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The Meles was anciently the boast of the Smyrnéans. This most beautiful water, as it had been stiled, flowed by the city-wall, and had its sources not remote. The clear stream is shallow in summer, not covering the rocky bed, but winding in the deep valley behind the castle, and murmuring among the ever-greens. It receives many rills from the sides; and, after turning an over-shot mill or two, approaches the gardens without the town, where it is branched out by small canals, and divided and subdivided into lesser currents, until it is absorbed, or reaches the sea, at the end of the Frank street, in ditches, unlike a river. But in winter, after heavy rains on the mountains, or the melting of snow, it swells into a torrent, rapid and deep, often not fordable, or with danger.. .
On the north of Smyrna, the sea enters a recess, in which is the road, where ships careen. This inner bay is called by the English sailors, Peg's Hole. The Meles, when full, pursues its way thither, instead of losing itself in the gardens. There also the first Smyrna was situated. - Old Smyrna was about twenty stadia, or two miles and a half, from the present city, and on the other side of the river. It is described as near the sea, with the clear stream of the Meles running by, and existed in the second century. Perhaps some vestiges might be discovered, even now, in tracing the river toward the bay. This is less wide than it was antiently, and has been removed from the site, by a large accession of low land, formed of soil, washed from the mountains near, or of mud and slime brought down by the torrents.
Pococke* has described several very ancient sepulchres on the side of the hill, more to the west than Bonavre, and near the corner of the bay, which, I should suppose, are reliques of old Smyrna. The plainest sort consists, as he relátes, of a raised ground in a circular form, of stones hewn out, or laid in a rough manner. In these are generally two graves, sunk in the earth, made of hewn stone, and covered over with a large stone. The others are circular mounts, from twenty to sixty feet in diameter, walled round, as high as their tops, with large rusticated stones; and have within, under ground, a room, which in some is divided into two apartments. The walls are all of good workmanship, constructed with a kind of brown bastard granite, the produce of the country, wrought very smooth; the joinings as fine as in polished marble. Some of the English had opened one of the former sort, and found an urn in it. I visited an old Turkish cemetery of considerable extent by Bonavre: and regret that I was not then apprised of these curious remains.
* P. 93.
The Smyrnéans were originally of Ephesus, but had seceded, and, after dispossessing the Leleges, founded the city above mentioned. They were expelled in turn by the Æolians of Cyme, and retired to Colophon; but a party pretending to be fugitives, obtained re-admission, and, while the people were celebrating a feast of Bacchus without the walls, shut the gates. A general war was likely to follow between Æolia and Ionia, but it was at length agreed, that the town should deliver up all the effects of the late inhabitants, who were to be distributed among the Æolian cities. The territory of Smyrna had supplied corn for exportation, and the place was then become a considerable emporium. The Lydians destroyed this city, and the Smyrnéans subsisted four hundred years as villagers, before they settled on Mount Pagus.
It was the Æolian Smyrna, which claimed the glory of producing Homer. Critheis, his mother, it is related, going in * company with other women out of the town, to observe a festival, was delivered of him near the Meles, and named him Melsegenes. This story is dated ten years after the building of Smyrna, and one hundred and fifty-eight after the war of Troy. We may regret that the pleas of all the cities, which disputed the honour of his birth, are not on record. The place and time are equally unascertained ; and it has been observed, that the poet has mentioned neither the Meles nor Smyrna.*
The history of Homer, it is remarkable, is scarcely more obscure than that of another poet of Smyrna, who has likewise written on the Trojan war. This person indeed tells us, in an address to the Muses, that he had been inspired by them with his whole song before the down covered his cheeks, while he fed sheep in the te ritory of Smyrna, by the temple of Diana, on a mountain of a middling height, three times as far from the Hermus as a man, when he hollows, can be heard. His work, containing a sequel to the Iliad in fourteen books, was found by cardinal Bessarion in the church of St. Nicholas near Hydrús, a city of Magna Græcia ; and by him communicated to the learned. The name of Quintus, perhaps the owner, was inscribed on the manuscript; and the author has been since called by it, with the addition of Smyrnæus or Calaber. He appears to have been well acquainted with the country in wbich he lived, and has left some valuable descriptions of its antiquities and natural curiosities.
The bed of the river Meles, behind the castle, is crossed by
* Strabo, p. 554.
a lofty aqueduct, which, when we saw it, had been recently repaired, and then supplied the fountains in Smyrna. Higher up is one larger, but ruinous; and near this is a remnant of an ancient paved causey, which led over the hills from Smyrna toward Ephesus and Colophon. The stones are smooth, broad, and massive. By the aqueduct are several petrifications, and one, of which an aged tree was the mould. The wood has perished, but the large hollow trunk, which incrusted it, is standing. The Meles rises above the aqueducts, out of a dry course deep-worn by torrents from the mountains.
The Smyrnéans were extremely jealous of their property in Homer. They distinguished a brass coin or medal by his name; and an Homerium, his temple and image surrounded with a quadrangular stoa or portico, stood in the new city. They likewise shewed a cave, by the sources of the Meles, where they said he had composed verses. I searched for this, and in the bank above the aqueduct, on the left hand, discovered a cavern, about four feet wide, the roof a huge rock, cracked and slanting, the sides and bottom sandy. The mouth, at which I crept in, is low and narrow; but there is another avenue, wider and higher, about three feet from the ground, and almost concealed with brambles. It may be entered also from above where the earth has fallen in. Beyond it we found a passage cut, leading into a kind of well, in which was a small channel designed to convey water to the aqueduct. This was dry, but near it was a current with a like aperture.
The river god, Meles, is represented on medals leaning on an urn with a cornucopia in his hand, to signify that he dispensed fertility; or bearing a lyre, as a friend to the Muses. He has been much extolled by the ancient poets, and raised, from his supposed connexion with Homer to a king of preeminence among the river deities. A sophist,* alluding to epithets bestowed by Homer, says of the Meles, that, boasting of such a son, he needed not envy the silver-vortexes of one river ; or another, his smoothness; a third, that he is termed divine; or a fourth, beautiful ; Xanthus or Scamander, the river near Troy, his descent from Jupiter; nor the Ocean, that he styled their general parent.
The gulph of Smyrna-Menimen—The river Hermus—The
strait—The shoals—The plain of the Hermus—The mouthOf Leuce—The extremity of the plain-Of Phocéa-Future changes to be expected.
The gulph of Smyrna, which has been computed about ten leagues long, is sheltered by hills, and affords secure anchorage. The mouth of the Hermus is on the north side, within two leagues and a half of the city. The mountain, , which bounds the bay of old Smyrna on the north, extends westward to a level plain, in which the river runs. This, with the Meander, was anciently famous for a fish called glanis, and for mullet; which came up from the sea in great numbers, particularly in spring.
The fertility of the soil by the river, and the plenty of water for the uses of gardening and agriculture, with other advantages, has occasioned the settling of numerous villages on that side of the gulf. Menomen, or, as it is commonly called, Menimen, is the principal, and supplies Smyrna with
* See Philostratus.