Sir Francis Ronalds' Travel Journal: Turkish Coast
Smyrna 5th June 1820
Thanks to my Indian friends & to the good Mr Lee I am now freed from all my pains & anxieties. I have received your letter and am about to proceed with these gentlemen to the Troyad[?] and Athens, but first I must give you a short diary of our voyage from Cyprus.
We sailed at day break of the 3rd May from Limassol and it was not until the 7th that we got round to Baffa, where we went ashore and called upon my old friend the Bishop but he was not at home. After every one had fully satisfied his curiosity we again embarked and sailed the same evening, but the wind was constantly W during the day and we made so little progress that it was the 10th when we saw mount Taurus, under the SE side of which we anchored in the evening in the Gulph [sic] of Iatalia[?] near the promontory. There we saw at about a third of the height of the Mountain above the Sea a Bituminous jet of fire (a natural gass Light) from whence the sailors told us that the black substance which the turkish women use to colour their eyebrows is taken. I suppose it is common soot. If the state of the shore was the same in Alexander's time as it now is, his march to surprise Darius must have been one of the most difficult of his feats I think.
We arrived at Castel-Rosso, the ancient Cisthene, on the 12th where we determined to remain a day to indulge our Captain & crew who belonged to the place with a visit to their wives & families. I sketched a singular Tomb here [not found] cut in the Rock or island on which the Town stands at the height of about 50 ft from the Sea; the interior is square & three of the sides are furnished with low stone benches long enough for a person to lie. I also sketched a theatre [not found] at the ancient Antiphellus which lies upon a narrow promontory stretching from the main land into the Bay or harbour. It is very small & the seats are formed in the same manner as those of the amphitheatre at Syracuse which is said to be the only one yet found with that peculiarity (viz the back part being lower than the front to receive the feet of the persons sitting above). I also drew one of the Soroi which Clarke mentions so often as having met with in other places, it bore a greek inscription on the Tablet on the side. These Soroi of which there were an immense number had all been opened. The sea was so compleatly shut in with Islands and necks of land that it had all the appearance of a lake, but the view was defective in Trees, otherwise it would have been very pleasing. We paid our Captain a visit the next day (13th) and the Governor who kept 2 dancing[?] boys as he called them. We had also some intercourse with the people, they seemed to live in philosophic peace with the Turks and upon the whole with tolerable comfort. There were 2 good Brigs building in their harbour and other indications of their being in a flourishing state. This place has the reputation of being a great rendezvous of Pirates but we saw no Symptoms of them.
We sailed again in the night & were lucky enough to have a SE breeze all the way to Rhodes where we arrived on the 15th at Noon. I say lucky enough for it is but seldom that in these parts & at this time of year the wind blows in any of the southern or eastern points. Indeed all the year round the other winds prevail very much, which makes it far more easy to get to the Levant from Europe than to get away from it.
We rode out to the Consul's country house in Rhodes immediately on landing and found it delightfully situated on the coast at the foot of very gigantic & wide range of mountains, which every now and then presented openings offering a superb perspective and variety of tints. Our road lied near the shore over Tufo or Pudding stone, not very compact, of round flints & sometimes a soft limestone. The Consul surprised us with his account of the low prices of good land and of provisions in the Island but as I took no notes I don't recollect them. A labourer gains 2 piastres per day, about 16 pence, the Plague very seldom visits the island & the Fever never.
We returned to the Town of Rhodes by a road through the mountains, some parts of which had been paved very handsomely with marble pebbles by the Knights of St John. The formation was constantly limestone with Tufo distributed here and there in small quantities. On approaching the Town from this side we observed many beautiful country houses half hidden amongst groves and woods, there was some resemblance to our english taste and much more agricultural civilization than I had been accustomed to for a long time (since leaving Naples perhaps). I was also much pleased with the comparative neatness and cleanliness of the town on entering it & we all agreed that Johnny might manage to pass his days here tolerably well provided he had his english absurd prejudices indulged. The Street of the Knights was shewn us as the greatest Curiosity of the place. It did not strike me as being a very extraordinary chose à voir but the deserted gothic houses, the numerous carvings of arms of the Knights over the doors or upon the turrets, the ruined Church, the last traces of the pride & grandeur of so celebrated a Fraternity gave it considerable interest. Then we came to ancient Towers, redouts, breast works, ditches, and all that belonged to fortification. These are the sort of scenes which should furnish our Romantic quill drivers with descriptive images, they would here find abundance of them and correct their taste.
Upon the whole I think it very doubtful that there ever existed that famous Colossal Statue of Brass here which is said to have been called one of the seven wonders of the world, not the slightest trace or tradition remains nor is any fixed spot even agreed upon where it stood. I know I am making a very bold surmise.
On the 16th we left Rhodes and passed the ancient Apolothica[?] in Caria & the Islands of Tilos & Nisyros on the left. The next day (17th) we passed cape Krio & could see very distinctly some of the Remains of Cnidus.
Fragment of ancient temple at Halicarnassus
"The Turkish governor shewed us a small marble figure (I think a Venus) well executed and would have made Mr D a present of it if he could have got another present of about Ten times its Value in Return"
"But the greatest curiosities we saw here were 2 turks sent as prisoners, one the former Pasha of Candia and the other a man who had been set up for 24 hours as grand Vizier at Constantinople"
"The People were very shy of us, particularly the women who were generally the ugliest I ever saw. Ugly women are shy everywhere"
On the 19th we anchored at Bodrum the ancient Halicarnassus and examined the Theatre, the Acropolis, Alexander's Well &c and a piece of a temple, which last seems the only very remarkable object for its proportions are so heavy that it must surely belong to very ancient times. It stands in a corn field & part of it seems to have been put up again after having been thrown down. I sketched it. We also found some inscriptions on Columns of 22 sides, the letters running perpendicularly under each other. The Turkish governor shewed us a small marble figure (I think a Venus) well executed and would have made Mr D a present of it if he could have got another present of about Ten times its Value in Return. We went over to Cos the same evening and remained there the 2 following days. We visited the fountain of Hippocrates which did not appear to me at all warm, neither has it the reputation of being so amongst the natives. It has no chalybeate flavour. I suspect the walk up the hill to it did the patients of this great Doctor more good than his water or his Simples. On the way we saw some land tortoises. We saw also the inscriptions on the side of the Gateway in the Town mentioned by Clarke, and several of the altars with heads of rams and some which bore bull's heads. But the greatest curiosities we saw here were 2 turks sent as prisoners, one the former Pasha of Candia and the other a man who had been set up for 24 hours as grand Vizier at Constantinople by the people. They had but 5 or 6 attendants and were lodged in a little miserable cottage, nobody seemed to trouble his head about them.
We sailed on the morning of the 22nd but the wind from the Mountains blew very strong & foul so were obliged to anchor again at Calimno. We went ashore and walked to the chief town called Calimno situated at some distance from the sea upon the brink of a very high and almost inaccessible rock. On our way we saw some ruins of a Church formed out of the remains of an ancient building probably a temple and passed through the castle bearing the arms of the Knight of St John. The Town contains nothing worth notice. I sketched a Corn mill [not found] which is peculiar to this Island for the winds are so strong that the usual kind are not able to resist it. The People were very shy of us, particularly the women who were generally the ugliest I ever saw. Ugly women are shy everywhere.
We sailed at night when the wind moderated a little as usual but on the morning of the 23d it rose again to more than its accustomed violence, and our greek sailors & captain being a set of cowardly fellows we were compelled to put into a little desolate Bay on the NW side of the Island where we remained the whole of the day. Here we went ashore again but could find nothing for our journals if I may except the structure which was sharp rugged marble on the summit of the mountain which we lied under and Pudding stone below. Here I will venture a theory upon the formation of pudding stone. I am not often guilty of such things you know. I think it may be formed by rain Water running into hollows and upon the surface of Rocks of Limestone & marble &c and there acquiring a solution of carbonate of lime, which when the water arrives at their bases by dripping filtration & the like is again in time deposited amongst pebbles and forms the paste of the pudding. If you ask me how came pudding stone on the top of mountains and in places where there is no lime stone to supply the solution of the carbonate I can only reply by asking how came marine shells in such situations? By a grand convulsion of nature, a very convenient answer to many geological queries. In climbing up this mountain we fell in with some Bee hives of long narrow earthen pots (like our chimney pots) closed by pieces of Pumice.
On the 24th we did not sail until 1 o clock and then ran over into a Bay of the Caria near Iassus now called Assam Kalasi. This was a long step in comparison with what we had before been doing & the evening became very calm & fine. The hills too afforded a much finer view than the barren rocky islands we had come from. Pines were the principal trees and their dark green foliage contrasted with the bright yellow of the corn fields gave a pretty effect. The odour of the Pines was very sensible at a distance of at least ½ a mile at Sea and very pleasant. They say that vessells come here to load deals which they get delivered on board for one piastre each (8d), they are thirteen feet long, one foot broad and two inches thick. We did not sail from here until 8 in the morning of the 25th. The wind was still foul and we anchored in another bay near Panormus.
"I don't pretend to architectural Science but I think I never saw a more beautiful specimen of the Ionic order... as the two standing columns of the Temple of Apollo Didymeus"
Temple of Apollo Didymeus, drawn by Sir Francis and lithographed by Charles Hullmandel
"The Bazaar is fine, the harbour is fine & the convenience of living is good but there is nothing half so fine or so good in Smyrna as the young ladies, at least so it appeared to us after having been so long accustomed to the arabs & turks and none at all"
Receipt for £100 in local currency from John Lee
We sailed in the night and arrived at Yeronda on the 26th. Here we met 3 french architects M Huyot, M Dedreux & M La Chaise the last a pupil of M Huyot, and a Scotch gentleman also an architect Mr McDonald of Soho Square, who was particularly obliging to us and did me the honour to copy my little sketches of the Tomb at Cisthene & the Soros at Antiphellus. I don't pretend to architectural Science but I think I never saw a more beautiful specimen of the Ionic order or one which exhibits that order in so great perfection as the two standing columns of the Temple of Apollo Didymeus at this place. It seemed to occupy these artists' whole attention for the time and they came with the intention of staying a few days to measure them &c - the third column of this enormous temple shews that it was never finished for the fluting is only begun just below the capital. There is nothing else at Yeronda. It is a poor village.
We sailed at night passing Miletus and were all the 27th beating up the little Borghaz of Samos. In the morning at Sun rise we saw Ephesus indistinctly; at least the sailors pointed out the spot, but we could not make them take us ashore because the Plague was at Scola Nuova just by. We anchored again this night near Vurla on a low sandy shore. On the 29th we passed the Town of Cesme on the right & Scio on the left & on the 30th doubled Cape Sa Nicolo in the morning and anchored here on the 31st at 4 in the afternoon. In passing Mytilene I observed a singular appearance in the mountains which was I suppose some such optical phenomena as the Mirage.
The Voyage down the Gulph of Smyrna presented in my idea no such beautiful views as Clarke and others have stated. Neither can Smyrna itself boast of any thing very attractive in the way of curiosities to a traveller & even as a commercial city it is very different now to what it has been. The Bazaar is fine, the harbour is fine & the convenience of living is good but there is nothing half so fine or so good in Smyrna as the young ladies, at least so it appeared to us after having been so long accustomed to the arabs & turks and none at all. The heat is intollerable here and I have suffered very much from it having no ice, my friends tell me it is a regular Indian climate.
Lazaretto Corfu July 31st 1820
Congratulate me on the compleation of my Levantine tour. Here I am safely lodged in the Lazaretto of Corfu with nothing to do but pester you with my sage lucubrations & grumpings.
We hired a very smart looking and convenient Schooner at Smyrna and sailed from thence on the morning of the 7th June all deeply impressed with the Kindness and Hospitality of Mr Lee, but I have more particular obligations to him than my friends & I hope they will never be forgotten. The wind was W and we did not arrive at the town of Mytilene until the 9th in the morning, where we went ashore & I sketched a Throne or chair [not found] in the town of evidently very ancient date, it is mentioned by [blank]. It is much ruined. We embarked again soon and came opposite to Bairam the ancient Assos in the afternoon at about 4, all that we could see of the Ruins you may have some little idea of by my sketch [not found]. On the 10th at Sun Rise we were off the Town of Tenedos (of great renown you know) and soon afterwards saw some Tumuli in the Trojan plain supposed to be those mentioned by Strabo.
About 4 in the afternoon a fine brisk gale sprung up from S which caused us to hold a general council, for our captain told us that he thought it would last a day or two and that we could probably arrive at Constantinople in that time with it. We considered it as a god-send and determined to avail ourselves of the opportunity of seeing this celebrated place which we had not intended when we left [for] Athens, for every body had told us that there was nothing besides the scenery of the Bosphorus to see which we had not already seen at Cairo. We were afterwards extreemly glad that we used our own eyes.