with an excuse for being idle. You can thus form some idea of the
amount of work accomplished in the course of a week. There are some
offices which are only open twenty-four hours in the seven days. Each
day some one of the five nationalities who go to make up the population
of Constantinople is rambling about over the big city with no other
object in the world than to kill time. In this art, however, the Turk
yields to none. He can make a cup of coffee, costing two sous, last
half a day, and sit immovable for five hours at a stretch at the foot
of a cypress tree in one of the innumerable cemeteries. His indolence
is a thing absolute and complete, an inertia resembling death or sleep,
in which all the faculties seem to be suspended--an utter absence of
any sort of emotion, a phase of existence completely unknown among
Europeans. Turks dislike so much as to have the idea of movement
presented to their minds. At Stambul, for instance, where there are no
public walks, it is extremely unlikely that the Turks would frequent
them if there were: to go to a place designed expressly for the purpose
of being walked about in would, to their way of thinking, resemble work
entirely too much. They enter the nearest cemetery or turn down the
first street they come to, and follow, without any objective point,
wherever their legs or the windings of the path or the people ahead
may lead them. A Turk rarely goes to any spot merely for the purpose
of seeing it. There are those among them, living in Stambul, who have
never been farther than Kassim Pasha; Mussulman gentlemen who have
never gotten beyond the Isles of the Princes, where they happen to
have a friend living, or their own villa on the Bosphorus. For them
the height of bliss consists in complete inactivity of body and mind;
hence they abandon to the restless Christian all those great industries
which require care and thought and travelling about from one place
to another, and content themselves with such small trades as can be
conducted sitting down in the same spot, and where sight can almost
take the place of speech. Labor, which with us governs and regulates
all the conditions of life, is a thing of quite secondary importance
there, subordinated to what is pleasant and convenient. We look upon
repose as a necessary interruption to work, while to them work is
merely a suspension of repose. The first object, at all costs, is
to sleep, dream, and smoke for a certain number of hours out of the
twenty-four; whatever time is left over may be employed in gaining
one’s livelihood. Time, as understood by the Turks, signifies something
altogether different from what it does to us. The hour, day, month,
year, has not a hundredth part of the value there that it has in other
parts of Europe. The very shortest period required by any official of
the Turkish government in which to answer the simplest form of inquiry
is two weeks. These people do not know what it is to desire to finish
a thing for the mere pleasure of having done with it, and, with the
single exception of the porters, one never sees a Turk employed on any
business hurrying in the streets of Stambul. All walk with the same
measured tread, as though their steps were regulated by the beat of a
single drum. With us life is a seething torrent; with them, a sleeping

[Illustration: A Turkish Official.]


As by day Constantinople is the most brilliant, so by night it is the
gloomiest, city in Europe. Occasional street-lamps, placed at long
distances one from the other, hardly suffice to pierce the gloom of
the principal streets, while the others are as black as caves, and
not to be ventured into by one who carries no light in his hand.
Hence by nightfall the city is practically deserted: the only signs
of life are the night-watchmen, prowling dogs, the skulking figure of
some law-breaker, parties of young men coming out of a subterranean
tavern, and mysterious lights which appear and vanish again like _ignis
fatui_ down some narrow side-street or in a distant cemetery. This
is the hour in which to look at Stambul from the heights of Pera or
Galata. Each one of her innumerable little windows is illuminated,
and, with the lights from the shipping, reflections in the water and
the starry heavens, helps to light up four miles of horizon with a
great quivering sea of sparkling points of fire, in which port, city,
and sky melt imperceptibly one into another until they all seem to be
part of one starry firmament. When it is cloudy, and through a break
the moon appears, you see above the dark mass of the city, above the
inky blots which mark the woods and gardens, the glittering rows of
domes surmounting the imperial mosques, shining in the moonlight
like great marble tombs, and suggesting the idea of a necropolis of
giants. But most impressive of all is the view when there is neither
moon nor star nor any light at all. Then one immense black shadow
stretches from Seraglio Point to Eyûb, a great dark profile, the hills
looking like mountains and their many pointed summits assuming all
manner of fantastic shapes--forests and armies, ruined castles, rocky
fortresses--so that one’s imagination travels off into the region of
dreams and fairy tales. Gazing across at Stambul on some such night as
this from a lofty terrace in Pera, one’s brain plays all sorts of mad
pranks. In fancy you are carried into the great shadowy city; wander
through those myriad harems, illuminated by soft, subdued lights:
behold the triumphant beauty of the favorite, the dull despair of the
neglected wife; watch the eunuch who hangs trembling and impotent
outside the door; follow a pair of lovers as they thread some steep
winding byway; wander through the deserted galleries of the Grand
Bazâr; traverse the great silent cemeteries; lose yourself amid the
interminable rows of columns in the subterranean cisterns; imagine
that you have been shut up in the gigantic mosque of Suleiman, and
make its shadowy corridors echo again with lamentations and shrieks of
terror, tearing your hair and invoking the mercy of the Almighty; and
then suddenly exclaim, “What utter nonsense! I am here on my friend
Santoro’s terrace, and in the room below there not only awaits me a
supper for a sybarite, but a gathering of the most amusing wits in Pera
to help me eat it.”


Every evening a large number of Italians gathered at the house of my
good friend Santoro--lawyers, artists, doctors, and merchants--among
whom I passed many a delightful hour. How the conversation flowed!
Had I only understood stenography, I might easily have collected the
materials for a delightful book out of the various anecdotes and bits
of gossip told there night after night. The doctor, who had just been
called to a patient in the harem; the painter, who was employed upon
a pasha’s portrait somewhere on the Bosphorus; the lawyer, who was
arguing a case before a tribunal; the high official, who had knotted
the threads of an international love-affair,--each separate experience
as they related it formed a complete and highly entertaining sketch
illustrative of Oriental manners and customs. Each fresh arrival is
the signal for something new. “Have you heard the news?” one exclaims
on entering: “the government has just paid the employés’ salaries, due
for over three months, and Galata is flooded with copper money.” Then
another arrives: “What do you suppose happened this morning? The Sultan
got mad at the minister of finance and threw an inkstand at his head!”
A third tells a story of a Turkish president of a tribunal. Provoked,
it seems, by the wretched arguments employed by an unscrupulous French
lawyer in defending a bad cause, he paid him this pretty compliment
before the entire audience: “My dear advocate, it is really quite
useless for you to take so much pains to try to make your case appear
good. ----;” And here he pronounced Cambronne’s word in full: “no
matter how you may turn and twist it, it is still----,” and he said it

The conversation naturally covered geographical ground quite new to me.
They used the same easy familiarity in talking of persons and events in
Tiflis, Trebizond, Teheran, and Damascus as we do when it is a question
of Paris, Vienna, or Geneva, in any one of which places they had
friends or had lately been or were about going themselves. I seemed to
be in the centre of another world, with new horizons opening out on all
sides, and it was difficult to avoid a sinking feeling at the thought
of the time when I would be obliged to take up once more the narrow and
contracted routine of my ordinary life. “How will it ever be possible,”
I would ask myself, “to settle down again to those commonplace
occupations and threadbare topics?” This is the way every one feels
who has spent any time in Constantinople. After leading the life of
that place, all others must necessarily appear flat and colorless.
Existence there is easier, gayer, more youthful than in any other
city in Europe; it is as though one were encamped upon foreign soil,
surrounded by an endless succession of strange and unexpected sights,
an ever-changing, shifting scene which leaves upon one’s mind such a
sense of the instability and uncertainty of all things human that you
end by adopting something of the fatalistic creed of the Mussulman or
else the reckless indifference of the adventurer.

The apathy of that people is something incredible; they live, as a
poet has said, in a sort of intimate familiarity with death, looking
upon life as a pilgrimage too short to attempt, even were it worth
their while anyhow, great undertakings requiring long and sustained
effort; and sooner or later this fatalism attacks the European as
well, inducing him to live in a certain sense from day to day, without
troubling himself more than necessary about the future, and playing
in the world, so far as lies in his power, the simple and reposeful
part of a spectator. Then the constant intercourse with so many
nationalities, whose language you must speak and whose views to a
certain extent you must adopt, does away with many of those fixed rules
and conventionalities which have in our countries become iron-bound
laws governing society, and whose observance or non-observance causes
endless vexations and heartburnings.

The Mussulman population forms of itself a never-ending source of
interest and curiosity, always at hand to be seen and studied, and so
stimulating and enlivening to the imagination as to drive away all
thought of ennui. The very plan of Constantinople helps to this end.
Where in other cities the eye and mind are almost always imprisoned,
as it were, in one street or narrow circuit, there every step presents
a new outlet through which both may roam over immeasurable distances
of space and scenes of entrancing beauty, and, finally, there is the
absolute freedom of that life, governed by no one set of customs. One
can do absolutely as he pleases; nothing is looked upon as out of the
way, and the most astounding performances hardly cause a ripple of
talk, forgotten almost as soon as told in that huge moral anarchy.
Europeans live there in a sort of republican confederacy, enjoying a
freedom from all restraint such as would only be possible in one of
their own cities during some period of disorder. It is like a continual
Carnival, a perpetual Shrove Tuesday, and it is this, even more than
her beauty, which endears Constantinople so greatly to the foreigner,
so that, thinking of her after long absence, one experiences a feeling
almost amounting to home-sickness; while those Europeans who have
made their homes there strike down deep roots and become as devotedly
attached to her as her legitimate sons. The Turks are certainly not far
wrong when they call her “the enchantress of a thousand lovers,” or
say in their proverb that for him who has once drunk of the waters of
Top-Khâneh there is no cure--he is infatuated for life.


The Italian colony at Constantinople, while it is one of the most
numerous, is far from being the most prosperous there. It numbers among
it but few rich persons, and many who are wretchedly poor, especially
those who come from Southern Italy and are unable to find work: it is
also the colony most poorly represented by the press, when indeed it
is represented at all, its newspapers only making their appearance
to promptly vanish again. When I was there the colony was awaiting
the issue of the _Levantino_, and meanwhile a sample copy was put in
circulation setting forth the academic titles and personal gifts of the
editor: I made out seventy-seven in all, without counting modesty.

One should walk down the Rue de Pera of a Sunday morning, when the
Italian families are on their way to mass: you hear every dialect
in Italy. Sometimes I used to enjoy it, but not always: it was too
depressing to see so many of one’s fellow-countrymen homeless wanderers
on the face of the earth; many of them, too, must have been cast up
on those shores by storms of misfortune and strange, uncomfortable
adventures. And then the old people who would never see Italy again;
the children in whose ears that name meant nothing more than a
place--dear, no doubt, but distant and unknown; and those young girls,
many of whom must inevitably marry men of other nationalities and
found families in which nothing Italian will survive beyond a proper
name or two and the fond memories of the mother. I encountered pretty
Genoese, looking as though they might just have come down from the
gardens of Acquasola; charming Neapolitan faces; graceful little heads
which I seemed to have seen a hundred times beneath the porticoes of
Po or the Milanese arcades. I felt like gathering them all into a
bunch, tying them together with rose-colored ribbons, and marching them
two by two on shipboard, conveying them back to Italy at the rate of
fifteen knots an hour. I would also have liked to take back with me,
as a curiosity, a sample of the language spoken by those born in the
Italian colony, especially those of the third or fourth generation. A
Crusca academician, on hearing it, would have taken to his bed with a
raging fever. A language formed by mingling the Italian spoken by a
Piedmontese doorkeeper, a Lombardy hack-driver, and a Romagnol porter
would, I think, be less outrageous than that spoken on the banks of the
Golden Horn. It is Italian which, impure at the outset, has been mixed
with four or five other languages, each impure in their turn; and the
most singular part of it is that in the midst of all these barbarisms
you suddenly come plump upon some such scholarly word or phrase as
_puote_, _imperocche_, _a ogni pie sospiuto_, _havvi_, _puossi_,
witnesses to the efforts made by some of our worthy compatriots, who
by dipping into anthologies seek to preserve the _celestial Tuscan
speech_. But, as compared with the rest, these might well lay claim, as
Cesari said, to a reputation for using choice language. Some of them
can hardly be understood at all. One day I was being escorted, I don’t
remember just where, by an Italian youth of sixteen or seventeen, a
friend of a friend of mine, who was born in Pera. As we walked along I
began asking him some questions, but soon found that he did not want
to talk; he answered me in a low tone and as shortly as possible,
growing red in the face as he did so and hanging his head; he was so
evidently unhappy that I presently asked him what it was that troubled
him so much. “Oh,” said he with a despairing sigh, “I talk so badly!”
As we continued our conversation I found that he spoke indeed a strange
dialect, full of outlandish words and strongly resembling the so-called
Frank language, which, as a French wit once said, consists in pouring
out as rapidly as possible a quantity of Italian, French, Spanish, and
Greek nouns and tenses until you happen to strike one the listener
understands. It is, however, seldom necessary to go to so much trouble
in Pera or Galata, where almost every one, including the Turks, can
speak, or at least understand, some Italian, though this language,
if you can call it a language, is almost exclusively a spoken one, if
you can call it speaking. The tongue generally employed for writing
is French. Of Italian literature there is none. I recollect on one
solitary occasion, in a Galata café crowded with merchants, finding at
the foot of the commercial intelligence and quotations of the Bourse,
printed in French and Italian, eight mournful little verses all about
zephyrs and stars and sighs. Unhappy poet! it seemed as though I could
see you before me, buried beneath huge piles of merchandise, composing
those verses with your last breath.


Any one who is blessed with a pretty strong stomach can pass his
evenings while at Constantinople at the play: he may, moreover, choose
among quite a number of almost equally wretched little theatres of
various sorts, many of which are beer-gardens and wine-shops as well.
At some one of these one can always find the Italian comedy, or
rather a troupe of Italian actors, whose efforts frequently make one
wish the whole arena could be converted into a vegetable market. The
Turks, however, frequent by preference those theatres in which certain
bare-necked, brazen-faced, painted French women sing light songs to
the accompaniment of a wretched orchestra. One of these theatres was
the Alhambra, situated in the Grande Rue de Pera: it consisted of a
long apartment, always crowded to the utmost, and red with fezzes from
stage to entrance. The nature of those songs, and the bold gestures
which those intrepid ladies employed in order to make their meaning
perfectly clear, no one could either imagine or credit unless indeed he
had been to the _Capellanes_ at Madrid. At anything especially coarse
or impudent all those great fat Turks, seated in long lines, broke
into loud roars of laughter, and then the habitual mask of dignity
and reserve would drop from their faces, exposing the depths of their
real nature and every secret of their grossly sensual lives. There is
nothing that the Turk conceals so habitually and effectually as the
sensual nature of his tastes and manner of life. He never appears in
public accompanied by a woman, rarely looks at, and never speaks to,
one, and considers it almost an insult to be inquired of concerning
his wives. Judging merely by outside appearances, one would take this
to be the most austere and straitlaced people in the world, but it is
only in appearance. The same Turk who colors to the tips of his ears
if one so much as asks if his wife is well, sends his boys, and his
girls too, to listen to the coarse jests of _Kara-gyuz_, corrupting
their minds before their senses are fairly awakened, while he himself
is fully capable of abandoning the peaceful enjoyments of his own
harem for such excesses as Bayezid the Thunderbolt set the first
example of, and Mahmûd the Reformer was doubtless not the last to
follow. And, indeed, were proof needed of the profound corruption which
lurks beneath this mask of seeming austerity, one need go no farther
than to that selfsame _Kara-gyuz_. It is a grotesque caricature of a
middle-class Turk, a sort of _ombra chinese_, whose head, arms, and
legs are made to accompany with appropriate gestures the developments
of some extravagant burlesque having usually a love-intrigue for its
plot. The marionette is worked behind a transparent curtain, and
resembles a depraved Pulcinello, coarse, cynical, and cunning. Sensual
as a satyr, foul-mouthed as a fishwife, he throws his audience into
paroxysms of laughter and enthusiasm by every sort of indecent jest and
extravagant gesture. Before the censorship curbed to some small extent
the hitherto unbridled looseness of this performance, the figure was
made to give visible proof of its corporeal resemblance to Priapus, and
not infrequently upon this lofty and elevating point the whole plot


Wishing to investigate for myself the Turkish manner of cooking, I got
my good friends of Pera to take me to a restaurant _ad hoc_ where every
kind of Turkish dish is to be had, from the most delicious delicacies
of the Seraglio to camel’s meat prepared as the Arabians eat it,
and horseflesh dressed according to the Turkoman fashion. Santoro
ordered the breakfast, severely Turkish from the opening course to the
fruit, and I, invoking the names of all those intrepid spirits who
have faced death in the cause of science, conscientiously swallowed a
part of each without so much as a groan. There were upward of twenty
dishes, the Turks being a good deal like children in their liking to
peck at a quantity of different kinds of food, rather than satisfy
their appetite with a few solid dishes. Shepherds of the day before
yesterday, they seem to disdain a simple table as though it were a
trait of rustic niggardliness. I cannot give a clear account of each
dish, many of them being now no more than a vague and sinister memory.
I do, however, remember the _kibab_, which consisted of little scraps
of mutton roasted on the coals, seasoned with a great deal of pepper
and cloves, and served on two soft, greasy biscuits--a dish not to be
named among the lesser sins. I can also recall vividly the odor of
the _pilav_, the _sine quâ non_ of a Turkish meal, consisting of rice
and mutton, meaning to the Turk what maccaroni does to the Neapolitan
or _cuscussu_ to the Arab or _puchero_ to the Spaniard. I have not
forgotten either--and it is the sole pleasant memory connected with
that repast--the _rosh’ab_, which is sipped with a spoon at the end of
the meal: it is composed of raisins, plums, apples, cherries, and other
fruits, cooked in water with a great deal of sugar, and flavored with
essence of musk, citron, and rose-water. Then there were numberless
other preparations of mutton and lamb, cut in small pieces and boiled
until no flavor remained; fish swimming in oil; rice-balls wrapped
in grape-leaves; sugar syrups; salads served in pastry; compôtes;
conserves; sauces, flavored with every sort of aromatic herb--a list
as long as the articles of the penal code for relapsed criminals; and
finally the masterpiece of some Arabian pastry-cook, a huge dish of
sweetmeats, among which were conspicuous a steamboat, a fierce-looking
lion, and a sugar house with grated windows. When all was over I felt a
good deal as though I had swallowed the contents of a pharmacist’s shop
or assisted at one of those feasts which children prepare with powdered
brickdust, chopped grass, and stale fruit--not unattractive-looking
when seen at a distance. All the dishes are served rapidly, four or
five at a time. The Turks dive into each with their fingers, the knife
and spoon only, being in common use among them, and one drinking-goblet
serves for the whole company, the waiter keeping it constantly filled
with flavored water.

These customs, however, were not followed by the party who were
breakfasting at the table adjoining ours. They were evidently Turks
who valued their ease, even to the extent of poising their slippers
upon the table: each had a plate to himself, and they plied their
forks very skilfully, drinking liquors freely in despite of Mahomet. I
observed, moreover, that they failed to kiss the bread before beginning
to eat, as every good Mussulman should, and that more than one longing
glance was sent in the direction of our bottles, although the muftis
pronounce it a sin to so much as cast the eye upon a bottle of wine.
There is, indeed, no doubt that this “father of abominations,” one
drop of which is sufficient to bring down upon the head of the sinning
Mussulman the “curses of every angel in heaven and earth,” gains new
disciples among the Turks every day, and that nothing but the fear of
public opinion prevents its open use. Were a thick cloud to descend
upon Constantinople some day, and after an hour suddenly be lifted, I
have little doubt that the sun would surprise fifty thousand Turks,
each one in the act of lifting the bottle to his lips. In this, as in
almost every other shortcoming of the Turks, it was the sultans who
were the stone of stumbling and rock of offence. Singular to relate,
it is that very dynasty which rules over a people among whom it is
considered a sin in the sight of God to drink wine at all, which has
produced more drunkards than any other line of rulers in Europe; so
sweet is forbidden fruit even in the estimation of the “shadow of God
upon earth.” It was, we are told, Bayezid I. who headed the long list
of imperial tipplers, and here, as in the case of the first sin, woman
was the temptress, the wife of this Bayezid, a daughter of the king of
Servia, offering her husband his first glass of Tokay. Next Bayezid
II. got intoxicated on Cypress and Schiraz wines; then the selfsame
Suleiman I. who fired every ship in the port of Constantinople that
was laden with wine, and poured molten lead down the throats of those
who drank the forbidden liquor, himself died when drunk, shot by one
of his own archers. Then comes Selim II., surnamed the _messth_ (sot),
whose debauches lasted three days, and during whose reign men of the
law and men of religion drank openly. In vain did Muhammad III. thunder
against this “abomination devised by Satan;” in vain did Ahmed I. close
all the taverns and destroy every wine-press in Stambul; in vain did
Murad IV. patrol the city accompanied by an executioner, who beheaded
in his presence every unfortunate whose breath witnessed against him,
while he himself, ferocious hypocrite that he was, staggered about the
apartments of the seraglio like any common frequenter of the pothouse.
Since his day the bottle, like some gay little black imp, has crept
into the seraglio, lurks in the bazâr, hides beneath the pillow of the
soldier, thrusts its little silver or purple neck from beneath the
divan of the beauty, and, crossing the threshold of the very mosques
themselves, has stained the yellow pages of the Koran with sacrilegious

[Illustration: Turbeh of Sultan Selim II in St. Sophia.]


Speaking of religion, while wandering about the streets and byways of
Constantinople I used often to wonder whether, were it not for the
voice of the muezzin, Christians would see anything to remind them
that there was any difference between the religion of this people
and their own. The Byzantine architecture of the mosques makes them
seem very like churches; of the Islam rites there is no external
evidence; while Turkish soldiers may be seen escorting the viaticum
through the streets. An uneducated Christian might remain a year in
Constantinople without being aware that Mohammed, not Christ, claimed
the allegiance of the greater part of the population; and this led me
on to reflect upon the slight nature of the fundamental difference--the
blade of grass, as the Abyssinian Christians called it in speaking
to the first followers of Mohammed--which divides the two religions,
and the trifling cause which led Arabia to adopt Islamism instead of
Christianity, or, if not Christianity, at all events something so
closely resembling it that, even had it never developed into that
outright, it would have seriously altered the destinies of the entire
Eastern world. This slight cause was nothing more or less than the
voluptuous nature of a certain handsome young Arabian, tall, fair,
ardent, with black eyes and musical voice--he lacked the force to
dominate his own passions, and so, instead of cutting at the root of
his people’s prevailing sin, he contented himself with pruning the
branches, and in lieu of proclaiming conjugal unity as he proclaimed
the unity of God, merely confined within somewhat narrower bounds, and
then proceeded to give the countenance of religion to, the dissolute
selfishness of men. No doubt he would have had to encounter a more
determined opposition in the one case than in the other, but that it
was in his power to succeed who can question when it is remembered
that in order to establish the worship of one sole God among a people
given over to idolatry he was obliged to first overthrow an enormous
superstructure of tradition and superstition, including innumerable
grants and privileges all closely interlaced, the result of centuries
of growth, and that he made them accept, as one of the dogmas of his
religion for which millions of believers subsequently died, a paradise
which at its first announcement aroused a universal feeling of scorn
and indignation? Unfortunately, however, this handsome young Arab
temporized with his passions, and as a consequence the face of half
the globe is changed, since polygamy was, without doubt, the besetting
vice of his rule and the principal cause of the decadence of all those
races who have adopted his religion. It is the degradation of one sex
for the benefit of the other, the open sanction of a glaring injustice
which disturbs the entire course of human rights, corrupts the rich,
oppresses the poor, encourages ignorance, breaks up the family, and by
causing endless complications in the rights of birth among the reigning
dynasties overturns kingdoms and states, finally placing an insuperable
barrier in the way of the union of Mussulman society with the people
of other faiths who populate the East. If, to return to the original
proposition, that handsome young Arab had only been endowed with a
little more strength of character, had the spiritual in his nature but
outweighed, by ever so small an amount, the animal, who knows?--perhaps
we would now have an Orient orderly, well-governed, and the world be a
century nearer universal civilization.


Happening to be in Constantinople in the month of Ramazân, the ninth
month in the Turkish calendar, in which the twenty-eight days’ fast
falls, I was able to enjoy every evening a spectacle so exceedingly
comical that I think it merits a description. Throughout the entire
fast the Turks are forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke from sunrise to
sunset. Most of them make it up by feasting all night, but as long as
the sun is shining the rule is very generally observed, and no one
dares, in public at any rate, to transgress it.

One morning my friend and I went to call upon a friend of ours, a young
aide-de-camp of the Sultan, who prided himself upon his liberal views.
We found him in one of the rooms on the ground floor of the imperial
palace with a cup of coffee in his hand. “Why,” said Yunk, “how do
you dare to drink coffee hours after sunrise?” The young man shrugged
his shoulders, and remarked carelessly that he did not care a fig for
Ramazân or the fast; but just at that moment, a door near by suddenly
opening, he was in such a hurry to hide the telltale cup that half
its contents were spilled at his feet. One can readily imagine from
this incident how rigorously all those must abstain whose entire day
is passed beneath the public eye, the boatmen for instance. To get a
really good idea of it one should stand on the Sultan Validéh bridge at
about sunset. What with the boats at the landings and those which are
going from one place to another, the ones near at hand and those in the
distance, there must be very nearly a thousand in sight. Every boatman
has fasted since sunrise, and by this time is ravenously hungry. His
supper is all ready in the käik, and his eyes travel constantly from
it to where the sun is nearing the horizon, and then back again, while
he has the restless, uneasy air of a wild animal who paces about his
cage as the feeding-hour approaches. Sunset is announced by the firing
of a gun, and until that signal is heard not so much as a crumb of
bread or drop of water crosses the lips of one of them. Sometimes in a
retired spot in the Golden Horn we would try to induce our boatman to
eat something, but the invariable answer was, “Jok! jok! jok!” (No! no!
no!), accompanied by an uneasy gesture toward the western horizon. When
the sun gets about halfway down behind the mountains the men begin to
finger their pieces of bread, inhaling its smell voluptuously. Then it
gets so low that nothing can be seen but a golden arc, and the rowers
lay down their oars. Those who are busy and those who are idle, some
midway across the Golden Horn, some lying in retired inlets, others on
the Bosphorus, others over near the Asiatic shore, others, again, who
are plying on the Sea of Marmora, one and all, turning toward the west,
remain immovable, their eyes fixed on the fast-disappearing disk with
mouth open, kindling eye, and bread firmly clasped in the right hand.
Now nothing can be seen but a tiny point of fire: a thousand hunks
of bread are held close to a thousand mouths, and then the fiery eye
drops out of sight, the cannons thunders, and on the instant thirty-two
thousand teeth tear a thousand huge mouthsful from a thousand loaves!
But why say a thousand, when in every house and café and restaurant a
similar scene is being enacted at precisely the same moment, and for a
short time the Turkish city is nothing but a huge monster whose hundred
thousand jaws are all tearing and devouring at once?


But think what this city must have been in the great days of the
Ottoman glory! I kept thinking of that all the time. How it must have
looked when not a single cloud of smoke arose from the Bosphorus, all
white with sails, to make ugly, black marks against the blue of sky
and water! In the port and the inlets of the Sea of Marmora, among
the picturesque battle-ships of that period with their lofty carved
prows, silver crescents, violet standards, and gilded lanterns,
floated the battered and blood-stained hulks of Spanish, Genoese,
and Venetian galleys. No bridges spanned the Golden Horn, which was
covered with myriads of gayly-decorated boats plying constantly from
one shore to the other, among which could be distinguished afar off
the snowy-white launches of the Seraglio, covered with gold-fringed
scarlet hangings and propelled by rowers dressed in silk. Skutari was
then no more than a village: seen from Galata, she only appeared to
have a few houses scattered about on the hillside; no lofty palaces as
yet reared their heads above the hilltops of Pera; the appearance of
the city was doubtless less impressive than now, but far more Oriental
in character: the law prescribing the use of colors being then in full
force, one could determine accurately the religion of the occupant from
the color of each house. Except for its public and sacred edifices,
which were white as snow, Stambul was entirely red and yellow; the
Armenian quarters were light, and the Greek quarters dark gray; the
Hebrew quarter, purple. As in Holland, the passion for flowers was
universal, so that the gardens were like huge bouquets of hyacinths,
tulips, and roses. The exuberant vegetation not having been as yet
checked on the surrounding hillsides by the growth of new suburbs,
Constantinople presented the appearance of a city built in a forest.
The public thoroughfares were nothing but lanes and alleys, but they
were rendered picturesque by the varied and brilliant crowds which
thronged them. The huge turbans worn by the men lent them all an air
of dignity and importance. The women, with the single exception of the
Sultan’s mother, were so rigorously veiled as to show nothing but the
eyes, and so formed a population apart, anonymous, enigmatical, which
lent to the entire city a certain air of secresy and mystery. Severe
laws controlled the dress of every individual, so that from the shape
of his turban or color of his caftan one could tell the precise rank,
occupation, office, or condition of every one he met, as though the
city had been one great court. The horse being as yet almost “man’s
only coach,” thousands of cavaliers filled the crowded streets, while
long files of camels and dromedaries belonging to the army traversed
the city in all directions, giving it something of the savage and
imposing air of an ancient Asiatic metropolis. Gilded arabas, drawn
by oxen, passed carriages hung with the green cloth of the _ulemi_ or
scarlet cloth of the _kâdi-aschieri_, and light _talike_ hung with
satin and fantastically painted. Troops of slaves marched along,
representing every country from Polonia to Ethiopia, clanking the
chains riveted on them in the field of battle. On the street-corners,
in the squares and the courtyards of the mosques, groups of soldiers
collected, clad in glorious rags, displaying their battered arms and
scars still fresh from wounds received at Vienna, Belgrade, Rodi,
and Damascus. Hundreds of orators recounted to rapt and enthusiastic
audiences the heroic deeds and brilliant victories achieved by the
army fighting at a distance of three months’ march from Stambul.
Pasha, bey, agha, musselim, numberless dignitaries and personages of
high rank, clad with theatrical display and accompanied by throngs of
attendants, made their way through the crowds, who bowed before them
like grain before the wind. Ambassadors representing every court in
Europe, accompanied by princely retinues, who had come to Stambul to
sue for peace or arrange an alliance, swept by. Caravans laden with
propitiatory gifts from Asiatic and African kings filed slowly along
the principal thoroughfares. Companies of _silidars_ and _spahis_,
haughty and insolent, swaggered by, their sabres stained with the blood
of twenty different nations, while the handsome Greek and Hungarian
Seraglio pages, dressed like little kings, pushed haughtily through the
obsequious multitude, who, recognizing in them the unnatural caprices
of their lord, respected them accordingly. Here and there a trophy of
knotted clubs before some doorway indicated the presence of a corps
of Janissaries, who at that time acted as police in the interior of
the city. Parties of Hebrews would be seen hurrying to the Bosphorus
with the dead bodies of the victims of justice. Every morning a body
would be found in the Baluk Bazâr, lying with the head under the right
armpit, a stone holding in place the sentence affixed to the breast.
Law-breakers to whom summary justice had been meted out would dangle
from a beam or hook in the public highway, while after nightfall one
was liable to stumble over the body of some unfortunate who, after
having his hands and feet pounded with clubs, had been thrown from the
window of the torture-chamber. In the broad light of day merchants,
caught in the act of cheating, would be nailed through the ear to their
own shop-doors, and, there being no law controlling the free right of
sepulture, the work of digging graves and burying the dead was carried
on at all hours and in all places--in the gardens, in the lanes and
open squares, and before the doors of dwellings. The cries of lambs
and sheep could be heard from the courtyards where they were being
slaughtered in sacrifice to Allah on the occasion of a circumcision
or a birth. From time to time a troop of eunuchs, galloping by with
warning cries, would be the signal for a general stampede; the streets
would become deserted; doors and windows fly to, blinds be drawn down,
and an entire neighborhood suddenly assume the look and air of a city
of the dead. Then in long procession files of gorgeously-decorated
coaches filled with the ladies of the imperial harem would pass by,
scattering around them an atmosphere of perfume and laughter. Sometimes
it would happen that an official of the court, making his way through
some thoroughfare, would suddenly encounter six quite ordinary-looking
individuals about to enter a shop, and at that sight grow unaccountably
pale. These six, however, would be the Sultan, four officers of his
court, and an executioner making their rounds from shop to shop in
order to verify the weights and measures.

[Illustration: Interior of Mosque of Ahmed.]

Throughout the whole of the city’s huge body there coursed an
exuberant and feverish life; the treasury overflowed with jewels, the
arsenal with arms, the barracks with soldiers, the caravanseries with
strangers; the slave-market was thronged with merchants and lofty
personages come to inspect the crowds of beautiful slaves. Scholars
pressed to examine the archives of the great mosques; long-winded
viziers prepared for the delectation of future generations the
interminable annals of the Empire; poets, pensioned by the
Seraglio, assembled in the baths, where they sang the imperial loves
and wars; swarms of Bulgarian and Armenian workmen toiled at the
erection of mighty mosques, employing huge blocks of granite and Paros
marble, while by sea, columns from the temples of the Archipelago, and
by land, spoils from the churches of Pesth and Ofen, were brought to
contribute to their splendor. In the harbor a fleet of three hundred
sail made ready to carry terror and dismay to every coast in the
Mediterranean; between Stambul and Adrianapolis companies of falconers
and gamekeepers, to the number of seven thousand, were stationed; and
in the intervals between military uprisings at home, foreign wars, and
conflagrations which would reduce twenty thousand houses to ashes in a
single night, revels would be celebrated, lasting thirty days, in honor
of the representatives of every court in Asia, Africa, and Europe. On
these occasions the glorifications of the Mussulmans degenerated into
folly: sham battles were fought by the Janissaries in the presence of
the Sultan and the court, amid huge _palme di nozze_ laden with birds,
mirrors, and fruits of various kinds, in order to make room for which
walls and houses were ruthlessly destroyed; and processions of lions
and sugar mermaids, borne on horses whose trappings were of silver
damask, and mountains of royal gifts sent from every part of the Empire
and every court in the world; dervishes executed their furious dances,
and bloody massacres of Christian prisoners were followed by public
banquets where ten thousand dishes of _cuscussù_ were served to the
populace; trained elephants and giraffes danced in the Hippodrome,
while bears and wolves, with fireworks tied to their tails, were let
loose among the people; allegorical pantomimes, grotesque masquerades,
wanton dances, fantastic processions, games, comedies, symbolic cars,
rustic dances, followed each other in rapid succession. Little by
little as night descended the festival degenerated into a mad orgy,
and then the lights from five hundred brilliantly illuminated mosques
spread a great aureole of fire over the entire city and announced
to the watching shepherds on the mountain-heights of Asia and the
wayfarers on the Propontis the revels of this new Babylon.

Such was once Stambul, a haughty sultaness, voluptuous, formidable,
wanton, as compared with which the city of to-day is little more than
some weary old queen, peevish and hypochondriacal.


Absorbed as I was by the Turks, I had, as may be readily understood,
but little time left in which to study the characteristics of the
three other nationalities--Armenian, Greek, and Hebrew--which go to
make up the population of Constantinople--a study requiring a certain
amount of time, too, since all of these people, while preserving to a
certain extent their national character, have outwardly conformed to
the prevailing Mussulman coloring around them, now in its turn fading
into a uniform tint of European civilization. Thus it is as difficult
to catch a vivid impression of any one of the three as it would be of a
view that was constantly changing. This is true in a special sense of
the Armenians, “Christians in spirit and faith, Asiatic Mussulmans by
birth and carnal nature,” whom it is not only hard to study intimately,
but even to distinguish at sight, since those among them who have not
adopted the European costume dress like Turks in all except some very
minor points. All of them have abandoned the ancient felt cap which
was formerly, with certain special colors, the distinctive sign of
their nation. In appearance they closely resemble the Turks, being
for the most part tall, robust, and corpulent, with a grave, sedate
carriage, but their complexion is light, and the two striking points
of their national character can usually be read in their faces--the
one, a quick, open, industrious, and persevering spirit, which fits
them in a peculiar way to commercial enterprises; and the other
that adaptability, called by some servility, which enables them to
gain a foothold among whatever people they may be thrown with from
Hungary to China, and renders them particularly acceptable to the
Turks, whose confidence they readily succeed in winning, making them
faithful subjects and obsequious friends. There is nothing heroic
or bellicose either about their appearance or disposition: formerly
this may have been otherwise. Those parts of Asia whence they came
are at present inhabited by a people, descendants of a common stock,
who, it is said, resemble them but little. Certainly those members of
the race who have been transplanted to the shores of the Bosphorus
are a prudent and managing people, moderate in their manner of life,
intent only upon their trade, and more sincerely religious, it is
affirmed, than any other nation which inhabits Constantinople. They
are called by the Turks the “camels of the Empire,” and the Franks
assert that every Armenian is born an accountant. These two sayings
are, to a great extent justified by the facts, since, thanks to
their great physical strength and their quickness and intelligence,
they furnish, in addition to a large proportion of her architects,
engineers, doctors, and clever and painstaking mechanics, the greater
part of Constantinople’s bankers and porters, the former amassing
fabulous fortunes, and the latter carrying enormous loads. At first
sight, though, one would hardly be aware that there was an Armenian
population in Constantinople, so completely has the plant, so to
speak, assumed the color of the soil. Their women, on whose account
the house of the Armenian is almost as rigorously closed to strangers
as that of the Mussulman, have likewise adopted the Turkish dress,
and none but the most expert eye could distinguish them among their
Mohammedan neighbors. They are generally fair and stout, with the
aquiline Oriental profile, large eyes and long lashes; many of them are
tall, with matronly figures, and, surmounted by turbans, might well be
mistaken for handsome sheiks. They are universally modest and dignified
in their bearing, and if anything is lacking it is the intelligence
which beams from the eyes of their Greek sisters.


Difficult as it may be to single out the Armenian at sight, there is no
such trouble about the Greek, who differs so essentially in character,
bearing, appearance, everything, from all the other subjects of the
Empire that he can be told at once without even looking at his dress.
To appreciate this diversity, or rather contrast, one need only watch
a Turk and a Greek who happen to be seated beside one another on board
a steamboat or in a café. They may be about the same age and rank,
both dressed in the European fashion, and even resemble each other
somewhat in feature, and yet it is quite impossible to mistake them.
The Turk sits perfectly motionless; his face wears a look of quietude
and repose, void of all expression, like a fed animal; if by any chance
some shadow of a thought appears, it seems to be a reflection as
lifeless and inert as his body; he looks at no one, and is apparently
quite unconscious that any one is looking at him, expressing by his
entire bearing an utter indifference to his surroundings, a something
of the resigned melancholy of a slave and the cold pride of a despot;
hard, closed, completed, he seems incapable of altering any resolution
once taken, and it would drive any one to the verge of madness who
should undertake the task of persuading him to any course. In short, he
appears to be a being hewn out of a single block, with whom it would
only be possible to live either as master or servant, and no amount
of intercourse with whom would ever justify the taking of a liberty.
With the Greek it is altogether different. His mobile features express
every thought that passes through his mind, and betray a youthful,
almost childish ardor, while he tosses his head with the free action of
an uncurbed and restive horse. On finding himself observed he at once
strikes an attitude, and if no one looks at him he tries to attract
attention; he seems to be always wanting or imagining something,
and his whole person breathes of shrewdness and ambition. There is
something so attractive and sympathetic about him that you are inclined
to give him your hand even when you would hesitate about trusting him
with your purse. Seen side by side, one can readily understand how it
is that one of these men considers the other a proud, overbearing,
brutal savage, and is looked down upon in his turn as a light
creature, untrustworthy, mischievous, and the cause of endless trouble,
and how they mutually despise and hate one another from the bottom of
their hearts, finding it impossible to live together in peace. And so
with the women. It is with a distinct feeling of gratification and
pleasure that one first encounters amid the handsome, florid Turkish
and Armenian types, appealing more to the senses than the mind, the
pure and exquisite features of the Greek women, illuminated by those
deep serious eyes whose every glance recalls an ode, while their
exquisite shapes inspire an immediate desire to clasp them in one’s
arms--with the object of placing them on pedestals, however, rather
than in the harem. Among them can still be occasionally found one
or two who, wearing their hair after the ancient fashion--that is,
hanging over the shoulders in long wavy locks, with one thick coil
wound around the top of the head like a diadem--are so noble-looking,
so beautiful and classic, that they might well be taken for statues
fresh from the chisel of a Praxiteles or a Lysippus, or for youthful
immortals discovered after twenty centuries in some forgotten valley
of Laconia or unknown island of the Egean. But even among the Greeks
these examples of queenly beauty are exceedingly rare, and are found
only in the ranks of the old aristocracy of the Empire, in the silent
and melancholy quarter of Fanar, where the spirit of ancient Byzantium
has taken refuge. There one may occasionally see one of these
magnificent women leaning on the railing of a balcony or against the
grating of some lofty window, her eyes fixed upon the deserted street
in the attitude of an imprisoned queen; and when a crowd of lackeys
is not lounging idly before the door of one of these descendants of
the Palæologi and the Comneni, one may, watching her from some place
of observation, fancy that a rift in the clouds has revealed for an
instant the face of an Olympian goddess.


With regard to the Hebrews I am prepared to assert, having been to
Morocco myself, that those of Constantinople have nothing in common
with their fellows of the northern coast of Africa, where observing
experts say they have discovered in all its primitive purity the
original Oriental type of Hebrew beauty. In the hope of finding some
traces of this same beauty, I summoned up all my courage and thoroughly
explored the vast Ghetto of Balata, which winds like an unclean reptile
along the banks of the Golden Horn. I penetrated into the most wretched
purlieus, among hovels “encrusted with mould” like the shores of the
Dantesque pool; through passageways which nothing would induce me to
enter again except on stilts, and, holding my nose; I peered through
windows hung with filthy rags into dark, malodorous rooms; paused
before damp courtyards exhaling a smell of mould and decay strong
enough to take one’s breath away; pushed my way through groups of
scrofulous children; brushed up against horrible old men who looked as
though they had died of the plague and come to life again; avoiding
now a dog covered with sores, now a pool of black mud, dodging under
rows of loathsome rags hung from greasy cords, or stumbling over heaps
of decaying stuff whose smell was enough to make one faint outright.
And, after all, my heroism met with no reward. Among all the many women
whom I encountered wearing the national kalpak--an article resembling
a sort of elongated turban, covering the hair and ears--I saw, it is
true, some faces in which could be discovered that delicate regularity
of feature and the expression of gentle resignation which are supposed
to characterize the Constantinopolitan Jewess; some vague profiles of a
Rebecca or a Rachel, with almond-shaped eyes full of a soft sweetness;
an occasional graceful, erect figure standing in Raphaelesque attitude
in an open doorway, with one delicate hand resting lightly on the curly
head of a child; but for the most part my investigations revealed
nothing but discouraging evidences of the degradation of the race. What
a contrast between those pinched faces and the piercing eyes, brilliant
coloring, and well-rounded forms which aroused my admiration a year
later in the _Mellà_ of Tangiers and Fez!

And the men--thin, yellow, stunted, all their vitality seems centred
in their bright cunning eyes, never still for a moment, but which
roll restlessly about as though constantly attracted by the sound of
chinking money.

At this point I am quite prepared to hear my kind critics among the
Israelites--who have already rapped me over the knuckles in regard
to their co-religionists of Morocco--take up the burden of their
song, laying all the blame of the degeneration and degradation of the
Hebrews of Constantinople at the door of the Turkish oppressor. But
it should be remembered that the other non-Mussulman subjects of the
Porte are all on a precisely similar footing, both political and civil,
with themselves; and, even were it otherwise, they would find some
difficulty in proving that the filthy habits, early marriages, and
complete abandonment of every sort of hard work, considered as primal
causes of that degeneration, are the logical results of the loss of
liberty and independence. And should they assert that it is not so
much Turkish oppression as the universal scorn and petty persecutions
which they have had to endure on all hands that have brought about such
complete loss of self-respect, let them pause and first ask themselves
if the exact opposite may not be nearer the truth, and the general
obloquy in which they are held be not so much the cause as the result
of their manner of life; and then, instead of trying to cover up the
sore, themselves be the ones to apply the knife.


After making the tour of Balata the most appropriate thing to take next
seems to be a Turkish bath. The bath-houses may be easily recognized
from without: they are small, mosque-shaped buildings, without windows,
surmounted by cupolas, and have high conical chimneys, from which smoke
is constantly rising. So much for the exterior, but he who desires to
penetrate farther and explore the mysteries of the interior would do
well to pause and ask himself, _Quid valeant humeri?_ since not every
one is able to endure the _aspro governo_ to which he who enters those
salutary walls must be subjected. I am free to confess that, after all
I had been told, I approached them with some feeling of trepidation,
which I think the reader will admit was not wholly unjustifiable before
he has done. As I recall it all now, two great drops of perspiration
stand out on my forehead, ready to roll down when I shall be in the
heat of my description. Here then is what was done to my unhappy
person. Entering timidly, I find myself in a large apartment which
leaves one in doubt for a few moments as to whether he has gotten by
mistake into a theatre or a hospital. A fountain plays in the centre,
decorated on top with flowers; a wooden gallery runs all around the
walls, upon which some Turks, stretched upon mattresses and enveloped
from head to foot in snow-white cloths, either slumber profoundly or
smoke in a dreamy state between waking and sleeping. Looking about
for some attendant, I become suddenly aware of two robust mulattoes,
stripped to the waist, who appear from nowhere like spectres and ask in
deep tones and both together, “_Hammamun?_” (bath?). “_Evvet_” (yes), I
reply in a very weak voice. Motioning me to follow, they lead the way
up a small wooden stair to a room filled with mats and cushions, where
I am given to understand that I must undress, after which they proceed
to wrap a strip of blue and white stuff about my loins, tie my head up
in a piece of muslin, and, placing a pair of huge slippers on my feet,
grasp me under the arms like a drunken man, and conduct, or rather
drag, me into another room, warm and half lighted, where, after laying
me on a rug, they stand with arms akimbo, waiting until my skin shall
have become moist. These preparations, so distressingly suggestive of
some approaching punishment, fill me with a vague uneasiness, which
changes into something even less admirable when the two cutthroats,
after touching me on the forehead, exchange a meaning glance, as who
should say, “Suppose he resists?” and then, as though exclaiming, “To
the rack!” again seize me by the arms and lead me into a third room.
This apartment makes a very singular impression at first sight:
it is as though one found himself in a subterranean temple, where,
through clouds of vapor, high marble walls, rows of columns, arches,
and a lofty vaulted roof, can be indistinctly seen, colored green and
blue and crimson by the rays of light falling from the cupola, white
spectral figures slide noiselessly back and forth close to the walls.
In the centre half-naked forms are extended upon the pavement, while
others, also half naked, bend over them in the attitude of doctors
making an autopsy. The temperature is such that no sooner have we
entered than I break out into a profuse perspiration, and it seems most
probable that should I ever get out at all it will be in the form of a
running stream like the lover of Arethusa.

The two mulattoes convey my body to the centre of the room and deposit
it upon a sort of anatomical table consisting of a raised slab of white
marble, beneath which are the stoves. The marble, being extremely
hot, burns me and I see stars, but, as long as I am there, there
is no choice but to go through with the penalty. My two attendants
accordingly begin the _vivisection_, and, chanting a sort of funeral
dirge the while, pinch my arms and legs, stretch my muscles, make my
joints crack, pound me, rub me, maul me, and then, rolling me over
on my face, begin over again, only to put me on my back later and
recommence the whole process. They knead and work me like a dough
figure to which they want to give a certain form they have in mind,
and, not succeeding, have grown angry with; a slight pause for breath
is only followed by renewed pinching, pulling, and pounding, until I
begin to fear that my last hour is drawing near; and then finally, when
my entire body is streaming with perspiration like a wet sponge, the
blood coursing furiously through my veins, and it has become evident
that I have reached the last limit of endurance, they gather up my
remains from that bed of torment and carry them to a corner, where in a
small alcove are a basin and two spigots from which hot and cold water
are running. But, alas! fresh martyrdom awaits me here; and really
the affair at this point begins to assume so serious an aspect that,
joking aside, I consider whether it would not be possible to strike
out to right and left, and, just as I am, make a break for life and
liberty. It is too late, though: one of my tormentors, putting on a
camel’s-hair glove, has fallen to rubbing my back, breast, arms, and
legs with the same cheerful energy a lively groom might employ in
currying a horse; after this has been prolonged for fully five minutes
a stream of tepid water is poured down my back, and I take breath and
return devout thanks to Heaven that it is all over at last. I soon
find, however, that this is premature: that ferocious mulatto, taking
the glove off, promptly falls to once more with his bare hand, until,
losing all patience, I sign to him to stop, with the result that,
exhibiting his hand, he proves to his own entire satisfaction and my
complete bewilderment that he must still continue, and does so. Next
follows another deluge of water, and after that a fresh operation: each
of them, now taking a piece of tow cloth, rubs a quantity of Candia
soap upon it, and then proceeds to soap me well from head to foot; then
another torrent of perfumed water, followed by the tow cloths again,
but, Heaven be praised! without soap this time, and the process is one
of drying me off. When this has been accomplished they tie up my head
again, wrap the cloth about my body, and then, enveloping me in a large
sheet, reconduct me to the second room, where I am allowed to rest a
few moments before being taken to the first; here a warm mattress is in
readiness, upon which I stretch myself luxuriously. The two instruments
of justice give a few final pinches to equalize the circulation of
blood throughout all my members, and then, placing an embroidered
cushion under my head, a white covering over me, a pipe in my mouth,
and a glass of lemonade at my side, depart, leaving me light, fresh,
airy, perfumed, with a mind serene, a contented heart, and such a sense
of youth and vitality that I feel as though, like Venus, I had just
been born from the foam of the sea, and seem to hear the wings of the
loves fluttering above my head.


Feeling thus “airy and meet for intercourse with the stars,” one could
not do better than ascend to the top of that stone Titan called the
Serasker Tower. I think that should Satan again undertake to offer a
view of the kingdoms of the world by way of a temptation, his best
course would be to select this spot for the enterprise. The tower,
built in the reign of Mahmûd II., is planted upon the summit of the
most lofty hill in Stambul, on that spot in the centre of the vast
courtyard of the War Office called by the Turks the _umbilicus_ of
the city. It is constructed mainly of white Marmora marble, on the
plan of a regular polygon with sixteen sides, and rears itself aloft,
erect, and graceful as a column, overtopping to a considerable extent
the gigantic minarets of the adjacent mosque of Suleiman. Ascending
a winding stair lighted here and there by square windows, you catch
fleeting views now of Galata, now of Stambul or the villages on the
Golden Horn, and before you are halfway to the top seem already to have
reached the region of the clouds. It may happen that a slight noise
is heard directly over your head, and almost at the same instant a
something flashes by, apparently an object of some sort being hurled
headlong from above; but, in reality, one of the guards stationed
day and night on the summit to watch for fires and give the alarm,
who, having discovered at some distant point of the horizon a
cloud of suspicious-looking smoke, is taking word to the seraskier.
After mounting about two hundred steps you reach a sort of covered
terrace running all around the tower and enclosed with glass, where an
attendant is always at hand to serve visitors with coffee. On first
finding yourself in that transparent cage, suspended as it were between
heaven and earth, with nothing to be seen but an immense blue space,
and the wind howling and rattling the panes of glass and making the
boards strain and creak, you are very apt to be attacked with vertigo
and to feel strongly tempted to give up the view; but at sight of the
ladder which leads to the window in the roof courage returns, and,
climbing up with a beating heart, a cry of astonishment escapes you. It
is an overpowering moment, and for a little while you remain silent and

[Illustration: Entrance and Tower of Seraskier.]

Constantinople lies spread out before you like a map, and with the
turn of an eye the entire extent of the mighty metropolis can be
embraced--all the hills and valleys of Stambul from the Castle of the
Seven Towers to the cemetery of Eyûb; all Galata, all Pera, as though
you could drop your sight down into them like a plumb-line; all Skutari
as though it lay directly beneath you--three lines of buildings,
groves, and shipping, extending as far as the eye can reach along
three shores of indescribable beauty, and other stretches of garden
and village winding away inland until they fade out of view in the
distance; the entire length of the Golden Horn, smooth and glassy,
dotted over with innumerable käiks, which look like bright-colored
flies swimming about on the surface of the water; all of the Bosphorus
too, but, owing to the hills which run out into it here and there, it
looks like a series of lakes, and each lake seems to be surrounded
by a city, and each city festooned about with gardens: beyond the
Bosphorus lies the Black Sea, whose blue surface melts into the
sky; in the opposite direction are the Sea of Marmora, the Gulf of
Nicomedia [Ismid], the Isles of the Princes, and the two coasts of
Asia and Europe, white with villages; beyond the Sea of Marmora lie
the Dardanelles, shining like a silver ribbon, and beyond them again a
dazzling white light indicates the Ægean Sea, with a dark line showing
the position of the Troad; beyond Skutari are seen Bithynia and the
Olympus; beyond Stambul the brown undulating solitudes of Thrace;
two gulfs, two straits, two continents, three seas, twenty cities,
myriads of silver cupolas with gilded pinnacles, a glory of light, an
exuberance of color, until you doubt whether it is indeed your own
planet spread out before you or some other heavenly body more highly
favored by God.


And so on the Serasker Tower I asked myself, as I had already done
over and over again on the old bridge, the Tower of Galata, at Skutari,
how I could ever have been so infatuated with Holland; and not only did
Holland now seem a poor dull place which one would tire of in a month,
but Paris, Madrid, Seville as well. And then I would think miserably
of my wretched descriptions--how often I had used the expressions
superb, beautiful, magnificent, until now there were none left for
this surpassing view; and yet at the same time I knew I would never be
willing to subtract a syllable from what I had said about those other
parts of Constantinople. My friend Rossasco would say, “Well, why don’t
you try this?” To which I would reply, “But suppose I have nothing to
say?” And indeed, incredible as it sounds, there really were times
when, in certain lights and at certain hours of the day, the view did
look almost poor, and I would exclaim in dismay, “What has become of
my beloved Constantinople?” At others I would experience a feeling
of sadness to think that while I had that immensity of space, that
prodigality of beauty, spread out before me for the asking, my mother
was sitting in a little room from which nothing could be seen but a
dull courtyard and narrow strip of sky, as though I must somehow be to
blame; and feel that I would give an eye to have my dear old lady on my
arm and carry her off to see St. Sophia. As a rule, however, the days
flew by as lightly and gayly as the hours at a feast, and when, by
any chance, my friend and I were attacked by ill-humor, we had a sure
and certain method of curing ourselves. Going to Galata, we would jump
into the two most gayly-decorated two-oared käiks at the landing, and,
calling out, “Eyûb!” presto, before we knew it, would find ourselves
in the middle of the Golden Horn. The oarsmen, Mahmûds or Bayezids or
Ibrahims, about twenty years old or so, and endowed with arms of iron,
would usually amuse themselves by racing, keeping up a series of shouts
and cries and laughing like children. Above, a cloudless sky, below a
smooth transparent sea; throwing back our heads, we would inhale great
breaths of the delicious scented air, and trail one hand over the
side in the soft clear water. On fly the two käiks; palaces, gardens,
kiosks, and mosques glide by; we seem to be borne on the wings of the
wind across an enchanted world, and are blissfully conscious that we
are young and at Stambul. Yunk sings, and I, while reciting half aloud
some one of Victor Hugo’s ballads of the East, can see now on the right
hand and now on the left, near by, afar off, a beloved face crowned
with white hair which wears a tender smile and tells me, as plainly as
though it were a voice speaking, that she appreciates and fully shares
all my enjoyment.


And now, if even a poor writer of travels may be allowed to invoke
his Muse, I do most certainly invoke mine with bent knee and clasped
hands, for, verily my mind grows bewildered, “_in faccia al nobile
subbietto_,” and the majestic outlines of the great Byzantine basilica
tremble before my vision like images reflected in the water. May the
Muse inspire me, St. Sophia illumine me, and the emperor Justinian
pardon me!

[Illustration: Entrance to St. Sophia.]

It was a fine morning in October when we at last set forth, accompanied
by a Turkish _cavas_ from the Italian consulate and a Greek dragoman,
to visit the terrestrial Paradise, second firmament, car of the
cherubim, throne of the glory of God, wonder of the world, the greatest
temple on earth after St. Peter’s. This last expression, as my friends
of Burgos, Cologne, Milan, and Florence must know, is of course not
my own, nor would I ever dare to make it so: I merely quote it among
the rest as one of the many terms consecrated by the enthusiasm of
the Greeks which our dragoman repeated to us as we passed along the
streets. We had purposely supplemented him by the old Turkish cavas
in the hope--and we were not disappointed--that their two accounts
might bring vividly before us the struggle between the two religions,
histories, and nations, the legends and explanations of one magnifying
the Church, those of the other the Mosque, in such a manner as to make
us see St. Sophia as she should be seen; that is to say, with one eye
Christian and the other Turkish.

My expectations were very great and my curiosity was all on fire,
and yet I realized then, as I do now, that the actual sight of
a world-renowned object, no matter how fully it may justify its
reputation, never quite comes up to the keen enjoyment one experiences
when on his way to see it. If I could live over again one hour out
of each of those days on which I saw some great sight for the first
time, I would unhesitatingly choose the one which intervenes between
the moment of saying, “Now let us start,” and that in which the goal
is reached. Those are the traveller’s most blissful hours. As you walk
along you can feel your soul expand, preparing, as it were, to receive
the streams of enthusiasm and delight soon to well up in it. You
recall your boyhood’s dreams, which then seemed so hopelessly far from
realization; you remember how a certain old professor of geography,
after pointing out Constantinople on the map of Europe, traced the
outline of the great basilica in the air, a pinch of snuff between
his thumb and fore finger; you see that room, that hearth, in front
of which, during the coming winter, you will describe to a circle
of wondering and attentive faces the famous building; you hear that
name, St. Sophia, ringing in your head, your heart, your ears like the
voice of a living person who calls, and awaits your coming to reveal
some mighty secret: you see above your head dim, prodigious outlines
of arch and pilaster and column, mighty buildings which reach to the
heavens, and when, at last, but a few steps more are wanted to bring
you face to face with the reality, you linger to examine a pebble,
watch the passage of a lizard, tell some trifling anecdote--anything
that may serve to postpone, if but for a few seconds, that moment to
which for twenty years you have been looking forward, and which you
will remember for the rest of your life. And, truly, if you take away
what goes before and what follows after, not so very much remains of
the much-talked-of joys of seeing and admiring. It is almost always a
delusion, followed by a slight awakening, after which we obstinately
delude ourselves again.

[Illustration: Fountain of Ahmed.]

The mosque of St. Sophia stands opposite the main entrance of the old
Seraglio. On reaching, however, the open square which lies between the
two, the first object to attract attention is, not the mosque, but
the famous fountain of Sultan Ahmed III., one of the richest and most
characteristic examples of Turkish art. This exquisite little building
is not so much a monument as a caress in marble imprinted in a moment
of passionate adoration by an enamored sultan upon the forehead of his
beloved Stambul. I doubt if any but a woman’s pen can do it justice:
mine, I feel convinced, is far too coarse and heavy to trace those
delicate outlines. At first sight it hardly looks like a fountain at
all, being in the form of a little square temple with a Chinese roof,
whose undulating rim extends for some distance beyond the walls, and
lends to the whole something of the character of a pagoda. At each
corner rises a round tower furnished with small screened windows, or,
rather, they are more like four charming kiosks, corresponding to the
graceful cupolas on the roof which encircle the main central cupola.
In each of the four walls are two niches, flanking a pointed arch,
beneath which the water flows from a spout into a small basin. Around
the edifice there runs an inscription which reads as follows: “This
fountain speaks to you in the following verse by Sultan Ahmed: Turn
the key of this pure and tranquil spring and call upon the name of
God; drink of these inexhaustible and limpid waters and pray for the
Sultan.” The little building is composed entirely of white marble,
which, however, is almost hidden beneath the mass of ornamentation
with which its walls are covered--arches, niches, tiny columns, roses,
polygons, garlands, fretwork, gilding on a background of blue. Carving
around the cupolas, inlaid-work below the roof, mosaics of a hundred
different combinations of color, arabesques of every conceivable
form,--all seem to vie with one another to attract attention and arouse
admiration, until one’s powers of seeing and admiring are well-nigh
exhausted. Not so much as a hand’s breadth of space is left free
from carving, painting, gilding, or ornament of some sort. It is a
prodigy of richness, beauty, and patience, which should, by rights, be
preserved under a glass case; and, as though it were too perfect to
delight but one sense alone, you are tempted to break off a piece and
put it in your mouth, feeling that it must taste good as well--a casket
designed, as one would suppose, to guard some priceless treasure, and
you long to open it and find the--what? Infant goddess, magic ring, or
fabulous pearl. Time has to some extent faded the brilliant colors,
dimmed the gilding, and darkened the marble; think, then, what this
colossal jewel must have been when first unveiled, all fresh and
sparkling, before the eyes of the Solomon of the Bosphorus a hundred
and sixty years ago! But, old and faded as it is, it undoubtedly
occupies the first place among the lesser wonders of Constantinople,
and is, moreover, an object so distinctively Turkish that, once seen,
it claims a prominent position among that certain number of others
which will dwell for ever in one’s memory, ready to rise up at the
sound of the word “Stambul;” the background for all time against which
will be thrown out one’s dreams and visions of the Orient.

Looking across from the fountain, St. Sophia can be seen occupying one
side of the intervening square. About the exterior there is nothing
especially noteworthy. The only points which attract the eye are the
lofty white minarets, which rise at the four corners from pedestals
each the size of a house. The celebrated dome looks small, and it
seems impossible that this can be the same as that which we are wont
to see, from the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmora and the hillsides of
Asia, rearing its mighty form like the head of some Titan against the
blue heavens. It is a flattened dome overlaid with lead, flanked by
two semi-domes, and pierced at the base by a row of small windows.
The four walls which support it are painted in broad bands of white
and red and strengthened by enormous masses of masonry. A number of
mean-looking buildings, baths, schools, hospitals, mausoleums, and
soup-kitchens, crowd around the base and effectually conceal the
ancient architectural form of the basilica. Nothing can be seen but a
heavy, irregular edifice, faded and bare as a fortress, and apparently
totally inadequate to embrace the mighty expanse of St. Sophia’s great
nave. Of the original basilica only the dome is visible, and even that
has been despoiled of the silver splendor which, according to the
Greeks, could once be seen from the summit of the Olympus. All the
rest is Mussulman: one minaret was erected by Muhammad the Conqueror,
another by Selim II., the two others by the Third Murad, the same
who toward the close of the sixteenth century added the buttresses
to strengthen the walls shaken by an earthquake, and placed the huge
bronze crescent on the summit of the dome, the gilding alone of which
cost fifty thousand ducats. The ancient atrium has disappeared, and
the baptistry has been converted into a mausoleum where are interred
the remains of Mustafa I. and Ibrahim, while nearly every one of the
other small buildings which adjoined the Greek church have been either
destroyed outright or else, by the erection of new walls or some other
alteration, changed past recognition: on all sides the mosque crowds,
pushes, and bears down upon the church, of which the head alone remains
free, and even around that the imperial minarets mount guard like
four gigantic sentinels. On the east side there is a doorway flanked
by six marble and porphyry columns; another on the south leads into a
courtyard surrounded by low, irregular buildings, in the midst of which
a fountain for ablutions plays beneath a little arched canopy supported
on eight, small columns. Viewed from the outside, there is nothing to
distinguish St. Sophia from the other great mosques of Stambul, except
that it is heavier and dingier; far less would it ever enter one’s
head to name it “the greatest temple on earth after St. Peter’s.”

[Illustration: Mosque of St. Sophia.]

Our guides conducted us by a narrow street skirting the northern wall
of the edifice to a bronze door, which, swinging slowly back on its
hinges, admitted us to the eso-narthex. This is a very long and lofty
hall lined with marbles, and still glowing here and there with ancient
mosaics. Nine doors on the eastern side give access to the body of the
church, opposite which five others formerly led to the exo-narthex,
which, in turn, communicated by thirteen doors with the atrium. We had
barely crossed the threshold when a turbaned sacristan demanded our
firmans, and then, after donning slippers, at a sign from the guides we
approached the middle door on the eastern side, which stood half open
to receive us. The first effect is certainly quite overpowering, and
for some moments we remained stunned and speechless. In a single glance
one is confronted by an enormous space and a bold architecture of
semi-domes which seem to hang suspended in the air, enormous pilasters,
mighty arches, gigantic columns, galleries, tribunes, arcades, over
which floods of light are poured from a thousand great windows--a
something I hardly know how to define of theatrical and regal rather
than sacred; an ostentation of size and strength; a look of worldly
pomp; a mixture of the classic, barbarous, fanciful, arrogant, and
magnificent; a stupendous harmony in which, with the formidable and
thunderous notes of the pilasters and cyclopean arches, recalling
the cathedrals of the North, there mingle soft, subdued strains of
some Oriental air, the noisy music of the revels of Justinian and
Heraclitus, echoes of pagan chants, the choked voice of an effeminate
and wornout race, and distant cries of Goth, of Vandal, and of Avar;
a mighty defaced majesty, a sinister nakedness, a profound peace--St.
Peter’s shrunken and plastered over, St. Mark’s enlarged and abandoned;
a quite indescribable mingling of church, mosque, and temple, severe
in aspect, puerile in adornment--of things old and new, faded colors,
and curious, unfamiliar accessories: a sight, in short, so bewildering,
so awe-inspiring, and at the same time so full of melancholy, that
for a time the mind cannot grasp its full meaning, but gropes about
uncertainly, trying to find first what it is, and then words in which
to express it.

The plan of the edifice nearly approaches an equilateral rectangle,
over the centre of which rises the great dome, supported on four
mighty arches resting upon massive pilasters: these form, as it were,
the skeleton of the entire building. From the arches on the right and
left of the entrance there rise, before and beyond the great dome,
two semi-domes, the three covering the entire nave, these semi-domes
have six exedræ, of which the four on the sides are also covered
with semi-domes, making four small circular temples enclosed in the
large one. Between the two exedræ at the east end of the building is
the apse, which projects beyond the external wall, and is likewise
covered with a domed roof. Thus seven semi-domes encircle the main one,
two just beyond it and five more beyond these, all of them without
any apparent support, and presenting an extraordinary impression of
lightness, as though they actually were, as a Greek poet once said,
suspended by seven cords from the roof of the sky. All these domes
are lighted by large windows arched and symmetrical. Between the four
great pilasters, which form a square in the centre of the basilica,
there rise to the right and left of the entrance eight wonderful
columns of green marble, from which spring graceful arches richly
carved with foliage, forming charming porticos on either side of the
nave, and supporting at a great height two vast galleries, where are
to be seen two other lines of columns and sculptured arches. A third
gallery, communicating with the first two, runs above the narthex, and
opens out on the nave by means of three enormous arches supported on
double columns. Other smaller galleries, resting upon porphyry columns,
intersect the four small temples at the extremities of the nave, and
from them rise other columns supporting tribunes.

Such is the basilica. The mosque is, so to speak, spread over its
surface and hung upon its walls. The _mihrab_--that is, the niche
which indicates the direction in which Mecca lies--is hollowed out of
one of the pilasters of the apse; to the right of it, high up on the
wall, hangs one of the four prayer-carpets of the Prophet. In the angle
of the apse nearest to the mihrab, reached by a steep little flight
of stairs whose marble balustrade is carved with the most marvellous
delicacy of workmanship, is the pulpit, surmounted by a queer conical
roof and hung on either side with victorious banners of Muhammad II.
Here the _rhatib_ ascends to read the Koran,[H] and carries in his hand
a drawn simeter, to signify that St. Sophia is a mosque acquired by the
force of arms. Opposite the pulpit is the Sultan’s tribune enclosed
within a gilded grating. Other pulpits or species of balconies, having
railings of open-work carving, and supported on small marble columns
and arabesqued arches, protrude here and there along the walls or
toward the centre of the nave. On either side of the entrance stand two
huge alabaster jars, found among the ruins of Pergamum and brought to
Constantinople by Murad III. Enormous green disks, bearing inscriptions
from the Koran[I] in letters of gold, are hung below the pendentives,
beneath which great mural slabs of porphyry bear the names of Allah,
Mohammed, and the first four khalifs. In the pendentives may still
be seen the gigantic wings of the four mosaic seraphim, whose faces
are now concealed beneath golden roses. From the roofs of the domes
hang innumerable silken cords, measuring almost the entire height
of the building, from which are suspended ostrich eggs, lamps of
wrought bronze, and crystal globes. Here and there stand cassia-wood
reading-desks, inlaid with copper and mother-of-pearl, on which lie
manuscript copies of the Koran. On the pavement are spread great
numbers of rugs and mats. The walls are bare, whitish, yellowish, gray,
still adorned in some places with discolored mosaics. The general
aspect is inexpressibly mournful.

    [H] This pulpit is the _minbir_, used only on Friday, and then
        by the rhatib to read a prayer for the Sultan, Khalîf, and

    [I] The names of Allah, the Prophet, and four khalifs mentioned
        below are on these green disks, not verses from the

[Illustration: Interior of the Mosque of St. Sophia.]

The great marvel of the mosque is the central dome. Gazing up at it
from the middle of the nave, it truly seems, as Mme. de Staël said
of the dome of St. Peter’s, as though a vast abyss were suspended
over one’s head. It is very lofty, with an enormous circumference,
and is made to appear still larger from the fact that its depth
is but one-sixth of its diameter.[J] Around its base runs a small
gallery, above which are a row of forty arched windows, and around
the crown are inscribed the words pronounced by Muhammad II.
when he drew his horse up opposite the high altar on the day of the
conquest of Constantinople: “Allah is the light of heaven and earth.”
These letters, white on a dark background, are some of them more than
twenty-seven feet long. As is well known, this aërial prodigy could
never have been constructed had ordinary materials been employed. The
roofs were built of pumice-stone, which floats on the surface of water,
and of bricks from the Isle of Rhodes, five of which hardly weigh as
much as one ordinary brick; on each of them was inscribed the sentence
from David, “_Deus in medio eius non commovebitur. Adiuvabit eam Deus
vultu suo_,” and with every twelfth row relics of various saints were
walled in. During the progress of the building operations the priests
chanted and Justinian attended in person clad in a coarse linen tunic,
while immense crowds looked on in admiration; and this is hardly to
be wondered at when we consider that the construction of this “second
firmament,” which even at the present time is an object of wonder, was
an undertaking without parallel in the sixth century. The common people
believed it to be the result of magic, and the Turks must have had
much ado for a long period after the conquest to keep their gaze fixed
upon the east when praying in St. Sophia, instead of resting it upon
that “stone heaven” above their heads. The dome covers, indeed, nearly
half the nave, in such a manner as to light up and dominate the entire
edifice: it can be seen, at least in part, from every point, and,
wander where you will, you invariably bring up beneath it to find your
gaze attracted for the hundredth time to that immeasurable space, where
eye and mind float with ecstatic delight as though borne on wings.

    [J] This is a mistake: the great dome of St. Sophia is 107
        feet across by 46 in height. (See Fergusson, _Hist.

After inspecting the nave and dome one has but just begun to see St.
Sophia. Whoever takes the least shadow, for example, of historical
interest in the building could spend an hour over the columns alone.
Here may be found spoils from every temple in the world. The four
columns of green marble supporting the large galleries were presented
to Justinian by the magistrates of Ephesus, having formerly stood
in the temple of Diana, which was burned by Herostratus. The eight
porphyry columns which stand two and two between the pilasters were
a part of the temple of the Sun at Baalbek, and were carried thence
by Aurelian to Rome. Others are from the temple of Jupiter at Cyzicus
and of Helios at Palmyra--from the temples of Thebes, of Athens, of
Rome, of the Troad, the Cyclades, and from Alexandria: altogether,
they present an endless variety of style, form size, and color. What
between the columns, the railings and pedestals, and the portions of
the ancient covering of the walls which still remain, there are marbles
from every quarry of the Archipelago, Asia Minor, Africa, and
Gaul: the white Bosphorus marble speckled with black contrasts with
the black Celtic veined with white; the green marble of Laconia is
reflected in the blue Libyan, while the Egyptian spotted porphyry,
starred granite of Thessaly, the red-and-white striped stone of Mt.
Jassey, and pale _caristio_ streaked with iron, mingle their colors
with the purple Phrygian, red Synadian, gold of the Mauritius, and
snow-white marble of Paros. Added to this wealth of color is the
indescribable variety of form, as seen in the friezes, the cornices,
roses, and balustrades, and odd Corinthian capitals carved with
foliage, crosses, animals, and strange chimerical figures, all
interlaced: others, again, belong to no order in especial, of curious
design and unequal size, evidently coupled together by chance--shafts
of columns, pedestals ornamented with strange sculptures, injured by
time and mutilated by sabre-cuts,--altogether an effect of wild and
barbarous magnificence which, while it outrages the rules of good
taste, attracts the eye with an unresistible fascination.

[Illustration: First Columns Erected in St. Sophia.]

From the nave one hardly appreciates the vast size of the building, of
which it indeed forms but a comparatively small part. The two aisles
beneath the large galleries are in themselves two large edifices, out
of either one of which a separate temple might be formed. Each of these
is divided in three and separated by large vaulted openings. Indeed,
everything here, column, architrave, pilaster, roof, is gigantic.
Passing beneath these arches, you can barely see the nave from between
the columns of the Ephesian temple, and seem almost to be in another
basilica: the same effect is produced from the galleries, reached by a
winding stair with very gentle gradations, or rather it is an inclined
plane, for there are two steps, and one might readily ascend it on
horseback. The galleries were used as gynæconitis; that is, those parts
of the church reserved for women: penitents remained without in the
eso-narthex, while the mass of the faithful occupied the nave. Each one
of these galleries is capable of accommodating the entire population
of a suburb of Constantinople. You no longer feel as though you were
in a church, but rather walking in the foyer of some Titanic theatre,
expecting at any moment to hear the sudden outburst of a chorus sung
by a hundred thousand voices. In order to realize the immense size
and obtain a really good view of the mosque one must lean well over
the railing of the gallery and look around. Arches, roofs, pilasters,
have all swelled to gigantic proportions. The green disks which, seen
from below, appear to measure about the length of a man’s arm, are now
large enough to cover a house. The windows look like portes-cochères
of palaces, the seraphim wings like the spread sails of a vessel, the
tribunes like vast open squares; while it makes one’s head swim to
look up at the dome at all. Casting the eyes below, one is taken aback
to find how high he has mounted: the pavement of the nave is far away
at the bottom of an abyss, while the pulpits, jars from Pergamum, mats,
and lamps seem to have shrunken in the most extraordinary manner.
One rather curious circumstance about the mosque of St. Sophia is
particularly noticeable from this elevated position: the nave not being
precisely in line with Mecca, toward which it is incumbent upon every
good Mussulman to turn while praying, all the mats and strips of carpet
are placed obliquely with the lines of the building, and produce upon
the eye the same disagreeable effect as though there were some gross
defect in the perspective. From there, too, one is enabled to see and
observe all the life of the mosque. Turks are kneeling upon the mats
with foreheads touching the pavement; others stand erect and motionless
as statues, with hands held before their faces, as though interrogating
their palms; some are seated cross-legged at the foot of a pilaster,
much as they would rest beneath the shade of a tree; veiled women kneel
in a distant corner; old men seated before the lecterns read from the
Koran; an _iman_ is hearing a group of boys recite sacred verses; and
here and there beneath distant arches and through the galleries the
forms of _rhatib_, _iman_, or _muezzin_ and various other functionaries
of the mosque glide noiselessly back and forth, as though their feet
hardly touched the ground, clad in strange, unfamiliar costumes, while
the vague, subdued murmur of those who pray and those who read, that
clear, steady light, the thousand odd-looking lamps, the deserted apse
and echoing galleries, the immensity of it all, the past associations
and present peacefulness,--combine to produce such an impression of
greatness and of mystery as neither words can express nor time efface.

But the dominating sensation, as I have already said, is one of
sadness, and that great poet who compared St. Sophia to a “colossal
sepulchre” was not far wrong. On all sides you see the signs of a
barbarous devastation, and experience more melancholy in the thought
of what has been than pleasure in contemplating what still remains.
After the first feelings of amazement have to some extent subsided,
one’s mind turns intuitively to the past. And even now, after a lapse
of three years, I can never think of the great mosque without trying to
imagine the church. Overthrow the pulpits of the Mussulman, remove the
lamps and jars, cut down the disks and tear away the porphyry slabs,
reopen the doors and windows that have been bricked up, scrape away the
plaster which covers wall and roof, and, behold! the basilica whole and
new as it appeared on that day, thirteen centuries ago, when Justinian
exclaimed, “_Glory be to God, who has judged me worthy to perform this
mighty work! O Solomon, I have surpassed thee!_” Every object upon
which the eye rests shines or glitters or flashes like the enchanted
palaces in a fairy tale. The enormous walls, once more covered with
precious marbles, send back reflections of gold, ivory, steel, coral,
and mother-of-pearl; the markings and veins of the marble look like
coronets or garlands of flowers; wherever a ray of sunlight chances to
fall upon those walls, all encrusted with crystal mosaics, they flash
and sparkle as though set with diamonds; the capitals, entablatures,
doors, and friezes of the arches are all of gilded bronze; the roofs of
aisle and gallery are covered with angelic forms and figures of saints
painted upon a golden background; before the pilasters in the chapels,
beside the doors, between the columns, stand marble and bronze statues
and enormous candelabra of solid gold; superb copies of the Gospels
lie upon lecterns adorned like kings’ thrones; lofty ivory crosses and
vases encrusted with pearls stand upon the altars. The extremity of
the nave is nothing but one blaze of light from a mass of glittering
objects: here is the gilded bronze balustrade of the choir, the pulpit
overlaid with forty thousand pounds of silver--the Egyptian tribute for
a whole year; the seats of the seven priests, the Patriarch’s throne,
and that of the emperor gilded, carved, inlaid, set with pearls, so
that when the sun shines full upon them one is forced to avert the eye.
Beyond all these splendors in the apse a still more vivid blaze is
seen proceeding from the altar itself, the table of which, supported
upon four gold pillars, is composed of a fusion of silver, gold, lead,
and pearls; above it rises the ciborium, formed of four pillars of pure
silver supporting a massive gold cupola, surmounted by a globe and by a
cross also of gold weighing two hundred and sixty pounds.[K] Beyond the
altar is seen the gigantic image of Holy Wisdom, whose feet touch the
pavement and head the roof of the apse. High over all this magnificence
shine and glisten the seven semi-domes overlaid with mosaics of crystal
and gold, and the mighty central dome covered with figures of apostle
and evangelist, the Virgin and the cross, all colored, gilded, and
brilliant like a roof of jewels and flowers. And dome and pillar,
statue and candelabra, each and every gorgeous object, is repeated in
the immense mirror of the pavement, whose polished marbles are joined
together in undulating lines, which, seen from the four main entrances,
have the effect of four majestic rivers ruffled by the wind. But we
must not forget the atrium--surrounded by columns, and walls covered
with mosaics--in which stood marble fountains and equestrian statues;
and the thirty-two towers whose bells made so formidable a clamor that
they could be heard throughout the seven hills; or the hundred bronze
doors decorated with bas-reliefs and inscriptions in silver; or the
hall of the synod; the imperial apartments; the sacerdotal prisons;
the baptistry; the vast sacristies overflowing with treasure; and a
labyrinth of vestibules, tricliniums, corridors, and secret stairways
built in the walls and leading to tribunes and hidden oratories.

    [K] Some authorities give the weight of this cross as
        seventy-five pounds.--TRANS.

And now let us in fancy attend some great state function--an imperial
marriage, a council, a coronation. From the enormous palace of the
Cæsars the glittering procession sweeps forth through streets flanked
by thousands of columns, perfumed with myrrh, and spread with flowers
and myrtle. The houses on either side are decorated with precious
vases and silken hangings. Two bands, the one of _azzurri_, the other
_verdi_, precede the cortége, which advances amid the songs of poets
and noise of the heralds shouting vivas in all the tongues of the
empire, and there, seated like an idol laden with pearls in a golden
car with purple hangings, and drawn by two white mules, the emperor
appears, wearing the tiara surmounted by a cross, and surrounded with
all the pomp of a Persian monarch. The haughty ecclesiastics advance
to the atrium to receive him, and all that throng of courtiers,
attendants, place-seekers, sycophants, lord high constables, chief
eunuchs, master-thieves, corrupt magistrates, spurious patricians,
cowardly senators, slaves, buffoons, casuists, mercenaries, adventurers
from every land, the entire glittering rabble of gilded offscourings,
pours through the twenty-seven doors and into the huge nave lit up
by six thousand candelabras. Then along the choir-rail and beneath
arcade and tribune there is a coming and going; a movement and mingling
of bared heads and purple cloaks; a waving of jewelled plumes and
velvet caps; the glitter of golden chains and silver breastplates;
an interchange of ceremonious greetings and courtly salutations; the
constant rustle and sweep of silken garments and rattle of jewelled
hilts; while soft perfumes load the air and the vast servile throng
makes the sacred edifice ring again with shouts of admiration and
profane applause.

After making the circuit of the mosque several times in silence, we
gave our guides permission to talk. They commenced by showing us
the chapels built beneath the galleries, now, like the rest of the
basilica, despoiled of everything of value: some of them, like the
_opistodomo_ of the Parthenon, serve as treasuries, where Turks who are
about to start on long journeys deposit their money and other valuables
to be secure from robbery, sometimes leaving their possessions there,
under the protection of Allah, for years at a time; others have been
closed up and are used either as infirmaries for the sick, where they
lie awaiting death or recovery, or else places of confinement for the
insane, whose melancholy cries or bursts of wild laughter awaken from
time to time the echoes of the vast building.

We were now reconducted to the centre of the nave, and the Greek
dragoman began to recount the marvels of the basilica. The design, it
is quite true, was sketched by the two architects, Anthemius of Tralles
and Isidorus of Miletus, but the first conception came to them through
angelic inspiration; it was also an angel who suggested to Justinian
the idea of opening the three windows in the apse to represent the
three Persons of the Trinity; in the same way the hundred and seven
columns of the church stand for the hundred and seven pillars which
support the House of Wisdom. It took seven years merely to collect
the necessary materials for constructing the edifice, while a hundred
master-builders were employed to overlook the ten thousand workmen,
five thousand on one side and five thousand on the other, who labored
at its erection. When the walls had risen to the height of but a few
hands only from the ground more than four hundred and fifty quintals
of gold had already been expended. The outlay for the building alone
amounted to twenty-five million francs. The church was consecrated by
the Patriarch five years eleven months and ten days after the first
stone was laid, and Justinian celebrated the occasion by feasts and
sacrifices and distributions of money and food which were prolonged for
two weeks.

At this point the Turkish _cavas_ interrupted in order to call our
attention to the pilaster upon which Muhammad II. left the bloody
imprint of his right hand on the day of his victorious entrance, as
though to seal his conquest; he then pointed out the so-called “cold
window,” near the mihrab, through which a perpetual current of cool
air inspires the most eloquent discourses from the greatest orators
of Islamism. He next showed us, close by another window, the famous
“shining stone,” a slab of transparent marble which gleams like crystal
when struck by the sun’s rays, and made us touch the “sweating column,”
on the left of the north entrance. This column is overlaid with bronze,
through a crack in which the stone can be seen covered with moisture.
And finally he showed us a block of hollowed-out marble, brought from
Bethlehem, in which, it is said, was placed immediately after his birth
Sidi Yssa, “the Son of Mary, apostle of, and Spirit proceeding out
from, God, worthy of all honor both in this world and the next.” But it
struck me that neither Turk nor Greek placed very much faith in this

The Greek now took up his parable, and led us by a certain walled-up
doorway in the gallery, in order to recount the celebrated legend of
the Greek bishop; and now his manner was one of such entire belief
that, if it was not sincere, it was certainly wonderfully well feigned.
It seems that at the very moment when the Turks burst into the church
of St. Sophia a bishop was in the act of celebrating mass at the high
altar. Leaving the altar at sight of the invaders, he ascended to one
of the galleries, where some Turks, following in hot pursuit, saw him
disappear within this little door, which was instantly closed up by a
stone wall. Throwing themselves against it, the soldiers tried with all
their force to break it down, hammering and pounding furiously against
the stones, but with no other result than to leave the marks of their
weapons upon the wall. Masons were sent for, who worked an entire day
with pickaxes and crowbars, finally abandoning the attempt: after them
every mason in Constantinople tried in turn to effect an opening, but
one and all failed to make any impression upon the miraculous wall,
which has remained closed ever since. On that day, however, when the
profaned basilica shall be restored to the worship of Christ the wall
will open of its own accord, and the bishop will come forth, wearing
his episcopal robes, and, chalice in hand, his face illumined as with a
celestial vision, will mount the steps of the altar and resume the mass
at the very point where he left off centuries ago; and then will be the
dawn of a new era for the city of Constantine.

As we were about leaving the building the Turkish sacristan, who had
followed us all about, lounging and yawning, gave us a handful of bits
of mosaic, which he had dug out of a wall shortly before, and the
dragoman, whom this incident had interrupted as he was about to launch
forth into the account of the profanation of St. Sophia, resumed his

I certainly hope, however, that no one will interrupt me, now that the
whole scene has been brought so vividly before me by this description
of the building.

Hardly had the report been noised abroad throughout Constantinople,
at about seven in the morning, that the Turks had actually scaled
the walls, than an immense throng of people rushed to St. Sophia for
refuge. There were about a hundred thousand persons in all--renegade
soldiers, monks, priests, senators, thousands of virgins from the
convents, members of patrician families laden with their treasures,
high state dignitaries, and princes of the imperial blood,--all pouring
through nave and gallery and arcade, treading upon one another in every
recess of the huge building, and mingling in one inextricable mass
with the dregs of the population, slaves, and malefactors escaped from
the prisons and galleys. The mighty basilica resounded with shrieks of
terror such as are heard in a theatre at the outbreak of fire. When
every nook and corner, gallery and chapel, was filled to overflowing,
the doors were shut to and securely bolted, and the wild uproar of the
first few moments gave place to a terror-stricken silence. Many still
believed that the victors would not dare to violate the sanctity
of St. Sophia; others awaited with a stubborn sense of security the
appearance of the angel foretold by the prophets who was to annihilate
the Turkish army before the advance-guard should have reached the
Column of Constantine; others, again, had ascended to the gallery
running around the interior of the dome, from whose windows they could
watch the movements of the enemy and impart their intelligence by signs
to the hundred thousand strained and ashy faces turned up to them from
the nave and galleries below. An immense white mass could be seen
covering the city-walls from the Blachernæ to the Golden Gate, from
which four shining bands were seen to detach themselves and advance
between the houses like four torrents of lava, increasing in volume
and noise and leaving behind them a track of smoke and flame. These
were the four attacking columns of the Turkish army driving before
them the disorganized remainder of the Greek forces, and burning and
plundering as they came, converging toward St. Sophia, the Hippodrome,
and the imperial palace. As the advance-guard reached the second
hill the blare of their trumpets suddenly smote upon the ears of the
terrified throng in the basilica, who fell upon their knees in agonized
supplication; but even then there were many who still looked for the
angel to appear, and others who clung to the hope that a feeling
of awe at the vastness and majesty of that building, dedicated to
the worship of God, might hold the invaders in check. But even this
last illusion was soon dispelled. Through the thousand windows there
broke on their ears a confused roar of human voices mingled with the
clashing of arms and shrill blare of trumpets, and a moment later the
first blows of the Ottoman sabres fell upon the bronze doors of the
vestibule and resounded throughout the entire building, sounding the
death-knell of the listening multitude, who, feeling the chill breath
of the grave blow upon them, abandoned hope and recommended their
souls to the mercy of God. Before long the doors were battered in or
struck from their hinges, and a savage horde of janissaries, spahis,
_timmarioti_, dervishes, and sciaus, covered with dust and blood, their
faces contorted with the fury of battle, rapine, and murder, appeared
in the openings. At sight of the enormous nave, glittering with gold
and precious stones, they sent up a great shout of astonishment and
joy, and, pouring in like a furious torrent, abandoned themselves to
the work of pillage and destruction. Some busied themselves at once in
securing the women and virgins, valuable booty for the slave-market,
who, stupefied with terror, offered no resistance, but voluntarily held
out their arms for the chains. Others attacked the rich furnishings
of the church: tabernacles were violated, images overthrown, ivory
crucifixes trodden under foot, while the mosaics, mistaken for
precious stones, fell under the blows of the cimeters in glittering
showers into the cloaks and caftans held open to receive them; pearls,
detached from their settings with sabre-points, rolled about over the
pavement, chased like living creatures and fought over with savage
kicks and blows. The high altar was broken up into a thousand pieces of
gold and silver; thrones, pulpits, the choir-rail, all disappeared as
though swept away by an avalanche of rock and stone, and still those
Asiatic hordes continued to pour into the church in blood-stained
waves, and on all sides nothing could be seen but a whirlwind of
drunken ruffians, some of whom had placed tiaras on their heads, while
others wore different parts of the sacerdotal vestments over their own
clothing. Chalices and receptacles for the Host were waved aloft, and
troops of newly-acquired slaves, bound two and two with ecclesiastical
scarfs of gold, and horses and camels laden with plunder, were driven
over the pavement strewn with broken fragments of statues, torn
copies of the Evangels, and relics of the saints--a barbarous and
sacrilegious orgy in which shouts of triumph, fierce threats, bursts
of hoarse laughter, children’s cries, the neighing of horses, and
shrill clanging of trumpets mingled in one overpowering uproar, until,
suddenly, the mad tumult ceased, and in the awed hush which followed
the august figure of Muhammad II. appeared in a doorway, on horseback
and surrounded by a group of princes, viziers, and generals, haughty
and impassive, like the living representative of the vengeance of God.
Rising in his stirrups, he announced in a voice of thunder, which
re-echoed throughout the whole of the devastated building, the first
formula of the new religion: “Allah is the light of heaven and earth.”


Every Friday the Sultan says his prayers in some one of the mosques of

[Illustration: Palace of Dolma Baghcheh.]

We saw him one day on his way to the mosque of Abdul-Mejid, which
stands on the European shore of the Bosphorus not far from the
imperial palace of Dolmabâghcheh. To reach this palace from Galata
you pass through the populous district of Top-Khâneh, between a
great gun-foundry and an immense arsenal, and, traversing the entire
Mussulman quarter of Fundukli, which occupies the site of the ancient
Aianteion, come out upon a spacious open square on the water’s edge,
beyond which and on the shore of the Bosphorus rises the famous
residence of the sultans.

It is the largest marble building reflected in the waters of the strait
from Seraglio hill to the mouth of the Black Sea, and can only be
embraced in a single view by taking a käik and passing along its front.
The façade, nearly a half (Italian) mile in length, looks toward Asia,
and can be seen at a great distance gleaming between the water’s blue
and deep green summits of the hills behind it. Properly speaking,
it can hardly be called a palace, since it is not the result of any
one architectural plan. The various parts are detached and present
an extraordinary mixture of styles--Arabic, Greek, Asiatic, Gothic,
Turkish, Romanesque, and Renaissance--combining the stateliness of
the royal European palaces with the almost effeminate grace and charm
of those of Granada and Seville. It might be called, instead of an
imperial palace, an imperial city, like that of the emperor of China,
and, more from the peculiarity of its arrangements than its great size,
looks as though instead of a single monarch, a dozen kings, friends
or brothers, might occupy it, dividing their time between amusement
and complete idleness. Seen from the Bosphorus, there are a series of
façades, looking like a row of theatres and temples, covered with an
indescribable mass of ornamentation, apparently, as a Turkish poet has
said, thrown broadcast by a madman’s hand, and which, like the famous
Indian pagoda, weary the eye out almost at the first glance. They seem
to be stone memorials of the mad caprices, loves, and intrigues of the
dissolute princes who have inhabited them. Rows of Doric and Ionic
pillars, light as the pole of a lance; windows framed in festooned
cornices and twisted columns; arches carved with flowers and foliage,
surmounting doors covered with fretwork; charming little balconies with
open-work sculpture; trophies, roses, vines, and garlands which knot
and intertwine with one another; delicate fancies in marble budding
forth in the entablatures, running along the balconies, surrounding
the windows; a network of arabesques extending from door to roof; a
bloom and pomp and delicacy of execution and richness of design which
lends to each one of the smaller palaces forming a part of the whole
the character of some masterpiece of the workman’s chisel; and so
impossible does it seem that the design could ever have emanated from
the brain of a placid Armenian architect that one is rather tempted to
ascribe its origin to a dream of some enamored sultan sleeping with his
head upon the breast of an ambitious lady-love. Before it stretches
a line of lofty marble pilasters connected by a gilded screenwork of
boughs and flowers intertwined with such marvellous delicacy that at
a little distance it has all the appearance of a lace curtain which
at any moment may be carried away by a puff of wind. Long flights
of marble stairs lead from the entrances to the water’s edge, and
disappear beneath the waves. Everything is white, fresh, and sparkling,
as though completed but yesterday. No doubt the eye of an artist would
detect a thousand minor errors in composition and taste; but the effect
as a whole of that vast and magnificent pile of buildings, that array
of palaces, white as the driven snow, set like so many jewels and
crowned with verdure, reflected in the shining waters below, is one of
power, of mystery, of luxurious pomp, and voluptuous pleasure which
almost supersedes that of the old Seraglio itself. Those who have
had the good fortune to see it affirm that the interior fully comes
up to the exterior of the building. Long suites of apartments, whose
walls are covered with brilliant and fantastic frescoes, open into
one another by doors of cedar and cassia-wood; corridors flooded with
soft radiance lead to other rooms lighted from crimson crystal domes,
and baths which seem to have been fashioned from a single block of
Paros marble; lofty balconies overhang mysterious gardens, and groves
of cypress and rose trees, from which, through long perspectives of
Moorish porticoes, the blue waters of the sea are seen sparkling in the
sunlight beyond; and windows, terraces, balconies, kiosks, everything,
brilliant with flowers, and everywhere cascades of water shooting
into the air to fall back in filmy showers upon green turf and marble
pavement; while in all directions there open up enchanting views of
the Bosphorus, the cool breezes from whose surface impart a delicious
freshness to every corner of the great building.

On the side facing toward Fundukli there is an imposing entrance,
covered with a mass of ornamentation, out of which the Sultan was
expected to appear and cross the square. Not another monarch upon
earth has such beautiful surroundings in which to issue in state from
his palace and show himself to his subjects. Standing at the foot of
the hill,--on one side is the entrance to the palace, looking like a
royal triumphal arch; on the other the beautiful mosque of Abdul-Mejid,
flanked by two graceful minarets; opposite is the Bosphorus; and
beyond rise the green hills of Asia dotted over with kiosks, palaces,
mosques, and villages of every variety of form and color, like some
great scattered city decked out for a fête; farther on is seen the
smiling beauty of Skutari, with her funereal crown of cypress trees;
and between the two banks a never-ending procession of sailing vessels;
men-of-war with flags flying; crowded steamboats, looking as though
their decks were heaped with flowers; Asiatic ships of strange,
obsolete design; launches from the Seraglio; princely barges; flocks of
birds skimming over the surface of the water--a scene at once so full
of peace and regal beauty that the stranger whose eye wanders over it
as he awaits the coming of the imperial cortége finds himself picturing
the fortunate possessor of all these things as endowed with angelic
beauty and the smiling serenity of an infant.

A half hour before the appointed time two companies of soldiers wearing
the uniform of zouaves stationed themselves in the square to keep the
way cleared for the Sultan’s passage, and before long the spectators
began to arrive in crowds. It is always amusing to take note of the
queerness and variety of the people who assemble on such occasions.
Here and there elegant private carriages were drawn up to one side,
filled with Turkish great ladies, the gigantic form of a mounted eunuch
standing guard at each door, immovable as pieces of marble; there were
hired open turnouts containing English ladies, groups of tourists with
opera-glasses hanging at their sides, among whom on this occasion I
recognized the languishing face of the irresistible youth from the
Hôtel de Byzance, come, no doubt, cruel charmer! to crush with one
triumphant glance his powerful but unhappy rival. A few long-haired
individuals wandering about the outskirts of the crowd with portfolios
under their arms I took to be artists animated by a faint hope of
being able to make a hasty sketch of the imperial features. Near the
band-stand was a strikingly beautiful French woman, whose conspicuous
dress and free, hardened bearing suggested a cosmopolitan adventuress
come hither to attract the eye of the Sultan himself, especially
as I seemed to read in her glance the “fearful joy of a mighty
enterprise.” There was also a sprinkling of those old Turks, fanatical
and suspicious subjects of the empire, who never fail to be present
whenever their Padishah appears in public, in order that they may be
assured by the evidence of their own senses that he is alive and well
for the glory and prosperity of the universe. It is, in fact, precisely
that his people may have this proof of his continued existence that
the Sultan thus shows himself every Friday, since it might easily
happen again, as it has before, that his death, brought about either
by violence or from natural causes, would through some intrigue of
the court be concealed from the populace. Then there were beggars,
and Mussulman dandies, and eunuchs out of employment, and dervishes,
among the last-named of whom I noticed one tall, old, lean specimen
who stood motionless gazing with fierce eyes and a most sinister
expression at the door of the palace, exactly as though he only awaited
the Sultan’s appearance to plant himself in his path and fling in his
teeth the words addressed by the dervish of the _Orientals_ to Pasha
Ali of Tepeleni: “Accursed one! you are no better than a dog.” But
such examples of inspired candor have gone out of fashion since the
famous sabre-thrust of Mahmûd. Then there were numbers of Turkish
women standing apart and looking like groups of masks, and the usual
gathering like a stage chorus which makes up a Constantinople crowd.
All the heads were thrown out in relief against the blue background of
the Bosphorus, and every mouth at that moment was probably whispering
the same thing. It was just then that rumors were beginning to be
circulated about the extravagant doings of Abdul-Aziz. For some
little time stories had been told of his insatiable greed for money.
People would say to one another, “Mahmûd had a passion for blood;
Abdul-Mejid for women; Abdul-Aziz has for gold.” All those hopes built
upon him when as prince imperial he felled an ox at a single blow,
exclaiming, “Thus will I destroy ignorance,” had died out some time
before. The tastes he had evinced in the early years of his reign for
a simple and severe mode of life, caring, as was said, for only one
woman, and cutting down with an unsparing hand the enormous expenses
of the Seraglio, were now but a distant memory. Probably it had been
many years as well since he had finally abandoned those studies in
legislation and military tactics and European literature about which he
had made as much noise as though the entire regeneration of the empire
was to be effected through them; now he thought only of himself, and
hardly a day passed that some new anecdote was not set in circulation
about his bursts of wrath against the minister of finance, who either
would not or could not give him as much money as he demanded. At the
least opposition he would hurl the first object on which he could lay
his hands at his unfortunate Excellency, repeating from beginning to
end and at the top of his voice the ancient formula of the imperial
oath: “By God, the Creator of heaven and earth, by the prophet
Mohammed, by the seven variations of the Koran, by the hundred and
twenty-four thousand prophets of God, by the soul of my grandfather
and by the soul of my father, by my sons and by my sword! give me money
or I will have your head stuck on the point of the highest minaret in
Stambul.” And by one means or another he always succeeded in getting
what he wanted, sometimes gloating over the money thus acquired like
a common miser over his hoard, at others scattering it to the winds
in the indulgence of all manner of puerile fancies. To-day he would
take a sudden interest in lions, to-morrow in tigers, and agents would
be despatched forthwith to India and Africa to purchase them for him;
then for a whole month five hundred parrots stationed in the imperial
gardens made them resound with one single word; then he was seized with
a mania for collecting carriages, and for pianos, which he insisted
upon having played supported upon the backs of four slaves; then he
took to cock-fighting--would witness the combats with enthusiastic
interest, and himself fasten a medal around the neck of the victor,
driving the vanquished into exile beyond the Bosphorus; then he had a
passion for play, then for kiosks, then for pictures: it was as though
the court had gone back to the days of the first Ibrahim.

But with it all the unfortunate prince was unable to find peace; he
was moody and taciturn, and only succeeded in alternating between
utter weariness of soul and the most wretched state of apprehension.
As though with an uneasy foreboding of the tragic fate awaiting him,
he would sometimes be possessed with the idea that he was going to
be poisoned, and for a while, mistrusting every one about him, would
refuse to eat anything but hard-boiled eggs. Then, again, he would be
haunted by such a dread of fire that he would have everything in his
apartments, made of wood, removed, to the very frames of the mirrors;
it was even said that at these times he would read at night by the
light of a candle placed in a basin of water. And yet, notwithstanding
all these follies, which were supposed to have their origin in a cause
of which there is no necessity to speak here, he preserved to the full
the original strength of his indomitable will, and knew how to make
himself both obeyed and feared by the most independent spirits around
him. The only person who exerted any influence over him at all was his
mother, a vain, foolish woman, who in the early years of his reign used
to have the streets through which he must pass on his way to the mosque
spread with brocaded carpets, which she would give away the following
day to the slaves who were sent to take them up.

In the midst of all the turmoil of his restless life Abdul-Aziz found
time as well for the most trivial whims, such as the having a door
painted after a particular design, combinations of certain fruits and
flowers, and, after giving the most minute directions, would spend
hours watching every stroke of the artist’s brush, as though that were
the main business of life.

All these eccentricities, exaggerated--who knows to what extent?--by
the thousand tongues of the Seraglio, were in every one’s mouth; and
possibly from that time on the threads of the conspiracy which two
years later was to hurl him from the throne were woven more and more
closely about the unhappy prince. According to the Mussulmans, his
fall had already been determined upon and judgment passed upon him
and upon his reign--a judgment which does not differ in any essential
point from that applicable to any other one of the later sultans.
Imperial princes, attracted toward a European civilization by a
liberal but superficial education, their youthful imaginations all on
fire with dreams of reform and glory, before mounting the throne they
indulge in visions of the great changes they are to bring about, and
form resolutions, no doubt perfectly sincere at the time, to dedicate
their entire lives to that end, leading an existence of struggle and
self-denial. Then they come to the throne, and after some years of
ineffectual resistance, confronted by thousands of obstacles, hemmed
in by customs and traditions, balked and opposed by men and things,
appalled at the immensity of the undertaking, of which they had formed
no true idea, they become discouraged, lapse into indolence, grow
suspicious, and finally turn to pleasure-seeking and self-indulgence
for that distraction which seems to be denied them in the successful
carrying out of their designs, and, leading an utterly sensual life,
lose little by little even the memory of their early ambitions, as well
as the consciousness of their own deterioration. Thus it happens that
every new reign is ushered in with the most hopeful prognostications,
and not without reason; only these are as invariably succeeded by

Abdul-Aziz did not keep us waiting: at the hour fixed there was a
flourish of trumpets, the band struck up a warlike march, the soldiers
presented arms, a company of lancers made their appearance suddenly in
the gateway, and after them the Sultan on horseback, advancing slowly
and followed by the members of his court. He passed so close in front
of me that I had an excellent opportunity of examining his features
attentively, and of finding how singularly incorrect was the picture
I had formed of him in my mind. The “king of kings,” the prodigal,
violent, capricious, imperious Sultan, then about forty-four years old,
had the air of an extremely good-natured Turk who had found himself
a sultan without quite knowing why. He was stout and robust, with
good features, large calm eyes, and a short, close-cut beard, already
somewhat grizzled: his countenance was open and placid, his bearing
easy, almost careless, and in his calm, indifferent expression no
trace of consciousness of the thousand eyes fixed upon him could be
discovered. He rode a handsome gray horse with gold-mounted trappings,
led by the bridle by two gorgeous grooms. The long distance at which
the retinue followed would have pointed him out as the Sultan if
nothing else had. He was very plainly dressed, wearing a simple fez,
long dark coat buttoned close up under the chin, light trousers,
and leather shoes. Advancing very slowly, he looked around on the
spectators with an expression of mingled benevolence and weariness, as
though saying, “Ah, if you did but know how sick of it all I am!” The
Mussulmans all bowed profoundly, and many Europeans raised their hats,
but he took no notice of any one’s salutation. Passing in front of us,
he gave a glance at a tall officer who saluted with his sword, another
at the Bosphorus, and then a much longer look at two young English
ladies who were watching him from a carriage, and who turned as red as
cherries. I noticed that his hand was white and well formed: it was, by
the way, the right hand, the same with which two years after he opened
the vein in the bath. After him followed a crowd of pashas, courtiers,
and prominent officials on horseback, for the most part sturdy,
black-bearded men, simply dressed, and as silent, grave, and taciturn
as though they were part of a funeral cortége: then came a group of
grooms leading splendid-looking horses; then more officers, these on
foot, their breasts covered with gold braid: when these last had
passed the soldiers lowered their muskets, the crowd began to scatter
over the square, and I found myself standing gazing at the summit of
Mt. Bulgûrlû, revolving in my mind the extraordinary situation in which
a sultan of Stambul must find himself now-a-days.

He is, said I, a Mohammedan monarch, and his royal palace stands in
the shadow of a Christian city, Pera, which towers above his head.
He is an absolute sovereign, holding sway over one of the largest
empires in the world, and yet here in his capital and not far away
there live in those great palaces which overlook his Seraglio four or
five ceremonious foreigners who lord it over him in his own house, and
who in their intercourse with him conceal under the most respectful
language a constant menace, which he acknowledges and fears. He has
power over the life and property of millions of his subjects, and the
means of gratifying every whim, no matter how extravagant, and yet
could not, if he wanted to, alter the fashion of his own headgear.
Surrounded by an army of courtiers and body-guards, who, if required,
would kneel down and kiss his footprints, he stands in constant fear
of his life and that of his sons. Absolute master of a thousand among
the most beautiful women on earth, he alone among all Mussulmans in
his dominions cannot bestow his hand in marriage upon a free woman,
can only have sons of slaves, and is himself termed “the son of a
slave” by the same people who call him “the shadow of God.” The sound
of his name is feared and reverenced from the farthermost confines of
Tartary to the uttermost bounds of Maghreb, and in his own capital
there is an ever-increasing number of persons over whom he can claim no
shadow of control, and who laugh at him, his power, and his religion.
Over the entire surface of his immense domain, among the most wretched
tribes of the most distant provinces, in the most isolated mosques and
monasteries of the wildest regions, fervent prayers are constantly
ascending for his safety, health, and honor, and yet he cannot make a
journey anywhere in his empire that he does not find himself surrounded
by enemies who execrate his name and call down the vengeance of God
upon his head. In the eyes of that part of the world which lies outside
his palace-gates he is one of the most august and imposing monarchs
upon earth; to those who wait at his elbow he seems the weakest, most
pusillanimous, and wretched being that ever wore a crown. A resistless
current of ideas, beliefs, and forces, all directly opposed to the
traditions and spirit upon which his power rests, sweeps over him,
transforming before his very eyes, underneath his feet, all about him,
customs, habits, laws, the very men and objects themselves, without
his assistance or consent. And there he is between Europe and Asia,
in his huge palace washed by the sea-waves as though it were a ship
ready to set sail, in the midst of an inextricable confusion of ideas
and things, surrounded by fabulous luxury and misery unspeakable,
_neither two nor one_--no longer a real Mussulman, nor yet a complete
European; reigning over a people changed, though only in part,
barbarians at heart, with a whitewash of civilization; two-faced like
Janus; worshipped like a god, watched like a slave; adored, deceived,
beguiled, while every day that passes over his head extinguishes a
ray of the halo that surrounds him and removes another stone from
the pedestal upon which he stands. It seems to me, were I in his
place, weary of such a condition of things, satiated with pleasure,
disgusted with adulation, and outdone with the constant surveillance
and suspicion to which I was subjected, I would lose all patience
with a sovereignty so onerous and unstable, a rule over conditions so
hopelessly at war with themselves, and some time at night, when the
entire Seraglio was buried in slumber, would jump in the Bosphorus like
a fugitive galley-slave, and, swimming off to Galata, pass the hours
till dawn in some mariners’ tavern, with a glass of beer and a clay
pipe, shouting the Marseillaise in chorus.

[Illustration: Palace of the Sultan on the Bosphorus.]

A half hour later the Sultan returned, driven rapidly by, this time in
a closed carriage, followed by a number of officers on foot; and the
show was over. I think, on the whole, that what impressed me most
vividly was the sight of those officers, attired in full dress, running
and skipping after the imperial equipage like so many lackeys: I have
never witnessed a similar prostitution of the military uniform.

This spectacle of the state appearance of the Sultan is, as may be
seen, a poor affair enough, very different from what it once was.
Formerly the sultans only showed themselves in public surrounded by
great pomp and display, preceded and followed by a gorgeous retinue of
horsemen, slaves, guards of the gardens, chamberlains, and eunuchs,
which when seen from a distance resembled, to use the simile of the
enthusiastic chroniclers of the day, “a vast bed of tulips.” In these
days the sultans seem to rather avoid all such display, as though it
would be a piece of theatrical ostentation, representing an order
of things which no longer exists. I often asked myself what one of
those early monarchs would say if, rising for a moment from his
sepulchre in Brusa or türbeh in Stambul, he should behold one of his
descendants of the nineteenth century pass by clad in a long black
coat, without turban, sword, or jewels, and making his way through a
crowd of insolent foreigners: probably he would grow red in the face
with rage and shame, and, to show his utter disdain, would treat him
as Suleiman I. did Hassan--seize him by his beard and cut it off with
his cimeter, than which no more poignant insult can be offered to an
Osman. And, indeed, between the sultans of to-day and those whose names
resounded like claps of thunder throughout Europe from the twelfth
to the sixteenth century there is as much difference as between the
Ottoman empire of our times and that of the early centuries. To their
lot fell the youth, beauty, and vigor of the race; and they were not
only the living representatives of their people, glorious examples,
precious pearls in the sword of Islamism, but they constituted a
distinct force in themselves. The personal qualities of these powerful
rulers formed one of the most potent factors in the marvellous growth
of the Ottoman power during that period of its youth which covered
the hundred and twenty-three years from Osman to Muhammad II. Truly,
that was a succession of mighty princes, and, with a single exception,
not only powerful, but, if you take into consideration the times in
which they lived and conditions of their race, austere and wise as
well, and deeply beloved by their people--frequently ferocious, but
rarely unjust, and often kind and generous to their enemies. All of
these, too, as princes of such a race should be, were handsome and
imposing in appearance, veritable lions, as their mothers termed them,
at whose roar the whole earth trembled. The Abdul-Mejids, Abdul-Azizs,
and Murads are but pale shadows of padishahs in comparison with those
formidable youths, sons of fathers and mothers of eighteen and fifteen
respectively, offspring of the flower of Tartar blood and bloom of
Greek, Caucasian, and Persian beauty. At fourteen they commanded
armies, governed provinces, and were presented by their mothers with
slaves as beautiful and ardent as themselves. Sons were born to them at
sixteen as well as at seventy, and they retained their youthful vigor
of mind and body to old age. Their spirit, said the poets, was of iron,
their bodies were of steel. Certain features which they all possessed
in common were lost later on by their degenerate descendants--high
foreheads, with arched eyebrows meeting like those of the Persians;
the blue eyes of the sons of the Steppes; a curved nose above crimson
lips, “like the beak of a parrot over a cherry;” and very thick black
beards, which exhausted the fertility of the Seraglio poets to find
meet comparisons for. They had the piercing glance of the eagle of
Mt. Taurus and the endurance of the king of the desert; bull necks,
enormously wide shoulders, expanding chests, “capable of containing all
the warlike ardor of their people;” very long arms, huge muscles, short
bowed legs, under whose grip the most powerful Turkomanian chargers
would neigh with pain; and great shaggy hands, which tossed the
bronze maces and mighty bows of the soldiery about as though they had
been reeds. And their surnames fitted them well--wrestler, champion,
thunderbolt, bone-grinder, blood-shedder. After Allah, war occupied
the chief place in their thoughts, and death the least. Although they
did not possess the genius of great commanders, they were endowed with
that power of prompt and quick action which almost takes its place,
and a ferocious obstinacy which not infrequently accomplishes the same
results. They swept like winged furies across the field of battle,
the heron-quills fastened in their white turbans and the ample folds
of their purple and gold-embroidered caftans showing from afar, as
with savage cries they drove forward the decimated ranks of sciari
whose ox-like nerves had at last given way under the demoralizing
fire of Servian and German guns. They swam their horses across rivers
whose waters were reddened with blood from their dripping cimeters;
they would seize cowardly or panicstricken pashas by their throats,
dragging them from the saddle in their headlong flight; leap from
their horses in a time of rout and plunge their jewelled daggers up to
the hilt in the backs of the flying soldiers; and, mortally wounded,
would conceal the hurt and mount upon some eminence on the battlefield
that their janissaries might behold the countenance of their lord,
pallid with death, but threatening and imperious to the last, until,
finally sinking exhausted to the earth, they would roar with rage,
maybe, but never with pain. What must the sensations have been of one
of those gentle Persian or Circassian slaves, hardly more than a
child, when on the evening of a day of battle she beheld for the first
time, in the door of her purple tent, under the subdued lamplight,
the terrific apparition of one of those all-powerful sultans, drunk
with victory and blood. But he could be tender and winning as well,
and, gently taking the trembling little fingers in his mighty hands,
still cramped from wielding the cimeter, search his imagination for
pretty figures of speech to reassure his frightened slave, comparing
her beauty to the flowers in his gardens, the jewels in his dagger,
the most gorgeous birds in the forests, the most exquisite tints of a
sunrise in Anatolia or Mesopotamia, until at last, taking courage, she
would reply in the same impassioned and fanciful language: “Crown of my
head! glory of my life! my beloved and mighty lord! may thy countenance
ever shine with splendor on the two worlds of Africa and Europe! may
victory follow wherever thy horse shall bear thee! may thy shadow
extend over the whole earth! Would I were a rose to exhale sweetness
in the folds of thy turban! a butterfly beating its wings against thy
forehead!” And then, as her all-powerful lover reposed his mighty head
upon her breast, she would recount childish tales of emerald palaces
and mountains of gold, while all around the wild and savage soldiers
of the army lay extended fast asleep upon the dark, bloodstained
earth. All weakness, however, was left within the tent, from which
these sultans came forth more hardy and imperious than ever. They
were tender in the harem, ferocious on the battlefield, humble in the
mosque, and haughty on the throne. Their language was full of glowing
hyperboles and appalling threats; any judgment once pronounced by them
was irrevocable; the war was declared, the subject elevated to the
pinnacle of greatness, the head of the victim rolled at the foot of
the throne, or a tempest of fire and sword drove furiously across the
face of a rebel province. Thus sweeping from Persia to the Danube, from
Asia to Macedonia, in a continual succession of wars and triumphs,
with intervals devoted to the pursuit of love and in hunting, to the
flower of their youth there succeeded a maturity even more vigorous and
ardent, followed by an old age of which their horses’ flanks, their
sword-blades, or the hearts of their favorites could not have been
conscious. And not in old age alone, but sometimes in the very flower
and vigor of their youth, they would become overpowered with a sense
of their position, dismayed in the very moment of victory and triumph
by the tremendous responsibility resting upon them, and, seized with
a sort of terror at the magnitude and loneliness of their own exalted
state, would turn to God with all the force of their natures, passing
days and nights in composing religious poetry in dim recesses of the
palace-gardens, betaking themselves to the seashore to meditate by the
hour upon the Koran, joining the frantic dances of the dervishes, or
reducing themselves with fasting and sackcloth in the company of some
devout old hermit. In death as in life they furnished their people
with examples either of fortitude or of majesty--whether dying with
the serenity of a saint, like the founder of the dynasty; or laden
with years and glory and melancholy, like Orkhan; or by the hand of a
traitor, like Murad I.; or in the misery of exile, like Bayezid; or
calmly conversing with a circle of poets and scholars, like the first
Muhammad; or from the mortification of defeat, like the second Murad.
And one may safely assert that there is nothing upon the blood-red
horizon of Ottoman history which can compare with the threatening
phantoms of these formidable rulers.


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed. Several spurious commas were removed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 241: “wings of the loves” probably should be “doves”.

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