J. R. Sitlington (John Robert Sitlington) Sterrett.

Leaflets from the notebook of an archaeological traveler in Asia Minor online

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There is ever a charm about the quaint unchanging Orient. The traveler
soon finds that his heart has been led captive by his romantic surroundings,
and the chains which bind him to the East become riveted all the more
K^ firmly if he deal in ancient lore, if he tread the ground " for the sake of
p:: ages," seeking "in the sands of time" for the "footprints" of men that are
^ gone long centuries ago. He may have traveled in the East before; its
^ scenes may all be familiar, but nevertheless he is always charmed anew as
►J the steamer approaches its destined port. Everything around him breathes
of poetry and romance; the beturbaned crowd with its brilliant costumes,
and the life on the wharfs, in the streets and bazars, are ever new and
strange. Nature, too, is so beautiful, the air so sweet, the sun so gorgeous,
not "obscurely bright, but one unclouded blaze of living light." The trav-
eler is indeed in a new world, where, strange as it may seem, even the dirt
charms, to say nothing of the dogs and the beggars.




The first work of the Archaeologist upon arriving in Asia Minor is to
complete his outfit. This will be more or less elaborate according to the
u_i means at his disposal and the length of time he proposes to be absent in the
^ interior. There are no hotels in the interior — if I may except the caravan-
saries in the larger towns; and although one would rarely have to suffer the
direst necessities in case he should choose to travel in sole reliance upon the
hospitality of the natives — for the Turks, in common with all semi-civilized
nations, have the virtue of hospitality — yet for many reasons the scientific
traveler must go prepared to be wholly independent of native hospitality.
5j Owing to the light in which Moslems regard their women, that is, owing to
rj the fact that the women must be secluded as much as possible in the harem,
^ the hospitality offered to the stranger is wholly different from that to which
K you are accustomed. A man can not invite a guest into his house and enter-
^ tain him, as we do, at a table presided over by his wife. But every well-to-
do Moslem, and in fact many in very moderate circumstances, have a room
__. or rooms sacred to the men. These rooms are called the Selavilik, while
- that part of the house sacred to the women is the Harem or Hamimlik, as
every one knows. A more common name for the Selamlik is Oda, or guest-
chamber, and every stranger, be he Moslem, Christian, Jew, bond or free,
has the undisputed right to take possession of this Oda without so much as
saying "By your leave" to the house-owner. On entering a village the
traveler 'who has to claim the hospitality of the natives asks the first person
he meets to point out an Oda. He then proceeds directly to it and takes pos-
session. Tlie house-owner regards the stranger who thus quarters himself
upon him as the owner for the time being of the Oda, and strives as much
as possible to place himself in the hght of the one obliged. The guest and
his whole party are fed from the kitchen of the house-owner. At the meals
all eat together, master and servant, Moslem and Christian, sitting cross-
legged on the floor around the low circular table. Along the sides of the

4 An ArchcFological Traveler in Asia Minor.

cliief room of the Oda run the broad divans covered with rich Oriental
prayer rugs. As the stranger enters the master of the house and all who
may chance to be present rise respectfully to their feet. No word is spoken ;
no salutation is given ; the stranger is silently motioned to the seat of honor.
When he has been comfortably seated the servants, or if the house-owner
belong to the class which cannot or does not keep servants, then some male
member of his household, gives him a cigarette and a cup of hot cofEee in
token of welcome. When he has taken a whiff of the cigarette and a sip of
the coffee, then all present salute him, making the Salaam, which t3^pifies the
raising of the hem of the stranger's garment to the heart, to the lips, and to the
forehead, and which means. "I am yours to command with my heart, with
my mouth, with my mind." The strange]' must not return this salutation
collectively, but must make his Salaam to each individual present. Then all
present bid him heartily welcome and inquire affectionately after his health
and all that concerns him and his. The master of the house in addition begs
the stranger to accept the house and to command him in all respects. But I
have said that it is best for the scientific ■ .aveler to go with such an outfit
that he can be wholly independent of nanve hospitality. The reasons are
the following: Those who entertain him in their houses naturally enough
expect him to talk to them. This talk is very entertaining and amusing as long
as one is a novice in the country, for the reason that it is always naive and
childlike prattle. They discuss the rotundity of the world, for instance, gen-
erally defending the negative side of the question; they ask you whether the
sun moves; how much tribute you countrymen pay to their Sultan; what
your business is; how many brothers and sisters you have, and a thousand
other questions of a like nature. They examine with unconcealed pleasure
and astonishment your rifle, your revolver, your knife, your pen, your pen-
cils, your helmet, your corduroy suit, your stockings and shoes. This of
course grows monotonous if one is compelled to go through such an exami-
nation several times a day. But worst of all the acceptance of native
hospitality makes it impossible for the traveler to find time for writing out
in durable and plain form his road-notes of the day and for copying into
a second book the inscriptions he may have found during the day. But if
he travel with his own tents, cook, servants and horses, then he simply has
his tents pitched in the neighborhood of a village, from which to get supplies
for man and beast, and being real master in his own house he can write to
his heart's content, and need pay no attention whatever to the inquisitive
mob of villagers who ever throng his camp.


My plan of travel was to explore those regions of country which were blanks
or virtual blanks on the old maps. I aimed to leave my camp at sunrise, di-
recting my cook to go with the Imggage and encamp at a given village some
three or four hours distant. They would reach the village agreed upon by
noon; the tents would be pitched; the cook would busy himself in preparing
the evening meal, while the baggage servants, after the camp and horses had
been properly cared for, would scour the village in quest of inscriptions, it be-
ing a part of their duty to report to me immediately upon my arrival in camp.
After leaving camp in the morning I made it my business to visit every \ illage
in the whole region of country between the camp of the morning and that of
the evening. Every village was searched for inscriptions and other remains
of antiquity; every one was questioned in regard to these things, and every
scrap of information in regard to the whereabouts of inscriptions or ruins

An Archceological T7-avele7'- in Asia Minor. 5

was made use of or put to the test at once. Often information thus gained
would turn out to be false or at least erroneous, but still I could never afford
to neglect any hint, however much I might be disposed to suspect it. Before
leaving camp in the morning I took accurate bearings with the prismatic
compass of all the surrounding country. As soon as 1 was m the saddle I
noted down first the time of starting, and then the direction in which I was
heading. At every point where the road changed its general direction per-
ceptibly, I noted down the time of day and the new direction. When cross-
ing a brook or river, I noted down the time of day, the direction from
which the water came and the direction in which it flowed. After traveling
for half an hour or an hour at most, I would dismount from my horse, plant
my large compass, and while the needle was becoming steady, make a note
of the whole surrounding country. Then when the needle of the compass
had become stationary, it was but the work of a moment to read off from
the compass and note down the bearings of all the villages m sight, and of
all the prominent objects, whether mountains or hills. This had to be
repeated at least once every hour; oftener if the country was rugged and

Geographers have established the fact that the average horse at an average
gait will pass over three English miles and one-half in one hour. Conse-
quently the traveler must keep an accurate account of every moment of
time, and so he is compelled to ride along with watch, compass, notebook,
and pencil constantly in hand, ready to jot down anything of importance at
the very moment when first he becomes aware of it. Tliis is the way in
which the map of unknown districts is filled out. Of course such work is
only preliminary, but it is the best that can be done or be hoped for until it
be possible to make a regular scientific survey of the whole countr}^, and for
Asia Minor that day is in the distant future, unless the Turkish Empire be
merged into that of some Christian nation. My day would accordingly be
taken up with a route survey of the country, and with copying the inscrip-
tions which I might chance to find. My aim was to reach camp at about four
o'clock in the afternoon. Upon my arrival I would find the camp beset with
villagers sitting in a circle around the cook, intently watching his operations
and those of the other servants. All would rise to their feet out of respect
to me. I made it my first business to question them minutely, notebook in
hand, not only concerning inscriptions but also concerning the topography of
the whole region of country round about their village. When I had pumped
all their topographical knowledge out of them and got enougli information
to enable me to shape my course intelligently on the following day, I
thanked them, and then betook myself to my tent in order to write out my
road-notes, copy my inscriptions, and eat my dinner. By this time night
had come and my day's work was done.


When the hordes of Turcoman shepherds left their original home in
Turkistan in quest of better homes in the west, they attacked and conquered
the effete Byzantine Empire. Being zealous Mohammedans they hated with
an intense hatred the Greeks, who were the chief representatives of Chris-
tianity in the East. They were not content with simply conquering the
Greek or Byzantine empire, but they aimed to destroy all traces of the
Greek civilization as well. The demon of destruction held high carnival,
and in this way there disappeared buildings that belonged not only to the
Christian period, but also many of the remains of the classical pagan civih-

6 An Archaeological Traveler in Asia Minor.

zation, which had been spared by time and the fanaticism of the early Chris-
tians. Much ruin was wrought, and many documents in stone of priceless
value to the historian perished at the hands of the invaders; but still the un-
dertaking was too vast for even the destructive powers of the Turk, and
many precious monuments and inscriptions are still spared to tell their tale
even at this late day, each adding its mite to our knowledge of the history of
the past. It is the part of the traveling Archaeologist to hunt up these
remains, whether they be monumental or epigraphical.

After the first fury of the storm of devastation had passed, the Turks, who
were then pure nomads and are still semi-nomads, bethought themselves that
their idea of empire might be more easily realized were they to abandon their
nomadic habits and become residents in fixed abodes for at least a part of the
year. For this purpose houses were absolutely necessary. But they had ruth-
lessly destroyed everything, and they did not possess architectural skill suffi-
cient to erect buildings in any way compai^able to those they had destroyed.
However, a roof over their heads during the winter was all they aimed at;
it mattered not that the houses were ill built and shabby in the extreme.
After fixing upon sites for their villages, their first thought was to build
mosques, and in building them they utilized the ancient stones, which were
always well hewn and easy to handle. The intez'stices were filled in with
small unhewn stones and mud mortar. To this use of old stones is due the
fact that many stones bearing inscriptions are found in the walls of mosques.
In inserting such stones into the wall of the mosque, they paid no attention
whatever to the inscription. Chance alone decided whether if should fall on
the outside or be buried in the wall. Even when the inscription did fall on
the outside of the wall, it is rarely right side up, but in most cases it either lies
sidewise or is upside down. The Turks are very particular about their
drinking water, and they compare notes about the water of two given vil-
lages or localities in precisely the same way that German connoisseurs discuss
their beer. The cool freshness and purity of water is highly prized, not
only for drinking purposes and , household use, but also for the ablutions so
necessary before prayer. Owing to these facts the public fountains, with
which every village and every mosque of any importance are abundantly
supplied, take rank immediately after the mosques. Some attempt at archi-
tectural beauty is always visible in the fountains, and how could this coveted
beauty be attained better than by making use of the fine old stones of the
hated infidels? There are then two places within the limits of every village
which the Archaeological traveler must examine. — the mosque and the foun-
tains; and if the village be anywhere in the neighborhood of an ancient town,
he is almost sure to discover inscriptions in the walls of one or of both these
structures. Outside of the village the Archaeologist must also examine care-
fully the old Turkisli cemeteries, which in many cases are situated far from
a village. As is well known the Turks have great respect for the graves of
their fathers. A grave is inviolate, and must have a stone at its head and
foot to signify its sacred character forever. It does not make a particle of
difference what may be the character of the stones used, provided only they
be large and heavy, for then they will stand erect and mark tlie spot as a
grave for ages after the mound over the grave has been completely leveled.
The early Turks then used the ancient stones of the Graeco-Roman period
not only for building their mosques and fountains, but also for tombstones,
and their cemeteries exhibit the queerest and most ridiculous jumble of all
sorts of ancient marbles. Altars of the pagan gods, round, cubical, and
horned altars, huge columns and epistyle blocks from temples, Roman mile-
stones with Latin inscriptions, double-columned window supports from

An Arckieological Traveler in Asia Minor. 7

Christian churches, are all made to stand as sentinels over the graves of the
faithful Moslems. Not only this, but ancient Greek tombstones in all their
endless variety, from the simple slab to the sculptured stele with temple pedi-
ment, are made to do duty a second time — one of the queerest commentaries
on the -instability of human affairs. The inscriptions as a rule have not
been erased from these stones, so that one finds on the graves of the Turks
important decrees of cities, municipal laws, letters of kings to cities, legisla-
tive regulations and edicts of imperial Rome, the autobiography of wealthy
or powerful citizens, the cursus honorum of Roman proconsuls and legates,
and innumerable epitaphs of men dead long ages before the Turkish conquest.
The inscribed tombstones of the Christian dead were also utilized as tomb-
stones by the Turks, but they could not brook the cross. Christian tomb-
stones almost always bore a cross in relief ; sometimes this cross was as high
as the stone, with the epitaph inscribed on either side of the vertical bar of
the cross. It was necessary for Moslem pride to erase this cross before such
a stone could stand over the grave of one of the faithful. They had to
content themselves with hacking away the relief, but they were of course
unable to deface the stone so utterly that no traces of the cross remained,
nay, in many cases it is thus brought into greater prominence. But at any
rate it has been insulted, and. that is soothing to religious pride and hate.
According to what we have just seen there are three places where the
Archteologist traveler can search for inscriptions without asking leave of any
one, that is, in the mosques, the fountains, and the cemeteries. But of
course inscriptions are found in oth^- places, and if they be in private houses,
then in order to get at them, much diplomacy, both on the part of the Arch-
aeologist and his servants, is often needed in order to persuade the ever sus-
picious householder to give one permission to enter the sacred precincts of
his house and harena. The reasons for this are in the main the following:


There is a belief that pervades all classes of Turks, both high and low, that
the stones which bear inscriptions have money or other treasure either inside
the stones themselves, or else that the inscriptions on the stones tell where
nioney or treasure was hid by the people who fled from their homes when
the all-conquering hordes of Turks were invading the country more than
four hundred years ago. Their theory in regard to the business of the
Archaeologist is that he is a lineal descendant of the former inhabitants of the
country, that his family has preserved throughout all these ages traditions in
regard to vast treasure stowed away by them when they were compelled to
abandon their former homes, and lastly, that the Archaeologist has come to
search the country, find the family inscriptions that tell exactly were the
treasure is hidden, and then return to the home of his adoption laden with
wealth. Accordingly ignorant peasants are loth to tell of inscriptions in
their houses, because such stones are their own individual property, and they
can not bring themselves to give away a secret which may one day be con-
verted into millions. Nothing whatever can shake their faith in this super-
stition. Often and often as I was busy copying or making impressions of
inscriptions, a curious, suspicious mob would collect around me. As a rule I
had no time to waste upon them; but presently some one would pluck up
courage enough to ask me where the money was ? When I intended to get
it? How much it was, and whether I would not be generous enough to share
my wealth with them? I always denied the existence of treasure, and ex-
plained that my business was to gather up the scattered* facts of history, so

8 An ArchcBolozical Traveler in Asia Minor.


that by weaving together a multitude of facts the historian might be able to
give something like an accurate account of the country before it was con-
quered by their ancestors. This was all wasted breath; and possibly my
servants pursued the wiser plan, for their aim was to get as much fun as
possible out of the simple villagers, and they made it a point to tell them
that there was buried treasure and that by digging they would find it. The
natives have dug on their own account in innumerable places, and many
ancient buildings have been brought to ruin by having their foundations
undermined by these searchers after hidden treasure. In their search for
buried gold they are always guided by what they call a Nishan. The word
Nishan is equivalent to our word siglit^ i. e., the sight or sights of a rifle gun.
These Nishan sights are generally round natural holes in rocks, such as are
often found in the limestone formation. The theory is that they point directly
toward the spot where the coveted treasure lies hid. But unfortunately they
only indicate accurately the direction, but not the spot itself, where lies the
treasure, and it is assumed that the inscriptions, which, alas, they can not
read, give the information necessary for identifying the exact spot. Accord-
ingly they envy and hate the interloping Archaeologist, because, in their opin-
ion, he possesses the knowledge necessary to unravel the mystery and lay
hold upon the coveted treasure.

There is a Nishan sight of a different character. The ancients often made
sun-dials on the walls of buildings, especially on walls that faced the market-
place. Little grooves, to mark the time of day, radiated from the dial-nail.
They were chiseled with care on the face of the wall. Now some of these
grooves of course pointed down to the ground, and according to the prevail-
ing superstition located exactly the spot where treasure lay buried. Knowing
as I do the insane mania of the Turks on this subject, I can easily picture to
myself the ecstasy of joy felt by a peasant on discovering a Nishan sight of
the latter kind. He hurries home, gathers up the implements necessary for
unearthing the buried gold. He works secretly, but with might and main,
hoping to get it alone and unaided. He has not quite reached it. His
family notices his mysterious absences; they detect and then assist him,
working with fever heat in order to get the gold before the neighbors find it
out. But their secrecy and their toil avail them nothing; the matter has be-
come known to all the villagers; they turn out in a body; a great space is
soon excavated at the base of the building; the wall totters; it falls, and one
more memento of the mighty men of old lies prone in the dust.


I have already mentioned th% belief that treasure is safely hid in the in-
terior of stones that bear inscriptions. How they suppose it to have got
there is known only to the Turkish intellect; at any rate it is universalUy
believed, and I have seen many stones that have been broken to pieces to
get the treasure. The treasure is of course not found, but ill success does
not dampen their ardor, nor shake their faith in the slightest degree. If you
ask them why they were not successful, the unvarying answer is Allah hilir,
God knows. This superstition is not confined to the Turks, and is shared
by the uneducated peasantry of Greece as well. It caused the destruction
in Greece of one of the most venerable and interesting monuments that had
come down to us from a hoary antiquity. In the year 338 B. C., Philip, king
of Macedonia, conquered the allied Athenians and Boeotians in the ever
memorable field of Cha^ronea, thus crushing forever the liberties of Greece.

A 71 Arc/ueo logical Traveler in Asia Minor. 9

The Athenians and Boeotians erected a marble Hon on the battle-field in
memory of the men who had fallen there. Pausanias, the Greek traveler,
whose book is still the best guide to Greece, mentions the lion in the follow-
ing words: "On approaching the city there is the tomb of the Boeotians,
who fell in the l)att]e with Philip. It has no inscription, but the figure of a
lion is placed upon it, as an emblem of the spirit of these men. The inscrip-
tion has been omitted, as I suppose because the gods had willed that tlieir
fortune should not be equal to their prowess." Now during the long war
between the Greeks and the Turks, the result of which was Greek inde-
pendence and the establishment of the present kingdom of Greece, the tomb
of the Boeotians was excavated and the lion found still whole and well pre-
served. After the war had closed, a Greek generajl, with the Homeric name
Odysseus, happened to be passing by the village with a body of men; he
saw the lion, and being possessed of the belief that gold was in the interior,
he caused a hole to be drilled in it, and blew it up with gunpowder. Col.
Mure says: "The lion may, upon the whole, be pronounced the most inter-
esting sepulchral monument in Greece, probably in Europe. It is the only one
dating from the better days of Hellas, with the exception perhaps of the
tumulus of Marathon, the identity of which is beyond dispute. It is also an

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Online LibraryJ. R. Sitlington (John Robert Sitlington) SterrettLeaflets from the notebook of an archaeological traveler in Asia Minor → online text (page 1 of 3)