80 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS;
French seem to consider this harbour as their own; and the Turks submit with a grave
toleration to scenes of levity, of which they afterwards complain.
Several natural phenomena confer on this harbour peculiarities not elsewhere
observed. Sometimes the power of refraction is so great as altogether to change the
aspect and distance of objects. Ships sailing up, see the city as it were just under their
bows, when suddenly it disappears ; and when it is again perceptible, it is on the distant horizon. From the constant action of the sun on the air, at the extreme end of the
harbour, where it is encircled by an amphitheatre of high hills, a considerable degree of
rarefaction takes place, and the heated air ascending, leaves a vacuum below into which
the colder rushes. This creates a continued current during the day, and causes that
Inhat which we have before noticed. This constant and regular trade-wind is peculiarly
favourable to the commerce of the port, as ships are wafted by it to their stations with
the unerring certainty of steam-boats.
Some artificial works in this bay attest the wisdom and beneficence of one conqueror,
and the energetic but barbarous sagacity of another, and still exist as memorials of their
labours. The great promontory formerly the ancient Mount Mincas, shuts it up on
the south, and considerably retards the navigation of the entrance; but at some distance
the bay of Teos enters the land, and approaches so near to that of Smyrna, as to make
their union no difficult enterprise. The great conqueror Alexander, therefore, pushed
a communication across, so that ships entering the bay of Teos, pushed into that of Smyrna,
and so avoided the dangerous navigation round the great promontory. There lies also the
islands of Clazomenae, not far from the shore; and as he had separated the land by a
channel, he compensated by bridging the sea, and uniting the island to the main. The
remains of both these works attract the curious traveller, and while they attest the
activity and skill of the great captain, reproach the indolence and ignorance of the
Turks, who, though it would be highly useful to repair them, and facilitate the approach
to Smyrna, their great emperors consider such a thing as altogether beyond their comprehension and capability.
In the year 1402 Tamerlane besieged the city, and, in order to prevent all communication by sea, he ordered every soldier to take a stone in his hand, and drop it in the
mouth of the harbour,—by this he hoped not only to keep out their allies, but to shut in
all who would attempt to escape. The ships in the harbour passed over the mound
before it was sufficiently high to obstruct their passage; and the disappointed barbarian
caused a thousand prisoners to be decapitated, and with their heads, mixed with stones,
erected a tower near the spot, to commemorate his attempt.