The habitable world described: or the present state of the people in all parts of the globe, from north to south; shewing the situation, extent, climate, ... including all the new discoveries: ... With a great variety of maps and copper-plates, ... By the Rev. Dr. John Trusler. ... [pt.13]
Trusler, John, 1735-1820.

CHAP. XXVIII. Other Islands of the Archipelago.

HAVING now taken a cursory view of those islands, which either make part, or are adjoin∣ing to the Cyclades, we propose to treat of the other Page  88 islands in the Archipelago; most of which, either lie near, or are considered, by many geographers, as be∣longing to the Asiatic coast, Negropont, and one or two others excepted.

Stalimene, anciently Lemnos, is an island in the North part of the Archipelago, of a quadrangular figure, each side being from five and twenty, to thirty miles in length; and is equally distant from the coasts of Romania, Natolia, and Macedonia. The prin∣cipal source of wealth in this island, is a mineral earth, called Terra Lemnia, which is said to be an excellent medicine for healing wounds, expelling poisons, stop∣ping dysenteries, &c. and a great preservative against infection. It is made up in little bags, and sealed by the Turkish officers; after which, it is permitted to be vended and exported.

The Greeks begin to collect it on the 6th of August. with much superstitious ceremony. There is only one hill which produces it; the surface of the ground being dug up, they easily find the vein, resembling earth cast up by worms; after as much being taken up as the priests approve and put into bags, the ground is covered over as before, and some bags of this earth are sent as presents to the Grand Signior, and the rest sold to the foreign merchants by the Sanjiac, or his deputies. The inhabitants Page  89 keeping this earth in their houses without his per∣mission, are punished with death.

When the Venetians possessed this island, there were between forty and fifty towns and villages upon it, and the island was well inhabited, but at present it is very thinly peopled. It was upon this island that the poets feign Vulcan to have fallen, when kicked out of Paradise by Juno, for his deformity; and that being lamed in his fall, he was called Lemnius, and worshipped by the people of the island as a decrepid deity.

The island Tenedos, which lies between Lemnos and the continent of Asia, is chiefly rock, but fertile. It was anciently reckoned about ten miles in circum∣ference. Its position near the mouth of the Helle∣pont, has given it importance in all ages; vessels bound towards Constantinople finding shelter in its port, or safe anchorage in the road, during the Etesian winds, and in foul weather. The emperor Justinian, erected a magazine, to receive the cargoes of the corn-ships from Alexandria, when detained there. This building was two hundred and eighty feet long, ninety broad, and very lofty. The voyage from Egypt was rendered less precarious, and the grain preserved, until it could be transported to the ca∣pital. Afterwards, during the troubles of the Greek Page  90 empire, Tenedos experienced a variety of fortunes. The pirates, which infested these seas, made it for many years their place of rendezvous; and Othman seized it in 1302, procured vessels, and from thence subdued the other islands of the Archipelago.

The port of Tenedos has been inclosed in a mole, of which no part appears above water, but loose stones are piled on the foundations to break the waves. The bason is encompassed by a ridge of the moun∣tain. On the South-side is a row of wind-mills, and a small fort; and on the opposite, a castle by the shore. The houses, which are numerous, stand at the foot, or on the slope of an acclivity; with a flat between them and the sea, formed partly by soil washed down from above. They reckon six hundred Turkish, and three hundred Greek families. The church belong∣ing to the latter, is decent.

We found here but few remains of antiquity, says Chandler, worthy notice. We perceived on our land∣ing, a large and entire Sarcophagus, or stone coffin, serving as a fountain; the top stone, or lid, being per∣forated to admit a current of water, which supplies the vent below; and on one side is an inscription. Near this was part of a fluted column, converted into a mortar for bruising corn; and in a shop was a remnant of tessellated pavement then recently disco∣vered. Page  91 In the streets, the walls and burying grounds, were pieces of marble, and fragments of pillars, with a few inscriptions.

In the evening, this being Sunday, and a festival, we were much amused with seeing the Greeks, who were singing and dancing, in several companies, to music, near the town; while their women were sitting in groups, on the roofs of the houses, which are flat, as spectators; at the same time enjoying the soft air and serene sky.

We were lodged much to our satisfaction in a large room, with a raised floor matted, in which we slept in our clothes, in company with two Jews and several Greeks; a cool breeze entering all night at the latticed windows, and sweetening our repose.

In these countries, on account of the heat, it is usual to rise with the dawn. About day-break, we received from the French consul, a Greek, with a respectable beard, a present of grapes, the clusters large and rich, with other fruits, all fresh gathered. We had besides, bread and coffee for breakfast, and good wines, particularly one sort, of an exquisite flavour, called Muscadell. The island is deservedly famous for the species of wine which produces this delicious liquor.

Page  92Mitylene, anciently Lesbos, situated a few leagues from Elca, in Lesser Asia, is of considerable extent, and though some part is mountainous and barren, it has many fruitful plains, which produce plenty of corn. The chief town is Castro, anciently Mity∣lene, having a strong garrison to protect the island against the pyrates, which infest very much these seas. In this island are said to be upwards of a hundred villages. It has given birth to, and been the residence of, some of the greatest men of antiquity. Theophrastus, and Phanios, disciples of Aristotle, were natives of this island. The famous Arion, also was born here; whose skill in music charmed the Dol∣phins, so that they carried him safe to the shore. Epicurus read lectures at Mitylene, and Aristotle re∣sided there for many years. Though few islands indeed have produced men of greater genius, yet all their grave lectures it seems could not reform their morals; it being a proverb in Greece, when speak∣ing of a profligate fellow, to say, he lived like a Lesbian.

In this island there still subsists two very singular institutions. The first is, that all estates, both real and personal, descend to the eldest daughters; whereby all the males, and the younger children of the female line are disinherited. This custom is of very ancient date, and is said to have been consented Page  93 to by the males, out of love to their sisters, and to procure better establishments for them. The Myty∣lenians, says Guys, informed me, that the men would have no difficulty in getting their right of inheritance restored, if they chose to claim the benefit of the Turkish law, which admits the children of both sexes to an equal share in the parents fortune. But the man, who should attempt to promote his interest by an appeal to a foreign power, would for ever ap∣pear infamous in the eyes of his countrymen.

The other is, that in a small town, about three days journey from the capital, every stranger, upon his arrival, is compelled to marry one of the women; even though his stay should be for a night only. They generally present a maiden to him, whom he must absolutely espouse. Or, if he should prove to be a man of great property or importance, several females are presented, and he has the selection of one of them. Travellers of inferior rank have no choice, but must accept the lady offered to them; who, in that case, is generally the oldest and plainest in the district. A priest then appears, who performs the marriage ceremonies with great solemnity; a nuptial feast is prepared; and the new married couple pass the night together. The husband may, if he pleases, depart the next morning. If he has any money, or valuable effects, and chuses to make his Page  94 ephemeral wife a present, it is received, and indeed expected. But if he should not, he may still pro∣proceed upon his journey without molestation. The lady thinks herself sufficiently obliged to him, for having delivered her from the reproach of virginity; which it is ignominious either to retain, or even to surrender to a Mitylenian. The preservation of the lady's honour depends upon her being first married to a stranger. It is of no consequence whether he re∣mains with her, or ever returns. At the expiration of a year, she may contract a new marriage with any man that presents himself; and should the for∣mer husband appear, he would have no legal claim whatever upon account of his previous marriage. The first is, that a woman cannot marry to advantage, until she has had intercourse with a stranger. This custom is said to be of most ancient date, and the only alteration the teachers of the Christian religion have been able to effect is, that the cohabitation shall be preceded by a marriage according to the forms of the church now established there. By this compro∣mise, the priest, the bride, and all parties quiet the scruples of their conscience.

The island Chios, now Scio, is by Strabo reckoned one hundred and twelve miles and an half in cir∣cuit; and about fifty miles from the island Mitylene. The principal mountain, called anciently Pelinaeus, Page  95 presents to view a long lofty range of bare rocks, re∣flecting the sun; but the recesses at its feet, are dili∣gently cultivated, and reward the husbandman by their rich produce. The slopes are clothed with rich vines. The groves of lemon, orange, and citron trees, regularly planted, at once perfume the air with the odour of their blossoms, and delight the eye with their golden fruit. Myrtles and jessamines are interspersed, with olive and palm-trees, and cypresses. Amid these, the tall minarets rise, and white houses glitter, dazzling the beholder.

Scio shared in the calamities which attended the destruction of the Greek empire. In the year 1093, when robbers and pirates were in possession of several considerable places; Trachas, a Turkish malecontent, took the city. In 1306, this was one of the islands which suffered from the exactions of the Grand Duke Roger, general of the Roman armies. The city was then seized by the Turks, who came before it with thirty ships, and put the inhabitants to the sword. In 1346, the Genoese took the city, and kept in possession of Scio about 240 years. They were de∣prived of it by the Turks, in 1566, but the Chiotes in general, were still indulged with numerous and ex∣traordinary privileges. They consisted of two par∣ties, differing in their religious tenets; one of the Greek persuasion, which acknowledges the patriarch Page  96 of Constantinople as their head; the other of the Latin or papists, which enjoyed a free toleration under the Turks, their priests celebrating mass as in Christendom, bearing the sacrament to the sick, going in solemn procession, habited, beneath ca∣nopies, with censors in their hands, to the year 1694. The Venetians then attacked and took the castle, but afterwards abandoned it on a defeat of their fleets. The Latins, who had assisted them, dreading the punishment which their ingratitude de∣served, fled, with their families and the bishop, and settled in the Morea. The Turks seized the churches, abolished the Genoese dress, and imposed on their vassals badges of their subjection; obliging them, among other articles, to alight from their horses at the city gates, and at the approach of any, even the meanest, Mussulman.

The town of Scio and its vicinity, resembles from the sea, Genoa and its territory, as it were in mi∣niature. The ancient city had a good port, and sta∣tions for eighty ships. The present, which occupies its site beneath Pelinaeus, is large, well-built, and po∣pulous. A naked hill rises above it, with a house or two on the summit, where was the Acropolis of the Greeks, and afterwards the citadel of the Genoese. The port has an ordinary or ruinous mole, like that of Tenedos, almost level with the water. The town,

[illustration] Page  [unnumbered]
Page  97 says Chandler, appeared to us a collection of petty palaces, after the hovels of mud we had seen on the continent of Asia.

The beautiful Greek girls are the most striking ornaments of Scio. Many of these were sitting at the doors and windows, twisting cotton or silk, or employed in spinning, or needle-work, and accosted us with familiarity, bidding us welcome as we passed. The streets on Sundays and holidays are filled with them in groups. They wear short petticoats, reach∣ing only to their knees, with white silk or cotton hose. Their head-dress, which is peculiar to the island, is a kind of turban, the linen so white and thin, it seemed to be snow. Their slippers are chiefly yellow, with a knot of red fringe at the heel. Some wore them fastened with a thong. Their gar∣ments were of various colours; and their whole ap∣pearance so fantastic and lively, as to afford us much entertainment. [See the plate, which exhibits the dress of the females of Scio, Naxos, and Mity∣lene.] The Turks inhabit a separate quarter, and their women are concealed.

We returned to the ship at night, says Chandler, the Dragoman and Chiote lighting us with long paper lanthorns, to the boat, which waited at the beach. A great number of ghaunt dogs were collected by Page  98 the shambles, which are at the outskirts of the town. They barked furiously at us, but were chid and re∣pelled by our guides, whose language they under∣stood. The public, we are told, maintains them; and they assemble when all is quiet. It is observable, that these animals were of old a like nuisance, being the Lemures of the ancients, who used to pacify them with food. The Arcadians in particular were accustomed to carry bread from their table, on ac∣count of the nightly terrors, or the dogs, which they expected to assail them in the streets.

Prosperity is less friendly to antiquity, than deser∣tion and depopulation. We saw here no stadium, theatre, or odeum; but so illustrious a city, with a marble quarry near it, could not be destitute of those necessary structures, and perhaps some traces might be discovered about the hills of the Acropolis. A few bas-reliefs and marble, are fixed in the walls, and over the gate-ways of the houses. We found by the sea-side, near the town, three stones with in∣scriptions, which had been brought for ballast, from the continent of Asia. The Chiote, our attendant, was vociferous in his enquiries, to little purpose. We were more than once desired to look at a Ge∣noese coat of arms for a piece of ancient sculpture, and a date in modern Greek for an old inscription.

Page  99The most curious remain is, that which without reason has been named, The School of Homer. It is on the coast, at some distance from the city, north∣ward, and appears to have been an open temple of Cybele, formed on the top of a rock. The shape is oval, and in the centre is the image of the goddess, the head and an arm wanting. She is represented as usual, sitting. The chair has a lion carved on each side, and on the back. The area is bounded by a low ruin or seat, and about five yards over. The whole is hewn out of the mountain, is rude, and in∣distinct; and probably of the most remote antiquity.

The wines of Scio have been celebrated as aiding digestion, as nutritious and pleasant. They were much esteemed by the Romans. Hortensius hoarded them; and Caesar, who was as generous as magni∣ficent, dispensed them freely to the people at his triumphs and sacrifices. It is related, that the cul∣ture of the vine was introduced by a son of Bacchus, called Oenopion, or, The Wine-drinker, whose sepulchre remained here in the second century; and that red wine, with the making of these liquors, was invented by the Chians. A rugged tract named Arvisia, was particularly famous for its produce, which has been extolled as ambrosial, and stiled a new nectar. We were treated with a variety of choice specimens, Page  100 and it may be questioned if either the flavour, or qualities once so commended, be at all impaired.

To the peculiar possession of the Arvisian wine, no longer talked of, has succeeded the profitable cul∣ture of the Lentiscus, or mastic tree. This em∣ploys, as we were told, twenty-one villages; which are required to provide as many thousand okes of gum annually, for the use of the seraglio, at Con∣stantinople. They procure it by boring the trunk with a small sharp iron, in the summer-months. In October their harvest is conveyed with music into the city, and lodged in the castle. The cadi, and officers who attend while it is weighed, have each a certain portion for their perquisite. The remainder is delivered to the farmer, or planter, to be disposed of for his own advantage. The Greeks of these villages have a separate governor, and enjoy many privileges. In particular they are allowed to wear a turban of white linen, and their churches have each a bell to call them to prayers, an indulgence of which they speak with much glee. The Asiatic la∣dies are excessively fond of this gum, which they chew greedily, believing it good for the breath, and attributing to it various other excellent qualities.

Negropont, the ancient Eubaea, on the opposite coast, is the largest island in the Archipelago. It is Page  101 ninety miles long, and about twenty broad. On the south-west side of the island the strait is so nar∣row, that it is joined to the continent of Attica, by a bridge. The walls of the town are two miles in circumference, and the suburbs where the Christians inhabit, are extensive. The Captain Bashaw, or Admiral of the Turkish fleet, is the viceroy of this island, and the adjacent parts of Greece; where he has a deputy, and a fleet of gallies generally lie in the port. What is very singular in this island, is the irregularity of the tides in the Euripus; the strait which separates this island from the continent of Attica.

The tides are regular from the last three days of the old moon, to the eighth of the new; the ninth day they become irregular, and continue so to the thirteenth; the fourteenth they are regular again, and continue thus to the twenty-first; when they be∣come irregular again, until the twenty-seventh. When they are irregular, they flow twelve, thirteen, or fourteen times, and ebb as often in the four and twenty hours. When the tides are regular, they observe the same rule according to the moon, as the tides in the ocean. But there is this difference at all times between the tides of the Euripus, and those of the ocean; that the tides of the Euripus never rise above a foot, whereas those of the ocean, in Page  102 some places, rise twenty-four feet, in others not more than one foot. Between the ebbing and flow∣ing of the Euripus, is a small space, where the water seems to stand still, which it is not observed to do in the ocean.