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In the latter part of August last, I received instructions to proceed from Constantinople to Erzeroom, the capitol of ancient Armenia, on business of an official nature. I left the former place for Trebizond, on the south-east shore of the Black Sea, in one of the British Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamers, called the “Achilles,' and reached there in two and a half days and three nights. From Trebizond I travelled post on horseback to Erzeroom in four days and three nights, and after spending a couple of weeks there, returned in about the same length of time in the month of October. I was the first officer of the government of the United States who had travelled so far East, or even visited any portion of the Asiatic shores of the Black Sea. The route was new to me; the season was favorable ; I set out with those feelings bordering on enthusiasm with which it seems to me any one is naturally animated on visiting countries yet unknown to him; especially such countries as those of the East, where every spot on which the eye or foot rests is of mythological, historical, as well as great natural interest. When time and circumstances permitted me, I made some hasty and consequently but imperfect notes of what I saw and the impressions which I received. What interests me I imagine must more or less interest others; my most useful and entertaining companions were the works of Apollonius and Xenophon, and to spare you the trouble, I give you the benefit of the researches which I made in them respecting the past history of the places I saw or visited.
As if to spare you also from the oft-repeated descriptions of the Bosphorus, I left Constantinople in a shower of rain. Its beauties were therefore viewed under'a disadvantageous aspect, and its many and very picturesque hills and villages were almost constantly hidden from view by fog and mist. In the harbor and the Sea of Marmora the wind was southerly, and several vessels were seen struggling against the current to enter the Golden Horn and Bosphorus ; but as the steamer approached the Black Sea, twelve miles distant, the wind was found blowing from the north, and quite as many ships there were slowly making their way down the Straits.
The ship Argo, commanded by Jason, piloted by Idmon, and manned by fifty-four of the most illustrious heroes and braves of Greece, sailed from Pegasus of Magnesia, by order of the king of Iolcus, Pelias, for Colchis, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, now called Circassia. It is natural to suppose that Idmon was acquainted with the waters which he was about to navigate, and that Ancæus, one of the crew who succeeded him on his death in the Black Sea, also possessed more or less knowledge of the shores along which he was to sail. The real object of the voyage it is now difficult to ascertain, unless it were simply to carry off one of the handsome females for which Circassia is still celebrated throughout the East, and fleece Eétes, the king of Colchis, of some object of value and ambition, for in this the heroes succeeded admirably.
Among the ancient writers, Apollonius, of Rhodos, has left an interesting and minute account of the incidents of the voyage. By his account, Jason took leave of his aged mother and bed-ridden father with the same painful emotions felt by young sailors in these Godless days. He called together his companions, as a modern master of a craft collects his crew, previous to getting under way; and the sacrifices of bullocks to Apollo, and the libations of wine to Bacchus, made by these ancient mariners, may be regarded as the origin of the beef and grog provisions of the present day, which doubtless had their origin on that memorable occasion. One striking usage of that period was, that the crew, on important occasions, such as getting up the anchor, setting sail, or passing a dangerous point, appeased the elements by pouring a portion of their wine into the sea; a custom which the wisdom of the age has turned to a better use, to the great economy of the liquid and the comfort of seamen generally. It may also be mentioned, that among the crew was a famous musician, named Orpheus, who for want of a modern violin, played upon a lute; and in a manner familiar to the navigators of this century, the Argonauts frequently wiled away the dulness of a calm evening by dancing to his exciting strains.
The Argo, at first with oars, and subsequently under sail, kept near shore, along the coast of Thessaly, Macedonia and Thrace. At Lemnos her crew made a protracted stay among the inhabitants, who seem to have been all females, of doubtful character. Thence coasting by the Chersonesus, they entered and passed through the Dardanelles ; following the right coast of the Propontis (Sea of Marmora,) they stopped at the promontory of Cyzicus, where they met with a serious adventure, and killed, in the darkness of the night, the king of that place, who had been very hospitable to them. After this, continuing along the same side of the Sea of Marmora, they reached Bythinia, where one of them named Pollux killed in single combat its king Amycus. They next entered the Bosphorus, where, if I did not precisely accompany them, I followed in their wake in a steamer which bore the name of Achilles, an individual who was yet a youth when the Argonauts undertook their voyage.
There are many spots on the Bosphorus which I always view with interest, and which, as a prelude to other remarks connected with them, it is proper I should mention to you. Among these is the locale of the modest Mausoleum of the celebrated Capudan Pacha of Suiliman Second, Barbarossa, who after being the terror of the Mediterranean for many years, found a resting-place where the valiant Argonauts spent a short time, preparatory to rowing up the Bosphorus. At the narrowest part of the straits, Mahomet Second erected the Castle of Raomely, and passed his troops over during his successful attack upon the capital of the degenerate Greeks of the Lower Empire, where Darius built a bridge of boats on which to pass his army, when he invaded Thrace and Scythia. Opposite the bay of Buyukdéré, near the entrance of the Bosphorus, on the Asiatic shore, is an elevation called the Giant's Mountain, where some Islam dervishes, show the traveller a tomb which they say is that of Joshua, but which is doubtless that of Amycus, king of the Bebryces, killed by Pollux, one of the Argonauts. Beside these, most of the points now covered with villages and beautiful country seats, the residences of the modern Byzantines, were in ancient times the scenes of mythic altars and pagan temples.
The steamer, beside a goodly freight of British manufactures for the ports of Samsoun, Sinope and Trebizond on the Black Sea, had a large number of deck passengers, and a few in the cabin for the same places. Fifteen years ago, not more than twenty vessels under English colors traded in the Black Sea, and most of the cotton manufactures sold in Turkey were made in the United States. At present the number is increased to some two hundred, and by dint of imitation, and the economy of steam, the cottons are all made in England, and only retain the name of American.' Two Austrian steamers ply between the Danube and the capital, two Russian between the latter and Odessa, and an Austrian, a British, and a Turk. ish steamer trade between Constantinople and the southern ports of the Black Sea as far as Trebizond. A few years ago the Ottoman government made an attempt to retain the trade of its coasts for its own vessels, but yielded the principle to its foreign policy and interests. Some five thousand vessels under different colors now annually pass into and out of the Black Sea, and with few exceptions they mostly proceed there in ballast for cargoes which they convey to Europe.
The passengers of the • Achilles' were Turks and Armenians, returning to the principal ports on the Asiatic side of the Black Sea, and from thence to their residences in the interior of the country. A few of them were small traders, who had visited the capital to purchase goods; but the greater part were individuals of the lowest grade of life, who, having left their homes, almost without means, made their way to Constantinople, in the hope of gaining there the subsistence which their own country, or it should rather be said, its authorities, refused them; and were now returning with their hardearned gains, to enjoy them, if possible, among their families. From ten to fifteen thousand persons are carried annually to the capital from the ports beforementioned, and nearly as many return. Sometimes they have not the means of paying their passages, and are taken on board in the expectation that they will not leave the steamer, on their arrival, until friends who have preceded them redeem them, out of their own gains. In consequence of the steamers belonging to different companies, the spirit of competition frequently reduces the fare to a trifle.
After passing the castles which command the entrance into the Bosphorus from the Black Sea, the motion of the steamer increased, the rain fell at times in torrents, and the deck-passengers audibly lamented the discomforts of their exposed situation. As the coast on either side stretched away from the stream, I felt that I was truly entering into the celebrated Euxine ; a sea almost as much dreaded by modern and more expert mariners as it was in the time of ancient Greece, or the period of the voyage of the Argonauts along the coast which I was about to visit. Apollonius has described their cruise, the second on record, with classic grace. At that time the sea was called the Asin, or · Inhospitable, on account of the barbarous nations which inhabited its coasts; subsequently, when it became better known, the name was changed to that of the Euxine, or · Hospitable;' and though the character of its people is changed for the better, as it has not one good harbor for the tempest-tossed vessel on all its southern or eastern shore, the former appellation is still better suited to it than the latter. It generally presents, as it now did, a dread aspect of fogs and clouds, and as far as my eye reached they hung over it, so that it really seemed to be the dark Hades, beyond which there is nothing living. The Achilles passed out into the sea, nearer to the European than the Asiatic shore, and I had a near view of the Cyaneæn islets; those rocks which Phineus informed the Argonauts lay at the extremity of the Straits, and which no mortal had been able to pass. They are,' he added, “innumerable, and often unite so as to form but one. Agitated waves boil over their summits, and the shores echo the sound of the shock.'
From Phineus's account of the dangers which the Argonauts would encounter in their passage of the Bosphorus and Euxine, it is shown that the current of the former at that period must have been much more violent than it is at present. Before attempting the passage,' says he, “let fly a dove; if it passes freely, row on strongly, without delay; your safety will depend more upon the strength of your arms than upon the vows which you may put up to Heaven. I do not however forbid you to implore it, but in that moment do not depend upon any thing else than your own efforts and intrepidity. If the dove perishes in the Straits, return; for to give up to the gods is the wiser part. Were your vessel even made of iron it could not but be broken to pieces against the rocks.'
It is interesting and curious to remark the conduct of the adventurous navigators on their arrival at the spot where I now for the first time found myself. Apollonius says : * Arrived at the crooked Straits, bordered by threatening rocks, they tremblingly advanced into the middle of the current, which continuing to repulse them, they were driven so near as to hear the noise of the waves beating against the rocks. Euphemius mounted the prow of the vessel, held the dove in his hand, and each one of his companions, excited by Tiphys, rowed with all his strength. After passing the last point on the European shore, they witnessed what no mortal ought to see after them. The Cyanean rocks opened and remained a part. At the sight of this their fears increased; Euphemius let go the dove ; each one raised his head and followed its flight with his eyes. Sud. denly the rocks approach each other, and unite with a frightful
noise; the waves are thrown afar, the air shakes, the roaring sea rushes into the crevices of the rocks, the shores are covered with foam, and the vessel was whirled round several times with rapidity. The dove, however, escapes the peril with the loss only of its tail. The Argonauts cry out for joy; Tiphys excites them more and more to ply their oars, so as to pass with rapidity between the rocks, which were once more opening. Each one trembles and obeys, when suddenly the waves which had just broken against the shore pressed them into the very centre of the fatal passage, where death, hanging over their heads, and the sight of the immense sea, which now lay spread out before them, froze their hearts with fear. At this moment a mountain-wave arose before them; they inclined their heads, and thought to be swallowed up. Tiphys, by a skilful manœuvre, avoids the danger; but the waves, falling again with violence into the sea, lifted up the vessel and drove it far astern. Euphemius hastened here and there to exhort his companions, who doubled their efforts ; but the wave which carried them away drove them twice as far back as the strength of their arms could move them forward. Their oars now could not resist such violence, and bent like bows. However, a new wave rises behind them, and their vessel, gliding on the summit of the watery mountain, was precipitated a second time in the midst of the rocks, where, to crown their horror, a whirlpool held and seemed to chain them! Already these enormous masses agitate the two shores with a horrible noise ; but Minerva, leaning her left hand against one of them, pushes forward the vessel with her right. Rapidly as an arrow the ship passes between the rocks, which broke against the extremities of the stern of the ship. The goddess, now seeing them out of danger, reäscends to the summit of Olympus; and the rocks becoming immovable, remained ever afterward adjacent to each other.'
Of the entymon of the word Cyanee, I am ignorant; but the other name which these islets bear, namely Symplegades, signifies the united; and Pliny, in explanation of this says, that from a side view they seem so. They are a cluster of low rocks, some thirty or forty feet high, and a white marble column stands on the highest of them, firmly imbedded in the rock. It has several holes in its summit, as if to hold a statue; and some of the old writers on the Bosphorus say, that it bore a dedicatory inscription in Latin to Cæsar Augustus.
On the opposite side of the entrance to the Bosphorus I could distinguish the Asiatic Cyaneas, the Colon Rock, and Riva, the Rhebus of the Argonauts ; beyond them the sea stretches away to the south, until the coast wholly disappears from view. Before me here and there, spread over the face of the waters as far as the misty atmosphere permitted me to distinguish, I saw sails, mostly bound for the Straits. To me there is no more striking object than a distant sail on an open sea; and I can only account for the impression by imagining the feeling of loneness to be one of the elements of beauty. Some of these vessels, as we passed them, proved to be Turkish • Black Sea crafts' of a peculiar shape, rising high and peaked at the stem and stern ; and my attention was called to an interesting