THE general social life in Athens is not one of elaborate ceremonial, although the usual customs of European society prevail. The life of representation, so to speak, that of the royal and diplomatic circles, is one of refinement and unostentatious elegance. The royal family live in simplicity and are accessible to all proper credentials. The late King George and Queen Olga were in the habit of giving dinners fort-nightly, and two or three petites soirées every month during the social season, and a magnificent ball on the New Year. This ball is the grand annual fête of Athenian society. The ball-room in the royal palace is a superb salon, one of the finest ballrooms in all Europe, and when all aglow with light and decorations, and filled with the Athenian women in beautiful costumes and men with their orders, the spectacle is one to be remembered.
It will readily be recalled that the late King George (born in Copenhagen in 1845, the son of King Christian, and a brother of Alexandra, Regina Madre) came to the throne as a lad of eighteen in October of 1863, succeeding King Otho of Bavaria, who abdicated in 1862. He married Olga, the second daughter of the Grand Duke Constantine Nicolaievitch of Russia, on October 15, 1867, the marriage being celebrated at St. Petersburg. The king was then twenty-two and his bride sixteen years of age. Queen Olga was born at Palovsk on August 22, 1851, and she holds, among other titles, that of Chief of Second Squadron of the Russian navy.
Many trials had beset King Otho and Queen Amalie of Bavaria in their reign. When the Acropolis capitulated (on June 5, 1827) and all Hellas fell into the hands of Kioutagi, the Great Powers intervened, the Turkish troops evacuated the citadel in 1833, the Bavarian troops triumphantly entered, and Otho, elected king the previous year, was then seated. In February of 1834 Athens was chosen as the capital of the newly constructed kingdom, and in 1835 the present government was actually inaugurated. But this period ended in the insurrection of 1862, and the departure of Otho, who had been called to this position as a mere lad of seventeen. Honest at heart, and always with good intentions, he was yet chiefly indebted to Queen Amalie for the small degree of success that he had. Otho endeavored to make himself into a Greek, but unfortunately his only conception of this change was that of the external. He dressed in the Greek fustinella, but his inclinations and interests were entirely foreign, and at last he was forced to abdicate. The Greeks then desired to call Prince Alfred of England to be their ruler, but from a pro-vision in the procotol, no prince from a country signing this document was permitted to accept the reign, and it was at last due to Lord John Russell that the youthful Danish prince was suggested for the place. The National Assembly at Athens united on this choice; his name was changed from William to George, for the hero and saint whom the Hellenes honor, and his qualities were such as at once commended him to the Greeks. His personal resources were placed on a liberal financial basis for so small a country, a civil list of two hundred and forty thousand pounds being at once settled on him by the National Assembly, and the Great Powers France, Great Britain, and Russia relinquishing the four thousand pounds each that the Greek treasury was to pay them annually, in favor of the young sovereign, thus adding twelve thousand pounds a year more to his revenue.
King George immediately began to identify himself in all sincerity with the interests of his people. He was frank and upright by nature; he encouraged the freest discussion and widest interchange of opinion and suggestion; in the garb and with the freedom of a private citizen he traveled all over Greece, meeting the people of all regions and of all classes, inspecting for himself the methods of every branch of public service. He talked freely with the peasantry, he shared the conditions of his life in a sympathetic and intelligent observation; he looked at affairs from the point of view of the poorest laborer as well as from that of a cabinet minister; and while he had his detractors, he yet, in the main, gained the confidence of his people, which he kept and increased, indeed, from his accession as a mere youth, to the end of his fifty years’ reign, so tragically terminated at Salonica in March, 1913. Of the marriage of King George and Queen Olga there are five children, the crown prince, Constantine, now the King of Greece, born in Athens on July 21, 1868; Prince George, born at Corfu, June 12, 1869; Prince Nicholas, born in Athens on January 9, 1872; Princess Marie, born in Athens on February 20, 1876; Prince Andre, born in Athens in January of 1882; and Prince Christopher, who was born at Paulovsky (St. Petersburg) in July of 1888. He now holds the rank of sub-lieutenant in the Greek infantry.
Constantine, the present king, who besides being crown prince was also Duke of Sparta, married the Princess Sophia of Germany, a sister of Emperor William. Princess Sophia was born on June 14, 1870, and of this marriage there are now six children : Prince George (now the crown prince), was born at Dekelia in July of 1890; Prince Alexander, in 1893; Princess Hélène in Athens, in 1896; Prince Paul was also born in Athens, in 1901; Princess Irene, in 1904; and the youngest, a prince, born in Athens in May of 1913, soon after the accession of Constantine to the throne.
No event in the varied fortunes of the Greeks has been more fortunate than was the choice of King George. While sympathetic and capable of seeing a matter from various points of view, he was yet loyal to the measure he held best for the people, even if, for the moment, he sacrificed popularity for his convictions. He was an absolutely sincere man; and he had in him nothing of that theatrical temperament prompting him to be all things to all men; the temperament that sometimes gains a temporary popularity that ends in recognition of the tricks and treachery of the one who sacrifices all manliness and sincerity in order to gain a given end. King George had a stability of character which was not always recognized at its true value, but which, seen in perspective, will be more and more held in esteem. He was kindly and generous, with a keen sense of humor, and the contrast between his disposition and that of the present king is revealed by the anecdote that King George read the proclamation of Ferdinand of Bulgaria with shouts of laughter, while Constantine read it pale with anger.
Of the royal family, Prince George, the second son, married (in 1907) the Princess Marie Bonaparte, the only daughter of Prince Roland Bonaparte. He holds the honorary title of vice-admiral in the Greek navy.
For some years Prince George served as Governor of Crete. At one time he was commissioned by the government in command of a flotilla to Canea, but following Greek reverses in Epirus, his expedition was recalled. After his trying experiences in Crete, though many Cretans desired him to again become their governor, he has preferred to live a retired life and is not met in Athens.
Prince Nicholas married, in St. Petersburg, in 1892, the Grand Duchess Hélène Vladimirovna, and lives in Athens, having the position of colonel-inspector of artillery; he was also aide-de-camp to his father, King George. Prince Nicholas and the Princess Hélène occupy a beautiful but unpretentious villa in the Rue de Cephissia, near the royal palace, and their three children, the little Princesses Olga, Elizabeth, and Marina, ranging from six to ten years of age, are frequently seen playing under the graceful palm-trees that adorn the grounds. Except that two of the military stand guard at the open gate, there is nothing to distinguish this villa from the other attractive residences in the street, shaded by the drooping foliage of the pepper-trees that line each side of the thoroughfare.
Princess Marie, the late king’s only daughter, was married at Corfu in 1900 to the Grand Duke, George Mikhailovitch of Russia.
Prince Andre, the fourth son, married (in 1903) Princess Alice of Battenberg, and he holds the position of lieutenant of cavalry in Greece, and also that of an officer of the Guards of the Grand Duke of Hesse. Prince Andre and Princess Alice are especial favorites in Athens. They have two children, the Princesses Marguerite and Theodora, the former eight and the latter seven years of age, and both the prince and princess enter with youthful ardor into all the social life of the Greek capital. Princess Alice is one of the most democratic and easily accessible of all the royal family. She speaks Greek fluently, and her nearer friendships and social intimacies are largely with the people of the country. It is she who is usually sought as the patron of charities and good works of a local order, and her ardor and sympathy are potent in their aid.
Prince Christopher has strong affiliations with English society and passes much of his time in England.
The royal household of the late king was a modest one, consisting of the grand chamberlain, a chief of staff, two aides-de-camp, a grand equerry, and a secretary. The queen had usually two or three ladies of honor and one lady of the bedchamber, with a chamberlain and a secretary. Queen Olga has always devoted herself very greatly to helpful and sympathetic ministrations, for which charity seems too cold a name. Her personal visits to the sick in the hospitals; her frequent and unheralded appearance at the schools, and her efforts to aid the women by establishing various industries, one of these being known as the School for Women’s Work, in a building near the Arch of Hadrian, have endeared her to the populace. The queen was also the originator of a plan to make small loans to the needy in Athens, at a mere nominal interest, thus helping many over some temporary crisis in their affairs. The carriage of Queen Olga frequently drew up before some hotel or other building, and she would step out, unattended, and enter for her errand or mission as simply as any lady of private life.
The assassination of King George in March of 1913 sent a thrill of sorrow throughout the civilized world. The tragedy not only shocked Greece and every Greek, whether in his own country or living abroad, but the Russian and English courts especially were plunged into mourning. The Empress Marie of Russia and Queen Alexandra of England lamented the loss of a tenderly beloved brother, and the Czar and King George of England mourned an uncle. In Rome the news of the tragedy was received with incredulous horror and with sincere sorrow. As the sad tidings came on the birthday of Pope Pius X, it was withheld from him for a little time, but the condolences of the Holy See were at once sent to the Greek royal family. In Berlin the court, as in Russia and England, was in personal sorrow for the loss of the king. The German, like the English and Russian courts, went into official mourning. King Constantine received his military training almost entirely in Germany, and Crown Prince George has served for the past few years with the First Regiment of Footguards at Pots-dam, which he only left to join his father on the battle-field, in the late war. France had always been in strong sympathy with the Hellenic cause, and the murdered king was a frequent and a very favorite visitor to Paris. His visits were warmly welcomed by the populace, and he had many intimate friends among the French statesmen, of whom perhaps the chief was M. Clemenceau. King Constantine at once addressed a message to the Greek army as follows:
” TO MY ARMY.
“The impious outrage upon the sacred person of the King deprives us all of our leader in moments very critical for the whole Hellenic nation. I am now called by Providence to succeed my father of imperishable memory on the throne on which he had so long shed lustre and honour. I bring this news to the knowledge of my Army, to which I have devoted my whole life, and with which wars, unsuccessful and successful, have indissolubly bound me. I declare to it that, marching always at its head, I shall never cease to devote my whole solicitude to the land and sea forces, whose glorious exploits have brought greatness and lustre to the fatherland.”
In Sofia an impressive memorial service was held for the lamented king, celebrated by the archbishop of the cathedral, assisted by all his clergy, at which were present King Ferdinand, the Corps Diplomatique, the members of the royal suite, the Premier, and Cabinet.
The session of the Sobranye was closed as a token of respect. The leading Bulgarian journals devoted appreciative and finely written articles to the tragic death of the Hellenic king, and reviewed in admirable expression the services he had personally as well as officially rendered to the Balkan League as a loyal ally. The grief in Athens was sincere. Whatever differences of opinion and policy had sometimes existed between the king and his people, it was universally recognized that he always strove to be faithful to duty. It is said that Frederick VII of Denmark, just before his death in 1863, said to the young prince who was about to be-come the ruler of the Greeks: “Keep always, Prince, your people’s constitution, and they will be happy, and you will be happy, too.”
The reign of King George was an essentially happy and beneficent one. Fortunate in all his domestic relations, the king had the good fortune also of his own high qualities, which were fully recognized by his people. Their differences were merely those of honest conviction on both sides, and while errors of judgment on the part of people or ruler are always to be reckoned with as possible, yet where such errors have no root in character, where they concern the intellectual outlook and aspects of affairs alone, but, on both sides, are guarded by moral uprightness, such differences can have but a passing effect. That they never lessened the essential respect and confidence of the people in their king is to their credit as well as to his own.
Upon the return of King Constantine to Athens, he was met at Phalaron by all the ministers of state, who expressed their sympathy and their loyalty. The body of King George was taken to the Metropolitan (the name applied to the Greek church), in whose sumptuous interior it was guarded by faithful soldiers until the time appointed for the last rites.
King George was especially interested in the conditions of republics, notably that of the United States, both in the problems of government and their solution, and also in the conditions prevailing because of the large number of Greeks in this country. The development of the provinces of Greece, and more particularly that of the Peloponnesus, were rarely absent from his thoughtful consideration. The essential simplicity and kindness of heart that characterized the late king is well illustrated by a little incident related by Charles Burton Gulick, Ph.D., of the Chair of Greek Language and Literature in the American school in Athens.
“At the Congress of Orientalists held in Athens last April,” related Dr. Gulick, “a reception was tendered to the delegates in the Aula of the university. The King was present, moving inconspicuously and, it must be added, in a somewhat frayed uniform, among the guests. While he was talking to a celebrated European professor, a distinguished American scholar, not recognizing the King, approached the professor and tried to present him to his friends. The professor waved him off, and when the other persisted, cried out irascibly, `Go away, man! Don’t you see I am talking to the King?’ The American, of course, withdrew in confusion, but it was not long before the King dismissed the professor, sought out the man who had been rebuffed, and asked to be presented to his party.”
The new king and queen are still occupying their villa in the Rue de Herodes Atticus, just at the back of the royal gardens, which are overlooked from the windows. The royal palace is undergoing extensive and much-needed repairs, so that it is now unoccupied. The villa which the king, as crown prince, had made his residence, is very attractive and artistic, without being in any sense palatial, or differing essentially from several of the other more beautiful ones of the city, save that the grounds are unusually spacious and charmingly laid out, and that two soldiers stand guard at the open gate. Their duty, however, seems almost that of inviting the passer-by in, rather than of keeping him out, if he lingers to gaze at the winding drive and trees and flowers in the grounds; for a courteous gesture invites him to enter and see them at nearer range. This is but another in-stance of the lovely and liberal hospitalities of the Greeks.
The marriage of Constantine and Sophia was celebrated in Athens on October 15, 1889. The ceremonial magnificence of the occasion is still vividly recalled by many of the guests present. From abroad came the Emperor William (the brother of the bride) and many other noted royalties. When this marriage was first arranged, the young princess applied herself assiduously to familiarizing herself with the language, both classic and vernacular, of the people to whom she was to go in a somewhat more near and personal relation than that usually held by a queen to her people. For the allusion to the “throne,” which is a convenient and conventional expression, is still far from indicating the living sympathy and close human ties between the people and the royal family of Greece. On the part of the people, the superior intelligence of the Greeks, their universal education, and innate nobility of nature create a social trend in the entire nation that places life on a high plane. The Greek possesses that special endowment which Margaret Fuller so well called “the kernel of nobleness.” That is a certain leverage of character which, though humanly liable to mistake and error, may yet always safely be trusted. With the plasticity of early youth, and eager sympathy, Queen Sophia (then crown princess) entered into close affiliations with the interests, customs, and national ideals of the country. Within two years after her marriage she united herself to the Greeks by the closest tie of all, the one of all others by which she became peculiarly endeared to them, that of becoming a communicant of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Queen Sophia has back of her a wonderful ancestry. As will be recalled, her mother, the Empress Frederick, was the Princess Royal of England, and a woman of remarkable force of character. The Emperor William has said of his mother that she was the most brilliant conversationalist whom he had ever known. She had a strong as well as a complex character. When she married Frederick, Crown Prince of Germany, there seemed assured a splendor of future life befitting her exceptional powers. Of the subsequent events history tells the story, and an arresting chapter in life that story is.
The Crown Prince of Germany, whose prospects seemed to comprise the most fortuitous elements of human destiny, was found to be the victim of an incurable malady of the throat. The great physician, Sir Morell Mackenzie, was dispatched in hot haste by Queen Victoria to give an authoritative opinion as to the condition of the heir to the throne. By a law in Germany, no prince under the ban of an incurable malady would be seated; and the position of Victoria’s eldest daughter would be very different if left as the widowed crown princess, than as the widowed empress, in case of fatality to her husband. The verdict of Sir Morell Mackenzie, as is well known, was favorable to his succeeding his father, the Emperor William, although the life of the Emperor Frederick was prolonged hardly six months after his accession to the throne. But his wife was thus left as the Empress Frederick, with all the prestige of state.
The Princess Royal of England became the Crown Princess of Germany at almost the same early age as when her daughter, the Princess Sophia, became the Crown Princess of Greece. The latter was, however, more mature, even though a year younger at the time of her marriage. Yet the Empress Frederick revealed even at the time of her marriage, when she was barely seventeen, much of that power of decision and grasp of situations that so pre-eminently characterized her in later years, and which are not-able traits of her daughter, the new queen of Greece. One of the most intimate friends and a lady-in-waiting of the Empress Frederick, in her youth, was the Countess Walpurga, Hélène Hohenthal, who afterwards married Sir Augustus Paget, for many years British Ambassador to Italy. For more than forty years Lady Paget was a notable figure in Florence, and her recollections of her life at court were most interesting. Lady Paget recalled a curious tragic vein in the Empress Frederick, which seemed strangely foreign to her youth and happiness; and which manifested itself in a passionate clinging to the immediate moment and an almost superstitious distrust and dread of the future. A striking incident is that once, as a girl of fourteen, she made a drawing of a young woman bending over a dead soldier on a Crimean battle-field, a tragic forecasting of her imagination. She had a very accurate memory; she loved music, and while not herself a great reader, she was fond of being read to, while she occupied herself in drawing. She was the daughter of the greatest queen the world has ever known; she was destined to be herself the empress of a mighty nation. Yet, in Lady Paget’s opinion, as sometimes expressed to a friend, the Empress Frederick had, from her early and idolized girlhood, an unconscious in-tuition of the sorrow and tragedy that awaited her closing years. This is the more interesting, as her daughter, Queen Sophia, is said to have a strain of similar half-prophetic insight in her character. She has also inherited some-what of the great good sense that characterized her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and that capacity for affection that so remarkably characterized the royal family of England. Compact she is of many strains of illustrious ancestry; her marriage, though one of favor in statecraft and diplomacy, was consecrated by the strongest mutual affection. She is a notable character, and there can be little doubt that an integral and important element in the destiny of Greece is in having, as queen of the Hellenes, a woman who brings to Greek life such a combination of powers and purposes which vitally relate themselves to the welfare and progress of the country. That sense of duty to his people which the brief reign of her father, Emperor Frederick, gave him little time to apply to affairs of state, is a signal quality of Queen Sophia.
King Constantine is of mingled Danish and Russian heredity. The combination of such ancestry the strength, clearness, and fine poise of the Danes, with their genius for culture; the fire, romance, artistic tastes, and splendor of life of the Russian offers theme for meditation. In his accession are possibilities of entirely new and unforeseen destinies. The personality of the new king is in striking contrast with that of his father. Essentially he is a Greek. To a wonderful degree environment has over-come heredity. Some of the Athenian sculptors of the day, when modelling the bust of the present king, called attention to his profile as that of the typical physiognomy of the Greek. He has the romanticism of temperament, the profound seriousness of the Greek, a seriousness in strong contrast with the natural gaiety of the Italian. The king is said to have much of the spirit of the Crusaders. He is deeply religious; he devotes much time to prayer; and it is a significant and an impressive fact that men who have been the greatest forces in the world of affairs have been men of personal devotion.
With this temperament of the mystic, Constantine unites that of the soldier. The two are by no means mutually exclusive. The king was a child of the camps. He was early accustomed to long marches and to the sacrifices of the military life. The victories of Salonica and of Janina were due to his splendid military genius and tactics, and he led the main Greek army to these triumphs. King Constantine has the power of a great personality. One of his soldiers, meeting him in the street, said : ” When I see you, I pray. ”
Constantine comes to the throne of Greece at a psychological moment. He had just achieved military renown and was at the height of popularity for his brilliant and successful conduct of the campaign. Sixteen years ago, in that gloomy period of 1897, he was held largely responsible for misfortunes of the army, and there was distrust if not hostility in the attitude of the people to him. The reverses in Thessaly were not really more disastrous than those in Epirus, in which he had no part; there was the defeat at Larissa as well as the panic at Pentegegadia; there was an element of alarming insubordination and disorder and lack of organization in the army everywhere; the Greeks had entered headlong on their struggle with Turkey, with little adequate preparation; they had rushed in, testa lunga, as the Italians say; but all the mingled blame of the just and the unjust fell then on Crown Prince Constantine. Now here was where he revealed his mettle. He was neither cast down nor destroyed. The martial Russian courage stirred in him. The self-determination and sturdy persistence of the Danes reinforced his endurance. Back of all these, and greater than all, was the strength that is always that of the devotee. He had bread to eat that they knew not of. Meantime, he accepted his misfortunes without resentment. Perhaps he recognized in them a process of the refining discipline of trial.
If the prince was unjustly assailed, his answer was in turning to the army with a still more incessant devotion. He gave himself, personally, to new details of its organization. He was a born soldier, and he has the instinctive military tactics of his Russian ancestry. A year or two before, Greece had even insisted that the crown prince and his brothers should withdraw from the army. Still later the prince was appointed (by M. Theotokis) Commander-in-Chief of the Hellenic army. His faithful devotion and his real ability were thus recognized. In the rebound of popular feeling, he became almost the idol of the country. But as misfortune did not undo him, so neither did all the acclaim of the hour cause him to abate one degree of his untiring attention. He had received his baptism of tribulation, and it had only strengthened and developed his conspicuous abilities and noble qualities. Besides, he is not all Russian and Dane. He is Greek, too, in spirit, if not in heredity. Greece is, after all, his native country. He has with it affiliations closer and more intimate than would ever have been possible for his father, King George.
After the arrival at Athens of M. Venizelos from Crete, the position of the crown prince was definitely recognized. When he addressed that stirring message to the army, immediately after the assassination of King George, he might well assert that he was indissolubly bound to the army, to which he had devoted his entire life.
In the great responsibilities that devolve upon any ruler in the rehabilitation of a country devastated by war, the new king is aided by his wife, who is singularly calculated to be his companion, helper, and safe counsellor. That a Constantine and Sophia have come to the throne of Greece cannot but recall legends and associations and traditions of the Constantine of the fifteenth century, the last emperor of the Greeks in Constantinople, whose wife was also named Sophia.
This Constantine was the son of the Emperor Manuel Palaeologus and of Irene, daughter of Constantine Dragasses, who held the northern port of Macedonia. He was born in 1494, “a man of pious and elevated mind.” He ardently desired the union of the Greek and Latin churches, and he initiated the preparations for a league of the Christian powers against the Turks. The final battle came on in Constantinople in May of 1453. The Turkish troops cannonaded the city.
“Prayers were going on in the churches incessantly with much fear and many tears. Great crowds pressed constantly to kiss the holy picture of `Maria, Mother of God,’ which, according to the legend, had once already saved the city from its enemies.
“Two days before the emperor had led that wonderful procession from St. Sophia, moving to the solemn pealing of the bells, to the more celebrated churches on their way to the walls. The priests, wearing their ancient and stiff vestments of gold brocade, carried many miraculous eikons, golden and jeweled crosses containing particles of the `Holy Tree; ‘ and were followed by multitudes, men, women, and children, most of them barefooted, weeping and beating their breasts, joining in the chant of the clergy and the singing of psalms. The entire procession would stop while the clergy read special prayers that God would strengthen the walls of the city, and grant victory to His faithful people. The bishops blessed the soldiers, sprinkling them with holy water. . . . Later the emperor addressed the soldiers in touching words. He asked each and all not to spare themselves in defense of the glorious city. Turning to the Venetians, he reminded them that Constantinople had always welcomed them as sons. `I pray you now,’ he said, `in this difficult hour, to show that you are indeed our companions, our faithful allies, and our brothers.’ To all present he said: `Let us work together to gain liberty, glory, and eternal memory. Into your hands I commit my scepter. Save it ! Crowns await you in heaven, and on earth your names will be remembered honorably to the end of time!”
The bells rang for vespers. The emperor and his followers proceeded to the cathedral of St. Sophia.
“Constantine prayed with great fervor. He left his imperial chair, and approaching the screen separating the altar from the nave, he prostrated himself before the great eikons of Christ and the Madonna, and having passed some time in prayer, he approached every prelate present in the church, asked them to par-don him if he had ever offended any of them, embraced each one, and then went to the altar and received the Holy Communion. As a Christian emperor and as a Christian soldier, and in the sight of his people, he was preparing to appear before his God.
“When he turned to leave the church, the great congregation wept aloud. The vast interior echoed with the sobs of men and the wailings of women. Amid such sympathy, Constantine, himself deeply affected, walked slowly out of the church which his predecessors had raised as a grand monument of their glory and their piety.
“The emperor proceeded to the imperial palace where he had ordered all the ministers of state, all courtiers and servants to appear; and he said to them that no one could tell what the night would bring forth; he asked from each forgiveness for any harshness or injustice, and he then took a touching leave of them all.”
When at last the Turks entered the city, crowds of people hastened to the church of St. Sophia, filled it to suffocation, and fastened all the doors. The emperor was besought to fly to the harbor, where ships awaited to convey him to safety. He refused to go. “God forbid that I should live an emperor without an empire!” he exclaimed. “As my city falls, I will fall with it!” To his companions he turned and said : “Whoever wishes to escape, let him save himself if he can; and whoever is ready to face death, let him follow me.” Some two hundred Greek and Italian nobles followed him closely. The Turkish army “mowed down the troops as if they were grass.” The emperor’s Arabian steed was killed under him, and he proceeded on foot. At last he fell, mortally wounded.
Then came that marvelous scene, unique in all history, enacted in the church of St. Sophia.
“. . . The Turks broke open the principal entrance of the church. The splendid interior of the sacred building made on them no impression. They proceeded to pillage it, blazing as it was with gold and silver ornaments, and the men were roughly bound with ropes. The saddest scenes of human agony were enacted, under the grand cupola, amidst the resplendent marble columns, and on the beautiful mosaic pavement of the magnificent church. It was a picture which, with all its wealth of beauty and horror, and all its richness of form and color, still awaits the brush of a great artist. No other event in history, unless it be the fall of Jerusalem, can be compared with it.
“Before the arrival of the Turks the altar was filled with the Greek clergy, some of whom were reading the morning service. When the Turks broke open the doors, the priests had mysteriously disappeared. A legend runs that one of the church walls near the altar miraculously opened to admit the priest carrying the sacred chalice, and closed after him. According to this legend, the same priest will re-appear, coming out from the same wall, on the day in which a Christian emperor again rules over Constantinople!”
While the Sultan gave orders that the head of Constantine should be exposed on a column of porphyry that stood in open space, in order that Constantinople should see that he was really dead, he also gave the Greek clergy permission to bury the emperor’s body with all the honors due to his imperial dignity. And to mark his own respect for Constantine, he ordered that the oil to be burned in a lamp at the grave of the last Greek emperor should be restored perpetually, and the expense defrayed from his own treasury.
To this day, near the Weffa Mosque, stands an old willow-tree bending under a mass of climbing roses and tangled vines. In its shadow is a slab of white marble laid flat on the ground, bearing no inscription. But at the head of this grave is placed an oil lamp, which is lighted every evening. Through the wild growth of tangled greenery the visitor, on any night, may behold this light shining through the leaves. This is the grave of the last Greek emperor the grave of Constantine !
To all students of history who recall this thrilling story; to the Greeks, of whose national life it is one of the most heroic and poetic chapters; to the new king and queen who are now to rule over their beloved country, whose progress and happiness are their deepest interest and to whom their united devotion is fervently given, to each and all, can it be wondered that there lingers in memory the legend that when a royal Constantine shall wed a Princess Sophia, and they together shall rule over Greece, their son shall reign at Constantinople !
Greece has now reached a new era, if not a new crisis, in her eventful history. As this book goes to press, the problems of the boundary line of the several countries involved in the late war are in process of discussion, if not of immediate settlement; but the passing of European Turkey seems assured. Not only naturally, but inevitably, both Greece and Bulgaria covet the possession of Salonica. This is a point that combines within itself peculiar advantages. Salonica is the chief port of the AEgean; it is the point from which there is unbroken railroad connection with all continental Europe; it is a city verging on two hundred thousand in-habitants, and with a foreign trade exceeding twenty millions a year. But Salonica is essentially, in every aspect, both of commercial and religious and social life, a Greek city. Were Athens once joined with Salonica by rail, she would become accessible from all Europe, instead of being, as now, practically an island, because only reached by water.
After the three severe battles which the Greeks fought to gain Salonica, and their signal victory in February of 1913, there could be no thought entertained on their part of relinquishing its possession. But the present distinguished Prime Minister is too eminent a statesman not to ardently desire to further, by every means in his power, the strengthening of the Balkan League by commercial agreements, railroad service, postal arrangements, and all matters of policy for mutual benefit. In fact, the alliance itself between the Greeks and Bulgarians was a coup-d’état of M. Venizelos. There was a time when the Premier was missed from his haunts in Athens. Inquiry was met by the assertion that the great statesman was fatigued, and had “gone to the mountains. ” So he had. To the Balkan mountains ! He departed without making any confidants as to his purpose. But his purpose was to secure this alliance. Bulgaria is one of the greatest military strongholds in Europe. Had she sided against the Greeks . . . who could foresee the issues? It was his policy to secure her co-operation, and this purpose was triumphantly achieved in absolute secrecy and silence. When this alliance became known to England, the Minister to Greece from Great Britain was called to account for not having informed his country beforehand, and report goes that he only narrowly escaped dismissal for not being aware of a diplomatic movement of such importance which, all the same, he could hardly have known, unless he had possessed some hidden powers of divination, or unless the country to which he was accredited had still been able to offer such conveniences in the way of super-normal information as those formerly existing at Delphi. In the lack of an oracle, the diplomat had certainly no means of knowing a movement that, until its conclusion, had been revealed to no one.
The truth is that in the Premier a new source of power has dawned for Greece, and it is hardly too much to say, also, a new force for the entire world of diplomacy and statesmanship. M. Eleutherios Venizelos is a native of Crete, where he was born in 1864; he was educated at the University of Athens, and later pursued. special studies in Lausanne. As a youth, his interest was centered in all that pertains to statescraft and diplomatic achievements. One of the most prominent of the political men of Crete, Dr. Demetrius Sphakianaki, became an intimate friend and close associate of Venizelos, and in 1896, when the Cretan revolt was initiated, and the Cape of Malaxa was bombarded by the Great Powers, Venizelos held the fortress at the head of a devoted group of men. whom he had inspired to join him. When Prince George assumed the governorship of Crete in 1898, Venizelos became one of the council to the prince, then serving as high commissioner; and so valuable did he make himself that his conspicuous ability was widely recognized, not only in Crete, but by the progressive party in Athens, who invited him (in 1899) to the capital. Immediately his influence began to be felt as a factor in the times. M. Venizelos is endowed with the magic gift of power. Of him could most appropriately be predicated Emerson’s lines:
“His tongue was framed to music, And his hand was armed with skill.”
That his heart is “the throne of will” has been abundantly attested. One secret of his remarkable success is perhaps to be read in his compliance with the counsel of the oracle of old: “Enlarge not thy destiny; endeavor not to do more than is given thee in charge.” M. Venizelos knows the magic power of concentration. He knows how to discriminate between the essential and the non-essential of the moment. He has a keen sense of values. He does not allow one measure, however potentially important, to encroach at the wrong time on another, which lies entirely in the realm of the immediate. “Concentration,” says Emerson, “is the secret of success in politics, in war, in trade, in short, in all management of human affairs. One of the high anecdotes of the world is the reply to Newton of the inquiry as to how he had been able to achieve his discoveries. ` By always intending my mind,’ was the reply.” M. Venizelos could perhaps make a similar assertion. One amusing in-stance of this, which is related with keen appreciation in Athens, is that during one of the most absorbing periods of late affairs in Greece, Crete suddenly thrust certain demands upon the Premier for his immediate attention, as a native of the island; and to avoid the Scylla of turning away from the matters he had in mind, and the Charybdis of offending his countrymen by refusing their request, he dissolved Parliament ! Disraeli himself could hardly have made a more ingenious stroke of policy. Like that astute diplomat, who, when he was asked how he had always managed to preserve the confidence of Queen Victoria, replied: “I never deny; I never contradict; but I sometimes for-get!” Venizelos, on this occasion, forgot that his countrymen had made a demand on the attention of Parliament, and calmly closed the session for the time being. The air of Athens is vocal with various stories of the brilliant methods of the Premier. His strength has been conserved for those supreme achievements of which Greece stood most in need. Many of the reforms he has introduced and championed to a triumphant success have left the country breathless with admiration and wonder, and have left them, too, on a nobler plane of citizenship, which was the aim of the work. His reorganization of the Greek army has been one of the most remarkable events in the military history of Europe. He has done this, also, with the aid of the judicious and able counsel he has known how to secure, without a great national expenditure, rather, indeed, with actual economy. In one item regarding the pro-visioning of army horses, his method has saved Greece, it is estimated, some eighty thousand dollars a year.
The revision of the Greek constitution has been directly due to the personal work and influence of Venizelos; that the courts have been made free from undue political sway, and that the electorate has been enlarged, is due to him. It is little wonder that a nation of enthusiasts, like the Greeks, should acclaim this man as the “saviour of Hellenism!” But of all his achievements, that of fairly creating the entente cordiale with Bulgaria, both the conception and the execution of the measure, must always remain as one of the vital achievements in modern statecraft and one of the most clever and far-seeing in diplomacy.
When one compares the Greece of today, even though plunged into the great problems of the settlement of a complicated war, with the Greece of 1897, hardly sixteen years ago, when Athens was in confusion and internal tumult; the Turks clamoring in Thessaly; Epirus the scene of warfare and disorganization; when all that made for progress was, for the time being, arrested, the signal advance of the Hellenes is remarkable. “The peculiar type of civilization which we call Hellenic,” said the distinguished Greek scholar, Dr. Cornelius C. Felton, “is not a name, but a prodigious and splendid reality, which has controlled the course of intellectual development for twenty-five centuries. The apparent resurrection of Hellas is one of the most remarkable phenomena of our day. There can be no doubt that the old Hellenic blood still flows in Hellenic veins!”
During the late war between Greece and Turkey, the women of the royal family, as well as the king and the crown prince, were much in evidence in the battle-fields. Queen Olga and many of the great ladies of Athens, including Madame Schliemann among others, followed the ambulances, and gave personal attention, as well as sympathy, to the wounded. Princess Marie fitted up a yacht with her own funds for the aid of the wounded soldiers and to carry supplies, and she remained with it constantly herself, her special aid being M. Metaxas, who had formerly served Greece as Minister to England for fifteen years, and later as Minister to Italy. M. Metaxas was a special friend of King George, and at his death he said: “I have lost not only a sovereign, but the kindest and most considerate of friends.”
The splendid military genius of King Constantine, as revealed in the war, the heroic achievements he has led, and his exceptional qualities have firmly established his place in the affections of his people.
It would not be more strange than many of the great world-movements and changes if, at no distant day, the cross should replace the crescent at Santa Sofia, and Constantinople again become the capital of. the entire kingdom of the Hellenes. The heroism of the Greeks at Thermopylae and at Marathon has been equaled by that of the Greeks of to-day at Salonica and other battles; and with the Constantine and Sophia now on the throne of Greece, the tradition of the centuries may be fulfilled, and Constantinople again belong to the Hellenes.