E-Turks in the Philhellenic Works
When Edward Said points out that the West inherited much of the traditional hatred of Islam as the enemy of Christendom(90), he notes the significance of the 1820s, a crucial decade in the formation of Orientalism since it was dominated by the Greek War of Independence between Christian Greeks and Muslim Turks and Egyptians. The political conflict between the Muslim Turks and the Christian Greeks, was based on three main factors reinforcing each other in the Greek rebellion against the Turks (nationalism, commerce and the weakness of Turkey) according to Martin Bernal, who states that 'all are related; to the extent that Europe can be identified with Christendom. Christian reaction is concerned with the continuation of European hostility and intensification of the tension between Egyptian religion and Christianity'(91). As Christianity and Europe were presumed to be a highly compatible combination, the two could come together with the idea of civilisation in a philhellenic movement which sided with Christian Europe and the Greeks in their struggle against old Asia and the infidel Turks (Black Athena, 131).

On religious and cultural grounds, the idealisation of the Greeks as the symbol of liberty paved the way to a great enthusiasm for Greece as Shelley states:

Since Shelley never visited the East, his attitudes toward the East were far removed from reality, something that is clearly comprehensible in his The Revolt of Islam and Hellas. Especially in Hellas his initial object was to suggest that the Greek heritage would survive even if modern Greece were under the tyranny of the Turks.

Islam, for Shelley, was a form of tyranny which might prevail at night, but would vanish at the break of the day. Having no first hand knowledge of the region and Islam, he was inspired by books such as Beckford's Vathek, Ockley's History of Saracens, Moore's Lalla Rookh and Southey's Thalaba. Accordingly, from his poems Islam appears as the religion of the Turks, the persecutors of the Greeks whom he regarded as his own ancestors as well as the ancestors of the civilised world. He does not really distinguish between the 'tyrant' and the tyrant's religion, since he believes each is fostered by the other(93).

In spite of Shelley's passionate rhetoric, the most well-known philhellenic figure of the Romantic era was Lord Byron on account of his participation in the Greek War of Independence. Replacing writing with active service, he organised an expedition to assist in the Greek War of Independence against the Turks. Since his own works had helped to activate European enthusiasm for the Greek cause, he now felt honour bound to see what could be done. He also considered the Ottoman Empire as an example of Asiatic and African decadence, corruption, and cruelty: ‘The barbarians of Genghiz Khan and Tamerlane are arrived in the nineteenth century. War to the death has been declared against European religion and civilisation’(94).

Despite his non-dogmatic attitude toward Islam as a faith, Byron's main concern - if not sympathetic - was the sensual element in the Muslim life style, on the one hand, and the Muslims' treatment of women, on the other. In The Giaour a metaphorical parallelism can be seen between the characters of the poem and political incidents during the Turco-Greek conflict in the nineteenth century, i.e. Leila, the symbol of beauty, and Greece, the symbol of freedom caught in the hands of the tyrant symbolised by Hassan, her master. Leila's revolt against her master, freeing herself from his grip by deliberately choosing to fall in love with his enemy, symbolises Greece's rise to free herself by fighting against her oppressors (Oriental Elements, 39-44).

Byron both offered a range of images of helpless, sensual females and espoused the Greek cause. In order to express his supportive feelings he chose a historical victim rather than an imaginative one in Childe Harold; Greece under the Turkish yoke. The lines about Greece in this poem certainly excited European philhellenic sentiment for the Greek Cause, but Byron's main interest lay in the theme of the torturer and tortured, the tyrant and the slave, the persecutor and the persecuted, the avenger and the avenged.

Other writers such as Victor Hugo continued the same tradition, though as Jale Parla points out 'Hugo himself never travelled to the Near East'(95) In The Eastern Question and the Fortunes of the Turkish Myth in England and France (1978) Parla comments that Hugo wrote his poetry concerning Turkey under the influence of Byron and Chateaubriand:
The immediate sources of Hugo for the picturesque descriptions of Les Orientales were Chateaubriand and Byron. The Paintings of Delacroix also, with their exaggerated exoticism of Turkish soldiers, of the odaliks, inspired the main features of Hugo's Eastern fantasy (The Eastern Question, 59).

Hugo's “Clair de Lune” (published in Les Orientales, 1828), 'an improvisation of the theme of The Giaour' (The Eastern Question, 61), opens with an idyllic description of a sultana playing the guitar, gazing across the silent waters of the Bosphorus, and toward the end of the poem, the noise that disturbes the tranquillity of the scene, and the sultana's repose is that of a 'sack being thrown into the sea'(96). In addition, the poems in Les Orientales that celebrate philhellenic sentiment and an historical preoccupation with Greece are “Canaris”, “Enthousiasme” and “Navarin”. In Particular, “Navarin” was composed to celebrate the burning of the Ottoman fleet in 1827, and the opening song of freedom by the Greek hero Canaris is an ecstatic delineation of the themes of heroism and liberty (Les Orientales, 608).

F-The Crimean War: Some New Dimensions to the Image of the Turk

The myth that saw the Turks in terms of excessive or criminal sensuality began to decline in the second part of the nineteenth century following the serious defeat of the Ottoman Empire in alliance with France and Britain against the Russians in the Crimean War(97). The actual shift in how the image of Turkey was perceived goes back to the 1820s after the fiasco at Navarino Bay that exposed Turkey's military weaknesses to Europe and turned the Ottoman Empire into a caricature of power. John Carne stereotypes the Turks, once accused of having imperialist ideas, in his Letters from the East (1826) while he implicitly praises British vigour:

In the wake of Greece's independence (1829), Egypt under the command of Mehmed Ali Pasha and Russia appeared to be potential threats to the Ottoman Empire in decline. In these circumstances, to maintain the balance of powers in Europe by preventing the powerless Turkish Empire from collapsing under Russian or Egyptian aggression became a key issue on the western agenda. In 1849 Lord Palmerston, English Foreign Secretary raised the question in Parliament and proposed to give moral support to Turkey(99). After the Navarino defeat, it was hardly possible to come across depictions of Turk associated with power in western writing; images of weakness now dominated(100).

Disenchantment with Turkey was reflected in travel literature as the element of the quest that had also helped Turkey to become a myth lost its appeal. Thus, in various travel accounts such as Aubrey de Vere's Picturesque Sketches in Greece and Turkey (1850) and Gautier's Constantinople (1852) either disillusionment with a tottering empire making attempts at modernisation was emphasised or the elements of romance consisting mainly of such curiosities as the harem, Turkish women and the veil became attractive trappings.

Istanbul, the capital of the Empire, once the exotic land of the East, became the object of this shift in the Turkish myth. In Constantinople Gautier creates a double perspective of the imagined and the real, of illusion and reality. Through emphasising the necessity of disassociating the Arabian Nights atmosphere from the atmosphere of the Ottoman capital, he envisions Istanbul as a three-faced city: the Eastern city of the European imagination, the real city of poverty and misery, and the commercialising metropolis of the Near East, a parody(101).

When Nerval went to Istanbul for the second time in the 1840s he saw the city as a place with a double identification: the Istanbul of broad daylight, Europeanised, where the Turks wore the fez as a substitute for the hat, where the Levantine of the Pera read such newspapers as Journal de Constantinople, or L'Echo de Smyrne, or Le Moniteur Ottoman, where a western man would be accepted and served in a cafe more readily than would be a Muslim belonging to a different sect; and the city of the night and many tales in which he retains the Turkish myth(102). The Romantic orient had already become a legend of a distant past owing to the penetration of Europe into Istanbul in terms of the westernisation of the country.

During the year of the Crimean war (1854) and after, many Europeans of diverse professions came to Istanbul and witnessed the Ottoman Empire at a moment of complete helplessness, inefficiency and administrative incompetence despite the rhetoric of reform and modernisation. All this contributed a final blow to the Eastern myth of the powerful Turk. The books written during or after the Crimean War express disenchantment with the East, particularly with the Turks, brought about by the disillusionment of such a defeat.

Charles Dickens expresses his disappointment with the actual Turkish army - once powerful, barbarous and invincible, and remarks that 'there is no enthusiasm in martial ideals of glory. Our friends will go listlessly into the battle and listlessly out of it'(103). He also tends to show some sympathy for their situation:
I knew that in saying this, I am not according to popular or agreeable sentiment. The romantic notions of a Muslim Warrior are very different; but I know the Turkish soldier pretty well, and pity him sincerely for I know the causes which have sunk him so low (“The Roving Englishmen”, 142).

As regards his disillusionment with Istanbul, he describes an atrocious sea voyage to the historic city in his “Roving Englishmen”, ending with the exclamation, 'Oh no! We should have been off anywhere but in Turkey' (“The Roving Englishmen”, 143)

Subsequent to the decline of the Ottoman Empire caused by consecutive defeats such as those at Navarino and the Crimea, the image shifted again, becoming sometimes demeaning, sometimes critical and mocking, caricaturised by Victorian figures such as Bayle St. John and Thackeray. By mocking the Romantic image of the Turk in the form of comedy, St John attempts to ridicule the Orientals who imitate western costume:

Thackeray satirises Oriental romance and the realities of travel in Punch in the East, a series of articles he contributed to Punch, while he also attempts to mock the Romantic myth of Turkey in 'Mehmet Ali and the Sultan' in a mock-oriental style(105) by pretending to relate a visit from the rebellious Pasha to the Sultan, and describes the procession as Mehmet Ali approaches the serail: To sum up, there are so far a cluster of images: the vengeful pagan warrior; the tyrant; the lustful sultan; the cowardly ally; the deviant trader as well as drug producer, antique smuggler, perpetrator of genocide, etc. that cut across one another and sometimes are entirely contradictory, but which all coexist. Therefore, it seems quite difficult to mention a cluster of twentieth century images of Turkey utterly dissociated from the past, although a number of new representations such as political conspiracy, drug tafficking and antique smuggling has already emerged. As will be examined and discussed in the ensuing chapters with examples from thrillers and travel books, some reflections are repeated with their earlier historical connotations while others are reinterpreted with regard to twentieth century events i.e. the notion of historical brutality, which was previously attributed to the bloody wars between the Ottoman Turks and Europe, is now presented in the form of ethnic genocide, massacre and torture attributed to various civil wars in the country during the early twentieth century.



90-Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin Books, 1978), pp. 59-92.

91-Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985 (London: Free Association Books, 1987), p. 188. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Black Athena'.

92-P.B. Shelley, Hellas (London: Preface), pp. 290-91.

93-George K. Rishmawi, Oriental Elements in English Romantic Poetry: Shelley and Byron, Unpub. diss. (Univ. of New York, 1983) pp. 1-8. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Oriental Elements'.

94-Courrier Francais (7 June, 1821) noted in Dimakis, La guerre de L' independance grecque vue Francaise (periode 1821-1824): Contribution a l'etude de l'opinion publique et du mouvement philhellenique en France. 1968, p.123.

95-Jale Parla, The Eastern Question and the Fortunes of the Turkish Myth in England and France, Unpub. diss. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University, 1978), p. 58. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its shortened title, 'The Eastern Question'.

96-Victor Hugo, Les Orientales in Oeuvres poetiques ed. Pierre Albouy. (Paris: Pleiade, 1964), p. 623. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Les Orientales'.

97-In the wake of the Anglo-Turkish commercial convention of 1833 in which the Ottoman government approved the abolition of the commercial monopolies throughout the Ottoman Empire, there seemed to be a new westernisation process in the region - a process which was supposed to be the final blow to abolish the established Turkish image. Since it was obvious that the Near Eastern markets had become very important for the expansion of British industry, as Puryear points out: 'the Manchester manufacturers were obliged to live on shirts for black men and brown men, and for the Muslim world', the Crimean War was to be a significant turning point in economic and political terms. The immediate expansion of British commercial activity in the Levant brought about the enlargement of the British consular representation in Turkey as well, in order to protect the British advantages in the region against Russia.

Until 1840 Southern Russia was the major grain producer and exporter in Europe, using Odessa for her exports, and the main rivalry between Russia and England took place in grain trade. England tried to develop other sources of supply and expanded her investment for grain production and trade in the Danubian Principalities. Therefore, the significance of Odessa, and consequently of the Straits for the wheat export of Russia became more crucial. In these circumstances, France and England felt themselves obliged to help Turkey against Russia in order to prevent a new powerful alternative being set up in the region. In other words, the Crimean War as a result of the Anglo-Russian competition for the Near Eastern markets, for the Straits, and for the exploitation of the Danubian Principalities for grain was a colonial war. Moreover, Louis Napoleon's desire to act in alliance with England, and his hopes to increase his legitimacy by exploiting a religious issue led France to enter the Crimean War. See: Vernon J. Puryear, International Economics and Diplomacy in the Near East, 1834-1852 (California: Archon, 1969), pp. 108-133.

On December 23, 1853, the British government sent orders to its fleet to protect  the Ottoman flag as well as Ottoman territory and to compel all Russian ships then in the Black Sea to return to Sebastopol, Russia refused this ultimatum as well as that of the Ottomans to leave the Principalities and broke off relations with Britain and France, who in return declared war (March 28, 1854), thus commencing the international conflict that came to be known as the Crimean War.

‘The war then became primarily a conflict in the Crimea between Russia and allied European expeditionary forces. The first allied landings took place near Sebastopol on September 14, 1854, and the allies made their preparations for the siege of the city. By the time the attack came in mid-October, the Russians were ready for an extended resistance, and the harsh winter months caused terrible suffering among the attacking forces. In the face of the British losses, the Ottomans signed an agreement to provide 20.000 soldiers and all needed supplies to help them fight on. The death of Czar Nicholas I (March 2, 1855) and the accession of Alexander II stimulated peace negotiations, but in the meantime the war continued. The Ottomans supported the allied forces at terrible expense while Florence Nightingale and her colleagues established a hospital service at the Selimiye barracks in Uskudar.

The war rhetoric was intended to erase the feeling of alienation felt towards Turkey and project it onto Russia. In other words, Russia would become an Oriental country while the Occident was extended to include Turkey, but eventually neither of them could be realised. Instead, the heavy financial strains on the new Tanzimat treasury forced the Ottoman government to take a series of foreign loans at such high rates of interest that, despite all the fiscal reforms that followed, it was pushed into unsolvable debts and economic difficulties that continued for the rest of the century’. See Stanford J. Shaw and Ezel Kural, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey vol.ii (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1977), pp. 138-9.

98-John Carne, Letters From the East (London: H. Calburn, 1826), p. 12.

99-Basil Kingsley Martin, The Triumph of Lord Palmerston: A Study of Public Opinions in England before the Crimean War (London: Allen and Unwin, 1924). Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text or footnotes, by mentioning its title, 'The Triumph of Lord Palmerston'.

100-The active maintenance policy of Lord Palmerston after 1840 created a considerable public opinion in the English parliament and the press by bringing about the argument for intervention if it became inevitable in order to protect Turkey from Russia. Endorsing the righteousness and political triumph of Lord Palmerston Basil Kingsley Martin also emphasises, as moral excuse, the weakness of Turkey in reference to the press that 'The Manchester Guardian at first agreed that Turkey was weak, but found this a reason not for deserting her, but for continuing our protection'. See: The Triumph of Lord Palmerston, p.125.

101-Theophile Gautier, Constantinople (Paris: Charpentier, 1918), p.6.

102-Gerard de Nerval, Voyage en Orient in Oeuvres ed. Albert Begein and Jean Riches (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), pp. 448-95.

103-Charles Dickens,”The Roving Englishmen” in Household Words (1854-1856), IX, p. 142. Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its shortened title, 'The Roving Englishmen'.

104-Bayle St. John, Turks in Europe: A Sketch of Manners and Politics in the Ottoman Empire (London: Chapman and Hall, 1853), p.79.

105-Marion H. Spielmann, ed Contributions of W.M. Thackeray to Punch from 1843 to 48 (London: Harper and Brothers, 1899). Further reference to this work will be given after quotations in the text, by mentioning its shortened title, 'Contributions of W.M. Thackeray'.