CHAPTER XXXVII

ASIA MINOR, THE GRAVEYARD OF GREEK CITIES

 

THE possibilities of Asia Minor for Aryan civilization are better understood when one casts an eye back on that country to the period when it was covered with teeming millions and dotted with cities that were mothers of art, literature, philosophy, industry and all that is most useful and beautiful in human development. All this has been repeatedly swept over by Asiatic and Mongol invasion and is now covered with the Turkish blight.

In a paper read in December, 1922, by W. H. Buckler, of Baltimore, the well-known diplomat and archeologist, he calls attention to the great wealth of opportunity for archeological research in New Turkey, and he urges American scholars to concentrate their attention upon Anatolia and its new capital, Angora, and he expects that “the development of towns, roads, etc., will be much more rapid than formerly, and this change will be most marked at Angora, which, from a village must shortly transform herself into a metropolis.”

It is possible that a few new buildings may be put up at Angora in the near future, but the process of reasoning which connects the carrying out of massacres on a hitherto unprecedented scale with a freshly acquired ability for administration, agriculture, commerce and finance is incomprehensible.

On this point, precisely, Sir Valentine Chirol, already quoted, very opportunely says:

The Turk’s only real business was, and always has been, war. But it is difficult to see how far Turkey has profited by exchanging a narrow religious fanaticism for an equally narrow racial fanaticism. All we need consider is what Turkey is to-day. Her population is estimated at between six million and eight million decimated by the war and believed to be shrinking as it was already doing before the war, from congenital disease. It will, it is true, be for the first time, an almost purely Turkish population, for of the Greeks and Armenians who in 1914 still numbered some three million in Asia Minor, only the scantiest remnants are left. Yet they were the most intelligent and economically valuable communities of the old Ottoman Empire. She (Turkey) can hardly aspire to a much higher position than that of a third rate power barely equal in general resources to any of the Balkan states over which she used to rule, and she has herself abdicated the prestige and influence which the possession of the Khalifate had conferred upon her.” (Chirol, “Occident and Orient”, pp. 65-67)

But the very learned and accomplished writer, Doctor Buckler, brings out some facts of stupendous importance and significance. To quote his words:

The range of Anatolian historical monuments and documents covers about five thousand years. The periods represented by remains extend from the third millennium B. C., with its South Cappadocian Cuneiform tablets to the fifteenth century A. D., with its Seljuk architecture and inscriptions. Among the subjects of history on which Anatolian remains throw light are: Law, politics, economics, education, art, (including sculpture) philosophy, literature.”

He goes on to say that the term “Anatolia,” as here used, covers all of Asia Minor lying west of a line running north from Alexandretta to the Black Sea, and a list of ancient cities and towns having mints of their own in the fourteen classical districts included within that area, works out as follows:

Lycia, Pamphylia and Pisidia             95 towns    

Lycaonia, Isauria and Cilicia             82 towns 

Phrygia and Galatia                            61 towns

Bithynia, Paphlagonia and Pontus     34 towns

Ionia, Lydia and Caria                        84 towns

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Total                                                    356 towns

Among the sites already excavated, or earmarked for excavation, he mentions Pergamon, Miletus, Sardis, Colophon, Priene, Cnidus; and among those partly spoiled for excavation by their mere existence as modern towns, are Smyrna, Halicarnassus, Adalia, Philadelphia, Thyatira and Ankyra. The last named is now the Turkish capital, Angora. The most, if not all, of the cities mentioned by Doctor Buckler were centers of Greek or Christian culture, or both.

It is natural that the archeologists, in their anxiety to obtain permission to work in Asia Minor with safety should be very careful to say nothing that might offend the sensibilities of the Turk. They must use all their diplomacy in dealing with him in order that as much as possible may be unearthed of the treasures of Greek art and wisdom that lie buried beneath the land now in the hands of the Khemalists, still wet with the blood of the last survivors of an ancient civilization.

We have then, the following classes who find themselves in the same situation with regard to the Turk, that is to say, who are prevented from saying anything that might offend him: Certain missionaries; the business men with interests still in Turkey; the concession hunters; the diplomats; the archeologists. I believe that many of these are sincere in their admiration of the Turk, founded on the supposition that his crimes have been greatly exaggerated and were more or less justified.

This conviction I do not share and I am convinced that it would have been better for the whole Western world and the Turks as well, if the non-Moslem minorities had been protected, and Christian civilization given a chance to develop in the Ottoman Empire.

As to the great commercial and industrial activity, which Professor Buckler foresaw in 1922, the two following extracts from the press of 1925 are apropos. A writer in a February number of the “Gazetta del Popol”, of Turin, Italy, recently returned from Smyrna, says:

The appearance of Smyrna is tragic. Even two years and a half after the tragedy the ruins are untouched. For two kilometers along the quay stretch the skeletons—the ghosts of houses. And behind are more miles of streets, lined by other phantom houses, like an endless morgue.”

This phantom city is a terrible symbol of all Turkey. That which above all attracts attention is the disappearance of the Greeks, swept out, extirpated from that city, which was their metropolis in the Levant and where they dominated all forms of activity. The Armenians have also completely disappeared. The Jews endure with difficulty the handicaps which they undergo in their sphere of life.”

“The Europeans try to make the best of a bad situation, but those who are not supplied with ample capital, sufficient to allow them to face a thousand daily vexations, which the authorities inflict, are faced with the necessity of themselves retiring.”

All forms of activity in Turkey during the past ages were created by non-Turks. There was nothing of theirs except the army. Ruthlessly the Turks condemn to death all enterprise—commercial and industrial—in which they can not themselves succeed.”

“At present Turkey has only three custom houses—Constantinople, Smyrna and Messina. Since the first of January of this year, when the law concerning the customs went into effect, all other ports have been obliged to suspend entirely their traffic. It is not possible for commercial activity to exist in them any more; traffic with Europe has practically ceased entirely. All goods shipped to and from Turkey must be unloaded at one of these towns; go through the vexatious customs formalities, and be reloaded and reshipped to their destinations.” (This system of concentrating the business of the country at these three places creates the fictitious appearance of increased activity at these ports, at the expense of al1 the others. Macri, which formerly had fifteen thousand inhabitants, has now a miserable two thousand survivors. The same is also true of Adalia, formerly important, and now completely dead.)

“The rug industry no longer exists. The Armenians and Greeks, who were its personnel, have fled and settled in Rhoades, Piraeus, and some at Bari. There no longer remains any one in Smyrna who knows how to make carpets.”

Ten years ago, by the Armenian massacres and deportations, Asia Minor was laid desolate. To-day, the industrious and productive portion of its population has completely disappeared. It will soon become, if not a desert, a wilderness. Everywhere along the coast are cities, which were abandoned to the Turks two years ago and are now completely depopulated. The tillers of the soil have become shepherds and nomads—the land no longer belongs to any one. Within a few years, if God does not work a miracle, and endow the Turks with gifts which they have always lacked, Asia Minor will become a desert in the heart of Mediterranean civilization.”

And a writer in a recent number of  Le Tempt” of Paris says:

Constantinople is a dying city. The Bosphorus, once thronged with the world’s shipping, is now all but deserted; the offices of foreign business houses are winding up their affairs; the banks will loan money only at the most exorbitant rates. The troubles with the Greeks and Armenians have resulted in the expulsion en masse of those peoples. Even the Turkish population proper is emigrating in the hope of finding brighter commercial prospects.”

“As the prosperity of the great city declines, its ancient rivals, Alexandria, Beirut, Saloniki and Piraeus are receiving the benefits of its former trade.”

How can it be otherwise!

Efficiency to massacre does not mean ability in industry and commerce, and the fanatical destruction of great industrial masses has always proved a serious blow to the prosperity of the country where the crime has occurred, as witness the persecution of the Huguenots in France. In Turkey it has meant ruin.

 

 

 

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