26 March 2013

Evliya's Mistra

Turkish Fountain, lower city.

Evliya Çelebi visited Mistra in September 1668. Here are parts of his description from Pierre MacKay's translation of the Morea portion of the Seyahatname. Evliya's numbers should not be taken for court evidence.  The section headings are Evliya's from his manuscript.  The text is taken from folios SN VIII.274a29 through SN VIII.275a31.
* * * * * * * * * *

[Coming from Longaniko.]
Passing through this town, I continued southeast along the foothills of the Falcon Mountain of Ma'ni, and came through frightful and dangerous places to the villages of Ag. Vasi'l, Koki'tsa, Ago'riani and Alevru'. These are all in the foothills of the mountains of Ma'ni, and together they comprise three or four hundred houses. They are Greek villages with gardens and orchards, and belong to the juridical district of Mistra' command. From there it was 4 hours to Mistra'. 
Conquests of the province of Mesokhori, which is the description of the castle of Mistra
Some write the name Misistra, but in the Imperial registers, they write "The Province of Mesokho'ri," and in official titulatures it is known as the Mezistra command. According to the statements of ancient Greek historians, it was built first by King Solomon, and the next builder was Rehoboam, son of the prophet Solomon. Then King Philip, having built the city of Athens, was so pleased with the air and water of this city of Mistra' that he edified it still further, and because the actual work on the building was done by his vizier, Meso Khor, the lower city is called Mesokho'ri in the Greek histories. In the Frankish tongue they call it . . . , and in the Latin tongue it is Mistir. This ancient city and mighty fortress was taken by the Conqueror Sultan Mehmed Khan in person, in the year. . . . 

It was formerly the capital city of the King of the Venetian Franks, and is now the capital city of the Bey of the Mistra' command. According to the cadastral register, the special reserve for the Pasha is 219000 aspers. There are 11 zeamet-class and l9 timar-class fiefs. There is a Levy Commander (Alay Beyi) and a Captain of Troops (Çeri başi), and according to the code the total levy of men-at-arms is a force of three thousand men. The Bey (Sancak Beyi) is assigned to naval duties under the Grand Admiral, who is Commander-in- chief for the Governorate, and he takes three galleys on campaign. He derives nine purses of revenue annually from the administration of justice in this command.

Religious law is the province of a sacred jurisdiction valued at three hundred aspers, and there are . . . district villages. The Judge's annual income from the administration of justice is eight purses. The Chief Mufti is the Excellent Hamdi Efendi, a creature perfect in knowledge, outstanding in temperament, rich in elevated nobility and majestic in scholarship. There is a Marshal of the descendants of the Prophet and a Judge-substitute for the lower city. There is a Local Commander of Troops (Sipa^h Ka^hya Yeri), a Captain of Janissaries and many magnates and notables. There is a Castle Commandant and twenty-four garrison personnel. There is an Inspector of Commerce with the rank of Ag"a, a Commissioner of Customs Duties, a Commissioner of Tribute Taxes, a Collector of Transit Dues, a Chief Architect with the rank of Ag"a, a City Intendant and a . . .. There is a Proto'geros for the Greek infidels, a Chief of the Congregation for the Jews and Consuls for the Franks, because this is a well-ordered city.

A chapter on the entire appearance of the city of Mistra'
According to the personal observations of your poor and humble servant, this high castle is at the foot of the mountains of Ma'ni on a steep smooth white rock, attached to the Falcon Mountain. There is a strong fortress and a mighty rampart reaching to the very sky, an almond-shaped masonry citadel of archaic workmanship. Together with its lower circuit it forms three subdivisions, making up a stalwart and well-built defense. There are three gates. One opens to the east, and this is the gate to the inner keep, located in that line of defense. The gate of the middle castle opens to the southeast and the gate of the outer division opens west and is in a very dark and shady place. In front of this gate is the Station of the Conqueror Mehmed Khan. This is a smooth slab of hard stone where the Conqueror performed a prostration of heartfelt thanksgiving, just as the castle was taken. In the place where his forehead touched the stone during the prostration of worship, there is now a little polished depression, and when the blessed rain collects here, epileptics and people with fevers come here and drink the rainwater, in which, by the will of God, they find recovery.

In the central keep of this three-part citadel is the residence of the Castle Commandant, and there is also an armory, a provisions store and a water cistern, but nothing else. In this entire three-part citadel there is a total of eighty lofty tile-roofed houses with splendid views, and the mosque of Sultan Mehmed Khan is here in this citadel too, an old-fashioned place of worship with no minaret. The entire circumference of this citadel complex, measured around the battlements, is eight hundred paces. If a man looks down from this castle -- God's truth -- his gall-bladder will burst from terror, for it is such a lofty castle, reaching up to the very sky, that even to look up at it sets a man's mind to whirling as if he were staring into the center of a narcissus flower.

The station of the Excellent Ak Sems u"d-Din
Outside the castle, on the rock where he worshipped, there are the holes worn away by his tears falling drop by drop, and traces of the place where his holy knees touched the hard rock. For this reason they say that the castle of Mistra' was taken by the tears of Ak S,ems u"d-Din. Down the hill from this holy place is the lower castle. Commendation of the construction of the mighty lower castle This is a huge fortress, surrounding the citadel on the east, north and west sides, while on the south side, as God is my refuge, the steep rock cliff, which is a hundred fathoms deep and precipitous as the pits of Hell, results in there being neither walls nor towers, for they are not needed.

The entire circumference of this five sided castle is nine thousand long paces all round. There is no moat on any side, for the castle is built on a hard, steep, solid rock. There are eight gates altogether. One is the little gate to the prayer ground, and this opens westward. Another is the market gate, which also opens west. Then there is the. . . gate which opens to the east, the gate of the Kurd Ag"a mosque, which opens north, and the lower market gate which opens south . In addition to these, there is a number of small arched posterns in the city, whereas the ones mentioned above are the big gates on the main thoroughfares. Inside the city there are altogether one thousand one hundred inhabited and prosperous masonry houses built by the infidels, storey upon storey, one up against the other, with no yards but with a fine view. Only this year, however, a raging fire burned down six hundred of them and many of the houses are still undergoing repairs or rebuilding. The houses are built one above another, and are lofty dwellings with a view out to the east and north, over the plain of St. Nikon.

A count of the mosques in this castle
There are seven places of worship. First the Fethiye mosque, which is a mosque of Sultan Mehmed Khan, then the market mosque and the Zal mosque. The rest are neighborhood mosques for the faithful. There is one college for burning scholars, two primary schools for 5 well-born and properly raised heart's darlings, one convent for elders in the way of asceticism, one bath to refresh and soothe, two hundred shops for artisans and craftsmen, one inn for merchants, one caravanserai for travelers, and seven churches and monasteries for the meaningless mumblings of infidels. Of these, the monastery of St. Nikon is the best built.

A noteworthy marvel
Inside this castle, in the Greek and Jewish quarters, and in other places too, there are twenty-nine places called "cool- rooms," great cellars and natural caves worked into a finished shape. Each of these will hold a thousand people, and in July, the whole city, from the best of Muslim society to the worst of dissolute drunkards make themselves comfortable in these cellars and carry on their enjoyments, pleasures and festivities there. Even during the dog-days a man cannot sit near the entrance of these cellars without wearing furs. The people of the city chill their water, their wine and their sweet fruit drinks here. These are remarkable cellars to visit, where one cannot endure the cold even in July. Outside the castle, the mosque of Kurd Çelebi has just been built, and it is a very fine mosque. Then you go two thousand paces down a steep slope to the suburb of Mesokho'ri.

Praise of the suburb of Mesokhori
There are five hundred spacious tile-roofed masonry houses with gardens and orchards on a level plain here. There are ten Muslim neighborhoods, five congregations of Jews, and eleven Greek neighborhoods. There are six Muslim places of worship and one is a very well-appointed mosque . . .. There are also four neighborhood mosques. There is one upper school for burning scholars, two primary schools for children's youthful ABCs, two dervish chapels, and two open prayer grounds. One of these is north of the castle and one south of it. There is one damp and rather dirty little bath, four inns for merchants, and one caravanserai for travellers which the judge of Mistra', {{Zekeriya}} Efendi, has just built. Among the great houses are the Palace of the Pasha, the palace of Ako Bey, the . . . Ag"a palace, the . . . palace and the law-court palace, which are all fine residences. There are eighty shops, of which the tanners' hall and the silk- workers' market are the richest.

You cross the river . . . that runs in front of this suburb by way of a single arched bridge. This river goes on to join the great Eurotas  river that flows through the plain of St. Nikon and then runs on close by the E'los plain and empties into the Mediterranean close to Bardhu'nia and Pa'ssava castles. Inside the city there are seventy water-mills. There are altogether three thousand gardens, orchards and flower-plots, and there are abundant lemons, oranges, figs and grapes. The vineyards are spread all over the hills west of the castle, and the plain is all set out in gardens irrigated with running water. Roses, hyacinths and herbs flourish in these gardens as in the gardens of Paradise. In the month of July, however, the air is heavy and thick, although it is very pleasant in winter. The water is very tasty and pleasant, and there are thousands of springs flowing abundantly, so that in every trellised melon patch there is a spring of sweet digestive water. The lovely boys and girls are famous, and both boys and girls are doe-eyed, or gazelle-eyed, sweet-voiced, radiant-faced fairy creatures, fit for a king to gaze on.

Among the celebrated products are silk cloth and thread, crimson (pirnokok) vegetable dye, tart black mulberries and black figs. All the people are Greekish, and since they mingle continually with the Greek infidels in their buyings and sellings, they are Muslims who speak the purest form of the Greek tongue.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I will not publish Anonymous comments.