Sidor som bilder

veller may be directed to other examples of the same nature, in which the similarity of the ancient and the modern appearance is even more striking: and perbaps the howling der. vishes of Scutari, who preserve in their frantic orgies the rites of the priests of Baal,* accommodated the mercenary exhibition of their pretended miracles to the new superstition which pervaded the temples of Chalcedon; exactly as Pagan miraeles, recorded and derided by Horace, vere adapted to the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion.f The psylli of Egypt, mentioned by Herodotus, are still found in the serpent caters of Cairo and Rosetta : and in all ages, where a successful craft, under the name of miracle, has been employed to delude and to subdue the human understanding, the introducers of a bew religiou have, with considerable policy, appropriated it to the same purpose for which it was employed by their predecessors.

The prejudices of the Christians against their Turkish conquerors were so difficult to be overcome, that while we lament the want of truth which characterizes every narrative concerning their invaders, we cannot wonder at the falsehood; yet, in this distant period, viewing the events of those times without passion or prejudice, it may become a question, whether, at the capture of Constantinople, the victors or the vanquished were the 'most polished people. It is not necessary to paint the vices and the barbarisms of those degenerate representatives of the ancient Romans, who then possessed the imperial city; nor to contrast them with those of the Turks : but when it is urged, that Mahomet and his followers, upon taking possession of Constantinople, were busied only in works of destruction, we may derive evidence to the contrary, even from the writings of those by whom they were thus calum. niated. Gyllius and Baodurius hare permitted observations to escape them, which have a remarkable tendency to establish a contrary opinion : they acknowledge that certain magDificent palaces, temples, baths, and caravanserais, were al. lowed to remain ; and the temple of St. Sophia being of the number, as well as the autiquities in the Hippodrome, the public cisterns, sarcophagi, &c. we may form a tolerable estimate of the taste of the Turks in this respect. It will appear

** And they cried aloud, and cut themselves, after their manner, with knives and lancets." ] Kings, xvji, 28.

The miracle of the liquefaction of St. Januarius' blood is alluded to by Horace, as practised in his time, under a different name. Hor. Sat. lib. I. 5.


afterward, that the regalia, the imperial armoury, and many other works of magojficence and utility, were likewise preserved. In the sacking of a city, when all things are lest to the promiscuous pillage of an infuriate soldiery, a scene of ruin and desolation must necessarily evsue ; and, under similar circumstances of previous provocation and subsequent opportunity, it is pot to be believed that the Greeks would have been more scrupulous than their conquerors. The first employment of Mahomet, when those disorders had subsided, was not merely the preservation, but the actual improvement of the city: of this a striking example is related by Gyllius, who, speaking of the Forum of Taurus, says, that being grown over with wood, and affording a shelter for thieves, Mahomet granted the spot to those who were willing to build upon it. The same author also mentions, that, among other instances of his munificence, the largest baths in the city were erected by hrim; one for the use of men, and the other for women : neither is it necessary to seek further for information, than the documents which he has afforded, and the authority cited by him to prove that Christians, and not Turks, have been the principal agents in destroying the statues and public buildings with which Constantinople, iu different ages, was adorned. The havoc was begun by the Romans themselves, even so early as the time of Coustantine the Great ; and renewed at intervals, in consequence of the frequent factions aud dissentions of the inhabitants. The city, such as it was, when it came into the possession of the Turks, has been by them preserved, and undergone fewer alterations than took place while it continued in the hands of their predecessors. It does not, however, appear, that the changes produced, either by the one or the other, have in any degree affected that striking resemblance which it still bears to the ancient cities of the Greeks.

Under these impressions, I eagerly sought an opportunity to examine the interior of the seraglio; and, difficult as the undertaking may seem, soon found the means of its accom. plishment. The harmony existing between England and the. Porte at that critical juncture wheu Egypt was to be restored to the Turks by the valour of our troops, greatly facilitated the enterprize. I felt convinced, that, within the walls of the seraglio, many interesting antiquities were concealed from ob. servation; and I was not disappointed.

The first place to which my observations were directed, was. the imperial armoury ; and here, to my great gratification, I beheld the weapons, shields, and military engines of the Greek emperors, exactly corresponding with those represented on the medals and bas-reliefs of the ancients, suspended as trophies of the capture of the city by the Turks. It is true, my stay there was not of sufficient duration to enable me to bring away any other than this brief representation of what I saw. A bostanghy soon put a stop to the gratification of my cu• riosity, and I was compelled to retreat; but even the trausient view, thus obtained, was sufficient to excite a belief, that other interesting remains of the Palace of the Cæsars might also be similarly preserved. This conjecture was not without foundation : por is it at all remarkable, that, in a lapse of time which does not exceed the period that has intervened since the armour of Henry the Sixth was deposited in the Tower of London, the reliques of Roman power should be thus disco. vered. It is only singular, tbat, luring all the inquiries which have taken place respecting this remarkable city, such reniains should have been unnoticed. In answer to my earnest entreaty for the indulgence of a few moments, to be employed in further examination, it was explained to me, that, if the old arnjour was an object of my curiosity, I might have full leisure to survey it, wheu carried on sumpter-horses, in the great an. bual procession of the grand signior, at the opening of the Buirim, which was shortly to take place, and where I afterward saw it exhibited.;

Soon after this, some pages, belonging to the seraglio, brought from the sultan's apartments the fragments of a magnificent vase of jasper-agate, which, it was said, his highpess had dashed to pieces in a moment of anger. As these fragments were cast away, and disregarded, they came at last into the hands of a poor lapidary, who earned a scanty livelihood by cutting and polishing stones for the signet rings of the Turks. * Io one of my mineralogical excursions, the merchants of the bezesten, where jewels are sold, directed me to the laboratory of this man, to obtain the precious stoues of the country in their patural state. He was then employed upon the fragments of this vase, and very gladly spared the labour which he would

# The Turks rarely write themselves : they employ scribes, wbo stand ready for hire in the streets : and alterward apply a signet, which has been previously ruoueu over with Indian ink, by way of youcher for the roanuscript.

elherwise liave bestowed, by consigning, for a small sum, the whole of them to me. It is hardly possible to conceive a more extraordinary proof of the genius and industry of Grecian artists, than was presented by this vase. Its fragments are still in my possession; and have been reserved for annual exhibition, during a course of public Lectures in the University of Cambridge. When it is stated, that the treasury of Mithradates contained four thousand specimens of similar manufacture, all of which came into the hands of the Romans; and that the Turks are unable to execute any thing of the same nature ; it is highly probable this curious relique originally constituted one of the number; which, after passing into the possession of the Turks at the conquest of the city, had continued to adorn the palace of their sovereigns. Such a con. jecture is strengthened by the mythological figure, represented in exquisite sculpture, on the vase itself. It consists of an entire mass of green jasper-agate, beautifully variegated with veins and spots of a vermilion colour; so that part of it exhibits the ribon-jasper, and part the bloodstone. The handle is formed to represent the head of a griffin (carved in all the perfection of the finest caméo), whose extended wings and class cover the exterior surface. The difficulty of working a silicious concretion of such extraordinary hardness needs not be specified: it may be presumed, that the entire life of the apcieut lapidary, by whom it was wrought, could have been scareely adequate to such a performanee; nor do we at all know in what mavner the work was effected. Yet there are parts of it, in which the sides of the vase are as this as the libest porcelain.*

A second visit, which I made to the interior of the seraglio, was not attended by any very interesting discovery; but, as it enabled me to describe, with miputeness, scenes hitherto impervious to European eyes, the reader may be gratified by the observations made within those walls. Every one is cu. rious to know what exists within recesses which have been long closed against the intrusion of Christians. In vain does the eye, roamiug from the towers of Galata, Pera, and Con. stantinople, attempt to penetrate the thick gloom of cypresses and domes, which distinguishes the most beautiful part of Constantinople. Imagination magpifies things unkpown: and whed, in addition to the curiosity always excited by mystery, the reflection is suggested, that ancient Byzantium occupied the site of the sultan's palace, a thirst of inquiry is proportjonably augmented. I promise to conduct my leaders not only within the retirement of the seraglio, but into the charem itself, and the most secluded haunts of the Turkish sovereign. Would only I could also promise a degree of satisfaction, in this respect, adequate to their desire of information!

* I have seen similar instances of sculpture, executed even in harder substances; and the Chinese possess the art of perfecting such works. A vase of one entire piece of jade is in the collection of Mr. Ferguson; and a patera, exactly answering Mr. Ferguson's vase, was lately exposed for sale, in the window of a shop in the Strapů. * A covered wagon upon four wheels, with latticed windows at the sides, formed. to conceal those who are within. It is almost the only species of carriage in use. among the Turks..

It so happened, that the gardener of the grand signior, during our*residence in Constantinople, was a German. This: person used to mix with the society in Pera, and often joined in the evening parties given by the different foreign ministers. In this mayber we became acquainted with him; and were invited to his apartments within the walls of the seraglio, close to the gaies of the sultan's garden. We were accompanied, during our first visit, by his intimate friend, ihe secretary and chaplain of the Swedish mission; who, but a short time before, had succeeded in obtaining a sight of the four principal sul.. tanas and the sultan mother, in consequence of his frequest. visits to the gardener. They were sittivg together one morning, when the cries of the black eunuche, opening the door of the charem, which communicated with the seraglio gardens, announced that these ladies were going to take the air. In order to do this, it was necessary to pass the gates adjoining the gardner's lodge; where an arabat* was stationed to receive them, in which it was usual for them to drive round the walks of the seraglio, within the walls of the palace. Upon. those occasions, the black eunuchs examine every part of the garden, and run before the womeu, calling out to all persous to avoid approaching or beholding them, under pain of death, The gardener, and his friend the Swede, instantly closed all, the shutters, and locked the doors. The black eunuchs, ar.. riving soon after, and finding the lodge shut, supposed the gardener to be absent. Presently followed the sultan mother, with the four principal sultanas, who were in high glee, romping and laughing with each other. A small scullery wiodow, of the gardener's lodge, looked directly toward the gate, through which these ladies were to pass; and was separated from it only by a few yards. Here, through two small gimlet holes, bored for that purpose, they beheld very distinctly the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »