Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Castle of Seven Towers
The celebrity of the Seven Towers (Turkish: Yedikule) in European countries, though strongly savouring of romance, is no joke—it being the "prison" where the Turks confined the ministers and ambassadors of the powers with whom they were at war.
With the early account of this castle we shall be brief. It is cited in the history of the lower empire from the sixth century of the Christian era, as a point which served for the defence of Constantinople. The embrasures of some of its towers, as well as of the towers that flank the ramparts of the town from the southern angle of the castle to the sea, blackened as is supposed by the Greek fire, announce that it was the principal bulwark of the city on the side of the Propontis, in the latter times of the empire. In 1453, Mehmet II, after an obstinate siege, gained possession of Constantinople and the Castle of the Seven Towers, fear opening to him one of the gates of the latter. The Turks relate that 12,000 men perished in this siege; and the marks of the ravages of the artillery are still visible, for, as usual, the conqueror did not concern himself about repairs. Since that time the place has been the arena of many remarkable events, among which was the tragical murder of the caliph Osman II. This has been followed up by many bloody executions; and at every turn gloomy sentiments, and the proud names of Turks and Greek princes, inscribed on the walls, speak the sad fate of those by whose hands they were traced. Towers filled with irons, chains, ancient arms, tombs, ruins, dungeons, cold and silent vaults, a pit called the "well of blood", the funeral cry of owls and of vultures, mingled with the roar of the waves—such are the objects and sounds with which the eye and ear are familiarized in these dreary abodes, according to poor Ponqueville , the traveller, who speaks from experience—"within the walls". All this is a sorry picture for the
- "—Gentlemen of England,
- Who live at home at ease."
But the "state purposes" to which the Seven Towers were appropriated boast of comparative comfort, "the prisoners detained here being distinguished from all other prisoners of war by an allowance for the table which is assigned them by the sultan, and by the appellation of "mouzafirs", or hostages (Probably on the plan of the lord mayor's household table. Well, Swift is right in supposing the great art of life to be that of hoaxing.). It may, indeed," continues our traveller, "be considered as a great favour to be regarded in this light, comparing their situation with that of others, who fall into captivity among the Turks." Moreover, this castle is dignified as "an imperial fortress", and governed by an aga with a guard and a band of music. Indeed, we suppose it a sort of lock-up house preparatory to more rigorous confinement; and its governorship is a peaceable and honourable post. The Turks who compose the garrison of the Seven Towers have, in the first place, the advantage of being esteemed persons of a certain distinction in their quarter; and, secondly, they are exempted from going out to war, to which every Musselman is liable.
This castle stands at the eastern extremity of the Propontis, or Sea of Marmara; it is a tolerably regular pentagon, four out of the five angles of which are flanked by towers; the fifth angle had also a tower, but it exists no longer. Its principal front is towards the west, and has, besides the tower at one of the angles, two others, which stand on each side the ancient triumphal arch of Constantine. The gate of entrance to the Seven Towers on the side of the town is to the east, in a small square. The longest side of the pentagon is that in which Constantine's arch is included; while towers existed at all the angles, this side presented a front of four towers; but it has now only three. The first marble tower is an enormous mass, between eighty and ninety feet high.
The triumphal arch of Constantine, which occupies the centre between the two marble towers, conducts to the golden gate in the exterior enclosure of the castle. The arch was more than ninety feet in height; but it has been so much injured by artillery, that no idea can now be formed of its ornaments. In the second marble tower is the "Cave of Blood": the first door by which it is entered is of wood; this opens into a corridor of twelve feet long by four feet wide, having at the end two iron steps ascending to an iron door, and this leads into a semicircular gallery; at its furthest extremity is a second iron door, which completes the gallery, and ten feet further an immense massive door enclosing the dungeon. In the midst of this sarcophagus is a well, the mouth of which is level with the ground, and half closed by two flag-stones; to this is given the name of the well of blood, because the heads of those who are executed in the dungeon are thrown into it. In the same tower with this dungeon is a staircase leading up to a number of cells; from some of them, which are higher than the ramparts, the eye may be gratified with a view over Constantinople through loop-holes pierced in the walls. Here the Turks formerly used to confine those whom they call mouzafirs, or hostages; but the latter have now the choice allowed them of hiring more eligible apartments.
The first enclosure of the Seven Towers is inhabited chiefly by poor Turks, who have houses, and live there with their families. They also belong to the guard of the castle.
The air of the Seven Towers is in general unwholesome, and very likely to produce scrofula. In the summer the walls, heated by the sun, transform the place into a furnace; and the apartments on the first floor are at all times extremely damp.
Our engraving, aided by the subjoined references, will, however, enable our readers to form an accurate idea of the topography of the Seven Towers. It is copied from the Travels of M. Ponqueville, who devotes a chapter of his quarto volume to a minute description of towers, gardens, and fortresses. Nothing can exceed the horror with which his catalogue of their miseries is calculated to impress the reader; indeed, they fall but little short of some of the highly-wrought fictions of barbarous romance.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details