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 2 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 2 of 12)
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weeds and ivy now sway idly in the breeze. More than
a thousand years ago this rampart was a dyke, on which the
waves of war and conquest beat in vain. But finally an ocean
of invasion made an opening here, a torrent of humanity





poured in, and
these colossal
fragments, scat-
tered here and
there like pieces
of a broken moun-
tain, serve only
to remind us of
that great dis-
aster. Some of the huge foundation stones were laid by
Constantine himself. On foot, and followed by a brilliant
escort, he proudly traced the line of these massive forti-
fications. What would his thoughts have been, could he
then have forseen its fate? For on these walls, in 1453, per-
ished the last of the Byzantine emperors, in the successful
assault made by Mohammed II on Constantinople. Degen-
erate though the empire had then become, it must be said
that its last ruler struggled to the bitter end, and even when
struck down from the ramparts, chief actor still in that
appalling tragedy, he fought on desperately in the moat
till he lay dead beneath a
heap of corpses.

Almost as ancient as the
wall of Constantine is the old
ruin known as the Pal-
ace of Belisarius. Tra-
dition states that .j
from one of its
windows, in the
five hundred and
sixty-third year
of the Christian era, the
Emperor Justinian hurled
to the pavement far below



the man whom of all he should have least suspected of treason
his faithful general, Belisarius, one of the greatest warriors
of all time.

The legend adds that, Belisarius being uninjured by the
fall, the Emperor accepted it as evidence of his innocence,
and restored him to his rank and honors. It is far pleasanter
to believe this than the old, well-known story of his poverty,
blindness and neglect. At all events, whatever may have
been his end, his glory is secure; for he who made Justinian's
reign illustrious in military history, who defeated Persians in
Asia, Vandals in Africa, and Ostrogoths in Europe, captured
one king and twice rescued Rome from the barbarians, and
was withal as much renowned for his humanity as for his skill
and courage, is one whose name can
never die.

Another monument coeval with the
capital of Constantine is a dilapidated
column, blackened by fire, and only kept
from falling to pieces by a series of
iron rings. Rough and unsightly
though it now appears, no object in
this city of the Bosporus has wit-
nessed more of its momentous his-
tory; since it has stood here during
fifteen hundred years, casting its
shadow impartially alike on Chris-
tian and on Moslem, while millions
of both creeds have made their en-
^__ trances and exits on this historic
stage, like summer insects of a
day. Standing beside this ruined
shaft, it is interesting to remember
that on its pedestal the first of
Christian emperors caused this in-




scription to be carved: " O Christ, ruler and master of the

world, to Thee have I consecrated this city and the power

of Rome. Guard it and deliver it from every harm." Upon

its summit was placed the famous bronze

statue of Apollo, by Phidias, all trace of

which has long since disappeared. No

one is poor enough to-day to do the

column reverence; but in the period of

the city's glory, such was its sanctity,

that horsemen would dismount as they

passed by, to pay it homage; priests

annually chanted sacred hymns before it;

and miracles were thought to have been

performed at its base. Pathetic in its

desolation, it now stands in the capital

of Islam like an exclamation-point of

sadness, as if to emphasize the solemn,

oft - repeated lesson of antiquity : Szc

transit gloria mundi.

One object on the northern side of the Golden Horn is
visible from every quarter of the Sultan's capital. It is a
huge, white, circular structure, called the Tower of Galata.
Originally built by a Christian emperor, fourteen hundred
years ago, it was for centuries a tower of defense on the
northern boundary of the city, growing in height with every
new invasion, like a stupendous tree, the roots of which are
fed with human blood. In those days, from its lofty summit
rose the Cross of Christ; but the victorious Mohammed II,
in 1453, caused that reminder of Christianity to be destroyed,
and crowned the apex with a tapering cone. This monstrous
tower is a hollow cylinder, around which, in a wall twelve
feet in thickness, are stairways leading to the top. Here,
as on several smaller watch-towers, watchmen, day and night,
look through their field-glasses and telescopes at every



portion of the city, to catch the earliest indication of a fire,
and to give the alarm. The numerous conflagrations which
occur in the enormous, densely-populated area outspread
beneath them, should stimulate their scrutiny; for devastat-
ing fires have
been the curse
of Constantino-
ple, and have
caused it to be
practically re-
built more than
thirty times
since it became
the capital of

But if the feu-
remaining ruins
above ground
within the city
seem imposing,
still more so are its subterranean structures, the gigantic
reservoirs in which was stored the water brought over
stately aqueducts, whose tiers of massive arches showed
the way in which " New Rome " was imitating her great
Latin predecessor. Nowhere else in the world was water
furnished to a city on such a colossal scale. To guard against
the possibility of a water-famine in war-time, enormous under-
ground cisterns were constructed, all carefully connected, and
capable of supplementing each other in time of need. From
those which still exist, and can be visited, one gains a startling
idea of the magnificence of the imperial capital. Some are six
hundred feet in length, and look like subterranean lakes.
One, which the Turks call " The Cavern of a Thousand and
One Pillars," contains no less than sixteen rows of fourteen





columns, which rise in perfect symmetry to a roof that was
originally sixty-four feet high. This mighty reservoir, which
contains no water now, is tenanted by lines of silk-spinners,
who look like phantoms working in its ghostly light and
chilling atmosphere. Still more remarkable than this, how-
ever, is the cistern called by the Moslems "The Underground
Palace." This can be easily visited by torchlight, and no
sight in the Sultan's capital produces a more profound im-
pression. Founded by Constantine fifteen centuries ago, the
massive solidity of its construction has enabled it to triumph
over Time, and to-day it supplies the followers of the Prophet
as perfectly and copiously as when it
slaked the thirst of Justinian's admir-
ing subjects. It is a weirdly fascinating
scene that meets the eye of one
peering out upon the mass of
water, as black as
ebony, save where
it shimmers in the
glare of the torch.
The shadowy
maze of mar-
ble columns,
three hundred
and thirty-six
in number, and
arranged in
parallel rows,
produces the
impression of a
partially submerged cathedral, whose priests and worshipers
seem to have been drowned. Occasionally a startled bat flits
through the bar of light, from darkness into darkness, like the
apparition of a tortured soul. No wonder that the place is





haunted by innumerable legends, and that its sunless vaults

are thought to echo in the dead of night to goblin laughter

or the wail of de-
mons. Tradi-
tion also tells
of travelers, who
have tried to ex-
plore in boats
this Stygian lab-
yrinth, but who
have disap-

peared mysteriously in the darkness and the silence to return

no more.

Often in walking through the thoroughfares of Stamboul,

our serious thoughts were suddenly diverted by the sight or

sound of its famous dogs. Constantinople is an immense

kennel. The dogs that lodge here are a peculiar breed,

half-wolf, half-fox, yellow in color, and with long sharp noses.

Not one of these ani-
mals has a master,

not one of them a

name. They lie

about the hollows in

the streets like pigs

in a sty; and men

step carefully over

them, and horses

turn aside to let them

snooze in peace. Why

should they not? In

Constantinople, more

than anywhere else,

every dog "will have his day; " for in the night time they

are hard at work. Dogs are, in fact, the principal scavengers




of the city, the canine brooms of the streets. At night the
refuse of the kitchen is thrown into the gutters for their con-
sumption, and they devour al-
most everything save oyster-
shells. Only the ostrich can
surpass them in digestive pow-
ers. Marvelous stories are told
of these animals. They are
said to have a police force of
their own, exempt as yet
from any charges of corrup-
tion. They certainly do have
special districts, sacred to a
limited number of their race;
and if any strange cur intrudes on precincts not his own, the
ugly brutes that patrol that quarter attack him with such fury
that he is lucky to return at all to his own set, even with torn
ears, a lost eye, and a tail of woe. No traveler, however,
need fear them. These Turkish dogs will not molest men,
and hydropho-
bia is here un-

But if the
curs of Con-
stantinople are
never mad
enough to be
afraid of water,
no more so are
the people
themselves ;
for one can al-
ways easily find a bath or a fountain in Stamboul. One of
the most attractive of its fountains is that of Sultan Achmet,




which no one passes without
admiration. It is a beauti-
ful specimen of Oriental art,
composed entirely of marble
and resembling a miniature
temple. From each of its
four sides, beneath an inlaid
arch, springs a jet of water.
Moreover, its walls fairly
sparkle with ornamentation,
for on no one of them is
there a space as large as a
Sultana's hand that is not
either carved, gilded, or set
in mosaic. The breath of
Time, it is true, has some-
what dimmed its colors; but even now, after a lapse of one
hundred and seventy years, this fountain, when illumined by
the sun, looks like the gorgeous jewel casket of some genie of

the Arabian Nights.

Constantinople has many ex-
quisite fountains. Where the
ancient Greek reared a statue,
and the modern Christian
erects a crucifix, the Mos-
, lem constructs a

< fountain, since to

the Mohammed-
ans, water is the
most essential
thing in life.
Drinking neither
wine nor beer,
they, more than




others, are dependent upon water. Moreover, five times
a day, before they pray to Allah, they must wash at least
their hands. Hence every mosque invariably has its foun-
tain for ablutions; and so has almost every public square.
These fountains are, as a rule, the gifts of private individuals.
The names of the donors, however, do not appear on them ;
but, instead, a quotation from some poet, praising pure water,

drinks, which
said, there-

and contrasting it with intoxicating
the Koran forbids. It should be
fore, that though their
streets are often filthy, the
Turks themselves are
personally clean.

The subject of foun-
tains and cleanliness
naturally suggests that
of the Turkish bath.
On my first visit to
one of the bathing
establishments of
Stamboul, I hesitated
several times as I ap-
proached the door-
way. Travelers have
told such different
stories of their treatment in these
baths, that one feels doubtful just

what to expect. Some have pronounced them places of
torture; others have become ecstatic over them, as if they
were the ante-rooms of Paradise. " What will my fortune
be there? " I asked myself repeatedly with dubious heart.
At last determined to have the question answered one way
or the other, I crossed the threshold. After a grotesque
pantomime with the proprietor, who spoke nothing but




Turkish, I reduced my clothing to almost microscopic pro-
portions and followed two half-naked men into a suite of
dimly-lighted rooms, each having a temperature more infernal
than the last. In one of these I found a score of men, ap-
parently wrapped in grave-clothes. Some were walking
around, like restless ghosts; others lay motionless, like corpses
in a morgue. Here my forebodings, which had been grad-
ually growing more and more gloomy, reached their lowest

depth. Till
then I had
merely suspect-
ed, now I felt
certain that my
last day had
come. The per-
spiration com-
menced to pour
down my body
in streams. All
about me I
could hear pe-
culiarly sug-
gestive blows,
as if a hundred

Turkish mothers were administering corporal punishment to
their children. I was beginning to speculate what would be
done with my remains after I had expired, when my attend-
ants seized and bore me into another room, the temperature
of which might have inspired fear in Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego. Without a word of warning, they laid me out,
full length, upon a marble slab. I remained there about one-
sixteenth of a second. Then, leaping up with a howl of pain,
I asked my torturers in most vigorous English what they
meant by trying to broil me alive. The Turks grinned.




deluged the slab with water,
and induced me to lie
down again. I immediately
thought my back was being
scorched, but despite my
writhings they pinned me
down and held me firmly
with their knees. In vain
I cried out ; these horrid
followers of the Prophet
slapped me, pinched me,
scratched me, kneaded me
like dough, cracked all my
joints, made every one of
my vertebrae explode like
a cannon-cracker, and finally (though of this I cannot be
quite sure), they wrung me out like a dish-cloth. Then they
took from the gridiron what was left of me and carried it
into another room, where they deluged it with alternate
streams of hot and cold water. Suddenly they stopped, and
asked me a question in Turkish. I had no idea whether they
were inquiring after my health, or telling me to say my prayers
before I expired. I retorted in French, German, Italian, and
English. It was of no use. They could speak only Turkish,

of which I knew
not a single
word. To this
moment I shud-
der to think
what might have
been my fate,
had I, at a ven-
ture, nodded to
them affirma-



tively; for, seeing my perplexity, they pointed out to me a
corner of the hall. There I beheld a barber shaving a man's
head completely, with the exception of one little tuft, left on
the crown, by which the Turks believe the Angel of Death
will draw up souls at the Resurrection.

Shades of the " Seven Sutherland Sisters," I thought,
suppose they had scraped my head thus without warning!
As I expressed by emphatic gestures that, like Samson, I

attached great
value to my
hair, they gave
up the idea with
evident reluc-
tance; but took
immediate re-
venge by pour-
ing over me,
from head to
foot, a lather of
hot soap-suds,
followed by a
douche of hot
water. Then
they rushed at

me like two ferocious prize-fighters, and gave me a three-
minute round with coarse hair-mittens, that felt like nutmeg
graters on my skin. Finally, when all was over, they wrapped
my remains in a sheet, and bore them into a cooling-room,
where they were laid out on a mattress to await resuscitation,
or burial, as the case might be.

When I came to life again, the first thing I saw was one
of those bilious-looking Turks (his head all ready for the
Angel of Death to operate on), bringing me on a salver a
cup of coffee. I drank, and when I attempted to move, my




limbs felt as light as egg-shells. Enjoying a most dreamy
languor, I dressed, and asked for my bill. I would have
gladly paid a large sum for the exquisite buoyancy I then
experienced. I actually blushed, therefore, when I learned
that I had obtained all this pain and subsequent pleasure for
the modest sum of about ten cents.

The most imposing and important structure in Constanti-
nople is the Mosque of Santa Sophia. It is the crown of old
Stamboul, as St. Peter's is the coronet of Papal Rome; and,
strange to say, the same religion built them both. For
though the Turks have made of it a mosque, and though
they have surrounded it with minarets and propped up its
gigantic dome with heavy buttresses, this was originally a
Christian church, dedicated, long before the birth of Moham-
med, to Christ, under the name of Santa Sophia, or the
Divine Wisdom. When it was finished, now more than thir-
teen hundred years ago, the Christian Emperor Justinian
was so elated at its splendor, that he exclaimed: " O Solo-
mon, I have surpassed thee;" and he caused a statue of
King Solomon to be erected opposite the church, with a
grieved expression on his face, as though lamenting the
superiority of Justinian's temple over his own at Jerusalem.




There are few impressions more powerful than
that which one receives when the interior of
this building bursts upon the
astonished gaze. It is in some
respects more overpowering than
that of Cologne Cathedral, or St.
Peter's at Rome. For tlu-iv
are here no such chapels or
side-aisles, as we find in most
cathedrals. Its immensity at
once reveals itself. Before the
visitor who stands upon the threshold, stretches away a plain
of various colors, on which the feet fall noiselessly; for
one walks here, not on the marble pavement, but on soft
Turkish rugs, or matting covering the whole expanse. Upon
this area are always groups of faithful Moslems, kneeling in
prayer, their faces turned toward sacred Mecca; while two
hundred feet above them arches the marvelous dome,
unequaled in the architecture of the world, so distant and
so vast, that one might almost fancy it a portion of the sky.
Some distance up the nave, is the Moslem pulpit, a lofty
structure sur-
mounted by a
conical roof and
reached by a
flight of marble
steps. Here,
every Friday
(the Moslem
Sabbath), a
priest of Islam
reads from the
Koran, holding
meanwhile a





drawn sword in
his hand, a
symbol that this
shrine was taken
by Violence from
the Christians.
Directly oppo-
site this, sup-
ported by five
jasper columns,
rises an octag-
onal gallery,
behind whose metal screen are seats for the Sultanas. Nearer
the dome, the gaze is drawn with wonder to gigantic wooden
disks, upon which, in enormous Arabic letters, appear the
names of Allah and Mohammed.

When we examine the details of this historic shrine,
we begin to realize the richness of its decoration. In one
place are galleries resting on beautiful shafts of jasper, por-
phyry and alabaster, supporting in their turn arches that
must have once been resplen-
tinuous coating of golden mo-
olithic columns were
part of the spoils taken
from pagan shrines in
Greece, Asia Minor,
and Syria, all of which
were plundered by the
Christians, that they
might thereby render
this the richest sanctu-
ary in the world. Its
wealth was, therefore,
almost fabulous. A

dent in their con-
saics. These mon-



thousand persons were employed in its service. It boasted
of golden cases to contain the Gospels, of chalice-cloths
embroidered with pearls, of altars encrusted with jewels, of
crucifixes of solid gold, and of doors of cedar, amber and
ivory. In fact, it was called : " The terrestrial Paradise "
" The earthly throne of the glory of God." Who could have
then imagined what would be the fate of this magnificent

temple of Justinian,
which had beheld
the coronation of all
Christian emperors
for a thousand years?
Yet, at length arrived
the fatal 2Qth of
May, 1453, when the
Turks captured Con-
stantinople. The
night before, at mid-
night, the last of the
Greek emperors,
who, like the founder
of the city, also bore
the name of Constun-
tine, had come into
the church to take
the sacrament, in preparation for the death which he fore-
saw must surely be the fate, not only of himself, but of his
officers and soldiers. For, faithful to their country, they
had resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible in
a last desperate attempt to beat back the invading army of
the Moslems. A few hours later, Christians, to the num-
ber of one hundred thousand, it is said, crowded into the
sanctuary, hoping that God would at least preserve His house
and them. They barred the doors and filled the nave, the






galleries and the
vestibule, with
a dense, suffo-
cating mass of
men, w o m e n
and children,
imploring God
for mercy. But
they prayed in
vain. Down
went the doors
under the ter-
rific pressure,

and in rushed the demons of war with yells of fury. Language
fails to describe the scene that followed. Crucifixes were
smashed to atoms; altars were shivered into fragments; stat-
ues were overthrown ; mosaics were pried out of the walls
with battle-axes, under the supposition that they were gems;
and all this amidst the blare of trumpets, the groans of dying
men, and the shrieks of captured women and children destined
to be sold as slaves. At last there came a moment of com-
parative silence. On the threshold had appeared the form
of Mohammed II, who, rising
in his stirrups and smiting
one of the columns
with his blood-stained
hand, uttered the
words destined
thenceforth to dedi-
cate the hitherto
Christian temple to
the Moslem faith:
f< There is no God but Allah,
Mohammed is his prophet !






There are no less than four hundred and eighty-one
mosques in Constantinople, all more or less modeled after the
purely Byzantine church of Santa Sophia. The most signal

feature of these struc-
tures is their minarets.
What a debt of grati-
tude the world owes
the Moslems for the
creation of that lovely
architectural design,
the minaret. There
can scarcely be less
than a thousand of
them in the Ottoman
capital. Many consist
of pure white marble,
and cut their slender
silhouettes against the
clear blue sky, some-
times resembling deli-
cate wax-tapers, at
other times suggesting
silver lances, tipped
with points of gold.
Moreover, each is en-
circled by finely chis-
eled balconies, which
in the distance seem
like jeweled rings be-
trothing earth and heaven. On every one of them, five times
a day, and as punctual as a figure moved by clockwork, appears
the muezzin, or Mohammedan caller to prayer. In a clear,
ringing voice he chants upon the air the sacred formula of
Islam: " God is great, There is but one God, Mohammed





is the prophet of God,
Prayer is better than
sleep, Come to pray-
er !" Toward each of
the four points of the
compass are these words
directed. Then all is
still, save perhaps the
echo of some more dis-
tant voice. Wherever
I have heard this cry:
in India, Syria, Egypt, or Constantinople, it has always
thrilled me to remember that, every day, from all the mosques
in Europe, Africa, and Asia, those words summon a hundred
and eighty millions of people to turn their thoughts from
earthly occupations and from all idolatry, to worship God

One lovely morning, soon after our arrival in the city of

the Sultan, we
resolved to vary
our adventures
by an excursion
up the Golden
Horn. Making
our way there-
fore, to one of
the boat-sta-
tions on the
shore, we found
a multitude of
little barges
crowded to-
gether like logs
in a lumber-




man's boom. To separate one of them from its fellows
requires an expert. There are said to be thirty thousand
of these little caiques in Constantinople. A sail in one of
them is quite exciting; first, from their lightness, which per-
mits the boatman to send them skimming over the water

with exhilarating
speed; and, also,
from the fact
that they pos-
sess no seats or
benches, and one
** T ^ m must sit on cush-
ions in the bottom
of the boat, as mo-

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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 2 of 12)