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waves, echoes to my listening ear with the thunder of conquerors, under whose mighty tramp those bills and mountains were shaken to their foundation. Here powerful kingdoms flourished and vanished. Oriental and Occidental civilizations collided and combined. The greatest religious minds of the world gathered here to solve the mysteries of religion. The song of poets and eloquence of orators blended here with the profound thought of philosophy. Constantinople! the great bone of contention of all nations,
of all ages.
Give me Constantinople and you may have the remainder of Europe,” said Alexander of Russia, when he met Napoleon the Great, to discuss with him their mutual interests. “What!” answered Napoleon, with a very emphatic exclamation, "Give you Constantinople? Never! Why, that is the key to the whole situation." And as ancient Byzantium, it offered to the mind of Constantine an ideal military position, fit bulwark of Christianity against Asiatic fanaticism, and he accordingly made it the new capital of his empire in 330 A. D., giving it his own name.
As a radial point for commerce, too, it is unsurpassed. Here the artizan finds his skill in demand to supply the wants of all the nationalities of the world. In this mart the astute merchant finds a market for his wares from whatever clime they may be brought. Its avenues of trade radiate to all parts of industrial Europe. Northward it is the gateway to Russia, southward it includes all Africa in its commercial relations. Through the Suez canal is the
easy route to India, and eastward are the pillars of Hercules-a living, breathing cosmos of the human race. Moreover, the city is to-day, as of ancient times, the ecclesiastical center of surrounding nations. This is the seat of the Armenian Patriarch, the Exarch of the Bulgarians, the Patriarch of the Greeks, the Azkabid of the Protestant Armenians, the Monsignore of the Catholics, Khahambashi or high priest of the Jews, and Sheick-u'ul Islam of the Mohammedans.
The climate is most salubrious and healthy, the skies of purest azure blue. The sunlight glare is lost in invisible vapors from the near approaching seas, which have given the city the ancient title of “The City of the Three Seas.” Cooling zephyrs blow almost constantly over the city's hilly slopes and through her great watery highways.
Byron has said, “It is a delicious sight to see what Heaven hath done for the delicious land;" and the Greek colony that founded here ancient Byzantium, must have exclaimed in their hearts: “Here is indeed the earthly paradise, fit dwelling place for gods."
At sunrise, the vista to the eastward is delightful, the rosy glow of snow-clad Mysian Olympus making on the mind of the beholder an impression never to be forgotten. The waters which confront the observer at nearly every point by day, produce a sublime effect in the moonlight. The city is swathed about in a mantle of glistening whiteness. Her domes, palaces and minarets, refulgent in the silvery light, compel one to exclaim in rapture, “Bride of the Orient! would that as much had been done by thine inhabitants to make thee good and desirable as nature and art have done to make thee beautiful," for when we enter the city's heart, the poetry of the distant view is lost in the medley of men and animals contending for a foot-hold in the filthy streets which we tread. Numerous dogs are seen, and the fact that they are artful and cunning dodgers is understood by the way they prefer to collide with the legs of pedestrians, in preference to the heels of donkeys or the fore-feet of camels. In the hum and buzzing of the streets, scores of them will claim the right of way when contesting for a bone, and men afoot may find their best clothes where their feet should be in the mad rush of these useless brutes. The noisy jargon of many languages, the jostling of porters under heavy loads on backs, with the venders of ice-cream, sherbet, etc., all mingling with the donkeys, horses and “precious” dogs in the highway, makes a street scene unparalleled in the world. Are you weary of the street ? Step into a cafe, always near at hand, and note the quiet comfort of Turkish luncheon at all hours of the day. Women are not seen here. The servants are neat and tidy. Viands served are clean and wholesome. Coffee is the first thing; smoking follows the meal. Here we have time to reflect on what we have seen as we came along Mosques, tombs, and the ruins of former greatness in irregular succession. Of these, the tombs of the founders of mosques are the most beautiful and richly embellished, the railing within sometimes of solid silver. The mosques, too, are very magnificent. They are more than five hundred and fifty in number. Among them St. Sophia, the mosque of Sultan Achmed and that of Suleiman are the most elegant and imposing structures in the Sultan's empire, and deserve special mention. The latter, located on the Golden Horn, was modeled after St. Sophia. It has four minarets with three galleries. The interior of the shrine is commensurate with its external grandeur. The mosque of Sultan Achmed, erected in 1610, is the only one in the Turkish empire that has six minarets. On account of its convenient location in the Hippodrome, it has always been the scene of the Sultan's triumphal processions on annual festivals and other religious celebrations. Its interior is spacious and airy, but it is to St. Sophia that we must turn for the real, dazzling embodiment of Oriental magnificence.
While in Constantinople, I was anxious to visit this most historic shrine of St. Sophia, but I was warned that no native Christian visitor is allowed within its hallowed precincts. Upon hearing this caution, I was the more determined to enter. "Where there is a will there is a way." My companions and myself, uniformed in Turkish costume, speaking Turkish, with a grave look passed in. I never shall forget the effect wrought upon me by the sight of this sacred edifice. I was compelled to pause hours in a spell of mighty wonderment. I could almost see the Emperor Constantine in his last fervent supplications to God. I could almost see men, women and children as they rushed from the fire and sword without, into the holy