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The Oriental skies! far-famed and far sung, over-reaching every poet-land of mystery and dream! Heeding its wooing whisper, we leave the practical world behind, while our imaginations wing themselves on languid, listless winds, that know not cloud nor storm, save as recollection past.
They sing us on our flight the songs of the olden poets; they tell in sighing cadences the wondrous yearnings of heroic souls, who thought to know the infinite and solve the secrets which the blue depths well knew, but pityingly withheld. We journey to a land where faith is not a miracle, and where were nursed and suckled the infant religions of our world. Grown hoary with age, and wanderers far from home, they point with admonitions for remembrance to the land of their nativity, under oriental skies.
We wander back in time, and look upon the Son of Man, the Savior of the race, as he treads with holy feet the holy soil of Galilee. Back, back we go, to stand in purity and awe amid the lavished wealth of God, the paradise of love and flowers. We cannot go farther. And it is here, in this Eden of Armenia, whose beauty, blighted by the sin of centuries, still sings in tender tones, its lullaby over our race's cradle, we are, for the most part, to tarry with the reader.
“We are now to tread upon a soil rich in interesting and splendid recollections.”—Malte-Brun.
APHE land of song and poetry, the blood-stained battle
ground of empires, the garden of Eden and the cradle of the human race-such is Asia Minor.
There, rising in distinct outline against the blue sky of the Orient is the snow-capped Ararat, the sole unbattered sign-board of the realms of the pre-historic. There, silent memorials of an eventful past, lie the ruins of magnificent temples and desecrated altars, inscribed indelibly with the impress of high civilization and successive religions, now dead forever. There, in short, stretches a country rendered by its eventful history the most interesting to mankind of any land, of any continent. Her position as a natural centre of three continents had a tremendous influence upon her commerce and civilization; and not only were her institutions thus affected by the surrounding world, but through her commerce she exerted a like influence upon others.
No region, save that of the Sphynx, offers such inviting opportunities to the lover of antiquarian lore. Amid her
fair plains, deep valleys, mountain ranges and hills, where nature's gifts are so profusely bestowed, are strewn confused masses of temples, theaters, tombs, walls, columns, sculptures-memorials of people long overthrown and vanquished.
The dust of centuries is heaped over the site of her
ruins, once the abode of “giants"-military, scientific, artistic, theological.
In this focus of continents, nation after nation, diverse and antagonistic in race and language, have crossed swords for the possession of the field-Aourished and perished-each successive power leaving its indelible imprints and vestiges, from the mythical period of which blind Homer sings to the present era, when the slender minerets of Islam pierce the azure from every city and village.
Along the Helespont and the far-famed Mediterranean coasts of Asia Minor, Grecian monuments of intellectual and material progress are the most conspicuous. Hellenic art and science were not confined to the shores of Greece, but Asia Minor afforded an equally wide field for their development. There are paved thoroughfares; by the way-side can be measured the foundations of temples, theatres, arches, gymnasia and Cyclopean fortifications, indicating a state of opulent prosperity strangely mingled with an almost savage grandeur of physical endurance, and displaying all the vital elements of architectural perfection, with mathematical proportions of size, with harmony and symmetry, accompanied by fanciful ornamentations of sculpture and moulding which no nation has vet excelled or equaled.
Tombs still remain hewn out of solid rocks, some of polished white marble. The finest of those which could be removed now ornament the museums of Western Europe. A few, where kings were entombed, are twenty-five or thirty feet square, as large as some temples, and as highly ornamented in the style of sepulchral art, with war and hunting scenes, the figures of horses and the warriors, vigorous and spirited, and on projecting stones, life-like heads and paws of animals. Along the base are often found half-size human