Neale, Frederick Arthur: Eight years in Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor, from 1842 to 1850, in 2 volumes. London, Colburn, 1851. Reprinted by Elibron Classics, 2002.
p. 155-158 (Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor)
A drunken Greek old man at Byass, Aleppo, Adana, 1842-1850
I went by sea to Byass with some friends to make the personal acquaintance of the Bey. We took with us a week's provisions and our bedding material, as it was our intention to live on shore during our visit. A few hours' run brought us to the anchorage, and half an hour's walk from the landing-place to the house of a Greek, who was to be our host. The hut was a commodious one, and clean enough in its way, the walls being composed of myrtle cuttings, rendered air tight with mud. The thatching was of straw, and completely waterfproof, excepting in parts near the sides of the wall, where some neighbour's cows had committed a felony, and eaten divers holes in the roof. The village, built on the site of a once substantial city, of which considerable traces remain, had a pretty appearance, the houses being detached, and surrounded by small mulberry gardens. There was a large hole in the centre of our hut, which served for a fire-place, and in which blazed a roaring wood fire, that effectually excluded the damp and cold.
The hostess, a pretty little woman, with her matronly-looking mother, were busily engaged, when we entered, about our evening repast, whilst an old man, who might have been born with Methusalah, sat opposite to us in the middle of the smoke, at which he would wink and blink in a most remarkable manner, relieving himself occasionally with a stare and a grin of recognition at us. He was troubled with an unmistakable church-yard cough, for which he wanted us to prescribe, and which, according to his own showing, had been hanging about him ever since Buonaparte invaded Syria. When we expressed our regret at being unable to afford him any medical relief, he crept mysteriously towards an old chest, in a dark corner of the hut, and, having extracted therefrom a bottle that would hold about a gallon and a half, took a long, steady draught, and then carefully put it up again. This bottle contained aqua vitae or arrack, and the old man was in a perpetual state of alarm, lest any one should get it. The most extraordinary thing about him was, that he still retained an acute sense of hearing, and was keenly alive to music of any description. This we discovered by mere chance; for one of us happening to whistle a few bars of some lively air, the old fellow was off the ground in an instant, screwed up his mouth in ineffectual attempts to whistle, kept time with his head and hands, and eventually set off capering, and danced round and round the fire in such grotesque and unearthly attitudes, as convulsed us all with laughter. I firmly believe that, whilst under the influence of this musical mesmerism, he was totally unconscious of what he was doing, and would have danced till he had dropped if any one could have whistled long enough. But, luckily for him, it was a moral impossibility to look at him without laughing, which brought the tune to an end.
Dancing in general, Alexandretta (Scanderoon), 1842-1850
On the celebration of the Greek festival of Easter, it was a custom long established, that the European factors should visit the more respectable class of natives, such as magazineers, interpreters, &c., at their own domiciles. This was a kind or return visit for the one they paid on Christmas-day. On these occasions we were regaled at each house with sweetmeats, wines, liqueurs, pipes and coffee; and by the time we had completed the round, we were generally so staffed with the things forced upon us, as to feel uncomfortable for the rest of the day. Natives always keep it up for three days and three nights, during which time they eat and drink, and smoke and dance, and sing without intermission. The effects of this excess are plainly visible on their return to work in their bloodshot, heavy-looking eyes, and the almost entire loss of their voices.
A carousal is their summit of enjoyment. If there is a wedding, or a burial, a child born, or a child baptized, a fast coming, or a fast over, the event is always celebrated by a debauch, and every man goes to bed, or is carried to it, in a state of intoxication. The women are generally sober, but are intemperate as regards eating; and as for the children, their appetites are insatiable.
The polka introduced at balls in Larnaca, Cyprus, 1842-1850
Larnaca is celebrated for its wines, the Camandaria, dry and sweet, and red wine. For my own part, I think all of them execrable. Here we were once again among carriages, which are hardly known in Syria or Palestine. Every respectable person in Larnaca has his phaeton or gig, though, to say the truth, they are, at best, most wretched turn-outs. The churches are permitted to have bells, a privilege unknown in other Turkish towns. From a tall spire of the Catholic church, which for security is built in the precincts of the Sardinian consulate, the bell every Sunday morning tolls the hour for public worship.
The people are exceedingly fond of gaiety, and I often had my night’s rest interrupted by fond youths serenading their mistresses. Balls and evening parties are of continual occurrence, and the Polka was introduced just previously to my arrival, by the officers of one of the Queen’s ships.
White, Charles: Three years in Constantinople, or domestic manners of the Turks in 1844. London, Henry Colburn, 1846, 3 vols.
Dervishes in Constantinople, 1844
This would be a fitting occasion to speak at length of the Mevlevy. Their exercises have, however, been so repeatedly described, that I shall merely observe that they were founded in the 643rd year of the Hegira by the celebrated Sheikh Mevlana-Djelaluddin-Hoomy-Mohammed, known as the Sultan-ul-Oolema (king of science), and that they are the only sect esteemed in the present day by the higher classes, or directly patronized by the Sultan. Some of them are men of great respectability and learning. The sheikh of the Pera convent, Khoudret Ullah Effendi (Khoudret (prodigy). The sheikh received this name because his mother had attained her thirty-ninth year, and his father eighty years of age, when he was born. The latter was also a dervish sheikh of extraordinary sanctity and learning.), has the reputation of considerable talents as an oriental scholar and antiquarian, in addition to the highest character for tolerant piety and urbanity of manner.*
The turning or dancing of these dervishes, generally supposed to be a mere exhibition of skill without specific meaning, is symbolic of two great mysteries of the sect. The rotatory motion signifies that they acknowledge the ubiquity, and seek for the presence of the divinity on all sides; whilst the forward movement denotes man’s progress through life, which commences feebly and slowly, then hurries onwards with irrepressible speed, until of a sudden it is arrested by the hand of death. It is also typical of the abstraction of those who are supposed to have abandoned all mundane occupations for the service of the Almighty. The extension of the right arm with the palm upwards denotes, the act of seeking for almighty gifts and bounty, that of the left arm with the palm inverted portrays their abandonment of these gifts to others. The word dervish signifies a poor person, one who has renounced all property for the benefit of mankind.
The Greek dancing-boys of Galata, Constantinople, 1844
According to the Turkish historian, the five hundred and fifty-four minor subdivisions of the forty-six great sections were classed according to the connexion existing between the studies, occupations, and labours of the former and latter. Thus to the first guild, led by tchaoosh (police-sergeants or exons), and to the second, conducted by Janissaries, were affiliated all police-officers, young Janissaries, gravediggers, paviours, scavengers, executioners, tombstone-hewers, bonegrubbers, nightmen, pickpokets, grooms, low menial servants, ass-drivers, watchmen, thieves, vagabonds, and, lastly, dejusan (men conniving at and profiting by their wives' incontinence) and pezavenks (ministers of vice), from whom Constantinople is not exempt, and with which Pera abounds to a scandalous extent. Indeed, as regards the latter, it may be said that the Christian suburbs of Stambol, especially the Greek population, present a picture of dissoluteness and profligacy not to be paralleled by any city in the world. The disgusting spectacle of the Greek dancing-boys of Galata is revolting even to the coarsest mind; and the hideous venality and mercenary wickedness of the Pera, St. Dimitri, and Bosphorus Greek women, who traffic with their young daughters, must be known and seen to be credited. Vice is there the standard rule, virtue the rare exception; and this, coupled with a cold-blooded absence of all heart and sentiment, renders their vice still more abominable.
Drunken sultan dancing, Constantinople, 1844
The following example is also narrated of the violence of sultans towards their children. Sultan Ibrahim, whose debauchery and addiction to wine are proverbial, happened one afternoon to have carried his excesses so far, that he fell to dancing and capering about the room in a most unseemly manner. His eldest son, Prince Mohammed, was among the astonished spectators. Seeing this, Ibrahim called out and bade him join in the dance, to which Mohammed replied:- "Does the Sultan think me a drunkard, or a madman?" - "No," retorted Ibrahim; "but it is evident that the Shah Zadeh takes me for both." Thereupon the infuriated and drunken Sultan drew forth his dagger and stabbed his son in the face. Ibrahim was about to repeat the blow, when the prince's mother and her women interfered, and hurried him bleeding from the chamber. The mark of this act of violence was visible on the cheek of Mohammed IV. all his life. (One might imagine that the young prince had learned the old Latin adage:- "Nemo fere saltat sobrius nisi forte insanit".)
Gypsy musicians at a marriage ceremony, Constantinople, 1844
The eventful Thursday having at length arrived, and all preliminaries being accomplished on both sides, Bulbul's mother leaves her son and husband at home, embarks in a cotchy or araba for Gul's abode, preceded by her son's relatives and friends on horseback, and followed by several vehicles each containing one or more female relations. The procession, sometimes consisting of fifty carriages and as many horsemen, with their grooms on foot, has no sooner reached Gul's house than the ladies ascend into the harem, and the men into the salamlyk, where they are immediately served with refreshments.
This collation being terminated, the whole party return to their vehicles and horses, and an empty cotchy is driven to the foot of the vestibule stairs. In the mean time, Gul bids adieu to her mother and sisters, and, tearing herself from their embraces, gives her hand to her father, who leads his weeping child to the foot of the stairs, where he folds round her waist the nuptial shawl or girdle, and each of her relatives scatters handfuls of money, (twenty para pieces,) symbols of abundance, over her head. These coins are the perquisites of the poor women of the quarter, who crowd around and scramble desperately for them. Deviating from the custom observed on all other occasions, the bride has neither yashmak nor ferijee; their places are supplied by a loose gold-embroidered veil, which conceals her whole person (When Armenian women are married, their veil consists of strings or strips of gold, covering or thatching the person from head to foot.)
The scramble being terminated, Gul is assisted into the carriage, where she takes her seat accompanied by her yengueh (brideswoman), whilst her mother enters another carriage with Bulbul's mother. The signal for departure is given, and the procession slowly rolls over the disjointed pavement. The front of each vehicle is now ornamented with a piece of cloth or embroidered stuff, the perquisite of the arabajee. The vekils and witnesses, who ride in front, also wear silk-scarfs, which play the same part in wedding ceremonies as "favours" in England. The only music permitted is that of one or more gipsies, who carry small mushroom-shaped drums, suspended from their necks, wear conical caps with bells and feathers on their heads, and, half-dancing, half-walking, importune passers-by for money.
Bulgarian peasants along the Bosphorus, Constantinople, 1844
Notwithstanding the limited crops resulting from causes already assigned, hay-harvest is a season of rejoicing, and the "harvest-home" a festival for the Bulgarian peasants, who are the principal cultivators on both shores of the Bosphorus (Hay is sold by the oka - two and one-third pounds). The process of hay-making is rapid. It is spread as soon as mowed; then tossed, turned, raked up, and housed, or embarked for sale, within twenty-four hours. The last cart or horse loads are decorated with green boughs, fragrant wild flowers, coloured handkerchiefs, and other finery. The Bulgarian harvest-men, with their wives and children, follow or precede in groups, grotesquely capering and thumping their sheep-skin caps on the ground, so that they rebound like bladders, to the drones of most discordant bagpipes.
A feast is then given by the farmer. This consists of mutton-broth, roasted sheep's heads, a good pilaf, curds, cheese, abundance of sour wine, fiery raki, or besotting booza, of which two latter fluids these bearlike men will engulph startling quantities (Booza is a pulpy decoction of fermented grain.) The feast is interspersed with songs, music, and dancing, in which the women play a conspicuous part, and this not ungracefully. The dance is somewhat similar to the Romaika, though less vivacious. It is performed in a circle, holding each other’s hands. It principally consists in balancing the person first on one leg and then on the other; now advancing, now retreating, and then striking each other’s uplifted hands with considerable force.
During the week preceding the pasture season and Greek Easter, the streets of Constantinople and its suburbs are thronged with small parties of these Bulgarians, dressed in the sheep-skin caps and coarse cloth vests which form their constant attire. They come from the valleys, within a radius of forty miles, to bring lambs and kids for the Christian Easter, and to offer their services to guard horses at grass. In the mean time, they wander in groups through the streets, performing uncouth gambols to the noise of their own harsh voices and discordant bagpipes. These pleasing melodies are interlarded with pressing solicitations for money. On these occasions, the Bulgarians leave their wives at home; whereas the female tchinganny are alone sent to beg, while the men remain at the camp, where they pursue their usual avocations of shoeing-smiths and tinkers. Sometimes, however, they follow the less laborious avocations of musicians and jugglers, at the coffee-houses and places of public kief.
Female opera dancers in Italy, 1844
2. Dyslik are of calico, very wide, drawn close round the loins with an outchkoor, and tied at the knee, whence their literal name (knee things). The use of cotton stockings is gradually spreading, but they are not common, though the lower orders wear coarse worsted socks during winter. The vanity of some fair stocking-wearers having led them, when descending from arabas, to expose more of their ancles and superposed strata, than was considered correct, complaints on this score were made by sundry of the orthodox to the Sheikh Islam. This functionary, whose special duty it is to keep a watchful eye over Satan and his temptations, and to inculcate modesty and adherence to rules, issued a monitory firman in the spring of 1841.
It was thereby notified to those of the fair sex who might adopt superfluous innovations (stockings), that they were intended as additional coverings to the person, and not as pretexts for attracting impure eyes to forbidden regions. This firman was not more ridiculous than the police order of his Majesty the King of the Two Sicilies, enjoining all female opera dancers to clothe the upper portion of their nether persons in azure blue “Knee-things.”
The sultan's corps-de-ballet in Constantinople, 1844
When the Sultan receives one or more ladies in his state apartments, within the harem, he is attended by all the great ladies of the palace, and is waited upon by gedeklik, and also by the first ladies attached to the kadinns or sultanas who may be present. Sometimes the whole harem is admitted to his presence, and diverted with music, dances, and mimic exhibitions, performed by slaves constituting what may be termed the corps de ballet. The crowd of beauty, the splendour of dresses and jewellery, the richness of furniture, and brilliancy of illumination, are then said to rival the fairy creations of the Arabian tales; but, with the exception of one Frank lady, a Spaniard, residing at Pera, no stranger was ever admitted to these dazzling spectacles. The lady in question, gifted with great musical talents, was invited, by the Sultan’s command, to pass three of four days with the Kadinns and Sultanas.
Vere, Aubrey de: Picturesque sketches on Greece and Turkey. London, Richard Bentley, 1850, 2 vol.
A ball at the Lord High Commissioner's palace in Corfu, 1844~
The night of the Queen’s birth-day a grand ball was given at the Lord High Commissioner’s house. The palace looked every inch a palace, the whole of it being thrown open, brilliantly lighted, and filled with the chief people of the island, - not, I dare say, selected on any very exclusive principle. The scene was truly festal in aspect, and everywhere there was that air of enjoyment, the absence of which is perhaps the most striking characteristic of those great London parties at which the grave guests seem to be performing some penitential duty, remembering the sins of their youth, and fashionably repenting in purple and fine linen. While some were dancing others walked up and down a magnificent gallery which runs along the top of the portico, the whole length of the building. Above us stretched an awning which protected us from the dew; beneath us were countless flowers, which did not injure the air by breathing it before us; around us the fire-flies flashed, and from within the music of the band streamed through all the casements and floated far away over the town. It pursued me through the thickets and gardens in which I occasionally took refuge for the sake of enjoying cooler air, and looking back on the distant revelry through the bowers of lilacs and festoons of roses. From those gardens it was not easy to return to the palace; but their solitudes were made more delightful by the intrusion of the distant mirth.
Carnival in Athens, 1844~
In the neighbourhood of the Ilissus I was present at a festival, probably not unlike many which that stream witnessed three thousand years ago. Its office was to celebrate the beginning of Lent, or rather, perhaps, it should be regarded as the closing scene of the Carnival, which was impersonated in the form of an old man, and decapitated, amid many characteristic solemnities, at the Temple of Jupiter Olympius. Nearly all the inhabitants of Athens were present, from the oldest to the youngest, and joined in the jubilee with a sort of fierce and impassioned merriment, such as left an Italian festa far behind, and suggested to me the revels which had in old time wakened the echoes of “Old Bacchic Nysa, Maenad-haunted mountain.”
The king and queen rode about, with a placidity truly Teutonic, amid groups of peasantry who seldom interrupted their sports for a moment on the approach of the royal pair. They did not even take off their red caps, a want of good breeding which I was sorry to observe; though a few of the nearest pressed the right hand against the breast, and made the profound and dignified oriental bow. The rest danced around in circles - the men with the men, and the women with the women, and exhibited in the winged movements, not only of their flexible limbs but of the whole body, a combination of native grace and wild enthusiasm, such as can be paralleled alone by the dances depicted on an Etruscan vase. Never before was I so much impressed with the lamentable loss we westerns have sustained in the substitution of our hideous, unmeaning, sordid, and doleful costume for one on which the eye can always rest with pleasure and, where numbers are assembled, with delight. The Greeks, who are wholly indifferent to comfort - as we should probably be if we retained anything like their youthful elasticity and purity of bodily health - not only attach great importance to dress, but display a taste in the arrangement of it, and wear it with a grace which adds to the brilliant beauty of such an attire as theirs. On this occasion every one put forth his best. The upper part of the body was covered with a tight vest embroidered with gold; under that fluttered a white kilt or petticoat reaching the knee; lower down were leggings of every colour in the rainbow, and scarlet shoes. The grave lavender-coloured slopes were empurpled as the revelry swept over them; and, like the steed which glories in its rider, inanimate Nature seemed to catch the animation of her beautiful children.
In the midst of the dancers were numberless companies of peasants, seated round their rural feast. Each group had its thick and many-coloured carpet, on which the guests placed themselves, cross-legged, in a circle, and eat, as Homer says, “until their hearts were satisfied.” Homeric shouts of “inextinguishable laughter” rose up also among them from time to time; and many a trick was exhibited, and many a wild prank played, but without any admixture of vulgarity.
A ball at the royal palace, Athens, 1844~
I did not go to Athens for the sake of gay society; but, notwithstanding, had an opportunity of seeing something of it the day after my arrival, the occasion being that of a ball at the palace. The king and queen, in their deportment to their guests, were what I suppose is called “very gracious;” but as royal conversations at such times consist chiefly of questions, and these questions include no great variety, I need not trouble you with this part of the ceremonial. I have seldom witnessed a more brilliant spectacle than was presented by the motley assemblage of persons from all parts of the world collected on that occasion. Unhappily, that wretched attire which we of the West boast, and which was introduced when the activities of modern life had trampled its dignities under foot, has, to a great degree, superseded the national costume. It has not, however, done so entirely; and the splendid Greek dresses, thickly scattered among those more modern habiliments, invented, apparently, to show how like monkeys men can make themselves, gave the scene the character of a pageant. The Albanian dress, you are aware, is different from the Greek; but, in fact, each division of the mainland, and every island, has a costume of its own. The wearers of this dazzling attire were worthy of it. They had more the air of mountain chieftains, heads of clans, and feudal warriors, than of courtiers. Their gestures not only abounded in that perfect grace which the slightest consciousness destroys, but in dignity were actually imposing: their features resembled those of a statue; but their black eyes, flashing with an uneasy light, and black hair waving fiercely on their shoulders, were in strange contrast with the serenity of ancient sculpture.
To one of these majestic chiefs I was introduced. He must have been about six feet three inches in height; and the only fault in the grand spectacle which he presented was that his waist had been compressed till it was disproportionably small. On our being presented to each other he shook hands with me very warmly, and I hope that my low bow was as significant as Lord Burleigh’s shake of the head; since, knowing nothing of modern Greek, I had no other means of expressing my respect for one of the greatest warriors produced by the struggle for Greek independence. He at least knew how to make action significant. Some days previously he had met in society a lady remarkable for her beauty, whom he at once singled out as the object of his devotion. He paid her no compliments, even as to her dress, as a Frenchman might have done; neither did he talk sentiment like an Italian; nor scowl at a rival like a Spaniard; nor stand between her and the fire while he entertained her with political economy, or the details of his country sports, as an Englishman occasionally does on such occasions. He drew his sword, stated to her that the weapon had cut off the heads of thiry-five Turks - and then laid it at her feet. No doubt he would have said something pretty about laying his heart there also, if he had known that he had a heart; but the Greeks are an impassioned race, simple as well as wily, and not addicted to fine sentiments.
The festal character of the scene was heightened by the amusing contrast exhibited by three solemn Turks, who, hour after hour, sat cross-legged in silent gravity, seldom moving a fold of their cumbrous robes, and indulging in no gesticulation, except that now and then they stroked down their flowing beards with a soothing hand, and rolled their heavy eyes around with staid contempt upon a spectacle which to them must have looked several degrees more like Bedlam than a college of dancing Dervishes does to us. Of the ladies, no doubt they thought about as reverently as we do of the “artistes” who exhibit their dancing powers on the stage of the opera with such vivacity and impartiality as to give the fashionable youth, who regards them with a glass from his stall, little advantage over the honest man who has paid his five shillings and taken up his humbler station in the upper gallery.
On the beach, from Delphi to Salona, 1844~
With so much to detain me by the way, it was not till evening that I rejoined my boat’s crew on the shore. I soon found that had I returned earlier, it would have profited me nothing. The sound of the sea which I had heard from afar was an omen of commotion, though at that time there was little wind. Before I had gained the beach, the gale had broken loose, and nothing could induce the sailors to weigh anchor. The Greeks are expert sailors; but their coast has too many bays, inlets, and harbours, to allow of their being bold; and like men who are rich in alternatives, they are deficient in resolution. Late in the evening, finding that nothing was to be done, I landed again, leaving half a dozen boatmen on board, beside two or three peasants, to whom I had promised a passage to the other side of the gulf. I paced up and down by the sea-shore for an hour, during which the crew slept in the boat. Suddenly they awoke, and cheering up with the simultaneous impulse of a choir of birds when the shower has passed, began, not to sing like those birds, but to dance with a zeal, or rather a fury, not to be described. Flinging themselves into a circle, they gesticulated with a wild impassioned grace; each man wielded his body as if it had been the thyrsus of a Bacchanal. A song rose up among them, which seemed to throw fresh fuel on the flame; and for hours the dance raged, as Homer says, “with the might of inextinguishable fire.” I watched them till it was dark, and till I could see them only by the light of the torches which they had suspended in several parts of the boat. The later it grew the higher they bounded, and the more swiftly their circles revolved. You might have fancied that Bacchus and his wood-Gods had mingled invisibly with the crew, and amused themselves from time to time by lifting the living wheel, and spinning it around. As they descended again on the deck after each bound, the little boat plunged beneath them, sending a ripple in among the reeds, and dashing with spray the sea-pink with which the margin was braided.
That spray ere long began to glitter with a pale blue radiance; for the moon, which had long since sent two broad, diverging beams aloft into the sky, swam up at last with a wide and perfect circle above the black, eastern steeps of Parnassus, and, gliding on from cloud to cloud, cast a fitful illumination upon the snows that covered its western terraces. This apparition only called up a louder song; and it is singular enough, that though the revellers danced together with perfect regularity, there was hardly any attempt at time or measure in their chaunt. Every man exercised his private judgment on this subject, and the music consequently was edifying, rather from its independence than from its harmony. Notwithstanding this defect the dance was not more remarkable for its fierceness than for its grace, and the beauty dashed across its tempestuous movements, like that of forest branches waving in a storm. After the rising of the moon the people on the shore, resolving not to be outdone, assembled also, and amused themselves with game after game. One of their sports I remember thinking a dangerous precedent in revolutionary times. A number of men ranged themselves in a ring, while another set clambered up, and stood on their shoulders. Matters being thus prepared, the ring below began to spin round on its own axis with a gradually increasing velocity; the exalted personages above maintaining their footing as long as they could, but being, of course, one by one, tossed from their uneasy pedestals ere long. The dethroned powers then took their places beneath, those who had previously supported them mounting their shoulders, on the principle that “turn about is fair play.” Such a social amusement must be as dangerous a thing as that great Revolutionist, the French Shrug; and if I were a constitutional king, endeavouring to administer free institutions, (under which people never can take a joke, and often insist upon making inferences,) I would discourage it to the utmost of my power. The dance ended as suddenly as it had begun; and in a few minutes the people on the shore had dispersed, and those in the boat were asleep.
Dervishes in Constantinople, 1844~
Among the sights at Constantinople, which the traveller is most earnestly recommended to see, is that of the “dancing Dervishes.” It may be worth witnessing once; but few, I should think, would care to pay it a second visit.
This singular ceremonial takes place in a college of Dervishes within the region of Galata, and is open to the inspection of any one who does not object to discard his shoes and substitute for them a pair of slippers, with which he is speedily provided. The chapel is a small octagon building, part of which is railed off for the religious exercises of the brethren, while another portion of it is devoted to the use of strangers. The inclosed space was empty when I arrived. In a few minutes the Dervishes entered, wrapped in long dark cloaks with flowing sleeves, and bearing on their heads that high and tapering grey hat which marks their community. Bending gradually as they advanced, and kneeling till their foreheads touched the ground, they remained for some time absorbed in prayer. Again they bowed profoundly to their superior, an old man who stood in the centre of the circle, clothed in an ample pelisse of green silk and fur, and then took their stations around him, with their hands folded on their breasts, their eyes closed, and their faces, dim and abstracted, inclined gently forward.
From a gallery in the upper part of the building musical sounds were heard ere long, to which the Dervishes added their voices. To me nothing could be much more harsh and grating than such music, but over those who joined in it the effects which it exercised seemed magical. Gradually a deep enthusiasm appeared to fall on them; and that peculiar species of rotatory movement, improperly termed dancing commenced. Slowly at first they spun round, each revolving on his axis, and all preserving exactly the same relative position as they circled round and round the enclosure. During these extraordinary evolutions they extended their arms at each side; while their long and loose robes, grey and brown, spreading out all around them, as their gyrations became more rapid, imparted to their figures a pyramidal outline of which their sharp hats formed the apex. This mystical dance continued for the space of about five minutes; when stopping it in a moment and simultaneously, they stood still once more, each with his hands on his breast, and his face towards his Superior. After an interval of prayer the same ceremonial was gone through a second and a third time. There is something remarkable in the perfect regularity of the movement, and yet more so in the contrast between the extreme velocity which it reaches and the stillness of those pale absorbed countenances, slightly inclined toward the right shoulder, and calm as in a dream.
Schroeder, Francis: Shores of the Mediterranean, with sketches of travel 1843-45. London, John Murray, 1846, 2 volumes.
Dervishes in Constantinople, 1844
Next day was our last in the city of the sultan. I should not omit to mention, however, a visit we made on our return to Pera, the day before, to the mosque dancing Dervishes. As we entered the court, a crowd of Turkish women was collected about the doors, and after a little bucksheesh, and putting on of holy slippers, we shuffled along into the mosque. The church was shaped octagonally; the mihrab, or cynosure of the prayers, being opposite the entrance; and an area of some fifty feet diameter was fenced off like an arena for gladiators. The congregation were grouped around this railing, mopping and mowing in prayer, preparatory to the show, and among them I noticed several military officers, which proved a sort of liberty of conscience among the servants of the crown. This prayer lasted half an hour, and notwithstanding the threatening and straining of straps and braces, we were so tired that it was necessary “to do as the Turkeys did,” and we cross-legged our unbelieving selves. Presently the dervishes entered the arena to the number of fifteen or twenty, young and old, clad in white petticoats girt about their loins, and long drab-coloured robes hung from their shoulders. On their heads were tall, conical, white felt hats, without brims, and they wore long monkish beards, and sad, careworn faces. The chief priest seated himself on a rug, under some mystical flags at one end of the arena, and fronting him the rest commenced their mummeries. After an ordinary bowing down and worshipping they formed themselves in line, and marched round the enclosure, bowing in the most devoted manner as each passed the mihrab; meantime a litle Turkish drum and reed pipe struck up the most fantastic measure in a screened balcony over our heads, and each priest commenced to waltz, the literal and exact step of the valtz; the arms thrown over the heads, which drooped upon the shoulders, and the ceremony appeared to require the most painful attitude which could be taken. In this way they were to continue waltzing until they fell exhausted; but their endurance was greater than my patience, and I was obliged to leave the church in the midst of the dance!
Strange varieties of religious insanity there are among our ignorant and frightened kind! But how is it possible for human understandings to mistake so awfully the mere voice of Nature, which must contradict this impious misconception of God.
Skene, Felicia Mary: Wayfaring sketches among the Greeks and Turks by a seven years' resident in Greece. London, 1847.
A court ball in Athens, 1845
It is a gay scene, the first ball at court, which commences the Athenian winter, where the families who have not so much as heard of one another for the last six months meet once more to rejoice together that ´Les grandes chaleurs` are over at last. It is, however, a scene as peculair as it is gay.
One of the most striking peculiarities of a residence in Greece at the present day, is the close proximity into which we are brought with its great Revolution, that noble struggle for independence. Among the gay, light-hearted throng which crowds the reception-rooms of the monarch, it is indeed singular to meet with the most prominent characters of that terrible struggle; and to see the old Palikars, with their iron hands, and their breasts all scarred with the wounds from which they escaped as by a miracle, quietly enjoying the amusement they derive from watching the dancers, and beating time to the merry tunes of waltzes and quadrilles. Indeed old Colocotroni, the sturdy, dauntless chief, whose fame has even reached England, had very nearly terminated his wild, stirring career within the walls of the dancing-room. He left it alive and well at midnight, and at two in the morning he was dead.
The capitani, or chiefs, are each a perfect picture, when dressed out in the full splendour of the Greek costume; and their wives and daughters, who, on such occasions, generally carry their whole fortunes on their persons, sometimes wear their red caps, with the tassel, composed entirely of real pearls, while diamonds and jewels are lavishly disposed on the most conspicuous parts of their dress.
Lear, Edward: Journals of a landscape painter in Albania, Illyria. London, Richard Bentley, 1852.
The suicidal dance at Zalongo, Epirus, 1849
At three or four, in a pause between showers, I attempted to reach the rock of Zálongo, immediately above the village. This was the scene of one of those terrible tragedies so frequent during the Suliote war with Alì. At its summit twenty-two women of Sulí took refuge after the capture of their rock by the Mohammedans, and with their children awaited the issue of a desperate combat between their husbands and brothers, and the soldiers of the Vizír of Ioánnina. Their cause was lost; but as the enemy scaled the rock to take the women prisoners, they dashed all their children on the crags below, and joining their hands, while they sung the songs of their own dear land, they advanced nearer and nearer to the edge of the precipice, when from the brink a victim precipitated herself into the deep below at each recurring round of the dance, until all were destroyed. When the foe arrived at the summit, the heroic Suliotes were beyond his reach.
Village festive scene at Nomi, Thessaly, 24/05/1849
May 24. - The woes of Thessaly continued: once more by deep mire and incessant corn-fields, through pastures full of cranes, jackdaws, and storks, and always in hard rain as before. We kept on the right bank of the Peneus, as far as the bridge near the khan of Vlokhó, and in the evening found shelter once more in the house of Seid Efféndi, at Nomí.
Toward sunset it cleared a little; and as I arrived at the night’s halting-place, all the village was alive with the gaieties of a wedding. Like the dance L------ and I had seen at Aráchova, the women joined hand-in-hand, measuredly footing it in a large semi-circle, to a minor cadence played on two pipes; their dresses were most beautiful. Half the women wore black capotes, bordered with red; their hair plaited; long crimson sashes; worked stockings and red shoes: these were the unmarried girls. The other half - matrons, or betrothed -wore dazzling white capotes, worked at the collar and sleeves with scarlet; the skirts bordered with a regular pattern of beautiful effect, and the red fez nearly covered with silver coins, which hung in festoons on their necks, and half-way down the crimson sash tails.
Besides this the belt, six or eight inches broad, was covered with coins, and fastened by two embossed silver plates, four inches in diameter, and gave a beautiful finish to the dress; the aprons too were magnificently worked. Of this lively company, most were pleasing in countenance, but few could be called beautiful. The bride, one of the prettiest of the party, came round to every one present, and kissed their hand, placing it afterwards on her head, a favour she extended to me also as one among the spectators. Fatigued and wet through, I regretted not being able to avail myself of the opportunity of drawing this pretty village festive scene.
Skinner, James: A memoir by the author of "Charles Louder" (i.e. Maria Trench). London, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1883.
Peasant dance at Corfu, Ionian Islands, 29/05/1849
About two miles out of town is a beautiful place called Ascension; it is a pretty village, consisting of but few cottages, but a beautiful olive grove on a cliff just above the blue sea. To this place on Ascension day all the Greek peasants repair, and spend the day in roasting lambs whole (I saw about ten at one fire!) eating, drinking and fiddling. The country women, some coming from immense distances, appear in the gayest costumes, and women who on other days have to work in the fields and wear the coarsest clothing, on this day come arranged in the richest Genoa-embroidered velvet and real gold ornaments. Several of them had no less than six or seven heavy gold chains round their necks and their fingers covered with rings some as large as a half-crown piece, roughly set, but very fine stones. They would scorn to wear imitations and work hard and save all to buy this “Festa” finery. The richest dresses look the oldest, and, I am told have been handed down from generation to generation as heirlooms. The prettiest and most amusing sight was to see the peasants dance the “Romaika”. They stand in a circle, the men on one side and the women on the other, each person holding the end of a handkerchief, by which means the circle is united. Then they dance round very slowly to the music of two fiddles, the fiddlers standing in the center of the circle, which play a very monotonous tune, and both dancers and fiddlers look as intensely grave as though it were the most important moment of their lives and perhaps their gravity is the most ridiculous part of the scene. Everybody in Corfou goes out to see the “Festa”, some in boats and some in carriages, and certainly it is a pretty sight.
Athenian dance - 1849
Drawing by Joseph Scherer (1814-1891), 1849, pencil and white chalk on paper.
Αθηναϊκός χορός - 1849
Σχέδιο του Joseph Scherer (1814-1891), 1849, μολύβι και λευκή κιμωλία σε χαρτί.
(The Herod Atticus Theater in Athens) - 1849
Watercolor by Amédée de Taverne (1816-?), 1849, 20.5 x 46.5 cm.
(Το θέατρο Ηρώδου του Αττικού) - 1849
Υδατογραφία του Amédée de Taverne (1816-??), 1849, 20,5 x 46,5 εκ.
Greek quadrille (Quadrille grec) - before 1850
Lithograph, 1850 approximately, 21 x 14 cm.
Ελληνική καντρίλια - προ του 1850
Λιθογραφία, 1850 περίπου, 21 x 14 εκ.
Three women, a dancer from Chios in the middle - before 1850
Colored engraving, 1850 approximately, 16 x 24 cm.
Τρεις γυναίκες, στη μέση χορεύτρια από τη Χίο - προ του 1850
Επιχρωματισμένο χαρακτικό, 1850 περίπου, 16 Χ 24 εκ.
Greek warriors resting by the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth ~ 1850
Engraving by Fr. Hohe from a drawing by Karl Wilhelm Freiherr von Heydeck (1788-1861), 1850 approximately, 37 x 49 cm.
Ελληνες πολεμιστές αναπαύονται κοντά στον ναό του Απόλλωνα στην Αρχαία Κόρινθο - 1850 περίπου
Χαρακτικό του Fr. Hohe από σχέδιο του Karl Wilhelm Freiherr von Heydeck (1788-1861), 1850 περίπου, 37 x 49 εκ.
(Dance in front of the temple of Zeus Olympian) ~ 1850
Painting by Théodore C. F. d'Aligny (1798-1871), 1850 approximately, oil on canvas, 111 x 75 cm.
(Χορός μπροστά στο ναό του Ολυμπίου Διός) - 1850 περίπου
Ελαιογραφία του Théodore C. F. d'Aligny (1798-1871), 1850 περίπου, 111 x 75 εκ.
Clarke, William George: Peloponnesus, notes of study and travel. London, Parker, 1858.
Round dance at Andritsena in Arcadia, Morea, 1850~
Here begins a deep glen down which the river Phanari runs northward to join the Alpheus. Its steep sides are composed of grey limestone above, and red schistous earth below, and are covered with trees, oak, maple, and dark pine. As we ride along the high ground on the left bank the scenery becomes like a vast shrubbery, plots of maple, holly-leaved ilex, and arbutus hung with clematis and the creeping smilax, with smooth lawns and winding paths between. On a level spot across the glen we saw a group of peasants all in white, dancing the Romaika. We wanted only the pipe of Strephon or Corydon to make us feel that we were indeed in Arcadia. From the distance at which the dancers were our imagination had full play, and might picture the shepherds and shepherdesses as worthy personally, no less than locally, of the poet’s praise:-
Stay, gentle swains; for though in this disguise
I see bright honour sparkle through your eyes,
Of famous Arcady ye are, and sprung
Of that renowned flood so often sung,
Divine Alpheus, who by secret sluice
Stole under seas to meet his Arethuse;
And ye, the breathing roses of the wood,
Fair silver-buskin’s nymphs as great and good, &c. [Milton’s Arcades]
This dance has been supposed to be traditionally derived from the Cyclic dance of the ancients; but of course this cannot be proved. The figure is such as would suggest itself without the teaching of tradition; I have seen children in England dancing the Romaika many a time. An indefinite number of men and women of all ages take hold of hands and go round and round, with a hop and a slide, to a low monotonous chant, which keeps time, but cannot be said to have any tune.
A monotonous performance at Pyrgos, Morea, 1850~
By-and-bye we came in sight of Pyrgo, a considerable town of scattered white houses, lying on a sunny well-watered slope among vineyards and clumps of trees. We put up at the house of one Aristides Elianopoulos, a breeder of silkworms, which were piled tray upon tray in every corner of the house except that which was devoted to our use. There is an English vice-consul at Pyrgo, a Greek by birth, who, hearing of our arrival, came in all haste to express his regret that we had not gone to stay with him. We found, also, a friendly Zantiote who, volunteering his services as guide, took us about the town. At every convenient level spot there was a group formed to dance and to look on at the Romaika. I cannot believe that this dreary, monotonous performance is descended from any dance, Cyclic or other, of the ancient Greeks. Only a phlegmatic semi-oriental people could take any pleasure in it.
The "wide dancing-places" of Sicyon, Corinthia, Morea, 1850~
It is twice mentioned in the Iliad as a city under the dominion of Agamemnon: ‘Sicyon, where Adrastus was the first king,’ [Il. ii. 572] and ‘Sicyon with wide dancing-places.’ [Ib. xxiii. 299] This last is, like ‘well-built,’ a familiar epithet paid by way of compliment to those cities which have no peculiar and characteristic adjective of their own; were it less common, we might well suppose that the level site of...
Watson, Walter: Homewards from Constantinople. London, Thomas Harrison, 1854.
Greek village dance at Reng Keui, near Troy, 1850~
In the courtyard in front of Mr. Calvert's house we found nearly all the village population assembled, many of whom were dancing the Romaika, or some variation of it, and the rest were grouped round about as spectators of the performance. Two musicians, who played the bagpipe and three-stringed fiddle, were seated on a large stone; and the dancers, holding each other by the hand, formed a spiral line around them, arranged according to their height, commencing with the smallest children, whilst new-comers, men or women, from time to time joined on to the outer end. The dance was as simple as the music was monotonous, but the few notes of the one sufficed well enough for the few movements of the other. As far as I could discover, this Terpsichorean display consisted of a slow, solemn step to the right, one to the left, then the same backwards and forwards, so that the long spiral line of heads was made to sway to and fro, to open and close alternately. However unmeaning such amusement may appear to eyes accustomed to the more intricate, and lively movements of the dances of Western Europe, both performers and spectators, who were equally numerous, seemed to be well pleased with their national dance; and, to judge by the expression of their countenances, the bystanders could discover a degree of grace in the execution of the dance, which was certainly hid from unpractised eyes. One of these dancers might make the same remark if he saw a party in England walking through the quadrilles. I leave to others who may be so disposed, the task of tracing in this dance, if they can, some remnant of ancient rites and customs.
The Romaika, and other dances peculiar to the Levant, may be seen in all their varieties at Pera, during the festivities of Easter, which last three days. An amusing interlude occurs from time to time, for when the several groups are tired of dancing over the graves of their forefathers, in the great cemetery, where the fair is held, they form a long polyglot procession, and go through the whole length of the main street, leaping and shouting like mad, whilst the bagpipes, drum and fiddle, make a music fit only to enliven Tam O'Shanter's party of witches.
Miss J. Pardoe
Pardoe, Miss J.: The beauties of the Bosphorus. London, George, Virtue, 1858.
Bulgarian dancers at the Sweet Waters of Asia near Constantinople, 1850~
Wallachian and Jewish musicians are common; and the extraordinary length of time during which they will dwell upon a single note, with their heads thrown back, their mouths open, and their eyes fixed, and then follow it up with a whole sentence, rapidly and energetically uttered, is most singular. But these oriental troubadours are not without their rivals in the admiration of the veiled beauties who surround them; conjurors, improvvisatori, story-tellers, and Bulgarian dancers, are there also, to seduce away a portion of their audience; while the interruptions caused by fruit, sherbet, and water-venders are incessant. They are, however, the most popular of all; and a musician, whose talent is known and acknowledged, seldom fails to pass a very profitable day at the Asian Sweet Waters on every occasion of festival.
Συναντά κανείς συνήθως Βλάχους και Εβραίους μουσικούς. Είναι πολύ παράξενο το εξαιρετικά μεγάλο χρονικό διάστημα που μπορούν να μείνουν πάνω σε μια μόνο νότα, με τα κεφάλια τους ριγμένα πίσω, τα στόματά τους ανοιχτά και τα μάτια απλανή, και κατόπιν να την συνεχίζουν με μια ολόκληρη πρόταση, αρθρωμένη γρήγορα και ενεργητικά. Ομως αυτοί οι ανατολίτες τροβαδούροι έχουν τους ανταγωνιστές τους στο θαυμασμό των ωραίων γυναικών με το κρυμμένο πρόσωπο που τους περιβάλλουν. Τσαρλατάνοι, "αυτοσχεδιαστές", παραμυθάδες και χορευτές ή χορεύτριες από τη Βουλγαρία είναι και αυτοί εκεί για να προσελκύσουν ένα μέρος του ακροατηρίου τους, ενώ οι διακοπές που προκαλούν οι πλανόδιοι πωλητές φρούτων, σερμπετιών και νερού είναι αδιάκοπες. Εντούτοις είναι οι πιο δημοφιλείς απ' όλους, κι ένας μουσικός με γνωστό και αναγνωρισμένο ταλέντο σπάνια δεν θα φύγει πολύ κερδισμένος μετά από μια γιορτινή μέρα στα Γλυκά Νερά της Ασίας.
Young Jewish musicians and dancers at Constantinople, 1850~
The Coffee-Kiosque chosen by the artist for his sketch, is that of Pieri Pasha, near the Arsenal, and overlooking the harbour - a position eminently calculated to render it popular. The moving panorama which it commands, is a perpetual source of interest; and the breeze comes softly from the sea of Marmora, with freshness and perfume on its wing.
The amusements provided, or rather customary, at these places of resort, are numerous, but seldom commence before noon, the morning passing listlessly away in the gossipry of which mention has already been made. They consist principally of music, (the performers being usually young Jews,) improvvisation, matches at tric-trac, and an exhibition somewhat resembling a magic-lantern in effect, though not in principle; the mover of the puppets occupying an angle of the apartment screened off, and presenting a front covered with muslin stretched over a frame, against which the puppets are pressed, to exhibit their grotesque antics. Their performance is accompanied by the ceaseless recitative of the exhibitor, who must be a decided humourist, if not a genuine wit, to judge by the effect of his oration.
The Improvvisatori generally accompany themselves on a rude sort of guitar, which they twang most unmercifully, as they pour forth their lays of love, or their tales of tradition, in a heavy monotonous, sleep-inspiring drawl, never seeming themselves to become inspired by their subject; while their hearers, apparently quite insensible to the soporific medium through which the legends are conveyed, frequently betray extreme emotion as they listen, grasping the hilts of the handjars [daggers] in their girdles, setting their teeth firmly, clenching their fingers rigidly upon their palms, and drawing their breath hard, as though their respiration were impeded.
The Hebrew music already mentioned comprises several performers, and the instruments are commonly a small Arab drum, two or three bad guitars, and a tambourine; these are relieved by the voices of the younger boys, which are generally very thin and shrill, and they sometimes accompany their songs with a heavy languishing movement - a caricature of the graceful dance of the Harem.
Το καφέ-κιόσκι που διάλεξε ο καλλιτέχνης γι' αυτό το σκίτσο είναι του Πιερή-Πασά, κοντά στα Ναυπηγεία, με απλωμένο κάτω του όλο το λιμάνι - μια θέση σοφά διαλεγμένη ώστε να το κάνει πολύ δημοφιλές. Το σε συνεχή κίνηση πανόραμα που προσφέρει είναι μια μόνιμη πηγή ενδιαφέροντος, και η αύρα έρχεται απαλά από τη θάλασσα του Μαρμαρά με δροσιά και άρωμα στα φτερά της.
Οι διασκεδάσεις που προσφέρονται συνήθως σε τέτοια κέντρα αναψυχής είναι πολλές αλλά σπάνια αρχίζουν πριν απ' το μεσημέρι, οπότε το πρωί περνάει ράθυμα με το κουτσομπολιό που αναφέραμε προηγουμένως. Συνίστανται συνήθως σε μουσική (οι μουσικοί είναι συνήθως νεαροί Εβραίοι), σε "αυτοσχεδιασμούς", παρτίδες ταβλιού και κάτι επιδείξεις που μοιάζουν κάπως με "μαγικό φανάρι" ως προς το αποτέλεσμα αλλά όχι ως προς την αρχή. Ο μαριονετίστας καταλαμβάνει μια γωνία διαχωρισμένη από την υπόλοιπη αίθουσα με μία πρόσοψη σκεπασμένη με μια μουσελίνα τεντωμένη πάνω σε ένα πλαίσιο, πάνω στο οποίο πιέζονται οι μαριονέτες καθώς δείχνουν τα άχαρα κόλπα τους. Η παράσταση συνοδεύεται από την ακατάπαυστη λογοδιάρροια του εκτελεστή, που πρέπει να είναι ταλαντούχος χαριτολόγος, αν όχι πραγματικός κωμικός, αν κρίνει κανείς από τις αντιδράσεις των ακροατών.
Οι "αυτοσχεδιαστές" συνοδεύουν συνήθως τον εαυτό τους με ένα είδος πρωτόγονης κιθάρας που τη χτυπούν χωρίς οίκτο ξετυλίγοντας ιστορίες αγάπης ή παραδοσιακά παραμύθια με ένα βαρύ, μονότονο, υπνωτικό παραλήρημα, χωρίς ποτέ να δείχνουν ότι εμπνέονται από το θέμα. Οι θεατές τους μένουν προφανώς απρόσβλητοι από το ναρκωτικό μέσο με το οποίο μεταδίδονται οι θρύλοι, και συχνά εκφράζουν την ακραία συγκίνησή τους καθώς ακούν, αρπάζοντας τη λαβή από το χαντζάρι (μαχαίρι) που έχουν στο ζωνάρι, σφίγγοντας τα δόντια, πιάνοντας την παλάμη δυνατά με τα δάχτυλα και ?? αν να δυσκολεύονταν να αναπνεύσουν.
Η εβραϊκή μουσική που αναφέρθηκε περιλαμβάνει περισσότερους από έναν εκτελεστές και τα όργανα είναι συνήθως ένα μικρό αραβικό ταμπούρλο, δύο ή τρεις κακοφτιαγμένες κιθάρες και ένα ντέφι. Αυτά εναλλάσσονται με τις φωνές των νεαρότερων αγοριών, που γενικά είναι λεπτές και διαπεραστικές, τα οποία κάποτε συνοδεύουν τα τραγούδια τους με μια βαριά ηδυπαθή κίνηση, καρικατούρα του χαριτωμένου χορού του χαρεμιού.
Spratt, Captain T.A.B.: Travels and researches in Crete. 2 volumes. London, Ivan Voorst, 1865.
In the labyrinth of Gortyna, Crete, 1850~
But during the long Revolution of 1822 to 1828 the Christian inhabitants of the adjacent villages, for months together, lived in this labyrinth for security, merely sallying out by day to till their lands or to gather their crops when it was safe to do so, which accounted for the familiarity of our guides with its intricacies. The sides of the widest passages near the entrance (which, however, were seldom more than 12 or 14 feet broad, and from 7 to 8 feet high) had, in consequence, narrow compartments, formed of walls of loose stones, reaching to about half the height of the passage, that is, about 4 feet. These served as their several abodes and sleeping-places; and during the first quarter of an hour after we had entered, the older guides were occasionally pointing out those which had been used by themselves or their friends, as we passed along and they recognized them, calling them the speti (house) of a Demetri or Joannaki; but, although dry, they were not very inviting abodes for human beings for a lengthened period. Still, as the inmates felt themselves safe from their enemies without, the sense of security gave doubtless an enchantment to the spot, not comprehensible to us; and on coming to what appeared to be a rather large vaulted natural cavern, where there was a small drip of water from the roof, and the only spring in the labyrinth, they pointed it out to us with evident pleasure and pride, as it doubtless awakened the recollection of many hours of mirth, it having been, as they said, the place in which they used to dance on festive occasions - their ball-room in the bowels of Ida! Doubtless there were Ariadnes and Theseuses there in modern times, as in the ancient labyrinth.
Λαβύρινθος κατοικούμενος από νυχτερίδες, καταφύγιο κατά την Επανάσταση
Αλλά κατά τη μακρόχρονη επανάσταση από το 1822 έως το 1828 οι χριστιανοί κάτοικοι των κοντινών χωριών έμεναν για μήνες ολόκληρους σ' αυτόν τον λαβύρινθο για ασφάλεια, βγαίνοντας με προφυλάξεις την ημέρα για να καλλιεργήσουν τα χωράφια τους ή να μαζέψουν τη σοδειά τους όταν δεν υπήρχε κίνδυνος. Ετσι εξηγείτο η εξοικείωση των οδηγών μας με τους δαιδάλους του. Οι πλευρές των πλατύτερων διαδρόμων κοντά στην είσοδο (που είχαν σπάνια περισσότερο από 12-14 πόδια πλάτος και 7-8 πόδια ύψος) είχαν σαν συνέπεια στενά διαμερίσματα σχηματισμένα από ξερολιθιά που έφταναν περίπου στο μισό ύψος του διαδρόμου, δηλαδή περίπου 4 πόδια. Αυτά χρησίμευαν σαν χώροι διαμονής και ύπνου. Το πρώτο τέταρτο της ώρας αφότου μπήκαμε, καθώς περνούσαμε μπροστά τους, οι πιο ηλικιωμένοι από τους οδηγούς μας έδειχναν πού και πού αυτά που είχαν χρησιμοποιηθεί από τους ίδιους ή φίλους τους και τα αναγνώριζαν λέγοντας "Να το σπίτι του Δημήτρη, ή του Γιαννάκη". Αν και δεν είχαν υγρασία, δεν ήταν ιδιαίτερα κατάλληλα για ανθρώπινες κατοικίες επί ένα παρατεταμένο διάστημα. Ομως, καθώς οι τρόφιμοί τους αισθάνονταν ασφαλείς μακριά από τους εχθρούς τους, αυτή η αίσθηση ασφάλειας προσέδιδε αναμφίβολα στην τοποθεσία κάποια γοητεία που εμείς δεν θα μπορούσαμε να συλλάβουμε. Φτάνοντας σ' αυτό που έδειχνε να είναι ένα μάλλον μεγάλο φυσικό σπήλαιο με θόλο, όπου έσταζε λίγο νερό από την οροφή, η μόνη πηγή του λαβύρινθου, μας το έδειξαν με έκδηλη χαρά και περηφάνια. Σίγουρα ξυπνούσε αναμνήσεις πολλών χαρούμενων ωρών, αφού, όπως είπαν ήταν το μέρος όπου χόρευαν τις γιορτόμερες - η δική τους αίθουσα χορού μέσα στα σπλάχνα του όρους Ιδα ! Υπήρξαν εκεί χωρίς αμφιβολία Αριάδνες και Θησείς της σύγχρονης εποχής, όπως στον αρχαίο λαβύρινθο.
Crowe, Eyre Evans: The Greek and the Turk; or powers and prospects in the Levant. London, Bentley, 1853. Reprinted by Elibron Classics.
A ballerina as governess in a harem, Constantinople, 1850~
From this, to the feeling of the necessity of preparing women to play an independent, self-respecting, and self-preserving part, and the sense of how indispensable a certain education even to this, — was a chain of ideas and consequences not difficult to string together; and so, after a year or eighteen months' hard labour, in the way of exhortation, it was agreed by the high authorities, that a governess was to be introduced into the harem. A governess! It was no easy matter to get one that was fit, nor yet facile to get one that would consent. The task of finding such a person was, however, undertaken, and most happily accomplished. But lo! when the governess was forthcoming, her place was already filled. The Pasha and the Hanoum had, in the meantime, heard of a most wonderful institutrice, a French lady, skilled in all accomplishments, possessed of every language and every virtue. On inquiry it was discovered that the lady in question had been on the boards of the French stage, not only as actress but as ballerine. What inducement had prevailed upon her to exchange so captivating a profession for a journey to Constantinople, did not appear. But installed she was as institutrice and teacher of all physical accomplishments and moral virtues to the rising generation of the Harem.
Disbelief in the whirling dervishes, Constantinople, 1850~
I, of course, went to see the Dancing Dervishes on one side of the Bosphorus, and the Howling Dervishes on the other. Both struck me, I must own, as a very zealously and sincerely played piece of acting. But acting it was, I am convinced. Here are those men and dervishes paid, clothed, kept, and nobly housed, on the condition of going daily through a series of distortions, imitating those into which men are thrown by religious zeal in its most barbarous, senseless, and physical state. There is a demand for these exhibitions, created by the continued influx into Constantinople of the wildest Asiatic savages. The government has founded the establishments, and they are kept up just like theatres, to amuse the groundlings. Foreigners, for want of any other theatrical exhibition, of course frequent them, and bring their half-dozen curieux of a day to form an audience. It is a vulgar, popular trick of trade, which Mahometanism has found it prudent to adopt, just as Christian churches adopted divers of the absurdities of Paganism.
It is certainly the most solemn and decorously got up humbug that can be imagined; and if one could suppose that it was established by some ironical philanthropist, who sought to give a vivid proof of the folly of pretending to attain goodness by asceticism, and wisdom by setting the brain twisting and wool-gathering, the thing would be perfect. Here is a temple, really beautiful. Nothing more decorous was ever devoted to religious contemplation or repose. And when you first behold the inhabitants of this sacred abode, you might suppose them lost in religious contemplation. But what religious ideas could have occupied their minds, when they are seen to start from repose into neither more nor less than a dance, or waltz solo performed to a chant, in which by degrees the performer loses all cognisance of what is around him, or of what he himself is performing; and then claims from you the credit of having reached a perfect state of ecstasy, because he has become inebriated by imitating the evolutions of a wheel ?