National Geographic : 1922 Jun
CONSTANTINOPLE TODAY BY SOLITA SOLANO B YZANTIUM is dead. New Rome is dead. Constantinople is ill. Soon this one-time Queen City of the East will be replaced by a modern European center of business and com merce, functioning on the most famous cross-roads in the world. Stamboul-home of Roman emperors, capital of magnificent sultans, scene of fabulous tales which every one has read is now falling into decay upon its seven hills. Everything has an air of being second-rate and outworn. Acres laid bare by careless fires constitute one fourth of the city's area, and the remain der is for the most part covered by unpainted, weather-stained houses with rotting window lattices above and small, dirty shops beneath. Mosques and tombs are dusty and neglected. Yet, in spite of all this, Stamboul re tains its magic of a uniquely situated city, and from afar has still a beauty that is incomparable. It is seen at its best in that famous approach from the sea to the Golden Horn, in which is reflected, as in a bright mirror, the city of Constantine, of Justinian and Theodora, of Theodosius and Mohammed II, with an effect so un familiarly lovely that it is like an artist's dream in which minarets and great domes seem to float above the mist. Then, at close range, the picture fades and one becomes suddenly disenchanted, as if a once beautiful woman had dropped her veil and revealed the ravages of time. MODERNITY HAS LEFT ITS MARK EVERY WHERE Few places in the world have exercised such a power of attraction for travelers as Constantinople, or have had such wide spread reputation for being picturesque. The severe, classic art of Athens is not found here; nor the dignity of Rome; nor the exciting, sullen spirit that perme ates Peking. It is not gay like Paris, nor learned like Berlin. An archeologist would be better pleased with Egypt. But this is the place before which Gautier, Byron, Loti, De Amicis, and Lamartine wept and swooned with delight before they sat down to fill books with ecstatic praises. Practical modernity has left its mark everywhere, especially since the city's occupation by the Allies, and soon the pictorial appeal that now remains will be gone forever. It will be a clean, decent, civilized city-but no longer Constanti nople. Already there are on all sides the changes due to western influence-trams. electric lights, telephones, unveiled women, and a new, safe bridge. Gone are the brilliantly colored costumes, the groups of faceless women guarded by eunuchs, the pariah street dogs, the Sultan's pom pous ceremonies, the harems, the life in the palaces along the Bosporus. And, al though the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France, and Italy, at a conference in Iaris in March, agreed to restore the Turks to full authority in their capital, it is safe to assume that the magnificent mis rule of the Sultans has come to an end. A CITY OF THREE SEPARATE PARTS Constantinople's geographical position has made her sanguinary history, for she controls a highroad of commerce between Asia and Europe, and Nature herself planned the ports. The city is divided into three separated quarters. Stamboul and Pera-Galata lie on the European side, the Golden Horn between them, and Scutari squats on the Asiatic side, across the Bosporus. Like outstretched arms, the two straits come up from the Sea of Marmora to the south (see map, p. 650). Galata and Pera are the European quarter, opposite Stamboul, where the representatives of foreign powers have long maintained their embassies and homes. Once the suburbs of Stamboul, this part of the city was known as Justin ianapolis 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 stands, a lofty lookout station from which fires are re ported and signals flashed to ships after dark.