denly we emerge on patches of luxuriant | male head is invested with a turban, or maize and hemp, clinging at what one with something that does duty for one, might have thought an impossible angle from the yellow flowered rag, bound wispto the mountain side; the ledge broadens like round the cap of the lad who holds out somewhat, and we find ourselves at the my horse as I dismount, to the more vollittle Greek-named village Stauros, or uminous white foldings that give a sort Aghalos, or the like, where we intend to of dignity to the hard, weather-worn faces draw bridle for a noonday halt. Along the of the elders of the village, who have wayside are half-a-dozen open shops, where come up to welcome and to stare at the muleteers' gear, straps, nosebags, saddle- new arrival. Hence I know them to be bags, and similar articles, all of the gayest Mahometans, for the Christian head, if colours and the clumsiest forms, along adorned by anything in addition to the with horse-shoes-if the rough iron plates universal red scull-cap of the East, would with a small hole in the middle that are have a dark-coloured handkerchief tied here fastened on the hoof deserve the round it; nor would its fold imitate the name -coarse tobacco, cigarette paper, distinctive turban, but rather resemble sour apples - all fruit here is eaten sour that adopted by an invalid suffering from -a few dirty eggs, soapy-looking clots facile neuralgia. Another indication of of cheese, and so forth. Not far off the Mahometan is the clipped and shorn is a little building: if it happens to be look; the hair cut close, the beard and oblong in form and points eastward, you mustachios trimmed - this was a special recognize it for a church; if square, and recommendation of the Prophet's-while with its entrance to the north, it is a the Christian peasant revels in a profumosque in either case it is totally de- sion of lank, depending hair, and sidevoid of outside ornament, except the in- locks that might do honour to a Lithuanvariable whitewash of the country. As ian Jew; and his beard, if not shaved to the peasants' houses, wooden frame- about a fortnight ago - I have never had works filled up with rubble, scattered as the good luck of meeting one whose toilet at random up and down the slopes, each day could have been much within that in its own field, with its own little gourd- period-is, like his mustachios, left to growing garden, suggesting the idea -a the irregular luxuriance of nature. Not not improbable one, in fact - that every- only in person, too, but in clothes, the body has quarelled with his neighbour, Mahometan is generally the cleaner of and wishes to live as far away from him the two. What, however, most distinas possible; the inmates may be Chris-guishes him from his Christian fellowtian or Mahometan equally for anything peasant is his hospitality. that the external architecture declares. Poverty is a great leveller of creeds as of everything else; and a separate harem accomodation supposes an amount of wealth and ease which is far from being realized by any Pontic peasant of our day. Besides, the whole of the house-work, and a good half of the field-work too, is performed by the women; a state of things which naturally renders impossible that absolute seclusion—or, one might more justly say, elimination of the fair sex in which the town-living Mahometan delights.


Two classes are in general eminently hospitable throughout the East: one, the old-established not the modern vantine; the other, the Mahometan. Of the former I have not here room to speak; their habitat is not within my present beat, nor, indeed - the Ægean coast excepted — in any part of Asia Minor. But the Mahometan, whatever his nationality, is in this respect much the same everywhere; it is a part of the Arab tradition of his code; and even extreme poverty and a far-distant latitude do not render the peasants of Pontus an exception to the Nor does the unwelcome fact that rule. Hence I should strongly advise every female form in view, after stopping travellers in Anatolia to avail themselves an instant to get a preliminary peep at of the creature comforts which Mahomethe travellers, draws her blue wrapper tan lodgings provide, rather than of the close over her lovely face, and even with religious sympathies which make up the discourteous shyness turns her broad staple of Greek or Armenian hospitality. back upon you, do much to decide in In other respects there is little difference. what religion the hamlet delights; for, in Whatever its creed, each village manages the semi-barbarism of Anatolia, Greek its own affairs, chooses, by an irregular and Armenian ladies hardly enjoy wider sort of election, its own Mukhtar," or freedom of seeing and being seen than headman; repairs or neglects its own Mahometan. But I remark that every paths and watercourses, builds or deco

Georgian, Mingrelian, Abaze, and the

rates its own church or mosque, supports its own Imam or priest, as the case may rest. Lastly, the relics of the old autobe, and sometimes manages to keep up a cratic "Dereh-Begs," or hereditary landkind of primary school, in which reading owners, still linger here, but shorn of and writing are sufficiently taught to be, their semi-feudal power and state. Their in nineteen cases out of twenty, wholly title and parentage derive in most inforgotten as life goes on. With Govern- stances from some Janissary or "Sipahi " ment they rarely have anything to do, ex- of the sixteenth or seventeenth century: cept when reminded of its existence by a Greek, Albanian, Servian, Croat. Who visit from the tax-collector, or a summons can now tell which of the "tribute chilto supply forced and unpaid labour for dren," or of the many renegades of those some object in which they have about as times, was their father? these Japhets much interest as the inhabitants of Japan. are not much in the habit of searching On these occasions the headman is con- after theirs. sidered a responsible party, and is often made the scapegoat for the shortcomings of the community; for everything else he is left to exercise over his neighbours an authority of which the more or the less is chiefly determined by his own personal aptness for the position which he holds.


But the "trail of the serpent," the Byzantine character, is over all; and it remains unfortunately much the same as it appears to have been in the days of the Comneni and Palæologi; it has not perhaps deteriorated; indeed of that there was hardly a possibility, but it certainly Greek is the language spoken by all, ex- has not improved. Perhaps, under the clusively indeed by some, though in the circumstances, that was not much to be Mahometan day schools, where they ex- expected. Certainly as we now know ist, a little Turkish is sometimes taught; them, they are versatile rather than clevand those among the men who more fre-er, cunning rather than intelligent, and quently go down to the coast for the sale quarrelsome rather than brave. of their village produce and the like, pick village has at at least one feud on hand; up the latter idiom. The women, more the ordinary cause being either "lovely stay-at-home than the men, know only woman," or the disputed limits of some Greek; but such as Pericles or Xenophon pasture range in the grazing grounds that himself, though he did once visit these extend upward from the forest belt almountains, would have considerable dif- most to the summit of the granite mounficulty in understanding, so mixed is it tain crest. These feuds are often bloody; with Sclavonian and other dialects, in- but there is little fair fighting. A long cluding, I think, the aboriginal Pontic. shot from the shelter of a boulder, or a Still the groundwork is Greek-Torquós hatchet-cut from behind in a narrow path, is a river, yúla milk, κpéas meat, or, fire, exemplify the ordinary procedures. Someand so on. The features of both sexes times a field of standing harvest is hacked too, in spite of a certain serious and inde- and wasted in the night, or ricks and cowpendent air which Mahometanism appears sheds burned, or a well choked up - all generally to confer on its followers, are cowardly doings, that have a strong distinctly Byzantine: long, sallow, high flavour of the lower Greek empire in nosed, with hair and eyes mostly of a them. Domestic virtue too is at a low dark brown, occasionally lighter, and even ebb. The hamlet of these regions is in auburn; the mouth usually well shaped, this respect scarcely better off than the the expression by no means unintelligent, town. but often cunning, even sinister. Their Of superstition there is plenty. The stature is middling, their limbs slender," Greeks" perch a little cell-like chapel but active and strong.

Here and there, however, especially among the Mahometans, a different type crops up, tall, well built, with light grey eyes, auburn hair, and a certain clearness of complexion alien from the muddy skin of Byzantine Greek, Turkish, Turkoman, or Armenian, fairer too than the Kurde, or any of the southern races. I am inclined to think that the individuals of this description represent the aboriginal Pontic stock, which seems to have been akin to the neighbouring Caucasian families

on the top of every hill, with most uncouth saints of genuine Byzantine stiffness daubed on its walls, and a rough altar stone, black with oil from the lamp beside it, where mass is said once a year, Their Mahometan brethren, not to be behindhand with them, hang up some equivocal relic-a hair of the Prophet's beard it may be, or a rag which has touched some like holy thing-in the prayerniche of the mosque, and cover the wall with unartistic drawings, highly coloured, of the Meccan or other shrines. In big

otry there is little to choose between mains of a small pagan shrine, not Greek them the monks of the many mountain but Pontic in construction: the lower convents hereabouts, and the "Mollas" part, of four basement walls inclosing a and "Imams" of the neighbourhood, enjoy square of about twelve feet each way, an equal reputation in this respect. But, was cut out of the rock itself to a height besides what may be considered as the of nearly five feet. This had been originspecial property of either sect, the Cres- ally raised further by rows of huge obcent and the Cross have here many ob- long blocks, each several feet in length. servances in common. Among these the On two sides they still retained their means taken to avert the influence of the places; on the other two they, like the evil eye are curious enough. I had often roof, if there ever was one, had disapnoticed in the fields a tall pole, with wick-peared. In the southern wall-for the er circle balanced atop, the circumference building faced the compass - was a small being hung round with bones, feathers, square peep-hole of a window cut in the and gaudy rags. At first I supposed it to rock. The whole reminded me closely be a scarecrow against the innumerable of some idol shrines I have seen in the birds of the country, but was soon informed that it was there for the more practical purpose of guarding against the evil eye. An ox's or buffalo's scull is still more generally employed; and the withered chaplets suspended from the horns remind one of a favourite ornament of the Greek metope, with which this very ancient superstition may perhaps be indirectly connected.

Or it is a little dome-like construction, roughly put together and often in ruins, which bears the name of some legendary half-hero, half-saint, claimed alike by Islam and Christianity, and visited by turbaned and unturbaned pilgrims on the same anniversary. If a bush happen to be near at hand, it is sure to be decorated all over with little rags knotted to the twigs. Each rag mystically contains some evil from which the person who tied it desires to be freed by this act and by the intercession of the saint. To untie it would be the extreme of rashness, as it would infallibly bring the unloosened evil on the intruder's head. Even touching it might, I am informed, have the same effect.

These sanctuaries are almost invariably situated either near some springhead, particularly if a mineral one, or on the top of an isolated height. The superstition which placed them there is probably in many instances much older than any creed now professed in the land. One such building, conspicuous on a conical peak nearly three thousand feet above the sea, and dedicated to the mythical Elias of the East, attracted my special notice; and after a climb which led me to admire rather than to envy the devout up-hill labours of the yearly pilgrims, I reached the summit-a weather-beaten pinnacle of black volcanic rock. There by the side of a ruined Byzantine chapel, open to the sky, I found what interested me much more; namely, the distinct re

Tamil villages of Southern India. But besides this, in the foundation rock of the temple, and hewn also on its southerly aspect, I found two small sepulchral caves, containing each a recess for a single corpse. In both niches the place for the head and the feet were indicated in the hollowed stone: the length was in each much the same, a little under six feet. The heads of the corpses were to the west, their feet to the east, and their right sides to the south. The face of the cliff bore traces too of other tombs, but now almost shapeless from the crumbling of the turf beneath the storms and winters of more than two thousand years.

Not far from Trebizond is another of these sepulchral caves. I visited it, and found it about eleven feet from the floor to the highest part of the vault-like roof, and sixteen feet broad by twelve deep, thus much resembling in form a huge oven; the rock here too was volcanic tuff, and still bore marks of the chisel, At the further end and, on either side, were deep coffin-like recesses for the dead, who must here, as in the tombs described above, have been laid recumbent at full length, but each in a different direction. The wide entrance of the cave had once been closed by a door, as appeared by the holes for the door-posts bored in the rock above and below; and in the inner right hand wall was a small niche, apparently for a lamp. The cavern had at a later period been converted into a Greek chapel, and vestiges of barbarous Byzantine daubings still appeared on the walls. But at present it is visited by Mahometans and Christians alike, under the ambiguous title of the prophet Elias.

There are countless caves of this sort along the coast slope of the mountain range, but I have never found any far inland, except at Amasia and Kastemouni.

This last belongs to Paphlagonia, how-where; but they would require a separate ever, not to Pontus; and up the valley description to themselves. of the Halys, or Kizil-Irmak, as it is now called. But in that region the rock monuments bear traces of much greater skill and workmanship than appears in the rough-hewn memorials about Trebizond. But in no case have I been able to discover either inscription or date.

The latter, or local, class of ruins includes those from the sixteenth to the close of the eighteenth century. To this period belong the numerous paved horseways, solidly constructed, and extending in a complicated network for scores and scores of miles up valleys, across mounThe other "breakages" of this district tains, through forests, from the sea-shore are either Byzantine, or purely local. to the upper range. They were the work To the former class belong the numerous of the much-maligned Dereh-Begs, the bridges, of coarse but very massive con- landed proprietors swept away by the struction, which once spanned and now pseudo-reforms of Sultan Mahmood and half choke with their ruins the many tor- Abd-el-Mejeed; and were kept in order rent rivers. The traveller here in winter by village labour, freely given, because and spring finds good reason to regret profitable. In the present poverty of the their loss. Byzantine, too, are the pic- country, these roads are left unrepaired turesque relics of battlemented walls and and untended, till many are now absotowers, "bosomed high" in the madly lutely impassable; nor are new ones ever luxuriant vegetation of the coast, which provided, or old ones mended by a Govgive some of the small towns hereabouts erment which has taken to itself the a diminutive resemblance to old Con- wealth, but omitted the responsibilities stantinople. One town in particular, of the land it governs. So too for the Rizeh the Rhizaeum of Strabo, and many road-side fountains, each with its where, by the way, almost all the inhabi- pretty little ogee arch, and arabesque tants are Greek-speaking Mahometans, inscription commemorating the munifiand are simply the most disagreeable, cence of the builder, some wealthy vilquarrelsome, bigoted, narrow-minded set lager: these, too, now abandoned, choked, I have ever had to deal with still re- and fallen into ruin. So also the dreary tains about half of a mural circuit, which, when complete, cannot have been much under two miles in extent. The towers are about forty feet high, round, and placed at close intervals along the wall: one only has its upper part shaped into a not ungraceful octagon. The thickness of the walls is everywhere enormous; the materials rough-hewn, or mere irregular stones, copiously cemented with indifferent plaster. A couple of small vaulted chapels, each with its three lancet windows looking east a favourite Tritheistic symbol would alone suffice to determine the architects, were they not otherwise clearly indicated by the style of the fortifications themselves. As I clambered about them I might almost have fancied myself at Constantinople, near the Seven Towers. But here, too, was neither inscription or date, though architectural comparison would seem to indicate the eighth or ninth century as the epoch of building.

Lastly, to the same class belong the numerous monasteries and nunneries of the land, some of them growing out like excrescences at the mouth of an old Pontic cave, now modified into a chapel. There are five large ones, all Greek, within a thirty miles' radius from Trebizond, and smaller ones are scattered else

walls, and long ranges of windows open to the sky, that once were the abodes of the "Begs " or " Aghas," semifeudal landlords, turbulent enough in their day, but good masters, hospitable, and spending in the land itself what they took from it; not, like the modern Stamboolee leeches, disgorging elsewhere the life-blood sucked from the province.

That the epochs, Pontic, Roman, Byzantine, and, so to speak, self-governing, were one and all “better times" than the present, the relics I have described or alluded to, with many other indications of bygone populousness and prosperity, seem sufficiently to establish; and the peasants with one voice declare that their condition was much more favourable, not only in the centuries preceding the Turkish conquest, of which they have long since lost every memory, but even after that event, under the almost independent rule of their own landowners and headmen, when the Osmanlee Government was hardly more to them than a distant and respected name; not, as now, a daily and burdensome interference. Certainly a serious diminution in the number of the inhabitants is attested by the frequency of shrunk or deserted villages; and the diminution of life indicates a corresponding diminution in the means of life.


They are, with hardly an exception, | sider, that it has any duty towards those wretchedly poor. The plot of ground on it governs, except that of getting as much which each man cultivates his maize, money as possible out of them. Morehemp, and garden stuff, yields little more over, the quantity of what it squeezes, or than enough for his own personal uses tries to squeeze, out of any given disand those of his family; the maize-field trict is proportioned, not on the means and garden supply their staple food, and and wealth of those squeezed, but on the hemp their clothing: this last coarse their moral compressibility and yieldingand ragged beyond belief. And no won-ness. Hence, as a rule, Christian popuder, where a single suit has to do duty lations, which have, so to speak, a court alike for summer and winter, day and of appeal in European opinion, are much night. Whatever truth there may be in less hard pressed now-a-days than Mothe philosophical "man wants but little hametan; not to mention the conscriphere below "—an assertion I hold more tion, which falls wholly on the latter, and than questionable for man, and utterly equals in theory about one fifth, in pracfalse for woman - he certainly gets un- tice fortunately not more than one eighth commonly little in this region. For any- or so, of the adult male census. It is thing like gain, he has to depend on a true that the Christians pay for their exscanty allowance of eggs furnished by a emption from this "blood-tax," but they few diminutive hens, or the butter derived have, on the whole, a cheap bargain. from a meagre cow or two; perhaps a few Unhappily the spirit of servile, unconbasketsful of orchard fruit; or, the best ditional obedience, which from an early resource, a dozen loads of charcoal, which date characterized the subjects of the Byhe has prepared in the forest. These he zantine Empire, has rested in a double takes down on a donkey, or not rarely on portion on their descendants. "We are his own or his wife's back, to the nearest born to be fleeced, and fleeced we will be, market-town, say Trebizond, and there and take it quietly," is their view of the sells for what they may fetch. But here matter. This spirit of miscalled loyalty, the Government, which never provided and real slavishness, is strongest among him directly or indirectly with a path to the Mahometan population, which change go by, or a plank to cross a torrent; which of religion has, so far at least, not beneaffords him no security against violence, fited but injured. Man must have an no education in youth, no assistance or idol of some kind-figure, picture, book refuge in difficulty, sickness, or old age, or idea-to bow down to and worship; is beforehand with him; and under title and as figures and pictures are forbidden of road-dues, town-dues, market-dues, to the Muslim, while of the book, the etc., secures from five to ten per cent. of Koran, the idol of his Arab brethren, he, whatever profit his wares may realize. for ignorance of its language, cannot Out of the remainder he has to pay agri- make much, the once Byzantine Mahomcultural tithes, property-tax - a very etan has set up for his idol the idea of Isheavy one sheep or cattle-tax, and lam, and worships it with a devotion yearly recurring requisitions for nominal which the "Though He slay me yet will public works, seldom executed, and, if I trust in Him" of Job could scarcely executed, of no good to him, and very parallel. But Islam is, moreover, in his little to any one else. What is left goes mind identified with what is for him its to buy whatever household articles or visible and chiefest avatar, the Empire of agricultural implements the produce of the house of Othman, the waning Creshis own ground cannot furnish. As to cent of the crimson flag. And thus, in the maize, it is so unremunerative a crop, spite of the new and hated regulations of and the quantity which each individual latter-day Sultans, of Janissaries butchpeasant can obtain, owing to the infinites-ered, grants revoked, institutions deimal subdivision of property, so small, stroyed, and burdens bound on by a buthat it is practically of no account for reaucracy the little finger of which is gain. When to all this we add frequent thicker than the loins of a Suleyman or a requisitions of unpaid labour, military Murad; in spite of the still deeper and service, and the like, can we wonder that more searching change that has come the Pontic peasant lives, or rather starves, over the spirit of the Ottoman dream, in debt, dies in debt, and leaves debt and transforming the terror of the nations into starvation as the only heritage to his a feeble parody of that most portentous children? of all failures, the Second French EmThe fact is that the Osmanlee Govern- pire-the Mahometan of Anatolia continment never considers, or wishes to con- 'ues, passively at least, true to his old

« VorigeDoorgaan »