CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS. 11
castle was thence called Chocsecen, " the amputator of heads;" and such is the immutability of Turkish ferocity, that, with reason, it retains the name at this day.
Roumeli Hissar consists of five round towers, connected by massive embattled walls,
ascending the slope of the hill. It is now useless as a fortress, but is applied to
other more characteristic and equally important Turkish purposes. In the wall which
fronts the Bosphorus, there is a low doorway concealed behind a large platanus: this is
the postern of death. The fortress had for many years been converted into a prison,
and may well bear the inscription which Dante read on the infernal portals,
" Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate."
No prisoner is ever known to repass the gate of death; hence the Turks call their
dismal fortress, the " towers of oblivion," adopting the appellation given to them under
the despotism of the Greek empire, when the castles were named " Lethe," and for
a similar reason.
During the struggles of the present sultan with the janissaries, it was his constant
practice to have his opponents secretly arrested, and conveyed to this place. Every
morning some Oda missed their old officers. They had been conveyed to this place
after it was dark, entered the low doorway, and were seen no more. During this period,
some Franks, who had taken a caique to Buyukdere, where they were detained longer
than they intended, were returning late. Boats are not permitted to pass the fortresses
after sunset, and the signal-gun is fired: so they had to make their wTay secretly along,
under cover of the shore. When arrived near the castles, they saw a large caique
advancing from Constantinople, and, to avoid detection, remained close under a rock,
not far from the fatal gate. The strange boat approached, and landed just before it.
Two distinguished-looking men, wrapped up in their pelisses, disembarked; they were
held up by the arm on each side. One of them passed on in silence; the other sighed
heavily as he approached, turned round, and seemed to cast a lingering loak upon the
world he was about to leave for ever. He then stooped his head, and disappeared,
with his more impassive companion, under the fatal arch; the gate, groaning on its
rusty hinges, closed behind them. The caique returned immediately to Constantinople.
The Franks then slipped past, and arrived without being stopped. The next morning
it was known that two Binbashis, or colonels, who had great influence on their
respective Odas, and strongly opposed the nizam geddite, were missing. They never
The navigation of the Bosphorus is the most lovely that ever invited a sail. Its
length, in all its windings, is fifteen miles; and when the caique glides down with
the current, there is something exquisitely beautiful and grateful to the senses in every
thing around. Nothing can exceed, in picturesque scenery, the whole coast on each
side. It affords a continued succession of romantic wooded promontories, projecting
into the stream, and presenting, at every winding of the strait, new and diversified
objects. As you pass each headland, some placid bay opens to your view, in whose
bosom a shaded village reposes. These are so numerous, that twenty-six occur from the