Copyright
Charles Bucke.

Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

. (page 15 of 36)
Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the sculptured ornaments, that adorned them. It
appeared to me, that the temples of Edfou, Ten-
tyris, and Thebes, fell far short of this, as a whole ;
for here the ponderous strength of the Egyptian, and
the chastened elegance of the Grecian school, are
both most happily combined."

Mr. Addison appears to have entertained a dif-
ferent opinion : "Those ruins," says he, "though
so striking and magnificent, are yet, however, quite
second rate, when compared with the Athenian ruins;
and display, in their decorations, none of the bold con-

N2



180 RKINS ..i i CITIW.

rq>tions and the genius Avhieh eharaeterisp the
Athenian architecture. There is a peculiar same-
ness in the decorations of the figures, entablatures,
and cornices. The ornaments are all alike, and the
festoons of grape's, and vine-leaves hung on goats'
and horses' heads, the pendent bunches of grapes and
Cupids, however rich in appearance, and beautifully
chiselled, can never excite such feelings, as one small
portion of the Panathenian frieze of the Parthenon, or
one of the Metopes, representing a battle between a
Centaur and a Lapithte. There is a genius in these
latter, a combination of talent, a soul, fire, and
spirit, which are looked for in vain in the Balluc
remains. The great Panathenian frieze of the Par-
thenon, which extended all around that temple, with
its hundreds of horses and warriors, its spirited
grouping, and faithful delineation of forms and atti-
tudes ; and alx>ve it the wars of the Centaurs and
Lapithae, possessed a most exciting interest. The
vine-branches and wheat -ears of the temple of Bal-
bec, although unquestionably very beautiful, yet
appear tame in comparison ; and cannot certainly be
put in competition with these master-pieces of archi-
tectural decoration."

" Several artists have observed," says Mr. Wood,
" a similitude between some European buildings, and
some parts of the ruins of Palmyra and Balbec ; from
which they have, perhaps, too hastily concluded,
that the former were copied from the latter. The
portico of the Louvre at Paris has been compared
in this light to the ruins of Palmyra; as also with
the portico at Balbec ; but we cannot discover any
foundation for inferences so injurious to the memory
of the architect, who built that noble structure, whkl
is as justly admired as it is unaccountably neglected."
We now return to the page of M.de La Martine :
" Round this platform is ranged a series of chapels,



RUINS OP ANCIENT CITIES, 181

decorated with niches, admirably sculptured, friezes,
cornices, and vaulted arches; all displaying the most
finished workmanship, but evidently belonging to a
degenerate period of art. But this impression can
only be felt by those whose eyes have been previously
exercised by the contemplation of the pure monu-
ments of Athens and Rome. Every other eye would
be fascinated by the splendour of the forms and the
finish of the ornaments. The only fault is too much
richness ; the stone groans beneath the weight of its
own luxuriance, and the walls are overspread with a
lace- work of marble."

The town is, at present, so ruined, that there are
not counted more than fifty habitable dwellings in
it ; though the whole number within the walls may
be estimated at five hundred.

The state of the city is deplorable. The emirs
of the house of Harfoushe had already greatly im-
paired it, when an earthquake, in 1759, completed
its destruction; insomuch, that though in 1751 there
were five thousand inhabitants, not twelve hundred
are remaining ; and all these poor, without industry
or commerce, we are told, and cultivating nothing
but a little cotton, some maize, and a few water-
melons.

Even the ruins are altering every day. Daw-
kins and Wood found nine large columns stand-

O

ing ; but Volney, in 1784, found only six. They
reckoned twenty-nine at the lesser temple ; but
now there are only twenty. There were, originally,
thirty-four, eight in front, and thirteen along each
of the sides. The others were overthrown by an
earthquake. Nature alone, however, has not effected
this devastation. The Turks have had their share in
the destruction of the columns; the motive for which
was merely that of procuring the iron cramps, which
served to join the several blocks of which each



182 lil INS OF AXCIF.XT C1Tir<.

column is composed. Famine, the pestilence, and
the sword, gradually thinned the inhabitants. The
population of five thousand, which tin- town con-
tained in 1751, has now dwindled down to barely
two hundred persons : nor does each house continue
to possess, as it did in the time of Manndrell, " ten
or fifteen cows, besides goats and sheep, the <^>at* hein^
of an uncommon species, worth from '301. to 351. a
piece !" The description left by Maundrell was faith-
ful at the time he visited those ruins ; but since that
period several important parts have been destroyed,
and even the place of the temple at the end of the great
court, which was probably the principal edifice of
the whole, cannot at this day be made out *.

The hands of the natives have, no doubt, com-
mitted many ravages. Faccardine, prince of the
Druses, destroyed or injured several parts of these
ruins; but when he afterwards visited Italy, and
contracted a taste for its architecture, he is said
to have bitterly lamented the sacrilege he had com-
mitted at Balbec t. " It is in fact man, not nature,"
says an elegant writer, " that has wrought this
change. No blight has seared the soil, or poisoned
the air, but a degrading despotism has as effectually
dried up the sources of social prosperity, as if some
elementary convnlsion had suddenly turned the clime
of beauty cold and dark, and struck the teeming
earth with hopeless barrenness. Indeed, Turkish
oppression has done what no unkindness of nature
could have effected. The splendours of Palmyra
rose, under the breath of a free commerce, in the
midst of a sandy desert ; but nothing has been able
to preserve that and many other great cities from
crumbling into heaps of ruins, at the death-touch of
the gloomy tyranny, that now hangs like a pall over
the land."

Buckingham. f Crne.



RUINS OP ANCIENT CITIES. 183

"We must now give place to what Mons. de La
Martine says, in regard to the Bishop of Balbec :
" We proceeded very little farther that day. The
road diverged from these ruins, and led us to others.
"We passed over some vaults, and arrived at a small
house. This was the palace of the Bishop of Balbec,
who, clothed in his violet-coloured pelisse, and at-
tended by some Arab peasants, advanced to meet us,
and conducted us to his humble door. The poorest
peasant's cottage in Burgundy, or Auvergne, pos-
sesses greater luxury and elegance than the palace of
the Bishop of Balbec. It was an ill-built hut, with-
out either window or door, and through the decayed
roof the rain worked its way, and dropped on the
mud floor. This was the bishop's dwelling ! But at
the further end of the yard, which adjoined the
house, a neat wall, newly built of blocks of stone,
and a door and window in ogives of Moorish archi-
tecture, each ogive being constructed of finely-sculp-
tured stones, attracted my attention. This was the
church of Balbec, the cathedral of that town, in
which other gods have had splendid temples ; the
chapel in which the few Arab Christians, who live
here amidst the wrecks of so many different faiths,
worship, under a purer form, the universal Creator."

The bishop was a fine old man with hair and beard
of silver, a grave and benevolent cast of features, and
a sweet and well-modulated voice. He was the
perfect image of a priest of poetry or romance, says
the traveller ; and his aspect, which denoted peace,
resignation, and charity, was well suited to the
scene of ruins and meditation in which he lived.

The traveller afterwards describes a delightful
scene. He and his friends were sitting by moon-
light near the bishop's hut. " "We were silent. Sud-
denly a soft plaintive strain, a slow modulated
murmur stole through the grotesque ogives of the



184 RUINS OF ANCIF.NT CM

ruined wall of the bishop's house. This vague and
confused sound swelled higher and higher, until we
distinguished it to be a chant from the united voice*
of choristers; a monotonous, melancholy strain, which
rose, fell, and died away, and was alternately revived
and re-echoed. This was the evening prayer, which
the Arab bishop was chanting with his little flock, in
the skeleton of that which once had been his church;
viz., a heap of ruins piled up by a heap of idolaters.
We were totally unprepared for music of this sort,
where every note was, in fact, a sentiment or a sign
from the human breast. How little did we expect it
in this solitude, in the bosom of the desert, issuing, as
it were, from mute stones, strewed about by the com-
bined influence of earthquakes, barbarous ignorance,
and time ! A hallowed emotion inspired us, and we
joined with religious fervour in the sacred hymn,
until the last sighs of the pious voices had died away,
and silence again reigned over the venerable ruins."
We conclude with the words which Seller
in his history of Palmyra adopts from Cicero :
" Whenever we see such remains of venerable anti-
quity, such lasting records of the names and achieve-
ments of great persons, we are admonished to take
care so to regulate our actions, that we may convince
the world we have settled our prospect upon the
rewards of future ages, and not on the flatteries of
the present ; and so remember, that monuments brinu
erected to the memory of those who have lived well
in this world before they left it, put us in mind, that
there is nothing here permanent and immutable; and
that it is the duty of considering man to aspire
towards immortality*."

* Chronicle*; Diodoni* ; Macrobiut ; Manndicll ; Bruce ; Seller ;
Daukin* and Wood ; Volncy ; Browne; Malcolm ; Outeley ; Buck-
ingham ; Curne ; La Marline ; Additon.



RUINS OF ANCIENT CITIES. 185

NO. XIX. BYZANTIUM.

" ON which side soever," says an elegant traveller,
" you approach Constantinople, whether ascending
by the Dardanelles and the sea of Marmora, or de-
scending from the Black Sea by the Bosphorus ;
whether you arrive by crossing the plain of Thrace,
or come in sight from the opposite hills of Asia, she
presents herself, indeed, like ' the queen of cities.' "

The history of this city being that of an empire,
we shall confine ourselves to a few particulars, and
then pass on to give some account of its monumental
antiquities. We do this the more readily, since those
antiquities are far from being of the first order.

According to Ammianus, Byzantium was founded
by the Athenians ; according to Justin, by the Lace-
daemonians ; according to Paterculus, by the Mile-
sians ; according to others, by a colony of Megara,
under the conduct of Byzas, 658 B.C.

Byzantium received a great accession of inhabit-
ants in consequence of a decree passed, in gratitude
to the Athenians, for having compelled Philip of
Macedon to raise the siege of their city*.

* The substance of this decree was as follows : " Inasmuch as
in times past the continual benevolence of the people of Athens
towards the Byzantines and Perinthians, united by alliance and
their common origin, has never failed upon any occasion ; that this
benevolence, so often signalised, has lately displayed itself, when
Philip of Macedon, who had taken up arms to destroy Byzantium
and Perinthus, battered our walls, burned our country, cut down
our forests ; that in a season of so great calamity, this beneficent
people succoured us with a fleet of a hundred and twenty sail, fur-
nished with provisions, arms, and forces; that they saved us from
the greatest danger; in fine, that they restored us to the quiet
possession of our government, our laws, and our tombs : the
Byzantines grant, by decree, the Athenians to settle in the coun-
tries belonging to Byzantium ; to marry in them, to purchase lands,
and to enjoy all the prerogatives of citizens ; they also grant them
a distinguished place at public shows, and the right of sitting both
in th<Tsenate and the assembly of the people, next to the pontiffs :



186 RTINS OF ANCTKNT en

In subsequent times Constantino the Great (from
whom it was called Constantinople), seeing its proud
situation, created it into a capital jointly with KUIIH-;
from which time the Roman empire was distin-
guished by the titles Eastern and Western. In this
position it stood, till the city was sacked by the Turks
under the guidance of Mahomet the Second.

The manner in which the Turks first gained a
footing in Europe is thus drscribrd in Jlm-kr'- Har-
monies of Nature : " Orcan having made himself
master of the shore skirting the sea that separated
Asia from Europe, his son Solyman resolved, if
possible, to gain the castle of Hanni (Sestos), then
considered the key of Europe : but the Turks had
neither pilot, ships, nor boats. Solyman stood
meditating on the beach, one fine moonlight ni^'lit,
for some time. He had come thither with about
eighty followers on a hunting expedition. Beholding
the towers of Hanni rising over the opposite shore,
he resolved to secure them for his father and himself.
He communicated his thoughts to his followers.
Wondering at his resolution, they regarded him as
frantic. He persisted ; and they made three rafts
fastened on corks and bladders of oxen. When the
party had finished their task, they committed them-
selves to the waters ; and with poles instead of oars,
succeeded in gaining the opposite shore : the moon
shining brilliantly as they stepped off the rafts, almost

and further, that every Athenian) who shall think proper to settle
in either of the two cities above mentioned, ihall be exempted from
taxes of any kind : that in the harboun, three statues of sixteen
cubits shall be set up, which statues shall represent the people of
Athens crowned by those of Byzantium and Perinthus: and besides,
that presents shall be sent to the four solemn games of Greece . and
that the crown we have decreed to the Athenians shall there be
proclaimed ; so that the same cen-mony may acquaint all the
Greeks, both with the magnanimity of the Athenians, and the gra-
titude of the Byzantines."



RUINS OF ANCIENT CITIES. 187

immediately under the walls of Hanni. As they
marched along the beach, they met a peasant going
to his work, it being now morning. This man hated
his prince; and being bribed by a sum of money, he
told Solyman of a subterranean passage leading into
the castle. The little band availed themselves of this
information, and quietly entered the walls. There was
no regular garrison, and the few inhabitants were
still asleep. They fell an easy prey, therefore, to the
adventurers. Having thus gained the first object of
their enterprise, they assembled the pilots and vessel-
owners of the town ; and, offering them considerable
sums of money, induced them to steer their vessels
to the opposite shore. Some thousand men were
then embarked, and in a few hours they were wafted
under the castle walls. This was the first landing of
the Turks in Europe : they ever after kept possession
of this castle : ninety-six years after, they sacked the
city of Constantinople."

Mahomet II.*, surnamed "the Great," was born
at Adrianople in the year 1430, and was, in the
thirteenth year of his age, called to the throne by the
voluntary abdication of his father, Amurath II. On
his accession, Mahomet renewed the peace with the
Greek emperor Constantine, to whom he, at the
same time, agreed to pay a pension for the expenses
and safe custody of his uncle Orcan, who had, at a
previous period, withdrawn to the court of Constan-
tinople for safety. The carelessness of the sultan in
the observance of this clause of the treaty excited
the complaints of the emperor, with the imprudent
threat that, unless the pension was regularly paid, he,
would no longer detain Orcan. This threat afforded
the sultan a pretext for rekindling the war. Ma-
homet determined to complete the conquest of the
feeble empire by the capture of Constantinople ; and
* Gibbon.



188 HI-INS or \\CU.\T n ;

to terminate, by one terrible catastrophe, the strife
of many aL. r cs between tin- Moslems and the (!n>ks.
\ preliminary measure having boon completed,
Mahomet at length appeared before Constantinople,
on the 2<1 of April, 1453, at the head of three hun-
dred thousand men; supported by a formidable artil-
lery, and by a fleet of three hundred and twenty .-ail,
mostly store-ships and transports : but including
eighteen galleys of war, while the besieged could not
muster more than ten thousand ellective soldiers for
the defence. This vast disparity of force leaves little
room for admiring the prowess and military skill of
the victorious party. The besieged made, however,
so obstinate a defence, under tno brave emperor,
Constantine Palteologus, that for fifty-time <la\> all
the efforts of the assailants were unavailing. The
defenders of the city had drawn strong iron chains
across the entrance of the port; and Mahomet saw,
that unless he could get some of his vessels into the
Golden Horn, his success was doubtful, and that.
at best, the defence might be greatly protracted. I !.
therefore, contrived to conduct a part of his fleet, for
ten miles, over the land on a sort of railway, from
the Bosphorus into the harbour, and caused a float-
ing battery to be constructed and occupied with
cannon. This sealed the fate of the imperial city.

On the day of the last assault, Mahomet said to
his soldiers : " I reserve to myself only the city ;
the gold and women are yours." The emperor (Con-
st ant i ne ) accomplished all the duties of a general and
a soldier. The nobles, who fought around his person,
sustained, till their last breath, the honourable names
of Palseologus and Cantacuzene. His mournful ex-
clamation was heard " Cannot there be found a
Christian to cut off my bead ?" and his last fear was,
lest he should fall alive into the hands of his enemies.
He threw away his imperial dress, rushed into the



RUINS OP ANCIENT CITIES. 189

thickest of the fight, fell by an unknown hand, and
his body was buried under a mountain of the slain :
nor was it afterwards recognised.

The houses and convents were deserted ; and the
trembling inhabitants flocked together in the streets,
like a herd of timid animals. From every part of the
city they rushed into the church of St. Sophia. In
the space of an hour the sanctuary, the choir, the
nave, the upper and lower galleries, were filled with
the multitude of fathers and husbands, of women and
children, of priests, monks, and religious virgins; the
doors were barred on the inside, and they sought
protection from the sacred dome, which they had so
lately abhorred as a profaned and polluted edifice.

The doors were, soon after, broken with axes; and
the Turks encountering no resistance, their bloodless
hands were employed in selecting and securing the
multitude of their prisoners. Youth, beauty, and
the appearance of youth, attracted their choice. In
the space of an hour, the male captives were bound
with cords, the females with their veils and girdles.
The senators were linked with their slaves ; the pre-
lates with the porters of their church ; and young
men of a plebeian class with noble maids, whose
faces had been invisible to the sun and their nearest
kindred.

In this common captivity the ranks of society
were confounded; the ties of nature were cut asunder ;
and the inexorable soldier was careless of the father's
groan, the tears of the mother, and the lamentations
of the children. The loudest in their wailings were
the nuns, who were torn from the altars with naked
bosoms, outstretched hands, and dishevelled hair.
At a similar hour, a similar rapine was exercised in
all the churches and monasteries ; in all the palaces
and habitations of the capital. The male captives
were bound with cords, aiid the females with their



190 Rl'IXS OF AXOtF.XT CITIES.

veils and girdles, and driven, to the nutnW of
sixty thousand, from the city to the camp or fir. t.
where those, who could not obtain the means of pur-
chasing their ransom, were exchanged, or sold, :u- -
cording to the caprice or interest of their masters.

The disorder and rapine lasted till the sultan
entered in triumph through the gate of St. Unman u^.
He was attended by his vizirs, his bashaws, ami
guards. As he rode along, he gazed with satisfac-
tion and wonder on the strange, though splendid.
appearance of the domes and palaces, so dissimilar
to the style of oriental architecture. He proceeded
to the church of St. Sophia ; where, observing a sol-
dier in the act of breaking up the marble pavemmt,
he admonished him with his scymetar, that if the
spoil and captives were granted to the soldiers, the
public and private buildings had been reserved for
the prince.

From St. Sophia he proceeded to the august, but
desolate, mansion of a hundred successors of the first
Constantine ; but which, in a few hours, had been
stripped of the pomp of royalty. A melancholy
reflection on the vicissitudes of human greatness
forced itself upon his mind, and he repeated an ele-
gant distich of Persian poetry : " The spider has
wove his web in the imperial palace; and the owl
hath sung her watch- song on the towers of Afrasiel*."

"The finest point from which Constantinople cm
be viewed," says M. de La Martine, "is from a bel-
videre, built by M.Truqui, on the terrace roof of his
house. ThU belvidere commands the entire group
of the hills of Pere-Galata, and the little hillocks
which surround the port on the front side of the
water. It is the eagle's flight over Constantinople
and the sea. Europe, Asia, the entrance of the
Bosphonis, and the sea of Marmora, are all under
Gibbon.



RUINS OF ANCIENT CITIES. 191

the eye at once. The city lies at the feet of the
spectator. If (continues Mons. de La Martine) we
were allowed to take only one point of the earth,
this would be the one to choose. Whenever I ascend
to the belvidere to enjoy this view (and -I do so
several times a day, and invariably every evening),
I cannot conceive how, of the many travellers who
have visited Constantinople, so few have felt the
beauty which it presents to my eye and to my mind.
Why has no one described it ? Is it because words
have neither space, horizon, nor colours, and that
painting is only the language of the eye ? But paint-
ing itself has never portrayed all that is here. The
pictures. I have seen, are merely detached scenes, con-
sisting of a few lines and colours without life : none
convey any idea of the innumerable gradations of
tint, varying with every change of the atmosphere,
and every passing hour. The harmonious whole, and
the colossal grandeur of these lines ; the movements
and the intertwinings of the different horizons ; the
moving sails, scattered over the three seas; the murmur
of the busy population on the shores ; the reports of
the cannon on board the vessels, the flags waving
from the mast-heads ; the floating caiques ; the va-
porous reflection of domes, mosques, steeples, and
minarets in the sea; all this has never been described;"
nor ever can be !

The whole circuit of Constantinople, ho wever, calcu-
lated at somewhat more than twelve miles, present, even
to diligent research*, very few remains of antiquity.
The truth is, the Turks have availed themselves of
the marbles and fragments of the Greeks in the con-
struction of their own public edifices ; and the anti-
quities of Constantinople are re-produced to the eye
under entirely different forms and constructions, in
the mosques and minarets, the fountains and ceme-
teries of the Osmandys. Many a beautiful work, of



192 HI INS OF ANCIF.NT CM

the ancient Greek chisel, has thus been embedded in
a wall, or cut down and defaced to make a Turkish
tombstone ; and many an edifice, constructed in ac-
cordance with the pure styles of arcliitirtun-, has
In cii Kvrlled and used as a quarry. But still, it
must be confessed that some of the Turkish build-
ings, and more particularly some of the imperial
mosques which have risen in their places, are distin-
guished by grandeur and beauty. Of these imperial
mosques there are fourteen, each lofty, and magni-
ficent in its general dimensions, and built from base
to dome with excellent and enduring materials ;
chiefly of white marble, tinged with grey, liesides
these, there are sixty ordinary mosques, varying in
size and beauty, but all considerable edifices ; and



Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 36)