Friday, July 13, 2018

Brothels, Baths and Babes: Prostitution in the Byzantine Holy Land


Brothels, Baths and Babes: Prostitution in the Byzantine Holy Land
Posted on August 17, 2010

When addressing Byzantium it appears that much of the attention of academics and those that read this blog is focused on the obvious subjects; imperial history; the rise and fall of the emperors; iconoclasm; art; the development of the Orthodox Church; and the general rise, apogee, decline and fall of the empire. In my research I have come across very little on the subject of sex. 

Of course this is a subject that cannot be ignored being as important a part of the lives of the Byzantines as their religion. At the imperial level the choice of wife and subsequently the mistress could have a major impact on the whole course of the empire. 

This research piece by Claudine Dauphin, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris explores both the formal and informal arrangements that developed, typically centring around the triad of the wife, the concubine and the courtesan. It is a fascinating and well researched piece and I hope that you will appreciate the ‘re-discovery’ of this lost article. 

Graeco-Roman domestic sexuality rested on a triad: the wife, the concubine and the courtesan. The fourth century BC Athenian orator Apollodoros made it very clear in his speech Against Neaira quoted by Demosthenes (59.122) that ‘we have courtesans for pleasure, and concubines for the daily service of our bodies, but wives for the production of legitimate offspring and to have reliable guardians of our household property’. Whatever the reality of this domestic set-up in daily life in ancient Greece,[2] this peculiar type of ‘ménage à trois’ pursued its course unhindered into the Roman period: monogamy de jure appears to have been very much a façade for polygamy de facto.[3] The advent of Christianity upset this delicate equilibrium. By forbidding married men to have concubines on pain of corporal punishment, canon law elaborated at Church councils took away from this triangular system one of its three components.[4] Henceforth, there remained only the wife and the courtesan. 

If we are to believe the Lives of the holy monks of Byzantine Palestine, the Holy Land (in particular the Holy City of Jerusalem, the aim of pilgrimages at the very heart of Christianity) was replete with ‘abodes of lust’ and prostitutes tracked down the monks in their secluded caves near the River Jordan. Thus, we are faced with a paradox: the coexistence of holiness and debauchery, of Christian asceticism and lust. Lest we forget that virtue is meaningless without vice, that holiness cannot exist without lewdness, a fifth century AD Gnostic hymn from Nag-Hammadi in Middle Egypt proclaimed: ‘I am She whom one honours and disdains. / I am the Saint and the prostitute. / I am the virgin and the wife. / I am knowledge and I am ignorance. / I am strength and I am fear. / I am Godless and I am the Greatness of God’. 

In the Old Testament, Jerusalem appeared as a Prostitute in dire need of purification through divine punishment (Ez. 16 and 23). Her degradation contrasted with her original faithfulness: ‘How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice!’, the prophet Isaiah (1:21) lamented. St John applied the epithet Prostitute ‘clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold, with jewels, and with pearls!’ (Rev. 18.16-17) to the idol-worshipping Great City, Babylon, Rome and ultimately to any great urban concentration. A similar opinion was held by the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud in the fifth century AD who considered that a bachelor who succeeded in remaining chaste in a large city was without any doubt an excessively pious man. Likewise, the monks of Nitria (modern Wadi Natrun), of the Kellia and of Scetis in Egypt and those of the Judaean Desert in Palestine, considered that the city was par excellence a den of iniquity, of temptation and of sin. Harbours with international maritime trade links such as Alexandria and Beirut, and the universal Christian capital Jerusalem, both provided their innkeepers and harlots with a cosmopolitan clientèle of residents, travellers and pilgrims. 

Free prostitution
In the streets
Byzantine erotic epigrams, notably those of Agathias Scholasticus in the sixth century, generally describe encounters with prostitutes in the street.[5] The winding, dark alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem were particularly appropriate for soliciting by scortae erraticae or ambulatrices. These lurked under the high arches which bridged the streets of the Holy City and walked up and down the cardo maximus. In the small towns of Roman and Byzantine Palestine, however, it seems that the squares (not the streets) were the favourite hunting-grounds of prostitutes. Rabbi Judah observed: “‘How fine are the works of this people [the Romans] ! They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths !’. Rabbi Yose was silent. Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai answered and said, ‘All what they made, they made for themselves; they built market-places, to set harlots in them; baths to rejuvenate themselves; bridges to levy tolls for them'” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 33b). 

At home
Some harlots worked at home, either on their own account, such as Mary the Egyptian whose Life was written down in the sixth century by Sophronios, the last Patriarch of Jerusalem before the Arab Conquest, or for a pimp. On the evidence of the legislation of Emperor Justinian in the mid-sixth century, in particular Novella 14 of 535, it is clear that providing housing was part of the deal which the pimps of Constantinople struck with the fathers of the young peasant girls whom they bought in the capital’s hinterland. Housing did not necessarily mean a house, and was frequently only a shack, hut or room. Byzantine prostitutes were relegated to ‘red light districts’ in the same way that the prostitutes of Rome lived and worked predominantly in Subura and near the Circus Maximus, thus to the north and south of the Forum. In the late sixth-century Life of John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria, Leontios of Neapolis describes a monk coming to Tyre on some errand. As he passed through ‘the place’, he was accosted by a prostitute who cried out: ‘Save me, Father, like Christ saved the harlot’, this referring to Luke 7:37. These districts were generally the most destitute areas in town. The Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 113b) relates how Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Hoshaia, both poor cobblers in the Land of Israel, dwelt in a street of harlots for whom they made shoes. The prostitutes were so impressed by these rabbis’ chastity (for they would not even lift their eyes to look at the girls) that they took to swearing ‘by the life of the holy rabbis of Eretz Yisrael’! 

In tavernae
In city inns (tavernae) as well as in the staging posts for change of mounts (mutationes) or overnight stay (mansiones) along the official Roman road network (the cursus publicus), all the needs of travellers were catered for by the barmaids. They served them wine, danced for them and often led them upstairs to the rooms on the upper floor. In fact, according to the Codex Justinianus, a barmaid could not be prosecuted for adultery, since it was presumed that she was anyway a prostitute (CJ 9.9.28). In order to prevent Christian travellers from falling prey to sexual dangers of this sort, ecclesiastical canons forbade the clergy to enter those establishments. Soon, therefore, ecclesiastical resthouses (xenodochia) and inns specifically for pilgrims (pandocheia) run by members of the clergy, sprang up along the main pilgrim routes. 

Institutionalised prostitution
Prostitution was also institutionalised under the form of brothels which Juvenal called lupanaria (Sat. 11.172-173) and Horace fornices (Ep. 1.14.21). These, John Moschus described in his sixth-century Spiritual Meadow as a ‘house of prostitution’ in Jericho or even more vaguely ‘an abode of lust’ in Jerusalem (Prat. Spir. 17). The prostitutes who were employed in these establishments were slaves and the property of a pimp (leno) or of a ‘Madam’ (lena). The very name of the prostitute in Tyre who called out to a monk to save her – Kyria Porphyria – is telling. She was so used as a ‘Madam’ to boss other women, that once she had been reformed and had convinced other harlots (presumably her former ‘girls’) to give up prostitution, she organised them into a community of nuns of which she became the abbess – the mirror image of her brothel. 

A Byzantine brothel has recently been unearthed in the course of excavations at Bet She’an, ancient Scythopolis, capital of Palaestina Prima.[6] At the heart of this thriving metropolis, a Roman odeon founded in the second half of the second century was partly destroyed in the sixth century. Byzantine Baths adjoined it to the west. To the south-west, the second row of shops of the western portico of the impressive Street of Palladius was also dismantled to make way for a semi-circular exedra (13x15m). Each half of the exedra comprised six trapezoidal rooms with front doors. Some of these rooms also opened onto a corridor or a hall at the back of the building. In one room, a staircase led to an upper storey. Some rooms had niches with grooves for wooden shelves. The apses at both ends of the exedra and in the centre of the semi-circle, as well as the façades of the rooms were revetted with marble plaques, most of which are now lost, there only remaining holes for the nails which held these plaques in position. The inner faces of the walls of these rooms exhibited two coats of crude white plaster. 

The floor of most of these rooms was paved with mosaics depicting geometric motifs enclosing poems in Greek, animals and plants, and lastly, in an emblema, a magnificent Tyche crowned by the walls of Scythopolis and holding a cornucopia. The mosaic pavements of some rooms had been subsequently replaced by bricks or a layer of crushed lime. Traces of crude repairs in the mosaics and the insertion of benches in other rooms indicated that the building had undergone various stages of construction. A semi-circular courtyard (21x30m) stretched in front of the twelve rooms. Towards the street, it was closed off by a set of rooms which incorporated the shops previously at the northern end of the portico of the Street of Palladius, whilst putting them to a different use. This row of rooms which was probably interrupted by the main entrance into the complex, opened onto a portico with an opus sectile floor of black and white marble. Two steps running for the entire length of the portico enabled access from the street. The portico and the rooms had a tiled roof. The exedra was demolished at the end of the sixth century or in the early seventh century. 

The cabins of the Bet She’an exedra are reminiscent of the cells of the Pompeii lupanarium which consisted of ground floor rooms, each equipped with a stone bed and a bolster. An external staircase provided access to the first floor balcony onto which opened five more spacious rooms. At Bet She’an, the back doors of some rooms on the ground floor enabled clients who were keen to remain anonymous, to enter an abode of lust without being seen from the main street and thus to surreptitiously satisfy their sexual fantasies. 

The portico where the girls strolled in the hope of attracting passers-by from the Street of Palladius, as well as the neighbouring Byzantine Baths were part of a fascinating network: soliciting at the Baths, in the portico and in the exedra courtyard, followed by sex in the cabins; and at the back of the building, an entrance-and-exit system for supposedly ‘respectable clients’. 

Hierarchy and regulations in prostitution
There were two categories of Byzantine harlots: on the one hand, actresses and courtesans (scenicae), on the other, poor prostitutes (pornai) who fled from rural poverty and flocked to the great urban centres such as Constantinople and Jerusalem. There, even greater destitution pushed them straight into the rapacious hooks of crooks and pimps. 

Actresses and courtesans
The scenicae were involved in a craft aimed primarily at theatre-goers. It has been described as a ‘closed craft’, since daughters took over from their mothers. The classic example is that of the mother of the future Empress Theodora who put her three young daughters to work on the stage of licentious plays. The poet Horace described in his Satires (1.2.1) Syrian girls (whose name ambubaiae probably derived from the Syrian word for flute, abbut or ambut) livening up banquets by dancing lasciviously with castanets and accompanied by the sound of flutes. Suetonius simply equated these with prostitutes (Ner. 27). That is why Jacob, Bishop of Serûgh (451-521) in Mesopotamia warned in his Third Homily on the Spectacles of the Theatre against dancing, ‘mother of all lasciviousness’ which ‘incites by licentious gestures to commit odious acts’. A sixth-century mosaic in Madaba in Transjordan depicts a castanet-snapping dancer dressed in transparent muslin next to a satyr who is clearly sexually-roused.[7] 

According to Bishop John of Ephesus’ fifth-century Lives of the Eastern Saints, Emperor Justinian’s consort was known to Syrian monks as ‘Theodora who came from the brothel’. Her career proves that Byzantine courtesans like the Ancient Greek hetairai could aspire to influential roles in high political spheres. Long before her puberty, Theodora worked in a Constantinopolitan brothel where, according to the court-historian Procopius of Caesarea’s Secret History, she was hired at a cheap rate by slaves as all she could do then was to act the part of a ‘male prostitute’. As soon as she became sexually mature, she went on stage, but as she could play neither flute nor harp, nor even dance, she became a common courtesan. Once she had been promoted to the rank of actress, she stripped in front of the audience and lay down on the stage. Slaves emptied buckets of grain into her private parts which geese would peck at. She frequented banquets assiduously, offering herself to all and sundry, including servants. She followed to Libya a lover who had been appointed Governor of Pentapolis. Soon, however, he threw her out, and she applied her talents in Alexandria and subsequently all over the East. Upon her return to Constantinople, she bewitched Justinian who was then still only the heir to the imperial throne. He elevated his mistress to Patrician rank. Upon the death of the Empress, his aunt and the wife of Justin II (who would never have allowed a courtesan at court), Justinian forced his uncle Justin II to abrogate the law which forbade senators to marry courtesans. Soon, he became co-emperor with his uncle and at the latter’s death, as sole emperor, immediately associated his wife to the throne (Anecd. 9.1-10). 

Poor prostitutes
Only a few courtesans could climb the social ladder in this phenomenal way. Most prostitutes who worked in brothels and tavernae and are described as pornai, were slaves or illiterate peasant girls like Mary the Egyptian who later became a holy hermit in the Judaean desert. Because neither hetairai nor pornai had any legal status, and since hetairai were also slaves belonging to a pimp or to a go-between, the distinction between courtesans and pornai was based entirely on their different financial worth. This aspect of the trade was inherent in the Latin name meretrix for prostitute, meaning ‘she who makes money from her body’. 

Three types of prices should be taken into consideration: the price for buying, the price for redeeming and the price for hiring. The peasants of the Constantinopolitan hinterland sold their daughters to pimps for a few gold coins (solidi). Thereafter, clothes, shoes and a daily food-ration would be these miserable girls’ only ‘salary’. To redeem a young prostitute in Constantinople under the reign of Justinian was cheap (Novell. 39.2). It cost 5 solidi, thus only a little more than the amount needed to buy a camel (41/3 solidi) and a little less than for a she-ass (51/3 solidi) or a slave-boy (6 solidi) in Southern Palestine at the end of the sixth century or in the early seventh century. That women could be degraded to the extent of being ranked with beasts of burden tells us much about Byzantine society. 

In Rome and Pompeii, the services of a ‘plebeia Venus’ cost generally two asses – no more than a loaf of bread or two cups of wine at the counter of a taverna. Whereas the most vulgar kind of prostitute would only cost 1 as (Martial claimed in Epig. 1.103.10: ‘You buy boiled chick peas for 1 as and you also make love for 1 as’), R. Duncan-Jones notes that the Pompeian charge could be as high as 16 asses or 4 sestercii.[8] In early seventh-century Alexandria, the average rate for hiring a prostitute is provided by the Life of John the Almsgiver. As a simple worker, the monk Vitalius earned daily 1 keration (which was worth 72 folleis) of which the smallest part (1 follis) enabled him to eat hot beans. With the remaining 71 folleis, he paid for the services of a prostitute which being a saint, he naturally did not use, for his aim was to convert them to a Christian life. 

Lack of clients over several days meant poverty and hunger. Thus a harlot in Emesa, modern Homs in central Syria, had only tasted water for three days running, to which St Symeon Salos remedied by bringing her cooked food, loaves of bread and a pitcher of wine. On days when she earned a lot, Mary the Egyptian prostitute in Alexandria ate fish, drank wine excessively and sang dissolute songs presumably during banquets. In denouncing the Byzantine courtesans’ obscene lust for gold, the sixth-century rhetor Agathias Scholasticus echoed the authors of the fourth-century BC Athenian Middle Comedy. In particular, the poet Alexis claimed that ‘Above all, they [the prostitutes] are concerned with earning money’.[9] Sometimes a prostitute’s jewellery was her sole wealth. When in 539, the citizens of Edessa, modern Urfa in south-eastern Turkey, decided to redeem their fellow-citizens who were held prisoners by the Persians, the prostitutes (who did not have enough cash) handed over their jewels (Procop. De Bell. Pers. 2.13.4). 

It is probably because prostitution could occasionally be very lucrative and thus beneficial through taxation, that the Christian Byzantine State turned a blind eye. Since the Roman Republic, according to Tacitus (Ann. II.85.1-2), male and female prostitutes had been recorded nominally in registers which were kept under the guardianship of the aediles. From the reign of Caligula, prostitutes were taxed (Suet. Cal. 40). 

Christianity’s condemnation of any type of non-procreative sexual intercourse brought about the outlawing of homosexuality in the Western Empire in the third century and consequently of male prostitution. In 390, an edict of Emperor Theodosius I threatened with the death penalty the forcing or selling of males into prostitution (C.Th. 9.7.6). Behind this edict lay not a disgust of prostitution, but the fact that the body of a man would be used in homosexual intercourse in the same way as that of a woman. And that was unacceptable, for had St Augustine not stated that ‘the body of a man is as superior to that of a woman, as the soul is to the body’ (De Mend. 7.10)? 

In application of Theodosius’ edict in Rome, the prostitutes were dragged out of the male brothels and burnt alive under the eyes of a cheering mob. Nevertheless, male prostitution remained legal in the pars orientalis of the empire. From the reign of Constantine I, an imperial tax was levied on homosexual prostitution, this constituting a legal safeguard for those who could therefore engage in it ‘with impunity’. Evagrius emphasises in his Ecclesiastical History (3.39-41) that no emperor ever omitted to collect this tax. Its suppression at the beginning of the sixth century removed imperial protection from homosexual prostitution. In 533, Justinian placed all homosexual relations under the same category as adultery and subjected both to death (Inst. 4.18.4). 

Already in 529, Justinian had attempted to put a curb on female child prostitution by penalising all those engaged in that trade, in particular the owners of brothels (CJ 8.51.3). In 535, he invalidated the contracts by which the pimps of Constantinople put to work peasant girls whom they had bought from their parents (Novell. 14). The prostitution of adult women, however, does not appear to have unduly worried the imperial legislator. The punishment inflicted on pimps who ran the child prostitution network, varied according to their wealth and respectability. Paradoxically, Byzantine administration considered the job of Imperial Inspector of the Brothels as eminently honourable, so much so that in 630 the Bishop of Palermo was appointed to this post. 

The recruiting of prostitutes
The evidence of Justinianic legislation brings to light a change in child prostitution from Roman times when paedophilia focused on small boys much praised notably by Tibullus (Eleg. 1.9.53), to the Byzantine period when little girls found themselves at the centre of a prostitutional web. Some of the peasant girls recruited by pimps in the hinterland of Constantinople, were not even ten years old. St Mary the Egyptian admits that she left her parents and her village at the age of twelve and went to Alexandria where she lost both her virginity and her honour by prostituting herself (and enjoying it – which in the eyes of prudish Byzantines was the ultimate sin). 

Abandoned children supplied to a large extent the prostitution market. Justin Martyr had observed that nearly all newborn babes who had been exposed, ‘boys as well as girls, will be used as prostitutes’ (1 Apol. 27). This entailed the risk of incest which obsessed Christian theologians: ‘How many fathers, forgetting the children they abandoned, unknowingly have sexual relations with a son who is a prostitute or a daughter become a harlot?’, asked Clement of Alexandria (Paed. 3.3). 

The patristic and rabbinic ban on birth-control except for abstinence post partum and whilst breast-feeding, as well as the failure both to enforce adherence to the ecclesiastical calendar in marital intercourse or complete abstinence as advocated by Lactantius (Divin. Inst. 6.20.25), resulted in an increase of unwanted infants who joined the small victims of poverty on the Byzantine prostitution market. In 329, Constantine I decreed that a newborn could be sold by its parents in the event of dire poverty. A law of 428 cited poverty again as the main reason for the exploitation of poor girls by pimps. A century later, the Byzantine historian Malalas emphasised that it was only the poor who sold their daughters to pimps (Chronogr. 18). It was also out of want and hunger that a desperate Christianised Arab woman offered her body to Father Sissinius, a hermit who lived in a cave near the River Jordan at the end of the sixth century. When Sissinius asked her why she prostituted herself, her answer was limited to a pathetic: ‘Because I am hungry’ (Mosch. Prat. Spir. 136). Likewise, during the 1914-1918 war in Palestine, hunger forced adolescent girls to sell themselves to the German and Turkish troops. 

Prostitution, Baths and illness
Famous courtesans and common harlots, all met in the public Baths which were already frequented in the Roman period by prostitutes of both sexes. Some of these baths were strictly for prostitutes and respectable ladies were not to be seen near them (Mart. Epigr. 3.93). Men went there not to bathe, but to entertain their mistresses as in sixteenth-century Italian bagnios. The fourth-to-sixth-century Baths uncovered in Ashqelon in 1986 by the Harvard-Chicago Expedition appear to have been of that type. The excavator’s hypothesis is supported both by a Greek exhortation to ‘Enter and enjoy…’ which is identical to an inscription found in a Byzantine bordello in Ephesus, and by a gruesome discovery.[10] 

The bones of nearly 100 infants were crammed in a sewer under the bathhouse, with a gutter running along its well-plastered bottom. The sewer had been clogged with refuse sometime in the sixth century. Mixed with domestic rubbish – potsherds, animal bones, murex shells and coins – the infant bones were for the most part intact. Infant bones are fragile and tend to fragment when disturbed or moved for secondary burial. The good condition of the Ashqelon infant bones indicates that the infants had been thrown into the drain soon after death with their soft tissues still intact. The examination of these bones by the Expedition’s osteologist, Professor Patricia Smith of the Hadassah Medical School – Hebrew University of Jerusalem, revealed that all the infants were approximately of the same size and had the same degree of dental development. Neonatal lines in the teeth of babies prove the latters’ survival for longer than three days after birth. The absence of neonatal lines in the teeth of the Ashqelon babies reinforces the hypothesis of death at birth. 

Whilst it is conceivable that the infants found in the drain were stillborn, their number, age and condition strongly suggest that they were killed and thrown into the drain immediately after birth.[11] Thus, the prostitutes of Ashqelon used the Baths not only for hooking clients but also for surreptitiously disposing of unwanted births in the din of the crowded bathing halls. It is plausible that the monks and rabbis were aware of this and that this (and not only the fear of temptation) was their main reason for equating baths with lust. 

In the eyes of the pious Jews of Byzantine Palestine, any public bathhouse which was not used for ritual purification (mikveh) was tainted with idolatry, not only because it belonged to Gentiles, but also because a statue of Venus stood at the entrance of many bathhouses. The statue of Venus greeting the users of the Baths of Aphrodite at Ptolemais-‘Akko which the Jewish Patriarch Gamaliel II regularly frequented, was invoked by Proclus the Philosopher to accuse Gamaliel of idolatry. The Patriarch succeeded in clearing himself of this charge by demonstrating that the statue of Aphrodite simply adorned the Baths and in no sense was an idol (Mishna, Abodah Zarah 3.4). 

Nevertheless, Venus which Lucretius (4.1071) had dubbed Volgivaga – ‘the street walker’ – was the patron of prostitutes who celebrated her feast on 23 April late into the Byzantine period. This, too, must explain the intense hostility of some rabbis towards the public baths of the Gentiles over which the goddess ruled both in marmore and in corpore. Since Biblical times, lust had always been intimately associated with the idolatrous worship of the ashera – a crude representation of the Babylonian goddess of fertility Ishtar who had become the Canaanite, Sidonian and Philistine Astarte and the Syrian Atargatis (1 Kgs 14.15) – as well as with the green tree under which an idol was placed (1 Kgs 14.23; Ez 6.13). Had the prophet Jeremiah (2.20) not accused Jerusalem of prostituting herself: ‘Yea, upon every high hill / and under every green tree, / you bowed down as a harlot’? 

Prostitution and sin
Satisfying sexual temptation and thus transgressing a ban inevitably brought about divine punishment of which leprosy was the embodiment par excellence. Relentlessly niggled by the ‘spirit of impurity’, a monk left his monastery of Penthucla in the lower Jordan Valley and walked to Jericho in order ‘to satisfy his evil yearning’ writes John Moschus (Prat. Spir. 14). “When he entered into the house of prostitution, he was at once completely covered in leprous spots; and having realised how awful he looked, he immediately returned to his monastery, giving thanks to God and saying: ‘God has inflicted on me this illness, so that my soul would be saved'”. 
In fact, he had most likely not caught leprosy (which is not transmitted by sexual contact) but venereal syphilis, just like Heron, a young monk of Scetis who, ‘being on fire’, left his cell in the desert and went to Alexandria where he visited a prostitute. Palladius’ narrative in the Lausiac History 26 continues thus: ‘An anthrax grew on one of his testicles, and he was so ill for six months that gangrene set into his private parts which finally fell off’. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 33a), Rabbi Hoshaia of Caesarea also threatened with syphilis ‘he who fornicates’. He will get ‘mucous and syphilous wounds’ and moreover will catch the hydrocon – an acute swelling of the penis. These are precisely the symptoms of the primary phase of venereal syphilis. 

There are, of course, two conflicting theories concerning syphilis. According to the Colombian or American theory, syphilis (Treponema pallidum) appeared for the first time in Barcelona in 1493, brought back from the West Indies by the sailors who had accompanied Christopher Columbus. On the other hand, the unicist theory claims that the pale treponema has existed since prehistoric times and has spread under four different guises: pinta on the American continent, pian in Africa, bejel in the Sahel, and lastly venereal syphilis which is the final form of a treponema with an impressive gift for mutation and adaptation. 

The latter hypothesis is supported by a recent discovery of great importance made by the Laboratoire d’anthropologie et de préhistoire des pays de la Méditerranée occidentale of the CNRS at Aix-en-Provence. Lesions characteristic of syphilis have been detected on a foetus gestating in a pregnant woman who had been buried between the third and the fifth centuries AD in the necropolis of Costobelle in the Var district. Bejel is still endemic amongst some peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. A few cases have been recorded archaeologically on skeletons of Bedouins and settled Arabs of Ottoman Palestine. Contracted in childhood, bejel spreads by physical but not necessarily sexual contact, whereas syphilis which is an illness of adults, is transmitted only sexually. In both cases, the deterioration of the bones as well as the symptoms and the progress of the illness are identical. However, only venereal syphilis is able to go through the placenta and to infect the embryo. The mother of the Costobelle foetus must therefore have suffered from venereal syphilis. This would confirm the view held by modern pathologists that venereal syphilis already existed in Ancient Greece and Rome. 

The sin of enjoying sex
Besides the sin of lust punished by illness with which prostitutes contaminated all those who approached them physically, harlots embodied also the sin of sexual pleasure amalgamated with that of non-procreative sex condemned by the Church Fathers. The Apostolic Constitutions (7.2) forbade all non-procreative genital acts, including anal sex and oral intercourse. The art displayed by prostitutes consisted precisely in making full use of sexual techniques which increased their clients’ pleasure. Not surprisingly therefore, Lactantius condemned together sodomy, oral intercourse and prostitution (Divin. Inst. 5.9.17). 

One technique perfected by prostitutes both increased the pleasure of their partners and was contraceptive. Lucretius’ description of prostitutes twisting themselves during coitus (De rer. nat. 4.1269-1275) was echoed by the Babylonian Talmud (Ketuboth 37a): ‘Rabbi Yose is of the opinion that a woman who prostitutes herself turns round to prevent conception’. 

In the sermons of the Church Fathers, contraception and prostitution formed a couple that could only engender death. St John Chrysostom cried out in Homily 24 on the Epistle to the Romans 4: ‘For you, a courtesan is not only a courtesan; you also make her into a murderess. Can you not see the link: after drunkenness, fornication; after fornication, adultery; after adultery, murder?’. According to Plautus, abortion was a likely action for a pregnant prostitute to take (Truc. 179), either – Ovid suggested – by drinking poisons or by puncturing with a sharp instrument called the foeticide, the amniotic membrane which surrounds the foetus (Amor. 2.14). Procopius of Caesarea states emphatically that when she was a prostitute, Empress Theodora knew all the methods which would immediately provoke an abortion (Anecd. 9.20). 

In the same breath, the Didascalia Apostolorum (2.2) condemned both abortion and infanticide: ‘You will not kill the child by abortion and you will not murder it once it is born’. In 374, a decree of Emperors Valentinian I and Valens forbade infanticide on pain of death (Cod. Theod. 9.14.1). Nevertheless, the practice which had been common in the Roman period, continued. That is why the Tosephta (Oholoth 18.8) repeated in the fourth century the warning made by the Mishna in the second century: ‘The dwelling places of Gentiles are unclean… What do they [the rabbis] examine? The deep drains and the foul water’. This implied that the Gentiles disposed of their aborted foetuses in the drains of their own houses. 

The newborn babes who had been killed and tossed into the main sewer of the Ashqelon Baths, were predominantly boys.[12] This contradicts W. Petersen’s statement that ‘Infanticide is … associated with the higher valuation of males’.[13] According to him, whenever infanticide is practised, girls are first eliminated, followed by deformed and sickly children, offspring unwanted for reasons of magic (such as multiple births, twins or triplets) or of social ostracism (such as bastards). Beyond the biological fact that male births are more numerous than female births, the male dominance in the infanticide pattern at Ashqelon may derive in this precise case from the very trade of the mothers of these newborn children. 

According to Apollodoros’ Against Neaira, Greek hetairai predominantly bought young female slaves or adopted new-born girls who had been exposed. They educated them in the prostitutes’ trade and confined them to the brothels until these girls were old enough to ply their trade themselves and support their adopted mothers in their old age. Consequently, in a society of prostitutes, would Petersen’s ‘natural’ selection not have been reversed? Baby girls would have been kept alive and brought up in brothels so that eventually they would be able to pick up the trade from their mothers when the latters’ attraction had faded. It would not have been possible to raise baby boys in the same way.[14] 

Tainted by the sins of lust, of sexual enjoyment and murder, Byzantine prostitutes, however, were never ‘branded’, unlike the Roman prostitutes who by law had to look different from respectable young women and matrons and were therefore made to wear the toga which was strictly for men (Hor. Sat. 1.2.63); unlike, too the mediaeval harlots of Western Europe who are consistently depicted wearing striped dresses, stripes being the iconographic attribute of ‘outlaws’ such as lepers and heretics.[15] Descriptions of the physical aspect of Byzantine prostitutes are at best vague, such as ‘dressed like a mistress’ in Midrash Genesis Rabbah (23.2). We can only imagine their appearance from fragmentary evidence, such as blue faience beaded fish-net dresses worn by prostitutes in Ancient Egypt, of which there are several strips in the Weingreen Museum of Biblical Archaeology of Trinity College, Dublin. 

Prostitution – a social necessity
‘Banish prostitutes … and you reduce society to chaos through unsatisfied lust’, St Augustine warned (De Ord. 2.12). He preached, moreover, that ‘unnatural sex is atrocious if committed with a prostitute, even more atrocious if committed with a wife… If a man wishes to use part of the body of a woman which it is forbidden to use for that, it is more shameful for the wife to allow for such crime to be performed on her body than to let it be done on another woman’ (De bon. conjug. 11.12). Thus, in the well-organised world of the City of God, there was no need whatsoever for domestic contraception. If possessed by a non-procreative urge, a man simply had to go to a prostitute and pour out his sperm but in vas, since coitus interruptus was strictly forbidden. The harlot’s rôle was therefore that of a ‘natural’ contraceptive. 

As a result of a chain of false logic, sexual repression dictated by the Church Fathers led to eroticism per se at the hands of prostitutes. Whilst controlled procreative sexuality was kept harnessed at home, pleasure blossomed amongst the harlots. The Midrash Genesis Rabbah (23.2) explained that at the time of the Great Flood, a man used to marry two women, one to bear him children, and another for sexual intercourse only. The latter took a ‘cup of roots’ to render herself sterile and was accustomed to keep company with him dressed like a mistress. Is this not reminiscent of Apollodoros’ triad amputated of the pallake – the concubine? Had values therefore not changed despite the advent of Judaeo-Christian civilisation? 

In fact, values had changed, but in this particular context for the worse. Frankness had given way to prudish dishonesty displayed both by Rabbinic Judaism and Patristic Christianity. Such puritanism is surely to blame for the proliferation of Byzantine prostitution and in its trail the increase in numbers of abandoned children. The bad faith shared by Augustine and Jerome on the matter of prostitution encouraged prostitution in exactly the same way that the Victorian brothel was, according to Michel Foucault, the offshoot of bourgeois puritanism. [16] 

[1]This article is based on a paper given at the Dublin Classics Seminar in the Department of Classics of University College Dublin on 25 April 1995 at the invitation of its organiser, Dr A. Erskine, whom we wish to thank warmly. 

[2]In particular, see the discussion in M. Lloyd, Euripides Andromache (Warminster, 1995), pp. 6 ff. 

[3]P. Salmon, Population et dépopulation dans l’empire romain (Bruxelles, 1974), p. 45. 

[4]In particular Canon 87 of the Council in Trullo of 692. See C.J. Héfélé and H. Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, T. III.[1] (Paris, 1909), p. 573. 

[5]Palatine Anthology (A.P.) 5.46; 5.101; 5.302 and 5.308. See also, R.C. McCail, ‘The Erotic and Ascetic Poetry of Agathias Scholasticus’, Byzantion 41 (1971), p. 215. We are grateful to Dr R.C. McCail of the Department of Classics, University of Edinburgh, for introducing us to Agathias’ erotic poetry connected with prostitution. 

[6]G. Mazor, ‘City Center of Ancient Bet Shean – South’, Excavations and Surveys in Israel 1987/88, Vol. 6 (1987), pp. 18 ff.; R. Bar-Nathan and G. Mazor, ‘City Center (South) and Tel Iztabba Area. Excavations of the Antiquities Authority Expedition, The Bet She’an Excavation Project (1989-1991)’, Excavations and Surveys in Israel, Vol. 11 (1993), pp. 43 ff. 

[7]M. Piccirillo, Madaba le chiese e is mosaici (Milano, 1989), pp. 134 ff. 

[8]R. Duncan-Jones, The Economy of the Roman Empire. Quantitative Studies (Cambridge, 1982, 2nd ed), p. 246. 

[9]Agathias, A.P. 5.302; Alexis, fr. 103 (Athenaeus XIII 568a), Kassel-Austin ed. 

[10]L.E. Stager, ‘Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon’, Biblical Archaeology Review XVII, No. 4 (July-August 1991), pp. 50 ff. 

[11]P. Smith and G. Kahila, ‘Bones of a Hundred Infants Found in Ashkelon Sewer’, Biblical Archaeology Review XVII, No. 4 (July-August 1991), p. 51. 

[12]Thanks are due to Prof. P. Smith for informing us on 11 November 1994 of the latest results of her paleoanthropological study. 

[13]Population (New York-London, 3rd ed., 1975), p. 205. 

[14]We are extremely grateful to Dr M. Lloyd of the Department of Classics, University College Dublin, for discussing with us at length the various aspects of this problem and for suggesting to us this hypothesis. 

[15]J.-Cl. Schmitt, ‘Prostituées, Lépreux, Hérétiques: les rayures de l’infamie’, L’Histoire No. 148 (Octobre 1991), p. 89. 

[16]Histoire de la Sexualité. 1. La volonté de savoir (Paris, 1976) p. 11.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1900 | Galata



The Story of the old Capital of the Empire by William Holden Hutton, 
Fellow of S. John Baptist College, Oxford.

Illustrated by Sydney Cooper

London: J. M. Dent & Co.
Aldine House, 29 and 30 Bedford Street
Covent Garden, W.C.  1900

The two acts of tragedy by which it has been attempted to destroy a large, and that perhaps the richest and most progressive, part of the population of Constantinople, emphasise an important historical fact.  Not only by the importations of Mohammed II., but gradually during the four centuries and a half that have elapsed since the Conquest, the population of Constantinople has changed its character. Pera and Galata are the home of a mixed race, of whom every writer says hard words, and of many nationalities still striving to preserve their separate life. Greeks, Italians, Germans, French, English, immigrants from the Balkan lands, are the most prominent, after the Jews and the wealthy Armenians. The divisions that are to be seen in the Orthodox Church, perpetuated by politicians for their own purposes, are the reflection of the national and political divisions that we pass through on our way to Constantinople and find there in full force. Every league nearer to the city walls, as the railway drags its tedious length, is a step nearer to barbarism; and Pera is indeed but a poor outpost of civilisation. It has over it a veneer of the West. As you walk through the streets you might think yourself in an inferior Italian city; when you descend to Galata, down steep streets, half stairways, you pass through the gate of the Middle Ages into a town like any cosmopolitan seaport, crowded with sailors and travellers of all nations.

The Galata bridge, the most wonderful pathway in Europe, with its thousands of passengers in every strange garb, its Parisian carriages, its Arab steeds bearing alert officers, its beggars, mollahs, white turbaned and white coated toll-takers, its ceaseless stream of life all day long, brings you to the harbour, the historic anchorage of great ships for fifteen hundred years or more. "Eothen" has said once for all what comes to mind as we gaze at that magnificent sight, life, ships, walls, domes, minarets.

"Even if we don't take a part in the chaunt about 'Mosques and Minarets,' we can still yield praises to Stamboul. We can chaunt about the harbour; we can say and sing that nowhere else does the sea come so home to a city; there are no pebble shores—no sand bars—no slimy river beds—no black canals—no locks nor docks to divide the very heart of the place from the deep waters; if being in the noisiest part of Stamboul, you would stroll to the quiet side of the way amidst those cypresses opposite, you will cross the fathomless Bosphorus; if you would go from your hotel to the Bazaars, you must pass by the bright blue pathway of the Golden Horn, that can carry a thousand sail of the line. You are accustomed to the gondolas that glide among the palaces of St Mark, but here at Stamboul it is a hundred-and-twenty-gun-ship that meets you in the street. Venice strains out from the steadfast land, and in old times would send forth the chief of the state to woo and wed the reluctant sea; but the stormy bride of the Doge is the bowing slave of the Sultan—she comes to his feet with the treasures of the world—she bears him from palace to palace—by some unfailing witchcraft, she entices the breezes to follow her, and fan the pale cheek of her lord—she lifts his armed navies to the very gates of his garden—she watches the walls of his serail—she stifles the intrigues of his Ministers—she quiets the scandals of his Court—she extinguishes his rivals, and hushes his naughty wives all one by one, so vast are the wonders of the deep!"[49]

But you cross the bridge, or you take a caique, and land under the old walls; you pass through some gateway, scarcely recognisable; and in a moment you are in a new life. It is the East. The hundreds of solemn figures climbing the hill to the daily afternoon prayers at the mosque of Mohammed the Conqueror; the busy market that goes on outside the walls, the stalls displaying everything that man needs to buy, the carpets, the great earthenware vessels, marked in white wax with delicate arabesques, the fresh fruits, the strange liquors, the stranger cates. A few yards off and you are among the streets that belong to particular trades, the workers in brass, the cobblers, the blacksmiths, the horse-dealers, the sellers of every conceivable object under the sun, all in their windowless shops, laughing, talking, selling, with that stately mien which makes a ceremonial of the simplest act. There is no vulgar European haste here, no chattering impatience to serve or to bargain; the ages as they have passed over the place seem to have left their solemn impress on the people. Let the story-teller come and amuse them; for themselves they will not hurry or fret or speed. All is dignified, stately, restrained. This is a Turkish quarter, but the Turks are rarely indeed of pure blood. Almost every Asiatic race, and many European nationalities, have gone to make the Turks of Stambûl—pilgrims from the far East, Christian slaves, converts to Islam from every quarter of the globe. Negroes are constantly to be met with, eunuchs, slaves, and free trading folk. Pass further on and you are among the Jews, who remain as large a proportion of the population as in the fifteenth century, when some forty thousand of them were to be found in Stambûl. It was they who first opened regular shops for the sale of manufactured goods, and the greatest shops in the Bazaar to-day are the property of Jews. In the great Bazaar with its intricate streets and quarters, a great desolation reigns. The Jews and the Europeans have invaded its recesses, and the pictures that the old books draw of the haggling and the humour and the riches, have no meaning to-day. In the enclosure of the Ahmediyeh you may see characteristic Eastern sights. There a man sits being shaved. There are stalls heaped with fruit. There are sellers pressing rich stuffs and linen on Turkish ladies as they pass. And indeed it is not all stateliness even among the Turks. Desert the streets of the leather-sellers and the brass-workers, come down to the markets by the mosques, and there is enough vigorous and vivacious life. In the harbour among the shipping, where the rowers of caiques clamour for employment, in the Greek quarter, or in the Psamatia among the poorer Armenians, there is plenty of stir and movement. For a succession of pictures, there is no city like Constantinople. Pilgrims from the far East, Mongolians, Persians, men of Bokhara and Khiva, negroes from the heart of Africa, armed many of them to the teeth, most with the strange wistful half frightened look of strangers and foreigners in a civilisation of which they have not dreamed; the groups at the fountains, the staid ancients smoking solemnly at the doors, the closed windows with the wooden lattices, through which sometimes comes a sound of soft music, the tramp of armed men, the clatter of cavalry as they trot up the street, the endless processions of donkeys and draught horses, and sometimes camels,—these sights and sounds are, in the sunlight by the old walls, in the narrow streets, or by the great domed mosques, never to be forgotten or to be rivalled in Europe to-day.

Constantinople remains, with all its changes, a city of the dark ages. At any moment the curtain may be lifted on a scene of tragic horror, and meanwhile there is the grotesque mimicry of Western civilisation, the parade of meaningless forms, justice, government, finance, which in a moment may be destroyed, which never have, it is hardly an exaggeration to say, any real meaning. How does the city fare? Even now, interviews with officials, walks through 229 the streets of Stambûl, the sights of each day, remind one irresistibly of "a chapter in Gibbon or some tale of wonder in the Arabian Nights." Soberly and solemnly the Turks go about their business. Before the horrors of the last decade an observer who knew well the people and the history wrote these words.

"I have been present in the city during the deposition of two Sultans. The most striking characteristic in the circumstances attending these depositions was the utter indifference of the great body of the native, and especially of the Moslem, population to the change which was being made. There was a small but active party which took action, but beyond this there was comparatively very little excitement; no resistance, no rioting, no expression of dissatisfaction. When newspaper correspondents and foreigners generally were aware that a revolution was in preparation, it is impossible to believe that thousands of Turks and rayahs were in ignorance of the fact. The general feeling among the Sultan's subjects was one of indifference. If the conspirators failed it would go hardly with them. If they succeeded it would go hardly with the Sultan. That business only regarded the parties concerned. Beyond a vague belief that any change could hardly be followed by a worse condition of things than had existed, there was no public sentiment on the matter."[50]

The words would be as true to-day. Save only at moments of sudden and fanatic excitement, organised there can be no doubt at least under the impression that there is a religious duty, and a command which may not be disobeyed, the calm of the city is unbroken. We seem to be standing with Candide when he heard the news that "two viziers of the bench and the mufti had just been strangled at Constantinople, and several of their friends impaled," and when he heard the instructive comments of the old Turk who never knew the name of any vizier or mufti. "I presume," said that sage, "that in general such as are concerned in public affairs come to a miserable end, and that they deserve it; but I never enquire what is doing at Constantinople. I am content with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands." To-day it would seem that the people of Constantinople are of the same mind with this philosopher. "Our country is rich, capable of prosperity, and of supporting in comfort twenty times its present population; but alas a gang of robbers has seized it," are the published words of a Turkish prince. Vice and luxury and despotism triumph. Eh bien! je sais qu'il faut cultiver notre jardin.

This at any rate may be said. It is idle to prophecy the future of the Ottoman power in Europe. Has the last Greek war really strengthened it? Does the approach of Russia foreshadow an occupation of Constantinople and the longed for return of S. Sophia to the worship of the Orthodox Church? Of all people the English are the least fitted to foresee the future. Nothing can be more ludicrous than the letters of Tom Hughes, an observer acute enough, written from Constantinople in 1862, in which he says that Islam is all but dead, and that what the Turks want is the English public-school system. The Turk hears such things with a smile; il faut cultiver notre jardin.

[49] Eothen, pp. 30, 31. 
[50] Pears, Conquest of Constantinople.

excerpt pg 225-230

Pera Barlar Cafeler

‘‘... eskiden önemli olan iki kişi -soylulukları iyice silinmiş- Mösyö E. D. ve M...yan, birincisi, dostu Marguorito'nun evinde hem hesapları tutarak, hem de meslek ahlakını gözeterek iş görüyor; ikincisi ise, eskiden zenginken paralarını kadınlara yedirip iflas etmiş, pek anlamlı bir kartviziti önüne gelene dağıtıyordu. Bu kartvizit şöyleydi: M. Misyon, Zevk-ü sefa aracısı!’’ 
Said Naum Duhami
1800'lerin sonlarında İstanbul'un ilk barlarından sayılabilecek içkili bazı café'ler şöyle anlatılır: ‘Café Cristal'de tüm garsonlar kadındır. Orkestra Alman kızlarından oluşur. Şarkıcılar Fransız’dır ve orkestradaki sarışınlar, iki hızlı parça arasında müşterilerle iyiden iyiye haşır neşir olurlar!’
" Mesela aynı dönemin bir başka mekanı olan Café Flamme'da servis yapan kızlar vardır ve bunlar geceyi herhangi bir müşteri ile geçirmeye her an hazırdır. Bir başka yer olan Alhambra ise her an dopdolu kocaman bir salondur. Özelliği bol makyajlı, müstehcen şarkılar okuyan ve anlaşılabilmeleri için çok anlamlı (!) el, kol ve bacak hareketleri yapan, pozlar alan Fransız kadın şarkıcılardır." 
Giovanni Scognamillo

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Klephtic Cooking

  • Kleftiko: literally meaning "in the style of the Klephts", this is lamb slow-baked on the bone, first marinated in garlic and lemon juice, originally cooked in a pit oven. It is said that the Klephts, bandits of the countryside who did not have flocks of their own, would steal lambs or goats and cook the meat in a sealed pit to avoid the smoke being seen.

From Greek Outlaws, Underground Food

[1] See also: The Food and Wine of Greece by Diane Kochilas (born May 17, 1960) is a Greek American cookbook author, celebrity chef, and cooking school owner. Kochilas received the IACP Jane Grigson Award for Excellence in Research for her book "The Glorious Foods of Greece" in 2002. In, 2015, her book "Ikaria: Lessons of Food, Life & Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die" won best cookbook in the IACP International Category

The New York Times Archives

ACROSS the mainland of Greece, people have been digging holes for their dinner for centuries. This manner of cooking - in a shallow dirt-covered pit over smoldering coals -is called steen hovoli, or in embers. But more often than not, it is affectionately referred to as klephtica -of thieves.

The name refers to the Klephts, bands of Robin Hood-like outlaws who fought in the Pindus Mountains, as well as in the mountains of Pelion, Olympus, Agrapha, and Parnassus, during the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Turks of the 1820's.

The Klephts have become folk heroes in Greece, with ballads praising their feats and tales of their hardships ingrained in the popular imagination. Many tales revolve around the ingenuity with which the Klephts procured and prepared their meals.

From the earliest days of their existence, the Klephts survived by moving their camps and finding shelter in caverns and in the nooks and crannies of Greece's most rugged mountains. They hid by day and roamed by night, frequently descending to the plains to pillage Ottomans and the monasteries that had secured privileges from the Turks.

The Klephts were forced to do much of their cooking underground. They frequently had to steal food -animals belonging to villagers, for example. By cooking underground, they were able to hide a bounty of lamb or goat. The cooking method needed little attention; once the coals were fired up, the food, often prepared in brass, clay, or iron pots, was left to bake for hours.

Perhaps the most important reason the Klephts cooked by this method was that by concealing the food and baking it over smoldering embers (probably derived from relatively smokeless wood like olive or oak), neither steam nor aroma could escape to betray their camps.

That simple survival tactic has managed to capture the popular imagination. Today, klephtica has evolved to refer to several methods of baking, all of which require sealing the food and letting it cook, usually slowly. For example, in the northwestern city of Ioannina, lamb or goat baked in a clay dish sealed with dough is called steen stamna or, literally, in a clay water jug.

Another way of preparing meat, similar to the French en papillote, entails wrapping it, parcel-like, in wax or parchment paper or phyllo pastry, and baking it in a conventional oven. This method is exohiko, of the countryside. The connection to klephtica, as George Conidis, a former restaurateur and amateur food historian in San Diego, explained, is that ''whatever is being baked is enclosed - hidden.''

''Aromas and steam can't readily escape, as they can't if you're baking in a makeshift oven underground,'' he said. One favorite dish from the islands of the eastern Aegean is made with either thrushes or quails tucked inside the hollows of eggplants and then baked.

Few people now bother to prepare an entire dinner underground over smoldering coals. But it is still a widespread, and delicious, way to prepare vegetables like potatoes and onions.

Even among American Greeks, the tradition still holds. Yaanis Liatsikas, a native of Volos, now lives in Hicksville, L.I. He keeps a store of charcoal on hand, as well as foil and a shovel, for baking vegetables underground like his mother and grandmother did, even after they came to the United States.

''My grandmother used to make potatoes and the sweetest onions I've ever tasted steen hovoli,'' he said. ''We'd go to her house for Sunday dinner, and she would tell us the stories that came down to her from her own grandparents about the Klephts and how they survived in the mountains on the same simple fare. I like to cook, and I like folk history. Somehow, digging a hole in my garden and cooking in it, in the middle of suburbia, makes me feel good.''

Though not much was recorded about the day-to-day existence of the Klephts, a lot has been passed from generation to generation. The klephtic cuisine, like the tales and ballads, is more an affectionate, imaginative tribute to those mountain fighters than living proof of the foods they actually ate. 

Three Meat Stew Steen Hovoli (Baked Over Embers Underground) 

Preparation time: 1 1/2 hours, including starting up the coals Cooking time: 3 1/2 hours 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour 4 tablespoons water 3/4 pound stewing veal, cubed 3/4 pound lamb, preferably from leg, cubed 3/4 pound boneless pork, cubed 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 4 medium-size carrots, scraped and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 4 medium-size potatoes, peeled and quartered 3 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced Juice of 2 1/2 lemons Y cup dry white wine 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons oregano 6 large baking potatoes, unpeeled and whole 6 medium-size onions, unpeeled and whole 1 20-pound bag charcoal Lighter fluid Wood.

1.To make dough, place flour in a medium-size bowl and make a well in center. Slowly add water and stir with fork until dough is formed. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth. Set aside, covered, in an airtight container or plastic bag.

2.In a 5-quart cast-iron pot, combine meats, celery, carrots, quartered potatoes, and onions. Add garlic, lemon juice, wine, and olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Mix well so that all ingredients are thoroughly blended.

3.Individually wrap the whole potatoes and onions in aluminum foil. Set aside.

4.Dig a hole in ground about 1-foot deep and 1 1/2-feet wide. Fill with about Y of the charcoal and ignite. Add wood to get a strong flame going, and keep adding charcoal. Stoke it, adding more lighter fluid if necessary, and more wood and coals. It should take at least 20 minutes for the coals to get white hot.

5.In the meantime, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into 3 1/2-inch-wide strips. Use the strips to seal lid and pot together. (Make sure you have done this well, so that no dirt gets into the pot during baking.) Wrap the whole pot in foil.

6.With a shovel, remove about half the coals from the hole and set aside. Place pot on top of coals, and aluminum-wrapped potatoes and onions around it. Cover with reserved hot coals, adding more and igniting again if necessary.

7.After about 20 minutes, cover hole loosely with dirt. Let bake for 3 more hours. Remove and cool slightly.

8. Take a damp rag and wash any dirt outside of the pot. Carefully cut away the dough. Open the lid carefully and serve stew piping hot with the unwrapped potatoes and onions.

Yield: 6 servings. Arni Steen Stamna (Lamb Baked In a Dough-Sealed Clay Dish) Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 4 hours 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour 4 tablespoons water 2 1/2 pounds lamb meat (preferably from leg) cubed, about 3 cups 12 small white onions, peeled and whole 6 medium-size white potatoes, peeled and quartered 2 ribs celery, washed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces 5 green hot pickled peppers, seeded and chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 bunch parsley, about 10 to 12 sprigs, stems removed and leaves chopped 1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped, about 2 1/2 tablespoons Juice of 2 large lemons 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 heaping tablespoon thyme 2 teaspoons dried rosemary 1/2 teaspoon sage Salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled.

1.Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

2.Place flour in a small bowl and make a well in center. Slowly add water, stirring flour from the center outward, until a dough begins to form. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and set aside, covered, in an airtight container or plastic bag.

3.Combine lamb, onions, potatoes, celery and peppers in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart ceramic baking dish. Add garlic, parsley, dill, lemon juice, and olive oil, and mix together. Add dried herbs, salt and pepper, and toss again so that all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.

4.On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to approximate shape of ceramic dish; it should be about two inches larger than the dish. Be careful not to tear it; start over if you do. Carefully place dough over top of dish and seal by slightly wetting your fingers and pressing dough around rim.

5.Place on lowest rack in oven. Bake for four hours.

6.Remove from oven and let cool 15 to 20 minutes on a mat or towel. With a sharp knife, carefully cut around and remove seal. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings.

NOTE: Feta cheese is sold at most supermarkets. If you have access to a Greek or Middle Eastern store, try to get Feta Telemes, which is pungent and slightly softer than others.

If your ceramic pot has its own lid, use that. Just roll out dough in 3-inch strips, and use it to seal the lid and dish together. Baking time is the same. Thessaly Beef Baked in Bread Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 4 hours 1 two-pound loaf unsliced white or whole wheat bread 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef, diced 2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced 2 large red bell peppers, washed, seeded, and finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes 2 teaspoons oregano 1 teaspoon cumin Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.

1.Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

2.Cafefully cut loaf in half, lengthwise. Remove and discard inside of bread, leaving a cavity in both halves. Bread should be 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick so that meat mixture does not soak through and make it soggy. Set bread aside.

3.In a large bowl, combine beef, leeks, peppers, and garlic. Add hot red pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss thoroughly.

4.Brush insides of both halves of bread with remaining oil. Sprinkle both sides with Parmesan cheese.

5.Fill bottom cavity with meat mixture and fit top half over it. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for four hours. Slice and serve warm.

Yield: Six 2-inch wedges.

NOTE: Buy a fairly solid loaf of bread, preferably from a bakery.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Pera by Salah Birsel

Gerard de Nerval, 1843 yazında İstanbul’a geldiğinde, bir yüzü İstiklal Caddesi’ne, bir yüzü de Tepebaşı’na bakan bir kahve saptamıştır. Mevsim dolayısıyla yola masalar da atılmış olduğundan, Nerval burasını Paris’in Champs-Elysées Bulvarı’ndaki kibar kahvelere benzetmiştir.
   Beyoğlu’nun bütün zenginleri buradadır. Dondurma yenir, limonata, sütlü kahve içilir. Leylekler masa masa dolaşır, müşterilerin kendilerine şeker ve bisküvi şöleni çekmesini bekler. Kahvede Osmanlı’nın Fransızca yayınlanan bütün gazeteleri vardır : “Journal de Constantinople”, “Echo de Smyrne”, “Portofolıo Maltese”, “Courrier d’Athénes”, “Monıteur Ottoman”….
Beyoğlu’ndaki bir başka kahveden ise, 1852 yılında Türkiye’ye gelen Théophile Gautıer bahseder. Bu kahve, Tünelbaşı’ndaki Mevlevi tekkesinin karşısındadır. Kahvenin duvarları yarıya kadar beyaz filelerle süslü sarımsı tahtalarla kaplanmıştır. Peykelerin üstündeki minderler ise kilimlerle örtülüdür. Altın yaldızlı ve siyah çiçekli aynalar duvarlara sırma kordonlarla asılmıştır. El biçimindeki çengellerde ise havlular vardır. Öteki Türk kahveleri gibi, burası aynı zamanda bir berber dükkanıdır. Pırıldayan kalkanlara benzeyen büyük bakır leğenler duvardaki raflarda yer alır. Leğenlerin yanı sıra Bohemya camından, yontulmuş billurdan yapılmış nargileler dizilidir. Nargilelerin maroken hortumları vardır. Mevsim yaz olduğundan müşteriler kapının önündeki peykeye oturmuştur. Buradan Tepebaşı’ndaki Küçük Mezarlık ta görüldüğü için, müşteriler kimi zaman da oradaki selvilere ve Mezarlık Caddesi’ne doğru sarkan mezar taşlarına bakmakla vakit geçirirler…

19. yüzyılın ikinci yarısında Beyoğlu’nda en çok rastlanan şeylerden biri de sedyedir. Bu, bir çeşit tahtaravandır. Pehlivan yapılı ve acı kuvvetli iki uşak-hamal tarafından taşınan bu sedyelerle yabancı uyrukluların varlıklı olanları kiliseye götürülürdü.Kışın yabancı elçilik binalarının, “Unıon Française”, “Teutonia” gibi kulüplerin, Pera Palas Oteli’nin ve “Naum Tiyatrosu” nun önü de bu sedyelerle dolup taşardı…
Sakızağacından yapılan bu sedyelerin ücreti, çorbacıya verilirdi. Ama taşıyıcılar da müşteriden ayrıca bahşiş alırlardı. Sermet Muhtar Alus, taşıyıcıların piyano hamalı gibi giyindiklerini söyler. Mor fesleri, camadan yelekleri, yün kuşakları, üzerine basılmış yumurta ökçe pabuçlarıyla bunlar Yunanlı gençlerdi…

1865 yıllarında Taksim Caddesi’ndeki “Arşak’ın Kahvesi” çok nam salmıştır. Buraya Jön Türkler de gelir… Akşamları kahveyi ince saz coşturur. İnce saz, çoğunlukla Kör Sebuh’un yönetimindedir.
Jön Türklerin bir arada göründükleri bir yer de “Café Flamme”dır. Fransız Bilim Akademisi üyelerinden ve biyolojide dönüşümcü kuramı savunanlardan Edmond Perrier İstanbul’a geldiğinde burada Sadullah Paşa, Münif Paşa, Ethem Paşa ve bütün Cemiyet-i İlmiye-i Osmani üyeleriyle buluşup konuşur.Şinasi ve Namık Kemal ile de bu kahvede tanışmıştır.
Café Flamme’da çalgı ve şarkı da vardır.Yalnız, şarkıcılar burada alafranga söylerler. En ünlüleri de Fransız şarkıcı Rizette’dir. Ne var ki, müşteriler Rizette’den çabuçak bıkacak, o da adını Finette’e çevirerek Alhambra şarkılı kahvesine geçecek ve Ahmet Mithat Efendi’nin dediği gibi, binlerce gaz ışını arasında bir defa daha parlamak yolunu araştıracaktır…
Flamme Kahvesinde garsonlar hep kızdır. Gece yarısından sonra evlerine dönerken müşterilerden birinin kendilerine eşlik etmesine ses çıkarmazlar. Dahası, gecenin o ilerlemiş saatinde müşterileri bir de kendi evlerine dönme yorgunluğundan kurtarmak için (!) onları yataklarına alırlardı.. Kahvede şampanya şişelerini patlattıranlar, o gece kızlardan birini alıp gideceklerine iyice inanırlar. Ama kimi zaman kızlardan şöyle karşılık alınır : “Özür dilerim, Bu gece eşlik için bir efendiye söz verdim. Başka bir zaman da sizin eşliğinizi kabul ederim..”
19. yüzyılın sonlarına doğru Beyoğlu’ndaki kahveler, meyhaneler, içkili yerler daha da çoğalır. Ahmet Rasim yüzyılımızın başında Tünel’le Galatasaray arasında en az on beş kahve ve gazinonun adını sayar. Bunların çoğu, gündüz kahve, gece meyhane, çalgılı gazino durumundadır. En tanınmışları da “Café Couronne” ile Aznavur Pasajındaki “Café de Commerce” dir.
Couronne dar ve pis kokuludur. Ama müşteriden de içeriye girilemez. Kemençeye dördüncü teli eklemek hünerini gösteren Kemençeci Vasil oranın bülbülüdür. Pahalı mı pahalı bir yerdir…Ahmet Rasim : ” İki şişe düz rakı, üç tabak mezeye yarım İngiliz verince insan hemen ayılır” der.. Couronne’un karşılıklı iki duvarı aynalarla kaplanmıştır. Böylece ayna, ayna içinde görünür. Bunlar, iki sıra boyunca yanmakta olan gazları da gözün uzanabildiği yere kadar çoğaltır..
Pahalılıkta Commerce de, Couronne’dan geri kalmaz. Burada da bir süre dinlenmek için Mecidiyeyi gözden çıkarmak gerekir. Düz rakı içildiği zaman da Couronne’da ödenen para ödenir. Ahmet Rasim buraya gelirken ceplere mandalina, elma sıkıştırılmamasını öğütler. Onu dinlemeyecek olursanız bunların da parasını vermek zorunda kalırsınız !..
Bu arada, yukarıda iki kez adı geçen “Düz Rakı” dan da bahsedelim… Rakının yakın geçmişe kadar adı, anason yerine sakız katılan ve “mastika” denilen sakız rakısından ayırt edilmek için, “Düz Rakı” idi..Buna kısaca “düz” diyenler de vardır. Küçük Virjin’in  bir kantosunda yer aldığı gibi :

Mastika, düz hoş olur
Rakı içen sarhoş olur
Kalmadı rakı parası
Elimde kadeh yarası
Yandı ciğer kebap oldu
Vefasız yar yüzünden
Benim halim harap oldu…

Commerce’de nargile de içilir. Bir bilardo salonu da vardır. Bamkota ( Ters yönde giden iki bilardo topunun üçüncü top tarafından vurulması), Karambol (Üç topun çarpışması), İtalyan ve İspanyol bilardoları, en çok oynanan oyunlardandır.
Concordıa, Fransızların caf-conc (café-concert) adını verdikleri çalgılı yerlerdendir. Ayrıca gizli bir kumar salonu da vardır. Bu gizli kumar salonuna Crıstal’de de rastlanır. Her iki kahvenin sahipleri de yabancı uyruklu oldukları için, polis görevlileri buraya baskın yapamaz. Fehim Paşa’nın hafiyeleri de giremez. Cristal’de bütün garsonlar, Café Flamme’da olduğu gibi kızdır…
Missirie, Cadde-i Kebir’dedir. 1860-70 yıllarının hemen hemen en lüks otel ve lokantasıdır. Asıl adı Hotel d’Angleterre’dir. Burayı Jacques Missirie diye biri tuttuğu için onun adıyla anılır…

İşte o dönemlerdeki meşhur Beyoğlu mekanlarından bazıları… Bu mekanlarda geçen bazı olayları ve olay kahramanı olan ünlüleri de bir başka yazıda aktarırım…  
 Salah Birsel…