Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

the centre of his army. The Christians were routed. In the evening he sat in his tent listening to the captives who were successively brought to him to beg for their lives and liberties.

The Servians alone had not fled, and were all either dead or wounded. They consisted of various mountain tribes, governed by chieftains of clans or villages, under their king or kral, Lazarus. This king had given two of his daughters in marriage to two chieftains named Brankowich and Milosch. A bitter jealousy raged between the two chieftains, which was, of course, shared by the two sisters. The wife of Brankowich told her sister Mara, the wife of Milosch, that her husband was a coward and a traitor. Mara answered the calumnies by a slap on the face. The quarrel was referred to the arbitration of a combat between the brothersin-law. Milosch beat down Brankowich with his sword to the foot of his horse, and then generously spared his life. Brankowich, whose hatred was only envenomed by this generosity, accused his brother-in-law publicly at the royal table, on the eve of the battle, of having a parricidal understanding with Amurat. ‘Answer,' said the king, who shared the suspicions. I will answer to-morrow,' replied Milosch. “If you are innocent,' said the king, drink this full cup to my health.' 'Pass me the cup,' cried Milosch, "and I will prove my fidelity to-morrow at sunrise.' During the battle, although wounded, he fought like a hero. When it was over he swam on his horse across the river, and arriving bleeding and exhausted at the tent of Amurat, solicited permission to kiss the feet of the sultan. Amurat, elated with the homage of a son-in-law of the king of Servia, ordered him to be introduced. Milosch, kneeling, took one of the feet of the sultan in his left hand, as if to embrace it, while with his right he plunged a concealed poignard into the body of Amurat. After knocking down eight of the guards, Milosch reached his horse, and had attained the Servian side of the river before he was overtaken and slain by the horsemen of Bajazet. While Amurat lay bathed in his blood Lazarus was brought before him, and received from the dying sultan the sentence of death. “Great God, cried the king of the Servians, 'thou mayest now call me to thee, since I have seen the enemy of my religion, my people, and my family, die before me by the hand of an unjustly suspected warrior.' The Servian king and all his nobles were beheaded at the door of the tent of the sultan; but the sacrifice of Milosch arrested the conquest of Servia, and his descendants have remained during five centuries to the present time, preserving the independence of their country alike against menaces from Constantinople and St. Petersburg.

Amurat left two sons equally dear to the Ottoman army, Jacob and Bajazet. During the night following the death of Amurat,

the grand vizier, Ali Pasha, convoked a divan in the tent of the sultan, and beside his corpse. A disputed succession was feared, less from the rivalry of the brothers or the character of Jacob, than from his popularity in the army. The Koran says, ' an execution is better than a rebellion. The counsellors issued from the imperial tent, and entered the tent of Jacob with the sentence of death. His corpse, which was left lying outside his tent, informed the army in the morning that they had only one master, the Sultan Bajazet. In this prompt way the army was informed that the race of Othman would not spare even their own blood for the safety and unity of the empire. The law thus savagely inaugurated has never fallen into desuetude. The Bedouin who buried his daughters alive, that they might not share his food, has always had bis lineal descendant in the sultan who has strangled his brothers, lest they should seek his throne. Of Murad III. and Mohamet III., both contemporaries of the English Queen Elizabeth, it is recorded, for example, that the one strangled five and the other nineteen of his brothers, on coming to the throne. Mahomet, the founder of the religion, rebuked the Bedouin, who was an infanticide from want, and Othman, the founder of the dynasty, legalized fratricide in favour of family ambition ;-a flagrant contradiction between the religious teacher and his imperial disciple. The present Sultan, Abdul Medjid, is praised by his flatterers as the first son of Othman who has not sought the security of his throne from fratricide! What depths of barbarity and sycophancy still disgrace humanity in this year, A.D. 1855 !

A singular fate befel Mustapha, one of the sons of Bajazet. During the reign of this sultan, the Turks having rapidly degenerated under the influence of success, and sunk down into the base vices of the Greeks they had conquered, were attacked by Timor the Tartar, who had issued from Samarcanda at the head of immense hosts, and after a great battle and terrible slaughter of Moslem against, Moslem, routed the Turks upon the plain of Angora. Bajazet entered the battle-field with five sons, named Soliman, Moussa, Isa, Mahomet, and Mustapha. Overtaken in his flight with his son Isa, and brought before Timor, Bajazet seemed less afflicted by the defeat of his army than by the loss of his four sons. Timor generously commanded a search to be made, and news was brought of them all except one, Mustapha, who was not heard of for twenty years, and who was believed to have fallen in the battle. Bajazet died in captivity. The three brothers, Soliman, Moussa, and Mahomet divided the empire, and carried on war against each other until two of them were killed, and the third reunited his father's empire as Mahomet I. His son Murad II., had in his turn ascended the throne, when news was brought that the lost Mustapha had reappeared, and supported by Hungarian and Greek princes, and by Djouneyd, governor of Nicopolis, who had been brought up with him at his father's court, and who had fought by his side on the field of Angora, was at the head of an army of 40,000 men, asserting his right to the throne as the Sultan Mustapha. His story was highly probable. Having fallen wounded and insensible on the battle-field, when he became conscious he found himself stript naked, without any sign of his former rank about him, incapable of understanding a word of the language of the victors, who in their turn neither heeded nor understood the sounds addressed to them by one of their slaves. He was marched in the gang of slaves in the rear of the army of Timor, as far as Samarcanda. At length, after being sold and resold, and passing twenty years chietly as a camel-keeper, he was bought by a merchant of Bokhara who took him to Bagdad, where his language was understood and his story believed, and whence he was conveyed to Turkey. The unpopularity of Murad, and the justice of his claims, put Mustapha at the head of an army, which was, however, defeated at Salonica. He owed his safety to the swiftness of his horses, and spent the remainder of his days in the convent of the Virgin Mary on the Island of Lemnos, as an exile under the protection of the Greek emperors.

The rapidity of Turkish degeneracy, when subjected to the temptations which follow successful conquests, must be ascribed in part to the influence of Mahometanism. When Bajazet returned from the conquest of Adrianople, the Servian princess he had wedded had already given him a taste for the wines of Hungary and Cyprus. Monstrous depravity had spread in his army, and those mutilations and perversions of the sexes had commenced which have hung as a moral pestilence, a cloud of infamy, a sign and a cause of doom alike over Greek and Turkish Constantinople for more than a thousand years.

During the reigns of Bajazet and Mahomet I., a singular development took place among the Turkish people, of the ideas which have since been known in Europe under the names of communism, or red-democracy. Luxury had spread among the chiefs, and dreams and schemes of enjoyment inflamed the imaginations of their followers. Mahomet himself seems to have struck the first key-note of this fanaticism on the day in which he returned to Mecca, and smashed three hundred and sixty idols in the temple, beginning with the image of a dove. The truth is come,' he cried ; ' let the lies vanish. There is no other god but God.' No more idolatry! No more inequality! No more differences on earth founded upon old genealogies and ancestors. All men are children of Adam, and Adam was the child of the

[ocr errors]

dust. The end of society is a brotherhood. The most prized by God is he who fears and serves him best upon the earth.'

Mahometans, Christians, Jews, Greeks, and Turks became all wild together during the reign of Mahomet I., with visions of happiness to be obtained by association, brotherhood, and the partition of property. A monk named Bedredien was the chief of these Oriental communists. The ideas had first manifested themselves in Arabia and Persia, and spread naturally enough from the common pasturages in the Balkan Mountains. Bedredien soon found himself at the head of 10,000 armed men, but Mahomet sent his son Murad against him with a powerful army, which defeated his forces, and made him prisoner. Bedredien was exhibited publicly at Ephesus, chained, mutilated, and crucified upon a camel. His followers were offered their lives on condition of renouncing their master, but they answered ‘No !' and stretching out their necks to the sabres, cast a last look upon their chief, saying — Father, receive our souls into thy kingdom.' Many of the sect believed that their prophet came to life again, and lived concealed in the pine forests of the Island of Samos. The sects of Oriental communists were not finally suppressed in Turkey until 3000 Derviches who taught their doctrines were caught and hung on the trees in the valley of Magnesia. From the East communism passed into Germany, where it reappeared among what were called the Anabaptists. In England it was displayed by Jack Cade and his followers, who sung

"When Adam delved and Eve span,

Where was then the gentleman?' and again by the Levellers, who were put down by Oliver Cromwell. Baboeuf represented it in the first French Revolution, when he sought by an armed conspiracy to establish a state of society the motto of which should be, Liberty, equality, and common happiness.' Insignificant in Italy and England, in 1848, communism played a considerable part in France and Germany. The communists are organized in India into a secret society called the Assassins or Ishmaelites, whose chief, Hassan Sabba, gave them for symbol a dagger, and for motto the words, Do all and dare all.'

Popular delusions pass away leaving their lessons behind them, and a Turkish proverb says — Fish corrupt first at the head. When reflecting on the history of the imperial and despotic houses of Palæologus, Othman, and Romanoff, we are struck with the identity of the crimes, treasons, conspiracies, and revolutions which have been their common lot. Emperors, czars, and sultans have all been stained with kindred blood. If a Paul I. was strangled in his bed in 1801, on the banks of the Neva, the lifeless body of Selim III. was in 1807 thrown over the walls of N.S.- VOL. IX.

C

the Seraglio on the banks of the Bosphorus ; and both were slain for being under the influence of Buonaparte. The very crimes which brought merited retribution down upon the Greek emperors have been practised alike by czars and sultans. A Peter called Great puts to death his son Alexis, just as a Bajazet strangles his brother Jacob, for reasons of state. The guards, whether called Prætorians, Preobrachenski, or Janissaries, have played the same parts of lawless violence and ruthless assassination in the Greek, the Ottoman, and the Russian palaces. In the north, the murdered monarchs might have been called the third Peter or Ivan, and in the east the sultan (more frequently dethroned than assassinated) might have borne the name of Mustapha or Achmed, but there is an absolute identity in the phenomena of anarchy and crime.

The volumes before us do not supply a want which indeed has never as yet been satisfied by writers of travels on Turkey, we mean, full and correct information respecting the Greek population. According to all accounts Mahometanism and Christianity are there mere names and forms. Turks, Russians, and Grecians, alike have only enough of their religions to fight for them, but they do not embody them in their lives. Processions and ceremonies are observed ; and once when the Greeks received permission to spend a certain number of days in repairing one of their churches, thousands of them worked day and night voluntarily and gratuitously, and instead of repairing it they rebuilt it. In the Moscovite, however, as in the ancient Turk, the extension and exaltation of his religion is the generous mask of his ambition. The Greek church resembles the Church of England more than any other body, in doctrine and dependence on the State. The royal supremacy of the czars, in regard to which Peter the Great played a similar part to Henry VIII., is more strictly carried out than ever it has been in England. Delinquent clergymen are not more leniently dealt with by Nicolas than fraudulent generals. The czar Peter himself chanted in the public ceremonies as the first of the bishops.

* The Russian synod,' says the author of Turkey, its History and Progress,' receives an annual report as to the conduct of the clergy of the Greek church in the Russian empire. In 1853, 260 clergymen were stripped of their functions for dishonouring crimes, and 4,986 punished for lesser offences. In the year 1839, there was one criminal to every twenty clergymen, and from 1836 to 1839 no less than 15,443 were found guilty of the church itself we will quote a passage from the Marquis de Custine's 'Russie en 1839.'—“I would wish to send Christians to Russia, to show them what can become of Christianity when taught by a state church, and when carried out under the inspection of a clergy selected by such a church. The sight of the humiliation into which the clergy fall, when merely dependent upon the state, would make every consistent (Protestant shudder." ;

« PoprzedniaDalej »