National Geographic : 1908 Dec
SOME RUINED CITIES OF ASIA MINOR* By ERNEST L. HARRIS AMERICAN CONSUL GENERAL TO SMYRNA ON the top of Mount Pagus, which overlooks the bay and modern city of Smyrna, stand the ruins of a medieval castle. If it had never been destroyed it would probably be to day as interesting a sight as the castle of Heidelberg or the Alhambra of Grenada. But only a few old walls are left, and even these are being rapidly torn to pieces in order to furnish the necessary paving material for the streets of Smyrna. In Germany everything is done to preserve or restore the old mon umental castles which ornament the length and breadth of that country. In Turkey everything is done, on the con trary, to hasten and complete their ruin. Mount Pagus has a history of its own. It has been the center of centuries of strife. Alexander the Great once spent a night upon its summit, and when he awoke in the morning he was so im pressed by the natural beauty of the sur rounding scene that he declared it was a situation worthy of a city. It is claimed that he induced the inhabitants of the an cient city across the bay to remove to the Pagus. King Lysimachus built an acrop olis where the castle now stands, and upon the slopes of the hillside were grouped a stadium, theater, and other public buildings. Smyrna then rose rapidly to affluence and power. It was one of the Asiatic cities which competed and won the per mission to erect a temple in honor of Tiberius, the ruins of which have en tirely disappeared. Smyrna was one of the seven golden candlesticks of Asia, being the seat of one of the Seven Churches. Polycarp was martyred in the stadium in 155 A. D. Apart from the disasters of war, the old city on the Pagus was often destroyed by earthquakes, but the Byzantine Greeks being hard pressed by the Turks, as often restored its. fortifications and castle. Smyrna was always the center of conflict, because it could be strongly fortified and easily provisioned from the sea. It was the scene of terrific contests between Omar and the Knights of Rhodes. Then came the struggle of the Genoese and Venetians for commerce and trade, espe cially the former, who obtained treaties with Smyrna, Chios, and Phocia. The Genoese influence and establish ments were so numerous in this country 600 years ago, and the impression then created was so powerful, that even unto this day all the ruins scattered over the countryside are known by the name of Genoese. Ruins of Genoese castles are very numerous along the coast of the Le vant and in the islands of the archipel ago. In 1402 Tamerlane wrenched Mount Pagus from the Knights of Rhodes and built a wall with their skulls. When the Tartar chieftain retired the Turks again took possession, and with the exception of one short period there after, when the Venetians stormed the city and slaughtered the inhabitants, Mount Pagus and Smyrna have remained in the undisputed possession of the sul tans. As the remains of antiquity have disappeared from Smyrna it has become a very interesting modern half Oriental, half European city. The Yuruks, to whom I have referred several times, are nomads who wander over Asia Minor and have no special place where they remain for any great length of time. They speak Turkish and claim to be Moslems. They are al ways accompanied by their flocks and herds, which often consist of many thou sand sheep, cattle, and camels. They are by no means poverty-stricken and are, as a rule, quite hospitable to the traveler when they are well paid. In traveling over Asia Minor, far from the seacoast * Continued from the November, 19o8, number.