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conditions of human life around these lonely waters have altered
within the last sixty years ! Sixty years ago the first steamer
drew her train of smoke and foam past these forelands and bays
of still uncertain fame. The slave ships infested the harbours
of the coast, and if a sail rose upon the horizon it was likely to
be a slaver's sail. Armed bands still forayed into the recesses
of Georgia for their loot of beautiful boys and girls, and parents
who wished to preserve their daughters from the market would
place them, when quite children, in one of the numerous fortified
convents which crowned the summits of their native hills.
Slowly the grip of law has fastened upon the peoples of
Caucasia, a stern force moving with the insistence of a vice from
distant Russia, from the north ; while from the west, with,
perhaps, less system, less coherence of methods, European
commerce creeps along this Turkish shore of the sea, and extends
ever further into the inland country the solvent influences of her
sway. Already towards the middle of the century the Russians
swept these waters with their steam cruisers, while their police
boats blockaded all the coast of Circassia to guard against the
import of arms. Only when the season was most tempestuous,
when the cruisers had retired within their harbours and the
Cossacks no longer dared to face the open sea, the captain of
the slave ship w^ould venture out upon his perilous voyage from
some wooded inlet of the eastern shore. At the present time
this traffic has either ceased entirely or is conducted through
obscure and secret channels, where it would be difficult to trace.
To Russia belongs the credit of this achievement, which has
accompanied the extension of her empire down the eastern coast
of the Black Sea. To Europe and to the increasing intercourse
with European markets is due the growing prosperity of these
towns of the Turkish seaboard, and indeed the very appearance
which they present. New houses, in construction far more solid
than their predecessors, are transforming the aspect of the shore ;
burnt bricks or stone masonry take the place of wood, and these
materials are faced with a coat of concrete, painted a pure white.
The window apertures are large, and at evening or morning a
row of wide glass panes reflects the glow. Even the Govern-
ment can show some signs of progress ; carriageable roads
have been constructed to the towns of the interior, from



6 Arfiienia

Ineboli to the inland centre of Kastamuni, from Samsun to
Amasia and Sivas.

August 1 5. — Weighing from Samsun at night, it is early
morning as we cast anchor off Kerasun- — Kerasun with its
castled rock thrown seawards from the range, the lofty headland
of the bay, from which the town curves westwards and sinks to
the waterside under the shadow of the mountain wall. Were
it not for the needle forms of minaret and cypress, rising against
the terraces of white walls and red roofs which mount from the
water's edge, we might be sailing on the Rhine, past some grim
old burgh, dominating the cluster of peaceful habitations which
cower at its skirts. In less than three hours the barges are
emptied, and we are proceeding on our course. Almost immedi-
ately we pass close to a little island, a rare object along this
shore. It is a mere fleck of rock, picturesquely encircled by
feudal walls and towers. The range on our right hand is always
rising in elevation ; hard porphyritic rocks are beginning to take
the place of the crumbling limestone ; the ridges, clad with firs to
the very summits, stand up one behind another ever loftier and
more abrupt. At the same time the lower slopes increase in
verdure ; orchards and plantations clothe each respite of open
ground. Small settlements succeed one another more closely,
the houses peeping out with their white faces from the soft, leafy
background of green.

Such is the appearance of the shore we are skirting this
morning — the range growing in height, the vegetation increasing,
the characteristic beauties of the coast now, perhaps, for the first
time imprinting a lasting image upon the mind. Like the
Mediterranean, this sea is almost tideless — the narrow strip of
sand, upon which the waves plash, is unencumbered with those
oozy beds of giant seaweed which, scattered in fragrant streamers
upon our English seaboards, whet the freshness of our sea-breeze.
Beyond this margin rise the first spurs of the mountains, or
immediately descend into the deep, clear waters in the form of
bold capes. If this coast yields to some in variety of outline,
and is wanting in those combinations of sinuous bays and sea-
thrown islands which lend such beauty to the landscapes of
western Asia Minor and to the European shore of the Medi-
terranean Sea, it is surpassed by none in distinctness of character,
in singleness of effect. Day after day it is the same long belt of
mountains always following the shore, the same long series of



The Coast and the Port 7

parallel ridges rising roughly parallel to the shore. The persist-
ence of the range, the regularity of the system, the many signs
along the seaboard of an ever-increasing development in the scale
of the mountain walls which lie behind — all contribute to the
growing consciousness that this foot of the barrier, the pleasing
inlets of this shore, are but the threshold of some commanding
piece of natural architecture of which we long to realise the plan.
While the imagination is stimulated by this largeness of feature,
the eye also is pleased. Groves of lofty fir trees clothe the slopes
and climb the summits, standing out on the undulating backs of
the ridges against the light of the sky. Wherever the soil favours,
there are pretty orchards, and an abundant growth of plants and
trees. Nature strikes the first note of that " evergreenness " for
which the coast of Kolchis has been famed.

Towards mid-day we are holding up for a well-defined head-
land, projecting towards the north. It is distinguished by bold
bluffs, breaking off in the form of cliffs before they reach the
water's edge, and by a succession of deep valleys which descend
on either side to the margin of the shore. It is the promontory
of the "sacred mountain" — Hieron Oros, now called Yoros, leros,
or simply Oros — and it forms the western border of that series of
smaller indentations which make up the beautiful bay of Trebizond.
Platana, most picturesque of little settlements, nestles well under
the shelter of this cape upon the west, when once you have doubled
the points ; while on the eastern side of the bay, exposed to the
strong north-westerly winds of the seaboard, lies the site of the
old city of Trebizond. From this port starts the principal avenue
of communication between Turkish Armenia and the sea ; and
beyond the mountains, on the south of this wild coast range, now
traversed by a metalled road, lie the plains of the Armenian table-
land. The width of this mountain belt which borders Armenia
— this continuous chain of latitudinal ridges which, rising one
behind and higher than the other, lead up like a ladder to the
edge of the Armenian plateau — is on this section of the range a
direct distance of nearly fifty miles. When the roses are blowing
in the gardens of the seaboard, the Armenian rivers may be bound
with ice ; an unbroken sheet of snow may dazzle the eyes of the
traveller, as he penetrates from this border country of parallel
crests and depressions to the open landscapes of the tableland.

Fifty miles of intricate mountain country, inhabited at all
periods by a sparse and little civilised population of doubtful or



8 Armenia

mixed race ! The fact goes far towards explaining the isolation
of Armenia, the remoteness throughout history of the great grain-
growing plains of the interior from the coast towns of the Black
Sea. While the Greek cities of the seaboard, sheltered behind
the barrier of the range, found a natural and almost uninterrupted
connection with the main currents of Western history and Western
life, the Armenian country and people, full exposed to the revolu-
tions of Asia, belonged essentially to the East.

Yet these crumbling walls and towers, emerging at intervals
from a leafy overgrowth of creepers and trees, claim a larger
share of our attention than a merely passing notice of the port of
Trebizond. For, in the first place, no traveller, about to enter
the interior by this well-known and well-beaten route, can fail to
undergo the spell which belongs to these ruins, or to feel his
interest aroused by the monuments which still remain here of an
empire long forgotten in the West. Nor will a mind which has
been fed upon Western literature ignore the importance of realising
the events of Western history as they touch this remote shore.
The annals of Trebizond, while they illustrate and in themselves
to a great extent resume the fortunes of these coast towns, were
joined by a thread which was seldom severed to the web of
Western things.

August 1 6. — The morning is the time to arrive at Trebizond,
perhaps to wake when the ship lies secure at anchor, while a fresh
land-wind blows. The vessel coming from the west crosses the
bay from Cape leros to an answering headland in the east, and
does not bring up till she has doubled this lesser promontory and
closed or almost closed the wide bay from sight. The anchorage
lies at the foot of the eastern suburb of the city, now the most
flourishing portion of the town, and the suburb mounts the back
of the little promontory, and descends to the water on the opposite
or western side. The inlet which recedes from the cape is not
deep or extensive, and the shelter which it offers is so partial that
in stormy weather a ship may be obliged to run for Platana, and
seek shelter under the lee of Cape leros, now some fifteen miles
away. This configuration of the shore may be said to give two
faces to the .site of Trebizond. While the ancient city with the
ruins looks seawards and westwards, commanding the softer land-
scape of the bay, to the anchorage belongs an easterly aspect,
and a view past the estuary of the famous river Pyxitis along the
wildest portion of the coast range.



The Coast and the Port g

Facing the anchorage, on the east of the white houses which
climb the western skirts of the rising land, a bold cliff towers up
above the water with abrupt walls of dark rock. The face of this
cliff is almost bare of vegetation ; but the summit, which is flat,
is completely covered with a soft carpet of old turf The eleva-
tion of this lofty platform above the sea-level is 850 feet. East
and west the hill descends with gentler gradients, on the one side
to the estuary of the Pyxitis, and on the other to the little cape
and to the town ; but whether you approach it from the city
or from the river valley, the slopes are no light matter to climb.
On the south it joins on to the half- circle of the coast
range, which recedes from beyond the river in a wide amphi-
theatre, embracing both the bays and all the town. Thus
the town itself is shut off from the level ground about the
river by this peninsula of table -topped rock ; and while one
road climbs these slopes to unite the two valleys, the other
winds outwards along the foot of the cliff, following the curve
of the shore.

I remember that, when for the first time I looked out upon
the city, I was at once impressed with the manner in which this
bold natural feature corresponded to the name of the town
(TpaTre^oO?). Could the shape which is denoted by the figure of
a table be presented by Nature in a more convincing manner than
by this mass of rock, towering up above the sea and from the
valleys to a summit which is almost perfectly flat? Yet the
name does not appear to take its origin in a justification at once
so striking and so clear, but rather to derive from the configura-
tion of the ground in the western bay upon which the ancient
fortress was built. Still this platform is surely the most impres-
sive characteristic of the site of Trebizond. The Turks, who have
no antiquarian sympathies, apply to it the bald and undiscrimin-
ating appellation of Boz Tepe, the grey hill, basing the name
upon the colour of the trachytic rock of which the hill is composed.
The Greeks of old knew it as the Mount of Mithros — Mithrios —
from a statue of the god Mithras which used to stand upon this
elevated spot. It is not easy to imagine a more delightful ground
of vantage from which to overlook the town and command the
coast. You may step a distance of some 500 paces by 200 on a
level surface of springy turf, with no object between you and the
wide expanse about you, in air which is at once full of sun and
vigorous ; and, if the day be clear, you may descry beyond the



lO Armenia

endless stretch of water the faint blue line of distant Caucasus
closing the horizon in the east.

The anchorage of Trebizond receives the first flush of morning ;
a mellow light is thrown upon the terraces of the eastern suburb,
circling seawards down the lower slopes of Mount Mithros to the
point of the little cape. Here and there among the buildings
rows of tall cypresses still hold the shadows of night ; but the white
faces of the houses soon dispel the darkness, and their glass
windows reflect in a glow of dazzling splendour the lurid brilliance
of the rising sun. Nowhere else than in these landscapes of the
Black Sea and the Caspian is the dawn more essentially the
"rosy-fingered," or the sea at sunrise "the glass-green." As the
rays commence to break, the wind freshens and the black cypresses
wave and sway. Down the coast, beyond the dark cliff of Mithros,
the mountains of the seaboard are massed in savage parapets
beneath the rising sun ; the faithful clouds cling to their slopes or
float above them, a sky of cold, silvery greys. Westwards, above
the point of the little promontory, under the immediate lee of
which we lie, you just discern the softer setting of the greater bay
itself, as the outline of the range sweeps in long undulations far
out into the western sea. The day wakes ; the colours start ;
the world of pinks and opals disappears. The aspect of the town
is warm and genial, even in winter, when the background of
broken ridges look their wildest and the sparse fir trees stand out
darkly from the snow. Sunny meadows and flashes of green turf
caress the traveller, who may have journeyed through the long
Eastern summer and autumn in countries where scarcely a blade
of grass grows. The shore is soon astir, and the cries of the
boatmen are carried down the wind. Large, high-prowed galleys
bear down upon us, the crews racing for the first berth. We are
surrounded by a swarm of ragged human beings, shouting,
scrambling, gesticulating, as their boats and heavily laden barges
drive against our tall iron sides.

The steamers anchor at some little distance from the shore,
and it takes a long pull, at a time when the wind is setting off
the land, to reach the little mole. The shore-boats are manned
with ill-miened youngsters, whose clamour never ceases from ship-
side to landing-stage. On the quay are arrayed the customs
officers and their assistants, motley groups in which the cast-off
wardrobes of Europe mingle with the coloured cottons of the
East. What a relief to escape from all this turmoil, to repose for



The Coast and the Port 1 1

a few minutes in a spacious coffee-house, rising high above the
harbour and the noise ! A youth is just completing his lustral
service of the morning ; the floor has been swept and watered,
the nargilehs are coiled — the peaceful figure of Ion rises in the
mind.

Our road leads up the hillside, at first by the town garden
and wide streets, lined with houses and shops built in European
style, and then through the narrow alleys which intersect the
Christian quarters, a labyrinth of winding ways. These streets of
Trebizond have a width not exceeding six or eight feet, and some-
times less, and are lined by the dull walls of garden enclosures
w^iich shut out all prospect over the town. A raised pavement
runs along them, sometimes on both sides of the way, and always
on one. Here and there the fresh green leaves of a fig tree over-
hang the walls, or the cherry-laurel with its clusters of claret-
coloured fruit, or the pink flowers of the oleander. The houses
are, for a great part, quite Eastern in character — blank, featureless
wall, broken only at mid-height by little windows with gratings
made of laced strips or mortised cubes of wood. But the modern
villa is rapidly taking their place.

What waifs of all the ages may be met within these alleys !
Yet I think, and our Consul, Mr. Longworth, seems inclined to
agree with me, that the Greek type prevails. Our conversation
turns upon these race questions ; one can indeed never cease
learning what fallacious guides in such questions religion and
nationality are. There are whole villages on this seaboard whose
inhabitants are Mussulmans, and would resent being called by any
other name than Osniauli ; yet their Greek origin is established
both by history and by the traditions which they themselves still
in part retain. Thus take Surmeneh and Of, two considerable
villages on the east of Trebizond. These versatile Greeks are as
famous now for their theological eminence as they were formerly
under the Eastern Empire, with this difference, that whereas in
those days they supplied the Church with bishops, it is now
mollahs that they furnish to Islam. Yet, fanatical as they are,
they still hold to certain customs which connect them with
the old faith they once served with such distinction, and have, no
doubt, since persecuted with equal zeal. Under the stress of ill-
ness the Madonna again makes her appearance, her image is again
suspended above the sick-bed ; the sufferer sips the forbidden
wine from the old cup of the Communion, which still remains a



12 Armenia

treasured object with the whole community, much as they might
be puzzled to tell you why. As we are talking, a little girl
happens to pass down the lane, a child of some ten years. Her
limbs are scarcely covered by a loose cotton skirt, although her
complexion has not suffered from the sun. The waxen texture of
the flesh, the transparent colouring, and the rich setting of auburn
hair remind one of the favourites of Venetian painters and of faces
seen in North Italian towns. It is besides only natural that the
people of this city should possess a strain of Italian blood ; not so
many centuries ago the Genoese controlled the commerce and
menaced the independence of Trebizond.

It is a long climb from the anchorage to the British Consulate,
which, although within the limits of this suburb of gardens, has an
elevation of at least 150 feet. Still, the site has the advantages
of a middle position between the old fortified city in the western
bay below us and the open walks around Boz Tepe. And if the
mornings be devoted to the town and the ruins, the evenings may
be spent on that airy platform or upon the lonely slopes of the
adjacent hills.

There are many pleasant spots which, in the course of these
rambles, invite a view over the town. The landscape which you
overlook is that of the west — the vague succession of endless little
capes and inlets, disappearing and combining to form the single
feature of a wide and open bay. Below you lies the old city,
mediaeval walls and towers, overgrown by a canopy of leaves,
gently sloping to the sea (Fig. 2). Yet, however beautiful in itself
may be the scene that expands before you, it is rather upon
the thoughts and the memories which it raises that the mind is
inclined to dwell. The sea is not so much the blue floor without
limits to which the sinuous outline of the coast descends, as the
open thoroughfare which leads across to Europe, joining Asia to
the West. The fir-clad ridges, which close the prospect towards
the interior, arc rather the first outrunners of that wide belt of
troughs and ridges in which so many armies have become en-
trap[)ed, than the background of sterner features which supports
the peaceful landscape in which the ruined burgh lies. The scene
itself is the same that brought tears to the eyes of Xenophon,
and which was associated in the mind of the Emperor Hadrian
with his first view of this shore and sea.

ViwX. the morning is not the time, nor is this the occasion for
such retrospective thoughts. F^resh from sleep, our first interest




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OF THE ANCIENT FORTIFICATIONS



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The Coast and the Port 13

is the ivy-grown ruins of Trapezus, which lie far below us in the
western bay. We descend from the slopes about Boz Tepe, by
the neat villas and garden enclosures of the eastern suburb, to
the ravine which separates this suburb, with the anchorage and
commercial quarter, from the site of the old fortified town. It is
indeed a position not readily forgotten and not easy to mistake.
If the descriptions of Trapezus which have come down to us
portray in a defective manner the many remarkable features which
are characteristic of the place, they, at least, leave no doubt as to
the identity of the historical city with the position of these ruins.
At the foot of the precipitous slopes of Boz Tepe, on the western
side of that table-topped hill, the surface of the ground is broken
by two deep ravines, which, at a narrow interval, descend from
the interior to the seaboard about at right angles to the margin
of the shore. They represent the lower course of two of those
wooded valleys of which the landscape towards Cape leros
contains a succession, various in feature, but in character the same.
Peculiar to these two ravines is their close proximity to one
another ; the streams which flow along them are only about 400
yards apart as they approach the sea. Indeed, at one point,
over 1000 yards from the coast, the mass of rock by which
they are separated forms a neck or isthmus of which the top is
less than 60 yards across. In this manner a site is constituted
which is bounded on three sides by natural defences — on the west
and east by the ravines, and on the north by the sea. Draw a
wall across the neck or narrowest portion of the rock, and you
at once enclose the figure of an irregular parallelogram, of which
the fourth side is the short cross-wall. These natural features, so
favourable for defence, have not escaped the ingenuity of man ;
the cross-wall has been built in the shape of a massive tower and
citadel, while the inner sides of the ravines have been lined with
walls and castellations, which still frown above the leafy abysses
and the streams rustling through the shade.

In appearance the protected enclosure, with its flanking
ravines, has been described by some writers as a peninsular
plateau, while to others it has suggested the shape of a table and
seemed to justify the name of Trebizond (T/oaTre^oO?). Neither
likeness appears to me to be quite happily chosen. Both contain
in themselves the conception of a disparity of levels, the plateau
of a stage raised above the surrounding country, the table above
the surface of the floor. Such are not the characteristics of the



14 Armenia

site. The metaphor of a table seems the more inappropriate,
inasmuch as the least one might expect of such an object is that
it should have a flat and horizontal top. This site possesses
neither of these qualities. On the one hand, the upper portion,
which supports the citadel, rises above the lower like a dais or
step ; while, on the other, the plane of the ground is an inclined
plane, and follows the general configuration of the country,
shelving from the hills towards the sea.

Yet these images and the impressions from which they
derive are no doubt founded upon real conditions. The isolation
of the figure, together with its elevation — not indeed above the
levels which adjoin it on either side, but above the level of
the sea — these are the two factors which have supplied the real
substance of such impressions. The first of these features would
appeal to the eye with more distinctness, were it not for the
thick growth of trees and underwood which rises from the floors
and up the slopes of the ravines, and almost conceals the
escarpment of their sides. The depth of the gulfs may be
gauged by the following measurement made at the head of the
western ravine. Standing at the bottom of the abyss, the rock
which supports the citadel and palace overtops you by about
150 feet at the highest point. The width across them, from
cliff to clifT, varies considerably, according as each gulf opens or



Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 49)