Ottoman Athens I
Early Ottoman Athens (1456 – 1689)
In autumn 1458, shortly after its surrender to the Turks, Sultan Mehmet II visited Athens in person. On his approach the abbot of Kaisariani, adopting the servile attitude of his predecessor towards the Crusaders some two and a half centuries previously, presented to the conqueror the keys of the city. In recognition of this service, the Sultan allowed the monastery to retain its privileges, and exempted from all but nominal taxation.
Luckily for the Athenians, the sultan was a devout Philhellene who read Greek, as well as Latin, and was anxious to see for himself all the sites so famous from history. For four days he went about the city viewing the sites and asking questions, trying to reconstruct the ancient cityscape in his imagination. On climbing onto the Acropolis he exclaimed in wonder: ‘How much, indeed, do we not owe to Omar, the son of Turakhan!’ The Muslim religion condemned all representations of gods and men, and it may be due to Mehmet’s express command that the statues and bas-reliefs on the Parthenon, including those now known as the Elgin Marbles, were spared their puritan iconoclasm.
Sultan Mehmet granted to the Athenians a degree of self-government under a subassi under the authority of the pasha of Negroponte (Chalcis). His konak was located in the Stoa οf Ηadrian. The disdar-aga, or commander of the garrison was billeted in the palace of the Acciajuoli in the Propylaea, while he housed his harem in the Erechtheion. Ottoman civil law was administered by a cadi, or judge. The demogerontes, or city councillors, drawn from the twelve archontic families, administered the affairs of the Greek community. Below the archontai were the nykokyriakoi, or landlords, the pazarites, or trades people, and the xotarides, or outsiders. The members of each class were distinguished by distinctive dress It is unlikely that these arrangements were invented at this time, but it is not clear how far back they date.
In 1466 the Parthenon was referred to as a church, so it seems likely that for some time at least, it continued to function as a cathedral, being restored to the use of the Greek archbishop. The Cistercians had abandoned Daphne, and that monastery was also restored to the Orthodox.
Meanwhile the church which had served as a cathedral for the Greeks during the rule of the Roman Catholics, was converted into a mosque, with the name ‘Mosque of the Conqueror.’ Some time later – we do not know exactly when – the Parthenon was itself converted into a mosque. Α small edifice was built inside to hold the mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, necessary for the orientation of Muslim prayers, and a room for the imam, or preacher, while a minaret was added. The Greek archbishop moved into the church of Αy. Panteleimon, which stood in the square below.
Despite their recent failures, the Venetians were by no means reconciled to Ottoman control over the Aegean. Α Venetian raid on Athens in 1464, however, achieved nothing but the plunder of the lower city.
The houses of the well-to-do at this time were constructed against one side of a courtyard, which was surrounded by a high wall. The house itself was usually two-storey, the lower floor sunk below ground level, was used for storage, workshop, kitchen and supplementary accommodation purposes. The upper floor, the main living quarters, would be supported upon arches. The courtyard would be used for poultry, and would be the living quarters during fine weather.
Despite the favours bestowed upon Athens by the Sultan, life under the Turks was always perilous. The non-Muslim, or rayah, had to pay a ‘head tax’ each year for the privilege of keeping his head on his shoulders. Church bells were banned. Non-muslims could not erect houses taller than Muslims, bear arms, ride horses, mount the acropolis, or wear certain clothes. At intervals the Toumatzimbashi, an Ethiopian slave, would arrive to collect boys of between ten and twelve to be taken for the janissaries, where they would be brought up as Muslims. The chronicle records that this child tribute was levied in 1543, 1547, 1553, 1555, 1559and 1566. Girls were taken for the harem of the sultan. Those whose children were taken would carry out the rites for the dead on their behalf.
This was a period of strong growth for monasticism, perhaps not unconnected with the child tribute. The monasteries on the slopes of Mount Hymettos were full of monks. Many wall paintings date from this time. The founder of Pendeli Monastery, Saint Timothy, was born at Kalamos, in Attica, in 1510. Α bishop on Euboea, he returned to Kalamos to escape the ire of the Pasha of Halkis, who had ordered his arrest, and decided to set up a monastery on Mount Pendeli, which quickly flourished. [Read the story of the foundation of Pendeli Monastery in Athens: The Suburbs.]
One of the most famous Athenians at this time was Rhigoula Benizelos, born of the union of two ancient families, the Benizeloi and the Palaeologoi, the latter of which may have had connections with the imperial court at Constantinople. At the age of fourteen she was married to a wealthy Athenian, Andreas Cheilas, and lived on what is now St. Andrew’s Street, between the Cathedral and the Plaka. Her husband, a crude and sadistic man, frequently beat and tormented her. When he died after only three years of marriage, she became a nun and used the wealth she had inherited from her husband for works of charity.
Despite her good works, she was an abrasive person, inclined to intemperate language. She quarrelled with Saint Timothy and nursed bitter resentments against the people of Attica. In 1570 she wrote a letter complaining about them to the Grand Logothete in Constantinople, which has been described as ‘the ravings of someone mad with anger.’ She claimed that the people of Attica behaved towards her with hostility and savagery.
The charitable work of Philothei was so successful that it excited the hostility of the Turks, who were particularly enraged when she gave shelter to four runaway slave girls. The Governor of the city had her arrested, but her relatives and the city elders protested against her imprisonment, so after paying an enormous fine, she was released. Then, on the night of 2-3rd October, 1588, a group of Turks broke into her house at Patissia, and severely beat her. She was taken to the district of Persos, now called Philothei in her honour, where she lingered for several months, before passing away on 18th February, 1589.
Βy the beginning of the seventeenth century the convent she left behind was already in trouble. Α large number of nuns were maintained, and the community engaged in a wide variety of enterprises, some of them very costly. For this reason, the nuns were repeatedly forced to seek for funds, yet they survived. [Read about the life and works of Saint Philothei in Athens: The Suburbs.]
At this time, the Pandassa convent in Monastiraki Square, a dependency of Kaisariani Monastery, provided some care for poor, homeless and elderly people. They were given permanent shelter, and earned their keep by being hired out to parishioners for house and farm work, by spinning, weaving, silk making, and seasonal labour such as at the grape or olive harvests.
Visitations of the plague were not infrequent. Α chronicle of 1616 records seven such from the Turkish occupation until that time. An inscription in the Thision records that one, in 1555, killed thousands in the city. More Albanians moved south as refugees during the fifteenth century, when the Turks occupied Albania. In particular, a group which had previously lived in the Peloponnesus settled in Attica.
ΒΥ this time the very name of Athens was forgotten among some Western travellers. William Lithgow, who passed through in 1609 called it Salenos. More usually it was Settines, from hearing the Athenians referring to travelling Stin Athini (to Athens).
In 1645 control of Athens was transferred into the hands of the Kislar Aga, the chief black eunuch who supervised the sultan’s harem in the Topkapi Palace. The voivode of Athens became his agent. This was a concession due to the affection Sultan Alunet I felt for a favourite concubine from Athens known as Vasiliki.
In 1656 a bolt of lightning struck the Propylaea, where the Turks had stored their gunpowder. Yussef Aga, the disdar aga was killed together with his family. The Greek tradition says that it effectively pre-empted a plan to bombard the Christians attending the feast of Saint Dimitris at the small church of that name at the foot of the Pnyx Hill opposite. [Read the story of the attempted bombardment of the Christians in Athens: The City].
The Greeks possessed some influence over the destiny of their town at this time, for in 1660, when the Turks wanted to convert the Thiseion, then the church of Saint George, into a mosque, the Greeks of the city obtained a firman from the sultan to prevent them.
In 1667, the indefatigable Turkish traveller, Evliya Tchelebi, visited Athens. His description of the city is in striking contrast to that of Michael Akominatos four and a half centuries earlier. Although he had travelled around Europe, from Rome to Amsterdam, he says that he never saw in any country as many marvels as at Athens. He was clearly overwhelmed by what he saw, and he does not make a good witness; but he was one of the last visitors to describe the Parthenon before its destruction. He also had some extremely odd notions, such as that the city had been founded by Κίng Solomon, who once visited it in company with the Queen of Sheba on flying thrones.
At this time, Western visitors, informed by Renaissance learning, began to appear in Athens, showing interest in its remains. This allows us to learn something of the topography of the area Thus Bernard Randolph describe the extensive olive groves which lay to the west of the city, six miles in length and two in breadth.
In the 1660s a French Capuchin mission was set up on a plot of land which included the so-called Lantern of Demosthenes. The hollow monument was turned into a library/study. The friary was chiefly known as a hostel for visiting Westerners, many of whom made the notes for their books in the convent. In 1672 a French Capuchin,
Babin reported that in his day it was possible to enter the city without passing through a gate. There were two or three gates which were never closed, since the city had no walls. Most of the narrow unpaved streets resembled village roads. Modest houses built from the ruins of ancient buildings were decorated with pieces of marble columns as decoration. Marble steps with carved crosses were found on the doors and doorsteps of ruined churches. Nearly all the houses were of stone. Some, he considered beautiful.
He was astonished at the great number of small churches, some of which were made of marble. People told him that there were about three hundred. He thought that the number of Turkish mosques did not exceed eight or nine, but they all had minarets.
The port of Athens, he thought beautiful, and larger than the port of Marseilles. The white marble lion stood at the inner port near a lonely uninhabited house, built for storing merchandise before it was loaded on board the vessels, and also used by the customs officer.
The British ambassador to the Porte, Lord Wίnchilsea, confirmed this picture. The town lay to the north-west of the Acropolis; spread out in length a mile and a half, in breadth somewhat above a mile; and four miles in circumference. It had no walls to defend itself; and as a result the inhabitants had been ‘frequently surprised by the pirates from sea, and sustained great losses from them.’ For that reason, some years previously they secured all the avenues into the town by new gates, and made the outermost houses, because they lay close together, to serve as a wall. While he was there, the gates were shut up every night. The Athenians seemed to him polished in manners and conversation.
He visited the monasteries on Μουnt Hymettos, the most important of which was that of Kaisariani. The abbot, Ezekiel Stephanaki, lived in Athens. He understood ancient Greek very well, and Latin indifferently, with a little Italian. He was a Platonist; and professed to be a physician. The honey of Hymettos was sent in great quantity to Constantinople, where it was much esteemed for making sorbets. Lord Winchilsea remarked: ‘We eat of it very freely, finding it to be very good; and were not at all incommodated with any gripings after it.’
He claimed that although he had seen cities more prosperous by trade, he had seen few towns in the Ottoman Empire that had preserved themselves as well, or that enjoyed greater privileges. The Athenians appealed to the protection of the Kizlar Aga or Chief of the Black Eunuchs whenever they experienced any difficulty or abuse from the loca1 Turks. They had divided the town into eight districts, and for each of these, one of the most substantial and respected men was chosen to settle all problems in a friendly manner between Christians and Christians Thus they effectively governed themselves in matters that concerned only themselves. [Read reports of other travellers to Athens during this period in Travellers’ Greece: Memories of an Enchanted Land.]
This was borne out in 1671 when the voivode began to demand more taxes than was customary. Α deputation of clergy and notables went to Constantinople to protest. Clearly, their action achieved nothing because they had to complain again in 1675. On this occasion Michael Limbonas, a wealthy and cultured Athenian, lately returned from Venice, led the deputation. In spite of the fact that two other prominent citizens, John Benizelos (Limbonas’ fatber-in-law) and Nicolas Cheilas, collaborated with the Turks, he was successful. The Chief Eunuch acknowledged the justice of the complaints, dismissed the voivode and the disdar aga, ordered them to surrender what they had unlawfully levied and fined them heavily.
Benizelos took refuge in the monastery of Pendeli, and his collaborator, Cheilas, also went into hiding. The Turks of Athens resenting Limbonas’ success dragged their feet in carrying out the orders of the Kizlar Aga, so Limbonas went again to Constantinople and persuaded him to send his representative to carry out his commands. The Turks were further enraged, and in December 1678 they murdered him The Athenians petitioned the Chief Eunuch to punish the murderers. Yussef Aga had them arrested and taken to Constantinople, where they were either imprisoned for life or exiled.
In 1676 Spon and Wheler arrived. Their meticulous record of monuments, when published, stimulated travel to Greece.
Venetian Interlude (1684-1689)
Venetian Athens: The Destruction of the Acropolis
In 1684 the sixth war broke out between the Ottoman Empire and Venice, a further stage in an apparently unending struggle between the two powers for control of the Aegean. An expedition under Captain-General Francesco Morosini landed in the Peloponessos, speedily liberating most of it from Turkish control. The feelings of the Greeks of the day must have been ambivalent. Deliverance from the Turks would have been a mercy, but since 1204 the Venetians had probably wreaked as much destruction in the region as had the Turks, and were equally hard masters.
Following up his success in the south, Morosini sailed to Piraeus with 10,000 men, mostly German mercenaries, landing on 21st September. On the next day his force marched to Athens and occupied the lower town. The Turkish garrison and population barricaded themselves on the Acropolis. Attempts were made to tunnel into the rock under the walls, but when the chief sapper fell to his death they were abandoned. Morosini then brought up his artillery onto the Mouseion Ηίll and tried to bombard the citadel, but most of their shots went over the hill and landed on the Greek town on the other side, provoking indignant demands for compensation.
On 25th September a Turkish deserter told Morosini that most of the Turks’ ammunition was stored in the Parthenon, and that the most important of the women and children of the Turkish community were also taking shelter there, thinking that the Venetians would not bombard the priceless edifice. Without any hesitation, Morosini ordered the artillery to direct their fire towards the Parthenon. On the evening of the next day, an artillery lieutenant from Luneburg scored a direct hit. There followed an explosion that shook the entire town as the munitions exploded. The Parthenon was blown apart and about three hundred people, including the garrison commander, were killed. Even the besiegers on the Museion Ηill were showered with fragments of marble.
After that, the garrison surrendered, and it and the remaining Turkish population, were evacuated by sea. Morosini sent a report to the Senate of Venice, ascribing his speedy victory to ‘a lucky shot on a powder store.’ The Fetihiyeh Mosque was quickly converted into a Catholic church dedicated to Saint Dennis, and a solemn Te Deum was celebrated.
When a large Turkish force assemb1ed at Chalkis, in the next year, the Venetians reluctantly decided that they had no realistic alternative but to evacuate the town they had so recently occupied. An initial proposal was made to blow up the entire Acropolis fortress in order to deny it to the Turks, but luckily that was rejected. Nevertheless, unlike his mercenaries, quite unfazed by the destruction he had already inflicted on one of the most precious monuments of humanity, Morosini decided to remove some of the sculptural decorations of the Parthenon to take back to Venice, to ‘add to the splendour of the republic.’ Clearly the spirit of 1204 was still alive. He instructed his engineers to take down the figure of Poseidon and the chariot of Victory from the pediment of the temp1e, but the ropes broke during the operation and they fell to the ground and were smashed.
Reluctant to leave without any souvenirs at all, he took with him a large marble lion found near the Thiseion, and the similar one which had given the name ‘Porto Leone’ to the harbour of Piraeus. They went to adorn the Arsenal in the lagoon, where they may still be seen today.
The departure of the Venetians placed the Greeks of Athens in a very difficult position They had certainly not opposed the invaders, and therefore dreaded the wrath of the returning Turks. Α few sailed to Zakynthos, which was then under Venetian rule. Many made their way went to other areas under Venetian control: to Nauplia, Patras, Gastouni, Koroni and Dimitsana. Some of these received grants of land or money and settled permanently in the Peloponnesus. But most of the Greek population fled to the island of Salamis, where they built themselves houses, and even churches, at Ambelakia
Α few people stayed behind in the city, but they soon found themselves prey to marauding brigands, and were forced to take refuge in the surrounding hills Α chronicler reported:’ They took whatever they could and escaped to the mountains. Most of the houses collapsed, the streets filled up, and the entire town became a lamentable wilderness. Marauders set fire to the trees, and the flames from these burned down even the ancient monuments.’ Athens remained a ghost town for three years. Even the surrounding mountains were not secure, for Pendeli Monastery was pillaged at this time.
One of the most prominent citizens, Limberakis, sought an amnesty for the people from the Sultan, and was successful, so some Athenians returned. Those who remained at Ambelakia were attacked by a force of Turks, who killed all the men they could, carried away three hundred and fifty women and children into slavery, and took everything they could plunder. In May 1689, the Venetian Dimitriοs Gaspari offered to transfer the survivors to Aegina on his galleys, but by that time most of them had already decided to accept an amnesty from the Sultan and returned to Athens.
It was in the interest of the Turks to have the Athenians return so that they would be able to provide revenues in the future, so sultan Suleiman II issued a three-year tax amnesty, and the voivode provided funds for rebuilding. In time, even many of those who had settled in Venetian controlled areas in the Peloponnesus, but who had not received grants of land, gradually drifted back home.
Ottoman Athens II
Later Ottoman Athens (1689-1821)
Later Ottoman Athens
Fewer Turks returned after the Venetian occupation than had lived there before. Whereas before the occupation, Turks had formed one quarter of the population, afterwards they carne to about one tenth. Nevertheless, a small mosque was erected inside the ruins of the Parthenon, mostly out of fallen material. At about this time, a company of whirling dervishes took over the Tower of the Winds as their tekke. Their dances, taking place as they did in this unique building, became one of the sights of the city for foreign visitors, one frequently represented in engravings.
In the eighteenth century Athens began to acquire places of learning once more. In 1721 the Medresse, a Turkish religious sen1inary was founded by Mehmet Fakhri. It carne to be used as a general meeting hall for the Turks. In 1750 Ioannis Dekas, an Athenian who had fled with the Venetians and made a lot of money in Venice, built and endowed a school for twelve poor Athenian children in what is now Deka Street, near Monastiraki.
In 1759 the voivode Tzistarakis built the mosque which bears his name on the present Monastiraki Square. The workmen dynamited one of the columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus to obtain high quality lime for the stucco. The Pasha of Chalkis had him banished for this act, even refusing a bribe of 16,000 piastres which the voivode offered him. The people attributed the outbreak of plague that year to the disease being released by the destruction of the column.
Western visitors continued to arrive in significant numbers for the first time, providing valuable information about the city at that time. Edward Gibbon described the inhabitants ‘walking with supine indifference among the glorious ruins of antiquity.’ The number of travellers increased after Stuart and Revett published their Antiquities of Athens in 1762. These travellers allow us to glimpse life in Athens in some detail. Thus Hans Christian Anderson reported seeing black Ethiopian slaves belonging to the Turks, who lived high in the caves in the side of the rock on the northern slope of the acropolis. Some of the cave entrances would be partially bricked up for added shelter. The Ethiopians used the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus as a mosque. In 1760, Athens became a malikhane, state land belonging to the sultan, which he would lease to a tenant for his lifetime. The tenant would pay the sultan a lump sum based upon ten times the annual revenue of the property and exercise judicial rights over the inhabitants. His first project after appointment would be to recoup the money he had paid for the lease from the townspeople.
In 1772 Hadji Αli Haseki, an Anatolian Turk in the bodyguard of Sultan Abdul Hamid Ι, purchased the malikhane. After three years he was made voivode. Hadji Αli Haseki’s general aim, quite simply, was to extort as much money from the Athenians as possible.
In 1777 and 1778, hordes of Muslim Albanians burst into the city. They had been called into Greece by the Turks to aid in the bloody suppression of a revolt in the Peloponnese instigated, but inadequately supported, by empress Catherine of Russia. Afterwards, many of them had remained to rob and pillage. In consequence, Hadji Αli ordered the building of a defensive wall, known as the Serpentzes, around the city. In places it fol1owed the lines of the walls of Themistokles on the north and east. This wall was of poor quality, barely three metres high and one wide, and incorporated much masonry from ruins and monuments The chronicler Dimitrios Kalephronas wrote: ‘As soon as the work was completed, Hadji Αli presented the Athenians with a bill of 42,500 piastres for supervisors from outside, and they paid it. But the wall became a prison for the Athenians. He set guards at the gates, and the Athenians suffered much, until by 1784 ‘the curse of his rule was no longer to be borne.’
In 1785, Haseki was summoned to Constantinople for trial, together with those archons who had collaborated with him Nevertheless, five years later he was able to return. As a result: ‘In 1791 and this year 100 there was nothing but oppression, with people fleeing the country and the Athenians fleeing in every direction. The years 1789-92 were the worst in the twenty-year period of Hadji Ali’s rule.’ The prisons were full as Haseki tried to extort money from the wealthier citizens. This was too much even for the sultan, and he was banished to Chios and beheaded three years later. [Read more about the dreadful career of the tyrant Ali Haseki in Athens: The City.]
During these years, Athens became increasingly a port of call, or even a destination, for foreign travellers. William Rae Wilson was wrote: ‘Ι crossed over in a small boat to Athens, the principal city of the Grecian empire, and put up in a small convent al the extremity of it, inhabited by a solitary monk, where, from the crowd of names of Englishmen written and cut on the walls, seems to be a kind of headquarters for Βritish travellers.’ He was referring to the monastery of Saint Spyridοn. Near the end of the century John Bacon Sawry Μοrritt exemplified the ruthless attitudes of the aristocratic antiquities collectors of the period: ‘It is very pleasant to walk the streets here. Over almost every door is an antique statue or basso-relievo, more or less good though all much broken, so that you are in a perfect gallery of marbles in these lands. Some we steal, some we buy.’ Later he wrote: ‘We have just breakfasted, and are meditating a walk to the citadel, where our Greek attendant is gone to meet the workmen, and is, Ι hope, hammering down the Centaurs and Lapiths… Nothing like making hay when the sun shines, and when the commandant has felt the pleasure of having our sequins for a few days. Ι think we shall bargain for a good deal of the old temple…’
He did not get what he wanted, but in 1799, Lord Elgin was accredited in Constantinople as British ambassador to the Sublime Porte. His agent, the Neapolitan Giovanni Battista Lusieri arrived in Athens to accomplish Elgin ‘s project of removing fine examples of ancient sculpture to Britain. The Βritish consul, Logothetis, was instructed to obtain permission from the Dizdar Aga. After six months negotiations permission was given in return for five guineas. Even so, he refused them permission to erect scaffolding, lest the workmen peek into the garden of his harem. Then on receiving news of the approach of a French fleet, foreigners were forbidden access to the acropolis.
Elgin then reportedly went straight to the Ottoman Foreign Ministry to request a firmαn in the name of Sultan Selim II, to override local officials, and obtained one. This was presented to the voivαde of Athens. On the basis of this authority, over the next few years the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea and the temple of Athena Nike were denuded of their sculptures, which were shipped to England. The painter Edward Dodwell visited Athens during the course of this work and wrote of ‘the inexpressible mortification of being present when the Parthenon was despoiled of its finest sculpture, and when some of its architectural members were thrown to the ground.’ Edward Clarke reported ‘down came the fine masses of the Pentilican marble, scattering their white fragments with thundering noise among the ruins.’ In recompense for the marbles, Lord Elgin left a clock to the citizens. Α tower was built to house in the bazaar. [Read about the theft of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens: The City.]
The occupation of Italy by Napoleon in 1796 diverted the young noblemen on the Grand Tour to the friendly Ottoman Empire. Many were lodged by Spyridοη Logothetis. In 1798 he received John Twedell, in 1801 Edward Daniel Clarke. In the same year, Edward Dodwell and William Gell stayed with the Makri family on Ayias Theklas Street, in 1809 Byron and Hobhouse. Hobhouse observed that even the Turks of Athens: ‘subdued either by the superior spirit of his subjects, or by the happy influence of a more genial climate, appears to have lost his ferocity, to have conformed to the soil, and to have put on a new character, ornamented by the virtues of humanity, kindness, and an easy affability, to which he attains in no other quarter of the Mahometan world.’
He supposed the number of houses in Athens to be between twelve and thirteen hundred; of these about four hundred were inhabited by Turks, the remainder by Greeks and Albanians, the latter of whom occupied about three hundred houses. There were also seven or eight ‘Frankish’ families, under the protection of the French Consul. He thought the houses of the more important Athenians inferior to those of the wealthier Greeks at Ioannina or Livadia. The streets were narrow and irregular. Many had a raised causeway on both sides, so broad as to contract the middle of the street into a kind of dirty gutter. The bazaar was at a little distance from the foot of the hill, and had several coffee-houses, which at were crowded by Turks playing draughts and chess. It was formed by one street, rather wider than usual, intersecting another at right angles; and a little above where the two meet was the principal ornamented fountain in the town, supplied by a stream still brought in artificial channels or stone gutters from a reservoir under Mount Hymettus.
There were only four principal mosques with minarets in the city, although there were eleven places of worship for the Turks. The number of Christian churches was out of all proportion to the Greek population. Thirty-six were constantly open, and had services performed in them; but if the chapels which were shut every day except on the days of their particular saints were counted, there would have been nearly two hundred.
Hobhouse recorded that the voivode interfered little with the management of the Christians, and generally contented himself with the receipt of the tribute, collected by the archons. These were formerly eight in number; but at that time there were only five.
The regular tax transmitted from Attica to Constantinople was between seven hundred and seven hundred and fifty purses; but the archons, under various pretences, exacted twice as much; and as they never gave any account to the people of the manner in which their money had been disposed of, they did not fail to enrich themselves out of the difference. Threats, and sometimes punishments, were employed to wring from the peasants their hard-earned pittances.
The archbishop of Athens exercised absolute authority over the clergy, and had a prisοn near his house for the confinement of offenders, whom he might punish with the bastinado, a beating on the soles of the feet with rods, to any extent short of death. His place was purchased from the Patriarch, the cost later being recouped by exactions from the people. [Read about the Orthodox Church under Ottoman rule in Between Heaven and Earth.]
The families of Westerners settled at Athens chiefly supported themselves by lending money, at an interest of from twenty to thirty per cent to Greeks merchants. They held balls and parties in the winter and spring in their own small circle, to which the leading Greeks were invited.
He reported that until within a few years previously, a journey to Athens was reckoned a considerable undertaking, fraught with difficulties and dangers; and that only ‘a few desperate scholars and artists ventured to trust themselves amongst the barbarians, to contemplate the ruins of Greece.’ But in recent years Attica swarmed with travellers’ to the extent that ‘several women had ascended the Acropolis’ and that the city was soon to be provided with a tavern.
The region immediately to the north and north-west of the city, Hobhouse described as interspersed with small villages, hidden in shady groves. The Athenians were fond of the luxury of a summer retreat, had constructed kiosks, or summer houses, the lower part of mud and the upper of wooden planks, ‘affording agreeable shelter during the intolerable heat of summer.’
‘Some of these gardens were near villages such as Kemsha, the ancient Cephisia, at the foot of Mount Pentelicus, and Calandri, in the same quarter; but the large tract of them was in the long line of olive-groves which form the western boundary of the plain of Athens. This district, watered by the Cephisus, in the neighbourhood of the site of the Academy, and the Colonus Ηίppius, about twenty minutes’ walk from the gale leading to Thebes, was to the south called Sepolia, and to the north Patisia, and was divided into extensive grounds allotted for supplying the city with fruit and vegetables, and are for the most part not cultivated by their owners, but let out to the peasants of the villages.’
The Κifissos, he described as a sort of ditch-stream, almost dry in summer, and in winter only a torrent passing through the olive-groves and gardens, each of which is watered. irrigation was ‘effected by raising a low mound round eight or nine trees, and then introducing the stream through dykes, so as to keep the roots and part of the trunks under water for the necessary length of time. Each owner watered his grove for thirty or forty hours, and paid so much a tree to the voivode, or to someone who had leased the revenue from that officer. ‘During that period the peasants constructed huts with boughs, and watched each other day and night, so as not to lose their own portion, or to allow to others an unfair abundance of the valuable water.’ He several limes observed their fires among the trees; and, as they watched in parties, and heard the sound of their voices, and the tinkling music of their guitars, on returning to Athens from an evening’s ride
The village of Κifissia was then the favourite resort of the Turks of Athens during the summer and autumnal months. The only village in Attica adorned with a mosque: it contained about two hundred houses. In the middle of it was an open space, where there were two fountains, and a large plane-tree, beneath whose overhanging branches was a flat stone, which was carved into squares so as to serve as a draught board, around which the Turks could be seen sedately smoking, or playing.
At Piraeus there was a monastery, dedicated to St. Spiridion, and inhabited by three or four friars; a summer retreat and warehouses belonging to a Frenchman, who resided in the city in the double capacity of physician and merchant; and a custom-house, the collector belonging to which was a dealer in fruit and Greek spirits. While he was there he saw in the harbour two ships at anchor. One of them was destined to receive the spoils of the Parthenon; and the other had recently arrived with a cargo of human beings from the coast of Africa. There were between two and three hundred slaves in the city: chiefly females, the servants of the Turks, who had the reputation, he said, of being indulgent and kind-hearted masters. He asked a black girl who brought a duck to the Capuchin convent for sale, how she came to be made a slave She said that she was born in Egypt, and caught in the neighbourhood of Alexandria while she was at the well drawing water. The only other trade at Piraeus was the exportation of the productions of Attica, the chief of which was olive oil.
Α survey of the many engravings of the period shows that, although many were drawn unseen from descriptions and contain gross inaccuracies, it is clear that at this time, with the exception of the olive groves of the Kifissos Valley, the tree cover had already virtually disappeared from around Athens and from most parts of Mount Hymettos. Although large timber had disappeared in classical times, so that it was necessary for the city to resort to the forests of Macedonia and Thrace for the wood for shipbuilding, records from the period of Florentine rule suggest that at that time the hills around Athens were wooded. Thus significant deforestation occurred under Ottoman rule. Engravings from this period also frequently show camels. Although not a major trading centre, Athens was connected with the rest of the empire by the camel caravan routes which criss-crossed the Middle East and North Africa, and which once had their European terminus at Belgrade.