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THE STRADA CAVALIÈRE.
kind, and perhaps the most perfect of its day now existing ; combining with great beauty of architectural adornment, every mode of defence that the ingenuity of the designer could devise, or the warfare of the period require. The town of Rhodes is beautiful in itself, and finely situated ; and we may still take up the theme of the ancients, and praise it for the regularity of its streets, which are laid out with more accuracy, are kept cleaner, and have a more christianized air about them than any Turkish town I ever
But, of the many objects of interest and antiquity in this most interesting place, all fall into comparative insignificance before the Strada Cavaliere, (the Street of the Knights,) which is situated nearly in the centre of the town, rising up a gentle ascent, and consists of a row of palaces on both sides, leading to the gothic ruins of what was once the council-hall of Asiatic chivalry. An arch is thrown across the upper end of the street, as if to heighten the effect, and by carrying the eye through a vista, to concentrate it upon this building. The pavement of this street is very peculiar; it is similar to that at Pompeii, and is the most perfect I have ever seen; indeed, I do not think that a single stone has been stirred for the last 300 years. It is constructed of large blocks of stone, forming a smooth raised pathway, or trottoir, in the centre, and one on either side; between which is a rough pavement of smaller stones. The palaces on either hand bear the escutcheons of their original owners, emblazoned in white marble tablets, set in the walls over the entrances. With few exceptions, these are in most perfect preservation ; and as they consist of the armorial bearings of many of the proudest and most ancient families of France, Spain, and Italy, they offer a study to the heraldic antiquary, which, for interest and variety, is unequalled. But many a noble name, and many a daring cavalier, whose feats, performed upon the plains of Palestine, or in the lists of Europe, were set forth, and still remain upon the walls of the Strada Cavaliére, have been effaced from the world's peerage by the axe or confiscation. The dates attached are mostly about 1500, or from 1490 to 1520 A. D.
Around the doors and the remains of the windows are some splendid specimens of arabesque and fret-work. The tops and upper stories of many of these buildings are now no more, and the window-spaces are filled by close lattices, which are fre
A DREAM OF THE PAST.
quently replaced by bundles of rags; while the squalidness and misery that appear within, contrast but ill with the empty grandeur of those memorials of proud deeds of arms, gathered in the breach or on the battle-field, still emblazoned on the walls without. From the dryness of the atmosphere, no moss or lichen had gathered upon the tablets; yet numerous creepers hang in graceful festoons around them, or have entwined themselves among the mouldings and fret-work.
The council-hall is now a roofless crumbling pile ; yet, though deserted and unnoticed, its noble pointed arches, clustered pillars, and groined-roofed passages, remain to teach the artist, and to charm the antiquary of the present day, as doth the remembrance of the men that built it call up the valour, arouse the spirit, and nerve the arm of the modern soldier. What scenes must not those walls have witnessed, when within them sat the conclave of the knights and Christian princes, clad in all the panoply of war! What tales could they not whisper, what volumes could they not indite! But all, all now is ruin and decay; and where of old the silken banner of the Red-cross Knight fluttered proudly in the breeze, the henbane rears its head, and waves the lonely banneret of the present. Adjoining this place is an extensive mosque, formerly the Christian chapel, and still containing the tomb of one of the grand masters.
So deserted a street within so populous a town I could not have believed to exist, for frequent as were my visits to it, I do not remember to have ever seen three of the inhabitants in it together. It has an air of stillness, an impressive startling silence, that overawes the feelings of the visitor. The wind sighs mournfully as it sweeps through the rank hemlock that springs from the ruined wall or crowns the house-top, and the footstep of the passer, who hastens through it, echoes among the cloisters of the neighbouring buildings.
During our stay at Rhodes, it was my evening walk; and as I rested on some mouldering buttress or prostrate pillar, while the shroud of twilight closed around me, my waking dreams would conjure up the days, the arms, and the men that once occupied this place : and the martial tread of the mail-clad baron, once more rung upon the pavement, and the long mantle of the templar seemed to rustle past me on the breeze; and, again, methought I heard the tones of the minstrel's harp, and the song 308
THE BURIAL GROUND.
of the troubadour, that in other days resounded through those walls, with the love-tales of Europe and the feats of chivalryfor still
" There is a power
Proceeding through the council-hall, we pass to the palace of the grand master, a building of vast size, and originally of great strength; but the greater part of it is now in keeping with the neighbouring ruins, and what little of it is still tenantable is used as an hospital. Beyond this, a massive drawbridge, guarded by a portcullis, leads over a deep fosse, to the burial-ground : a plain of great extent, surrounding the upper part of the town, and at once eliciting the inquiry—whence came such an enormous necropolis for so small a city? But answered by the fact which history records, that sixty thousand men perished before its walls during the memorable siege of Solyman.*
The ancient town is completely fortified, and the works are of enormous strength, combining the defences in use both before and after the general introduction of gunpowder. Among them, and scattered over the town in different places, are numbers of marble shot, the largest I ever saw; several that I examined were above twenty inches in diameter. These were generally thrown from machines. Indeed, I do not know the place that can afford the traveller a better specimen of the defensive architecture of the fifteenth century than Rhodes.
The bazaars are small; and, notwithstanding that its admirable position with regard to Asia Minor, the security of its harbour, the number of vessels in port, and the apparent commerce of the
* In the year 1308, the Emperor Emanuel, upon the expulsion of the knights from St. Jean D'Acre, made them a grant of this island, which they continued to possess until the year 1522, when, after a glorious resistance, the grand master, Villiers, was compelled to surrender it to Solyman. The knights then retired, first to Candia, and afterwards to Sicily, where they continued till the year 1530, when Charles V. gave them the island of Malta.-Egmont and Heyman.
Marino, would lead us to expect a thriving trade, yet there is little or no business transacted in the town, where the people have a lazy, listless air, that is obvious to the visitor the moment he sets his foot within its walls. Its inhabitants are Turks, with about one hundred Jewish families, (for the long-cherished prejudice is still in existence, and no Christian is yet allowed to sleep within the gates); and the Greeks who have shops, or carry on their trades inside during the day, all retire to their own settlement at night.
Besides the palaces in the Strada Cavaliere, there are several scattered through the town, and the cross of St. John meets your eye at every corner.
Some noble plane trees (platanus orientalis) occupy an open space, where are the remains of a splendid mansion, on the wall of which there is a large panel, with the arms of old England emblazoned in good relief. This, in all probability, was the hotel, or place of public resort of our nation, as we know that, independent of their private houses, each of the nations (or tongues as they were then termed) who retired here after the crusades, had such an hotel.
The Greek quarter is very extensive, but daily becoming more deserted, owing to the wretched government of the Porte, the tyranny and exactions of the Basha, and the many opportunities now afforded to its inhabitants, both in Egypt and their own country, for displaying the spirit of enterprise that has never forsaken this ancient people even under the most trying circumstances.
I know of no place that offers a fairer example of the mistaken policy of the Deewan of Constantinople, than the island of Rhodes, and no place that exhibits a clearer and more lamentable instance of its effects; for although possessing within itself every capability of becoming what a bountiful Providence intended it should be-one of the finest and richest islands in the Mediterranean—with a climate suitable to every production that the wants or luxuries of man could possibly require—with a soil fertile and easy of cultivation-an inland scenery beautified by the monarchs of the forest, and varied by the mountain and the glade—a position which for commercial advantages is almost unequalled, and a harbour such as few islands, except Malta, can boast—it is yearly becoming deserted by its inhabitants, daily
failing in its trade, and hourly losing even the advantages of the passing visit of a vessel. Although capable of supporting in comfort from five to six hundred thousand inhabitants, the whole population of the island does not amount to above thirty thousand souls! And from neglect and want of proper cultivation, corn has to be imported yearly; and though the soil is well adapted for the growth of cotton, no more is planted than is barely sufficient for home consumption. In fact, the only exports are sponges, a little fruit and honey, and some timber from the interior, principally for spars and masts, and which costs but little trouble in conveying to the coast.
Whence arises all this? Like most other colonies of the Sublime Porte, Rhodes ever remains open to the highest bidder in the diplomatic auction at Stamboul. The governing Básha is appointed yearly, and pays for it and the tributary territory on the opposite coast, nominally a sum amounting to about £7,000; but which, with bribes to the different ministers and officials, amounts to nearly £10,000 a year. When the year is out, he again puts in his proposal ; but even before the expiration of that period, should he not be despatched by poison or the bowstring, he is liable to be, and often is removed, to afford some more wealthy and intriguing diplomatist the opportunity of fattening on the fortunes, ravening on the hard-earned pittance, and crushing the spirit and exertions of the wretched inhabitants. He knows that he can only hold it so long as he is not outbid in the market, and (shall we say wisely ?) makes the most of his time. This, it may be said, is all very natural in the man; hut none will deny that it is most unnatural in the state that can thus “let and farm out” the industry of its subjects. And what is the consequence? The languid, luxurious Turk pays his taxes, exorbitant and usurious though they be-puffs the tobacco from his mouth, smoothes his beard, and says, “ Allah kerim,” God's will be done ; but the energetic Greek emigrates the moment he has an opportunity, and quits without regret the country and the government that would neither leave him the means of comfort nor of sustenance. It is said that this disgraceful mode of governing had been put a stop to by the late Sooltan, and it is enumerated among the number of his reforms. No doubt he wished and willed so desirable an end, and may have enacted decrees to that effect; but have they been carried into effect? I believe very partially