Entering this enclosure (for it is now freely open to the public), one may advance directly to the eastern limit of the promontory. During our stay in Constantinople we often came here in the afternoon, not merely to enjoy the view, but also to appreciate the historical memories of the place. For this is the oldest portion of the capital, the starting-point of its development, the birthplace of Byzantine architecture, the cradle of that famous city of the Greeks - Byzantium. To understand why that metropolis was founded here, we have only to look over the intervening mosques and minarets to the opposite side of the Bosporus.
Two thousand six hundred years ago, a Grecian colony established a settlement on that Asiatic shore. Thirty years later, another colony of restless Greeks came moving northward, seeking in their turn a suitable location for a city. In their perplexity they consulted an oracle. The reply was mysterious, as oracular responses usually were. It was as follows: - "Found your city opposite to that of the 'blind men.' What could this mean? At first they did not know. But when they saw the Golden Horn and the Seraglio Point, they shouted with delight that the other colonists must have been "blind " indeed to have chosen the Asiatic, rather than the European side. They founded their city, therefore, directly opposite to that of the so-called blind men, and named it Byzantium, after their leader, Byzas.
An Ancient Gate.
The occasional discovery, within this area, of a Greek sarcophagus which may have held the body of a Byzantine emperor, reminds the visitor to the Seraglio Point of other memorials connected with it.
Three centuries after the death of Christ, the Roman emperor, Constan-tine the Great, established here the splendid city to which he gave his name, - Constantinople; and, changing the seat of sovereignty from the historic Tiber to the Bosporus, here founded what was long to be the capital of the world. Nor was this all. When mediaeval Rome had sunk to insignificance, this "New Rome" still defied the inroads of barbarians, and was admired as the centre of civilization, respected as the guardian of the arts, and venerated as the first metropolis to declare for Christ under the earliest of Christian emperors. Here also, from the era of the Mohammedan conquest, in 1453, until recently, the Sultans have resided in voluptuous splendor, making this hill the very heart and brain of Islam. But about forty years ago fire destroyed their residence here, and since then Turkish sovereigns have built a great variety of sumptuous homes beside the Bosporus, a few miles distant from Stamboul; the present monarch, Abd-ul Hamid II having chosen for his permanent abode, a beautiful two-storied marble palace known as Yildiz Kiosk.
On The Seraglio Point.
The old imperial Treasury, in which were formerly preserved the Sultan's priceless souvenirs of conquest and the magnificent gifts brought to his court by vassal princes of the East, was burned, with most of its precious contents, in 1574. The treasure-house that replaced it is neither handsome nor imposing, and the collection now exhibited must be far inferior to the one destroyed. Nevertheless, the traveler whose eye has never looked upon such well-nigh fabulous displays is hardly able to imagine a better representation of Aladdin's cave than the resplendent halls which even now exist on the Seraglio Point. Hundreds of diamonds set in dagger hilts, sceptres aflame with emeralds and rubies, crowns studded with opals and pearls, scabbards of swords encrusted with rare gems, thrones scintil-lant with precious stones, fringes of pearls, and coronation robes that look like tapestries of gold, - at first amaze, but finally confuse and tire the beholder, till he turns away wearied and sated with excess of splendor. When the Seraglio Point was crowned with palaces, environed by pavilions, gardens, groves and fountains, rising in terraces above the incomparable vista lying at its base, this area, it would seem, should have been tenanted only by the happiest of mortals. In reality, however, few spots on earth have witnessed more appalling tragedies. Sultans have reigned here, it is true; but to secure their thrones, they have caused their brothers to be strangled on this height, or kept alive within a gilded cage. On this hill an aged tree still lifts toward heaven some blighted limbs, which more than once have borne the ghastly fruit of corpses, - victims of imperial tyranny. Here, too, have lived some of the loveliest women in the world, embowered in surpassing luxury, but always with the sword of intrigue hanging over their fair heads, a deadly perfume lingering, perhaps, in every exquisite bouquet, or poison lurking in the sherbet which their slaves presented to them; while soft, voluptuous music floated over walls of roses beneath a moonlit sky. N or are these all the tragic memories suggested by this place. For, in those days of cruelty, if the Sultan's jealousy were ever roused, one of the beautiful inmates of his palace - perhaps entirely innocent of any crime - might be rowed out at night from the Seraglio's secret gate. Then, firmly pinioned hand and foot, weighted with heavy stones, and gagged so tightly that no scream could possibly escape her lips, she sank in silence into the dark waves, whose gloomy depths betrayed no secrets given to their charge.