« ForrigeFortsett »
waters; and were destined by the gods to protect the entrance of the Euxine against the eye of profane curiosity.' From the Cyanean rocks to the point and harbour of Byzantium, the winding length of the Bosphorus extends about sixteen miles,6 and its most ordinary breadth may be computed at about one mile and a half. The new castles of Europe and Asia are constructed, on either continent, upon the foundations of two celebrated temples, of Serapis and of Jupiter Urius. The old castles, a work of the Greek emperors, command the narrowest part of the channel, in a place where the opposite banks advance within five hundred paces of each other. These fortresses were restored and strengthened by Mahomet the Second, when he meditated the siege of Constantinople ;h but the Turkish conqueror was most probably ignorant, that near two thousand years before his reign, Darius had chosen the same situation to connect the two continents by a bridge of boats.1 At a small distance from the old castles we discover the little town of Chrysopolis, or Scutari, which may almost be considered as the Asiatic suburb of Constantinople. The Bosphorus, as it begins to open into the Propontis, passes between Byzantium and Chalcedon. The latter of those cities was built by the Greeks, a few years before the former; and the blindness of its founders, who overlooked the superior advantages of the opposite coast, has been stigmatized by a proverbial expression of contempt.*
'The deception was occasioned by several pointed rocks, alternately covered and abandoned by the waves. At present there are two small islands, one towardi either shore: that of Europe is distinguished by the column of Pompey.
8 The ancients computed one hundred and twenty stadia, or fifteen Roman miles. They measured only from the new castles, but they carried the st raits as far as the town of Chalcedon.
h Ducas Hist. c. 34-. Leunclavius Hist. Turcia Musulmanlca, lib. 15. p. 577. Under the Greek empire these castles were used as state prisons, under the tremendous name of Lethe, or towers of oblivion.
1 Darius engraved in Greek and Assyrian letters, on two marble columns, the names of his subject nations, and the amazing numbers of his land and sea forces. The Byzantines afterward transported these columns into the city, and used them for the altars of their tutelar deities. Herodotus, lib. 4. c. 87.
k Namque artissimo inter Europam Asiam<rae divortio Byzantium in extremi Enropa .posnere GrtEci, quibus, Pythium Apollinem consulentibus ubi conderent urbem, redditum oraculum est, quscrerent sedem cteorum tenis adversarn. E4 ambage Chalcedonii monstrabautur, quod priores illuc adverti, pnevisa loconnn utilitate pejora legissent. Tacit. Annul. 12. 62.
The harbour of Constantinople, which may be considered as an arm of the Bosphorus, obtained, in a very remote period, the denomination of the Golden Horn. The curve which it describes might be compared to the horn of a stag, or, as it should seem, with more propriety, to that of an ox.1 The epithet of golden was expressive of the riches which every wind wafted from the most distant countries into the secure and capacious port of Constantinople. The river Lycus, formed by the conflux of two little streams, pours into the harbour a perpetual supply of fresh water, which serves to cleanse the bottom, and to invite the periodical shoals of fish to seek their retreat in that convenient recess. As the vicissitudes of tides are scarcely felt in those seas, the constant depth of the harbour allows goods to be landed on the quays without the assistance of boats; and it has been observed, that in many places the largest vessels may rest their prows against the houses, while their sterns are floating in the water." From the mouth of the Lycus to that of the harbour, this arm of the Bosphorus is more than seven miles in length. The entrance is about five hundred yards broad, and a strong chain could be occasionally drawn across it, to guard the port and city from the attack of a hostile navy."
The Pro- Between the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, P01"". the shores of Europe and Asia receding on either side enclose the sea of Marmara, which was known to the ancients by the denomination of Propontis. The navigation from the issue of the Bosphorus to the entrance of the Hellespont, is about one hundred and twenty miles. Those who steer their westward course through the middle of the Propontis, may at once descry the high lands of Thrace and Bithynia, and never lose sight of the lofty summit of mount Olympus, covered with eternal snows." They leave on the left a deep gulf, at the bottom of which Nicomedia was seated, the imperial residence of Diocletian; and they pass the small islands of Cyzicus and Proconnesus before they cast anchor at Gallipoli; where the sea,which separates Asia from Europe, is again contracted into a narrow channel. The Hei- The geographers who, with the most skilful lespont accuracy, have surveyed the form and extent of the Hellespont, assign about sixty miles for the winding course, and about three miles for the ordinary breadth, of those celebrated straits.p But the narrowest part of the channel is found to the northward of the old Turkish castles between the cities of Cestus and Abydus. It was here that the adventurous Leander braved the passage of the flood for the possession of his mistress.q It was here likewise, in a place where the distance between the opposite banks cannot exceed five hundred paces, that Xerxes imposed a stupendous bridge of boats, for the purpose of transporting into Europe a hundred and seventy myriads of barbarians/ A sea contracted within such narrow limits, may seem but ill to deserve the singular epithet of broad, which Homer, as well as Orpheus, has frequently bestowed on the Hellespont. But our ideas of greatness are of a relative nature: the traveller, and especially the poet, who sailed along the Hellespont, who pursued the windings of the stream, and contemplated the rural scenery, which appeared on every side to terminate the prospect, insensibly lost the remembrance of the sea; and his fancy painted those celebrated straits, with all the attributes of a mighty river flowing with a swift current, in the midst of a woody and inland country, and at length, through a wide mouth, discharging itself into the ./Egean or Archipelago.' Ancient Troy,1 seated on an eminence at the foot of mount Ida, overlooked the mouth of the Hellespont, which scarcely received an accession of waters from the tribute of those immortal rivulets theSimoisand Scamander. The Grecian camp had stretched twelve miles along the shore from the Sigaean to the Rhaetean promontory; and the flanks of the army were guarded by the bravest chiefs •who fought under the banners of Agamemnon. The first of those promontories was occupied by Achilles with his invincible Myrmidons, and the dauntless Ajax pitched his tents on the other. After Ajax had fallen a sacrifice to his disappointed pride, and to the ingratitude of the Greeks, his sepulchre was erected on the ground where he had defended the navy against the rage of Jove and of Hector; and the citizens of the rising town Rhfeteum celebrated his memory with divine honours."
1 Strabo, lib. 10. p. 492. Most of the antlers are now broken off; or, to speak less figuratively, most of the recesses of the harbour are filled up. See Gyll . de Bosphoro Thracio, lib. 1. c. 5.
m Procopius de /Kdiliriis, lib. 1. c. 15. His description is confirmed by modem travellers. See Thevenot, part 1. lib. 1. c. 15. Tournefort, lettre H. Niebuhr Voyage d'Arable, p. 22.
"See Ducange, C. P. lib. 1. part 1. c. 16. and his Observations sar Villebardouin, p. 289. The chain was drawn from the Acropolis, near the modern Kiosk, to the tower of Galata; and was supported at convenient distances by large wooden piles.
0 Thevenot (Voyages au Levant, part 1. lib. 1. c. 14.) contracts the measure to one hundred and twenty-five small Greek miles Belon (Observations, lib. 2. c. 1.) gives a good description of the Propontis, but contents himself with the vague expression of one day and one night's sail. When Sandys (Travels, p. 21.) talks of one hundred and fifty furlongs in length as well as breadth, we can only suppose some mistake of the press in the text of that judicious traveller.
i See an admirable dissertation of M. d'Anville upon the Hellespont or Dardanelles, in the Memoires de 1'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. 28. p. 31 8 —346. Yet even that ingenious geographer is too fond of supposing new, and perhaps imaginary measures, for the purpose of rendering ancient writers as accurate as himself. The stadia employed by Herodotus in the description of the Euxine, the Bosphorus, &c. (lib. 4. c. 85.) must undoubtedly be all of the same species; but it « seems impossible to reconcile them either with truth or with each other.
1 The oblique distance between Cestus and Abydus was thirty stadia. The improbable tale of Hero and Leander is exposed by M. Mahudcl, but is defended on the authority of poets and medals by M. de la Nauze. See the Academic des Inscriptions, tom. 7. Hist. p. 73. Mem. p. 240.
r See the seventh book of Herodotus, who has erected an elegant trophy to his own fame and to that of his country. The review appears to have been made with tolerable accuracy; but the vanity, first of the Persians, and afterward of the
Greeks, was interested to magnify the armament and the victory. I should much doubt whether the invaders have ever outnumbered the men of any country which they attacked.
• See Wood's Observations on Homer, p. 320. I have, with pleasure, selected this remark from an author who in general seems to have disappointed the expectation of the public as a critic, and still more as a traveller. He had visited the banks of the Hellespont; he had read Strabo; he ought to have consulted the Roman itineraries; how was it possible for him to confound Ilium and Alexandria Troas, (Observations, p. 340,341.) two cities which were sixteen miles distant from each other!
« Demetrius of Scepsis wrote sixty books on thirty lines of Homer's catalogue. The thirteenth book of Strabo is sufficient for our curiosity.
• Strabo, lib. 13. p. 595. The disposition of the ships, which were drawn upon
Before Constantine gave a just preference to the situation of Byzantium, he had conceived the design of erecting the seat of empire on this celebrated spot, from whence the Romans derived their fabulous origin. The extensive plain which lies below ancient Troy, towards the Rhaetean promontory and the tomb of Ajax, was first chosen for his new capital; and though the undertaking was soon relinquished, the stately remains of unfinished walls and towers attracted the notice of all who sailed through the straits of the Hellespont/
^e are at present qualified to view the advantageous position of Constantinople, which appears to have been formed by nature for the centre and capital of a great monarchy. Situated in the forty-first degree of latitude, the imperial city commanded, from her seven hills,J the opposite shores of Europe and Asia; the climate was healthy and temperate, the soil fertile, the harbour secure and capacious, and the approach on the side of the continent was of small extent and easy defence. The Bosphorus and the Hellespont may be considered as the two gates of Constantinople; and the prince who possessed those important passages, could always shut them against a naval enemy, and open them to the fleets of commerce. The preservation of the eastern provinces may, in some degree, be ascribed to the policy of Constantine; as the barbarians of the Euxine, who in the preceding age had poured their armaments into the heart of the Mediterranean, soon desisted from the exercise of piracy, and despaired of forcing this insurmountable barrier. When
dry land, and the posts of Ajax and Achilles, are very clearly described by Homer. See Iliad, 9. 220.
* Zosirn. lib. 2. p. 105. Sozomen, lib. 2. c. 3. Theophanes, p. 18. Nicephorus Callistus, lib. 7. p. 48. Zonaras, tom. 2. lib. 13. p. 6. Zosimus places the aew city between Ilium and Alexandria, but this apparent difference may be reconciled by the large extent of its.circumference. Before the foundation of Constantinople, Thessalonica is mentioned by Cedrenus, (p. 283.) and Sardica by Zonaras, as the intended capital. They both suppose, with very little probability, that the emperor, if he had not been prevented by a prodigy, would have repeated the mistake of the blind Chalcedonians.
J Pocock's Description of the East, vol. 2. part 2. p. 127. His plan of the seven hills is clear and accurate. That traveller is seldom so satisfactory.