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THE CLIMATE OF RHODES.
indeed; and I have reason to know, that last year (1837) the bashalick of Smyrna, a place of greater consequence, and which, from its being under the more immediate eye of Europeans, the Porte would naturally desire to have its government reformed, was held by the same tenure, and through the same intrigues.
The environs of the town are very beautiful; and the face of the country, despite the chilling, withering influence of its government, lovely. Sunny banks, clothed with cyclamens, which were putting forth the gayest liveries of spring, and sheltered vales, where “feathery palm-trees rise," and the perfume of the lime and the orange blossom scents the air, can never lose one atom of their charms, though saddened by the reflection engendered by the knowledge of the canker that for years has sapped the indigenous verdure of this beauteous isle.
Could accommodation be obtained, Rhodes has many recommendations to the notice of the invalid. The temperature, though not so warm as other parts of the Mediterranean, is well adapted to those requiring a clear, thin, bracing air. Indeed, clearness has ever been its characteristic, and was that property which, no doubt, earned for it the appellation of Ætherca among the ancients. The sky is generally blue and cloudless, and damp fogs are unknown; so that on the opposite coast of Caria, every curve and undulation in its mountain shores is plainly visible. The lowest point to which the mercury fell during our stay was once to 60°. I could not learn that any epidemics peculiar to the island existed; indeed, I think experience daily teaches us that islands such as this are invariably more exempt from such disorders than large tracts of continental country. The consul informed me that the summer heat does not rise above 80°, and the sirocco is almost unknown. In fact, what is most to be dreaded is the occasional cold blast blowing off the mountains of Karamania during the winter.
Here I first witnessed the true eastern leprosy, for several unfortunate creatures afflicted with this terrific malady are congregated on the island, and are to be met sitting by the wayside begging. A Greek chief, many years ago, with a feeling and humanity that does honour to the name of Greece, even in her most degenerate state, purchased a small tract of land in the interior of the island, for the purpose of affording lepers a secluded and comfortable asylum, and thither they come from all the
neighbouring places of the Levant, and now form a considerable village distant about five miles in the interior. As an endemic, leprosy was almost unknown in the island, and so favoured a spot being now used as a place to send the natural outcasts of society to, is another proof of the neglect and wild misrule that has so long contributed to reduce it to its present state of decay. Although I much desired it, time did not permit me to visit this asylum. The sight would be instructive, though humiliating, as a more miserable condition can scarcely be conceived than that of a human being driven an outcast and a leper into such a place. Owing to the want of cleanliness, and the due precaution of quarantine, together with its constant intercourse with the Porte, plague was formerly a constant visitor here ; and in the last attack it is said to have taken off nearly a third of the Turkish population, while the Greeks suffered comparatively little.
I was informed that in the interior there is a village where the great majority of the inhabitants are affected with elephantiasis. It is situated high up among the hills, and the people themselves ascribe the frequency of the disease to the water which they drink coming from a great elevation among the high mountains that rise in the centre of the island. Can this affection, occurring in such a situation and under such circumstances, have any analogy to the goitre of Switzerland and Savoy?
The white heron of Egypt is frequently found here, and in winter vast numbers of woodcocks migrate thither from the opposite coast of Karamania, where they remain during the summer in the deep-wooded gorges that occur in these elevated wilds. Flocks of ringdoves fly about the town, and nestle undisturbed in the most frequented places. I was astonished at their extreme familiarity, and on inquiry heard that they are held sacred by the Turks, a strange superstition being abroad that they are the spirits of young virgins that have assumed this shape; and that to become thus transferred, it is only necessary for any love-sick damsel to make a dark circle round her neck, and repeat certain prayers and incantations, when she instantly turns into a ringdove! Foxes and a few herds of wild deer are to be met with in the interior. Jays are very numerous, and the coast abounds with mullet. There are few snakes or noxious reptiles on the island; but in my walks about the town I found numbers of the curiously-mailed lizard of the agama species, the agama spinosa,
which I am not aware as having been heretofore noticed as an animal peculiar to this island.
The ancient harbour is now only deep enough to admit the small coasting craft. Here it is supposed the celebrated Colossus stood, and the remains of some ancient cyclopean masonry, running out into the water on both sides of the entrance, rather strengthens this opinion. On the land side this is now submerged, but on that where the harbour is walled off from the sea, it rises several feet above the surface, and is a continuation of the ancient breakwater, which still exists. The space between the remains of the two buttresses is from twenty-five to twentyseven yards. A figure constructed on this, and with its legs spread without straining, would measure one hundred and fifty feet in height, an elevation quite sufficient to admit under it any vessels used in that day.
The Básha and his son visited us, and kindly offered us a piece of timber for a jib-boom, for he possessed the only spars that could be procured here. He was a fat, punchy, goodhumoured man, and subject to an evil influence very little known among Mohammadans-gynocracy. His wife is said to be a woman of considerable talent, and it is the interest of her friends at Constantinople that keeps her husband in the bashalick. She was a widow, and if report speaks true, exercises over the old gentleman more power than we are willing to assign to the mistress of a hareem. On returning his visit next day, we were received with considerable state. The apartment, like those of most other junior Báshas, was large, airy, and furnitureless. His highness sat in the right-hand corner, not cross-legged, but resting on his toes and knees, and took particular pains to hide his feet, the exposure of which he would have considered a monstrous breach of etiquette. A host of attendants served us with refreshments, consisting of sweetmeats, a spoonful of which was handed round to each on a small glass plate—then a tumbler of rose water ; after this, another batch of servants handed (kneeling on one knee) first to the Basha, and then to each of the company, an amber-headed pipe of the most costly description ; and presently the coffee was brought in by one of the most portly, noble-looking fellows I think I ever beheld. The cups were ranged on a large tray along with the coffee-pot; and a magnificent gold-embroidered muslin napkin thrown over all. He 314
COSTUME OF THE BÁSHA.
stood in the middle of the room, and throwing the napkin with an air of supreme dignity over his right shoulder, poured the fragrant beverage into the cups held by one of the attendants, who presented them to the guests according to his ideas of their respective ranks. His excellency talked a great deal about nautical affairs, requested permission for his carpenter to measure the Crusader, and stated his intention of having a yacht built exactly similar! He has now a vessel on the stocks, which he said he would have launched before we left, to afford us an opportunity of seeing how well the Turks can manage such matters.
With the dress of the Basha and his suite I was any thing but pleased, for it was both unbecoming in itself, unsuited to their persons, and worn with an awkwardness that gave them a most ludicrous appearance. It consisted of wide bag trousers—red, pointed slippers--a long, ill-made, loose, blue cloth bed-gown, like a surtout, buttoned to the throat in front, and behind gathered into large plaits by a broad strap, like a soldier's great-coat; the head was covered by a high turboosh, which was pulled down on a level with the eyebrows, and at top crowned with a tassel of blue silk flock, in which was twisted a bit of white paper cut in openwork. The troops were dressed much in the same style. I witnessed their manæuvering several times during my stay, and at once perceived their vast inferiority, both in discipline and expertness, to the soldiers of Mohammad Alee. The garrison consisted of seven hundred soldiers of the line, and six hundred artillery. The men were older and of a larger size than the Egyptians.
Along the shores of Rhodes, especially near the consular residences, a phenomenon occurs that is well deserving of attention. You are conducted to what, at a little distance, appears the usual water-marked beach, of rough gravel and sand peculiar to these coasts, but on stepping on it you are surprised to find it to be one solid mass, hard as adamant, and composed of rolled pebbles, cemented together by a substance which, on being broken, has every appearance of finely mixed mortar of a whitish-grey colour, having its interstices filled up with minute particles of sand. The upper exposed surface has a smooth, mottled appearance, like the conglomerate denominated plumb-pudding stone; and so very closely and compactly is the whole bound together, that in some of the older formations it takes a polish little inferior to marble.
The delusive character of this great petrified beach is further increased by the number of indentures formed by the ripple of the retiring wave; so that at first sight we might be led to suppose that it was the work of an instant. It is curious that the process of consolidation occurs only in those places where the water reaches, either by the insignificant rise of the tide, or where it is washed over it by the surf, which is in some places very violent; and where the water does not reach, the gravel is again loose and uncemented. In some places the water has undermined it, and thrown up large masses of the rock upon the shore; and underneath that the gravel is also unconnected. Some specimens which I brought home with me show the binding principle to be carbonate of lime, with a slight trace of strontian.
Captain Beaufort mentions a petrified beach of a similar character on the opposite coast of Asia Minor, at Cape Krio, Phaselis, Selinty, &c. and has well said, that “the unwary boat that should mistake it for a common beach of yielding materials, and should run upon it before a following surf, might be fatally apprised of its error.”
During our stay, I witnessed a Turkish funeral. The person died in the morning; the body was .washed immediately, and in about three hours after it was on its way to the tomb. A number of women had proceeded there some time before, and had ranged themselves at some distance from the grave; and, as soon as the procession approached, they commenced a low howling dirge. The body was carried without a coffin on a rude bier, and, when laid by the grave-side, all the people knelt down, and the Moullah, seated at some distance from the rest, repeated parts of the Kooran. The bier was then rudely torn open, and the remains deposited in the earth, along with a small cake, and a piece of money. It is strange how long this pagan custom has been retained here.
19th. We witnessed the ceremony of launching the Básha's vessel this morning, and a most stirring, interesting sight it was ; the whole population of the place had turned out to see it, and the ladies of the viceregal hareem were all ranged along a wall at a considerable distance from the scene of action, and no male ventured to approach where they were. The prevailing colour of their dresses was yellow. When all was ready, and the slips and ropes were about to be removed, the two principal Moullahs