Illustration by Denis Mizzi
Istanbul skies, 7:00 am, streaked with fingers of rose-tinged horizontal cloud, March 2, the year 2000, a divinely resplendent sun beaming its way through them on a nevertheless cool day. From fourteenth floor of luxury hotel, a general view of the Bosphorus; behind us, the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara. We look out, past another modern hotel, to the Bogazaci Bridge, which spans the narrow waterway. At its foot, barely discernible, is the Etz Ahayim synagogue, the Ortako mosque. We gaze down onto the green infield of a new stadium, out over rooftops of commercial buildings to the modern Dolmabhace Palace. To our left, out of view, is the renowned Taksim district. Across the straits lies Asya, Anatolian Istanbul, where the spires of three mosques cluster together, a tower rising behind them. Sunlight glints off selected glass surfaces, imparting to them the brilliance of jewels, as the buildings of which they are part ride gentle, misted slopes. The surface of the sea is white, its sunlit patches shading into grey. Gradually the harbor fills with morning traffic. A slow tanker, prow in red, stern in blue, has reached the midpoint in its voyage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
In a park without pedestrians, at 8:00 am of a weekday morning, the trees are sprigs, denuded of all their leaves. Cars move quietly through wide, relatively empty streets. At a rooftop restaurant, on this, the European, side, red plastic chairs, in threes, in fours, have been arranged about circular, white-topped tables. The old city is not visible.
By late morning, 11:15, the emphases have shifted slightly, as author scans horizon for evidence of boats entering the Sea of Marmara. Red diagonal girders brace the new hotel. Down in the street a parked blue car faces a parked red car. The preponderance of vehicles passing in both directions are yellow. Five yellow cabs cruise from east to west; a yellow maintenance truck arrives from the opposite direction; down an alley, half a dozen yellow trucks are parked at the curb; one is pulling out, another pulling in. Across the water Anatolian Istanbul seems prepared for something to happen, the European side calmly comprehending. Within author’s purview sit circular gardens; out of the largest rises an elevated circle in concrete.
There is nothing heroic in the scene, except for the sun, or perhaps for the scene itself, and the fury of each is spent. Two ships diverge from one another, their wakes indicating precisely the angle of their divergence. At another angle a ferry crosses from Asya to Evropa, making its way athwart the bow of the first ship. A large red cargo truck, its roof in yellow, slowly descends the declivity toward the shore. As it emerges from behind a building the red letters of “Coca-Cola” appear one by one across its side.
The craft approaching from the East are decidedly smaller than those descending the Bosphorus. Around the edge of an island a boat makes its furtive appearance. A military vehicle arrives in the street below, a brown, olive-tinged bus, out of which woodenly descend two dozen troops, who now stride deliberately up a slope. A second bus arrives to disgorge another two dozen. Behind the two buses stands yet another military vehicle. The soldiers are uniformly clad in a greenish brown. Behind them, over a wall, the earth corresponds to their coloration.
Among the pensive vehicles in a parking lot above them, three stories below ground level but on a rooftop, it is grey that holds the day. The soldiers, by threes and fours, enter their encampment, a series of dormitories with red tiled roofs built about a square. On their classicized ocher walls pilasters have been painted white, modern capitals in grey-green surmounting them. In the straits a gull lifts off, soars out over the waters, is almost lost among the lights that sparkle off their surface. Another bird floats above the athletic stadium, whose emerald sward is surrounded by a ruby-red track.
Helen grew into a maiden of such remarkable beauty that Theseus carried her off and took her to Aphidnai; but while he was in Hades, Polydeuces and Castor marched against the city, captured it, and recovered her, taking captive as well Aithra, Theseus’ mother (Apollodorus).
Istanbul, March 3, 4:30 am, panoramic pre-dawn scene from less expensive hotel, its five-day room rate at fifty per cent reduction. Then the kings of Greece repaired to Sparta to win the hand of Helen. A cop car floats up the avenue, red and blue lights flashing in alternation. And the principal wooers were these: Yellow street lamps are distributed across a vast canted plain, like the night campfires of Greeks awaiting their Trojan destiny. Ulysses, son of Laertes. Across a plaza eight floors below, the neon light of a nightclub has just been extinguished. Diomedes, son of Tydeus. From darkened doorway its personnel exit into taxis waiting to return them home. Antilochus, son of Nestor; Ajax, son of Oileus; Philoctetes, son of Poeas. Nearby a rooftop restaurant’s terrace, too cool at this season for customers, nonetheless remains illuminated, long after closing time. Patroclus, son of Menoetius. Within an adjacent glass-enclosed space are visible two chairs about a table, something red behind it. Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Ares. Within the restaurant the lights are still on. Menelaos, son of Atreus. Off to the left, in the middle distance, looms a mosque, its spires lit from below.
In recently discovered fragments Hesiod (unlike Apollodorus) does not confine himself to a bare list of names but instead contrives to hit off the different characters of the suitors by describing the different manners of their wooing. A happily drunk couple, the girl in long blond hair, her companion brunette, weave through the plaza, leaning against one another for warmth in the chilly night. Thus the canny and thrifty Ulysses brought no wedding presents, quite sure that he had no chance of winning the lady. Off to the right, Asiatic Turkey glimmers with star-like blobs of light. On the other hand, the bold Ajax was liberal with his offer of other people’s property, promising thousands of presents in the shape of sheep and oxen, which he proposed to lift from the neighboring coasts and islands. A police car comes to a stop before the closed nightclub, its concierge scampering out mid-street to converse with an officer, who now emerges from the right hand door of the car. Idomeneus sent nobody to woo the lady, but came himself, trusting apparently the strength of his personal attractions to win her heart and carry off with him a blooming bride. As he accompanies the concierge into the club, the police car backs up, stationing itself against the curb. See Griechische Dichtung: Epische und Elegische Fragmente. Again the nightclub door opens, the officer exiting alone, a brown paper bag in his hand. Bearbeitet von Schubart und Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. He gets into a yellow cab, which speeds off into the night. (Berlin, 1907.) Emerging from the club, the concierge, muffled in a purple cloak, gestures to another cab waiting in line at curbside.
Seeing the multitude of suitors (Apollodorus again), Tyndareus feared that the preference of one might set the others quarreling; but Ulysses promised that, if Tyndareus would help him to win the hand of Penelope, he could suggest a way by which there would be no quarrel. When Tyndareus promised to help, Ulysses told him to exact an oath from all the suitors that they would defend the favored bridegroom against any wrong that might be done him in respect of his marriage. On hearing this, Tyndareus put the suitors on their oath, and while he chose Menelaus to be the bridegroom of Helen, he solicited Icarus to bestow the hand of Penelope on Ulysses.
The streetlights in this vicinity, along one side of a large half-ellipse, have been turned off. (According to Paus. 3. the suitors took the oath standing on the severed pieces of a horse, see Folk Lore in the Old Testament, i.392ff.) Looming within the semi-darkness of the crescent is a palace-like structure. But afterwards Ilium was captured by Hercules. From the foot of Le Mercure, author’s new hotel, our eye crosses to a low entrance terrace, then mounts up half a dozen steps to a large esplanade, within which are situated irregular plots for plantings. Priam handed Arisbe over to Hyrtacus and married a second wife, Hecuba, daughter of Dymas. Hence out onto a stage of sorts, where two military vehicles have parked. The first son born to her was Hector, and when a second babe was about to be born Hecuba dreamt that she had brought forth a firebrand, and the fire spread over the whole city and burned it. From here the eye moves quickly to the entrance of what appears to be a bank, “Istanbul Sergi Saray,” beside whose double doors two broad stairways mount to a second story esplanade that presumably covers the bank’s first floor. When Priam learned of the dream from Hecuba, he sent for his son Aesacus, for he was an interpreter of dreams, having been taught by his mother’s father Merops. In the semi-obscurity sit four more plots for plantings, irregularly shaped. He declared that the child was begotten to be the ruin of his country and advised that the babe should be exposed. Embedded within them are concrete tubs for shrubs. When the babe was born, Priam gave it to a servant, who abandoned it on Mount Ida.
Beyond the plots we move to a colonnaded entranceway, off which rises the three-story, fire-ravaged, palace-like structure. Exposed by him, the infant was nursed for five days by a bear. At this level all is darkened, the only sign of illumination the reflection of streetlights in the building’s third-floor curtain wall panels. When he had grown up to be a young man, Paris, for so he was called, excelled many in beauty and strength, and so was afterwards surnamed Alexander, because he repelled robbers and defended the flocks. To one side of the plaza’s ellipse, an inner-lit sign reads “Hotel Troia.” Not long afterwards he discovered the identity of his parents.
Hector then married Andromache, daughter of Eetion, and Alexander married Oenone, daughter of the river Cebren. She had learned from Rhea the art of prophecy and warned Alexander not to sail forth to fetch Helen; but failing to persuade him, she told him to come to her if he were wounded, for she alone could heal him. When he carried off Helen from Sparta and Troy was besieged, he was shot by Philoctetes, with the bow of Hercules, and returned to Oenone. But she, nursing her grievance, refused to heal him. And so Alexander was carried to Troy, where he died. But Oenone repented her and brought the healing drugs. Whereupon, finding him dead, she hanged herself.
Return to panoramic scene, 9:00 am, March 3. The skies are misty, almost smoky, under low-lying clouds. A yellow cab proceeds about the crescent, led by a blue sedan, followed by a red. The blue sedan peels off. A white sedan has parked before Istanbul Sergi Saray, “Saray” the word not for “bank” but for “palace,” author has learned at breakfast. Below the Turkish name read the English words, “Exhibition Palace.” On the terrace above fly two drooping white flags with blue inscriptions, the wind insufficient to reveal what they say. A small hexagonal kiosk in blue and white, its awning in orange, stands to one side of the entrance to the three-story palatial building, whose roof is covered in green-corroded copper strips.
Erichthonios inherited the kingdom, married Astyoche, daughter of Simoeis, and became the father of Tros. When Tros succeeded to the throne, he named the country Troy after himself, and taking as his wife Callirrhoe, daughter of Scamander, he fathered a daughter, Cleopatra, and three sons, Ilos, Assaracos, and Ganymede. Three red buses with white roofs move up the hill. A green bus heads downward, all amidst dozens of yellow taxis, many red, blue, and white sedans. At the palatial building’s entrance are parked two vans, a red one facing toward the building, a white one facing outward. This Ganymede was so beautiful that Zeus used an eagle to carry him off, and made him cupbearer to the gods in heaven.
With map in hand author plots his morning excursion: up Mesrutivet Caddesi, the semi-circular side of the palace ground, to the intersection of Hamalbasi Caddesi, whence he hopes to encounter, by turning right, Istikal Caddesi, the famous walking street, at the corner of which the map shows a post office. For his part Assaracos had a son, Capys, by Hieromneme, daughter of Simoeis. And by Themiste, daughter of Ilos, Capys had a son, Anchises, who aroused Aphrodite’s amorous desire. Through trees about to bud, above a high curb in alternating white and yellow stripes, the palatial building is now visible on our left. And she slept with him, and gave birth to Aeneas, and to Lyros, who died without offspring.
We have reached a ruined building, a vacant lot, adjacent buildings braced apart on either side of it. This is the story that people tell about the Palladion, which had fallen from the sky and lay outside the tent of Ilos: At its rear, its walls are clad in yellow and white tiles. They say that Athene, after her birth, was brought up by Triton, who had a daughter, Pallas. On its side walls, the remnants of earlier rooms are tiled in red and blue. Both girls practiced the arts of war, and one day this led them into conflict. Directly opposite the vacant lot stands the entrance to the palatial building.
When Pallas was about to land a blow, Zeus grew alarmed and placed his aegis in the way, causing Pallas to look upwards in fright and fall victim to a fatal wound from Athene. Greatly distressed at her loss, Athene fashioned a wooden statue in her likeness; wrapping the aegis that had aroused her fear around its chest, she set it up by Zeus’ side and paid honor to it.
A middle-aged shoeshine boy in black jacket, red knit “Chicago Bulls” cap sits opposite the palatial building, which on this side has virtually no markings. Its black window glass reflects the scene. The curbside and the streetside of the half ellipse here meet to form a single avenue, into which we enter. Looking out to our left, we glimpse for the first time the Golden Horn, its waters grey under grey skies. Slowly ascending from it is a row of houses in beige, cream and pink. As we proceed, the Hotel Europlaza, a globe superimposed upon its “H,” emerges to obscure the view.
Subsequently, since Electra had sought refuge at the Palladion when she was raped, Zeus threw the Palladion along with Ate into the land of Ilion, where Ilos built a temple for it and honored it.
Now the avenue begins to curve to the right and downward, but the sidewalk rises like a rampart above it, ascending to a green, stuccoed building without any markings, once past which we enter into a drab square, half covered in brick, half open in gravel. A small street dips beneath under the sidewalk only to mount steeply to the right. We pass Hotel Flash, then a small restaurant called “Agdemir,” followed by the Grand Seref Hotel. Very quickly we have moved into an older part of town, its facades flaking. An alleyway descends, its street sign reading “Daracik Sokak.” In the midst of its pavement have been set brick planters, making passage up it by automobile impossible. Moreover, as it reaches our sidewalk, the alleyway ends with four heavy steps. At its corner, against the side of a building, a man adjusts tires on hubs. That is what people say about the Palladion.
We pause at a grocery store, cartons of eggs displayed atop cans of cooking oil by its open door; sausages of various lengths, hung from its ceiling; beneath them, honey in jars, honey in slabs of wax; to the right of these have been stacked luscious cheeses. We arrive at the Hotel Venus; an umlaut, supposed to be over the “u,” has been redesigned as a colon within it. The building’s first floor windows are glazed in panels of dark glass framed in gold. To these have been added high vertical stripes, painted on in grey, behind which read the horizontal stripes of blinds within. We pass “Yenni Vat 69 / Disco Nightclub.”
Having missed his turn-off to the post office, author continues to mount directly toward Taksim Square. We have taken, it would appear, a course parallel to Istikal Caddesi, but perhaps we have found ourselves a way into it. Suddenly appear two subway station entrances — or merely pedestrian underpasses? At any rate, before long we arrive at the famous square, to stroll among its glorious flower shops, set up gaudily along the sidewalk.
Afterwards Alexander abducted Helen, in accordance, some say, with the will of Zeus, so that this daughter would become famous for having brought Europe and Asia to war, or, as others have said, to ensure that the race of demigods would be raised to glory. For one or another reason, Eris threw an apple in front of Hera, Athene and Aphrodite as a prize for the most beautiful, whereupon Zeus instructed Hermes to take them to Alexander on Mount Ida, to be judged by him for their beauty. Hera promised him universal dominion if she were preferred above all other women, while Athene offered victory in war, and Aphrodite the hand of Helen. Alexander of course decided in favor of Aphrodite, after which he sailed to Sparta in ships built by Phereclos.
Having descended the hill to the isthmus, author orders a cup of tea; awaiting its appearance, he takes seat in pavilion for view of the Bosphorus Bridge arching across the placid waterway. A smoky puff, as though of cannon, washes through its supporting cables. In the near ground, before the Dolmabhace Palace Museum, rises a tower, roofed in a pyramid. There he was entertained for nine days by Menelaos. Built in 1890-1894 for Sultan Abdul Hamid II. On the tenth, after Menelaos had left for Crete (to celebrate the funeral of his grandfather, Catreus). Its eclectic style combines Baroque, Neoclassical and Empire. Alexander persuaded Helen to go away with him. Centered before its elaborate entrance arch, on a gold podium, stands a white-helmeted guard, his legs spread. (Though some have said it was Helen who persuaded Alexander.) Double white pistol holsters hang from his belt.
She abandoned Hermione, who was nine years old at the time, then, loading most of the treasures on board, set out to sea with him by night. It has begun to sprinkle. Whereupon Hera sent a violent storm, which forced them to put in at Sidon. A high walled entrance, in rust red on stucco, introduces us into the chambers of the Palace itself. Fearing that he might be pursued, Alexander delayed a long while in Phoenicia and Cyprus. Beneath high classical archways, grey sky reading through them, we enter into the gardens that precede the Palace. The sun begins to warm, dissipating the drizzle.
It is said by some, however, that in obedience to the will of Zeus, Helen was stolen by Hermes and taken to Egypt, where she was entrusted for safe keeping to Proteus, king of the Egyptians, and that Alexander was accompanied to Troy instead by a phantom of Helen, fashioned from clouds. Two octagonal, glass-enclosed, kiosks protecting rose bushes line the pathway. At the center of a waterless fountain a swan preens skyward, surrounded by the figures of six other swans in postures of adoration. Doubtless those who say so are dreamers. About this ceramic piece of kitsch a scaffolding has been erected, three workmen engaged in repairing it.
In December 1917 the Kaiser asked the Sultan to pay him a visit at the German Imperial Headquarters. Enver, seeing a good opportunity to get rid of Kemal for a spell, invited him to accompany the Prince as a member of his suite. He accepted the invitation.
Kemal suggested to members of the Palace staff that, since this was a military visit, the Prince should be dressed in his uniform. On arrival at the station he observed that the Prince was wearing civilian clothes instead. The Prince had taken offence because his rank as Heir Apparent had been reduced from divisional general to brigadier. Thus he preferred to travel as a civilian. “In reality,” Kemal subsequently remarked, “he was worthy of no military rank whatsoever.” At the station the Prince walked past the guard of honor, raising his hands inappropriately to his forehead in an Oriental gesture of salute. Before the train left, Kemal suggested to him that he should greet the crowd from the window. Was this really necessary, the Prince enquired? On being advised that it was, he obeyed. (Patrick Kinross, Atatürk: The Rebirth of a Nation.)
“Look no longer in the pages of Homer, or in the elegy, or the tragic Muse, or lyric verse, and seek no longer in the sonorous verses of the cyclic poets; no, look in me, and you will discover all that the world contains” (inscription found in Photius’ copy of Diodorus).
The party arrived at the small town where the Kaiser had established his General Headquarters. Standing on a dais at the end of an imposing hall, flanked by von Hindenburg, von Ludendorff and all his General Staff, the Kaiser appeared to welcome the Prince. They embraced one another and exchanged a few polite words. The Prince then presented his suite. When Kemal’s turn came, the Kaiser, one hand lodged in a Napoleonic pose between the buttons of his tunic, stretched out the other to him. “Sixteenth Army Corps! Anafarta!” he exclaimed. The company turned towards Kemal, who remained momentarily silent. The Kaiser repeated, in German, “Are you not the Mustafa Kemal who commanded the Sixteenth Army Corps and held Anafarta?” Kemal, in his best French, replied that this was so.”
We continue on, past three more glass-enclosed kiosks of flowers, down a narrow allee bordered with rose bushes not yet blooming, past the statues of two lions, one male, one female, both with cubs about them, the mother nursing hers.
Between its two central pillars we enter the Palace proper and proceed on down a passageway bordered with two colonnades.
The present site of the palace was originally a small harbor along the Bosphorus. On 22 April 1453, during the Ottoman siege of Constantinople, Mehmet II had seventy ships of his fleet anchored here in preparation for the stratagem that turned the tide of battle in his favor. (John Freely, Istanbul.) An aged drudge in red babushka, black smock walks past for the fourth time. We have entered the rather dreary central entrance salon of the fabled palace, a structure, we are told by our guide, which divides into three principal sections: After sunset that day he had the ships placed on wheeled platforms and hauled by oxen. (1) Administrative. Pulling them over the heights of Pera, then down to Kasimpasa on the Golden Horn. (2) Ceremonial. Thus bypassing the chain. And (3), described as the most exotic and magnificent: With which the Byzantines closed the mouth of the inner harbor. The Harem. This gave the Turks control of the Horn and set the stage for their final conquest of Constantinople on 29 May of that year.
We are asked to take seats in a large sitting room, on one of whose walls hangs a large nineteenth-century painting, the work of an Italian, which shows the turmoil of the Pilgrimage to Mecca. From here we rustle down a hallway in our plastic feet-coverings to enter a large, symmetrical hall. Beneath an oversized, elaborate chandelier sits an undersized table with six chairs about it, all at the center of a large Turkish rug in red, blue and grey. We perambulate past porcelain chauffage into other rooms with glass display cases full of klutzy imperial silverware, gold tea cups turned down on their saucers, cruets too neatly arranged, tea-less teapots, knick-knacks of all sorts, the personal belongings of the Sultan: pen sets, mirrors, a marble eagle, two enormous brass keys. One case displays weaponry: swords, muskets, an out-sized rifle. As we exit the way that we had entered, the smell of smoke fills the air.
Constantinople, under Allied “protection,” was listless, defeatist, fraught with a sense of doom. Shortly after the Conquest, Fatih laid out a royal garden on this site. “They’ll do to us whatever they want,” was the general foreboding. And early in his reign Selim I built a seaside kiosk here. It was to be a dark, frigid winter. No coal was to be had. The trams were not running, the Bosphorus steamers few and far between. Gyllius writes that in his time this was known as the Little Valley of the Royal Garden. The main streets were dimly lit, the side streets not at all, so that criminals prospered, and no citizen would stir out at night without a pistol in his pocket. Early in the seventeenth century Ahmet I extended the royal gardens by filling in the seashore in front of them. The police were scarce, moreover corrupt and universally mistrusted. A project that was completed by his son and successor, Osman II. Profiteering was shameless, the currency valueless, the prices of foodstuffs exorbitantly high. Thenceforth this site was known as Dolmabahce, the “filled-in garden.” Turks shut themselves up in their houses, emerging, shadows of themselves, only to buy bread, perhaps at half a crown a loaf. By the beginning of the nineteenth century a large imperial summer residence had been established at Dolmabhace. Some even pretended they were not Turks at all. And Mahmut II seems to have preferred it to the old Topkapi Sarayi. They shed their fezzes and tried to get jobs with the Allied forces who had moved into the city.
Greeks, on the other hand, swaggered through the streets, jostling the Turks to the wall. They flaunted the blue-and-white-flag from their headquarters and expected the Turks to salute it, causing them to slink down the side streets to avoid the disgrace. One day a panic rumor spread through Stamboul: “They are putting the bells into Santa Sophia.” A Moslem crowd surged in hysterical waves up to the mosque, to breathe again when they found the Turkish troops still guarding the courtyard.
His son and successor. In long back coat and high black shoes. Abdul Mecit. Black hair and grey gloves. Decided to move out of Topkapi Sarayi altogether. Our fashionable guide takes her place before us, to continue. In 1844 he commissioned Karabet Balyan (son of Kirkor Balyan) and his son Nikogos to replace the existing structures at Dolmabahce with a new palace. We mount a grand staircase, the rungs of its railings in crystal. The new palace was completed in 1855, whereupon the Sultan and his household moved in, abandoning the old palace on the First Hill that had been the imperial residence for nearly four centuries. At its top we encounter two ivory tusks, miniature elephants lolling about at their bronze bases, censers descending from hooks at their tips. Dolmabahce served as the principal imperial residence of all but one of the later Ottoman sultans. We stand before the entranceway to the Hall of Ambassadors. The exception was Abdul Hamit II, who preferred the more secluded residence that he built for himself a bit farther up the Bosphorus at Yildiz.
What, under the auspices of its Sultan, was now to become of the relics of the Ottoman Empire? The Peace Conference, assembled at Paris in January 1919, aspired to decide its destiny. The Turks, in applying for an Armistice, had notified President Wilson that they were ready to treat for peace on the basis of his Fourteen Points — namely the principle of consent. A bearskin confronts us, its teeth growling. Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary, in a memorandum to the Cabinet, produced a solution based, as he saw it, on the Wilsonian principle. The bear rug is echoed symmetrically by another. Which allowed the right of self-determination not merely to the Arabs and Armenians — the subject races of the Empire — but to the Turks themselves. The two bears, reads a plaque, were the gifts of Nicholas II, Czar of Russia. Besides an independent Arabia and Armenia there should be an independent Turkish state. We gaze into the Sultan’s reception room. Confined within the boundaries of Asia Minor. Its brocade curtains in pink, its upholstery in gold. And with its capital at Angora or Bursa. Likewise, its spacious couches. Only thus, Lord Curzon foresaw, could the aspirations of the Turks be satisfied in such a way as to forestall a Nationalist outbreak. We exit past collections of porcelain, past grated fireplaces, to descend the crystal staircase.
While Kemal was laying his plans for Samsun, in the north, Lloyd George and Venizelos were planning their own course of action for Smyrna and the western region. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Lord Curzon, now deputizing for Mr. Balfour at the Foreign Office, watched the situation in Turkey with growing concern. Dolmabahce served as Ataturk’s presidential residence whenever he visited Istanbul. Towards the end of March he voiced his apprehensions in a memorandum to the Cabinet, warning them of the dangers of a revival of Turkish resistance, owing to the delays at the Peace Conference and the apparent decline in the Allied will to victory. During his last illness Ataturk also lived in Dolmabahce Palace. It was upon a picture of Allied indecision and disillusion that “the Old Turk, who still hoped to re-establish the former regime.” Where he died on 10 November 1928. “And the Young Turk, who means to cheat us, if he can, of the spoils of victory.” In a seaside bedroom. “Look out from the crumbing watch-towers of Stambul.” Still furnished as it was at the time of his death.
Over the past quarter century the palace has been restored. Only a group of his adherents in the Foreign Office heeded him, and the Supreme Council proposed to cede Smyrna and its hinterland to Greece. It has now opened as a museum. Curzon launched another memorandum. And serves as a showplace for gala official functions. How could the Greeks, “who cannot keep order five miles outside the gates of Salonika,” he said, “be trusted to administer so important a part of Asia Minor?”
But in fact we fail to descend the staircase, continuing instead on into another spacious hall of meretricious glamour. On 15 May, despite all warning and protest, twenty thousand Greek troops began to land at Smyrna, advanced inland up the railway and, in Churchill’s words, “set up their standards of invasion and conquest in Asia Minor.” On the rosewood, mahogany and teak parquet of this room’s floor, circumcisions and marriages were celebrated. By a slip in co-ordination the Allied High Commission in Constantinople had not yet received official news of the landings. We duck into the silent music room, then proceed down a hallway to the Sultan’s bath. The report was brought to them in session. In the resting room outside it, the sun, in trompe-l’oeille, rises and sets. It was said to have caused as much consternation as though it had been a coup d’etat. From a fore chamber — the frigidorium — we gaze out onto the Bosphorus. Count Sforza could not trust himself to speak, but rushed from the room. Where the actual sun is beginning its decline. Banging the door behind him. Progressively heavier ships are entering the sea-lanes from the west. Without consulting the Allies. This room — the caldarium — is sheathed in alabaster. At once the Italians retaliated by landing troops in the zone to the south. We exit into a long narrow chamber filled entirely with portraits of the Sultan. Which was theirs by secret treaty.
The governor of Smyrna had received notice of the landings from the Allied naval authorities. “Room 49,” says a small porcelain plaque on a set of double doors. He proposed to resist, using the few Turkish troops that still remained under arms, and he telegraphed accordingly to Constantinople. We exit down a staircase, at the foot of which hangs an eighteenth-century painted map of the Eastern Mediterranean. Fevzi, the Chief of the general Staff. Bearing Arabic toponyms. Had previously urged that any such incursion should be met by force. From here author descends clockwise staircase out into the courtyard. Now, however, his minister, without consulting him, gave orders against resistance. To head in direction of the Harem. On the grounds that the landings accorded with the terms of the Armistice. Author concerned that he has no ticket. At this Fevzi resigned.
Here we pass through an aviary, the largest of its kind, whose size and variety, it is said, demonstrate the importance of birds in Ottoman culture. At the opposite end of this large courtyard two raven-like birds with white underwings glide to a stop in a grotto at the center of a pool. Cawing sounds are audible, as we continue on into an even larger courtyard, two sides of which are formed by pink stucco buildings, their three stories of windows in white trim. Author’s ticket to the palace, he is told, does not allow entrance into the Harem.
As we exit through the palace’s gardens, we witness a changing of the guard, seven new soldiers with their commander arriving to replace the man on the golden podium. Thus the Greeks entered Smyrna as though on parade, shouting “Long Live Venizelos!” A lively girl of twenty-three witnesses the event. As they stacked their arms, some danced about the stacks in celebration. She is smoking a cigarette, which she holds in a black-gloved hand. As Greek civilians swept along the streets, crying curses on the Moslems. On the shoulder of her white coat she has slung a black bag. A stray shot was fired. Over high black shoes she has rolled up her jeans just high enough to reveal white socks. Which led to intermittent shooting and bloodshed. Carefully a six-foot four-inch Turkish soldier stations himself atop the narrow pedestal. Whereupon the Turkish troops hoisted the white flag. With their hands above their heads they were marched down to the waterfront. As they mounted the gangplank of a troopship, a mob of civilians jeered them, struck at them with clubs and tore off their fezzes. A Turkish colonel was ordered to remove his fez and stamp upon it. When he refused, he was shot and killed. At bayonet point the governor was arrested and marched off to the quay.
.Lined up along the wharf are many large ships: Quickly getting out of hand, the Greek troops killed several hundred Turks. The “Bozcada,” out of Istanbul. Throwing their bodies over the sea-wall into the harbor. The “Asya,” out of Istanbul. Admiral Calthorpe was forced to intervene, virtually ordering the Greek admiral to take charge on shore. The “T.D.I. Karademiz,” out of Istanbul. In the Jewish Cemetery a group of Turkish Nationalist officers held a meeting of protest, in favor of the Wilsonian principles (which opposed any form of annexation). They received no support from the Turkish authorities and dispersed for the most part into the interior to organize centers of resistance. Meanwhile, the Greek forces advanced inland up the two broad river valleys of the Gediz and the Menderes — the classical Herus and Meander — towards the cities of Manisa and Aydin. The “Kanlica,” heading in with its bow to shore, its port of call not indicated; likewise, the grey “Yakiti.”
Along the right-hand side of the street rise grim office buildings, six or seven stories high. Constantinople was dismayed at the news. Before long we arrive at a mosque. Its dismay was stiffened by deep indignation. In a courtyard to one side of the domed structure, men are performing their ablutions, bathing their feet, washing their faces. Which gave sudden reality to the Nationalist movement. Across the street more lively shops commence: Occupation by the great powers could be accepted as an inevitable evil. A restaurant and café, whose sign is graced with pansies. But occupation by the insolent and disloyal Greeks represented an affront that no patriot could endure. Leaving the Bosphorus behind, author crosses the street. Here was just the spark needed to inflame once more the fighting spirit of the Turks.
A man exits a McDonald’s with four huge sacks of comestibles, two in either hand. We continue on past Turki Economie Bankasi, its letters glittering in gold against black granite. From the opposite direction a man arrives bearing a huge platform above his head, on it large pretzel-like pieces of bread. We pass a branch of Citibank, an office of Siemens. From a kiosk the photo of a girl eating a mango greets us. Across the way a giant cruise ship has docked, its upper decks glazed in blue.
In the great square before the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed fifty thousand people gathered. On the side of a cream-colored transformer station, in banana yellow, sky blue, and sea green. Many of them carried black flags. Have been scribbled graffiti in the international, indecipherable mode. While a black drapery was lowered behind the speakers, symbolically enshrouding the red-and-white flags of the star and the crescent. We have reached a rod and reel shop advertising snorkeling equipment. A woman in black, her face unveiled, delivered a passionate oration: A shop for motorized tools has set its lawn mowers out on the sidewalk. “Brothers, sisters, countrymen, Moslems:” Another shop selling heavy rolled-up plastic in yellow, green, orange and red. “When the night is darkest and seems eternal, the light of dawn is nearest.” Another shop selling mobile phones with Mickey Mouse ears. Her name was Halide Edib, one of the few Turkish women in politics. And another selling industrial hammers. Destined to become an active force in the new Revolution, her feelings at this moment reflected those of countless others: “Turkey,” she wrote afterwards, “was destined to be cleared of the murderers, of the so-called civilizing Greeks.” We pass a shop advertising in its window large rifles and other hunting equipment. “At this moment I suddenly ceased to exist as an individual.”
We have reached an important intersection. From another kiosk, on a traffic island, another mango girl looks out at us. “I worked, wrote and lived as a unit of that magnificent national madness.” As author studies his map, searching for the way back up to the palatial building, a German, or German-speaking Turk, assures him in German that the road which he has reached will return him to his destination. Lord Curzon had been proven right.
The Trojans and the Achaeans had broken their way into the circle of civilized Mediterranean powers, and they had proved unruly guardians of the peace. Their own realm had in turn been penetrated by Phrygians in the Hellespontine region, by Dorians in Crete and Rhodes, and by Boeotians in central Greece. On the mainland the generation of the Trojan War was marked by violence; for the outer town of Mycenae was burnt and the palace at Pylos destroyed. The fall of Troy, however, was fraught with disastrous and far-reaching consequences. It is true that another city of Troy rose impoverished upon the ashes of Priam’s city; but the military coalition, which under his leadership had repelled the invading Amazons at the Sangarius River, was swept away forever. The narrow gateway into Europe and Asia had now been left unguarded, and barbarian hordes immediately surged forward (N.G.L. Hammond, A History of Greece to 322 B.C.).
Having strolled the length of Dolmabahce Caddesi, from Dolbamahce Museum to Dolmabahce Mosque; having continued on past Ferryboat Pier, past Sea Bus pier, past Minar Sinan University; having skirted, without experiencing, the area known as “Tophane,” author at last arrives at Bogazkesen Caddesi, which, says the map, should return us to Istikal, thence to our palatial building. In earnest we begin to mount the steep rise. Within a hundred yards we have entered into a middle-class neighborhood.
While the Allied High Commissioners in Constantinople were discussing the Greek threat to the city, Kemal and his General Staff were watching a football match at Aksehir (Kinross again). “Ideal Homes,” says a sign, rippling in the wind, on the third-story balcony of a real estate office. This was the security cover he had chosen for a secret staff conference, called to settle the date and the final arrangements for the Turkish offensive against Smyrna. “Dekorasyan,” say the black letters, embellished with red and blue drop shades, in the window of a show whose first room represents a fully furnished kitchen. The plan of campaign had been drawn up in secrecy nine months before, between Kemal, Fevzi and Ismet. We proceed up a sidewalk, past six, seven, eight large fat cats, living in the wild, who are eating from dishes put out for them. Fevzi now explained it on a map. High above, on a balcony whose railing has been intercalated with blue plastic. Kemal asked his generals for their opinion. A woman in black babushka, black dress and cream sweater shakes out a Turkish rug over the street. Several were critical, less of the plan itself than of the timing of its execution.
We mount higher and higher, past shops selling practical things: Ismet, irresolute as ever, was not convinced that it could lead at this moment to a decisive victory. Odysseus had the idea of constructing a wooden horse, and he suggested it to Epeios, an architect (Apollodorus again). Home appliances. He favored a sound policy of defense. Plumbing parts. With the object of wearing down the Greeks. Rows of freshly baked loaves. Using timber felled on Mount Ida, Epeios created a horse that was hollow within and opened up at the side. If there were to be an attack, then he wanted more time to complete preparations. Electric heaters and dryers.
Though he had gone through the motions of consulting the generals, Kemal’s mind was already made up. Odysseus urged fifty (or according to the author of the Little Iliad, three thousand) of the bravest men to enter this horse. With that extra dimension, which his lesser commanders lacked, of flair, judgment, and the knowledge of his enemy. Noodles, rice and cooking oil. He was as confident of victory as it was prudent to be. The rest of the troops Odysseus commanded to burn their tents, when night fell, and put out to sea. Electric lamps. Kemal ordered that the armies ready themselves for offensive by the middle of August. But then lie in wait off Tenedos, ready to sail back again in the night.
At this Ismet rose to his feet, stood at attention and, speaking as the commander of the front on behalf of the rest, said: Cotton-filled bedding, shirts and towels. “You wanted to know our opinion.” All modern in appearance. “We expressed it freely.” Persuaded by his plan, the Greeks put their bravest men inside the horse, making Odysseus their commander. “But if what you have told us is an order, then we shall obey it.” And they carved an inscription on it, reading. We have reached a fork in the road and continue on up Yeni Carsi Caddesi. “For their return home, a thank-offering to Athene, from the Greeks.” Past a trench where construction is under way. The others burned their tents, then, leaving Sinon in place to light a beacon for them, put out to sea at night to lay in wait off Tenedos.
Kemal returned to Angora, where he had to deal with the Cabinet — to say nothing of the Opposition. He informed the ministers of his decision and of his belief in success. Fevzi considered that there was an eighty per cent chance of it — allowing twenty per cent for the hazards of war. The two Opposition ministers became less pessimistic. The Cabinet agreed to the attack. There remained the Opposition itself, whose propaganda implied that the troops were demoralized and incapable of action. This, as Kemal admitted to Ali Fuad, had its advantages, since it put the enemy off the scent as to the imminence of action. But he took steps to reassure those whose influence counted.
“Experts on this subject interpret the story of the Trojan horse in a number of different ways” (Nurten Sevinc, Troia). The ascent has quickened considerably. “Some believe that the story was probably inspired by the military equipment of the Assyrians depicted in their reliefs of the seventh century B.C., where soldiers hidden in wheeled siege engines are shown trying to demolish fortifications of the enemy by using battering rams.” We have entered into a strictly residential neighborhood. “Although such vehicles are not encountered in records of Aegean warfare, it has been suggested that the Achaeans might have used a similar tower-like siege engine covered with wet horsehides to protect it against catching fire.” On the corner of the next alley stands a wooden house, atop the wooden house another wooden house, the second projecting out over the street.
As he said goodbye to his mother, kissing her hand, Kemal told her that he was going to a tea-party. We have reached a triangular intersection. When day came and the Trojans saw the Greek camp deserted. Whereupon, looking at his field dress and boots, she replied: One side of which is filled with a bayed building, three windows wide. They thought that the Greeks had fled. “The uniform that you are wearing is not for a tea-party.” Clear alphabetic graffiti fill its lowest course, proclaiming “YANKEE GO HOME.” Overjoyed, they hauled the horse into the city, stationed it beside the palace of Priam, and debated what they should do. Soothing his mother, Kemal departed. A schoolboy dressed in green blazer, black tie and beige shirt, is being harassed by his grandmother. Cassandra warned that there was an armed force inside it, and she received support from the seer Laocoön. Later she rang the area commander to ask after Kemal and again was told, “He has gone to a tea-party.” From a third floor railing, in a basket on a cord, she has let down the key to the apartment. Accordingly, some proposed that they should burn it, others that they should throw it down a cliff. “No,” she replied, “He has gone to the war.” The grandmother, having retrieved the basket, now insists that the boy stand in the street for yet more nagging. The majority, however, decided to spare it, since the horse was an offering sacred to the deity. Outside the door to number 86 the boy stands immobile. And so she sent him a note, which read:
My son, I waited for you. You did not come back. You have told me that you were going to a tea-party. But I know that you have gone to the front. I pray for you, and I hope that you do not come back before the war is won.
In the building’s ground floor is a barbershop. A sign was then sent to them by Apollo. That night Kemal supped with a few of his henchmen in a suburb of Angora. Author decides to enter. For two serpents swam across the sea from the islands nearby and devoured the sons of Lacoön. In anticipation of the relative abstinence, which was his ritual at the front, he drank freely. The haircut takes the better part of an hour, the barber harassing his ten-year-old son for assistance at every stage of it. When the night fell, and all were fast asleep, the Greeks sailed over from Tenedos, and Sinon lit a fire on the grave of Achilles to guide their way. As he said goodbye, with his hands around their shoulders, he remarked, “I’m going straight away to the front, to start the offensive.” Despite the attention lavished upon him, author emerges with his hair butchered. Helen walked around the horse and called out to the heroes within, imitating the voice of each of their wives, but when Anticlos wanted to answer, Odysseus covered his mouth. Taken aback, one of them asked him, “Pasha’m, what if you don’t succeed?” We continue our ascent of the hill. When they judged that their enemies were asleep, they opened up the horse and climbed out with their weapons. “What do you mean?” Past pastry shop, past locksmith, past bottled water depot. Echion, son of Portheus, the first to emerge, was killed by the leap. “Within fourteen days of the start.” Hanging out over the street, as we skirt a high wall, is a sign reading “Polaroid,” under it, a horse-drawn cart of just-ripe bananas. But the others lowered themselves on a rope, made their way to the wall, and opened the gates to let in the Greeks who had sailed back from Tenedos. “I shall have destroyed the Greeks and thrown them into the sea.” Ahead, in white letters on a red ground, stands a sign reading “Homer.”
Archaeological discovery has now provided a touchstone, by which the validity of Greek legend can be measured. The mythical tales of Cnossus, Mycenae, and Troy, once dismissed as fairy-stories, are found to rest on historical fact. Although the range of archaeological discovery is limited, its findings nonetheless confirm the assumption that Herodotus and Thucydides made: that Greek legend was set within a framework not of poetical fantasy but of historical reality. Next to the sign reading “Homer” is a café whose sign reads “Kafka.” As Thucidides observed, not all Greek tradition is to be believed: elements of folk-lore were incorporated in early times, and rationalistic explanations were inserted later. Next to “Kafka” is a sign reading “Virus Internet Café.” But, when Homer and Hesiod canonized the Greek legends in literary form, they stood close to the springs of oral tradition; they were concerned in the true Greek manner with reality and not with fiction. We have reached a square, at the center of which a piece of sculpture rests on a granite block, into whose side has been carved the dates, “1923-1973.” Nor did oral tradition dry up with the development of literature. We have reached Istikal Caddesi and are heading back past the former European embassies. It was fully used in the fifth century by Herodotus, and Thucydides’ convincing analysis of early Greek history demonstrates the value of oral tradition, when it is treated with historical perspicuity. In the direction of the palatial building.
Advancing into the city fully armed, they entered the houses and killed the Trojans as they slept (Apollodorus). The Greek front stretched over some three hundred miles from the Sea of Marmara to the Menderes Valley (Kinross). In the Trojan catalogue Priam, King of Troy, rules both sides of the Hellespont (Hammond).
The handsome old building on the side of the square is the Palazzo di Venezia, now the Italian Embassy (Freely). It has begun to drizzle. The present building is believed to date from 1695, though it was completely rebuilt c. 1750. Author has returned his map to his backpack. In Ottoman times this was the residence of the Venetian bailio, the ambassador of the Serene Republic and one of the most powerful of the foreign legates in the city. Reading from one’s guidebook does not permit one to look simultaneously at actuality. We learn from his “Memoirs” that Giacomo Casanova was a guest here in the summer of 1744. The rain has begun to wet the page of the book. In his three months in the city this great lover did not make a single conquest but was himself seduced by one Ismail Efendi.
Neoptolemos killed Priam, who had taken refuge at the altar of Zeus of the Courtyard. We are passing the Russian Embassy. The keynote of Kemal’s plan was surprise, first strategical then tactical. But when Odysseus and Menelaos recognized Glaucos, son of Antenor, fleeing to his house, they came, arms in hand, to his rescue. We have reached the Dutch Embassy, a very pretty building that looks rather like a small French château. To confuse the enemy, he ordered a northward feint attack towards Brusa on his right flank and a southward cavalry move towards Aydin, farther to the rear. Aeneas picked up his father Anchises and fled, whereupon the Greeks allowed him to pass because of his piety. The original Dutch Embassy, built in 1612, was burned down twice, but parts of the substructure of the earlier buildings were preserved and incorporated into the present Embassy.
Kemal had ordered that all his generals should direct their troops from the front line. Menelaos killed Deiphobos and led Helen away to the ships. Now, with Fevzi and Ismet, he surveyed from his hilltop the first line of the general attack developing a mile or so off. On the left is the former Spanish Embassy, no longer functioning, with only its chapel remaining in use. Aithra, the mother of Theseus, was led away also, by Demophon and Acamas, the sons of Theseus (for they say that the two of them had later arrived at Troy). A broad irregular amphitheater of other hilltops, steeper and rockier, straggled in echelon across the horizon before them. This little church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, was originally founded in 1670, though the present building dates from 1871. The Locrian Aias saw Cassandra clinging to the wooden image of Athene and raped her (and for that reason, they say, the statue looks up towards the sky). Each was fortified by the Greeks, each was the objective of a Turkish division, to be stormed in an uphill attack until the summit was reached.
Priam’s European allies extended as far as the Axius valley in Macedonia (Hammond again). A short way up and on the right is the entrance to the Dutch Chapel. Thus the first line of defense of the Greeks was no more, its hillsides criss-crossed with abandoned fortifications like a huddle of giant deserted ant-heaps. His Asiatic allies as far as the Halizones in the north-east and as far as some isolated peoples in the areas of Sardis, Miletus and Lycia in the south. Since 1857 this building has housed the Union Church of Istanbul, an English-speaking congregation from many lands. Here Halide Edib — whom, with a touch of superstition, he had summoned back to his side as a kind of female mascot — first saw him gesticulating and poring over a map with Fevzi by the light of two lamps. The extent of Priam’s realm and alliances is consistent with the wealth of Troy VII A (c. 1300-1200 B.C.), but not at all with the poverty of its successors. The basement rooms of the chapel, now used as a Sunday school, have in the past served as a prison. As he came to greet her he had, to her eyes, so exalted and radiant a look that he seemed to be “blinking at a hundred suns all rising over his head. The ring of his voice and the shake of his the hand made you feel his excitement.”
On the morning of the 30th, four days after the initial attack, half the Greek army was annihilated or taken prisoner, with the loss of all its war material. A large column of troops, including the Greek army corps commander, General Tricoupis, along with his staff, found itself trapped in the valley between two Turkish divisions at its entrance and a third which had moved swiftly ahead to block its exit. The scene of the consequent slaughter looked to Halide afterwards “like a disordered dream. . . . Forsaken batteries glistened in the sun; rifles and ammunition in huge piles, endless material of every description lay huddled in a great mass across the valley. And amidst it all corpses — of men and animals — lay as they had fallen.”
At last, as we reach the end of Istikal Caddesi, we arrive at the gateway to the grounds of the Swedish Embassy. (Now officially the Swedish Consulate, for all the foreign embassies were relocated in Ankara after it became the capital of the Turkish Republic in 1923; nevertheless, this and the other palatial old ambassadorial residences are still referred to as “embassies.”)
The Turkish victory owed much to deficient Greek generalship. The Commander-in-Chief, General Hajianestis, who had been appointed for political reasons, directed the battle from a yacht in the harbor of Smyrna, lying in bed or frequenting the coffee-shops ashore, alternately terrorizing his commanders and confusing them with irresponsible or unconfirmed orders. Another pivot of prosperity in the Aegean area was Troy. The great city (Troy VI, c. 1900-1300) was founded by a people who were probably kindred of the Greek-speaking settlers of central Greece; they built a modified form of Megaron house, fortified the citadel, and brought the horse to Asia. He developed signs of insanity, believing sometimes that he was dead, sometimes that his body was made of glass and that, if he rose to his feet, his legs would break. When the city was destroyed by an earthquake, it was rebuilt again in a form similar to a Mycenaean stronghold, where the king and his entourage lived within a massive fortification wall. General Tricoupis had received an order: in the event of a Turkish attack on Afyon, he was to move southeastwards on the village of Chobanlar, with a view to outflanking and thus checking the enemy. The latest phase of Troy VI was particularly rich; trade relations, and probably personal relations as well, between Troy and Mycenaean Greece were very close. Homer refers to the house of King Priam as follows:
he came to Priam’s palace, that magnificent structure
built wide with porches and colonnades of polished stone.
And deep within its walls were fifty sleeping chambers
masoned in smooth, lustrous ashlar, linked in a line
where the sons of Priam slept beside their wedded wives . . .
When Kemal received the captive Greek officers, Tricoupis looked at him with surprise. “I did not know you were such a young man, General,” he said. They talked of tactics. Finally Kemal asked Tricoupis if there were anything that he could do for him. The general asked that his wife, who was on the island of Prinkipo off Constantinople, should be told of his capture. After killing the Trojans, they set fire to the city and divided the spoils. Kemal gave the promise, gripped and held Tricoupis’s hand, and said sincerely but with a twinkle in his cold blue eyes, “War is a game of chance, General. The very best is sometimes worsted.” And when they had sacrificed to all the gods, they hurled Astyanax from the ramparts and slaughtered Polyxene on the grave of Achilles. “Do not be distressed. You have done your best. The responsibility rests with chance.”
In Angora and Constantinople little was known of the progress of the battle until it was virtually won. As a special honor, Agamemnon received Cassandra, while Neoptolemos received Andromache, and Odysseus, Hecuba. When the first authentic news of the Turkish successes came through, the newspapers printed it guardedly for fear they would not be believed. According to some accounts, however, Hecuba was awarded to Helenos, who crossed over the Chersonese with her. Then the day arrived when it became evident that the truth far exceeded their most optimistic reports. Where she turned into a bitch and was buried by him at the place now called the Bitch’s Tomb.
It was not Kemal, they had learned, but the Greek general who had been captured. The Turkish army had fulfilled his orders. It had reached the Mediterranean. Next day Kemal would follow this army into the city. That evening, at Nif, he was relaxed and gay. As for Laodice, the most beautiful of Priam’s daughters, the earth, in full view of everyone, swallowed her up with a chasm. “What’s this?” he exclaimed, “We’ve taken Smyrna today. Are we going to be so quiet? At least let us sing.” As the Greeks, after sacking Troy, were about to sail off, Chalcas held them back. He had won the war in fifteen days. He told them that Athene was angry with them because of the impiety of Aias. When he eventually returned to Angora, he apologized to his friends: They intended to kill him. “Forgive me,” he said. “One can sometimes make mathematical errors.” But he took refuge by the altar. “I was one day off in my estimate.” And so they let him be.
We cross the tram tracks at the center of Istikal Caddesi, and, within moments have returned to the juncture of the crescent that borders one side of our “palatial building.” Having returned to Le Mercure, author visits its bookshop for a long discussion with learned proprietor, who himself has written a children’s book about Troy. “According to Homer, Paris abducted the beautiful Helen from her father, Menelaus, king of Sparta, and whisked her off to Troy, thus precipitating the Trojan War” (Tom Brosnahan, “Turkey,” in Middle East on a Shoestring). He helps author with the recent history of the palatial building. “But Troy (Truva) was a thriving city long before the Spartans beat the Trojans by means of a wooden horse secretly filled with soldiers.” It has begun to drizzle again on the scene below, as author studies it now from his eighth-floor window. “Most of the ruins you see are Roman ones from Troy IX.” Beside the entrance to the “palace” has parked a large blue truck, its side panel reading “Logistics Cargo.” “Still, it’s nice to say you’ve been there.”
Hesiod interposed between the age of bronze and the age of iron “a divine race of heroes,” of whom “a part were destroyed by evil war and dread battle, some beneath the walls of seven-gated Thebes in the land of Cadmus as they fought for the flocks of Oedipus” (Hammond again, from A History of Greece). A police car has arrived in our square, its red and blue lights flashing in alternation. “Others at Troy whither they were borne on ships over the great gulf of the sea.” The Gift Shop owner has told author that our square has not always been as it is now. Their exploits, falling in the period 1250-1150, formed the subject of the epic saga, which reached its final form probably in the ninth and following centuries, and of Attic drama, in the fifth century. On the site of the current “palatial building” stood a “gazino.” The epics are assigned to three main cycles: Not a gambling house, as in “casino.” The Theban cycle, covering the two generations before the Trojan War. But rather a lively house of song and other entertainment. The cycle of Heracles. With many separate bistros collected together. And the Trojan cycle, which included the aftermath of the Trojan War. The site was razed, and in its place constructed the building that we presently see, which housed, until very recently, the governmental television station.
The comparison of heroic ages in other civilizations shows that most lasted only for three or four generations. The observable damage to the current building is extremely recent. That they originated in the introduction of less cultured but more virile warriors into a developed but declining civilization. Having only occurred during the past few weeks. And that they are marked by predatory warfare. Large panels of glass have been taken away. In which the princely class of warriors breaks away from the traditional bonds of national or tribal loyalties. Perhaps, says the bookshop owner, one will see more disappear during one’s stay. In Greece the Heroic Age marks the final phase of the decline in the great Bronze Age civilization. As we look out onto the broader scene, the rush hour has begun. It may therefore have little affinity with the outlook of the preceding period. A red river of taillights has formed along Refik Saydam Caddesi, the broad avenue that skirts the outer boundary of the “palace.” Of which archaeology has revealed such noble remains. In Book XXI of his Iliad, Homer creates a brilliant series of similes to describe the rage of Achilles and the Trojans amidst the fury of battle:
As before the blast of a fire the locusts escaping
into a river swarm in air, and the fire unwearied
blazes from a sudden start, and the locusts huddle in water;
so before Achilleus the murmuring waters of Xanthos
the deep-whirling were filled with confusion of men and of horses.
Cars go speeding up the tilt of the plain, only to brake as they reach a backup of traffic.
As before a huge-gaping dolphin the other fishes
escape from the corners of a deepwater harbor
in fear, for he avidly eats up any he can catch;
so the Trojans along the course of the terrible river
shrank under the bluffs.
Meanwhile, from the opposite direction, cars with their white headlights glaring descend in a steady, undulant flow. This, author observes, consulting his map of Troy, is all occurring in a position relative to the “palatial building” that is precisely analogous to the river Xanthos’ position relative to ancient Troy. “Achilleus spoke to his own great-hearted spirit:” The freshness of spirit that we observe among the Homeric heroes.
“Can this be? Here is a strange thing that my eyes look on.
Now the great-hearted Trojans, even those I have killed already,
will stand and rise up again out of the gloom and the darkness.”
And their freedom from social or religious restraint. “Do not kill me,” said his opponent,
“I am not from the same womb as Hektor,
he who killed your powerful and kindly companion.”
Typifies newcomers rather than leaders of a slowly matured and ripe civilization. More study of the ground plan of Troy VI reveals yet more analogies with the darkling plain before our eyes.
The comparative study of such heroic ages has shed light as well upon the genesis and development of epic poetry. For example, the football stadium seen to the east of the road and below it completes a second ellipse. Agamemnon was commander of the whole force (Apollodorus), while Achilles, at fifteen years of age, took command of the fleet. Almost identical to the configuration of Troy VI. Lacking any knowledge of the route to Troy, they landed in Mysia and put it to the sack, in the belief that it was Troy.
“Lie there now among the fish, who will lick the blood away
from your wound, and care nothing for you, nor will your mother
lay you on the death-bed and mourn over you, but Xanthos
will carry you spinning down to the wide bend of the salt water.”
It appears to originate under the troubled conditions of an heroic age as oral poetry, composed and transmitted by minstrels.
“And a fish will break a ripple shuddering dark on the water
as he rises to feed upon the shinning fat of Lykaon.
Die on, all: till we come to the city of sacred Ilion,
you in flight and I killing you from behind.”
The earlier epic lays are usually short and deal with the exploits of one or more heroes.
“And there will not
be any rescue for you from your silvery-whirled strong-running
river, for all the numbers of bulls you dedicate to it
and drown single-foot horses alive in its eddies.”
But the Iliad and the Odyssey are elaborate lays of a later, longer type.
Leaving Mysia, the Greeks put out to sea, and when a violent storm set in, they became separated from one another and returned to their own countries. Because the Greeks turned back at this time, the war is said to have lasted twenty years; for it was only in the second year after the abduction of Helen that the Greeks, when they had completed their preparations, launched the expedition for the first time; following their withdrawal from Mysia to Greece, it was eight more years before they returned to Argos and from there proceeded to Aulis before setting out.
“When one reaches the beginning of the actual sightseeing area, the flat top of the small hill on the right is the best spot to get a bird’s eye view of the eastern part of the citadel of Troia VI” (Nurten Sevinc, Troia). When most were eager to take part in the expedition, envoys also visited Odysseus in Ithaca, but he was unwilling to go, and so pretended to be mad. “In the foreground, the most impressive ruins catch the eye.” Palamedes, however, proved this madness to be a sham, for he followed Odysseus while he was so pretending, and, snatching Telemachos from Penelope’s lap, drew his sword as if he were about to kill him. “Behind these ramparts, high on a terrace, rise the ruins of megaron houses.” Odysseus, fearing for his son’s safety, confessed that his madness was merely a sham, and joined the expedition.
“The towers, walls and gates are the best examples of the defense system of Troy VI and the finest for the time they were built in the whole ancient world.” The Byzantine sea-walls along this part of the Marmara shore were originally constructed by Constantine the Great, ending where his land-walls met the sea at Samatya (John Freely). “After a day of wandering around Istanbul’s mosques, ruins and tangled streets, where empires have risen and fallen, you’ll realize what is meant by the word ‘Byzantine’” (Tom Brosnahan). After the Theodosian walls were built in the following century, the sea-walls along the Marmara and the Golden Horn were extended to meet them. “The walls are vertical inside” (Nurten Sevinc), “sloping toward the top outside, and are built of rectangular conglomera blocks without any mortar between them.” During the ninth century the Marmara walls were almost completely rebuilt by the Emperor Theophilus, who sought to strengthen the city’s maritime defenses against the Arabs. “Their outward face is extremely smooth, so as to make climbing impossible.”
When he had offered his sacrifice, Agamemnon put to sea and called in at Tenedos. “It is thought that at the top there was originally a parapet and running along behind this a narrow platform along which guards patrolled.” “And the Elders, as they saw Helen along the tower approaching, murmured softly to each other uttered these wingèd words” (Homer):
“Surely there is no blame on Trojans and strong-greaved Achaians
if for long time they suffer hardship for a woman like this one,
for terrible is the likeness of her face to immortal goddesses.”
Neoptolemos was visited by Thetis, who persuaded him to remain for two days and then offer a sacrifice; so he remained.
“Still, though she be such, let her go away in the ships, lest
she be left behind, a grief to us and to our children.”
But the others sailed off and were caught in a storm at Tenedos (for Athene had appealed to Zeus to send a storm against the Greeks), and many ships were sunk. These walls protected Byzantium from its enemies for more than a thousand years, and so it was that they had a profound effect on the history of medieval Europe.
“A careful eye will notice that the wall on the right side of the corridor is different from the original wall on the left.” Although they are now in ruins, the walls of Byzantium are still a splendid and even awesome sight. “This is part of the wall of the sacred enclosure (tremens) that surrounded the temple of Athena.” With their towers and battlements marching across the hills and valleys of Thrace. Athene hurled a thunderbolt at the ship of Aias, but when the ship broke up, Aias escaped to safety on a rock and proclaimed that he had saved himself against the goddess’s will. However, in 447 a violent earthquake destroyed much of this wall, throwing down 57 towers. But Poseidon split the rock with a blow from his trident, and Aias fell into the sea and was killed. This occurred at a very critical time, for Attila the Hun was then advancing on Constantinople. His body was washed ashore and buried by Thetis at Myconos. “The temple to Athena, which rests on a part of the defensive wall of the gate, is Roman.” Constantine added an outer wall and moat, making the city virtually impregnable to assault by land. “When its weak workmanship and soft sandstone are compared with the workmanship and materials of the walls built 1500 years before, the strength of the fortifications of Troia VI can be more easily appreciated.”
Now Palamedes had been stoned to death as a result of the intrigues of Odysseus, and when Nauplios had come to hear of it, he sailed to the Greeks and demanded restitution for the death of his son but turned back with nothing achieved (because all the Greeks had wanted to gratify King Agamemnon, who had been involved with Odysseus in the murder of Palamedes), and so he sailed along the coast of Greece, contriving that the wives of the Greeks should be unfaithful to their husbands: “The surviving ruins of Troia VI give the impression that the city was divided radially into six sections by wide streets starting from five gates, on which megaron houses were built; these houses were trapezoidal in shape, with their shorter sides facing the acropolis and their longer sides on the fortification side.” The three-storied “palatial building” in our square also corresponds to the three-story megaron of the era of Troy VI (1800-1275); moreover, the six-sided irregular plots for plantings, in near and middle ground, four above and two below, correspond to other configurations within the citadel. Clytemnestra with Aigisthos; Aigialeia with Cmetes, son of Sthenelos; Meda, wife of Idomeneus, with Leucos.
“At the highest point in the city, thought to have been about 40 to 50 meters above the valley, must have stood the palace of the king. It was probably another large megaron, whose roof was supported by wooden columns standing on marble or stone bases.” But when Leucos killed Meda along with her daughter, Cleisithyra, who had taken refuge in a temple, Nauplios then arranged the defection of ten Cretan cities and became their tyrant. “It would have had a wooden staircase leading to a bedroom on the upper floor.” And when, after the Trojan War, Idomeneus landed in Crete, Leucos drove him out. “In the center of the large room, there would have been a large circular platform with a big hearth serving both for lighting and for heating, its smoke escaping through a hole in the ceiling.” These, then, were the earlier machinations of Nauplios, and later, when he learned that the Greeks were returning home to their countries, he lit the beacon on Mount Caphereus. “This hearth would have stood at the heart of Trojan high society, where the king would have invited the most important in the land and served them with the meat that he himself had cooked on the fire.” It was here that the Greeks approached the shore, supposing it to be a harbor, and met their deaths. “A good horseman, the king would also have been a good huntsman and a good sailor, and, when younger, he would have personally tended his flocks.
“When there was no war, hunting would have been his favorite pastime, for the region was abundant in wild boar and animals such as the leopard.” Achilles killed Hector in single combat, and tying him by the ankles to his chariot, dragged him back to the ships. “On the landward side, as we look out from the summit of Troy, in the background rise the lofty pine-covered slopes of the Ida mountains, which accommodated Zeus when he came out to observe the war.” And when he had buried Patroclus, he celebrated games in the fallen hero’s honor. “We look out upon the valley where Achilles dragged the corpse of Hector behind his chariot, whence earlier Zeus had abducted Ganymede, the son of Tros, the legendary founder of Troia, to serve him as his cup bearer on Mount Olympus.” After the games, Priam visited Achilles. “Here are fertile fields of cotton, flocks of grazing sheep and the village of Kumkale.” And ransomed Hector’s body and buried it.
“Such a way of life was common to all contemporary kings who ruled similar kingdoms on mainland Greece.” After their wanderings, the Greeks landed in various countries and settled there, some in Libya, some in Italy, others in Sicily. “This distinguished them from the divine rulers of Mesopotamia and Egypt, who were regarded as gods, and who confined themselves within the walls of their palaces.” Some settled in Cyprus too.
After sacrificing to Hades, Persephone and Tireisias, Odysseus traveled on foot through Epirus and arrived in the land of the Thesprotians, where he propitiated Poseidon by offering the sacrifices that Tireisias had advised in his prophecy. Callidice, queen of the Thesprotians at the time, asked him to remain and offered him the throne, whereupon she slept with him and bore him a son, Polypoites. After he had married Callidice, Odysseus became king of the Thesprotians and defeated in battle the neighboring peoples who attacked them. When Callidice died, he transferred the throne to his son and returned to Ithaca, where he discovered that Penelope had borne him a son, Poliporthes.
The Aeneid is indeed a full-scale aemulatio of Homer (The Cambridge History of Classical Literature); the story itself is contemporary with, or a continuation of, the stories told in the Iliad and the Odyssey. When Telegonos learned from Circe, his mother, that he too was a son of Odysseus, he sailed away in search of him. Rustem made no answer but lunged forward at once, and soon the two heroes were engaged in a fierce struggle. Arriving at the island of Ithaca, he plundered some of the cattle, and when Odysseus came to their rescue, Telegonos wounded him with the spear that he was carrying, which was tipped with the needle of a stingray. In a swift and surprise move, Rustem seized Sohrab’s belt, hurled him to the ground, and lunged at him with his sword. Odysseus died. Stunned, the dying youth lay helpless upon his back. Aeneas is following in the footsteps of Odysseus, and but very shortly afterwards. Gasping, Sohrab lifted his dark eyes to the blue dome of sky. “People will joke and laugh about the shortness of my life and of how I was thrown into the dust,” he groaned. When Telegonos discovered his father’s identity, he lamented bitterly. “All my troubles were for nothing, for I have not seen my father. I yearned to meet him face to face. Useless now is the token I brought to prove myself his true son!” An important character in the Iliad, and the most important Trojan warrior after Hector, Aeneas is renowned for his religious observances as well as for his prowess in war.
Rustem’s heart was deeply touched, and he knelt beside Sohrab as the youth went on. “All is over for me. Fate has brought me low,” said Sohrab. “Yet I pity you, mighty stranger! For when my father hears of this deed, he’ll seek you out. You won’t escape him! He’ll find you even if you were to become like a fish lost among all the fish in the ocean.” Then Telegonos took the corpse of his father, along with Penelope, to the land of Circe. “He’ll find you even if you were to become like a star hidden among all the stars in the sky. There is no hope.” And Telegonos married Penelope. “No matter where you hide, my father will find you, for you have slain the son of mighty Rustem!” And Circe sent the pair of them to the Isles of the Blessed.
Vergil, who was deeply versed in post-Homeric classical Greek literature, was especially influenced by Greek tragedy. When Rustem heard these terrible words, he dropped his sword and fell back. But the real debt is one of concept rather than form, for in a broader sense Vergil’s whole attitude toward the human scene that he explores in his poem is similar to the attitude found in Greek tragedy: The air became dark in his eyes, and he sank to the earth. An intense sensitivity toward the suffering that human beings bring upon themselves, or have brought upon them by the pressure of hostile circumstance. When he opened his eyes again, he reached out for Sohrab. Coupled with a profound conviction that somehow, in spite of all its catastrophes, the world is not a senseless one. “Can this really be happening?” he sobbed. And that in some way hardly comprehensible to men. “Oh, brave lad, I am Rustem!” These sufferings may form a necessary part in the ultimate fulfillment of the divine purpose decreed for mankind.
Some say, however, that Penelope was seduced by Antinoos and sent away by Odysseus to her father Icarios, and that when she reached Mantineia, in Arcadia, she gave birth to Pan, as a son of Hermes. Others say that she was killed by Odysseus himself because of Amphinomos, for they claim that she had been seduced by him. Still others say that Odysseus went to Thoas, son of Andraimon, in Aetolia, where he married the daughter of Thoas and died at a great age, leaving behind by her a son, Leontophonos.
Second major outing. In his anger over Briseis, daughter of the priest Chryses, Achilles would no longer go out to fight. We leave by way of Mesruiyet Caddesi in a direction that will take us to the Attaturk Bridge. As a result, the barbarians recovered their confidence and advanced outside the city. We pass the famous Pera Palas Hotel, the modern Elan Hotel, the Hotel Monopol. Alexander fought in single combat against Menelaos. The Hotel Inka, Info Hotel, the Hotel Bristol. But when Alexander faced defeat, Aphrodite snatched him away. At Yolcuzade Iskender Caddesi, in sight of new tunnel construction, we turn left and begin a much steeper decline. Then Pandaros broke the truce by shooting an arrow at Menelaos. We pass a doorway marked “Islam.”
As we look out now across the Golden Horn, sunlight streaks a patch of buildings. When she came to the aid of Aeneas, Diomedes wounded Aphrodite. To either side of the illumination sit grey mosques. When he encountered Glaucos, he remembered the friendship between their fathers and exchanged armor with him. Within a hundred yards, we come upon the entrance to the bridge. Then Hektor challenged the bravest of the Argives to single combat, and though many stepped forward, it was Aias who was chosen by lot and who engaged in the combat, until, that is, the pair of contestants were separated at nightfall by the heralds.
In the Iliadic text, Book XIV, Hera seduces Zeus, so as to act on behalf of the Greeks (author has brought along his outline of the Iliad). As he crosses to a triangular island, the mango girl appears again, an opium pipe in her hand. Alertly he dodges more traffic, awakening gradually to its dangers during this difficult mid-morning descent from Beyoglu to Eminonu. In the Iliadic text, Book XV, Zeus awakens and, scolding Hera, sends Apollo to kill Hektor. The sun struggles to make its appearance through the overcast skies of Istanbul.
Author attempts to illuminate his way by the use of a new map, which identifies, on the far bank, Yavuz Sinan Mosque, where it nestles amidst its own four minarets. Gingerly he steps to a new traffic island and enters a ramp leading down to the Attaturk Bridge. The sun comes out from behind a cloud to cast a beam selectively on another mosque, upriver from the bridge. In the Iliadic text, Book XVI, Apollo, perhaps foolishly, lends his armor to Patroklos, who enters the fray. We have now begun to cross the Attaturk Bridge, behind the backs of the dozens and dozens of fishermen who line its railing. Projecting their poles out over the river, or tying them fast to the railing, they so crowd the scene that there is scarcely a place to be had the whole length of the bridge from which to view the water.
Elbowing our way to the railing, we pause to gaze out over the oil-slicked surface of the Golden Horn, toward the many mosques on the farther bank, toward the ruins of an aqueduct. As Apollodorus reports, this was not the first time that Troy had been sacked. Naval officers pass us, descending from the opposite direction. For the mighty Heracles, when he had completed his servitude and rid himself of his disease, had also sailed against Ilion. To the right, upstream, light again has broken out on the farther shore.
For an army of heroes that he had assembled beforehand, all who had volunteered for the expedition, Heracles requisitioned eighteen fifty-oared ships. To the right, upstream, are visible the hulls of two green ships, anchored in a boatyard. On his arrival at Ilion, he left Oicles behind to guard the ships. Also a naval vessel under repair, fronting them, projecting out into the waters. While he and the others set out to attack the city. In the Iliadic text, Book XVI, Patroklos is slain by Hektor. At the end of the bridge we promenade past heavy chains that have been removed, piled high, and now sit rusting on the farther shore. In the Iliadic text, Book XVII, Hektor strips the corpse of Patroklos. We have entered the old city. Removing from it the armor of Achilles, which his dear friend had lent him.
Freed of the encumbrance of traffic, vehicular and pedestrian, we stroll downriver, along a broad esplanade that leads toward the Sea of Marmara. Laomedon for his part marched against the ships with the greater part of his force and killed Oicles in the fighting. We glance back across the Golden Horn to the Galata Tower. But he was repulsed by the troops of Heracles and put under siege. Which stands within a walled cityscape that now includes high-rise towers. After the siege had been engaged, Telamon was the first to break through the wall and make his way into the city, Heracles following close behind. We have reached the precinct of Eminonu, itself a walled city within the city.
When Heracles saw that Telamon had entered first, he drew his sword and rushed to attack him, anxious that no one should be thought a better man than himself. Painted on the sidewalk in orange and blue, a large map has been provided for us. Seeing the situation, Telamon began to heap together some stones that lay at hand. According to this map, we are now proceeding inland in the direction of the Covered Market. When Heracles asked him what he was doing, he said that he was building an altar to Heracles the Noble Victor. We have reached the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce. Heracles praised him for doing so. We cross the avenue and head up a street in direction of the tomb of Sultan Suleyman. And when he had taken the city and shot down Laomedon, he gave Laomedon’s daughter Hesione to Telamon for a prize, allowing her to take with her any person she wished from among the captives. Suddenly the sun emerges. When she chose her brother Podarces, Heracles said that he must first become a slave, and that she should then offer something in payment for him so as to acquire him.
In this narrower street we are passing stalls where knives are sold. So when he was sold. Purveyors of paint, who have it displayed in large plastic buckets. She removed the veil from her head. Sellers of scales. And gave it in payment for him. “Magazin Fabrik,” reads a sign in Russian, above a shop selling doorknobs. And that was how Podarces came to be called Priam. We pause before a florist shop, out front of which, in plastic baskets, blue and red valves, along with other plumbing parts, are also for sale.
A man descends the hill carrying a huge plastic bag, almost as tall as himself, through whose reinforced surface are visible soccer balls in various colors. Capping a rise, as the street turns farther inland, we arrive at “Sumerbank,” in white and red on a blue ground. A blue sedan has hemmed in a red van, a white sedan in front of both. We pass many stalls selling plastic toys, plastic coat hangers, plastic mugs. Higher and higher we mount, past plastic garbage cans, plastic chairs, plastic cabinets, plastic cooking utensils. As the regime of plastic diminishes, we begin to encounter shops selling electrical fittings and appliances, interspersed with shops selling travel bags. As Heracles was sailing back from Troy, Hera sent violent storms against him. At last we arrive at “Polonya Pasari,” presumably the Covered Market.
Outside it stands a rank of porters, all equipped with two-wheeled dollies. This so angered Zeus that he suspended her from Olympus. His map not making clear how to negotiate this maze, author decides to take the plunge and enter. Heracles wanted to sail into the harbor at Cos. We have reached “Midas Bufe.” But the Coans, taking him for the leader of a band of pirates. Stalls selling hardware, steel bits, ball bearing rings. Tried to prevent his approach by hurling stones. Perhaps, author reflects, this is not the Covered Market after all but simply a market that is covered. He turned to force and seized the island by night. Accordingly, he decides to exit the maze by the path whereby he had entered it. In the process killing its king, Eurypylos, son of Astypalaia and Poseidon. We exit past checkerboards and backgammon sets and continue on up the hill. Heracles was wounded by Chalcodon, but Zeus snatched him away, and he suffered no further harm.
We enter into a section of the street devoted exclusively to jeans. After ravaging Cos. “Little Ice Blue,” reads a shop’s sign. At Athene’s behest. We arrive at a T and begin our descent. He arrived at Phlegra. The congestion of traffic has temporarily abated. Where he helped the gods to victory in their war against the Giants. Up a narrow alleyway we sight the stone archway entrance to a much more ancient market. Once inside, we encounter jewelry stores, clothing stores, attractive fabrics for sale, beads and purses, scarves and other accessories. On a piece of black velvet, golden jonquils have been appliquéd, their petals outlined in black and cream, their leaves stylized in green and red. Side aisles present themselves, in which are located whole shops devoted to nothing but leather jackets, all in black.
Why, we might ask, did Homer not have Agamemnon reach an accord with Achilles? Author turns into a wider side street, where one shop is showing traditional Turkish inlay. Or why did he not cause Phoenix, Ajax and Odysseus to accomplish their mission?
“If the son of Atreus is too much hated in your heart,
himself and his gifts, at least take pity on all the other
Achaians, who are afflicted along with the host, and will honor you
as a god.”
Another shop offers Russian eggs representing modern sports figures, Hollywood cartoon characters, world political leaders. The map shows an area that goes from Western Asia to the Balkans (Executive Intelligence Review). It is possible to zigzag back and forth through this perfectly regular maze. Eighty per cent of the heroin traffic destined for Europe. We turn to the right. With an estimated market value of $400 billion. Then turn to the left. Is now produced in Afghanistan. Then turn to the right again. And Pakistan. We encounter increasingly expensive emporia for oriental rugs. In Turkey the opium is refined into heroin. As we turn to the left again and head through an arch, over which read the words “Old Bazaar.” Then it is shipped through the Balkan Route. The odor of incense greets us. And on into Central and Northern Europe. A merchant displays Meerschaum pipes, elaborately carved.
“He will give you seven women of Lesbos, the work of whose hands
is blameless, whom when you yourself captured strong-founded Lesbos
he chose, and who in their beauty surpassed the races of women.
He will give you these, and with them shall go the one he took from you,
the daughter of Briseus.”
We visit jewelry shops, silver shops, illuminated in a most ingratiating way. A merchant of recent antiquities is showing gold telephones, gold telescopes. Turning again, we view rank upon rank of gold bracelets, horizontally displayed.
“Seven unfired tripods; ten talents’ weight of gold; twenty
shining cauldrons; twelve horses, strong, race-competitors
who have won prizes in the speed of their feet.”
At last we opt for daylight, exiting under a sign at the crossroads directing us toward the police. Along the way, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies glitter nakedly in their cases. As we finally exit the market, we continue through an outer courtyard filled with stalls. Twenty yards farther and a huge mosque confronts us. “Then in answer to him spoke Achilleus of the swift feet:” A blind man, tall white staff resting against his shoulder, sits with his scales in front of him, offering to weigh us.
“Son of Laertes and seed of Zeus, resourceful Odysseus,
without consideration for you I must make my answer,
the way I think, and the way it will be accomplished, that you may not
come one after another, and sit by me, and speak softly.”
Instead of heading up a hill, we turn right in direction of a large avenue that should lead us to Sultan Ahmet. “THEM, THEM,” read large white letters on a red ground, to either side of a massive column, which stands in a square before us, a department store behind it.
“For as I detest the doorways of Death, so I detest that man who
hides one thing in the depths of his heart and speaks forth another.”
Finally we arrive at a major street bisecting the old city. “Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard.” Variously named, it is here called Okcular Basi. “A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much.” Down its center run parallel tracks for electric tramcars heading in opposite directions. “Nothing is won for me, now that my heart has gone through its afflictions, in forever setting my life on the hazard of battle.” These grey modern vehicles are striped in pale orange and pale blue. On foot we set off toward the great mosque, Agya Sophia, and the great palace, Topkapi Sarayi.
In Book XIX of the Iliadic text Agamemnon and Achilles make peace. To one side is the tomb of Sultan II Mahmud, to the other, Hotel P. Loti. Agamemnon returns Briseis, with apologies and explanations. Both are rather modest affairs, the Loti offering but five residential floors, the tomb a drab exterior. As Edwards explains: “Patroclus’ life in a sense has been exchanged for hers, and at this moment Achilles wishes that he had never seen her.” We descend this pleasant avenue to a Turkish Pizza Shop. Odysseus urges that Achilles take food before the forthcoming battle, but the latter says, “for me at least, neither drink nor food shall / go down my throat, since a companion has perished / and lies inside my shelter, torn about with the cutting bronze.” We come to a sign reading “Tribal Art Collection”; to another reading “We Know Turkiye”; to yet another, reading “Oriental Carpets.” “Food and drink now mean nothing to my heart / but blood does, and slaughter, and the groaning of men in the hard work.” At the end of Book XIX Achilles is exhorted by his horse to take heroic action.
After a conversation in the showroom of “Oriental Carpets,” during which the owner, who has learned his English in New York City, professes to see no connection whatsoever between ancient Troy and modern Istanbul, no value whatsoever in the pantheon of ancient gods, no real point to author’s activity, we leave behind his lively conversation and mildly interesting wares to continue on down the avenue in search of Agya Sophia, past “Silverado,” past “Hotel Sultan Ahmet,” past “Vitamin Restaurant.” As the great mosque looms into view, it is partly obscured by the pigeon-encrusted copper roof of a Muslim shrine.
The mosque in question, however, turns out to be not Agya Sophia, but rather, its sign tells us, “Istan Blue,” presumably the Blue Mosque, which, as we move on down the avenue, itself remains obscured, by the branches of trees. After he had been in office but a short time Pope Innocent II began to preach about the Fourth Crusade (Fatih Cimok, Hagia Sophia). We turn into the Hippodrome, at the end of which rise two obelisks, one covered with hieroglyphics, one bare. He sent letters throughout the Christian world and ordered bishops to contribute forces or cash donations for this venture. In the Iliadic text of Book XX the gods choose sides. The French courts were the first to participate. Having circled through 270 degrees about the hieroglyph-incised monument, we cross the street to survey the wall that surrounds the Blue Mosque, whose courtyard is open, a sign within advertising “Rasta Bazaar.”
Adopting an appropriately reverential posture, blond author enters the grounds of the mosque and continues on past a colonnade, where stools for ablution have been arranged, water taps before them. Geoffroy de Villehardouin, who compiled a history of the Fourth Crusade, in which he himself had participated, leaves a vivid picture of the events that took place during the Fall of Constantinople. Instead of entering the mosque, we walk to a stone wall, peer through a grating and observe the Golden Horn as it enters the Bosphorus. On a Friday morning the galleys and warships began to deliver a fierce and determined assault. Returning through the same corridor we pause to watch ablutionists putting their socks and shoes back on. In many places the Crusaders landed and advanced right up to the walls. Some are washing their ears and the backs of their necks. In many other places the scaling ladders on the ships came so close to the battlements that those on the walls and the towers crossed lances hand to hand with their assailants. Pink soap dispensers line the wall. The assault continued, fast and fierce and furious, in more than a hundred places, and lasted until about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. We exit the sacred precinct beneath three chains united by a single ring. But for your sins our troops were repulsed in that attack, and those that had landed from the galleys were forcibly driven back aboard. We continue through the Hippodrome in the direction of Agya Sophia. I must admit that on that day our army lost more men than did the Greeks. Stuccoed modern building fronts in pale blue, rusty rose, pale green, yellow and grey line this end of the square.
Before long we arrive at a much likelier candidate for Agya Sophia. The construction of the third Hagia Sophia started on February 23rd 532, after the dead bodies had been carted away and debris from the fire removed. Here, though, not only do trees obscure the outbuildings of the great mosque, the domed outbuildings themselves obscure the central structure. It continued until December 27th 537, the day when the new edifice was dedicated. We pause to confront a great buttressing wall, above which rises a minaret. The church from this date on, until, that is, the city fell to the Turks, would be used for great state occasions. Over the top of a cypress towers another minaret. Such as coronations, triumphs, imperial weddings, and synods. At length we reach the imperial gate of Topkapi Palace, turn and stroll up a quiet, ancient, cobble-stoned street.
It is bordered with cream- and pastel-colored wooden houses, whose second and third stories, supported by corbels, extend out over the street. The skies of Istanbul have progressed to a mild mistiness. Buds are beginning to open on the carefully pruned branches of bushes. We have almost completed our circumambulation of the greatest religious edifice in the world without it ever having fully revealed itself. The extent of the destruction caused by the fire of 404 is not known. Now we turn left again, presumably in the direction of its main entrance. Theodosius II (408-450) is thought to have begun the construction of the second Hagia Sophia immediately after he acceded to the throne. The heavy cobbling on the surface of the pavement continues. Although Constantine the Great is regarded as the founder of Hagia Sophia, the records show that the first building was constructed in about 350 by his son Constantinus II (337-361). The mosque — in all its buttressed, bricked, stuccoed, arched and domed complexity — at our back, we pause before the International Youth Hostel, which has listed its attractions on a plaque out front:
- the Internet 1261 Greeks recapture Constantinople and restore Byzantine Empire
- table tennis 1317 Andronicus II adds pyramidal tower-buttresses, disfiguring exterior
- home cinema 1344 serious earthquake damages Hagia Sophia
- safe deposit 1346 major restoration undertaken
- luggage room 1391 Coronation of Manuel II Paliagolos
- travel computers 1452 Act of Union with Rome
- book exchange 1453 Fall of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia converted to mosque
- travel library 1566-1574 Reign of Selim II, who rebuilds the north-west minaret
- billiards 1573 Sinan adds new supporting buttresses
- belly-dance show 1574-1595 Reign of Murat III, who adds two more minarets
- satellite TV 1623-1640 Reign of Murat IV, who commissions railed balconies
- chess and darts 1703-1730 Reign of Ahmet III, who builds a new sultan’s box
- backgammon c. 1750, interior mosaics obscured with whitewash
- playing cards 1766 earthquakes damage Hagia Sophia
- video shows 1847 full restoration begun by Swiss architects Gaspare and Giuseppe
- guest kitchen 1923 Foundation of the Turkish Republic
The damage done to the Christian city of Constantinople shocked the Pope as well as the rest of the Christian world. Our circumambulation all but one degree complete, we are about to arrive simultaneously at the entrance of both palace and mosque. The Eastern Greek Orthodox world would never forgive the West for what they had done.
We enter a long marble-floored arcade and proceed thence into the vast interior of Agya Sophia itself, where a huge metal tower has been erected to a dizzying height for the mosque’s refurbishment. The Ottoman siege lasted seven weeks, at the end of which Constantinople’s 1123 years of Christian history came to an end. A tepid light enters from a window above to illuminate a marble urn. For Constantine the Great, Hagia Sophia’s construction had signified the victory of Christianity over Paganism. The inner dome is filled with Arabic text, added in the eighteenth century: “Merciful and pitiful, God is the light of heaven and earth.” For Mehmet II, the Conqueror, Hagia Sophia’s transformation into a mosque. “His light is Himself, not that which shines through glass, or gleams in the morning star, or glows in the firebrand.” Had signified the victory of Islam over Christianity.
Agya Sophia is cavernous but withal elegant, commodious yet somehow intimate. We wander amongst its vistas, its grand enclosures, its rows of pillars. Other visitants too amble about in a breath-taken awe. At the rear of the structure marble slab is matched to marble slab, grey against white against colored stripe. Elsewhere, on its walls, hearts have been incised, inverted and upright. Gravitating back toward the entrance, we take a stair to the gallery, mounting an irregular flagstone ramp that turns about frequently, in a space increasingly filled with echoes. Round and round we go, emerging at last onto a broad esplanade, its ceiling degraded, its floor long ago fragmented.
Having reached a central point, we lean over a balustrade to observe religious observers at prayer below. By Sait Kina’s way of thinking, his 13-year-old daughter brought nothing but dishonor to his family (International Herald Tribune). Above, in the corners beneath the dome, great black shields have been inscribed with golden, Koranic texts. She talked to boys on the street, she ran away from home, she was the subject of neighborhood gossip (Bangkok, Thursday, August 9, 2001). The word of God is severe. Two months ago, when she tried to run away again, Mr. Kina grabbed a kitchen knife and an ax. We continue along the gallery, itself cavernous. He stabbed and beat the girl, until she lay dead in the blood-smeared bathroom of the family’s Istanbul apartment. Its windows offer a view onto the world hedged in by the domes and parapets of the mosque itself, which totally forbids a view of the world at large. Then he ordered one of his daughters-in-law to clean up the mess. At last we reach a marble screen, through and above which we view a sacred alcove. When, fourteen hours later, his two sons came home from work, he told them to dispose of the corpse. Mary and Child with Angel peer out from its gold mosaic. The girl’s head had been so mutilated, said the police, that it was held together by a knotted cloth.
Retracing our steps, we reach our entrance point and turn to regard the central space of the mosque, from which are suspended many more black shields of Koranic text. “I fulfilled my duty,” Mr. Kina told the police, after he was arrested. We pause before a mosaic of the Virgin Mary, Christ and Johannes Prodromos, most of it obliterated. “We killed her for going out with boys.” We continue on till we have reached another mosaic: of Emperor John II, Kommenos, with his Empress Irene and their son Alexios. Mr. Kina and his two sons are in jail pending an investigation. We continue on to admire an eleventh-century representation of the Emperor Constantine IX, called Monomachos, depicted alongside Christ and the Empress Zoe. Researchers estimate that at least 200 girls and women are murdered each year by their families in Turkey. We proceed to another screen in which the figure of the sun has been inset. The United Nations reports that as many as 5,000 women and girls worldwide were killed last year by family members. Meanwhile the actual sun illuminates more Arabic text engraved in stained glass. While many of the countries experiencing the surge in honor crimes are predominantly Muslim, such as Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan. Gazing back down upon the floor, we reflect: this is a place of monstrous scale and sanctity. Incidents are also increasing in countries as disparate as Brazil, Italy, Uganda and Britain. As we are about to leave, the gallery windows afford us one more limited view of the urban scene below. Sometimes a girl wearing jeans or lipstick, looking in a mirror, talking on the telephone can make the family uncomfortable.
We exit into the outer courtyard, past an ablution fountain provided by Sultan Mohammad I. In a pure blue sky the sun is shining gloriously. Opposite the temple wall stand five grey booths, each with a veiled, black-clad occupant. “Telephon,” “Telephon,” “Telephon,” “Telephon,” “Telephon,” say the letters in grey on blue.
The Topkapi experience begins with entrance beneath a long, darkened arch. In Book XXII, Hektor, in Lattimore’s beautiful version, reflects upon his opponent, Achilles:
“If again I set down my shield massive in the middle
and my ponderous helm, and lean my spear up against the rampart
and go out as I am to meet Achilleus the blameless
and promise to give back Helen, and with her all her possessions,
all those things that once in the hollow ships Alexandros
brought back to Troy, and these were the beginning of the quarrel . . .”
We emerge into a view of the Golden Horn, where a white tanker, striped in blue and red, moves across its shimmering waters, heading for the sea.
“I might go up to him, and he take no pity upon me
nor respect my position, but kill me naked so, as if I were
a woman, once I stripped my armor from me. There is no
way any more from a tree or a rock to talk to him, gently
whispering like a young man and a young girl, in the way
a young man and a young maiden whisper together.”
Within the expansive grounds of the great Ottoman palace children are at play, kicking a black and yellow football across a green sward. Abutting their playground is a small white chapel.
Even if the prince who just left us did not understand our words precisely, still in general he knows that we pray to God for him (The Discourses of Jalaluddin Rumi). We take his nodding of the head and his love and affection in place of understanding (translated from the Arabic by W.M. Thackston, Jr.). The peasant who comes to town may not understand the words of the call for prayer when he hears them, but he knows what they signify.
So he pondered, waiting, but Achilles was closing upon him
in the likeness of the lord of battles, the helm-shining warrior,
and shaking from above his shoulder the dangerous Pelian
ash spear, while the bronze that closed about him was shining
like the flare of blazing fire or the sun in its rising.
It is a long walk, under leafless trees, from gate to Palace entrance, but ahead the imposing, double-turreted, crenellated gateway beckons.
The shivers took hold of Hektor when he saw him, and he could no longer
stand his ground there, but left the gates behind, and fled, frightened,
and Peleus’ son went after him in the confidence of his quick feet.
Centered over the rounded arch flies the red and white flag of Islam, beneath which, engraved in the stone and painted gold, are inscriptions in Arabic. We have entered into the Court of Ceremonies, or Divan, where the most important events of the Ottoman Empire were celebrated, among them the accession of the sultan to the throne.
As when a hawk in the mountains who moves lightest of things flying
makes his effortless swoop for a trembling dove, but she slips away
from beneath and flies and he, shrill, screaming close after her,
plunges for her again and again, heart furious to take her;
so Achilleus went straight for him in fury, but Hektor
fled away under the Trojan wall and moved his knees rapidly.
He is known by the Turks as Mevlana, the Turkish pronunciation of the Arabic mawlana. “Also known as the Court of Justice, the second court houses the complex where the state was administered and its sovereignty represented.” From this same derivation comes Mawlavi, the name by which he is generally known in the Persian-speaking world. “The building that originally served as the Treasury now stores the sultan’s personal possessions, as well as gifts bestowed upon the throne by European, African and Far Eastern Countries.” Because of his long residence in Anatolia, called by the Muslims Rum, after its Byzantine designation of “East Rome,” he is known in the West as Rumi. “Today 400 arms, dating from the 7th to the 19th century, are displayed here.” By birth he was Balkhi. “Turkish, Arabic and Persian swords, daggers and helmets.” Balkh was a flourishing seat of learning and a commercial center during the early years of the 13th century. “Sceptres, chain armour and shields.” But the political climate grew ever more threatening, as the Mongol onslaught began to make itself felt. “Bows, pistols, rifles and arrows.”
We continue on, through the Gate of Felicity. The wanderings of the family took them through Baghdad to Mecca. “An Indian shield inlaid with mother-of-pearl and a Japanese sword are very interesting” (Turhan Can, Topkapi Palace). Then to Syria and finally to Central Anatolia. We are leaving the second court through the Gate of Felicity. Where they settled in Laranda (present-day Karman, Turkey). Also known as the Gate of White Eunuchs. There Jalaluddin was married to Jawhar Khatun, a young woman originally from Samarkand. Through it we pass into the Enderun, which contains the Inner Court and the Palace School.
It was a great man who fled, but far better he who pursued him
rapidly, since here was no festal beast, no ox-hide
they strove for, since these are prizes that are given men for their running.
We study an elegant model of the palace, an epitome of an epitome, whose buildings have been placed in a glass case against a cerulean sea. “No, they ran for the life of Hektor, breaker of horses.” We study as well a display in pink, blue and red, which reveals the successive extensions of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, throughout the Middle East, and thence on across North Africa.
For swift Achilleus kept unremittingly after Hektor,
chasing him, as a dog in the mountains who has flushed from his covert
a deer’s fawn follows him through the folding ways and the valleys,
and though the fawn crouch down under a bush and be hidden
he keeps running and noses him out until he comes on him.
So Hektor could not lose himself from swift-footed Peleion.
It was only in the 17th century that the Ottoman Empire began to lose its political power (Freely, Istanbul). We enter the third court through the Gate of Salutations. In the 18th century, after exposure to the West, exchanges with Europe began to have a definite impact upon social and cultural life. Only the sultan was allowed to ride beyond this point. “To the east of the Enderun court is the School for the Expeditionary Pages, in which various garments of the sultans and princes are displayed” (Turhan Can). Everyone else had to dismount and walk from here. “The long extensive building with colonnade consists of two large connecting rooms.” We approach a pillar bearing a huge Koranic inscription, its letters tall and elegant, then enter the hall. “In the first room the caftans of all the sultans who ever lived in Istanbul are displayed.” Cedars line the walkways of the inner courtyard. “They are made of precious silks, satins, brocades and velvets.” The dimensions of the courtyard have been contrived so as to make this space especially pleasant and relaxing. “Upon the death of a sultan his clothes were labeled and carefully stored in the treasury.”
We arrive at the kitchens and stand before the portrait of an eighteenth-century chef dressed in a tall conical hat. An Arabic-speaking poet appeared before a king who not only was a Turk but did not even know Persian (Rumi). “After the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the sultan’s treasure was preserved in the Yedikule fortress for a few years.” The poet had composed an extremely ornate poem for him in Arabic. “In 1478 it was transferred to Topkapi Palace and kept in the building presently used to hold the arms collection.” When the king mounted his throne with all his courtiers, princes and ministers in their places. “The original summer palace of Sultan Mehmet.” The poet rose and began to recite his poem. “Was later turned into a treasury.” In the part of the poem designed to evoke his admiration. The displays of European silverware and porcelain are truly magnificent. The king nodded his head. “During the reign of Sultan Selim I, in the 16th century.” In the part that was to evoke astonishment, he stared wildly. A silver globe encrusted with diamond-studded stars has been split open. And in the part that was to evoke humility, he paid rapt attention. “Since that time the treasure of the Ottoman Empire has been kept in the same rooms as they are at present.”
The courtiers, bewildered, said: “Son of Peleus, I will no longer run from you, as before this / I fled three times around the great city of Priam, and dared not / stand and face you. I must take you now, or I must be taken.” “Our king never knew a word of Arabic.” “After I have stripped your glorious armour, Achilleus, / I will give your corpse back to the Achaians.” “How can it be that he nods his head at the proper place.” “Do you likewise.” “Unless he can actually understand Arabic and has concealed it from us all these years?” Then looking darkly at him swift-footed Achilleus answered: “If we have said impolite things in Arabic, woe unto us!”
“Hektor, argue me no agreements. I cannot forgive you.
As there are no trustworthy oaths between men and lions,
nor wolves and lambs have spirit that can be brought to agreement
but forever these hold feelings of hate for each other,
so there can be no love between you and me, nor shall there be
oaths between us, but one or the other must fall.”
Now the king had a slave boy who was highly privileged. “There will be no more escape for you.” And the courtiers went to him. “For Pallas Athene will kill you soon by my spear.” And gave him a horse, a camel and some money.
A peacock escritoire has been opened so that we may view the bird in question within. And they promised to give him as much again. “You will pay in a lump sum for all those / sorrows of my companions whom you killed in your spear’s fury.” If he would only find out whether or not the king knew Arabic. The eyes in the peacock’s tail have been represented in gold. Or, if he didn’t, how he came to nod his head at the proper place. His golden feet reach out before him. Was it a miracle, or inspiration? He has cast back his head imperiously.
himself together, he made his swoop, like a high-flying eagle
who launches himself out of the murk of the clouds on the flat land
to catch away a tender lamb or a shivering hare.
The magnificence of the artifact in retrospect lends to the earlier, European objects a poverty of effect, a provinciality of taste. “So Hektor made his swoop, swinging his sharp sword, and Achilleus / charged, the heart within him loaded with savage fury.” One day the slave found an opportune moment.
When the king, on a hunt, had bagged much game, and so was in good spirits, he asked his question. “In this place / brilliant Achilleus drove the spear as he came on in fury, / and clean through the soft part of the neck the spear point was driven.” The king laughed and said: “Yet the ash spear, heavy with bronze, did not sever the windpipe, so that Hektor could still make exchange of words spoken.” “By God, I don’t know Arabic.” “But he dropped in the dust, and brilliant Achilleus vaunted above him.” “As for nodding my head and expressing approval.” “Hektor.” “Surely it was obvious what his intent was in the poem.” “Surely you thought as you killed Patroklos you would be safe.” “Therefore I nodded and expressed approval.” “But now on you the dogs and the vultures / shall feed.” “It was obvious that the ‘principal thing’ was intended.” And Achilles answered: “That poem was just a branch of the principal.” “No more entreating of me, you dog.” “If there had been no purpose.” “The dogs and the birds will have you all for their feasting.” “He would not have composed the poem.” As we return to the open courtyard, its grassy surfaces are sprinkled with light.
Once more we proceed through the Gate of Felicity, this time into the Enderun, the innermost court, which contains the strictly private portion of the palace. Anyone who is loved is beautiful. During religious holidays the sultan sat before this gate on his bayram. The reverse, however, is not necessarily true. We are passing the dormitories, where the pages and eunuchs lived. “The building in which the sacred relics are kept is considered to be the most beautiful structure of the whole palace complex.” It does not follow that all beauties are loved. “Sultan Selim I (his Turkish nickname ‘Yavuz’ means someone who is smart and nimble).” Beauty is part of being loved: “Brought most of the sacred relics back with him, when he returned from his expedition to Egypt in 1517.” Being loved is primary. These buildings hold the private quarters of the sultan, including the Harem, which author is looking forward to visiting. So when that quality is present, beauty necessarily follows.
Remembering all these things he let fall the swelling tears, lying
sometimes along his side, sometimes on his back, and now again
prone on his face; then he would stand upright and pace, turning
in distraction along the beach of the sea, nor did dawn rising
escape him as she brightened across the sea and the beaches.
A part of a thing cannot be separated from the whole. In Book XXIV Homer returns to Achilles, about whom his epic is principally concerned. The part must pertain to the whole.
Then, when he had yoked running horses under the chariot
he would fasten Hektor behind the chariot, so as to drag him,
and draw him three times around the tomb of Menoitios’ fallen
son, then rest again in his shelter, and throw down the dead man
and leave him to lie sprawled on his face in the dust.
During Majnun’s time there were girls much more beautiful than Layla, but they were not loved by him. The Enderun was modeled on the great palaces of the Seljuk Empire. When told, “There are girls more beautiful than Layla.” Boys culled from throughout the empire were trained here in the principles of Islamic culture. “Let us show them to you,” he would always reply: From the eighteenth century onward they were gradually replaced by Turks. “I do not love Layla for her external form.” The pages were trained in sports, literature, music and religion. “She is not external form, she is like a goblet which I hold and from which I drink wine.” We are passing the glorious hall of private audience, thence into another courtyard. “I am in love with the wine I drink therefrom.” We wish to examine the sacred relics, those having to do with the prophet Mohammad. “You see only the golden goblet and are not aware of the wine.” About whom we have heard so much. “What use would a golden goblet be to me, were it filled with vinegar or something other than wine?” On our way we take note of the inner treasury, of the various dormitories, for the expeditionary force, for the commissariat, for the treasury itself. “For me a broken old gourd filled with wine would be better than a hundred such goblets.” Cypress stands next to slash pine. “One needs love and yearning to distinguish the wine from the cup.” As above them rises the palmetto.
At this juncture Apollo’s judgment of the ruthless hero is less than favorable: The Holy Mantel of the Prophet Mohammed. “Achilleus,” he says, “has destroyed pity, and in him no longer is there shame.” “Kaab bin Züher, a heathen poet who later accepted Islam.” But Hera steps up and responds to Apollo: “Was awarded the mantel by Mohammed himself.”
“What you have said could be true, lord of the silver bow, only
if you give Hektor such pride of place as you give to Achilleus.
But Hektor was mortal, and suckled at the breast of a woman,
while Achilleus is the child of a goddess, one whom I myself
nourished and brought up and gave her as bride to Peleus.”
“After the poet’s death, the mantel was purchased by Caliph Moawijje for 20,000 dirham.” Only after his mother, Thetis, has been summoned will he consider accepting ransom for the body of his enemy. “Later the Holy Mantel came to the residence of Omaijjades, then Abbasides, and finally, in the 16th century, to the Ottomans through Sultan Selim I.” Zeus sends Hermes to help. “Surely this 1,400-year-old mantel is the most important relic.” Who reassures Hektor’s father: “Take heart, Priam, son of Dardanos, do not be frightened,” he says. “It is made of black woolen material.” “I come to you not eyeing you with evil intention but with the purpose of good toward you.” “It has wide sleeves.” “Zeus orders you to ransom Hektor.” “And is 1.24 meters long.” “To bring gifts to Achilleus which may soften his anger.”
The Swords of the Prophet Mohammed. After he has been told that Hermes will accompany him and assured that he will not be killed by Achilles, Priam prepares his ransom: “It is said that the Prophet Mohammed had nine swords.”
He lifted back the fair covering of his clothes-chest
and from inside took out twelve robes surpassing lovely
and twelve mantles to be worn single, as many blankets,
as many great white cloaks, also the same number of tunics.
He weighed and carried out ten full talents of gold, and brought forth
two shining tripods, and four cauldrons, and a lovely goblet.
“And today two of them are displayed at the palace, given by him as a gift to his son-in-law Ali, the fourth caliph, the other one is an heirloom from his father.” Whereupon a mule-drawn wagon is prepared with a basket to carry the ransom. “Both swords, ornamented with gold and precious stones, are displayed together in the same room where the mantel of the Prophet Mohammed is found.” And as he was leaving to conduct his mission, Priam was asked, by none other than Hermes, disguised as a henchman of Achilles, if he were abandoning sacred Ilion. “In front of the swords, in a golden case, is also displayed the bamboo bow of the Prophet.” When Priam expresses concern that he will find the body of his son mutilated, Hermes assures him that no dogs have eaten Hektor, that his flesh has not decayed, that his wounds have been closed up.
At this point Hermes identifies himself as a god immortal. The Seal of the Prophet Mohammed. We enter the Treasury of Emeralds and Emerald Objects. And with this he departs, leaving Priam to face Achilles alone. Take, for instance, a hungry man who has not eaten for ten days and also a well-fed man who has eaten five times a day. “It is said that the seal of the Prophet Mohammed was handed down from Caliph Abubakr to Caliph Omar.” We have taken our place before the throne of Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617), above whose head hangs a triple pendant embedded with pearls and emeralds. “Achilles had just finished dinner, had done
with eating and drinking, and the table still stood by. At this moment
entered tall Priam. Whereupon both of them turn and look
at a loaf of bread. Who, by virtue of the power of Hermes,
had arrived unseen by the other men, and stood close beside him.
The well-fed man sees the form of the bread, while the hungry man
sees the stuff of life. “From Caliph Omar then to Caliph Osman.”
Catching the knees of Achilleus in his arms, Priam kissed the dangerous
man-slaughtering hands of the very person who had killed so many
of his sons. The loaf is like the goblet, the enjoyment one derives
from it like the wine in the goblet. “It was found where it had fallen,
from the hands of Osman, into a fountain.” But now Priam spoke
to the murderous Achilleus in the words of a suppliant: One may regard
the wine only with the eyes of appetite and desire. “Achilleus,”
he said, “like the gods, remember your father, one who is advanced
in years, as I am, who stands on the door-sill of sorrowful old age.”
It is this appetite and desire that you yourself must acquire,
in order that you may observe not only the external form
of all things beloved of you but also their real being.
Behind the golden throne of Sultan Ahmed I hangs a dagger with a solid emerald handle, held in a golden sheath, tipped with another emerald. The external forms of all created people and things are like goblets. To one side stands a golden cradle of surpassing splendor. While such things as knowledge, art and learning. The ceremonial throne is pocked with emeralds. Are the decorations on the goblet. Another Turkish-Indian throne has been inset with sapphires and pearls, nothing of such elegance ever seen before. Don’t you see that when the goblet is shattered. Its legs bow out in the Indian fashion. None of these “decorations” remains? And belonged to Mahmud I. The important thing, therefore, is the wine. And was presented to him by the Shah of Persia. Which takes its shape from the goblet. At the end of the eighteenth century. Whoever sees and drinks the wine knows that good works are permanent. “I have gone through what no other mortal on earth has gone through,” Priam pleads, as he kneels before Achilles. “I put my lips to the hand of the man who has killed my children.”
As we step out into the courtyard again, the sun has risen to warming intensity. The Tooth of the Prophet Mohammed. Some come from Anatolia, some from Syria, some from Persia. Skirting the commissary, we arrive at formal gardens, which afford us at last a view out over the sea. Some cross the sea from India via the Yemen. The Hair of the Beard of the Prophet Mohammed. We have entered the Imperial Terrace. If you consider the goal, you will see that all are in accord and inner agreement with the Kaaba. The Footprint of the Prophet Mohammed. Inwardly there is a connection, a love and affection, with the Kaaba, where there is no room for dispute. Stepping out onto its marble floor, we pass the circumcision room, observing its moon-like canopy. Such an attachment is neither infidelity nor faith. “The stone, on which the footprint appears, is placed in a heavy golden box with a golden cover.” It is not confounded by the different ways of which we have spoken. We pass the wardrobe chamber and look out onto the Golden Horn, now tinged with a blue light. Given all the dispute and quarreling that occurred along the way. “It is said to have appeared in the stone upon the Prophet’s ascension to heaven.” When they reached the Kaaba. Over ancient crenellated fortifications. It became apparent. Over railroad tracks. That all the dispute. Over shanties. Merely concerned the way. We peer into the distant haze. While all along their goal had been the same. We look across to Asia and back to Europe, whose buildings, grey this morning, gleam now in a white light. For after all everyone acknowledged the oneness of God. The sultan, the One God, has indeed transformed the world.
“Come then,” says Achilles, “and sit down upon this chair, and you and I will even let our sorrows lie still in the heart for all our grieving.” But Priam will not take a seat as long as his son “lies yet forlorn among the shelters.” First appeasing the memory of Patroclus, Achilles relents and agrees to return the body. “Your son is given back to you, aged sir,” he says, “as you asked it. When dawn shows, you yourself shall see him, as you take him away. Now you and I must remember our supper.” And so Priam relents and takes a seat at the table of the man who has killed his son.
In the garden a young boy dressed in blue workman’s coat struggles with a flat-bedded cart, lifting two of its wheels off the ground. We continue on, past the Chamber of the Head Physician, the Tower of the Head Tutor, to arrive at the Royal Kiosks. From a terrace we look out over the mosques of the Old City. From bridge to bridge our view extends up the Golden Horn. Returning, to resume our stroll of the palace grounds, we reach the Hall of Justice. At last, amidst twenty golden plaques of Arabic text, we enter the archway of the Harem, where, suddenly, we find ourselves in another world.
We have entered an enclosed courtyard whose walls are covered in ceramic tiles: pale blue, rust-red and turquoise, all with floral designs. Above runs a breed of sea-blue shields, within which have been painted a text in Arabic. The word “harem” originates from Arabic and means “the thing or person that is forbidden” (K. Erhan Bozkurt, Life in Harem). The places called “harem” are either totally forbidden to enter, or can be entered only under constraints. We have entered a hall at whose center rises a fountain. This room, we learn, had been renovated after the Harem fire of 1666. For instance, Mekke and Medine have for centuries been forbidden cities, where non-muslims could not enter. From here we proceed into a long arcade, along which barred windows offer us a glimpse into individual apartments. They were called “Haremeyn,” meaning “the place that is forbidden.” Along the walls of the passageway, Arabic text in gold is displayed in various scripts. The door to one apartment has been left ajar. The word “harem” not only indicates a spatial prohibition but also a sexual one. Inside we witness as the wax figure of what appears to be a minister of state receives the wax figure of what appears to be a diplomat. Because “harem” is also used to mean the women of a Muslim man. These apartments, our guide tells us, were not inhabited by women.
We approach the main gate to the Harem itself. PRESIDENCY: Still No Consensus on Amendment Bill (Turkish Daily News, Thursday, March 2, 2000). The ornateness of the tile work intensifies. Virtue Party (FP) Deputy Chairman Veysel Candan said, during a press conference at the FP headquarters, that the change proposed to Article 69 of the Constitution is of vital importance. Tall cedar-like trees are represented with phlox-like flowers between them. Asserting that the country needs a democratic and a civil Constitution, Candan said that the debates conducted on the amendment issue, which reached a verdict of bribery, were inconclusive. We enter a chamber, one end of which is decorated with double mirrors. VEYSEL CANDAN: Article 69 is of Vital Importance to the Virtue Party (Turkish Daily News, Thursday, March 2, 2000). This passageway, we learn, separates the apartments in which the sultan, his family and concubines resided from the Court of the Harem Eunuchs. Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader and Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit announced that the proposed amendments to the Constitution making closure of parties more difficult and legitimizing privileged retirement for deputies would be put on the parliamentary agenda together. We enter another passageway that leads into the Court of the Concubines and the Sultan’s Chief Consorts. ECEVIT: No Bargains, No Concessions (Turkish Daily News, Thursday, March 2, 2000). On the counters that line its walls the eunuchs, so as to avoid direct contact with the concubines, placed the dishes that they brought from the kitchen.
We arrive at the Bath of the Concubines, in whose courtyard lived four of the first wives. These women are forbidden to any men except their husbands. The Koran, we are told, allows for four, or for eight, wives, in addition to which the sultan often maintained as many as 400 concubines. Unmarried women were “free” for their prospective husbands, but married women were “haram.” We enter a chamber, graced with a hearth, a conical hood above it. Harem is the noun form of “haram,” i. e., that which is forbidden. Finally we enter the apartments of the Queen Mother, the largest and most important part of the Harem. This institution was called “Perde” or “Zenane” in India. The Queen Mother’s bedroom and bath are below. “Enderun” in Iran. The wives’ apartments above. And “Harem” in the countries under the influence of Arabic culture. One wall of bayed arches is painted with the rivers and islands of Paradise. Ottomans called this part of the palace “Der’üssaade,” i. e. “house of bliss.”
We enter the private apartment of the sultan himself. Prime Minister Ecevit wants an amendment that would make closing down political parties more difficult. A large room is furnished with two ample couches. He also favors an amendment that would allow the Parliament Speaker’s Office to establish the salaries and pensions of parliamentarians to be added to the amendment that will change the procedures of the presidential elections. At last we penetrate into the Imperial Hall, the only room in the Harem believed to have been built in the late sixteenth century, and which once served for the sultan’s official receptions as well as for entertainments. Ecevit’s move is regarded in political circles as an attempt to win in Parliament the necessary two-thirds majority, or 367 votes, required for a constitutional amendment without resorting to a national referendum. A chandelier of appropriate proportions descends to a height of eight feet above the center of a large rectangular carpet. Chinese tributary vases stand at either side of a sofa raised on a dais. Its walls have been refitted with Delft tiles dating from the eighteenth century, elaborated in rococo style. Despite earlier declarations of support by leaders of several parties, it was still not clear yesterday whether his move would find backing or not. From here we proceed into the sultan’s bedroom, first through a smaller, then through a larger antechamber, which looks out over the palace walls to the confluence of Bosphorus and Golden Horn. Ecevit said the amendment to make closing down parties more difficult had the backing of all parties and added that it could not be considered a “sweetener.”
The innermost chamber is ornamented with fruits and flowers. From the first, smaller antechamber, the red diagonal bracing on the modern hotel at Taksim is visible. As for the claim that the deputies’ pay hike would be left up to the Parliament Speaker’s Office, Ecevit refrained from comment. We return into the second, much larger antechamber, whose decoration is also superb. Its ceiling is domed in gold on black on maroon, arabesque interlaced with arabesque. Stained glass windows admit light from the outer reception hall. A three-foot high Arabic text, bordered in carmine, embossed on tiles in gold and blue, surrounds the entire room. A fountain that flows downward in stages has been inset into the wall. “The amendment would be a significant one, so long as it cannot be reversed,” said Candan.
Next we proceed into a kiosk that housed the apartments of the crown prince. “Twelve of the youngest, the most attractive and intelligent concubines, were engaged to perform in the private service of the sultan” (Turkan Can, Topkapi Palace). They have been decorated in the classical style. “Those who were liked best by the sultan would become gözde or ikbal. Raised in the Harem, the princes were delegated authority, our guide informs us, then dispersed throughout the empire to govern it. “The ikbal who became pregnant from the sultan would be called kadin efendi.” The second of the kiosks is more gorgeous than the first. “The sultan had approximately 4-7 kadin efendi.” Red flowers on tall stems. “The favorites were called haseki.” Surrounded with burgeoning leaves. “And among the haseki.” All against a deep blue background. “Those who brought a child into the world.” Floriated with white buds. “Received the title of haseki sultan.” Adorn the faces of its stained glass windows. “And could own a special apartment.” The coffered ceiling, painted maroon and gold, is deeply recessed.
From these claustral confines we move now into the Courtyard of the Favorites. “After the death of the sultan, the kadin efendi or haseki who had brought only daughters into the world, would be married to a high official of the palace.” We have arrived at the final section of the Harem and are gazing into a large pool at the center of a boxwood garden. “While the haseki who had sons would stay in the palace constantly.” “We are obliged to have confidence in the supremacy of law,” said Candan in conclusion. “The favorites were conceived as instruments of the propagation of the dynasty.”
We begin our descent to the Galata Bridge, which, on account of repairs, is closed to vehicular traffic. To the question, Can one walk across to Beyoglu? author receives three answers from three experienced people: (1) “No.” (2) “Yes.” (3) “Two kilometers.” We continue to descend, the ancient crenellated wall on our right, to reenter the modern city. “Avant garde,” say the large white letters in an otherwise empty window. We leave behind Hotel Romance and continue along a sympathetically narrow, brick-paved street, down which run double trolley tracks. We are passing small restaurants and shops on the way to the harborside road. The earliest colonies were founded in the first half of the eighth century by Miletus on the south shore of the Black Sea (Hammond). We have reached the Istanbul train station. At Sinope, Trapezus and Amisus, the last with the aid of Phocaea. Before it, a 24-hour ATM machine has been built in the style of an Ottoman kiosk. As we continue toward the Golden Horn the stylishness of the shops increases. “Società: Moda Italia,” reads a sign, “Quantum Watches,” another. Turning the corner, we view the Galata Tower again. A white ferry, its passengers gazing into the sun as they lean over the rail, backs out, its cargo of taxis, vans and sedans tightly packed in on its narrow deck.
These colonies of Miletus, which, with their satellites, numbered perhaps a hundred in all, were chiefly responsible for developing the Black Sea trade. Having found the Galata Bridge blocked to pedestrian traffic, author purchases a ferry ticket without ascertaining its destination, assuming instead that it will convey him to Beyoglu, directly across the Golden Horn. Other Ionian states also founded colonies on the Black Sea: Instead the ferry, having backed out, reorients itself, turns under the Galata Bridge and heads for the Bosphorus. Phocaea jointly with Miletus founded Apollonia Pontica. Before long he realizes that our destination is not Evropa but Asya. Dorian colonies were also planted by Megara during the sixth century at Heraclea Pontica. As we skim over the Bosphorus, its waters darken, despite the intensity of a setting sun. Gulls, brilliantly illuminated in the yellow light, float above its surface.
Once we have touched down in Asya, author is of two minds: whether to explore the continent or to return at once. Having decided in favor of the second course, he heads off in search of a boat that will take him back to Evropa. Having found one, Turkishless author, map in hand, is assured by Englishless captain that it will return us to the foot of Dolmabahce Palace. From the perspective of Asia, Europe is but a smoky blur. In a feeding frenzy, gulls swirl about us, as we prepare to depart.
And we are off, the sun casting its golden rays over the surface of the blue Bosphorus. Beyond, along the banks of the Golden Horn, all is but silhouette, a grayish line of mosque and minaret. Behind us, as we move toward our berth, Asya recedes. Moreover, Miletus was the first state to colonize the Propontis, a sea rich in fish and the center of trade-routes leading from Asia to Europe and from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. So as to drift into port, we maneuver upstream against the strong current. Cyzicus, founded in 756, was famous for its electrum and wool. Through the open door of our cabin is visible the great suspension bridge that spans the flood. Destroyed by Cimmerian raiders early in the seventh century, it was re-founded in 676. On the bow of the ship, passing between us and the shore, reads the name “Manyas I.” Riding high, it reveals much of its rust-colored water line against a black hull. One, two, three, four yellow cranes appear overhead as we move behind its stern. “H,” reads the only marking, in white-outlined blue, on its red stack. “Beware of propeller,” says a stenciled sign in yellow. The sun, obscured as we had lagged behind this large ship, now reemerges, poised between two Asian minarets.
As we hasten toward our landfall, we skirt the Dolmabahce Palace. Its wrought iron fence and pendulous chains appear delicate from this distance. The surface of the Bosphorus has whitened, its waters rippling in the breeze. Along the banks of the Golden Horn all has taken on a gauzy grey-pink cast. The Dorians of Megara soon appeared as rivals of the Milesians. As we traverse the palace, its clock tower frames itself within our open doorway. They founded Chalcedon in 676, Byzantium in 660 and Selymbria in the Propontis. Author leaves his cabin seat to emerge on deck, so as to observe our landing. These colonies aimed at securing the Bosphorus, where the entry into the Black Sea was rendered difficult by a strong current, and the crossing from Asia to Europe was most convenient.
We are passing the mosque observed earlier on our riverbank promenade. The Ionians countered by concentrating on the Propontis and the Hellespont. We observe those rather undistinguished modern buildings again. Where Paros and Erythrae had founded Parium in 710. Again the red-braced modern hotel rears high above the scene, its silvered curtain-wall sides catching the rosy glow of the sunset. Miletus in 675 founded Abydus, which possessed gold-mines and controlled the shortest crossing of the Hellespont. Finally we arrive at Kabatas, the Sea Bus Pier, a destination farther downstream than the one that the captain had indicated. Phocaea founded Lampsacus in the Hellespont in 654. The backwash of our reversed propellers roils the waters to a milky turquoise, as we drift in toward the dock. The island of Proconnesos was occupied by Miletus, perhaps with the aid of Samos, in 675, and the Samians founded Perinthus and other colonies on the Thracian coast of the Propontis. A rope line is loosened, then tossed into the waiting, gloved hands of a capped, mustachioed man of fifty-five. Colophon, too, planted a colony at Myrlea. At last the gangplank is shuttled forward, author the first to step ashore.
A question was asked concerning the interpretation of this line of poetry (Rumi): “When desire reaches its end, amity turns to utter hostility.” Into the plaza have entered five fire trucks, their red lights flashing above their cabs. Compared with the world of amity, the world of hostility is cramped. A hook and ladder truck has jackknifed so as to stall traffic altogether. People run away from the world of hostility to get to the world of amity. The location of the fire is not clear — another siren sounding as author speaks — but smoke is in the air. Yet even the world of amity is confining by comparison with the world from which amity and hostility receive their being. Is it in the basement nightclub? If so, why the hook and ladder truck? Is it in Priam’s Palace, the “palatial building” charred already? If so, why are no flames licking skyward? Is it in the Hotel Troia? If so, why are the fire trucks parked at this end of the plaza? Amity and hostility, belief and unbelief, are causes for duality, because unbelief is repudiation, and for a thing to be repudiated there must be someone to repudiate it.
Not only are the revolving lights atop the trucks red, so are the trucks themselves. Similarly, for a thing to be confessed there must be someone to make the confession. Does it require red fire trucks to put out red fire? Hence, it is obvious that accord and discord are causes for duality. Police have taken to the streets like soldiers. Whereas the other world is beyond belief and unbelief, amity and hostility. One fire truck has moved ahead, as though communicating with a red sedan parked in the square. Since amity is a cause for duality, and since a world exists where there is no duality but only pure accord, when one reaches that world one will shed amity and hostility, because they do not belong there. A stalemate of sorts would seem to have been reached.
When one attains that place, one is parted from duality. Policemen stand talking to the drivers of the fire trucks, who have not budged from their vehicles. Therefore, in comparison with the world to which one has now been transported, one’s former world — which was of duality, love and amity — is low and mean. Other personnel circulate about the trucks. Consequently, no longer desiring it, one grows averse to it. No fire-fighting activity is visible, nor does it seem as though the trucks are about to leave.
When Mansur’s friendship with God reached its logical end, he became an enemy of himself and annihilated himself. From the curb before the “palatial building” a white car pulls out, backs up, then positions itself as though to enter the stream of traffic, its taillights blushing red, but it cannot enter the stream of traffic, for the traffic is backed up. By comparison with the world of concepts and sensibles, the world of mental images is broader, because all concepts are born of mental images. Five cars behind the ladder truck, red and blue lights flash alternately atop a police van. But the world of mental images is narrow in relation to the world where mental images are given being. One of the fire trucks now moves forward through the square but not out of it. This much can be understood from words. Three yellow cabs jockey, turn, and try to get past the ladder truck, still unsuccessfully, as another ladder truck negotiates the narrow passageway past three pumpers. But the reality of the substance is impossible to understand through verbal expression.
What are these pumper trucks — trucks full of water with ladders atop them? “Of what use then is verbal expression?” someone queried. The way having been cleared to one side of the first ladder truck, a second ladder truck now inches past it. The usefulness of words is to cause you to seek and to excite you. A pumper moves out and passes another pumper. But the object of your search will not be attained through words. The movement of trucks out of the square is preternaturally slow. If it were so, there would be no need for strife and self-annihilation. What, we ask, has caused this fire, if in fact there be one? Words are like seeing something moving at a distance: Who has not caused it? You run toward it to see the thing itself, not to see it through its movement. What damage after all has been done? Human rational speech is inwardly the same. Is it reparable? It excites you to search for the concept, although you cannot see it in actuality. One of the fire trucks has tried to exit from the plaza down a side street and is now trying to get past another fire truck already stationed there. Five trucks remain in the plaza. Amidst much shouting, many orders given, another siren sounds.
Someone said: The hook-and-ladder trucks rev their diesels, moving toward one another, out of one another’s way, like heavily armored warriors in a primitive battle, like dinosaurs in a narrow canyon. “I have studied so many branches of knowledge and mastered so many concepts.” Meanwhile the plaza is covered under a general darkness, no longer illuminated by the headlights of its customary traffic. “Yet I still do not know which concept in man will abide forever.” The “palatial building” has no inner light at all, and its exterior is lit by but half a dozen dim lamps. “I have not discovered it yet.”
It excites you to search for the concept, though you cannot see it in actuality. Finally the longest hook-and-ladder truck starts up, changes lanes and roars past the three lead trucks. If it could be known by means of words. More shouting occurs. There would be no need for the annihilation of individual existence. The police van, its red and blue lights still flashing, follows in the wake of the large fire vehicle. Or for so much suffering. As though intent upon adding to the congestion rather than regulating it. You must strive to rid yourself of your own individuation, before you can know that thing which will remain (this from the last of four discourses that I have quoted from, collected as Signs of the Unseen).
Because Thetis had been brought up by Hera, she refused to have intercourse with Zeus (Apollodorus again). Angry with Thetis, Zeus decided to marry her off to a mortal, and chose Peleus, whom Cheiron advised to seize and keep a good grip on Thetis. Lying in wait for his bride, Peleus grabbed her and tried to follow Cheiron’s advice, but Thetis changed, now into fire, now into water, now into a wild beast. Peleus persisted, however, until she returned to her original form. Then he married her on Mount Pelion, an event which the gods celebrated with feasting and song.
Author steps out from the doors of Hôtel Le Mercure into the palatial space. After Thetis had given birth to a child by Peleus, she wanted to assure that it too would be immortal, and in secret from Peleus she buried the child in the fire by night to destroy its mortal element, that part of it inherited from its mortal father. Having slain Hektor in mortal combat. But Peleus kept a watch on her, and when he saw the child squirming in the fire, shouted out, so that Thetis, frustrated in her purpose, abandoned her infant son and returned to the Nereids. Achilles lashes his opponent’s feet to a chariot. Peleus then delivered the child to Cheiron, who took him in, fed him on the entrails of lions and the marrow of bears, and renamed him Achilles. Whereupon he dragged him seven times about the walls of Troy. Since he had never applied his lips to a breast. And so we begin the first of seven circuits about the palatial building.
Painted upon a red wall within the palace grounds, a white graffito reads “Mardin.” Thucydides described the land wars of the archaic period as domestic wars waged between individual neighbors and not in general productive of powerful groups such as coalitions and empires (Hammond again). His description is correct but not comprehensive. At curbside is parked a black, white-roofed 1954 Chevrolet. As the new states grew up on the mainland and were planted overseas they jostled for position. About the top of its doors and trunk runs a yellow-and-black checkered rim. And they used their expanding resources in war against one another. Having reached the end of the palatial building, we turn the corner. The outcome was sometimes decisive, in that possession of disputed territory was securely established but rarely catastrophic for one side and productive of power for the other. As we turn the next corner, behind the palatial building, we encounter a blue van, two air conditioners atop it. But by these wars the frontiers of the city-states were drawn, and the strength of each was circumscribed for the future. Having traversed the far side of the palace, at Balyoz Sokak we mount steps to return us to the level of the Hotel Mercure’s entrance and begin our second circuit.
Sparta, the first Dorian city-state on the mainland, subjugated the Messenian peoples and widened the basis of her own power by appropriating the territory and enslaving the population after a twenty-year war (c. 740-720). “ME,” reads a white graffito on a beige ground at the head of the palace enceinte. Corinth, leader and beneficiary of the commercial expansion, deprived Megara of her southern territory in a war that probably ended c. 700 and was distinguished by the heroism of the Megarian Orsippus, the Olympic victor of 720. Before an olive green building front, with the single word in gold, “Odakule,” stand two blue vans striped red along their sides. Thereby the future of Corinth as the central market of exchange in the Greek world was assured. We pass a yellow taxi. For henceforth she controlled the approaches by land and by sea to the shortest crossing of the Isthmus. On its side, in blue, reads its number: 34 TJT 40. Megara, robbed of territory, which was rich in pasture and timber, relieved the pressure of over-population, at first by planting colonies overseas, then by subjugating the island of Salamis. At the corner, under an “Esbank” sign in white on blue against a red ground, we turn again.
Their presence threatened the approaches by sea to Eleusis and Athens. Again we turn into Tarlabasci Bulvari. Inspired by the martial poems of Solon. An orange, cream and blue bus laboriously mounts the boulevard and rumbles by. The Athenians ejected the Megarians and in turn occupied the island. “35C,” reads its number. War continued between the two states. At the corner, under a sign in gold on brown for “Petra Palas Oteli.” But by 560 Peisistratus secured lasting possession of the island. We mount again the steps into the plaza. Which was as vital to the future of Athens as the occupation of the southern Megarid was to Corinth. On the sidewalk are eight concrete benches, each of whose seats has been constructed by joining three slabs of green wood.
Later in the course of things Peleus sacked Iolcos with the help of Jason and the Dioscuri (Apollodorus). We begin our third circuit of the palatial square. Coalitions arose when wider interests were involved (Hammond). “Casa Italia” read its gold letters, inscribed upon a black grate. Thus the Lelantine war, waged before and after 700, began as a local dispute between Chalcis and Eretria for possession of the intervening Lelantine plain. Above rise the three stuccoed stories of a yellow, classicized building. The outcome, however, was a matter of general importance to the commercial and colonial powers of the Aegean. We climb higher, past the simplified white display windows of “ERCO TOTAL,” its “E” and “R” darkened and widened. Thycydides writes as if most of the Greek states participated in the Lelantine war. We pass the Grand Hôtel de Londres, its brass name in script; beneath it, “1892.” In the third story above, two caryatids seem to support two other floors. We know only that Samos sided with Chalcis, and Miletus with Eretria. At the end of the palatial building stands an apartment dwelling; “74,” reads the small street number on its door. And we may conjecture that Corinth sided with the former and Megara with the latter. We turn the corner and head down toward the boulevard, past nine concrete planters, each painted yellow, each with a flourishing bush within. A girl in a red sweater, black leather jacket over it, black pants, rises up the hill. Slaughtering Astydameia, the wife of Ascastos, Peleus cut her body limb from limb and let his army into the city through her remains. As we reach the end of this undistinguished stretch of the circuit, a billboard proclaims “2005 / Avrupa Atletizm / Shampiyona Sinda.” The decisive engagement, however, took place on land, when Thessalian cavalry won the day for Chalcis. We mount the steps again, its first stage consisting of eighteen steps, its second of seventeen. Eretria, which boasted an army of 3,000 infantry, 500 cavalry and 60 chariots, ceased to be a leading power. Signs of a fire mark the outside wall of the palace area.
We begin our fourth circuit. In the Peloponnese the struggle began for military supremacy. The claims of Argos derived from the days of the conquest and were symbolized in the seniority of the Temenid royal family. Four yellow and three white planters have been interspersed among the eight green-seated benches. She had played the leading part in founding Sicyon, Aegina and Megara, and she aided Megara in a successful war against Corinth. Sparta challenged Argos by planting refugees from Asine on the coast of Messenia. “Pertek Profesyonel Kuru Temizleme,” reads the blue name of a dry cleaning establishment. Argos took up the challenge and defeated Sparta decisively at Hysiae in 669. As we mount the walkway bordering the palatial building. The decline of Sparta’s prestige and the success of Argos may have encouraged Pisa to revolt from Elis in 668 and gain control of the sanctuary at Olympia by 660. Two blond girls in black coats descend arm in arm. In 659 Sparta, campaigning against Phigalia, was repulsed by the Phigalians and the Oresthasians of Arcadia. On the side of the palatial building read the words, “For Turkish National Television.” As we turn the corner at the end of the palace precinct we glance up at the words “Galata Saray.”
Then, c. 640, the Messenians revolted with the aid of Pisa, Arcadia, Argos and Sicyon, and Sparta fought for her existence the next nineteen years, receiving some aid from Corinth, Samos and Lepreatis. Rounding the next corner, we look out over the Golden Horn. Sparta’s victory was decisive. Along the next, descending side of our circuit three “Varol Beton” trucks have stopped, their cement canisters still churning. Her possession of Messenia was assured, her institutions vindicated, her military prowess established. They are decorated in abstract green and yellow designs. Ahead rises the green Pera Palas Hotel, a man in grey looking down on the scene from a balcony. In 546 she defeated Argos in a battle that developed from a contest between “Three Hundred Champions” on each side. We turn to mount the thirty-five steps again. This victory added Thyreatis permanently to her territory and made her the greatest military state in the Peloponnese. As we do so, we observe, ahead of us, on the eighth floor of a silver and black building, the words “Sony Music.”
When Achilles was nine years old, Calchas declared that Troy could not be taken without him, but Thetis — who knew in advance that he was fated to be killed, if he joined the expedition — disguised him in women’s clothing and entrusted him to Lycomedes in the semblance of a young girl. Beginning our fifth circuit, we notice that between the two white-on-blue flags flying within the palace grounds has been added a third, the red flag of Islam. North of the Peloponnese a local dispute between Delphi and Crisa developed into the First Sacred War (595-586). We pass the unornamented, modern Turkcel Building and observe in its window a six-foot-tall coffee-colored alien, in black vest and white bow tie. While he was growing up at court, Achilles had intercourse with Deidameia, the daughter of Lycomedes, who produced a son, Pyrrhos, later called Neoptolemos. We stop before a storefront whose window has been covered with pieces of beige paper, watered and aged unintentionally to look like parchment. The Amphictyons were the twelve tribes of north-east Greece — Thessaloi, Perrhaboi, Magnetes, Phthiotai, Dolopes, Malioi, Ainianes, Lokroi, Dorieis, Phoceeis, Iones, Boiotoi — and the original center of the Amphictyony had been at Thermopylae. “Telephone FAX Ofisi,” read black letters on a yellow ground. Achilles’ whereabouts were betrayed, however, and Odysseus, searching for him at the court of Lycomedes, discovered him by causing a trumpet to be sounded. Next to the palatial building a man dressed in black and blue suddenly appears. Because Crisa was stronger than Delphi, Delphi appealed to the Amphictyony. As we turn the corner we observe that the curb along this stretch is painted in alternately white and yellow sections. The Council obtained the blessing of the Pythian oracle and declared a sacred war on Crisa, which was formally excommunicated and sentenced to destruction. We look out over the Golden Horn toward mosques dim in the cloudy sky. The wrath of the god and the strength of the secular arm vindicated, Crisa ceased to exist and was forced to cede the ministry of the temple to Delphi, whose priesthood from that time on conducted the ritual of the temple. We traverse the length of a parking garage, which begins on the ground floor and descends to underground along the downward slope of the street. Alongside the curb is parked a white and black Isuzu truck. “Budget Car Rental” is spelled out in blue and orange. The truck is designed to remove unwanted cars. And so it came about that Achilles went to Troy. As we look forward to the sixth circuit, we view down the vista the famous aqueduct. The Sacred War had enhanced the prestige of both Apollo and Delphi, revealed the adaptability of the Amphictyonic machine for political purposes and emphasized the military supremacy of Thessaly among the sites north of the Isthmus. Atop the red-tiled roof of Pera Palas Oteli a satellite dish points in the opposite direction.
This supremacy was put into operation after the Sacred War. The sixth circuit begins with a large cooing flock of grey pigeons who are pecking at the sidewalk. Within the palatial grounds a man in a black hat, red windbreaker with black arms, and blue pants, exits. A girl in a green, orange and red shirt almost completely obscured by her black jacket hurries past in black pants and high black shoes. Her hair is black too. A red sports coupe enters the street along our sidewalk and scoots on by. Thessalian forces reduced Phocis and Locris and penetrated deep into Boeotia, before they suffered a defeat, in approximately 575. In the blackened window of “Fakir Hausgreräte” sit an air conditioning unit and a radiator. We turn the corner and descend to the next, entering once more into Tarlabasci Bulvari. Along the outer wall of the palace are posters of a political nature, one of the Sosyalist Iktidar Partisi. It shows a dollar sign with its “S” in the shape of a snake. Later in the century the Phocians rebelled and secured their independence by defeating the Thessalian infantry in a night-attack, luring the Thessalian cavalry into a camouflaged trap containing wine-jars. A man in olive overcoat and red tam mounts the street, wandering dangerously out into it, two large black plastic sacks slung over his shoulders. Thus, before the time of the Persian invasion, the power of Thessaly had begun to decline. After a sign for “Oto Park,” we turn up the steps to begin our seventh and final circuit.
A girl in a yellow parka, her magenta turtleneck beneath it, strolls by, arm in arm with her boyfriend. A man descends from the plaza before the palatial building in blue shirt and white pants. In the Dark Age warfare may have been decided by contests between champions, and a code of personal chivalry may have obtained, for instance, in a war within the Megarid. We mount past the sign for the nightclub, in whose display window are many photos of dancers, two in leopard skin and leopard mask costumes. Then, too, members of the Delphic Amphictyony may have introduced the undertaking not to raze one another’s city or cut off one another’s water-supply in a secular war (as opposed to a sacred war). A man in maroon sweater, blue pants works to repave the sidewalk. He is fitting a tile into an empty space among three other tiles. Their collective design forms a circle. But in the archaic period war involved more of the population and recognized fewer conventions. We circle for the last time the palatial building, its lower wall filled with graffiti, all in Turkish. In battle, wounded and disarmed men were dispatched, and the vanquished recovered only the dead, already stripped of their arms by the victors. We pause across from the slender Hotel Troia, its seven residential stories adorned alternately with plain windows and windows covered by architraves. Certain rules, carrying religious sanctions and probably of religious origin, were gradually accepted. We turn the corner behind the palace and look out over Evropa to its more provincial districts. Heralds and envoys were inviolable. We turn back into the boulevard. The dead were not mutilated or denied burial. A green and blue bus has had painted on its side a long, light blue wave. The truce covering such burial was sacrosanct, the oaths of a treaty were binding, and the altars of the gods offered sanctuary to the suppliant. A white car exits from the parking garage, at midday its headlights shining. It heads through a small driveway out into the boulevard, where it disappears around a bend, author observing it over his shoulder. We look into the entrance to the underground garage for the last time. In the archaic period these rules seem to have been generally observed. As we pass the sign for the Exhibition Palace, we turn for our final ascent of the steps. A blond girl in a black jacket, black-and-white patterned skirt, holds a letter in her hand. She gives it to a friend who is waiting for it patiently behind the wheel of his car. For a moment he studies its address, then puts the letter in his pocket.
Snowflakes have begun to fall over the palatial building and its precinct. Damply they stick to the tiled surfaces of the terraces, to leaves of grass in its attractively irregular plots. They are dusting the trees that surround the perimeter and beginning to cover the rooftops of Istanbul. In Book XXIII, we recall, the Achaians had ceased fighting to prepare for the burial of Patroklos. Wood is brought from the mountains to build the pyre for the dead hero. Competitions are organized. It is growing colder. The winners receive valuable prizes. A black-suited man exits from the palatial building, opens the door of a white sedan and drives slowly, almost invisibly out of the snow-covered grounds. In Book XXIV Priam, bearing gifts, goes to the tent of Achilles to bring back the dead body of his son. He has thrown a sack of goods in the trunk of the white car. Now he circles the palatial grounds and disappears from view. Achilles gives him Hektor’s body and stops the war, until the Trojan hero has been buried.
The great poem of Homer finishes with the funeral of Hektor: “They placed his corpse aloft the pyre’s crest, flung a torch and set it all on flame, then collected the white bones of the hero.” The palatial building’s roof, no longer green now but covered with snow, supports a dozen pigeons, who peck at its surface, fly off, only to resettle and peck again. “They placed the bones they had found among the ashes into a golden chest, shrouding them round and round with soft purple garments. Then quickly they lowered the chest into a deep hollow grave and piled atop it stones closely set. Hastily they constructed a barrow and posted look-outs all about, for fear that the Achaean combat troops would launch their attack before the time of grieving was over. Once they had heaped the mound, they turned back home to Troy, where, gathering once again, they shared a splendid funeral feast in honor of the hero, held in the house of Priam, king by will of Zeus. And so the Trojans buried Hektor, breaker of horses.”
Three women exit the palatial building, crossing the plaza to stand at the railing above the boulevard. They face one another and speak, gesturing out over the athletic field below. The white sedan has returned to its parking place before the palace, tracking the snow for a second time. Meanwhile, into the plaza is being maneuvered, slowly, painstakingly, a large white bus. “Polis” it says on its side. Again amidst much shouting and gesticulation it turns about, as traffic is redirected, a yellow gate lifted at the entrance to the terrace, and the drivers allowed to enter the plaza and park the vehicle. For five minutes nothing happens. But now two dozen policemen, one by one, descend from the bus, as across the street, a workman removes the beige alien, still attired in black vest and white tie, from the Turkcel Building’s showroom. Carefully he stows it in a waiting car, its body in the back seat, its head in the front.