CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS. 3
and seem capable of opening a cannonade that could instantly sink the largest opponent.
The brightness of their guns of burnished brass, the freshness of their cordage, the
snowy whiteness of their sails, the gaiety and richness of their painting, always fresh and
bright, give an impression that the nation to which they belong must have brought the
art of ship-building to the highest perfection. On the bow of each is a colossal lion,
highly carved and naturally coloured, which presents the emblem of the Turkish empire
in its most formidable attitude. The first impression made ■ by these great engines of
naval warfare, is the vast superiority they possess, and the hopelessness of any opposition to them. Yet they are utterly powerless in the unskilful hands that guide them.
The Turks, like their predecessors the Persians, are impotent by sea; and as the
ancient Greeks with ease destroyed the fleets of the one, so did the modern Greeks
those of the other with their tiny ships. Their small craft, like fishing-boats, with
decayed timbers, ragged sails, and rotten cordage, which are now sometimes seen in
the harbour lying peaceably beside the Turkish men-of-war, were more than a match for
those gorgeous but unmanageable masses; and their rusty iron guns, whose explosion
sounded like the shot of a pistol in comparison, silenced the immense batteries of
ordnance that seemed capable of blowing a Greek island out of the water.
The galleys of Africa next attract attention; these are always summoned, and ready
to join the naval armaments of their sovereign, like the military vassals of some feudal
lord. Their habits of ferocity, though restrained, still continue; when attached to the
Turkish fleet, they carry ruin and desolation wherever they sail. These allies destroyed,
in Greece, whatever the less merciless Turks had spared, and would have utterly exterminated the remnant of that people, had not Christian Europe interfered.
Beside these pirate galleys of the Mediterranean, are to be seen moored the lofty
merchantmen of the Euxine. The singular structure of these vessels is peculiar to the
eastern coasts of the Black Sea, and has been preserved from the earliest times. These
immense and unwieldy ships rise to a considerable height out of the water, both at
the bow and the stern, and seem altogether incapable of resisting a gale of wind.
They have seldom more than one mast and one immense mainsail, and seem to move
with so infirm a balance, that they totter along through the water as if about to upset
every moment. Approaching Constantinople, they are overtaken, late in the year, by the
violent north-caster of the Melktem, or the misty weather that then prevails, and unable
to make the narrow entrance of the Bosphorus, or bear up from a lee-shore, less skilful
or less fortunate than the Argonauts, they are either dashed on the Cyanean rocks, or
driven on the sands. Against this misfortune they adopt many superstitious precautions. Every vessel has a wreath of blue beads suspended from the prow, as a protection
against the glance of an evil eye, which is supposed to expend itself on this amulet.
But the vessel which gives the "Golden Horn" its most distinctive character and
striking feature, is the " light casque:" It is impossible to conceive forms more elegant;
from their levity and fragility, they have been compared to an egg-shell divided longitudinally, and drawn out at each end to a point. They project to a considerable elongation
at the stem and stern, and, gracefully ascending from below, seem to touch the water