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July 31, 2020

Greeks and Turks (Photios Kontoglou)

Greeks and Turks (by artist Johann Wilhelm Baur, 1636)

By Photios Kontoglou

By the time the Turks appeared in Asia Minor it was a small tribe. In order to multiply, they captured and converted the locals, most of whom were Greeks. In this diabolical way, which is said to have been advised by an imam, they became a great nation. But this artificial way of multiplying ceased at one point and they began to dwindle again. The German professor Krumbacher writes that as long as Turkey was nourished by the peoples it had enslaved and by the wealth it had amassed for centuries, it grew and grew stronger, until the fear of Europe came. But as those happy years passed, she began to drink her own blood, which could not be replaced by anything. As much as they had harems with many women and as much as they were masters in this country, they kept falling, instead of moving forward. Incessant and long-term conscription cooperated a lot to this, but more so unnatural debauchery and degeneration was the reason that the Turkish population was becoming more and more dilute, including bad administration, even though the Greek subjects had the same administration and in fact much worse.

The Greek endures much more than the Turk, because he has more life in him and his intelligence strengthens him, his spirit secures him, his hard work makes his life more pleasant and he is open-hearted and optimistic. While the Turk has many good things, he is kind, simplistic and hospitable, as if he has not been caught up by fanaticism, which makes him go from being a sheep to becoming a wild beast, but he is oppressed and indifferent, he does not like work, he does not have the fun that the Greek has, and this natural sluggishness of theirs is worse than their belief in "kismet", and so even his little activity is completely lost.

The Turks do not like the sea, the marine life and trade, so they leave the shore and pull in toward the middle of the land. While the Greeks lived mostly near the sea and traded in ships, going as far as Egypt, Romania, Russia, Trieste and Marseille. Close to trade, the Greeks had in their hands all the arts and every business.

After 1800 the Turkish population of Asia Minor became very thin and the government to strengthen it brought to the East many Turks from the countries that had been liberated, such as from Ancient Greece, Bosnia, Austria, Bulgaria and many Circassians from Russia, until 1900. These were the so-called Muhajir. But again, the immigrants could not strengthen the Turkish population. In fact, they brought great unrest to the East. Recently, the refugees from the Greek islands and Crete also went to Asia Minor and thus the difficulties increased, with all the vast land that the Turks have in their power.

Many European scientists, journalists and others who traveled to the East in recent years, especially before 1900, have written about this situation in Asia Minor and even admired how the Greeks could not be exterminated after what they suffered for centuries. Among them was the great French Geographer Reclus, Quinet (who writes that the Greeks are clearly descended from the Ancients), the Austrian Archaeologist Benndorf, Duetemple, Perrot, Henri Mathieu, the German Byzantine scholar Gelzeron, the German Philippson (who was one of the most enthusiastic), Rath, Archaeologist Humann, Deschamps, Schwinitz and many others. The Englishman Ramsay, who traveled in Asia Minor for twelve whole years, writes:

"In Turkish villages, women, from what I saw and heard, are weaker both in body and mind, because in their childhood they lived badly. The Greek women, however, made a great impression on me, because they are better and more moral than their husbands, well-groomed and smart. From this difference one must judge the future for the two races. The Greek women are the rich land that the future generations will unleash with power. While the Turkish women, as they are defective and exhausted, will give birth to children who are poor both in body and spirit. This is the reason why the Turkish people are increasingly degenerating."

And below that he says: "The camel driver is always a Turk or a Turkoman. But he who has his own camels and goods is a Christian."

The most important centers of Asia Minor culture were the following cities: Izmir, the most commercial port of the East, Ayvalik (Kydonies), the most Greek part of Asia Minor, Vourla, Aydın with its large bazaars, Magnesia, in a large plain, Pergamon, the old and the new Phocaea, very Greek cities, Adramyti, a very ancient city, Bursa, the famous city, the first capital of the Turks and many others. The white paper I have left is too little to write all the Greek cities of Asia Minor or at least those that had living Greeks, such as Sokia, Cesmes, Alatsata, Freneli, Moskonisia, Kemeri, Mountania, Kios, Michalitsi, Artaki, Panormos, Marmaras, Eski Sehir, Kioutacheia, Axari, Philadelphia, Kasambas, Nazli, Denizli, Antalya, Makri and many others. And who can count and narrate the Greek cities of Pontus, ancient castles of Hellenism, Trebizond, Kerasounta, Sinope, Kotyora, or the cities of Cappadocia, where the Holy Altar of Orthodoxy stood, Caesarea, Mouta Sinaso and so many others?

All Greeks, in every country, love their religion. But the people of Asia Minor love it even more. Asia Minor was Byzantium. The churches were innumerable. And everyone, young and old, even women knew how to chant. Tradition was alive in their hearts. During the years of slavery, many Christians were martyred and sanctified. They are written about in a book called "Great Martyrology". For the Greeks, religion is more important than for any other people. Religion and Homeland are together. As long as the Greek had faith, the various propagandas did nothing. Only now, when disbelief entered many Greek souls, and materialism and having a good time destroyed its spiritual sensitivity, now the various propagandas spread to our nation.

As a Christian, I want to see all people live like siblings, not to hate each other. The Greeks and the Turks lived close to each other for centuries. If I am not mistaken, the Greeks are more convenient for such a peaceful life. I do not say that because I am Greek, but because that is the truth. The fiery patriotism we have never degenerates into sly chauvinism. Nor do the Greeks hate foreigners, in fact they love them so much that they overdo it. The prisoners who were captured in the wars, the Italians, the Germans, the Turks, themselves testify that the Greek is generous to his enemies, that he quickly forgets the harm done to him by the other. The Jews, who were tortured and martyred in other countries, lived and still live in Greece as if they were in their own country and they say this with gratitude. The same goes for the Armenians. And this phenomenon is even more important if one thinks about our narrow borders and our poverty, at a time when other countries, rich and vast, cannot stand the foreigner who stepped on their soil. In no country does a foreigner, whoever he is, live as freely and as happily as in Greece - in small, poor and oppressed Greece.

Source: From the book Η Πονεμένη Ρωμιοσύνη (Suffering Romiosini), 1963. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.