H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

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closes in ; the length of each of the two bridges which span the
ravines is about 100 paces. Both ravines tend to flatten as they
descend towards the shore, or in other words, to increase in width
and diminish in depth. As for the elevation of the enclosure, it
is of course most considerable at the narrow isthmus and the
citadel. This highest portion, containing the keep and palace, is
about 200 feet above the sea.

It is plain from the description which has just been given
that the characteristic features of the site attain their greatest
development in that part of the enclosure which is most remote
from the shore ; that it is there the protecting gulfs are deepest,
and the rock loftiest which they flank. Indeed, during the
Bx'zantine and earlier Comnenian periods the fortress was confined
to this upper portion, and the outer wall on the side of the sea
was drawn from gulf to gulf at a distance of about 460 yards
from the present margin of the shore. A few sentences may
suffice to present the plan of the fortifications, as it may be
traced among the ruins that remain. At the very head of the

The Coast and the Port 1 5

formation came the keep and citadel, the outer wall being
drawn across the narrow isthmus between the two ravines ; this
was the weakest point in the whole circumference of the fortress,
and the works were strongest upon this side. Built into this
outer wall stands a massive square tower, which rises boldly
above the battlements and faces the approaches from the south.
The ground shelves upwards almost from the immediate foot of
the tower to the amphitheatre of hills which surround the bay.
Thus the fortress is commanded by the slopes upon the south,
where already it is by nature most vulnerable. It was from the
south that its assailants delivered their principal attacks : the
Goths, the Georgians, the Seljuks, the Turkomans, the Ottoman
Turks. All the space inside the wall and between the two
ravines was filled up at this uppermost part of the fortress, first
by the keep, and then by the palace itself; the citadel served as
the kingly residence, and the wall with the bold windows which
rises along the edge of the western ravine was alike fortress and
palace wall. This uppermost fortress or citadel, with the palace
of the king, was separated from the lower but more extensive
portion of the site by a cross- wall, equal in height to the walls
along the ravines, and supported at either end by towers. So
much loftier is this upper stage than the stage which lies below
it that, whereas the palace, which occupies the most elevated
point, towers high above the battlements of the cross-wall, the
base of this wall itself overtops the highest buildings of the
second and lower stage.

Below the cross-wall, with its massive double gate, lay that
part of the fortress which contained the cathedral and public
buildings, and formed the inhabited portion of the original
fortified town. Like the citadel, it was protected on two sides
by the ravines, lined on their inner edge by a lofty wall seven
feet in thickness, with towers at intervals. A second cross-wall,
extending from ravine to ravine, was its bulwark on the side of
the sea, and constituted the outer rampart of the enclosure as it
existed in the ancient form. This outer rampart followed the
edge of a natural declivity in the surface of the shelving ground,
and presented a bold front to the lower levels lying between it
and the shore.

The third and lowest stage of the fortified enclosure filled the
space that yet remained between this outer wall of the cit}' and
the immediate margin of the sea. The ravines open outwards as

1 6 Armenia

they approach the seaboard, and the figure widens which they
bound ; but on the other hand, the sides of these natural barriers
flatten and take the surface of the adjoining ground. Thus the
plan of the lower fortress did not display the same subservience
to the natural features of the site, and was protracted on the west
beyond the outer margin of the western ravine. Indeed, the area
enclosed by this later work of the fourteenth century was
considerably greater than that of the ancient burgh ; and in
proportion as it was deficient in natural defences, so it was
stronger in those of art. A wall six feet and a half in thickness,
with towers at irregular intervals, surrounded the new work ; and,
except on the side of the sea, this rampart was flanked by a
second and lower wall with a moat on its outer side. But,
although the lower fortress formed a third and separate unity, over-
stepping the natural limits of the site, it was connected in the
closest manner with the upper enclosure, and with the walls
flar^king the ravines. On the east the new ramparts joined the
old wall, and continued its direction in a straight line to the
shore, at which point they turned at right angles, along the shore.
Thus the old cross-wall was completely covered by the new
fortifications, and the principal gate of the old city, leading
through that wall and facing the sea, instead of standing at the
outer extremity of the fortress, now became situated in about the
middle of the fortified plan. The new wall along the sea was
protracted further westwards than the western extremity of the
old cross -wall ; it was drawn across the mouth of the western
ravine, and far overlapped the parallel line of the old wall.
Some little distance west of the depression it again changed
direction, and stretched up towards the south, until it reached a
point opposite to the bridge which leads out from the middle
fortress, and over lOO paces from the edge of the ravine. From
this point, which was emphasised by a rectangular tower of
extraordinary size, the line of wall was taken at right angles, and
met the margin of the ravine.

This threefold disposition of the walls and fortifications is
characteristic of the plan of the fortified city, and forms a feature
well noted in the descriptions of the topographers and still
distinguished in popular speech. Indeed, even at the present
day, when most of the great gates have disappeared, and houses
with several storeys obscure the plan, the hillside is lined by
three complete fortresses, each scj^aratcd from the other and one

The Coast and the Port 1 7

higher than another, yet all three welded closel)' into one. The
appearance of the city in the days of her splendour must have
justified her reputation as " Queen of the Euxine," and lent
colour to her claim to be the capital of a restored Roman Empire
of the East. Between extensive suburbs, filled with busy streets
and markets, rising from the shore on either hand, through a
labyrinth of gardens and garden-houses, clustered on the higher
slopes, the two converging lines of massive parapets and towers
mounted slowly up the shelving ground. The further they
receded from the margin of the seaboard, the clearer grew the
essential features of the site — the ravines opening darkly at the
immediate foot of either wall, the walls closely following the
irregular course of the chasms, and now rising, now declining,
alongf the uneven surface of the cliffs. Near the head of the
figure stood the royal palace, raised high above the massive
works of the citadel, deeply moated by the sister gulfs on either
side. Broad windows opened from the royal reception hall of
white marble to the varied prospects on every side, while within,
the vast apartment was adorned with rich paintings, the
portraits of successive holders of the imperial office, their insignia
and arms. On the east, beyond the abyss, the slope gathered
gradually to the side of Mithros, the table-topped hill, in which
direction, just opposite the palace, the church and fortified
enclosure of St. Eugenius crowned an almost isolated site which
was flanked on the further side by a third and lesser ravine.
Towards the interior, on the side of the narrow isthmus, the view
ranged wide, above the battlements, over the hills encircling the
broad bay ; while the rising ground, opening upwards from the
tongue of the isthmUs, was occupied by the theatre and by the
extensive walled enclosure of the polo -ground or hippodrome.
A royal gate gave access from the palace to these pleasure-
places, the distance of a short walk from the wall ; and through
this gate the imperial party and their brilliant court would pass
to their m.arble seats above the race-course, whence the whole
landscape of city and field and ocean lay outspread at their feet.
If the several divisions of the fortified enclosure may be described
as so many steps, or shelving terraces, rising one behind another
from the shore, then the race-course outside the walls will be the
fourth stage of the platform, the last and highest, and the fairest
of all. Indeed the prospect over the walls and towers of the city
to the distant sea beyond must at all times have been one of

1 8 A rinenia

surpassing beauty, whether seen from the windows of the Imperial
residence, or from these airy heights above the town. To the
palace was displayed the long perspective of the city architecture
outlined against the blue bay — the massive cross-walls cleaving
the crowded quarters, the domes of the churches glancing in the
brilliant sunlight, and, interspersed, quiet respites of shade and
leafiness, where some portico with frescoed walls and row of
marble pillars recalled the habits of the classical age. From the
higher standpoint of the race-course all the rich detail of this
scene was blended and subdued ; the eye would follow the long
line of parapets and towers descending by the side of the sinuous
streak of verdure which marked the course of the western ravine.
The palace windows, which still rise above the head of that
ravine, commanded the landscape of the west, the wide bay with
its peaceful setting of cultivated hillsides stretching seawards to
the distant cape.

Among the most pleasing and, perhaps, not the least striking
feature in the composition of these scenes must at all times have
been the luxuriance and variety of the vegetation which is natural
to this soil. The necessary moisture is provided, not by stagnant
pools and marshes, as in the country watered by the Kolchian
rivers further east, but by salubrious springs, bubbling from the
surface of the rock and collecting in rustling streams. The sun
is indeed the fiery orb of Eastern landscapes ; but the climate is
tempered by the chilling winds from across the sea, bringing rain
and mist in their train. The outcome of these conditions is the
simultaneous exuberance of the trees and plants which flourish
upon the coasts of the Mediterranean and of the leafy giants ot
our Northern woods ; side by side with shady thickets of chestnut,
elm, oak and hazel, groves of cypress, laurel and olive grace the
shore. The wild vine hangs in festoons from the branches, and
in sheltered places the orange tree, the lemon, and the pomegranate
thrive and yield their fruit. All our fruits are found in the well-
stocked gardens, while the fig of Trebizond is of old as famous as
the grapes of Tripoli and the cherry of Kerasun. Cucumbers are
cultivated, and heavy pumpkins, and tobacco, and Indian corn, with
its reed-like stalks and luscious leaves. The beautiful pink flowers
of the oleander may be seen rising above some orchard wall. In
the middle of the seventeenth century we are told of upwards of
thirty thousand gardens and vineyards inscribed in the city
registers, and at that time the slopes about Boz Tcpe were

The Coast and the Port i 9

completely covered with vines. But it is on the western rather
than on the eastern side of the fortress that Nature has most
freely lavished her gifts ; and on no spot with more abundance or
greater effectiveness than on the western ravine. The beauties of
that valley, almost as we see them to-day, have been described in
glowing language by Cardinal Bessarion in the fifteenth century,
himself a son of Trebizond, and by the historian of the Comnenian
empire whose warm imagination was kindled by scenes which
recalled and intensified the graces of his native Tyrol. ^ A path
leads down from the suburb on the west into the shade and
freshness of the gorge, through thickets of lofty forest-trees, their
leafy branches laced together by wild vines. Even at mid-day,
when the sun hangs cloudless over the narrow vista, the rays
scarcely penetrate to the deep shadows of the evergreens — a
luxuriant undergrowth of myrtle, laurel and ivy, rising from the
floor and up the cliffs. From the highest point of the castle rock
some 150 feet above you, amongst a wild confusion of creepers
and trees, the bold wall of the palace, now reduced to an empty
skeleton, still stands up against the sky ; and the broad windows
which once opened from the emperor's apartments still overlook
the verdant scene below. Past mossy banks, upon which the iris
and primrose flourish, through leafy brakes, where trees of laurel
hide the ground, the little stream cascades into the laps of the
hollows or plashes over ledges of hard rock.

But we are anticipating on our walk, which has not yet brought us
further than the edge of the eastern ravine. We cross the bridge, and at
once lind ourselves within the fortified enclosure, which is traversed by a
broad road. Following that road, we are passing through the middle
fortress — that part of the site which constituted the inhabited quarter of
the walled city in its original form. Now as in ancient times it is crowded
by buildings, while a considerable portion is taken up by the Serai, or
Government House (No. 1 7 on plan of Trebizond and surroundings),
which is situated about in the middle of the space between the ravines,
on the south side of our road. Here the pasha will be sitting within an
inner room, a bundle of papers by his side on the divan. Entering the
court, you have on one side this palace, thronged with applicants, and, on
the other, the iron gratings of a prison, banding the faces of the captives
as they stare on the scene below. Past the gateway of the Serai, a narrow
way leads up the enclosure, diverging at right angles from the road which
joins the ravines. It conducts us to the upper fortress through a quarter

^ J. P. Fallmerayer, born in 1790, the son of humble parents, whose flocks he tended
on the mountain-sides as a boy. Died in 1 861 ; a great scholar, a great writer, whose
work has not yet received all the recognition which it deserves.

20 Armenia

filled by private houses, and inhabited exclusively by IVIohammedans. A
walk of some two or three hundred yards brings us to the foot of the
lofty cross-wall, which is almost as fresh to-day as when it was reared.
By a steep incline we enter a gateway into a hollow tower adjoining the
outer wall on the east, which constitutes the only passage into the citadel.

The massive ancient gate still rests upon its hinges, its rusty iron plates
riddled with bullets. A second gate, placed at right angles to the first in
the further wall, gives issue from the tower. The citadel, like the middle
fortress, is occupied by modern houses ; but they are less frequent, and
are almost confined to the spaces immediately neighbouring the cross-wall.
There is some difficulty in examining the extensive ancient works which
still in part remain upon the site. One of the principal buildings is occupied
by military stores, and is forbidden ground. I contrive to effect an
entrance, and find it quite empty — a palpable reason for such exclusive
measures. Then the walls which enclose the gardens of the private
dwellings are no less the discreet protectors of the life of the harem than
the veil to hide the squalor of faded opulence. While one of us is taking
readings with the prismatic compass, the whole quarter is raised by the
protestations of a young minx, who will insist that she is the object of his
unmannerly stares. I have said that the palace is now a mere skeleton ;
a rambling old house, with a picturesque overhanging roof, fills a portion
of the ground plan of the royal apartments, where they overlooked the
western ravine. We are tardily given admission by a female voice. From
an embrasure in the massive wall of the fortress, just below the row of
eight arched windows, which stand up blank against the sky, we feast our
eyes upon the charming view over the western ravine, following its sinuous
outline into the background of leafy hills, or resting upon the cypresses
and minaret of the Khatunieh mosque among the villas on the opposite
margin of the abyss.

Within this outer wall, a little south of our standpoint, a square tower
rises above the outline of the battlements, displaying in its upper storey the
interior of a spacious apartment with windows opening upon the landscape.
The fragment of a wall juts out towards us from beside the tower ; and
three large windows, of which two are double, with slim dividing pillars,
have been spared to it by the ravages of time. Just north of us, three
more windows rise from the outer wall, on a higher plane than those above
our heads. Both rows are but the remains of much longer series, once the
life and pride of these grim parapets. They enable us to reconstruct the
ancient splendour of the imperial residence, which, day by day, is slowly
passing towards the world of unsubstantial memories, to share the fate of
sacred Troy and of King Priam, rich in flocks.

Above the palace, within the narrowing tongue of the circumvallation,
the space is occupied by the substructures of the keep, over which we
clamber to the parapets of the outer wall. Beside us, the square tower at
the extreme end of the fortress frowns out upon the knife- like ridge
between the ravines. It is probable that this tower is composed of a
solid mass, for one cannot trace any sign of a passage in. The battle-
ments of the wall rise to a height of nearly 200 feet above the western

The Coast and the Port 1 1

ravine. Just on the east of the tower is placed the only entrance to the
citadel from the side of the ridge. It consists of a long passage, flanked
by a parallel outer wall, and abutting on a huge angular tower. But the
inner doorway is now walled up, and one is obliged to retrace one's steps
to the middle fortress, in order to pass without the walls.

The gate is situated just below the entrance to the citadel, in the wall
on the east. It too is furnished with double doors, which, like their
neighbours, have been riddled by musket fire. South of this gateway there
is just enough room between the wall and the edge of the eastern ravine to
permit of a narrow road. Leaving the interior of the fortress, one is taken
along this road, with the wooded precipice on one hand and on the other
the ivy-grown battlements. Peasants, carrying baskets, pass by on their
way to market ; and beneath a fig tree, teeming with fruit, some Mussul-
man women, resting from their wayfaring, cower within their veils as
we approach. The colossal angular tower projects from the head of
the irregular wall towards the leafy abyss, a large inscription gleaming
white upon the wall which faces us, the record of the conquest of
Mohammed II.

But the point at which you pause is at the head of the fortification,
beneath the soaring escarpment of the square tower. It is the same site
upon which the peoples from the remote recesses of Asia have stood with
the lust of conquest in their eyes. On the opposite bank of the eastern
ravine the drum-shaped dome of St. Eugenius rises from among a cluster
of red-roofed villas. It was there that the Seljuk sultan issued his threats
and insults, while the Greek emperor fasted and prayed. From within
the limits of that same sanctuary were heard the shouts of the revellers,
mingling with the voices of their concubines. And a white minaret pro-
claims the event of the long and unequal struggle between the full-
blooded followers of the Propliet and the emaciated children of the

The tower itself has evidently been built at a later period than the
wall from which it rises in a continuous face. The colour of the stone is
slightly paler, and an inscription, now much decayed, attests it to be the
work of the Emperor John the Eourth, the last but one of the Comnenian
dynasty. The ground widens like a fan from the foot of this tower, and
the ravines, which have almost met, diverge and become great valleys,
stretching into the bosom of the hills. Within that ampler space, a few-
hundred yards south of the fortress, one may still recognise the enclosure
of the hippodrome and the great gateway on its northern ^ide. The wall
still rises in places to a height of from six to ten feet, but all the interior
structures have disappeared. A field of tobacco grows upon the site.
Adjoining the gateway, and facing the palace, one is impressed by the
shape and appearance of a projecting tongue of land with a flat top. The
theatre may once have stood upon this spot.

The ancient churches of Trebizond, some converted into mosques and
others into public baths, are among the most interesting relics which the
town contains. Retracing our steps to the middle fortress and to the road
which joins the two ravines, we have almost reached the bridge over the

2 2 Armenia

westerly depression before attaining the old cathedral, sacred to the golden-
headed Virgin, of which the southern wall borders our road on the north
(No. 1 8). How bare and bleak it looks, shorn of its southern and western
porches, and covered with a thick coating of whitewash ! A little court,
paved with flagstones, adjoins it on the east, over which you pass to an
entrance at the north-east corner which has destroyed the side apse on that
side. If you scrutinise the outer wall of the principal apse, you may still
distinguish beneath the whitewash a design of figures in mosaic, one of
which perhaps represents the seated Virgin. Time has worn down the few
sculptured mouldings of which any trace remains. There is little to attract
the eye in this mangled group of gables, surmounted by the drum of a
duodecagonal dome. On the northern side rises the minaret, adjoining
the principal entrance which has made use of the old porch on the north.
Four marble pillars with Ionic capitals, probably the spoil of some pagan
temple, support the roof of this spacious porch. We are about to enter,
when we are called aside to observe an old fountain in the court on the
east. It contains a marble slab with a Greek inscription, which is illegible ;
and the water issues from a much-worn bronze spout, representing the
head of a serpent or dragon, which is said to have belonged to a bronze
model of such a monster, killed by the spear of Alexius the First. Near
the fountain is a tomb, still maintained in good order, in which repose the
remains of a shepherd youth to whom the townspeople attribute the
capture of the fortress by the Ottoman Turks. The story runs that
Mohammed the Second, foiled by the strength of the citadel, had recourse
to a final expedient of which the result should determine the alternatives
of further effort or abandonment of the siege. A number of shots were
to be fired from a cannon at the chain which supported the drawbridge.
Should it be severed, it would be a signal for a renewal of operations ; in
the contrary case the siege was to be raised. The experiment failed ; the
sultan broke up his camp and removed the bulk of his army, leaving,
however, the loaded cannon still in site. A young shepherd, happening
to pass by, was prompted by the hardihood of his years to try his skill at
the difficult mark. He discharged the gun, and the drawbridge fell.
This child of a short-lived future sped to the camj) of Mohammed, who
was making his way up the valley of the Pyxitis towards Baiburt. But
his story was derided, and the sultan, in a fit of anger, caused him to be
killed. The rage of the despot was turned to grief when the confirmation
reached him of this miraculous exploit. His return was followed by the
fall of the city ; and he endeavoured to atone for his rash action by load-
ing his victim with posthumous rewards. Over the coffin one may still
see the ball suspended which decided the fate of Trebizond. And the
martyr is known by a name which repeats the sultan's sorrowful exclama-
tion : "■ Khosh Oghlaii,'' or "Well done ! Oghlan."

The interior of the mosque produces an effect of extraordinary
massiveness, with its bulky piers supporting the dome, with the walls
which join these piers to the walls of the church and screen off the aisles
from the open space beneath the dome. Except for the two inner columns
of the porch, not a single pillar is to be seen. The aisles are narrow, and

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 49)