THE whole of the ,Egean seaboard of European Turkey is occupied by Greeks, and this proves the great influence which the sea has exercised upon the migrations of the Mediterranean nations. Thessaly, Macedonia, Chalcis, and Thrace are more or less Greek countries, and even Constantinople lies within Greece, as defined by ethnological boundaries. The geographical distribution of race there does not, in fact, coincide with the physical features of the countryits mountains, rivers, and climate. The Turkey of the Greeks is, in reality, no geographical unit, and the only tie which unites it are the waters of the Archipelago, which wash all its shores.
Nowhere else does the Balkan peninsula exhibit such varied features as on the shores of the AEgean Sea, and of the adjoining basin of the Sea of’ Marmara. Bluffs, hills, and mountain masses rise abruptly from the plain ; arms of the sea extend far inland ; and ramified peninsulas project into the deep waters of the ocean. It appears almost as if nature were making an effort to create an archipelago similar to that in the south.
The tongue of land upon which Constantinople has been built offers a remarkable example of the features which characterize the coast lands of this portion of Europe. Geologically the whole of this peninsula belongs to Asia. Its hollow hills are separated from the granitic mountains of Europe by a wide plain covered with recent formations, and the wall of Auastasius, now in ruins, which was built as a defence to the city, approximately marks the true boundary between Europe and Asia. The rocks on both sides of the Bosphorus belong to the Devonian formation. They contain the sane fossils, exhibit the same outward aspects, and date from the same epoch. A patch of volcanic rocks at the northern entrance to the Bosphorus likewise exhibits the same characteristics on both sides of the strait, and there cannot be the least doubt that this European peninsula at a former epoch constituted a portion of Asia Minor, but was severed from it by an irruption of the waters.
Apollo himself; it is said, pointed out the site where to build the city which is now known as Constantinople, and no better could have been found In fact, the city occupies the most favoured spot on the Bosphorus. It stands on a peninsula of gently undulating hills, bounded by the Sea of Marmara and by the curved inlet called, from its shape, its beauty, and the valuable cargoes floating upon its waters, the “Golden horn.” The swift current of the Bosphorus penetrates into this inlet, and sweeps it clean of all the refuse of the city. It then passes into the open sea at the extreme angle of the peninsula, and sailing vessels are thus able to reach their anchorage without having to struggle against a contrary current. This haven not only affords a secure anchorage to a multitude of vessels, but it likewise abounds in fish ; for, in spite of the constant agitation of its waters by the oars of caiques and the paddles or screws of steamers, it is visited annually by shoals of tunnies and other fish. The haven of Constantinople, though easy of access to peaceable merchantmen, can readily be closed in case of war. The surrounding heights command every approach to it, and a chain has more than once been drawn across the narrow entrance to its roadstead when the city was besieged. The latter, too, can be defended easily, for it is built upon hills, bounded on the land side by an extensive plain. An assailant, to insure success, must dispose not only of an army, but also of a powerful navy. In addition to all these natural advantages of its site, Constantinople is in the enjoyment of a climate far superior to that of the cities of the Black Sea, for it is screened by hills from cold northerly winds.
In the dawn of history, when migration and commerce marched only at a slow pace, a site as favoured as that of Byzantium was capable only of attracting the dwellers in its immediate neighbourhood. But after commerce had become developed, the blind aloneso said the oracle of Apollocould fail to appreciate the great advantages held out by the Golden Horn. Indeed, Constantinople lies not only on the ocean highway which connects the world of the Mediterranean with the Black Sea, but also on the high-road which leads from Asia into Europe. Geographically it may be described as occupying a position at the mouths of the Danube, Dniester, Dnieper, Don, Pion, and Kizil Irmak, whose common outlet is the Bosphorus. When Constantine the Great constituted it the metropolis of the Roman empire, it grew rapidly in population and wealth; it soon became the city of cities ; and its Turkish appellation, Stamboul, is nothing but a corruption of the expression es tsm polio, used by the inhabitants to denote their going into the city. Amongst the distant tribes of Asia it represents Rome. They know it by no other name than that of ” Ram,” and the country of which it is the capital they call ” Rumelia.”
Constantinople is one of the most beautiful cities in the world : it is the ” paradisiacal city ” of Eastern nations. It may compare with Naples or Rio de Janeiro, and many travellers accord it the palm. As we approach the entrance of the Golden Horn, seated in a caique more graceful than the gondolas of Venice, the vast and varied panorama around us changes with every stroke of the oars. Beyond the white walls of the Seraglio and its masses of verdure rise here, amphitheatrically on the seven hills of the peninsula, the houses of Stamboulits towers, the vast domes of its mosques, with their circlets of smaller domes, and its elegant minarets, with their balconies. On the other side of the haven, which is crossed by bridges of boats, there are more mosques and towers, seen through a forest of masts and rigging, and covering the slope of a hill whose summit is crowned by regularly built houses and the palatial residences of Pera. On the north vast villa-cities extend along both shores of the Bosphorus. Towards the east, on a promontory of Asia, there is still another city, cradled amidst gardens and trees. This is Scutari, the Asiatic suburb of Constantinople, with its pink houses and vast cemetery shaded by beautiful cypress groves. Farther in the distance we perceive Kadi-koei, the ancient Chalcedon, and the small town of Prinkipo, on one of the Princes’ Islands, whose yellow rocks and verdant gros es are reflected in the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara. The sheet of water connecting these various portions of the huge city is alive with vessels and boats, whose movements impart animation to the magnificent picture. The prospect from the heights above the town is still more magnificent. The coasts of Europe and Asia are beneath our feet, the eve can trace the sinuosities of the Bosphorus, and far away in the distance looms the snow-capped pyramidal summit of Mount Olympus, in Bithynia.
But this enchantment vanishes as soon as we penetrate into the streets of Constantinople. There are many parts of the town with narrow and filth) streets, which a stranger hesitates to enter. It is, perhaps, a blessing, from a sanitary point of view, that conflagrations so frequently lay waste and scour large portions of the city. Scarcely a night passes without the watchman on the tower of the Seraskieriate giving the alarm of fire, and thousands of houses are devoured by that element every year. The city thus renews itself by degrees. It rises from its ashes purified by the flames. But formerly, before the Turks had built their city of stone on the heights of Pera, the quarters destroyed by fire were rebuilt as wretchedly as they were before. It is different now. The use of stone has become more general ; wooden structures are being replaced by houses built of a fossiliferous white limestone, which is quarried at the very gates of the city ; and free use is made of the blue and grey marbles of Marmara, and of the flesh-coloured ones of the Gulf of Cyzica, in Asia Minor, in decorating the palaces of the great.
Nearly every vestige of the monuments of ancient Byzantium has been swept away by fires or sieges. There only exists now the precious tripod of bronze, with its three serpents, which the Plataeans had placed in the temple of Delphi in commemoration of their victory over the Persians. The relics of the epoch of the Byzantine emperors aie limited to columns, obelisks, arches of aqueducts, the breached walls of the city, the remains of the palace of Justinian, only discovered recently, and the two churches of Santa Sophia, which have been converted into mosques. The grand church of Santa Sophia, close to the Seraglio, is no longer the most magnificent edifice in the universe, as it was in the time of Justinian, for even the neighbouring mosque of Sultan Ahmed far exceeds it in beauty and elegance. It is a clumsy building, supported by buttresses added at various times to keep it from falling. The character of the interior has been changed by the Turks, who have introduced additional pillars, and the once bright mosaics have been covered over ; but the dome never fails to strike the beholder : it is a marvel of strength and lightness.
The Seraglio, or Serai, near Garden Point, may boast of fine pavilions and shady walks, but the dark memories of crime w ill always cling to it. The spot from which sacks containing the bodies of living sultanas or odalisks were hurled into the dark waters of the Bosphorus is still pointed out to the traveller. Far more attractive than this ancient residence of the sultans are the marvellous structures in the Arab or Persian style which line the shores of the Bosphorus, and which impart to the suburbs of Constantinople an aspect of oriental splendour.
The bazaars are amongst the most curious places in the city, not so much because of the rich merchandise which is displayed in them, but because they are frequented by a variety of nations such as cannot be met with in any other city of the world. The capital of the Ottoman empire is a centre of attraction not only to the inhabitants of the Balkan peninsula, but also to those of Anatolia, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, Tunis, and even of the oases. There are ” Franks ” from every country of Europe, drawn thither by a desire to share in the profits of the ever-increasing commerce of the Bosphorus. This mixture of races is rendered still greater by the surreptitious importation of slaves ; for, whatever diplomatists may assert, there can be no doubt that the ” honourable guild of slave-dealers” still does an excellent business in negresses, Circassians, and white and black eunuchs. or is anything else to be expected amongst a people who look upon a well-stocked harem as a sign of respectability. Dr. Millingen estimates the number of slaves at Constantinople at 30,000 souls, most of whom have been imported from Africa. From an anthropological point of view it is certainly very remarkable that the negro should not have taken root in Constantinople. In the course of the last four centuries a million of negroes at least have been imported, and yet, owing to difficulties of acclimation, ill-usage, and want, they would die out but for fresh importations.
Our statistics do not enable us to classify the 600,000 inhabitants of Constantinople and its suburbs according to race. One of the principal sources of error in estimates of this kind consists in our confounding Mussulmans with Turks. In the provinces it is generally possible to avoid this error, for Bosnians, Bulgarians, and Albanians recognise each other as members of the same race, whatever religious differences may exist between them. But in the turmoil of a great city this distinction is no longer made, and, in the end, all those who frequent the mosques are lumped together as if they were members of the same race, Of the supposed Osmanli of Constantinople a third, perhaps, consists of Turks, whilst the remaining two-thirds are made up of Arnauts, Bulgarians, Asiatics, and Africans of various races. Amongst the boatmen there are many Lesghians from the Caucasus. The Mohammedans, if not in the minority already, will be so very soon, for they lose ground almost visibly. In old Stamboul, in which a Frank hardly dared to enter some twenty years ago, they still enjoy a numerical preponderance, but in the ” agglomeration of cities ” known as Constantinople, and extending from Prinkipo to Therapia, they are outnumbered by Greeks, Armenians, and Franks, and certain quarters of the town have been given up to the Christians altogether.
The Greeks are the most influential, and perhaps most numerous, element amongst the rayas. Their head-quarters, like those of the Turks, are at Stamboul, where they occupy a quarter of the town called Phanar, from an old lighthouse. The Greek patriarch and the wealthiest Greek families reside there. These Phanariotes, in former times, almost monopolized the government of the Christian provinces of Turkey, but they fell into disfavour after the Greek war of liberation. The religious influence, too, which they exercised until quite recently, has been destroyed in consequence of the separation of the Servian, Romanian, and Bulgarian Churches from the orthodox Greek Churcha separation brought about almost entirely through the rapacity of the Greek patriarch and his satellites. If the Greeks would continue to preserve their pre-eminence amongst the races of Constantinople, they must trust, in the future, to their superior intelligence, their commercial habits, education, patriotism, and unanimity. To the Turks the members of the orthodox Church are known as the ” Roman nation,” and they enjoy a certain amount of self-government, exercised through their bishops. which extends to marriages, schools, hospitals, and a few other matters.
The ” nation ” of the Armenians is likewise very strong at Constantinople, and, like that of the ” Romans,” it governs itself through an elective Executive Council. Much of the commerce of Constantinople passes through the hands of Armenians, who, though they came to that city almost simultaneously with the Turks, have down to the present day preserved their peculiar manners. They are sold and reserved, and full of self-respect, differing widely from their rivals in trade, the Jews, who slink furtively to their poor suburb of Balata, at the upper extremity of the Golden Horn. The Armenians are clannish in the extreme, they readily assist each other, and, like the Parsecs of Bombay, delight in acts of munificence. But, unlike the Greeks, they are not sustained in their undertakings by an ardent belief in the destinies of their race. Most of them are not even able to speak their native language freely, and prefer to converse in Turkish or Greek.
The Franks are much inferior in number to either of the races named, but their influence is nevertheless far more decisive. It is through them that Constantinople is attached to the civilisation of Western Europe, and their institutions are by degrees getting the better of the fatalism of the East. It is they who built the manufacturing suburbs to the west of Constantinople and near Scutari, and w ho introduced railways. Every civilised nation of the world is represented amongst themItalians and French most numerously ; and to the Americans is due the credit of having established the first geological museum in Turkey, in connection with Robert Colleg.
Constantinople, owing to the influx of strangers, is steadily increasing in population, and one by one the villages in its vicinity are being swallowed up by the city. The whole of the Golden Horn is surrounded by houses now, and they extend far up the valleys of the Cydaris and Barbyzes, which fall into it. Industrial establishments extend along the shores of the Sea of Marmara, from the ancient fort of the Seven Towers far to the west, and from Chalcedon to the south-east, in the direction of the Gulf of Nicomedia. Both banks of the Bosphorus are lined with villas, palaces, kiosks, cafés, and hotels. This remarkable channel extends for nineteen miles between the shores of Europe and of Asia. Like a huge mountain valley it winds between steep promontories, now contracting and then expanding, until it finally opens out into the vast expanse of the Black Sea. When northern winds hurl the agitated waters of the latter against the sombre cliffs which guard the entrance to the Bosphorus, the contrast between this savage sea and the placid waters of the strait and its charming scenery is striking indeed. At every turn we are arrested by unexpected charms. Rocks, palaces, woods, vessels of every description, and the curious scaffoldings of Bulgarian fishermen succeed each other in infinite variety.
Amongst the innumerable country residences which nestle on the shores of the Bosphorus, those of Balta-Liman, Therapia, and Buyukdere are the best known, for they have been the scenes of historical events ; but there is no spot throughout this marine valley which does not excite admiration. These marvels of nature will, before long, have added to them a marvel of human ingenuity. The width of the channel between the castles of Rumili and Anadoli is only 600 yards. It was here Mandroclus of Samos constructed the bridge of boats across which Darius marched his army of 700,000 men when he made war upon the Scythians, and on this identical spot it is proposed now to construct a railway bridge which will join the railways of Europe to those of Asia. A current runs through the Bosphorus, from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, at a rate of from two to six miles an hour ; and although several geographers conclude from this that the level of the former is higher than that of the latter, this must by no means be looked upon as an established fact. We have already noticed the exchange between the waters of the Mediterranean and of the open Atlantic, which takes place through the Strait of Gibraltar. A similar exchange is going on here, and the outflowing surface current is compensated for by an inflowing under-current.
The outlying houses and villas of Constantinople extend northwards along the Bosphorus as far as the two Genoese castles of Ruinili-kavak and Anadoli-kavak. This extension coincides with the geological features of the ground, for no sooner have we turned our backs upon the houses than we find ourselves shut in between cliff of dolerite and porphyry, which extend as far as the Black Sea, where they terminate in the precipices of the Cyaneae, or Symplegades, the famous rocks which opened and shut, crushing the vessels that ventured to pass through the strait, until Minerva fixed them for ever. These volcanic rocks are barren, but the Devonian strata to the south of them are beautifully wooded. The Turks, unlike the Spaniards and other Southern nations, love and respect nature ; plane-trees, cypresses, and pines still shade the shores of the Bosphorus ; and the vast forest of Belgrade covers the hills to the east of Constantinople, from which the city draws its supply of water. Birds, too, are better protected than in many a Christian land. The plaintive cooing of doves is heard wherever we turn, flights of swallows and aquatic birds skim over the surface of the Bosphorus, and now and then we encounter a grave stork perched upon the top of a tree or of a minaret.
The whole aspect of the place is southerly, yet the climate of Constantinople has its rigour. The cold winds of the steppes of Russia freely penetrate through the strait, and the thermometer has been known to fall four degrees below zero in the winter. The neighbouring sea renders the climate more equable than it would otherwise be ; but as the winds, from whatever direction they blow, meet w ith no obstacle, sudden changes of temperature are frequent. The average temperature varies very considerably in different years. Sometimes it sinks to the level of that of Pekin or Baltimore, at others it is as high as that of Toulon or of Nice. In exceptional cases the Bosphorus has become covered with ice, but thaws always set in rapidly, and then may be witnessed the magnificent spectacle of masses of ice striking against the walls of the Seraglio, and floating away across the Sea of Marmara. In A.D. 762 these masses of ice were so stupendous that they became wedged in the Dardanelles, and the tepid waters of the AEgean Sea then assumed the aspect of a bay of the Arctic Ocean.
The geological features of the coast region of the Sea of Marmara differ essentially from those of the rest of Turkey. Low ranges of hills rise close to the coast, increasing in height towards the west, until they attain an elevation of 2,930 feet in the Tekir Dagh, or “holy mountains,” the grey slopes of which, covered here and there with patches of shrubs or pasturage, are visible from afar.
A narrow neck of land joins the peninsula of Gallipolithe Thracian Chersonesus of the ancientsto this coast range. This peninsula is composed of quaternary rocks, which differ in no respect from those met with on the shore of Asia opposite. Anciently a huge fresh-water lake covered a portion of Thracia and more than half the area now occupied by the AEgean Sea. When the land first emerged above the waters, the Chersonesus formed an integral portion of Asia. Subsequently the waters of the Black Sea, which had forced themselves a passage through the Bosphorus, likewise found their way through the Hellespont into the AEgean Spa. The geological formation of the country and the configuration of the sea-bottom prove this to have been the case, and this irruption of the waters was attended, probably, by volcanic eruptions, traces of which still exist on the islands of the Sea of Marmara and near the mouth of the Maritza, the former to the east, the latter to the west of the peninsula.
If the statements of Pliny and Strabo may be relied upon, the Hellespont must have been much narrower in former times than it is now. At Abydosthe modern Nagharatile width is said to have amounted to seven stadia, or less than a mile, anciently, whilst at the present time it is 6,500 feet. It was here Xerxes constructed his double bridge of boats. The strait is deep at that spot, and its current strong, but no wooden ship could hope to force a passage if covered by the guns in the batteries on both coasts. The Hellespont. like the Bosphorus, has two currents flowing through it. In winter, when the rivers which flow into the Black Sea are frozen up, and the Sea of Marmara is no longer fed by the waters of the Bosphorus, a highly saline under-current penetrates from the AEgean Sea into the Dardanelles, whilst a feebler current of comparatively fresh water flows in a contrary direction on the surface.
Gallipoli, the Constantinople of the Hellespont, stands near the western extremity of the Sea of Marmara. It is the first city which the Turks captured upon the soil of Europe; but though they settled down there nearly a hundred years earlier than they did at Constantinople, they are no more in the majority here than they are in the capital. Gallipoli, like Rodosto and other towns on the Sea of Marmara, is inhabited by Mohammedans of various races, by Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, forming separate communities dwelling within the walls of the same town. The country population consists almost exclusively of Greeks, who are the proprietors and cultivators of the land ; and in sight of the coasts of Asia, and within that portion of the Balkan peninsula which has been longest under the rule of the Turk, the Greek is stronger numerically than anywhere else to the north of Mount Pindus. He does not there confine himself to the coast, and, if we except a few Bulgarian villages and the larger towns, the whole of Eastern Thracia belongs to him.
The lowlands of this region form a vast triangular plain, bounded by the Tekir Dagh and the coast range on the south, by offshoots from the Rhodope on the west, and by the granitic mountains of Stranja on the east. This is one of the dreariest districts of all Turkey. Swampy depressions and untilled land recall the stopees of Russia ; and in summer, when the wind raises clouds of dust, we can imagine ourselves in the midst of a desert. The dreary monotony of this plain is relieved only by the pale contours of distant mountains, and by innumerable artificial mounds of unknown origin. So numerous are these tumuli that they form an essential feature of the landscape, and no artist could convey a just idea of it without introducing into his picture one or more of them.
Near the northern extremity of this unattractive plain, at the confluence of the Maritza and Tunja, lies the city of Adrianople, enveloped in trees, whose sight delights the eve of the weary traveller. Adrianople, in reality, consists of a number of villages, separated from each other by orchards, poplars, and cypresses, above which peep out the minarets of some hundred and fifty mosques. The sparkling waters of the Maritza and Tunja, of rivulets and of aqueducts, lend animation to the picture, and render Adrianople one of the most delightful places. But it is more than this. It is the great centre of population in the interior of Turkey. and its favourable geographical position has always secured to the city a certain amount of importance. The ancient city of Orestis, the capital of the Kings of Thracia, stood on this site, and was succeeded by the Hadrianopolis of the Romans, which the Turks changed into Edirneh, and made their capital until Constantinople fell into their power. The old palace of the Sultan, built in the Persian style towards the close of the fourteenth century, still remains, though in a dilapidated condition. But here, likewise, the Osmanli are in the minority. The Greeks are their equals in numbers, and far surpass them in intelligence, whilst the Bulgarians, too, muster strongly, and, as in other towns of the East, we meet with a strange mixture of races, from Persian merchants down to gipsy musicians. The Jews are proportionately more numerous in Adrianople than in any other town of Turkey, and, strange to relate, they differ from their co-religionists in every other part of the world by a lack of smartness in business transactions. A local proverb says that “it requires ten Jews to hold their own against one Greek;” and not Greeks alone, for Wallachians, and even Bulgarians, are able to impose upon the pour Israelite at Adrianople.
The communications between Adrianople and Midea, the ancient Greek colony, famous for its subterranean temples, and with other cities on the Black Sea, are difficult. Its natural outlets are towards the southon the one hand to Rodosto. on the Sea of Marmara; on the other, down the Maritza alley to the Gulf of Saros. The railway follows the latter, and the Rumelian Railway Company has constructed an artificial harbour at Dede Aghach, enabling merchantmen to lie alongside a pier. The allurements of commerce, however, have not hitherto induced the inhabitants of Enos to exchange their walled and turreted acropolis for the marshy tract on the Lower Maritza, with its deadly atmosphere.
The zone occupied by the Greeks grows narrower as we go west of the Maritza, where the Rhodope Mountains form a kind of international barrier. Only the coast is occupied there by Greek mariners and fishermen, whilst the hills in sight of it are held almost exclusively by Turkish and Bulgarian peasants and herdsmen. The marshy littoral districts, the small valleys on the southern slopes of the mountains, and a few isolated hills of volcanic or crystalline formation constitute a narrow band which connects the Greeks of Thracia with their compattriots of Chalcidice and Thessaly. The Yuruks, or ” Wanderers,” a Turkish tribe which has retained its nomadic habits down to the present day, sometimes even extend their excursions to the sea-coast. Their principal seat is in the Pilav Tepe, a mountain mass to the north-west of Thasos, famous in the time of the Macedonian kings for its mines of gold and silver. A wide plain extends immediately to the west of these mountains, watered by the Strymon, or Karasu, and is of marvellous fertility. Seres, a considerable city, occupies its centre, and hundreds of villages, surrounded by orchards, rice, and cotton fields are scattered o’er it. Looked at from the heights of the Rhodope, this plain assumes the appearance of a huge garden-city. Unfortunately many parts of it are very insalubrious.
The triple peninsula of Chalcidice has no connection whatever with the Rhodope, and is attached to the mainland by an isthmus covered with lakes, swamps, and alluvial plains. It extends far into the sea like a huge hand spread out upon the waters. Chalcidice is a Greece in miniature, with coasts of fantastic contours, deep bays, bold promontories, and mountains rising in the midst of plains, like islands in an archipelago. One of these mountain masses rises in the trunk of the peninsula, and culminates in Meant Kortach, whilst each of its three ramifications possesses its own system of scarped hills. Greek in aspect, this curious appendage to the continent is Greek, too, in its population; and, a rare thing in Turkey, all its inhabitants are of the same race, if we except the Turks in the town of Nisvoro and the Slav monks of Mount Athos.
The easternmost of the three tongues of land of Chalcidice, which jut out far into the waters of the AEgean, is almost entirely detached. Only a low and narrow neck of land connects it with the mainland, and it was across this isthmus that Xerxes dug a canal, 3,950 feet in length, either to enable his fleet to avoid the dangerous promontory of Mount Athos, or to give the awe-struck inhabitants a proof of his power. This is the peninsula of Hagion Oros, the Monte Santo of the Italians. At its extremity rises a limestone mountain, one of the most beautiful in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is the famous Mount Athos, which an ancient sculptor proposed to convert into a statue of Alexander, holding a city in one hand and a spring in the other, and which Eastern legends point out as the ” exceeding high mountain ” to which the devil took Jesus, to show him “all the kingdoms of the world.” But whatever old legends may say, the panorama is not as vast as this, though the shores of Chalcidice, Macedonia, and Thraeia lie spread ont beneath our feet, and the eve can range across the blue waters of the AEgean Sea from Mount Olympus, in Thessaly, to Mount Ida, in Asia Minor. The bold outlines of the fortified monasteries which appear here and there, in the midst of chestnuts, oaks, or pines, on the slope of the mountain, contrast most happily with the faint outline of the coasts on the distant horizon.
This peninsula, which a traveller has compared to a sphinx crouching upon the bosom of the sea, is the property of a republic of monks, who govern themselves according to their own fancy. In return for a tribute, which they pay to the Porte, they alone have the right to live there, and strangers require their permission before they are allowed to enter. A company of Christian soldiers is stationed at the neck of the peninsula to prevent the sacred soil being desecrated by the footsteps of a woman. Even the Turkish governor cannot gain admittance without leaving his harem behind him. For fourteen hundred years. we are told in the chronicles of Mount Athos, no female has set foot upon this sacred soil. and this prohibition extends to animals as well as to human beings. Even the presence of poultry would profane the monasteries, and the eggs eaten by the monks are imported from Lemnos. With the exception of a few purveyors, who reside at the village of Karyes, the 6,1)00 inhabitants of the peninsula are monks, or their servants, and they live in the monasteries, or in the hermitages attached to the 935 churches and chapels. Nearly all the monks are Greeks, but amongst the twenty large monasteries there are two which were built by the ancient sovereigns of Servia, and one which was founded by Russia. Most of these edifices occupy promontories, and, with their high walls and strong towers, they are exceedingly picturesque. One amongst them, that of Simopetra, appears to be almost inaccessible. It is in these retreats the good fathers of the order of St. Basil spend their lives in contemplative inaction. They are bound to pray eight hours in the day and two in the night, and during the whole of that time they are not allowed to sit. They have, therefore, neither time nor strength for study or manual labour. The books in their libraries are incomprehensible mysteries to them, and, in spite of their sobriety, they might die of starvation if there were not lay-brothers to work for them, and numerous farms on the mainland which are their property. A few shiploads of hazel nuts is all this fertile peninsula produces.
The ancient cities of Olvnthus and Potidiaea, on the neck of the western peninsula of Chalcidice, have dwindled down into insignificant villages; but the city of Therma, called afterwards Thessalonica, and now known as Saloniki, still exists, for its geographical position is most favourable, and after every siege and every conflagration it again rose from its ashes. Vestiges of every epoch of history may still be seen there : Cyclopean and Hellenic walls, triumphal arches, and remains of Roman temples, Byzantine structures, and Venetian castles. Its harbour is excellent, its roadstead well sheltered ; and the high-roads into Upper Macedonia and Epirus lead from it along the valleys of the Vardaea and Inje Karasu. These favourable circumstances have not been without their influence, and Saloniki, next to Constantinople and Adrianople, is the most important city of European Turkey. Its population is mixed, like that of other cities in the East, and Jews are exceptionally numerous. Most of them are the descendants of Spanish Jews, expelled by the Inquisition, and they still talk Spanish. Many have outwardly embraced Mohammedanism to escape persecution, but the true Mussulman spurns these converts with disdain. They are generally known as ” Mamins.”
The commerce of Saloniki is important even now, but greater things are expected of the future. Like Marseilles, Trieste, and Brindisi, Saloniki aspires to become a connecting link in the trade between England and the East. It actually lies on the most direct road between the Channel and the Suez Canal, and once connected by railways with the rest of Europe, it is sure to take a large share in the world’s commerce. This emporium of Macedonia is interesting, too, from an ethnological point of view, for, with the exception of Burgaz, on the Black Sea, it is the only place where the Bulgarians, the most numerous race of European Turkey, have reached the sea-coast. Everywhere else they are cut off from it by alien races, but Saloniki brings them into direct contact with the remainder of Europe. Saloniki, however, not only suffers from bad government, but also from the marshes which surround it, and in summer many of its inhabitants flock to the healthier town of Kalameria, to the west. Miasmatic swamps unfortunately occupy a large portion of the northern coast of the AEgean, and they separate the interior of Macedonia more effectively from the coast than do its mountains. There is hardly any commerce except at Saloniki.
On the western shores of the Gulf of Saloniki, beyond the ever-changing mouths of the Vardar and the briny waters of the Inje Karasu, or Haliaemon, the land gradually rises. Hills are succeeded by mountains, until bold precipices approach close to the coast, and summit rises beyond summit, up to the triple peak of Mount Olympus. Amongst the many mountains which have borne this name, this is the highest and the most beautiful, and the Greeks placed upon it the court of Jupiter and the residence of the gods. It was in the plains of Thessaly, in the shadow of this famous mountain, that the Greeks lived in the springtide of their history, and their most cherished traditions attach themselves to this beautiful country. The mountains which had sheltered the cradle of their race remained to them for ever afterwards the seat of their protecting deities. But Jupiter, Bacchus, and the other great gods of antiquity have disappeared now, and monasteries have been built in the woods which witnessed the revels of the Bacchantes.
Until recently the upper valleys of Mount Olympus were inhabited only by monks, and by klephtes,or bandits, who sought shelter there from the Arnaut soldiers sent in their pursuit. The mountain, in fact, constitutes a world apart, surrounded on all sides by formidable declivities. Forty-two peaks form the battlements of this mountain citadel, fifty-two springs rise within it., and the bold klepht is secure within its fastnesses from the abhorred Turk. Magnificent forests of laurel-trees, planes, and oaks cover its lower maritime slopes, and in times of trouble they have served as a refuge to entire populations. But Italian speculators have purchased these forests, and the time is not, perhaps, very distant when Mount Olympus, deprived of its verdure, will be reduced to a barren mass of rock, like most of the mountains of the Archipelago. Wild cats abound on the lower slopes of Olympus, chamois still climb its rugged pinnacles, but bears are no longer met with : St. Denys, who dwelt upon the mountain, required beasts to ride upon, and changed them into horses !
Xenagoras, an ancient geometrician, was the first to measure the height of Mount Olympus, but his result, 6,200 feet, is far from the truth, for the highest summit attains an elevation of 9,750 feet. It may possibly be the culminating point of the Balkan peninsula. Snow remains in some of its crevices throughout the year, and no human being hitherto appears to have succeeded in ascending its highest pinnacle. According to the Greek legend, even Pelion heaped upon Ossa did not enable the Titans to reach the abode of the gods, and, in reality, the combined height of these two mountains hardly exceeds that of Olympus. But, in spite of this inferior height, “pointed ” Ossa and “long-stretched ” Pelion, known to us ,moderns as Kisovo and Zagora, impress the beholder, because of their savage valleys, their precipitous walls of rock, and cliffy promontories.
These mountains continue southward through the hook-shaped peninsula of Magnesia, and terminate opposite the island of Euboea. They formed a strong bulwark of defence in the time of ancient Greece. The hordes of the barbarians stopped in front of this insurmountable barrier. They were compelled to seek a practicable road to the west of it, through the valley of the Peneus, which is rightly looked upon as the natural frontier of Hellas. Hence the great strategical importance of Pharsalus, in Southern Thessaly, which protects the gorges of the Othrys and the only access to the plains of the Sperchius. The pass of Petra, at the northern extremity of Olympus, was carefully guarded for similar reasons.
A large portion of the area bounded by the crystalline rocks of Olympus and Ossa, and by the cretaceous range of the Pindus, running parallel with the former, consists of plains originally covered by vast lakes. The Gulf of Vole approaches close to the shrunken remains of one of these lakesthat of Karla, or Boebeisinto which the waters of the swampy plain of Larissa discharge themselves. The dwellers on the shores of this lake say that a dull rumbling noise may now and then be heard at its bottom, which they ascribe to the bellowing of some invisible animal, but which is more probably the gurgling sound of the water penetrating into a sink-hole. Other lake basins are met with at the foot of Olympus towards the west and north-west, and some of the valleys of the upper tributaries of the Peneus are covered with alluvium left behind by the receding waters. Hercules, according to someNeptune, according to othersdrained all these lakes of Thessaly into the AEgean, by opening the narrow gorge between Olympus and Ossa, known to the ancients as the Valley of Tempe. This narrow valley is due, no doubt, to the slow erosive action of water. To the Hellenes it realisad their ideals of refreshing coolness and beauty, and once every nine years an embassy arrived from Delphi to pluck the laurel-leaves destined for the victors in the Pythian games. The Valley of Tempe is indeed most beautiful ; the transparent and rapid waters of the Peneus, the foliage of the planes, the shrubberies of’ laurel-roses, and the red-hued cliffsthese combine frequently, and form pictures which delight the senses and impress the mind. But, taken as a whole, this narrow and sombre valley fairly deserves its modern name of Lykostomo, or ” wolf’s gorge.” Even in Thessaly, and, above all, in the Pindus, there are localities more smiling and more beautiful than this famous Valley of Tempe.
The upper valleys of the Peneus, or Salembria, abound in natural curiosities, such as defiles, sinks, and caverns. To the northwest of Mount Olympus, the turbid Titaresius flots through the narrow gorge of Saranta Poros, or of the Four Fords, which was looked upon in former times as one of the gates of hell.
To the west, on the Upper Peneus, are the limestone hills of Khassia, rising to a height of 5,000 feet, and the elevated spurs of Mount Pindus, which have become celebrated through the ” works of the gods,” or theoktista, which surmount them. These “works” consist of isolated towers, crags, and pillars, the most famous amongst them being those on the banks of the Peneus, not far from Trikala. Zealous followers of Simeon the Stylite conceived the idea of building their monasteries on the tops of some of the larger of these natural columns or pedestals. Perched on these heights, and condemned never to leave them, they receive their provisions and visitors in a basket attached to the end of a long rope, and hoisted aloft by means of a windlass. An aerial voyage of no less than 220 feet has to be performed in order to reach in this manner the monastery of Barlaam, and visitors are at liberty to effect this ascent by means of ladders fastened against the rocky precipices. The religious zeal, however, which led monks to select these eyries for their habitations is gradually dying out. Out of twenty monasteries which existed formerly, there remain now but seven, and only one of these, that of Meteora, is inhabited by as many as twenty monks.
Of all the Greek countries which still remain under the dominion of the Turks, there is none which has so frequently sought to regain its independence, none which is claimed by the Hellenes with equal ardour as a portion of their common father-land and the cradle of their race. Thessaly is, in truth, a portion of Greece, as far as the traditions of the past, a common language, and the general aspects of the country can make it so. But it is a more fertile country, its vegetation is more luxuriant, its landscapes are more smiling and delightful. We may not frequently meet with the deep blue sky which calls forth our admiration in Southern Greece, for the vapours rising from the Egean Sea are attracted by Olympus and other mountains; but this moisture imparts a charm to distant views, and, by protecting the earth against the scorching rays of the sun in summer, it contributes largely towards the fertility of the soil.
The Greek population of Thessaly is strongly mixed with foreign elements, which it has gradually assimilated. Neither Serbs nor Bulgarians remain now in the country, although the Upper Titaresius is known as Vurgari, or ” river of the Bulgarians.” The Zinzares, or Macedo-Walakhs, who were so numerous in the Middle Ages, now only occupy a few villages. Though proud of their Roman descent, they gradually become Hellenized. Most of the words by which the designate objects of civilised life are Greek, their priests and schoolmasters preach or teach in Greek, and they themselves speak Greek in addition to their native language. They lose ground, moreover, through an excessive emigration. Ever the cultivators of the soil amongst them have not quite given up their nomadic habits, and the roving life of a herdsman or of a pedlar exercises an irresistible attraction upon them. The Turks inhabit in compact masses the lowlands around Larissa, and that town itself is Mussulman to a large extent. The hilly tracts to the north, between the Inje Karasu and the Lakes of Kastoria and Ostrovo, arc likewise inhabited by Turks, who differ from the Osmanli of the rest of the empire, and are known as Koniarides. Turks also occupy a portion of Mount Ossa. It is easy to tell from a distance whether a village is inhabited by Turks or by Greeks. M. Mézières has observed that ” the Turks plant trees for the sake of shade, the Greeks for the sake of profit.” Near the villages of the former we find cypresses and plane-trees, near those of the latter orchards and vineyards. The Koniarides are believed by some authors to have come to Thessaly and Macedonia as colonists in the eleventh century, by invitation of the Eastern emperor. They govern themselves through democratic representative bodies, and are respected by all, because of their probity, their hospitality, and their rustic virtues.
The Greeks are morally inferior to the Turkish peasantry, but they surpass them in intelligence and industry. In the seventeenth century there took place amongst them even a sort of revival similar to the Renaissance of Western Europe, and the love of art was developed sufficiently far to give a rise to a school of painters in the villages of Olympus. Faithful to their national traditions and the instincts of their race, the Greeks of Thessaly have sought to organize themselves into self-governing commonwealths. In their free towns, or kephalokhori, they are permitted to elect their town councils, establish schools, and appoint what teachers they like. They know how to get the Turkish pisha not to meddle in their local aflicirs. They pay the taxes demanded by the Turks, as their ancestors paid them to Athens or some other Greek city, but in every other respect they are free citizens governing themselves. The contrast between these independent commonwealths and the chifliks of Mussulman proprietors cultivated by Greek farmers is most striking. The land of the free proprietors is, as a rule, far less fertile than that included within these chifliks; yet it produces more, and its cultivators live in comparative ease.
The Greeks of Thessaly bestow much care upon the education of growing generations. Even the most miserable Greek village in the Pindus can boast of I school, which is visited by the young people up to the age of fifteen. As an instance of the commercial spirit of the Thessalians we may mention the Weavers’ Cooperative Association, formed in the last century in the town of Anibelakia, delightfully situated amongst orchards and vineyards on the southern slopes of the Valley of Tempe. This powerful association wisely limited its dividends to six per cent., and expended the surplus profits upon an extension of its business. For many years it enjoyed the greatest prosperity, but the wars of the empire, which closed the markets of Germany against it, brought about its ruin. Co-operation likewise partly accounts for the flourishing cloth manufacture of the twenty-four wealthy Greek villages on the peninsula of Magnesia, to the north of the Gulf of Volo. This district, together with that of Verria, to the north of the Inje Karasu, is probably the most prosperous in all the Greek provinces of Turkey, and it is at least partly indebted for this prosperity to its happy geographical position, being far away from great strategical high-roads.’