100 Years Ago: June 1922
This is the eighty-nineth installment in a series of reviews of National Geographic Magazines as they reach the centennial of their publication.
The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Far East Republic” and was written by Junius B. Wood, author of “Yap and Other Pacific Islands Under Japanese Mandate” in the National Geographic Magazine. The article contains twenty-nine black-and-white photographs by the author. Six of those photos are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map of the Far Eastern Republic on page 567.
Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
The barakholka may not have been the center of life in Siberia, but, in 1922, that second-hand market summarized conditions in that vast country. Fallen aristocrats were rubbing elbows with the proletariat, selling heirlooms, finery, and articles considered necessities. The nation and its people seemed paralyzed by war’s aftermath in spite of millions of fertile acres (now fallow); gold, coal, and iron waiting to be dug; thousands of miles of navigable rivers and railroads; and an empire of uncut timber. Tragedy hung heavy over the unending Siberian plains and hills, but there was laughter, love, and music through it all. The larder might have been bare for days and the finery of past years soiled and ragged, with no hope for the future, but there was always a smile and time to gossip. The dance was just as gay, even though death might be waiting before the next sunrise. On the author’s first morning in Chita, capital of the Far Eastern Republic, his interpreter poured two glasses of tea and announced that he needed a silk shirt. His finances were ten silver rubles, or $1.58. Interpreting was his first steady job in the year, during which all the family possessions had been sold to pay rent and feed the kids. The job was almost finished and no other was in sight; but worry for present needs outweighed all premonitions of future needs. He must have that shirt, with embroidered collar, cuffs, and skirt hanging outside the trousers. The few streets of little stores which once had been the city market-place had grown into many blocks of cubical-frame sheds. It resembled a street fair. The author wondered how there could have been enough business in that poverty-stricken land to keep it alive. Like a miniature city, the stands clustered according to commodities. Some offered comestibles, including cigarettes and pressed blocks of tea. On another street, Chinese offered dry-goods, with cheap calico prints, Turkey reds, silks, spools of thread, and needles. Buriet peasants sold flour and fresh meat from carts; Georgians sold soap and candy; and Russian shops sold tea and cakes, all where commerce was primitive and unlicensed.
In the center of one of the soft, sandy streets the barakholka stretched for two blocks. Those merchants did not have the luxury of roofs over their heads, and their stocks were spread on the ground or carried in baskets. To most of them bartering was a new experience. Like the wares they offered, they were of all ages and sizes. It was the epitome of Siberia in 1922 – industrially, commercially, and socially. The interpreter could have gotten a silk shirt. In fact, he could have gotten anything he wanted, either useful or ornamental. All had been used and some had passed the useful stage – carts, pianos, music boxes, furniture, clothes, shaving sets, toothbrushes, family albums with photos, mousetraps, lamps, books, paintings, candlesticks, soldering irons, tools, silverware, jewelry, and even locks off cabin doors. The tragic merchants waited patiently in two lines down the broad street. Around them crowded the curious and the speculative; for some, mostly Chinese and Jews, had money with which to buy bargains. Near the end of the line stood a young woman in her early twenties, a girl, three or four, at her side with another on the way. She had already sold her hat and was in the process of selling her shawl. An old woman had a basket of family keepsakes – a gilded ikon, odd spoons, photographs in frames, books, a pair of earrings, a plush case, and knickknacks. In one hand she held a silver creamer. Two soldiers elbowed through the crowd. One carried a gold watch on a silver chain and a locket of enamel. It was 10 gold rubles ($5), and the owner gave his assurance that the timepiece was reliable. His friend said that he had sold his watch for 25 rubles. It had been a present when he graduated, but he hadn’t been paid in two months. He planned to take his wife to the theater with the money. A swarthy son of the Caucasus was selling paper money – a 10,000-ruble Moscow bill for 2 rubles 80 kopecks (40 cents). He was asked, “how much sugar could it buy?” He shrugged and the crowd laughed.
Mr. Wood worked his way down the line. A middle-aged man was joking with a woman selling a corset. He said, “A handsome young lady like you can’t go to the dance without a corset.” She snapped back, “There isn’t enough in my stomach to need a corset.” The crowd applauded her. To one side, away from the crowd, an elderly couple were selling an iron bed and a brightly polished brass samovar. A Russian home was no longer a home without its samovar. The old man said it was their bed, but they could sleep on the floor. Two little boys were backed against one of the framed sheds. One of them stroked a rabbit. “Papa says I must sell it, for we haven’t any flour,” he explained, starting to cry. A dog had killed his other rabbit, and he wanted 4 silver rubles (57 cents) for it. The actors and scenery changed, but the tragedy under the surface of comedy was the same. There was a barakholka in every Siberian city, everyplace with an industrial population, which must sell the clothes off their backs to get food from the peasants and the Chinese merchants. Food was plentiful in Siberia; but even the cheapest food was unobtainable for those without a single kopeck. The meager rations which the government doled out was all that saved most of the city population from starvation. A white-haired woman with a black cap on her head and a black hat in her trembling hand, was talking to a girl in her late teens. The girl was selling her pair of high leather boots. When asked why? She said it was warm weather so she didn’t need them now, and added that she needed other things more. Two weeks later, the author returned to the Chita barakholka. He saw the old woman in the black cap selling another piece of her wardrobe, but did not see the girl. When he asked, he found out that she had died. She had lost her family, sold her jewelry, furs, clothes and everything she could. When she had nothing more to sell except herself, after a dance she didn’t go home, but went alone to the river. The next morning her body had been found.
It was warm when the author was in the Far Eastern Republic, long sunny days, from 4 in the morning to 9 at night, and weather like summer in the Northwest. In the winter it was different, with the thermometer registering 60 degrees below zero and nature covered by a mantle of snow that never thaws. The winter furs and flannels sold to buy summer’s bread meant death when the icy blast gripped the country. Of the 1,800,000 inhabitants of the republic, roughly 80% were peasants; 15% were in government service of railroads, schools, telegraphs, posts, or bureaus; and 5% were in private industry, such as shops, stores, flour mills, sawmills, tanneries, and mining. It was that 20% that suffered physically. The government, though without money, could supply a modicum of food to stave off stalking starvation for three-fourths of them. In winter, the Russian peasant burrowed out of his log house from under the snow and the Buriat peasant, of Mongol descent, went to his windowless hut, just as they had done since they first pioneered in Siberia. They had food, but their crude farm tools and their clothing were kept together only by constant tinkering. A Canadian trading company representative showed the author a German scythe blade, a sample of what he was selling. He would trade one for 60 pounds of butter or some equivalent farm product. Few commercial houses had the patience or facilities to conduct business through barter. With gold and silver as the only currency, commerce was slow. Two years of civil war which preceded the establishment of the Far East Republic not only paralyzed, but almost exterminated trade and industry. The property and merchandise which were not requisitioned outright were either looted or destroyed, violently or by decree. The later method was by forcing the merchants to accept the worthless paper money which the various transient rulers issued. As many kinds of money had been in circulation in Siberia since the days of the Romanoffs as there had been governments or military chieftains.
One of the first acts of the present [in 1922] government was to abolish paper money as legal currency. Reversion to a hard money standard brought the old gold coins out of their hiding places. The disciples of communism did not bother their heads about fundamentals of financial economy. They hated the gold coins, stamped with the Russian eagle, as a symbol of capitalism and the dreaded money power. The men running the government were sufficiently practical to decide that a gold coin, even with reliefs of eagle and Tsar on its faces, was better than the gorgeous paper notes of Moscow. Even though their philosophy was outraged, a gold coin did not depreciate overnight, and no communist faithful had ever refused one. A new, depreciated silver coinage – 5, 10, 15, and 20 kopeck pieces – minted in Japan, was put into circulation to supplement the gold. A gold 5-ruble coin exchanged for 5.10 yen, while the silver small change was worth only 28 4/7 % of its face value. A traveler’s difficulties in shopping in Siberia were in discovering whether prices were in silver or gold. Railroad fares were collected in gold. The rate was between 6 and 7 cents a mile in American money. On one semi-weekly train, four passengers had paid first-class fare, 14 second class, and 34 third class, while 56 were riding with civilian passes and 97 on military passes. Only 25% of the passengers were paying fares, the balance rode for free. The railroad was the most important public utility of the republic. Poverty and dilapidation had overwhelmed it, just as they had gripped the fallen genteel of the barakholka. It was a marvel that it kept running at all. The passenger coaches were unheated in winter, windows dirty and broken, light fixtures wrenched out, lavatories filled with dirt, mirrors missing, doors nailed shut or broken off, and the floors splintered. Railcars had “D. V. R.” stenciled on them, the initials of the republic, Ones coming from Soviet Russia had “R. S. F. S. R.” on them. Eleven months had passed since the railroad employees had been paid, but despite the dangers of war and rickety equipment, they kept working.
The Far Eastern Republic had 2,920 miles of railroad, exclusive of the 1,100 miles of Chinese Eastern Railroad, which also belonged to Russia. As part of the Trans-Siberian, these miles of roads gave access to the Pacific. They were more than the Republic would need for many years to come. The 1,438 miles of the Amur Road paralleled the river through tracts of virgin forest, a country rich in gold and coal, but undeveloped. Geologists said that there was not a 150-mile stretch along that road where coal could not be mined. The area of the Far Eastern Republic was 450,000 square miles, larger than Texas and California combined, yet it was only the southeast corner of Siberia, one-twentieth of the former Russian Empire. From Vladivostok, on the coast, to Verkhne-Udinsk, on the republic’s western boundary, was more than 1,700 miles by rail, a little more than one-third of Siberia had been crossed. Usually, the train was the only sign of life. As far as the eye could see, the telegraph poles stood sentry along the railroad. Everywhere were the scars of war – rusting locomotive, the skeleton of a train, twisted rails, wrecked bridges, or shattered fragments where an ammunition train had blown up. A peasant wagon, with galloping ponies and the invariable dog trotting behind, was a sign that a village was nearby. The lamps at the station platform were gone, for this was a moonbeam railroad, running without signal or headlights. Barefoot women and children were at every station selling food and bottles of milk or homemade beer. A whole chicken cost 50 cents; 100 fresh eggs, 55 cents; a quart of boiled milk, 2½ cents. Every passenger carried a tea-kettle for the hot water which was provided free, or an empty bottle for milk, if he wasn’t a Russian tea-drinker.
At a regular interval, the train stopped and the conductor got out shouting. It was a call for the passengers to get out and gather sticks for the locomotive’s woodpile. The author felt that it was a crude study in communism. The fuel was loaded as if by bucket brigade. Some people worked while others lolled about. For thousands, the railroad provided the only home. An official got a passenger coach or private car for himself and his family, but the proletariat – men, women, and children – were herded by dozens into boxcars, anyone who could crowd in being free to pick out a corner for a home. In Chita and Verkhne-Udinsk, hundreds were housed in boxcar cities, cooking, eating, and living in the open day and, at night, sleeping on rough shelves which had been built into the cars. Some were on the move, getting nearer Soviet Russia whenever could be spared to pull their trains, while others had been waiting for months. Included in that westbound tide were about a hundred American artisans each month, bound for Soviet Russia – “a country where men could be free”, as they explained. Eastbound were long trains carrying 20,000 Chinese refugees from Ungern’s sack of Urga in Mongolia being transported by Soviet Russia back to China. At night, every spare spot in the railroad stations – tables, benches, floors, and even the platform outside in good weather – furnished a bed. Even the hotels had cracked under the strain.
The military band kept Chita alive. It preceded every company of soldiers that marched through the streets during the day. In the evenings, its members played at the two theaters and public gardens. Chita even had a circus. It was mostly clowns with racy songs. On pleasant evenings, the public gardens were filled, though 5 cents admission was charged. Every seat in the theaters were taken. The outdoor dance pavilion was crowded also. Sometimes there was the grand opera and other weeks there was a stock company or movies. The restaurant, where a good meal costs 65 cents, was almost deserted. The government free soup kitchen, on the opposite corner, had 3,500 callers every noon. Nearly every morning the author was in Verkhne-Udinsk, a stern-wheeler would come down the Selenga River carrying the wounded from fighting Ungern’s bandits. Frequently, 300 would be crowded on the little boat, with only three nurses to care for them during the three-day voyage. Some of the wounded hobbled ashore on crutches; others crawled on hands and knees. They made their way to the shade of a building or to the hospital without complaint. Among Russians, the present paralysis of the country and the suffering of its people was blamed on Japan. Much of it, however, was a heritage from the revolution, the overthrow of a despotic monarchy and the launch of a radical government whose principals went to the opposite extreme. The Siberia could not recover as long as Japan had a hostile army within its territory, and the Japanese military did not want it to recover until it was annexed, as Korea was, was equally evident. One Japanese expedition, by holding Vladivostok could control all the countries commerce by railroad. Another Japanese expedition in the Sakhalin district could control the rich deposits of coal and oil on the island, the Russian fisheries, the timber on the mainland, and the Amur River route of the country’s water commerce.
The most serious obstacle which Japan placed to the peace of the country was its support for brigands of Ungern and others to harass the borders. Possibly, the government of the Far Eastern Republic would not have been efficient and the people prosperous, even if the Japanese were withdrawn, but it was impossible for them to prosper as long as the Japanese remained. Regardless of the bitterness of his domestic politics, the Russian was intensely nationalistic. He believed Russia was for the Russian first. His hatred for Japan was the same as any other nation who invaded his home. Several motives contributed to the formation of the Far Eastern Republic as a constitutional democracy. Soviet Russia could have prevented but assisted instead. Moscow had been Chita’s only friend, sending gold and soldiers, though limited in both. However, the two republics were separate. There were custom guards, immigration officers, and soldiers on either side of the border. For the Soviets, the Far Eastern Republic served as a buffer state between it and Japan. They also used that corner of Siberia as a good field test to try out democracy, with their own economy failing. The third reason was that the Siberian peasant would never accept a broader communism than the guild communism to which he was accustomed. The Siberian peasant averaged 100 acres of land. He could have as much more as he could cultivate. What he raised, was his own. The constitution guaranteed rights to private property and goods, but all land, rivers, and mineral rights belonged to the state. They were leased in lieu of taxes. Every citizen 18 years old could vote. Minority representation was provided for in national, state, county, city, and village governments. Five states were created on geographical lines, and a sixth, at large, state for the autonomous racial Buriat-Mongol.
The fear of dictatorship was evident; instead of a single president, a commission of seven, known as “The Government”, was elected by the assembly. “The Government” was the highest executive authority. The church was separated from the state. Citizens were free to practice any religion, or none. Religious instruction was permitted only in theological schools. Education was free and compulsory. So was work for every citizen, not more than 8 hours a day or 6 hours a night, with further restrictions for women and children. Every male citizen was liable for military service between 18 and 45 years, and it was compulsory between 20 and 22. Liberty of the press, speech, and assembly was guaranteed. Citizens could also initiate legislation through a complicated system of people’s commissars known as “People’s Control”. In theory, it enforced efficiency, but in practice, it only made things worse. The people’s commissars interfered with the army, the railroad, the local administrations, and every other civil function. The republic’s secret police, or “Gospolokrana”, could arrest anybody, and did not hesitate to do so. It watched everything – prohibition laws, food profiteering, and chiefly political conspiracies. The government was struggling pitifully to maintain the schools and other civil functions. Without resources, it was hard to realize high ambitions. However, considerable was done. One institution in Chita was a government creche, a daycare for working mothers. Nearly a hundred babies and children were cared for from 9 to 5. Propaganda was the gripping force of the government. Every employee or soldier got a free newspaper, and a Russian newspaper was always enthusiastic for its country, or local party. Gaudy but artistic lithographs appealed to the largely illiterate population. In each city was a reading-room, and the demand for technical and scientific books far exceeded the limited number of well-thumbed copies. Outside, the world’s press was painting Siberia as in the midst of an uprising, with officials being burned on pyres. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Splendor of Rome”, and was written by Florence Craig Albrecht, author of such National Geographic articles as “Austro-Italian Mountain Frontiers”, “Channel Ports – and Some Others”, “The City of Jacqueline”, “Frontier Cities of Italy”, and “London”. The article contains twenty-eight black-and-white photographs, of which eighteen are full-page in size.
The name, Rome, brought to the author visions of wide-open spaces with blinding sunshine, and of great bands and pools of velvety purple shadow. Along with the glare and shadow was the splashing of many fountains, the sound of rushing waters. It was not the Tiber, Rome’s turbid river. The charm of the Tiber was romantic and in the past. It existed only in poetry. The river of 1922 was almost negligible in the sum of Rome’s attractiveness to the author. “Too large a stream to be harmless, too small to be useful”, Rome said of it. It was Rome’s fountains that engaged the author. No one went to Rome expectant of them or came away to forget. Yet they were but tiny bits of all that the author’s party came to see, and going, strived to remember. Older cities there were, cities that in their day were just as great, but they did not touch us as did Rome, who linked us with them. It was Rome who, with one hand yet stretched to the East, raised, with the other, the veil that shrouded Europe. There were very few cities in which so much could be learned in a day or two as in Rome; in ten years one could not exhaust it. Yet the first sight of Rome was disappointing. So new, so conventional, so ready-made, so like any other European city. The pity was one entered the city by train upon its newest side, a side which, a generation ago, was all villas and gardens. The author felt the better way to approach Rome was from the north by car, or by plane, landing on the Janiculum, the ridge west of the Tiber. Either way afforded one a view of the city as a whole. In one glance they could link the widespread epochs – six centuries before Christ, His own time, three, and fifteen centuries after Him – and that was Rome.
Far across the city, beyond the Tiber, rose a commanding ridge, Monte Gianicolo, or the Janiculum. At its southern end was a flat terrace which bore a church and monastery. The tiny “Tempietto” in the monastery court marked the spot where St. Peter was crucified. The church was built by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, of Columbus fame. Visitors were very few there, for St. Peter’s huge church on the Vatican attracted them all. Those that came to the Janiculum did it to see Rome. It was never one of “the seven hills”, but it was a good place to look over at them, especially toward evening. East of the river was all the Rome of the ancients, most of Rome for the moderns – a great, busy modern city overlaying a greater ancient one. Even from there, the city looked neither lovely, nor picturesque. For that side of the city, one needed to walk some moonlit night by the Colosseum, loiter on the Bridge of the Angels when star-reflections dimpled the water, or sit silent by a fountain in a rose-scented garden when the nightingales were in song. In 1922, they saw a yellow and gray crowded modern city, pointed with stately square towers and, here and there, a dome. They could not make out clearly the undulations of those seven hills. Time and engineering had done their work. Hilltops had been laid low; valleys filled in to suit the trolley cars. Details of the hills began to emerge in the evening light. Aventine was readily marked, the southernmost hill. The next northward, the Palatine, with its ruins of imperial palaces. Beyond it, just visible was the farther side of Monte Celio, the third of the hills of Rome. It was never high, and from their vantage they could make out no slope. Nor was the Esquiline beyond, where rose the two great domes of Santa Maria Maggiore.
But between Esquiline and the author’s party, North of the Palatine, the Capitoline Hill rose abruptly, crowned with church and palaces. There they got a glimpse of the ancient Rome they were seeking, not on the hill itself, but between it and the Palatine – great arches, a column or two, and the huge bulk on the Colosseum. Of Monte Viminale they could make nothing, but Monte Quirinale was marked by the royal palace and Trajan’s beautiful column, while Monte Pincio, to the north, flanked the white Villa Medici with rich green. St. Peter’s and the Vatican were hidden from them by their own hill, but all the rest of tourist Rome lied like a map before them, ringed by the glowing Campagna and lovely, snow-patched mountains. The city glowed even more golden as the sun sank behind their hill, the shadows crept closer and ever closer from the east, the land faded into mistiness, yet the mountaintops were lit. The last beam touched a dome, flashed gold, and was gone. The colosseum flushed soft rose, then dimmed, and suddenly all was purple dusk, through which a myriad twinkling lights burned vividly.
The author switched gears at this point and began discussing Rome’s history. Legendary were most of its early pages, both pagan and Christian. Rome the Kingdom was all legend, yet very real were the men who built that mile-long wall about the summit of the Palatine. They reared and trained a race that seven centuries later conquered the world. Two hundred and fifty years (754-506 B. C.) that Kingdom lasted, and was then overthrown. A Republic took its place for five centuries (509-27 B. C.). Through military despotism, it was replaced by Empire, which in turn endured for five hundred years (27 B. C.-476 A. D.), though for the last third of that time it was very weak. After that, chaos. Kingdom, Republic, Empire – all were gone; only a weak, ruined city remained. The great nobles, the Popes, and the people struggle for mastery; there were wars within and without – invasion, rebellion, open strife, and secret murder. Charlemagne was crowned in St. Peter’s and sets the Pope more firmly on his throne. A new element entered, the Frankish and German emperors, but the struggle went on. Popes were alternately friends and foes; the city was now Guelph, now Ghibelline. Entered Napoleon and changed the map for a brief while, and again insurrection. By 1922, there was a united Italy with Rome as its capital. Rome had a problem of large needs and little means in the aftermath of war with her ancient foe beyond the Alps. After twenty-five centuries, Rome was still making history. So long as men read and remembered, Rome could not die. But her history was hardly one of peace. Greece lived by art and letters, but Rome by war. Except for very brief intervals, through seven hundred years, through conflict Rome grew in riches, population, and power. The theory that nations thrived best in times of peace was not hers; they thrived upon conquest, and the weak one merited slavery. Remember that she was pagan. There was no thought in her of a universal brotherhood of men. It would have been pleasant to write that Christian Rome was successful and peaceful, but it was not true; she too warred – less victoriously and more viciously.
The last of the Republic, the first of the Empire, were the days of Rome’s political greatness, of her wealth, her pride, her power. And, at this point, the author began to point out the ruins from that time and other eras. Out of the ruins of the Forum an archeologist could reconstruct the busy meeting-place. Here, under the shadow of Palatine, was the Temple of the Vestals; there that of Castor and Pollux; of Venus and Roma; of Saturn, the oldest of them all; and of Concord, the youngest. Here were the Julian and Constantine basilicas; over there the Comitium, where the patricians met; and the rostra, whence Rome was harangued. Here were shops and porticos, and little narrow ways, and the Sacra Via, which led upward to the Capitoline Hill. While looking at the ruins, the author first saw a jumble of meaningless stones, but in her mind’s eye, she had them take form and then imagined the white-robed Vestals tending the sacred fire. Thirty years of their life the Vestals gave to the service of fire and water. Not at first were Rome’s buildings showy. The Kingdom and the Republic built of volcanic stone structures dull in color and small in size, and only at the end began to cover them with stucco and adorn them with terra-cotta. Tarquin’s great temple to Jupiter was decorated that way. In the time of Sulla, Tarquin’s temple was destroyed by fire, and to replace it great marble columns were brought from Greece, the first that Rome had seen. It was left to Augustine to proclaim, “I found Rome brick and I leave her marble.” With the first of the emperors came the glorious time for architecture in Rome. Of three conspicuous arches, that of Septimius Severus was poor; that of Titus, twice rebuilt, was much better; and that of Constantine was very beautiful next to the Colosseum. Constantine’s Arch was built of material taken from the Arch of Trajan, built in “Rome’s golden time”. It suffered less at Christian hands than other monuments.
The Pantheon, Hadrian’s tomb, the Basilica of Constantine, the columns of Trajan and of Marcus Aurelius, fragments of the city walls, of great baths, of tombs and columbaria, huge aqueducts that still served Rome, and here and there through the city tall shafts and columns, fountains and statues, recalled the names of emperors. Of that last wonderful temple on the Capitol there was [in 1922] no trace, though it suffered neither fire nor thunderbolt. Built of marble, with doors of gold, it stood from the time of Domitian to that of Charlemagne. Through the centuries the temple frittered away, a bit here and a bit there. A needy emperor striped the gold, and a Pope took the rest to build St. Peter’s Church. After Charlemagne, the hill became a fortress for warring nobles. On the southern horn of the hill, the stumps of columns and a bit of pavement marked the temple site. Upon the northern horn of the hill, where the temple of Juno once stood, was the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. The steps leading to the church were a memorial to the deliverance from a plague which devastated Rome. The Porta Santa, open by the Pope in years of Jubilee, was a survivor of the triumphal gate, the Porta Triumphalis, the gate that opened only for a conqueror. The author imagines Caesar and his army marching through the gate, along the river and around the great Circus Maximus, between the Palatine and Aventine hills. The procession turned in that meeting of little valleys where the ruins of the Colosseum towered high [in 1922], and came up under the shadow of the Palatine Hill to the many crowded buildings of the Forum, to the Sacred Way that led to the stately temples on the hill. The spoils were heaped in great mounds about the hill, and the slaves were collected, and the captives went to the Tullianum or Mamertine Prison to die. Then the legions went back to their camp, and the people scattered. The days of Triumphs vanished, the sound of shouting died, the Roman eagle ceased to soar, the golden laurel dimmed. After Constantine left Rome for his Eastern capital, the Empire waned. Hunted, hidden, despised, tortured, martyred, but steadfast, eventually the Christians peacefully conquered Rome.
Rome had so many legends, so many stories. Occasionally, one was amusing, but most were bitter and cruel beyond conception, and, not the least were told of Christian men. Every stone in Rome, had it a tongue, would cry in agony; everyone was bloodstained. The bright, modern city built upon the ruins carried their heritage of joy and woe. The sacrifices passed, the emperors grew feeble, the world accepted the Christian faith, and the bishop of Rome became a mighty power. At first, the rule was spiritual alone. As the years went on, he was more a ruler, less a priest. The ancient kings of Rome were also high priests, the high priests now would be kings. Over the Alps, again and again, came the Gothic invader. There was constant trafficking and bargaining, much dissolute living and open crime. From a city of over a million inhabitants, Rome went down through the ages until she had scarcely a thousand; until her temples and churches, her great basilicas and palaces, lied ruined at the foot of her hills. In the fifteenth century she began to revive and she attained a prosperity as the seat of Christ’s Vicar she could not have known as a political power. Pilgrims came from afar to her shines, royal penitents sought peace and grace there, and each left rich gifts on her altars and in her hospices. This was a time of building – the many great churches, the beautiful piazzi, and the palaces. In 1922, they were much changed, restored, altered, but they spoke to the author of the Rome of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance. That was a day of luxury almost as great as in the time of Imperial Rome. Of all those popes, Sixtus V, in his brief five years, did most for the Rome the author knew, leaving her as she remained until 1870, when a great increase in population more than doubled it to 600,000, and a new era of building began.
The author’s party needed to cross the Tiber, and they had a choice of many bridges (twelve she thought), but the two most popular were the Ponte Palatino, for its view of the Ponte Rotto and the island, and the Bridge of the Angels, leading to the Castle of St. Angelo and the Vatican. The sullen river was never to Rome what the Thames was to London or the Seine to Paris, a servant, a lover, and a friend. There was no trace of the Sublician bridge, the one wooden bridge bolted with bronze, so readily destroyed when danger threatened from the Janiculum. From the Pincio, they looked straight down the Corso to Victor Emmanuel’s great monument, reared against the Capitoline Hill. Rome’s Piazza delle Finanze covered thirty thousand square yards, the largest of its kind in the world. On the sunny pavement of the piazza, Marcus Aurelius rode his bronze horse commandingly. Of all the equestrian statues of ancient Rome, that alone survived Christian Rome. Michelangelo set up the statue there in 1538, bringing it from the piazza of the Lateran. In the square below them, as they loitered on the Pincio, was a great obelisk, built by Sixtus V. He beautified Rome, repairing, restoring, and building. To him they owed the Lateran Palace, the marble staircase of the Piazza di Spagna, the Acqua Felice, and the Dome of St. Peter’s. He moved the “Horse Tamers” to their present position and set up fountains and obelisks in the squares of Rome. One obelisk, that of Rameses III, brought by Augustus to Rome, was in the Piazza del Popolo. Another, from the Basilica of Constantine in the Forum, was in the Piazza dell’ Esquilino before the Santa Maria Maggiore, the greatest of eighty churches dedicated to the Virgin of Rome. Our Lady of the Snows was her older and prettier name. Another obelisk was near San Giovanni in Laterano, the oldest and largest in Rome, perhaps the world. It was of red granite, 105 feet high with a pedestal 154 feet high. It was first erected by Thothmes III 1436-27 B. C. Constantine brought the monolith from Egypt to adorn the Circus Maximus. In 1922, it stood in the piazza before the church.
The Church of St. John, or San Giovanni, was one of Rome’s five “patriarchal” churches of which the Pope was direct head. They had always been greatly venerated and, along with Santa Croce and San Sebastiano, above the catacombs of the Via Appia, formed the “seven churches of Rome”. They were the notable churches of Rome, the stateliest, richest, and holiest. Besides St. John, they were St. Paul and St. Lorenzo, both without the walls, St. Peter’s and Santa Maria Maggiore. St. John, like the other great churches, was founded by Constantine to please Saint Sylvester, then bishop of Rome. From its foundation until the popes went to Avignon, it was the Papal residence. Upon the return to Rome, in 1377, Gregory XI took up residence at the Vatican. Sixtus V rebuilt the palace and many popes were buried there. The great bronze central doors came from the Curia, the Senate-house of early Rome. The door at the extreme right was closed. That was the Porta Santa, which opened only every twenty-five years. The church was stupendous and the cloisters marvelously lovely. Its shrines contained the heads of Saints Peter and Paul. The author then lists all the sites she and her party hadn’t visited. They had not climbed the Scala Santa, the twenty-eight marble steps from Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem. Nor had they seen at the top, the Sancta Sanctorum, the private chapel of the popes. They had not been to the Palazzo del Quirinale. They had slighted the museums and galleries, the great palaces and gardens. They had given no thought to the great monastic orders. They had not been to St. Peter’s, but could see it from where they stood, its great dome floating in the blue. As they got closer, the great colonnades reached out its arms to enclose them. The fountains tossed their spray in the air. The tall obelisk beside them had a longer history than the church that dwarfed it. The obelisk was brought from Heliopolis by Caligula; it was set in Nero’s circus there, on the Mons Vaticanum; it had witnessed pagan games, Christian tortures, St. Peters burial; its base had been soaked with martyrs’ blood.
Constantine the Great founded St. Peter’s, and Sylvester I consecrated it, in 326, over the grave of St. Peter in the circus of Nero. Its foundations were laid in blood-soaked soil. In the fifteenth century a reconstruction became necessary and for two hundred years the work went on intermittently. On November 18, 1626, the 1,300th anniversary of St. Sylvester’s consecration, Urban VIII consecrated the new work. Fra Giaconda, Raphael, Bernini, Michelangelo, Bramante, Sangallo, Maderna, all labored there; it represented the flower of Roman art in that time. There was more of their work in the adjoining palace, the “house of a thousand rooms”, in one corner of which His Holiness the Pope dwelt. The rest was given over to museums and galleries. The palace covered thirteen acres, of which six were in courtyards, large and small, and behind it were beautiful gardens which one might not enter. The sun slowly went down behind the palace and church. The Pincio still lied in the light, but the violet shadows lengthened stealthily. Out of the shadows the author imaged the ghosts of ancient Rome – Nero, Massalina, Caesar, Pompey, Scipio, Hannibal, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Ste. Cecilia, St. Paul, Constantine, Alaric, Charlemagne, Gregory, Petrach, Tasso, Borgia, Cenci, Colonna, Orsino, Luther, Galileo, Rienzi, Titian, Loyola, Palestrina, Napoleon – an endless procession of emperors, conquerors, poets, artists, saints, and martyrs, each with a claim to fame.
Then came war and changes. Soldiers, priests, and statesmen hastened to their duties; ladies, old and young, to service in hospitals, workrooms, and soup-kitchens. In 1922, after three and a half years of war and three and a half years of peace, the old customs resumed sway. Another generation must grow up, another generation which had not witnessed the devastation of Italy’s great plain. Like all other nations engaged in the World War, Italy had her share of all its miseries and its aftermath. Like all others, she had her share of those ignoble souls who profited ghoulishly upon their country’s necessities and her children’s lives. Like them, she had her labor troubles, her sporadic revolutions against law and order, her misled patriots, her willful mischief-makers. She had to listen to the wails of the hungry, the outcry against rationing of food, the ever-increasing prices of necessities, and the ever-decreasing purchasing power of her money. It was a very different Rome that walked, in 1922, upon the Pincio – walked because few had money for carriages or motors, as of old – a Rome that no longer took memories for hope, but looked gravely into a future stern and grim, but at last gave promise of coming sunshine. Italians were industrious and frugal. Harvests in times of peace were usually bounteous. The author had high hopes for the future of Rome.
The third item listed on this month’s cover is entitled “Capri, the Island Retreat of Roman Emperors” and has Morgan Heiskell listed in the byline. It is not an article but “12 Special Engravings” with Mr. Heiskell being the photographer of the images used in the engraving process. Formerly known as photogravures, these twelve full-page prints (pages 627 through 638) use special paper and ink and an acid-etched metal plate to transfer the images. The deeper the etch, the darker the transfer.
And here is the list of the twelve Caption Titles:
The next article in this month’s issue is entitled “The National Geographic Society’s Memorial to Peary” and has no byline. This editorial has four black-and-white photographs, of which two are full-page in size. The internal article title simply reads “A Memorial to Peary”, but has a subtitle which reads “The National Geographic Society Dedicates Monument in Arlington National Cemetery to Discoverer of the North Pole”.
A historic ceremony, of especial interest to members of the National Geographic Society, took place at Arlington National Cemetery April 6, 1922, when a memorial, erected by the Society at the grave of Rear-Admiral Robert E. Peary, U. S. N., was unveiled upon the thirteenth anniversary of Peary’s discovery of the North Pole. The gathering included the President of the United States and Mrs. Harding; William Howard Taft, Chief Justice of the United States; the Secretary of State and Mrs. Hughes; Edwin Denby, Secretary of the Navy; Col. Theodore Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy; the Ambassador of France and Mme. Jusserand, and members of the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society: Alexander Graham Bell, John Joy Edson, Charles J. Bell, David Fairchild, C. Hart Merriam, O. P. Austin, George R. Putnam, George Shiras, 3d, Col. E. Lester Jones, Grant Squires, Rear-Admiral C. M. Chester, Frederick V. Coville, Rudolph Kauffmann, T. L. Macdonald, S. N. D. North, John Oliver Gorce, J. Howard Gore, George Otis Smith, O. H. Tittmann, Henry White, and Stephen T. Mather. In the audience also were members of both houses of Congress; Major General John A. Lejeune, Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps; Brigadier General David L. Brainard, of the Greely Expedition; Admiral R. E. Coontz; Rear-Admiral W. A. Moffett; Rear-Admiral W. L. Rogers; Rear-Admiral T. L. Latimore; Rear-Admiral John S. Carpenter; Rear-Admiral L. E. Gregory; Rear-Admiral M. T. Endicott, and Capt. R. E. Bakenhus, representing the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Peary’s own corps in the Navy; Rear-Admiral George W. Baird; a Masonic delegation from Kane Lodge of New York City; and many other government officials, explorers, distinguished representatives of scientific organizations and universities, together with hundreds of prominent citizens of the Nation’s Capital and friends of the discoverer of the North Pole who came from distant cities.
Companies of bluejackets, marines, and infantrymen, under the command of Capt. T. S. Brand, of the 64th Infantry, formed a hollow square around the memorial during the exercise. Dr. Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society, presided and made the introductory address. The Secretary of the Navy, Edwin Denby, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, whose family name was borne by the vessel used by Peary in his Arctic voyage, paid tribute to the explorer. The Rev. Dr. Charles Wood offered the invocation. Mrs. Edward Stafford, daughter of Rear-Admiral Peary, drew aside the Union Jack which veiled the memorial, as the United States Marine Band played the National Anthem. While the distinguished company stood with bare heads, she slowly hoisted, upon a flagstaff nearby, the historic silken Stars and Stripes which her father carried wrapped about his body and unfurled at the North Pole to signify that America was the first to attain it. She was escorted by her brother, Robert E. Peary, Jr. Mrs. Robert E. Peary, companion of her husband on several of his Arctic expeditions, was the guest of special honor at the ceremonies. Captain Robert A Bartlett, companion of Peary upon his triumphant expedition, brushed away tears as speaker after speaker paid tribute to his beloved chief. Another figure of interest was Matt Henson, Peary’s faithful aid, the only man beside his leader and four Eskimos who had stood at the apex of the world. Dr. Grosvenor, in his opening address, spoke of Peary’s earlier expeditions, of his courage and intelligence, and how proud the Society was to have Peary as a member. He finished discussing the work Peary had done for the Society. The Hon. Edwin Denby, Secretary of the Navy, spoke of the importance to the Nation of Peary reaching the North Pole. He told of the naval career of Civil Engineer Robert E. Peary, U. S. N., with references to his life before and after the Navy. Finally, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt paid his tribute.
The last article this month is entitled “Constantinople Today” and was written by Solita Solano. It contains forty black-and-white photographs, of which nine are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map, on page 650, of Constantinople with an inset containing an overview of the region.
Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
Byzantium was dead. New Rome was dead. Constantinople was ill. Soon, that one-time Queen City of the East would be replaced by a modern European center of business and commerce, functioning on the most famous crossroads in the world. Stamboul – home of Roman emperors, capital of magnificent sultans, scenes of fabulous tales which everyone had read – was falling into decay upon its seven hills. Everything had an air of being second-rate and outworn. Acres laid bare by careless fires constituted one-fourth of the of the city’s area, and the remainder was, for the most part, covered by unpainted, weather-stained houses. Mosques and tombs were dirty and neglected. Yet, in spite of all that, Stamboul retained its magic of a uniquely situated city, and from afar had a beauty that was incomparable. It was seen at its best in that famous approach from the sea to the Golden Horn, in whose waters the city was mirrored. Few places in the world had exercised such power of attraction for travelers as Constantinople, or had had such widespread reputation for being picturesque. The severe, classic art of Athens was not found there; nor the dignity of Rome; nor the exciting, sullen spirit that permeated Peking. It was not gay like Paris, nor learned like Berlin. An archeologist would have been better pleased with Egypt. But many writers had written her praise. Practical modernity had left its mark everywhere, especially since the city’s occupation by the Allies. Soon, the pictorial appeal that remained would be gone forever. It would be a clean, decent, civilized city – but no longer Constantinople. Already there were the changes due to western influence – trams, electric lights, telephones, unveiled women, and a new, safe bridge. Gone were the brilliantly colored costumes, the pariah street dogs, and the Sultan’s pompous ceremonies. The Allies, at a conference in Paris in March, agreed to return the Turks to full authority in their capital.
Constantinople’s geographical position had made her sanguinary history, for she controlled a highroad of commerce between Asia and Europe, and Nature herself planned the ports. The city was divided into three separate quarters. Stanboul and Pera-Galata lied on the European side, the Golden Horn between them, and Scutari squatted on the Asiatic side, across the Bosporus. Galata and Pera were the European quarter, opposite Stanboul, where the representatives of foreign powers had long maintained their embassies and homes. Once the suburbs of Stanboul, that part of the city was known as Justinianapolis until the Genoese made it into an Italian town and fortified it with walls and many towers, one of which, the Galata Fire Tower, still stood. In 1922, Pera’s crooked streets were alive with Allied soldiers, refugees, relief workers, adventurers, peddlers, beggars, and a few tourists. Passports, unless one had business, were difficult to get, and tourists were rarely seen. The American residents numbered about four hundred, the largest colony between Rome and Manila. There was little social life; the only places of amusement were the cafes and restaurants, with their adjoining cabarets and moving-picture screens. What the Rialto bridge was to Venice, the Pont Neuf to Paris, and the Westminster to London, so was the Galata bridge to Constantinople – the keynote to the city. It linked the European quarter to Stanboul across the Golden Horn. Every nationality crossed that bridge at least once an hour, it was said. Taxes were recently doubled on the bridge, and the eight Turkish collectors were ordered to make the Turkish women, previously exempt, pay to cross the bridge. The women indignantly refused, and, at both ends of the bridge, a constant conflict went on between protesting officials and the women who angrily slipped by. The collectors were powerless, the custom forbade them from detaining a woman by force.
On both sides of the bridge were docks for small steamers that took commuters back and forth between the Golden Horn and Scutari, the fifteen stations of the Bosporus, and the Princes Islands. At rush hours those efficiently operated boats were as packed as a New York ferry. Many of the commuters were the prosperous Greek and Turk, who maintained summer homes on the Princes Islands, an hour or more away. Passengers for Scutari were chiefly the poorer class of Turks and wealthy Armenian businessmen. The Bosporus boats were crowded because of the popularity of the beautiful villa section on the Straits. On those boats were Turkish bankers, British tobacco merchants, English governesses, and French officers. All Constantinople was safe for foreigners except certain parts of Scutari, against which European women were warned at night. If any of real Turk was to be seen, Pera must be abandoned for Stanboul. In that ancient city, which was Byzantium and New Rome, the mosques, coffee-houses, domed tombs, and fountains reminded one, even in their dilapidation, of the city’s past days of greatness. Although the houses were constructed of wood, they were never painted, for the Turks had a theory that if their property looked prosperous their taxes would be increased. So, the window lattices crumbled, the boards sagged, the shingles warped, and nothing was repaired. The population was inactive and looked discouraged. Men sat in the cafes and talked about the hard times. As in Pera, Russian refugees were everywhere, selling what they could. They slept in the open streets and on the steps of the mosques. They loafed, begged, work when they could, and sometimes sobbed with hunger. A few Russians had been lucky enough to find positions in restaurants as waitresses and coat-boys. A princess might bring the patron’s coffee and a general hand him his cane. Professors, ex-millionaires, and women of high birth beseeched one to buy cigarettes or paper flowers.
The most important changes that had taken place in Constantinople in the past five years were the refugee situation, the emancipation of women from the worst of their slavery, the devastating fires, and the influx of American goods and business. The refugee situation was heartbreaking but had been greatly eased by the activities of the American Red Cross and the Near East Relief. The Red cross had established 147 institutions, given a dinner a day to thousands, clothed ten thousand men and countless women and children, and equipped a hospital and training school for nurses. The Near East Relief had opened two hospitals and fifty children’s clinics, supplied visiting nurses who worked with hundreds of refugee women, established five Armenian, six Greek, and many Russian camps, and placed 56,000 children in orphanages and tuberculosis hospitals. In addition, that organization had sent enormous food supplies to devastated areas. Refugees had poured into Constantinople in veritable rivers of humanity. Populations of entire villages – Greeks, Armenians, Russian, Jews, Turks, Georgians, Azerbaijanis – had reached the city penniless, there to live in open streets or in camps. The numbers were appalling. For instance, 158,000 Russians alone came to Constantinople by October, 1920. Most of them came down with Wrangel’s army from the Crimea in small boats packed tight. All but 45,000 of those had been sent away to Romania and Bulgaria where there might have been food for them. Following their escape from the Bolsheviks in Crimea, General and Baroness Wrangel lived on a yacht anchored in the Sea of Marmora. A short time ago, the yacht was mysteriously sunk, but the General and his family escaped injury. The remainder of his army camped, for a time, on the shores of the Dardanelles. General Wrangel arranged to have those men placed in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, either in private life or as frontier guards, in hopes of one day returning to Russia.
The freeing of the Muslim woman from the most binding of her fetters came with such rapidity that most of the world had not yet heard about it. A visitor expecting to see romantically veiled women was likely disillusioned about twenty feet from the pier, when he caught his first sight of feminine Turkey in the person of a street-sweeper in ragged black trousers and a dusty coat. That was about the only civil job open to women, although they were employed in banks and offices. Curiously, there were no stenographers, for Turkish was in itself a sort of shorthand and easily written. The Europeans employed Greek women as stenographers and typists. Only a few old-fashioned women, mostly in Stanboul, wore veils. Even with their new freedom, there were curious survivals of old customs. One was the law forbidding men and women to appear at a public place of entertainment. A woman could go to the movies with another woman and sit in a section reserved for women only. Until recently, a man and woman did not walk together in the street and, until six years ago, there was a law forbidding them to drive in the same carriage. And, if a husband and wife met in the streets, it was contrary to custom to acknowledge the acquaintance. In 1922, a woman may walk with a man of her own faith, but not with a non-Muslim, although she may receive him into her home. The streetcars had a special compartment in front reserved for woman, and if a woman of the old school boarded the car, the conductor hastened to draw a curtain to insure her privacy. With the passing of the harem traditions, women had advanced to an intelligence that had astonished everyone who knew the conditions under which they lived for hundreds of years. Colleges were now opened to them, and the men’s medical school announced its readiness to instruct girls. But, outside Constantinople, no such progress had been made. Many women still veiled in the streets and feared every man.
The devastating fires that had ever been working toward the destruction of Constantinople caused the city to be built anew every fifty years, until a new law prohibited the construction of wooden houses on the site of burned ones; in fact, it provided that no houses at all should be built until the city government planned new streets. Nothing had been done about the planning, however, and the result was that one-fourth of Stanboul – more than 22,000 houses, burned during the past twelve years – still lied in ashes. Scutari, too, had vast ruined sections. So had Pera, on a much smaller scale. When a fire started in Stanboul it nearly always assumed frightful proportions. In the fire of 1908, 1,500 buildings were destroyed; in that of 1911, 2,463 houses; the following day an entire Jewish quarter burned; in 1912 an immense area between Sancta Sophia and the Marmora was consumed. The fire of June 1918, burned 8,000 buildings, clearing a space from the Golden Horn through the center of the city. Those fires were enormously destructive because of the narrow streets, wooden houses, and volunteer firemen who went to answer the call on foot, carrying a pump on their shoulders. They gave their service “free of charge”, but the homeowner needed to give them some of his belongings if he wanted then to risk their lives for him. It was cause for grief and accusations of injustice when the British installed their own fire system in Pera. By the time the Turks came panting down the street to bargain, the British had the fire out and were driving away. The fires had caused the housing situation to be acute and the rents to mount enormously. In fact, it cost more to live in Constantinople in 1922 than any other city in the world, not excepting New York. With refugees and foreigners, who added 30% to the total, the population was 2,250,000. As Stanboul had stood since 300 B. C., any rebuilding should be supervised by archeologists.
The fourth important change affecting the city was the influx of American goods, caused by lack of food and other supplies in that part of the Levant. Before the war, American sewing machines and petroleum were practically the only importations. Other goods were little known, and the first American cargo vessel steamed into the harbor in 1919. In 1922, all kinds of flour, canned milk, fruits, cloth, hardware, and shoes from the U. S. were bought and admired by Turks and Europeans, too. The history of American activities in Turkey was brief and was foreshadowed by American missionaries. In the 1860’s, the foundations were laid for Roberts College and the Syrian Protestant College. Those institutions, with the American College for Girls, founded in 1871, were the greatest monuments of American philanthropy in the Near East. The Stars and Stripes were first seen in the waters of Constantinople in 1800, when the Bey of Algiers forced Captain Bainbridge to sail there in his frigate, the George Washington, bearing presents and messages to the Sultan. By 1922, the American Trade Commission, Standard Oil, the American Trade Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce of the U. S., the U. S. Shipping Board, the American Hospital, the Sailors’ Club, the YMCA, the American Bible Society, and many business firms were established there, and America was greatly beloved and respected for her works of charity.
The walls that enclosed Byzantium and saved civilization for a thousand years were still standing, and constituted, with the exception of Sancta Sophia, the most interesting historical monument in Turkey. The lines of walls and towers still [in 1922] stretched out as far as the eye could see, rising and falling, tinted from dark brown to ocher and gray, sometimes bare, sometimes covered in vegetation. They were barbaric, threatening, mournful. The author tried to image what those barriers were like as hoards of barbarians came and went. In 1922, gypsies and refugees lived here and there in the ruins that extended for five miles across the isthmus, from the Sea of Marmora to the Golden Horn. Seen from the air, the walls looked like a long saffron cord, knotted and laid along the green countryside. Near Top Kapou, or Cannon Gate, where Mohammed the Conqueror battered an opening, Turkish boys, from ten to sixteen years of age, practiced every day to become volunteer firemen. At Yedi Kuleh, where the land walls began, a mysterious sort of rug industry went on between the four towers that remained of the original seven. Hundreds of rugs were piled up, treated with paint, and then spread out to fade in the sun. Beyond the walls, about a mile from the Adrianople Gate, through which Mohammed entered the city, was a large Turkish cemetery. When life was less troubled in Constantinople, the cemeteries were used as pleasure grounds for picnickers, as they were especially attractive places. Cypress trees planted beside the graves made graceful forests that spread over uncounted acres. Some of the newest tombstones were as gay as birthday cakes, with their painted flowers and vines, and gilded railings. The older ones were gray and worn. Some were so old that they had fallen and were crumbling. Women drove there with their children in gaily painted wagons, bringing flowers. The Scutari cemetery was the largest burial place in the East.
Sancta Sophia, standing on the first of Constantinople’s seven hills, had soldiers’ barracks at one side and guards everywhere. The Turks feared the Greeks would harm their favorite mosque and had ordered that no person of Hellenic blood be permitted to pass the portal. Passports for all non-Muslims were demanded at the gate. The galleries were only open by special order by the police. Allied soldiers visited the mosque every day, all day long. It was the largest temple in the world after St. Peter’s, and built by Justinian in less than six years. Sancta Sophia was getting shabbier every day. The Turks had no money to keep up their public buildings and mosques. The walls were sagging in several places; the gold leaf had crumbled and fallen from the dome; and ugly electric lights had replaced the thousands of wicks that once burned softly. Yet, neglected as Sancta Sophia was, nothing could equal its beauty or destroy its grandeur. The steps of some mosques were the only home many refugees know, especially the Yeni Valideh Djami, near the Galata bridge. Within a block of Sancta Sophia was a large dusty square, the Hippodrome, the center of Byzantine life of the Middle Ages. It played the same part in the lives of the people as the Acropolis at Athens, the Forum at Rome, and the Temple at Delphi. Three time as large as it stood in 1922, it was the largest building in the empire, and was used for chariot races, gladiatorial contests, triumphal processions, and as a place of execution. In 1922, all but three of its monuments were gone – the Obelisk of Theodosius, the brass Serpent’s Column, and the Built Column. At the Hippodrome, all the author saw was a religious class being held, a band of boy students, and a few motionless fruit vendors. There was nothing so devoid of life as a Turkish gathering place. Even the children were inactive, seemingly not knowing how to play. A car filled with Allied officers rushed past. Nothing happened for perhaps ten minutes. Then some European women drove slowly by, almost colliding with a small car of relief workers that had just turned the corner. More cars and carts passed.
To enter the gates of the old Seraglio behind Sancta Sophia was to court disappointment, for one found little in those abandoned buildings to satisfy an imagination filled with romantic tales of hundreds of years when it was home to Byzantine emperors and Turkish sultans. There, twenty-five sultans were born, ascended to the throne, and were overthrown or strangled. There, for three hundred years, were hatched the plans that kept Europe, Asia, and Africa trembling with forebodings. The Seraglio was situated on that famous point of land that extended into the Sea of Marmora at the junction of that body of water with the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. On that spot stood the Acropolis of Byzantium. In 1922, Seraglio Point was divided into two parts, the outer grounds and the Treasury. The Treasury had been closed for several months, and rumors had its jewels being sold to support the government. A few warn and dusty rooms in the old palace were shown to visitors. A young poet was the public host for such visitors as had permission to enter the grounds. After coffee, during which the poet quoted verses, he led the author’s party to a view which was all that was left of the former splendor. Spread before them was an enchanting panorama of the Sea of Marmora, the Golden Horn, and the Bosporus, with three cities of Constantinople clustered around them, resting between a sapphire sky and even bluer waters. The Allied fleet seemed like children’s boats floating on the Bosporus. Then they turned their backs on the view to walk about the decaying buildings and gardens that once saw a magnificent court life. The gardens laid deserted in the sunlight, except for two old eunuchs who walked across the grounds toward the still beautiful Bagdad Kiosk.
The bazaars had always been a feature of life that lied between Turkey and India, and modernity had not changed them. Pera had one which occupied the middle of Step Street, leading up from Galata. A year prior, the Russians took the last of their trinkets there and sold them for food. A still larger street bazaar, in Stanboul, was known as Manchester Market, because practically all of the cotton goods sold there were from Manchester, England. According to an English merchant, $5,000,000 changed hand there every day. The most famous bazaars, however, were built by Sultan Bayazid II between the second and third hills of Stanboul, and covered several acres of ground. There were 4,000 shops and a hundred entrances in the great stone building. It looked like a fortress from without, but once inside it became a noisy, multicolored labyrinth of streets, columns, squares, and fountains, under an arched roof. The vendors sold everything from rugs and silks, jewelry and perfumes, to sewing-machines and egg-beaters. Few buyers were in the bazaars these days [in 1922]. The bazaars had come upon hard times. The American tourist was barred because of the war between Greece and Turkey. The white marble palaces which lined the Bosporus were no longer used by sultans, pashas, and beys. They were in a sad state of dilapidation, and some were occupied by French or Hindustani troops, or by Allied officials. The Sultan lived in seclusion at Yildiz Palace. Perhaps nothing was so typical of the change that had come to Turkey as the contrast between the ceremony of old and the present [in 1922] sad function. The furnishings of the room facing the terrace, once luxurious, were worn and shabby. A Turkish admiral in white linen and a young officer were the only visitors to be served coffee. When the sultan drove by, he saw only a handful of troops where his predecessors had proudly ignored men who packed the roadway with their pennant lances.
At the bottom of the last page of the last article in this issue (Page 680) there is a notice regarding change of address. If a member wanted the magazine to be mailed somewhere else, the Society needed a month’s notice in advance, starting on the first of the month. If a member wanted the August issue redirected, the Society needed to know by July first.
Tom, you're all caught up now !
Almost, still three weeks behind. ;-)