14 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS.
THE CISTERN OF BIN-BI R-D E R E K.
CALLED, THE THOUSAND AND ONE PILLARS.
The shores of the Black Sea, among the forest-covered ramifications of the great
Balkan, is a region of constant showers and copious streams, filling, naturally, small
reservoirs in the mountains. Wherever such rills poured down, and became confluent, they
were stopped by a mound thrown across the valley, and in this way formed into various
triangular lakes at an elevation above the summit-level of the city. These reservoirs,
called Hydralea, were highly prized by the Greek emperors. The embankments were
faced with marble, adorned with sculpture, and dignified by the name of the sovereign
who formed' them. They were deemed so sacred, and of such vital importance to the
city, that severe edicts were enacted to preserve them; some regulating the planting of
trees, some the abstraction of water, and one exacting a penalty of an ounce of gold for
every ounce of the crystal fluid. As water is more precious to the Turks than it was to
the Greeks, they watch these reservoirs with even more anxiety and vigilant precaution.
They call them Bendts, and have increased the number left by the Roman emperors.
One of the largest and most magnificent is called Valadi Bendt, from the mother of the
present sovereign, at whose expense it was erected.
From these reservoirs the water is conducted by pipes, formed of cylindrical tiles
jointed together, and so conveyed to the city a distance of about fifteen miles. The
ravines, that break the intervening country, are crossed by aqueducts, some of vast
dimensions, striding the valleys, and towering above the forests. They are whitewashed
at stated intervals, and form striking objects in distant prospects, strongly relieved by
the dark woods above which they rise. One of them terminates the view up the great
valley of Buyukdere, and seems, to mariners passing on the Bosphorus, like the battlements of a large city, on the distant horizon.
Besides these, there are others of more peculiar structure. They are insulated
hydraulic pillars,.called Souterrais, standing in long rows, like slender square castles or
watch-towers. The water ascends one side of each, is received into a small square reservoir on the summit, and from thence descends the other. It climbs the next in a similar
manner; and by this contrivance, for which the Turks are indebted to the Arabs, the
vast expense of aqueducts is saved, and the water conveyed by many channels over
various hills and valleys, in continued and never-ceasing streams, to its magnificent
reservoirs in the city.
When the water arrived here, it had the same irregularity of surface to oppose, its
seven hills to surmount, and seven valleys between them to cross. This was effected by
a second series of aqueducts, which are described by the Byzantine historians with all
the inflated language of astonishment. They are represented as " subterranean rivers"
conducted through the air over the city, while the people gaze in wonder from below."
Of these, but one remains to attest what they wrere. This is the aqueduct of Valens,