Anatolian Studies v.24 (1974) p. 135-41

Ties linking Britain with Ankara go back many centuries; probably the earliest evidence of them was published by David French in the last number of this Journal,1 in the form of a letter from Ambassador William Harborne to James Towerson dated to 1583; other evidence can certainly be gleaned from the extensive papers of the long extinct Levant Company.2 The present writer is able to point to a little more evidence formerly visible in Ankara itself.

Angora, the modern Ankara, now so easily reached by rail and air services, under the ancien regime must have seemed to Europeans almost forbiddingly remote.

The wildest guesses were made about its population and opinions fluctuated as to its attractions and importance. In 1770, the French traveller, Tournefort3 gave its population as 40,000 Moslems, 5,000 Armenians and 600 Greeks. Pococke (1737) speaks of 10,000 Christians.4 Poujoulat (1836-7) describes it, apart from Nicomedia [İzmit], as the poorest Turkish town he had seen. He estimated its population as 20,000 Turks, 3,000 Catholic Armenians, 700 Greeks and 500 Jews.5 Yet in 1834-7 von Tschihatscheff6 spoke of it as having 8,000 Catholic Armenians, 500 Armenians of the national church, and 1,500 Greeks. Mordtmann7 in 1859 described Angora romantically as “die Perle Kleinasiens” [the pearl of Asia-minor], though he commented on its lack of water.

As David French has shown, the London merchants were already seeking business openings in Turkey in the sixteenth century. In 1583, the year of Harborne’s letter, Queen Elizabeth granted twelve merchants, called the Levant Company, a monopoly of English trade with Turkey.8 Gifts were sent to the Sultan Mehmet III from the Queen and Hayluyt has preserved for us a most picturesque account of their reception at the brilliant court of the Sultan, in particular of the mechanical organ made by Mr. Thomas Dallam which formed the most precious of Queen’s gifts.9 In fact, that lady was too thrifty to pay for the gifts herself, but charged the expense to the London merchants. The Company established “Factories”, that is to say, trading missions (the members of which were called “factors”), at Constantinople, Smyrna and Aleppo; and it is doubtless to the last of these enterprises that the witches of Macbeth allude.

The English were not alone. From the 1590s Dutch merchants also appeared, under the protection of the Levant Company. Later they became formidable business rivals as well as enemies, but by the end of the seventeenth century their competition had been almost eliminated. By 1675 the chief centre of British trade with Turkey was no longer Constantinople but Smyrna. Henry Teonge, a naval padre and a sturdy patriot, visited Turkey the next year in Sir John Marlborough’s squadron, and in his diary reports that “here [at Smyrna] is a brave factory of one hundred men”.10 He also adds that “Scanderoon” (i.e. Alexandretta, [İskenderun], the port of Aleppo) “hath three factories which are all the graces of the town, the English factory exceeding that of the French as it doth that of the Venetians. And on the 22nd of November last, there was a third story added to the English factory in which it exceeds all the buildings in the town!”11 The merchants who lorded it in this place when alive, were buried in the Greek Orthodox Church, and their tombstones were still there to be seen in 1945.12 Those who died in Smyrna were similarly housed by the Greek Church in a burial ground of a church dedicated to St. Veneranda.

From 1624 two factors were in residence in Angora,13 probably sent thither from Constantinople, to do trade in silks and mohair, the fine wool of the Angora goat which is still a stable product of those parts today. In the eighteenth century the representatives of the Company fell to one. At Angora they were buried by the Armenians, belonging to a monastery or convent called sometimes Vank, sometimes St. Mary of the Armenians. This church lay 1½ kms to the north of the city beside the stream named Çubuk Suyu (Fig. 1), Mamboury says it was a building of the XIIth century.14 It was clearly an extremely ancient building, and a tradition recorded by Baedeker15 asserts that it replaced an ancient pagan temple, visited by the Apostle St. Paul. It seems to be first mentioned by a German visitor of the sixteenth century, Hans Dernschwam.16 The church of St. Mary was the seat of the Catholic Armenian Bishop, whose authority, according to another traveller in the early nineteenth century, William Hamilton, reached as far as Tokat. Hamilton found five or six monks there “whose manners were rude and coarse”.17 But their church was neat and rather handsomely decorated with gildings, paintings and coloured tiles from Kütahyah.18 All European merchants, he was told, who died at Angora were buried in the cemetery attached to the convent, and several English names attested to the former existence of a flourishing factory. He copied there many Greek and Latin inscriptions. The French traveller, Tournefort, visited it in 1700 and saw “beautiful ancient marbles, columns, architraves, bases, capitals…several inscriptions, of which the most remarkable is (a dedication) to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Perhaps”, he adds, “the bust nearby is that of the Emperor”.19 Unhappily, the church was destroyed before 1933; no illustrations appear to have survived, but its site can be noticed on old maps (Fig. 1). The site, however, though not open to the general public, was visited by a Turkish colleague, Bay Nezih Fıratlı, with the present writer in 1945. A much defaced bust of a bearded man with a snake recovered by us on the spot, though hardly of the type Marcus Aurelius, could be recognised as possibly the identical bust seen by Tournefor. Dr. Fıratlı suggests that it is more probably a local type of Zeus, or Asklepios.20 In addition, we also recovered the fine inscribed altar published by Macpherson in the last number of Anatolian Studies21. In the cemetery of the church, Tournefort saw and copied the tombstones of a Scotsman, John Roos, who died 22nd June, 1668, aged 35 (epitaph: Hodie mihi, cras tibi, i.e. “My turn today, yours tomorrow”) and one of Samuel Farrington, son of Acidwall Farrington, “a London merchant”, who died in 1660 aged 23, These stones have disappeared.

Our inspection of the ground in 1945 however, disclosed other graves of the same sort. Inscribed, like the others, in Latin were the following epitaphs: of William Black, who died 30th (?) July, 1684 and Henrico Davie, who died 6th April, 1703, aged 47, both stated to be English merchants; Theodore Lecker, a Dutch merchant, who died 2nd February, 1679 and Joseph Guieu, a French merchant, who died in 1770. The first two stones were removed to a place of greater safety.

[D?]IE 30 JULIUS Ao 1684

…TIS SUÆ 47 ANos

 Epitaphs of European merchants.

An approach was made to the Turkish Department of Antiquities, with a suggestion that this site of deep European interest be protected as a monument, but unfortunately this was not achieved.

What finally became of this little colony? Sir Edwin Pears,22 in 1911, says that in his day no Englishman resided in Angora. Yet there still existed there some families of Greeks who were proud of showing English books which had belonged to their ancestors, probably English or Scotsmen who had married Greeks. Perhaps among them were the Farringtons and Davies and their children.

Outline sketch of Angora showing position of the Church of St. Mary of the Armenians (adapted from the map of Major von Vincke, 1839; reproduced in Mamboury, Ankara, 1933).

1 David French: “A Sixteenth Century English Merchant in Ankara”, AS. XXII, 1972. I am grateful to Dr. and Mrs. French for great help in pursuing the inscriptions mentioned below and for helpful references. return to main text

2 A.C. Wood: A History of the Levant Company, Oxford 1935, repr. 1964. return to main text

3 Pitton de Tournefort: Relation d’un Voyage du Lévant, 2 vols. (Paris, 1717), Vol.II, p.463. [=Lyon edition, III, p.334.] return to main text

4 R. Pococke: A Description of the East and Some Other Countries (London, 1745), Vol. II Part 2, “Observations on Asia Minor”, p.89. return to main text

5 Baptiste Poujoulat: Voyage dans l’Asie Mineure, 1836-7. 2 vols. Paris, 1840. return to main text

6 P. von Tschihatscheff: Reisen in Kleinasien und Armenien 1847-1863 in Dr. A. Petermann, Mitteilungen…über wichtige neue Erfoschung, Ergänzugsband IV, Gotha, 1867. return to main text

7 A.D. Mordtmann: Anatolien: Skizzen und Reisebriefe aus Kleinasien (1850-59): ed. Babinger, Hanover, 1925. return to main text

8 Wood, op.cit. return to main text

9 The gifts consisted in 1593 of silver and rich garments and other suitable lesser gifts to the officials of the Sultan’s household. Laer followed the mechanical organ with performing figures of trumpeters and birds, silver ornaments and a gilded coach for the Sultana, eventually presented on the accession of Mehmet III in return for the renewal of capitulations. The coach and organ arrived with Mr. Dallam only in the autumn of 1599 on the ship Hector. See Rosedale, Queen Elizabeth and the Levant Company, London, 1904. return to main text

10 Henry Teonge; Diary of, 1675-1679, London 1825. return to main text

11 Ibid return to main text

12 Major I. E. Gray: “The British merchants of Alexandretta”, Genealogists’ Magazine, March 1945 (gives the epitaphs of five merchants). return to main text

13 Wood, op. cit. p.72 return to main text

14 Mamboury, Ankara: Guide Touristique (French ed. 1933) p. 142. “Les Arméniens….avaient aussi au monastère de Vank, datant du milieu du XIIe s. sur la route d’Ettlik, un cimetière plus ancient rempli de fragments remployés d’époque romaine”. return to main text

15 Baedeker, Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1905) p. 164: “von dort (Tal des Tabak Hanesu) gelangt man weiter in ½ St. zu dem in der Nähe der Akköprü (“weissen Brücke”) über den Tschibuksu…gelegenen armenischen Kloster Wank. Hinter einem Narthex steht einarchteckiger durch seiben Nischen erweiterter Bau, der von einer Kuppel bedeckt ist und dem sog. Tempel der Minerva Medica in Rom gleicht. Nach der Tradition ersetzte er einem antiken Tempel und diente früher dem Griechischen Kult; der Aposel Paulus soll hier geweilt haben. In der Apsis schöne Fayencen; unter dem Fussboden gewaltige tiefe Unterräume.” return to main text

16 Hans Dernschwams Tagebuch einer Reise nach Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1553-65) ed. Babinger, Studien zur Fuggergeschichte 7, pp. 188-9. [Reference from D. French. return to main text

17 W. J. Hamilton: Researches in Asia Minor, Pontus and Armenia (2 vols. London 1842): vol. I, p. 424. He calls the church impolitely “the convent of the schismatic Armenians”, i.e. those in communion with Rome. return to main text

18 Some of these tiles are said to be preserved in the Ethnographic-Archaeological Museum depot in Ankara: J. Carswell, Kütahya tiles and pottery from the Armenian cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem (1972) II, p. 15 and n. 9. (I owe this reference to Mr. David French). return to main text

19 Tournefort, op. cit. II, pp. 455-6, 459-61: “Le château d’Angora est à triple enceinte…on nous condisit dans la premiere enceinte à une Eglise Armenienne bâtie, à ce que l’on pretend, sous le nom de la Croix depuis 1200 ans. [sic! This is impossible: but a 6th century date is not excluded.] “Elle est fort petite & fort obscure, eclairée en partie par une fenêtre, qui ne reçoit le jour qu’au travers d’une piece quarrée de marbre semblable à de l’albastre poli, & luisant comme du Talc, mais il est terne en dedans & la lumiere qui passé au travers est sensiblement rougeatre & tire sur la cornaline…Toute cette première enceinte est pleine de piédestaux, & d’Inscriptions; où est-ce qu’il n’y en a pas dans Angora? Un habilel Antiquaire y trouveroit à transcrire pendant un an” [10 texts then follow]. “Le cimetière des Chretiens est inépuisable en Inscriptions grecques & latines: mais la pluspart sont des Epitaphes de personnes pour lesquelles on ne s’interesse plus.” [Three inscriptions mentioning persons of some interest including a memorial altar set up by two persons Valens and Sanbatos, are then quoted.] “Hors la ville autour du Couvent de Ste Marie des Armeniens, parmi de beaux marbres antiques, des colomnes, architraves, bases, chapiteaux qui son auprès de la petite rivière de Chibouboujou [sic] se voyent plusieures Inscriptions, dont la plus remarquable est celle de M. Aurèle” [the dedication of Aelius Lycinus to the Emperor’s numen is then quoted]. “Peutêtre même que le Buste qui est auprès, est celui de cet Empereur. C’est un Buste de front, de deux pieds de haut sur vingt pouces de largeur: mais il est fort maltraité. Le marbre est gris veiné de blanc, de même que la piédestal qui le soutenoit.” [=Lyon edition, III, pp. 326-32.] return to main text

20 Asklepios is included in the neo-Phrygian or local pantheon represented on the rock-relief at Hasanoğlan; R. D. Barnett “The Phrigian Rock-Façades and the Hittite Monuments”, Bi Or. X (1953), 77 ff. and plate. return to main text

21 Ian Macpherson: “Six inscriptions from Galatia”, AS. XXII, 1972, p. 222, Fig. 5. Several other items were also transferred by us then for the sake of protection from this site to the ground of the Roman Baths at Ankara, where they still are. return to main text

22 Sir Edwin Pears, Turkey and its People (1911). return to main text

 Notes: The contents of this article were provided to me by long term Istanbul resident, Mrs Caroline Finkel, who shares my interest in the heritage of the Levantines. She is married to Andrew Finkel who is a writer on Turkish issues and is a frequent contributor to the culture magazine Cornucopia, a publication Mrs Finkel also contributes to and the husband and wife team shared the top 2 places in a recent poll of readers’ favourites. She has a Phd in Ottoman history from SOAS, has researched extensively in Ottoman archives and libraries, has written many articles and reviews for scholarly journals and also writes for the mainstream press on matters Ottoman.
Caroline Finkel is also the author of a recent book on the history of the Ottoman Empire, ‘Osman’s Dream’ [the story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923] (review) published by John Murray, July 2005. In addition she will be setting off with friends in September 2009 on a reenactment ride to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth in 1611 of the remarkable 17th century Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi. The riders will follow a route Evliya took in northwest Anatolia in 1671, will establish a cultural route for riders and walkers and it is hoped provide a model for sustainable tourism in the region. - info - blog -
The British Institute for Archaeology in Ankara, in whose publication this was published, is still very much active. Most of their work (apart from this article) deals with a period much before these European merchants were on the scene. The author Dr Barnett was the director of the British school at Ankara, probably in the late 1950s and maybe stretching back to the 1940s.
Click here to view photos of the marble sarcophagus cover of Sir William Hussey in Edirne, discovered and described by Mrs. Finkel.

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