22 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS ;
Among the vessels seen here are those singular ships from the Black Sea, before mentioned; their lofty prows and sterns, towering above the water to an extraordinary
height, reminding you of the extreme antiquity of their shape, when
High on the stern the Thracian raised his strain,
And Argos saw her kindred trees
Descend from Pelion to the main.
The bold Argonauts brought the first model of a ship into those remote waters,
where it has ever since been preserved and imitated.
PRISON OF THE SEVEN TOWERS.
At the extremity of the land-wall of Constantinople, where it meets the sea of
Marmora, rises an enclosure flanked by battlemented towers. It is the first object seen
by Frank ships, and thus the stranger is presented with a prospect that reminds him of
the most striking and singular usage of Turkish despotism. This enclosure, and the
towers, existed under the Greek empire, and were called "Heptapurgon," from the
number of the castles included. They were first erected by Zeno, and enclosed by the
Comneni, and were employed as a prison for state offenders. When the Turks took possession of the city, the Sultan appropriated them as a secure place to deposit his plunder.
They afterwards reconverted them to their original purpose of a state prison, and added
a feature peculiarly their own. The character of an ambassador, held sacred by all other
nations, was here violated. The first symptoms of a rupture between the Turks and a
foreign state, was, to seize the resident minister, and incarcerate him in this prison; and
the European states, instead of revolting against this barbarous outrage on the laws of
nations, quietly submitted to it, as they did to the oppression of the Barbary pirates,
because each rejoiced, and felt itself elated, at the degradation of the other. Mr. Beaufeu,
a French minister, confined there, made his escape; and the Sultan was so enraged, that
he immediately caused the governor to be strangled in his own prison. Since then, the
Turks are not disposed to admit strangers, lest they might discover the secrets of their
prison-house. This barbarous custom continued so late as the year 1784, when the
Russian envoy was sent there, as the first act of hostility. The lights and usages of
civilized Europe began immediately after to dawn on the East. The just and amiable
Selim discontinued the practice, and the present Sultan has abolished it altogether. It
was generally supposed the custom would be renewed, and the Sultan would think himself justified in imprisoning the ambassadors of all the powers leagued against him at
Navarino, in retaliation for that wanton and unprovoked attack; but he suffered them
quietly to depart, and set an example of moderation, and scrupulous regard to the law
of nations, which European states might do well to imitate.