John L. (John Lawson) Stoddard.

John L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 12)
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THE noblest avenue of approach to Constantinople leads
from the Mediterranean through the Sea of Marmora.
The next best way of reaching it is from the Black
Sea through the Bosporus. The least impressive route
and one which corresponds to entering a palace by its back-
door is that which brings the traveler along the dusty, tedi-
ous railroad from Vienna through Servia and Roumania.
A voyage across the classic Mediterranean and yEgean is
always an inspiring preparation for travel in the Orient. In
the days of comparative idleness passed on the deck of a
steamer sailing thither from Brindisi, Marseilles, or Athens,
the mind is kept


continually act-
ive on these
waters by the
historical memo-
ries they awaken.
Their waves kiss
the shores of im-
mortal Greece;
they lave the
headlands of the plain of Troy ; they reflect the snow-capped
crest of Mount Ida; they skirt the ruins of ancient Carthage;
they still caress the land of the Alhambra; they glitter on the




sands of Egypt; they break in grand reverberation on the
sacred coast of Palestine. Around them, like presiding ?*,
rise the mountains so familiar to classical memory, Atlas,
Parnassus, Olympus, Pelion and Ossa, Hymettus, Etna, and
Vesuvius; while to increase their volume sweep the tributary
waters of the Rhone, the Tiber, the Maeander, and the Nile.
Moreover, on the northward journey to the Sultan's cap-
ital, we thread our way among the famous Grecian islands,
forever consecrated by Homeric legend, or haunted by the
memory of heroic deeds. As we speed through their laby-
rinthine beauties, scarcely has one of them sunk beneath the
horizon when another appears, blue with shadow or golden
with sunlight. On the dark background of antiquity these
clustered islands sparkle like the Pleiades upon the dome

of night. Among them are Melos,
where was found the matchless
Venus of the Louvre; Paros, with
its exhaustless quarries of Parian
marble; Chios, the birthplace of

the poet Homer; Delos, the
cradle of Apollo; and Tenedos,
whence the cunning Greeks re-
turned to surprise and capture

Troy. Through such memorials of Greek antiquity, one
approaches with constantly augmented reverence and enthu-
siasm old Rome's successor in the sovereignty of the world,



Constantinople. Every one knows that its situation is
unrivaled. Arriving from the south, on our right is Asia,
on our left Europe. Between them speeds the ocean-current


called the Bosporus, an artery of aquatic life, through
which for sixteen miles the water of the Black Sea pulsates
to the Sea of Marmora. It is the most secure and attractive
harbor that ever welcomed the navies of the world. Fringed
with fair palaces and mosques from sea to sea, it glistens in
the sunlight like a bridge of lapis-lazuli uniting the Orient
and the Occident. It is the Grand Canal of Venice made

In this bewildering panorama, we know not what to
admire first, for before us is an embarrassment of riches.
But gradually we select, as the most conspicuous feature of
the scene, a beautifully rounded promontory, called the
Seraglio Point, because till recently it proudly bore upon its
crest the Sultan's Palace or "Seraglio." It rises from the
waves just where three famous bodies of water form a union:
the first, a glittering avenue named the Golden Horn; the
second, that ocean-river called the Bosporus; the third, the
Sea of Marmora, across which we have come in sailing north-
ward from the Mediterranean.

As Asia is separated from Europe by the Bosporus, so is
the Sultan's capital divided by the Golden Horn into two




great sections,
the Turkish and
the European.
The European
portion on the
northern bank is
itself subdivided
into two parts.
Galata and Pera.
Galata, the
business section,
lies along the
shore; Pera, the European residence-quarter, occupies the
summit of the hill. In fact, its greater distance from Stam-
boul has given to the loftier area its name, Pera, or "Be-
yond." The Moslem district is chiefly situated on and near
the Seraglio Point, and is still called distinctively "Stamboul."
This is to thousands of Mohammedans the City of the Faithful,
as Pera is the City of the Infidel, into which European section
of Constantinople many conservative Moslems have never
deigned to set

That "dis-
tance lends en-
chantment to the
view, ' ' is espe-
cially true of
With us the dis-
illusion com-
menced even on
the steamer's
deck; for, as is
always the case


in Oriental ports, we disembarked amid immense confusion.
Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and Italian oaths resounded along the
steamer's side, as guides and boatmen struggled for positions
near its gangway. No sooner were we moored, than scores
of polyglot blasphemers swarmed up the narrow passage-way
and took the deck by storm. We listened to the vocal cy-
clone caused by their explosive shouts, and tried to under-
stand at least a word of it, as a man drowning in a whirlpool
catches at a
straw. But it
was "all Greek"
to us, or, if not
Greek, Ar-
menian, Turk-
ish, Arabic, or
Hebrew. At
last in this lin-
guistic chaos we
recognized a
language of the
Occident. The
speaker was the
porter of the
hotel we had
chosen. Under

his guidance, therefore, we descended the ship's ladder to a
reeling boat, wondering meanwhile if we should reach it
without being torn to pieces by these human sharks. Once
there, as mothers watch their children rescued from the
flames, we counted, one by one, our articles of baggage,
which somehow from the pandemonium about us came forth
as unexpectedly as did Daniel from the lion's den.

On reaching the shore, we found some Turkish officers
waiting to receive us. These gentlemen, possibly lest they




should make a mistake in introducing us later on to the Sul-
tan, were polite enough to express a desire to know our
names. Not content with this, they wished to scrutinize the
signature of our Secretary of State, to certify that one of us
at least was really five feet ten inches in height, with fore-
head square, eyes blue, nose aquiline, and age well, never

mind the age; in fact,
never mind anything,
the porter said, if we
would only slip a coin
into their hands. For

did we wish our baggage
opened on the pier? Cer-
tainly not. Then would we make a little contribution to
some Turkish orphanage ? By all means. The effect was
marvelous. Our charity so affected the officers, that they
declined to open even a hand-bag. Accordingly, we ex-
changed smiles and salutations. They were content, and we
(Allah be praised !) were safe in Galata.

Emerging from the Custom House, we speedily found our-
selves in a labyrinth of dark and muddy streets, each of which


seemed as inno-
cent of a broom
as a Chinese
coolie is of soap.
The shock was
violent. The
charm of all the
beauty we had
been admiring
was dispelled.
The stately
mosques and palaces had nearly all disappeared, and even when
we did occasionally obtain a glimpse of them, they seemed
like pearls on an old and filthy garment. Moreover, we had
not walked a dozen yards in Galata, before we were compelled
to lift our feet like cats stepping on a hot grating. For
many of these streets are paved, first with mud, second with





garbage, and third, with sharp-pointed, ankle-wrenching
stones, which make walking upon them perfectly excruciating.
Constantinople ought to be an Eldorado for chiropodists.

But Constantinople is improving. On a later visit to the
Ottoman capital, we found a place of refuge from these pave-
ments in its tram- ^^^^^^^ cars> Where we
had once ^^^ ^^^^ limped pain-

fully ^^r ^^^ along,


choosing the softest stones that we could find, horse-cars now
climb the steep ascent to Pera. In many streets, however,
the custom still prevails of having saddle-horses waiting at
the corners, like cabs in our own cities. To tell the truth,
we rather preferred the older mode of transportation. For
since one-half of each car is exclusively reserved for women,
the other half is usually crowded often with a disagreeable



rabble. But a good saddle-horse, whose

owner carries your wraps, and runs beside

you as you climb the hill, gives you at

least the luxury of independence

and a welcome privacy.

The first object of interest that

the visitor to Constantinople should

inspect is the famous Galata bridge,

which crosses the Golden Horn.

This is, par excellence, the place of

all others in which to study the

cosmopolitan life of this strange

city ; for on this long, connecting

link between Stamboul and Galata,

two ceaseless currents of humanity

sweep past each other from the

rising to the setting of the sun, ex-
hibiting a variety of costumes, races,

and complexions such as no other city in the world (not even

Bombay or Cairo) can present.

At intervals, on either side of this thoroughfare, like ex-


of misery, are
human beings
that resemble
animated rag-
bags, or Oriental
They are beg-
gars. Their gar-
ments are usu-
ally zoological
dens. Their






outstretched hands suggest
two rusty dippers. Their
feet may be compared to
snapping-turtles, of which
the heads are the great toes,
sometimes encased, some-
times protruding from the
shell. They speafc not, but
their silence is understood
by all ; it is the language
of distress. Before them,
meantime, sweeps along a
perfect masquerade of na-
tions. First comes, perhaps,
a howling dervish on his way to a
performance, where, with his fel-
lows, he will hurl himself about and

howl the name of Allah, until, with
foaming lips, protruding eyes, and
matted hair, he falls exhausted, as
if convulsed with epilepsy. Follow-
ing him, one may behold, within
five minutes, a richly-turbaned Arab,
with gold-embroidered jacket ; a tat-
tooed Nubian from the upper Nile;
a Jew with a long, yellow coat and
corkscrew curls; a group of Persians
bedizened with cheap jewelry; a
black eunuch escorting a carriage of
veiled ladies; groups of Bohemians;
venders of melons, dates, apples,
and pop-corn ; a florid-faced English
merchant ; a Roman Catholic priest ; a
Damascus camel-driver; a pilgrim just



returned from Mecca; a Chinaman with his queue; a mission-
ary of the American Board, and even a "personally con-
ducted " party of excursionists. Pick up a hand-bill dropped
here by a passer-by, and you will find it printed in five or six
different languages. As many more strange tongues may
possibly be overheard by you while walking from Stamboul
to Galata. Such at least has been my experience at this
point where two worlds meet, the
Orient and the Occident, the pon-
toon bridge of the Golden Horn.

Another character frequently ob-
served here is a man who carries on
his back a cask. In Germany we
might suspect its contents to be
beer, in France wine, in England
Bass' Ale, in America whiskey,
but in the land of the Prophet the
only beverage offered for sale by
Moslems is either lemonade or water.
For all intoxicating drinks are for-
bidden by the Koran ; and it is one
of the most astonishing proofs of
the restraining power of the Moham-
medan religion, that one hundred A WATER SELLER '
and eighty millions of Moslems still faithfully obey that law,
as they have done for thirteen hundred years. To the Turk
is often applied the epithet "unspeakable," but he has some
virtues that speak for themselves, of which the chief perhaps
is abstinence from intoxicating liquors. Drunkenness among
the followers of the Prophet is practically unknown.

From this scene of cosmopolitan activity it is not far to
the Seraglio Point. On our way thither, we came upon a
gateway of the ancient wall, which stretched across the
promontory from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmora.


Within the area thus enclosed, the Sultans held for centuries
their splendid court. This belt of masonry was pierced with
many gates, and in the days when the Sultan's will was abso-
lute, the people approached these portals every morning and

scrutinized them,

much as we read our

' .-r A ' A W3 bulletin - boards to-

day. The news they
received frequently
told them what
prominent men had
lost their heads the
previous night. It
must have been an
impressive style of
object-teaching, for


were displayed on spikes between the towers, and as business
in the line of decapitation was usually pretty brisk, lovers of
novelty in the way of skulls were seldom disappointed.

Entering this enclosure (for it is now freely open to the
public), one may advance directly to the eastern limit of the
promontory. During our stay in Constantinople we often
came here in the afternoon, not merely to enjoy the view,
but also to appreciate the historical memories of the place.
For this is the oldest portion of the capital, the starting-point
of its development, the birthplace of Byzantine architecture,
the cradle of that famous city of the Greeks Byzantium.
To understand why that metropolis was founded here, we
have only to look over the intervening mosques and minarets
to the opposite side of the Bosporus.

Two thousand six hundred years ago, a Grecian colony
established a settlement on that Asiatic shore. Thirty years
later, another colony of restless Greeks came moving north-


ward, seeking in their turn a suitable location for a city. In
their perplexity they consulted an oracle. The reply was
mysterious, as oracular responses usually were. It was as
follows: "Found your city opposite to that of the 'blind
men.'' What could this mean? At first they did not
know. But when they saw the Golden Horn and the Seraglio
Point, they shouted with delight that the other colonists
must have been "blind " indeed to have chosen the Asiatic,
rather than the European side. They founded their city, there-
fore, directly opposite to that of the so-called blind men, and
named it Byzantium, after their leader, Byzas.

The occasional discovery, within this area, of a Greek sar-
cophagus which may have held the body of a Byzantine
emperor, reminds the visitor to the Seraglio Point of other
memorials connected with it.

Three centuries after the death of Christ, the Roman em-
peror, Constan-
tine the Great,
established here
the splendid
city to which
he gave his
name, Con-
and, changing
the seat of sov-
ereignty from
the. historic Ti-
ber to the Bos-
porus, here

founded what was long to be the capital of the world. Nor
was this all. When mediaeval Rome had sunk to insignifi-
cance, this "New Rome " still defied the inroads of barba-
rians, and was admired as the centre of civilization, respected




as the guardian of
the arts, and vener-
ated as the first me-
tropolis to declare
for Christ under the
earliest of Christian
emperors. Here also,
from the era of the
Mohammedan con-
quest, in 1453, until
recently, the Sultans
have resided in vo-
luptuous splendor, making this hill the very heart and brain
of Islam. But about forty years ago fire destroyed their
residence here, and since then Turkish sovereigns have built
a great variety of sumptuous homes beside the Bosporus, a
few miles distant from Stamboul; the present monarch, Abd-ul
Hamid II having chosen for his permanent abode, a beautiful
two-storied marble palace known as Yildiz Kiosk.

The old imperial Treasury, in which were formerly pre-
served the Sultan's priceless souvenirs of conquest and the





magnificent gifts
brought to his court
by vassal princes
of the East, was
burned, with most
of its precious con-
tents, in 1574. The
treasure-house that
replaced it is neither
handsome nor im-
posing, and the col-
lection now exhibited must be far inferior to the one de-
stroyed. Nevertheless, the traveler whose eye has never
looked upon such well-nigh fabulous displays is hardly able
to imagine a better representation of Aladdin's cave than
the resplendent halls which even now exist on the Seraglio
Point. Hundreds of diamonds set in dagger hilts, sceptres
aflame with emeralds and rubies, crowns studded with opals
and pearls, scabbards of swords encrusted with rare gems,
thrones scintil-
lant with pre-
cious stones,
fringes of pearls,
and coronation
robes that look
like tapestries of
gold, at first
amaze, but final-
ly confuse and
tire the be-
holder, till he
turns away wear-
ied and sated



splendor. When the Seraglio Point was crowned with pal-
aces, environed by pavilions, gardens, groves and fountains,
rising in terraces above the incomparable vista lying at its
base, this area, it would seem, should have been tenanted
only by the happiest of mortals. In reality, however, few
spots on earth have witnessed more appalling tragedies. Sul-
tans have reigned here, it is true ; but to secure their thrones,

they have

caused their brothers to be
;d on this height, or
kept alive within a
gilded cage. On
this hill an aged
tree still lifts
toward heaven
some blighted
limbs, which
more than once
have borne the
ghastly fruit of
corpses, victims of
imperial tyranny. Here,
too, have lived some of
the loveliest women in
the world, embowered in
surpassing luxury, but always with the sword of intrigue
hanging over their fair heads, a deadly perfume lingering,
perhaps, in every exquisite bouquet, or poison lurking in the
sherbet which their slaves presented to them; while soft,
voluptuous music floated over walls of roses beneath a moon-
lit sky. Nor are these all the tragic memories suggested by
this place. For, in those days of cruelty, if the Sultan's
jealousy were ever roused, one of the beautiful inmates of
his palace perhaps entirely innocent of any crime might
be rowed out at night from the Seraglio's secret gate. Then,




firmly pinioned hand and foot, weighted
with heavy stones, and gagged so tightly
that no scream could possibly escape her
lips, she sank in silence into the dark
waves, whose gloomy depths betrayed
no secrets given to their charge.

The following incident well illus-
trates Oriental life no more than a
century ago. The grandfather of the
writer's intimate friend was then at-
tached to the French embassy at Con-
stantinople. One day the wife of this
official, while passing through a lonely street, was insulted
by a Mussulman. A moment later she met a Turkish Pasha
of her acquaintance, complained to him of the affair, and
identified her assailant. The Pasha promised her speedy
justice, and she, continuing her walk, spent the day with a
friend. Toward evening, as she approached her home, she
observed a strange object in the doorway. Drawing nearer,
she saw, to her horror, a man hanging by the neck from a

spike driven
above the portal.
In his lifeless
body the lady
recognized the
wretch who, only
that morning,
had insulted her.
In walking
through Stam-
boul, we usually
took with us a
dragoman, or

A V.CTIM OF JEALOUSY, guide, HOt Ottly



on account of our ignorance of the Turkish language (an in-
convenient circumstance when one is curious), but also because
Stamboul is one of the most difficult places in the world in
which to find one's way about. Its streets, as a rule, possess

no names; its
houses have no
numbers. Sev-
eral important
go reeling up
and down t lie-
hills, as if they
had been laid
out by drunken
men, or if the
simile be allowed by the primitive Bostonians; while the
caprices of the smaller streets are past all finding out. Fre-
quently in my tours I became as hopelessly confused in them
as in the catacombs of Rome.

There are, however, certain prominent landmarks in Stam-
boul which greet one like oases in a desert. One of these is
a gate of variegated marble, which, for beauty of design and
richness of ornamentation, I have rarely seen equaled. More-
over, to relieve its massiveness, on each side has been placed
a slender marble minaret. The Turks are as fond of gate-
ways as the Romans of old were of triumphal arches. The
very name by which the Sultan's government is known to-
day throughout the world is the one given it by the French,
la Sublime Porte, the lofty gate, so called from a magnifi-
cent portal, through which in former times only the Sultan
and his family might enter the Seraglio.

One portion of Stamboul rivals in interest any relic of
imperial Rome: it is its ancient Hippodrome, the fame of
which once filled the world. One thousand five hundred



years ago, this race-course was surrounded with magnificent
marble porticoes, adorned with hundreds of the finest bronze
and marble statues which Constantine was able to select from
all that he possessed in Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor. And
what could he not bring hither? Was he not master of the
world? Among these treasures were the four bronze horses
which to-day surmount the portal of St. Mark's in Venice;
for, as Constantine had brought them hither from Rome, so
the Crusaders, nine hundred years later, carried them hence
to the Queen City of the Adriatic.

Two interesting mementoes of the Hippodrome still re-
main here. One is a small bronze column, protected by a cir-
cular railing. At present it looks insignificant, yet the heart
beats quickly when one thinks of its eventful history. In the
time of Constantine, when around this race-course flew the
gilded chariots in front of the great Emperor himself, arrayed
in silk and purple and sparkling with gems, and in the pres-
ence of his brilliant court and eighty thousand of the eager
populace, this column stood here, as it does to-day. Yet
this is but an in-
cident in its his-
tory, for even
long before the
birth of Christ,
this very shaft
supported the
golden tripod of
the Priestess of
Apollo in the
temple at Delphi in Greece, the oracle of which was then
regarded as the voice of God.

At a little distance from this column stands the other
memorial of this ancient Hippodrome, the Egyptian obelisk.



It is a single block of reddish granite, nearly one hundred
feet in height, brought hither fifteen hundred years ago
from Heliopolis, the famous city on the Nile where Moses,
and, at a later age, Euclid and Plato, received part of their
education. How wonderfully well preserved it is! Yet its
hieroglyphics, still defiant of the touch of Time, assure us
that it has received the salutations of the sun for more than
four thousand years. Yes, this same monolith, brought

hither to enhance
the glory of
"New Rome,"
has looked on
Joseph and on
Moses, and no
doubt often cast
its shadow on fair
Cleopatra and her
Roman lover,
amid the fascinat-
ing splendors of
the Nile.

Engrossed with
the memories of
that far-off time,
we came one day, in wandering through the outskirts of the
city, upon a part of its old wall; for Constantinople was for
centuries defended by prodigious battlements of stone, which
climbed the hills and stretched around it like a mighty bow,
twelve miles in length. Now they are all in ruins. Where
flags of Roman emperors once proudly waved, masses of

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Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 12)