Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Greek View of the Ottoman City: Izmir/Smyrna (Part II)

[1] View of Izmir by Constantinos Kaldis, 1845. Benaki Museum, Athens
In the second installment of our two-part series on Constantinos Kaldis's views of Ottoman cities, Stambouline looks at the port city of Izmir (Smyrna). As discussed in our first post, Kaldis was a Greek Orthodox priest living on the island of Lesbos. He was a talented print-maker, and produced engravings not only of a religious nature, but also city views of the nearby Ottoman metropolises. These prints, most likely created for the local merchants of the island, offer an unique opportunity to consider the relationship of these communities with the major trading hubs that they so often frequented. 

This print is also located in the Benaki Museum in Athens. The inscription at the bottom informs us, in both Greek and Ottoman Turkish, that this is a view of the port of Izmir (Θεορία Σμύρνης μαιζοριοθέσα παρά τουλλιμενος, رسم ازمير ياليسى) that was executed by Kaldis ("of the city of Plomari, Lesbos") in 1845,  actually done a few years earlier than the print of Istanbul discussed in the first post. The fact that the print--done by a Greek Orthodox priest--is labeled in both Greek and Ottoman Turkish testifies to the linguistic fluidity of the area.


[2] Close-up of the "Frankish Quarter" at the Port. 
In the print, Kaldis gives visual emphasis to the row of buildings located along the shore in Izmir's port, with the rest of the city receding into the distance. He also lends prominence to the dozens of ships moored in the harbor itself. Izmir was ostensibly the port of the Ottoman region of Aydın, but its commercial influence extended to Konya, Antalya, Bursa and Ankara. The city stood in the 19th-century as one of the most important trading centers within the empire. Consequently, Ottoman entrepreneurs and foreign merchants formed a key demographic in Izmir's cosmopolitan elite, whose homes and trades are emphasized in Kaldis's print. This area along the shore has been labeled in Greek as the "Frankish quarter" (Φραγγο μαχαλας). [2] The consulates and trading offices of different countries can be identified in the print by the various flags waving above the buildings, which appear to be Italianate in style with their multiple stories accented with rows of arcades and columns. From left to right, you can see the flags of Austria-Hungary, Russia (St. Andrew's flag), the Netherlands (?), France, Greece, Great Britain, and the USA. The star and crescent of the Ottoman Empire flies to the right of the Frankish quarter. What these flags represent is the significant presence of foreign trading companies in the city; some of these mercantile relationships go back hundreds of years, while others are quite new. Perhaps most indicative of this print's date in the mid-19th century are the flags of Greece (est. 1822) and the United States, who by that point had gained an increasing role in the trade networks of Izmir. What these flags also represent, notably, is that no single nationality ever gained a monopoly on the port. The buildings located on the seaside are most likely trading houses owned by various international firms: the building flying the Dutch flag, for example, was most likely the house of Henry, John and Thomas March, and likewise the Levant Trading Company for Great Britain. 


[3] Close-up of the Ships in the Harbor. 
The fleet of boats moored in the harbor [3] reflects both coastal and deep-sea ships waiting for their cargo to set sail to the nearby ports of Aleppo or Iskenderun or to more far-flung entrepots like Antwerp, London, Marseilles, or New York. Kaldis shows the larger vessels, bedecked like the trading offices with representing flags, as having anchors down and accessed by smaller rowboats from the shore. Another element that locates this print uniquely in the mid-19th century is the representation of steamships, with their smokestacks cheerily churning out large plumes of smoke. Steam power had only been recently introduced to Izmir in the 1830s, with the result being able to connect smaller ports on the Aegean, such as Lesbos, with the large hub at Izmir. Being located due north of Izmir along the western coast of Turkey, Lesbos (Mytilene) could be considered as an internal network of the wider Izmir trading community. The local merchants who worked within these networks--mostly Greeks, Jews and Armenians--functioned as intermediaries for arranging the transport of goods from local producers to the European merchants in Izmir. For example, Lesbos was known particularly for their wheat and olive oil production. It is therefore small wonder that Kaldis would depict scenes and activities that would have been intimately understood by his local community. 


[3] Detail of the "Old Castle".
In the upper portion of the print, Kaldis shows us the periphery of Izmir, the city being framed by an upper ridge capped top with the ancient fortress of Kadifekale, labeled in the engraving as the "old castle" (Καστρον Παλαιον). [3] Behind this crest is the hinterland of the city, with small villages tucked away between the fields and orchards. This is not an untamed wilderness; Kaldis shows us a cultivated landscape that is very much connected to the economic life of the metropolis. 





[4] Detail of Izmir's hinterland.
In the upper section it is possible to see mills, a factory powered with steam or coal, as well as a larger town with estates and infrastructure projects, with a large bridge spanning a river that leads into the Aegean. [4] The emphasis placed on representing the wider area around Izmir and its economic activities *may* tangentially reflect a free-trade agreement brokered in 1838 between the Ottoman Empire and multiple European countries. After this treaty, western merchants were allowed to extend their trade networks into Izmir's hinterland. At any rate, the print testifies to the broader economic system feeding the trade activity at the central port. 


[5] Detail of Bornova.
[6] Smyrna, Bornova. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot,
1873. Private Collection.
Last, in the extreme upper-left corner of the engraving, Kaldis shows us another large settlement close to Izmir, labeled as "Bornova" (Βορνοβα). [5] The area of Bornova played an important role in the wealthy elites of 19th-century Izmir; in a similar fashion to the relationship between the yalıs on the Boshporus and Istanbul, many Levantine and foreign families constructed large mansions in the nearby Bornova. In the summer they would retire from their offices and residences in the city and retreated to these estates that offered a respite from the punishing heat with cooler mountain breezes. In a painting from the 1870s, the French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot captures the idyllic scenery of the location, as opposed to the bustle of Izmir's port. [6] Kaldis locates the mansions along an inlet to the sea, with a handful of ships moored along the water. He represents the mansions of Bornova as a row of large homes with pitched roofs and wide entrance portals. From port to hinterland, in one engraving Kaldis has managed to describe visually an entire way of life, both economic and social, for the European, American and Levantine communities in one of the major port cities of the Ottoman Empire.  


FRANGAKIS-SYRETT, Elena. "Commerce in the Eastern Mediterranean from the Eighteenth to Early Twentieth Centuries: The City-Port of Izmir and Its Hinterland." International Journal of Maritime History, Vol. X, No. 2 (December 1998), pp. 125-154.
ZANDI-SAYEK, Sybil. Ottoman Izmir: The Rise of a Cosmopolitan Port 1840/1880. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.


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