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Grand Bazaar Essay Definition

This article is about the Grand Bazaar in Turkey. For the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, see Grand Bazaar, Tehran.

The Grand Bazaar (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı, meaning ‘Covered Market’; also Büyük Çarşı, meaning ‘Grand Market’[1]) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops[2][3] which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.[4] In 2014, it was listed No.1 among world's most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors.[5] The Grand Bazar at Istanbul is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world.


The Grand Bazaar is located inside the Walled city of Istanbul, in the district of Fatih and in the neighbourhood (mahalle) bearing the same name (Kapalıçarşı). It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci by trams (Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı stop).


The construction of the future Grand Bazaar's core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and was part of a broader initiative to stimulate economic prosperity in Istanbul. [6]SultanMehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles[1][7] and jewels near his palace in Constantinople.[8] It was named Cevâhir Bedestan ("Bedesten of Gems") and was also known as Bezzâzistan-ı Cedîd ("New Bedesten") in Ottoman Turkish. The word bedesten is adapted from the Persian word bezestan, derived from bez ("cloth"), and means "bazaar of the cloth sellers".[9] The building – named alternately in Turkish İç ("Internal"), Atik ("Ancient"), or Eski ("Old") Bedesten – lies on the slope of the third hill of Istanbul, between the ancient Foraof Constantine and of Theodosius. It was also near the first sultan's palace, the Old Palace (Eski Sarayi), which was also in construction in those same years, and not far from the Artopoleia (in Greek) (Άρτοπωλεία), the city's bakers' quarter in Byzantine times.[10]

The construction of the Bedesten ended in the winter of 1460/61, and the building was endowed to the waqf of the Aya Sofya Mosque. Analysis of the brickwork shows that most of the structure originates from the second half of the 15th century, although a Byzantine relief representing a Comnenian eagle, still enclosed on the top of the East Gate (Kuyumcular Kapisi) of the Bedesten has been used by several scholars as proof that the edifice was a Byzantine structure.[1]

In a market near the Bedesten, named in Turkish Esir Pazarı, the slave trade was active, a use also carried over from Byzantine times.[11] Other important markets in the vicinity were the second-hand market (Turkish: Bit Pazarı),[9] the "Long Market" (Uzun Carsi), corresponding to the Greek Makros Embolos (Μακρός Ὲμβολος, "Long Portico"), a long porticoed mall stretching downhill from the Forum of Constantine to the Golden Horn, which was one of the main market areas of the city,[12] while the old book market (Sahaflar Carsisi) was moved from the Bazaar to the present picturesque location near the Beyazid Mosque only after the 1894 Istanbul earthquake.

Some years later[13]—according to other sources,[11] this occurred in 1545 under Sultan Suleyman I—Mehmet II had another covered market built, the "Sandal Bedesten" (the name comes from a kind of thread woven in Bursa, which had the colour of sandalwood[14]), also named Küçük ("Little"), Cedit or Yeni (both words meaning "New") Bedesten, which lay north of the first.[citation needed]

After the erection of the Sandal Bedesten the trade in textiles moved there, while the Cevahir Bedesten was reserved for the trade in luxury goods. At the beginning the two buildings were isolated. According to the 16th-century French traveller Pierre Gilles, between them and the Mosque of Beyazid stood the ruins of churches and a large cistern;.[11] However, soon many sellers opened their shops between and around them, so that a whole quarter was born, devoted exclusively to commerce.

At the beginning of the 17th century the Grand Bazaar had already achieved its final shape. The enormous extent of the Ottoman Empire in three continents, and the total control of road communications between Asia and Europe, rendered the Bazaar and the surrounding hans or caravanserais the hub of the Mediterranean trade. According to several European travellers, at that time, and until the first half of the 19th century, the market was unrivalled in Europe with regards to the abundance, variety and quality of the goods on sale. At that time we know from European travellers that the Grand Bazaar had a square plan, with two perpendicular main roads crossing in the middle and a third road running along the outer perimeter.[9] In the Bazaar there were 67 roads (each bearing the name of the sellers of a particular good), several squares used for the daily prayers, 5 mosques, 7 fountains, 18 gates which were opened each day in the morning and closed in the evening (from these comes the modern name of the Market, "Closed Market" (Kapalıçarşı).[9] Around 1638 the Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi gave us the most important historical description of the Bazaar and of its customs. The number of shops amounted to 3,000, plus 300 located in the surrounding hans, large caravanserais with two or three storeys round a porticoed inner courtyard, where goods could be stored and merchants could be lodged.[15] In that period one tenth of the shops of the city were concentrated in the market and around it.[9] For all that, at that time the market was not yet covered.

Recurrent calamities, fires and earthquakes hit the Grand Bazaar. The first fire occurred in 1515; another in 1548.[11] Other fires ravaged the complex in 1588, 1618 (when the Bit Pazari was destroyed), 1645, 1652, 1658, 1660 (on that occasion the whole city was devastated), 1687, 1688 (great damage occurred to the Uzun Carsi) 1695, and 1701.[16] The fire of 1701 was particularly fierce, forcing Grand VizierNevşehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha to rebuild several parts of the complex in 1730–1731. In 1738 the Kizlar Aĝasi Beşir Ağa endowed the Fountain (still existing) near Mercan Kapi.

In this period, because of the new law against fires issued in 1696, several parts of the market which lay between the two Bedesten were covered with vaults.[11] Despite that, other fires ravaged the complex in 1750 and 1791. The quake of 1766 caused more damages, which were repaired by the Court Chief Architect (Hassa baş Mimari) Ahmet a year later.[16]

The 19th-century growth of the textile industry in western Europe, introduction of mass production methods, the capitulations signed between the Empire and many European countries, and the forestalling – always by European merchants – of the raw materials needed to produce goods in the Empire's closed economy, were factors which caused the Market's decline.[17] By 1850, rents in Bedesten were ten times lower than two to three decades before.[18] Moreover, the birth of a West-oriented bourgeoisie and the commercial success of Western products pushed the merchants belonging to the minorities (Greek, Armenian, Jewish) into moving out of the Bazaar, perceived as antiquated, and into opening new shops in quarters frequented by Europeans, such as Pera and Galata.[19]

According to an 1890 survey, in the Bazaar there were 4,399 active shops, 2 bedesten, 2195 rooms, 1 hamam, one mosque, 10 medrese, 19 fountains (among them two şadırvan and one sebil), one mausoleum and 24 han.[20] In the 30.7 hectares of the complex, protected by 18 gates, there are 3,000 shops along 61 streets, the 2 bedesten, 13 han (plus several more outside).[2]

The last major catastrophe happened in 1894: a strong earthquake that rocked Istanbul.[16] The Minister of Public Works, Mahmud Celaleddin Pașa, supervised the repair of the damaged Bazaar until 1898, and on this occasion the complex was reduced in area. To the west, the Bit Pazarı was left outside the new perimeter and became an open-sky road, named Çadircilar Caddesi ("Tentmaker Road"), while the old gate and the Kütkculer Kapi were demolished. Among all the hans which belonged to the Market, many were left outside, and only nine remained enclosed in the structure.

In 1914 the Sandal Bedesten, whose handlers of textile goods had been ruined by the European competition, was acquired by the city of Istanbul and, starting one year later, was used as an auction house, mainly for carpets. In 1927 the individual parts of the bazaar and the streets got official names. The last fires of bazaar happened in 1943 and 1954, and the related restorations were finished on 28 July 1959.[21]

The last restoration of the complex took place in 1980. On that occasion, advertising posters around the market were also removed.


The Iç Bedesten has a rectangular plan (43.30 m x 29.50 m). Two rows of stone piers, four in each row, sustain three rows of bays, five in each row. Each bay is surmounted by a brick dome with blind drum. In the inner and in the outer walls have been built 44 cellars (Turkish: mahzen), vaulted rooms without external openings. The sunlight in Bedesten comes from rectangular windows placed right under the roof: they can be accessed through a wooden ambulatory. Due to the scarce illumination, the edifice was kept open only some hours each day, and was devoted to the trade of luxury goods, above all textiles.[11] Moreover, the Bedesten's Mahzen were also used as safes.[11] The building can be accessed through four gates:

  • "Second-hand Book Sellers' Gate" (Sahaflar Kapısı) in the north,
  • "Skullcap Sellers' Gate" (Takkeciler Kapısı) in the south,
  • "Jewellers' Gate" (Kuyumcular Kapısı) in the east, and;
  • "Women's Clothiers' Gate" (Zenneciler Kapısı) in the west.[22]

The Sandal Bedesten has also a rectangular plan (40.20 m × 42.20 m), with 12 stone piers bearing 20 bays surmounted by brick domes with blind drum. In this case shops are carved only in the outer walls.[20] In both edifices, each bay is tied to the others through brick arches tied by juniper beams, and masonry is made with rubble. Both buildings were closed by iron gates.

Aside the Bedesten, originally the Grand Bazaar structures were built with wood, and only after the 1700 fire, they were rebuilt in stone and brickwork, and covered.[20] All the bazaar edifices, except the fur dealers market (Turkish: Kürkçüler Çarsısı), a later addition which is two-story, are one story.[23] The roofs are mainly covered with tiles, while the part burnt in 1954 uses now tarmac. In the bazaar no artificial light was foreseen, also to prevent fires, and smoking was strictly prohibited. The roads outside the inner Bedesten are roughly parallel to it. Anyway, the damages caused by the many fires and quakes along the centuries, together with the repairs done without a general plan, gave to the market – especially in its western part – a picturesque appearance, with its maze of roads and lanes crossing each other at various angles.

Social history of the Grand Bazaar[edit]

Until the restoration following the quake of 1894, the Grand Bazaar had no shops as found in the western world: along both sides of the roads merchants sat on wooden divans in front of their shelves.[24] Each of them occupied a space 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m) in width, and 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.22 m) in depth. This was named in Turkish dolap, meaning 'stall'.[24] The most precious merchandise was not on display, but kept in cabinets.[24] Only clothes were hung in long rows, with a picturesque effect. A prospective client could sit in front of the dealer, talk with him and drink a tea or a Turkish coffee, in a relaxed way.[24] At the end of the day, each stall was closed with drapes. Another peculiarity was the complete lack of advertising.[25] Moreover, as everywhere in the East, traders of the same type of goods were forcibly concentrated along one road, which got its name from their profession.[26] The Inner Bedesten hosted the most precious wares: jewellers, armourers, crystal dealers had their shops there.[26] The Sandal Bedesten was mainly the center of the silk trade, but also other goods were on sale there.[14] The most picturesque parts of the market were – apart from the two Bedestens – the shoe market (Turkish: Pabuççular Pazarı), where thousands of shoes of different colors (Ottoman sumptuary laws prescribed yellow shoes for Muslims, blue for Greek Orthodox, black for Jews and red for Armenians) were on display on high shelves;[27] the spice and herbs market (later concentrated in the Egyptian Bazaar), which stood near the jewellers; the armour and weapon market; the old book market; and the flea market.[28]

This kind of organization disappeared gradually, although nowadays a concentration of the same business along certain roads can be observed again:[29]

  • Jewellers and gold bracelets along Kalpakcılar Caddesi;
  • Gold bracelets along Kuyumcular Carsısı;
  • Furniture along Divrikli Caddesi;
  • Carpets along Sahaflar Caddesi;
  • Leather goods along Perdahçılar Caddesi
  • Leather and casual clothes at the Bit Pazarı.

Actually, the main reason of concentrating the trade in one place was to provide the highest security against theft, fire and uprising.[30] The goods in the Bedesten were guaranteed against everything except turmoil.[30] Gates were always closed at night, and the bazaar was patrolled by guards paid by the merchants' guilds.[31] In order to access the complex during night hours, an imperial edict was required.[31] The only official night opening in the history of the Bazaar occurred in 1867 during the feast organized for the return of Sultan Abdülaziz from Egypt, when the sovereign crossed the illuminated market riding a horse among the rejoicing populace.[31][32] Despite the immense wealth present in the Bazaar over the centuries—as an English traveller recorded as late as c. 1870, a tour of the inner Bedesten could easily ruin a few Rothschild families[33]—theft occurred extremely rarely. The most important such incident happened in 1591, when 30,000 gold coins (Turkish: Altın) were stolen in the old Bedesten.[34] The theft shocked the whole of Istanbul, the Bazaar remained closed for two weeks and people were tortured, until the money was found hidden under a floor matting.[34] The culprit was a young Persianmusk seller. Thanks to the intercession of the Sultan Murad III he was executed by hanging and not by torture.[35]

The ethics of trade in the Market until the Tanzimat age (i.e. until the mid-19th century) were quite different from the modern ones: indifference to profit, absence of envy in the successes of other traders, and a single and correct price were peculiar traits of the Ottoman bazaar during its golden age.[36] The reason for such behavior lies partly in the ethics of Islam, and partly in the guild system which provided a strong social security net to the merchants.[36] Afterwards, the westernization of the Ottoman society and the influence of the national minorities caused the introduction of mercantile ethics in Ottoman society.[37]

Right during the westernization of Ottoman society, the Grand Bazaar became an obligatory topos of the romantic literature. We owe descriptions of the Bazaar in the middle of the 19th century to writers such as Edmondo De Amicis[38] and Théophile Gautier.[39]

Another peculiarity of the market during the Ottoman age was the total lack of restaurants.[40] The absence of women in the social life and the nomadic conventions in the Turkish society made the concept of restaurant alien.[40] Merchants brought their lunch in a food box called sefertas, and the only food on sale was simple dishes such as doner kebab, tavuk göğsü (a dessert prepared with chicken breast, milk sugar and rose water sprinkled on it) and Turkish coffee. These simple dishes were prepared and served in small two-story kiosks placed in the middle of a road.[40] The most famous among these kiosks is the one—still extant but not functioning any more—placed at the crossing of Halıcılar Caddesi and Acı Çesme Caddesi. It is alleged that Sultan Mahmut II came there often in disguise to eat his pudding.[40] The Bazaar was in the Ottoman Age the place where the Istanbullu (the inhabitants of the city) could see each other.[41] Not only was the market the only place in town where the ladies could go relatively easily[42] (and this circumstance made the place especially interesting for the Europeans who visited the city), but—especially from the Tanzimat age on—it was also the only public place where the average citizen had a chance to meet the members of the Imperial Harem and of the Court casually.[42]

The Bazaar's merchants were organized in guilds. In order to establish a new one, it was only necessary to have enough traders of the same good.[43] Afterwards, a monopoly was formed and the number of traders and shops was frozen.[43] One could only be accepted in the guild through co-optation, either as son of a deceased member, or after paying a suitable sum to a member who wanted to retire.[43]

The guild's chief was a public officer called Kethüda. He was paid by the guild but appointed by the Kadı of Istanbul.[43] Fixation of prices and taxes were matter of the Kethüda. He was joined by a representative of the guild's member, called Yiğitbaşı ('chief of the brave young fellows').[43] These two officers were flanked by the assembly of the elders, non necessarily old in age, but comprising the most experienced traders.[43] Parallel to the guilds, there were purely religious organizations, called fütüvvet tariks. Their members met in Dervish shrines and performed religious functions. These organizations became less and less important with time due to the increased weight of the Greek, Armenian and Jews merchants in the bazaar's trade.[43] Each guild had a financial department which collected a moderate monthly fee (some silver coins; Turkish: Kuruş) from the members and administered it taking care of the needs of each associated person.[43] The guilds lost increasingly their importance during the Tanzimat period, and were abolished in 1913,[44] being replaced by an association of Bazaar merchants. Nowadays, there are several merchant associations in the Bazaar, but none is representative of the whole seller community.[30]

The Grand Bazaar today[edit]

Today the Grand Bazaar is a thriving complex, employing 26,000 people[45] visited by between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily, and one of the major landmarks of Istanbul.[4] It must compete with modern shopping malls common in Istanbul, but its beauty and fascination represent a formidable advantage for it. The head of the Grand Bazaar Artisans Association claimed that the complex was in 2011 – the year of its 550th birthday – the most visited monument in the world.[45] A restoration project starting in 2012 should renew its infrastructure, heating and lighting systems.[45] Moreover, the hans inside the Market will be renovated and later additions will be demolished.[46] This project should finally solve the big problems of the market: for example, in the whole Bazaar there is no proper toilet facility.[47] Moreover, the lack of controls in the past years allowed many dealers to remove columns and skive walls in their shops to gain space; this, together with the substitution of lead (stolen in the last years) with concrete on the market's roof, has created a great hazard when the earthquake expected in Istanbul in the next years will occur.[46][47]

The Grand Bazaar is opened each day except Sundays and bank holidays from 9:00 until 19:00.[4]

Grand Bazaar images

One of the 17th-century kiosks, which used to be a small cafe. 

One of the four marble drinking fountains 

The Bazaar after closing hour. 

Lanterns hanging in a shop. 

Teenager in the door of a lantern shop. 

Faucets of a fountain in the bazaar. 

Bustling activity. 


A Turkish flag inside the bazaar. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcMüller-Wiener (1977), p. 345.
  2. ^ abMüller-Wiener (1977), p. 349.
  3. ^As of 2012, there is no official statistics about the number of shops in Bazaar. This oscillates between 3,000 and 4,000.
  4. ^ abc"The Grand Bazaar". Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  5. ^"World's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions". Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  6. ^İnalcık, H. and Quataert, D., An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, 1300–1914. Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 14
  7. ^Eyice (1955), p. 26.
  8. ^Tillinghast, Richard (2013-03-19). An Armchair Traveller's History of Istanbul: City of Remembering and Forgetting. Haus Publishing. ISBN 9781907822506. 
  9. ^ abcdeMantran (1998), p. 177
  10. ^Janin (1964), p. 95.
  11. ^ abcdefgMüller-Wiener (1977), p. 346.
  12. ^Mamboury (1953), p. 212
  13. ^Gülersoy (1980), p. 8
  14. ^ abGülersoy (1980) p. 29
  15. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 17
  16. ^ abcMüller-Wiener (1977), p. 348.
  17. ^Gülersoy (1980), p. 31
  18. ^Gülersoy (1980), p. 30
  19. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 41
  20. ^ abcEyice (1955), p. 27.
  21. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 13
  22. ^Gülersoy (1980, p. 14
  23. ^Gülersoy (1980, p. 15
  24. ^ abcdGülersoy (1980) p. 18
  25. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 19
  26. ^ abGülersoy (1980) p. 23
  27. ^Gülersoy (1980), p. 33
  28. ^Gülersoy (1980), p. 34
  29. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 37
  30. ^ abcGülersoy (1980) p. 49
  31. ^ abcGülersoy (1980) p. 50
  32. ^Boyar, Ebru; Fleet, Kate (2010). A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul. Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9781139484442. Retrieved 6 November 2017. 
  33. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 38
  34. ^ abGülersoy (1980) p. 61
  35. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 62
  36. ^ abGülersoy (1980) p. 43
  37. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 45
  38. ^De Amicis, Edmondo (1878). Tilton, Caroline, ed. Constantinople. G.P. Putnam's sons. pp. 91–94. Retrieved 6 November 2017. 
  39. ^Gautier, Théophile (1901). The works of Théophile Gautier, Volume 10. G.D. Sproul. pp. 83–91. Retrieved 6 November 2017. 
  40. ^ abcdGülersoy (1980) p. 36
  41. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 52
  42. ^ abGülersoy (1980) p. 53
  43. ^ abcdefghGülersoy (1980) p. 47
  44. ^Gülersoy (1980) p. 48
  45. ^ abc"Grand Bazaar outdoing all its rivals". Hürriyet Daily News. 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  46. ^ ab"Grand Problems at the Grand Bazaar". Hürriyet Daily News. 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  47. ^ ab"Saving the Grand Bazaar from its fate". Hürriyet Daily News. 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 


  • Mamboury, Ernest (1953). The Tourists' Istanbul. Istanbul: Çituri Biraderler Basımevi. 
  • Eyice, Semavi (1955). Istanbul. Petite Guide a travers les Monuments Byzantins et Turcs (in French). Istanbul: Istanbul Matbaası. 
  • Janin, Raymond (1964). Constantinople Byzantine (in French) (2 ed.). Paris: Institut Français d'Etudes Byzantines. 
  • Müller-Wiener, Wolfgang (1977). Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls: Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul bis zum Beginn d. 17 Jh (in German). Tübingen: Wasmuth. ISBN 978-3-8030-1022-3. 
  • Gülersoy, Çelik (1980). Story of the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul: Istanbul Kitaplığı. 
  • Mantran, Robert (1998). La vita quotidiana a Constantinopoli ai tempi di Solimano il Magnifico e dei suoi successori (XVI e XVII secolo) (in Italian) (3 ed.). Milan: Rizzoli. ISBN 8817165581. 
  • Hallam, Katie (2009). The Traveler's Atlas: Europe. London: Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0-7641-6176-8. 
  • Archnet Digital Library – Covered Bazaar
  • Let's Go Istanbul – Istanbul Covered Bazaar
  • Turkish Culture Portal – Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
  • Grand Bazaar Mobile Application – Grand Bazaar Mobile Application

External links[edit]

Nuruosmaniye Gate of the Grand Bazaar
Kalpakçılar Caddesi, the gold jewellers' road, is one of the 61 covered streets inside the Grand Bazaar.
The Zincirli Hanı, a former caravansary where jewelry is now produced.

And so it goes, then—doing documentary work is a journey, and is a little more, too, a passage across boundaries (disciplines, occupational constraints, definitions, conventions all too influentially closed for traffic), a passage that can become a quest, even a pilgrimage . . .

Robert Coles

Doing Documentary Work

1. Down the Grand Rue de Pera

We follow the human traffic down Istiklal Caddesi, formerly the Grand Rue de Pera, toward Istanbul's Golden Horn. The tram runs through the center of the street. The shops are cosmopolitan, the soundtrack a mix of Balkan and Near Eastern. Streams of pedestrians flow in two directions. Here in Istanbul's Beyoglu district, the more marginal groups of Turkey's secular nation state move about freely: punks, gays, transvestites, artists, leftists, expatriates from other lands. Just as importantly, Islamicists now populate this thoroughfare, the women wearing headscarves wrapped precisely to formulate a clear statement about the necessity of religion.

Our attention is divided between the contemporary scene and the tenser one that was unfolding during the crucial final years of the Ottoman Empire, which ended in 1922. Those were tumultuous times. In Pera, as Beyoglu was then called, its name signifying a border crossing ("pera" was the Greeks' word for the region pera "beyond" the city's limits), there was a semblance of peace. The tram was running through the center of Pera Avenue. Horse-drawn taxis waited by the roadside. The region's non-Muslim populations—the Armenians, Greeks, Spanish Jews, Moorish refugees, and Levantines who found a place in Pera—were managing successfully businesses in French-style buildings, as streams of people from all over the world flowed up and down the street. Even in Pera, however, Western-style hats had given way to red boru fezzes with short black tassels. Following the successes of nationalists in Anatolia that summer and fall, non-Muslims had put on the fez again to signal their subservience to the Muslim lord. Only foreigners donned felt, bowler, or the very fashionable Panama hats. European women still covered their heads, while "Muslim women of the elite . . . were beginning to appear in the street unveiled, although still with headscarves" (Mansel 400).

KS45.12 (12/7/19) View of Pera Street, the great tourist shopping district and modern part of Constantinople

With our imagination, we are tracing the path of two American visitors through a single day of their three-week stay in Constantinople. It is Tuesday, December 9, 1919. One visitor is the grizzled, portly Francis W. Kelsey, a distinguished classical scholar and professor of Latin languages at the University of Michigan. The other is the lanky, six-foot-three George Swain, whom Kelsey hired as the photographer, driver, and armed guard for his "Near East Expedition." Kelsey is traveling with grand ideas and bold ambitions, which will eventually produce a significant collection of antiquities rivaling many in Europe and lead to the creation of a museum of archaeology named after him. On paper, Kelsey has stated his intentions of using this trip to purchase valuable ancient manuscripts, survey ancient battlefields, identify archaeological sites for future excavation, and generally record interesting aspects of the eastern Mediterranean's Greek and Roman past. These are the purposes he has expressed in letters to administrators and donors. And he will accomplish much of what he has set out to do. Yet together with Swain he is also feeling the winds of change. With camera, notebooks, permits, and diplomatic passports in hand, and more covert agendas in mind, the two men are about to capture traces of Constantinople just as the Empire is seized by revolution.

The two men set out early that Tuesday, December 9, from their lodgings not far from the American Embassy. They joined the human current headed for Galata Bridge. "Stamboul," the familiar name for Old City on the other side of the bridge, gleamed like gold behind the silhouette of the New Mosque, Yeni Çamii. Who knew what treasures the great city hid? Kelsey's and Swain's determination was palpable. They were on the path of discovery.

What were they after? What did they find?

The answers to these questions are as complex as the story of how we, a Neolithic archaeologist and a scholar of modern Greek literature, found ourselves digging through seven thousand photographs with Swain's captions and many boxes with Kelsey's journals, papers, and letters from the Near East Expedition. Like our subjects, we gradually crossed the boundaries of our disciplines and entered the unknown region beyond.

We can trace the beginning of our own journey to a moment of surprise, when we discovered that the archives of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology contain a cache of materials documenting what Kelsey referred to as "the situation": the disturbance of life in the Ottoman Empire in the volatile years after World War I. While searching through the museum's photographic collections for another purpose, we found hundreds of scenes of daily life in late-Ottoman Constantinople. "Pair of buffalo oxen with loaded cart, probably sacks of grain," "umbrella mender sitting on the sidewalk on a typical street," "men washing their feet before entering a mosque," the captions read. The most resonant images anticipated a scene's impending extinction: a shop where experts pressed the Turkish fezzes, a young man having a letter written in Ottoman script by the old public letter writer near the Egyptian bazaar. Especially startling was a series of fifty-six mug-shot-style portraits representing Armenian, Persian, Croatian, Chaldean, Caucasian, Syrian, Greek, Bulgarian, Circassian, Ukrainian, Russian, and Hebrew "ethnic types," commissioned by the Anthropology Department of the Smithsonian Institution to document physical differences between the "nations of Man." There were also photos of reconfigured German warships, telling remnants from a failed two-decade alliance, as well as images of the allied ships (mostly British, but also Italian, French, Greek, and a few American) that oversaw the capital's postwar occupation. We found many scenes documenting the activities of relief workers in Constantinople and in refugee camps in faraway Adana and Aintab just after the Armenian genocide of 1915. Most telling were passages in Kelsey's journal entries and letters, such as the following, which gave willfully vague rationalizations for Kelsey's "deviating" from scholarly work in order to attend to unspecified "outside matters":

It has been, and is, my purpose not to deviate from the program of our expedition to interest myself in any outside matters whatsoever in these countries; but the opinion which I have been reluctantly forced to adopt is confirmed by unimpeachable authority. The matter is one of the most grave importance. (Letter to Dr. James Brown Scott, President, Carnegie Endowment, dated 12/1/19)

We will follow Kelsey's and Swain's course through the city on that Tuesday, December 9, 1919, as we try to unravel the story of how their attention "deviated" from antiquity to the explosive present. As observers of the original observers, we encounter a constellation of questions concerning the eyewitnesses and their subjects. What motivated our observers? Did their perspectives change over time? How charged are their images, how reliable the records of their journey? But we also face some questions about ourselves as second-order observers. How do we in turn give shape, sense, and context to the mass of records they have bequeathed to us? Why do we find this material so compelling? What intellectual and emotional history do we each carry with us as we cross the boundaries of disciplines, religions, and countries to evolve into documentarians? The characters in our story, their beliefs, their motives, and our own reasons for prying into their journey will reveal themselves bit by bit.

2. Across the Galata Bridge

It was just the previous Thursday evening, December 4, at about 8:30 p.m., that Kelsey and Swain—traveling by train from Paris, stopping to survey the ruins of war at Rheims, Berry-au-Bac, and Pontavert, then crossing Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria—reached the Sirkeci Station in Constantinople. With them were Kelsey's wife, Isabel, and son, Easton. Together they took two horse-drawn carriages from Stamboul, the Old City, across the Galata Bridge to Pera. It was dark when they made their first trek across the world-famous bridge. The road was quiet. After nightfall, people avoided the bridge, a scene of murders and political assassinations.

KS43.12 (12/5/19) Galata Bridge, Constantinople

By day, however, Kelsey and Swain discovered that this kilometer-long stretch was the hub of the city. There was nothing like it in the world. For three-quarters of a century, the crowd moving between Stamboul and Galata was as colorful and heterogeneous as one could find anywhere in the world, a boisterous mixed crowd representing all the different groups that lived in the city and the foreigners who came to do business there. Because the bridge linked the Old City's Muslims with the Christian and Jewish populations in Pera, people imagined that the bridge connected Asia to Europe, East to West. "Inverting the Ottoman proverb that the world was a bridge, the bridge was the world" (Mansel 263-3).

Swain's photograph of the bridge, taken the day after his arrival, shows the variety of groups crossing the bridge. Yet Swain's image was subdued in comparison to photographs or written accounts from the late 1800s. Was there a tense expression on people's faces? Were two decades of repression, revolution, counter-revolution, world war, foreign occupation, and now the nationalist uprising that had seized Anatolia affecting the population?

On this particular Tuesday morning, however, neither Kelsey nor Swain focused their full attention on the bridge. For a brief moment Swain may have found the perfect spot to admire the city's delicate skyline of pitched roofs, rounded domes, and sharp minarets, or its complex geography conjoining two seas, bridging two continents, giving Constantinople strategic value no other city in the world enjoyed. He probably also had his eye on the multitude of sailing craft and other small boats crowding around the bridge, or the ferry steamer crossing the Golden Horn, or a U.S. destroyer anchored in the Bosphorus. Swain would photograph these on several occasions during his stay in Constantinople. Indeed the variety of boats in the eastern Mediterranean became an obsession through four Near East expeditions between 1919 and 1926.

Kelsey, the less observant traveler, kept his eyes turned inward. He was intent on executing his plan. Today he would track down ancient manuscripts in the Grand Bazaar. It is not easy to recover Kelsey's musings at any given moment, or even to reconstruct his general motives as he took steps in accomplishing his purposes. As a rule Kelsey did not record his thoughts or feelings in the daily journal entries he wrote, but kept only a minimal record of daily activities, meetings, correspondence, expenses, and occasionally an interesting topic of conversation. His entry for December 9, 1919, does not mention crossing the bridge. His account begins about an hour later: "Isabelle & Easton met Swain and me near obelisk. After some time in the Hippodrome, went up toward Grand Bazaar. . . ."

Only in his correspondence, especially in letters intended to raise funds for his projects, did Kelsey elaborate more freely on the purposes he would pursue when he reached the Grand Bazaar, though he also carefully adapted these to suit the convictions of his readers. Thus to the Honorable J. M. Longyear, a potential donor whose vast holdings in Michigan's Upper Peninsula were reputed to be worth from $75 million to $100 million and whose wife, Mrs. Mary Beecher Longyear, was intensely interested in the Bible, Kelsey stressed the necessity for an "Oriental Mission." The mission's purpose would be to "search out and save from destruction Biblical manuscripts still remaining in neglected corners" in the Near East. Kelsey wrote of compelling personal reasons that made him take up the project. Years before, Professor Caspar René Gregory, the world-renowned scholar of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, had impressed on him the need for a mission to find and purchase for the University of Michigan early Christian manuscripts. Then during the Great War Professor Gregory died in Flanders, "being fatally wounded by the fragment of a shell although he was working back of the German front lines. [H]is passing forced upon me the consciousness that at the proper time I must, if possible, take up the mission which he sought to lay upon me—I have not been able to shake off a sense of responsibility" (letter to J. M. Longyear dated 3/11/19). Kelsey's detailing of a "mission" and promise to provide Mrs. Longyear with copies of the Biblical manuscripts he purchased convinced Mrs. Longyear to donate the $25,000 he needed for his expedition.

Yet to the Pierpont Morgan Library, another potential donor, Kelsey described not a "mission" but an "expedition to the Orient in the quest of Greek manuscripts." He focused on current affairs as these affected the prospects of enhancing American collections. (Kelsey knew that a few years earlier, the Pierpont Morgan Library had purchased Biblical manuscripts brought to New York for preservation by an Armenian, who had been frightened by the Zeppelin raids.) "Not only have the Armenians been practically exterminated in certain large regions of Asia Minor, but the Greeks as well are on the way to extinction unless peace comes soon enough to save the remnant. It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that there has been a complete destruction of the possession of Armenians and Greeks." Kelsey stressed the opportunity "to lure from hiding places and secure from unappreciative hands such manuscript treasures as yet remain in Greek or Syriac or Persian or Armenian." And he predicted that "the possession of these, and their proper preservation, will be a gain to science of inestimable value" (letter to Belle da Costa Greene of the Pierpont Morgan Librarydated 10/3/19).

Whether with missionary zeal or clear-sighted opportunism, or perhaps with a mixture of the two, Kelsey's peripheral vision made a subconscious note of the diminished heterogeneity on the Galata Bridge. His ideological sympathies lay with eastern Christians, who were feeling pressures to hide their identities. Yet here was the cold truth: the market for antiquities swells in times of repression, looting, and violence.

3. About the Hippodrome

No direct route leads from the Galata Bridge to the Grand Bazaar. Yet clearly the ancient hippodrome at Ayasofya Square is out of the way. American tourists, however, especially antiquarians, follow well-worn paths. Kelsey's and Swain's visit to the square that day was neither their first nor their last. Several times during their three-week stay, they took the tramway up the first of Constantinople's seven hills, which rises above the point where the Golden Horn flows into the Bosphorus. Swain photographed Ayasofya Square on four occasions, and Kelsey mentioned it in his journal several times. Given his scholarly focus on the Roman Empire, Kelsey's return to the hippodrome made sense. But the summit of the first hill also aroused other feelings.

Here was the focal point of political and religious life for many of this city's twenty-seven centuries of existence. The acropolis of Byzantium, the original Greek colony, stood on this hill. Destroyed in AD 196 by the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, the classical buildings were replaced by the city's first hippodrome. Constantine the Great reconstructed and enlarged it for the inaugural rites of his new capital, "Nova Roma Constantinopolitana," dedicated on May 11, 330. He also built the Great Palace, marble remnants of which can be seen in the city's Roman walls. Haghia Eirene, the main church of the city's Christians in Constantine's day, still stands nearby. In 537, the extraordinary cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople commissioned by Justinian the Great and dedicated to Holy Wisdom (Haghia Sophia, in Greek, which shifted accents to become Ayasofya under the Ottomans), replaced Haghia Eirene as the religious focal point. Following the Latin sack of Constantinople in 1204, Haghia Sophia was briefly the Roman Catholic cathedral. Orthodox Christians reclaimed it in 1261, and the cathedral served the primarily Greek population until the last Christian liturgy on Monday, May 28, 1453. The next day, Mehmet II the Conqueror triumphantly entered the city, surveyed the church, and decided to preserve its graceful grandiosity. Three days later, Muslims offered Friday prayers at what was henceforth Ayasofya Çamii. North of Ayasofya, Mehmet II created the House of Felicity, or Topkapî Sarayî. This became the principal residence of the Sultan and center of Ottoman imperial government until the 1800s. As for the Roman hippodrome, most of what remained was quarried for the building of Sultan Ahmed I's "Blue" Mosque.


Kelsey and Swain studied the hippodrome's ruins, but their eyes kept wandering to Ayasofya. They visited the mosque several times during their December stay. Together with Easton and Isabel, they entered to observe the midday prayers on December 25th. Kelsey's record of that Christmas Day visit is characteristically enigmatic: "Attended a wonderfully impressive midday service in S. Sophia—call of muezzin from minaret of S. Sophia drowned by the strident grinding of the wheels of the electric car rounding the corner." The entry raises unanswerable questions about Kelsey's feelings for this particular mosque—a building that embodies more than any other the city's multilayered history, the colliding and sorting out of power relations between ill-paired eastern groups. What idea was he mulling in his mind, besides the belief that tradition was colliding with, and losing to, the sounds of the modern world? Was his posture distanced and analytical or was his imagination superimposing Christmas Day hymns over the muezzin's call?

Swain tried capturing Ayasofya from several angles. The images are as imposing as the building. Of special interest is one where Ayasofya appears in the background, while a smaller building dominates the frame. Here is "the Kaiser's fountain," built in 1895 with money Kaiser Wilhelm II gave to the Ottomans when he visited the Sultan Abdül Hamid II. The fountain memorializes a controversial friendship between the German and Ottoman leaders. That friendship unsettled the Ottomans' relations with Great Britain. In the turmoil of great power relations, Americans began to sense an opportunity to project their own civilizational principles in the region.

The inscription on the fountain may have touched Kelsey's steely nerves. Triumph mixed with alarm? It is impossible to read Kelsey's feelings. This much we know. Kelsey was not dispassionate about the German alliance with the Ottoman Sultan (journal entries 12/16/19, 12/30/19, 10/19/20). He understood that the alliance had led quite directly to the Great War and Ottoman defeat. Germany had not taken what it vied for, but the Entente's victory had radicalized the Muslim population and left Christians in the Empire exposed. Surely Kelsey was wondering where things would lead now that the nationalists were having success in Anatolia.

4. Along Yeniçeriler Caddesi, the Avenue of the Janissaries

When they left the square, Kelsey's mind returned to his mission. What mattered was that he carefully scrutinize the moment, interpret its signs correctly, and use these to help him find what he was looking for.

"Went up toward Grand Bazaar. Lunch at native restaurant—bill of fare Turkish only," he wrote later that day. Here was a sign of the Empire's Turkification. Other signs were popping up here and there, especially in this thoroughly Muslim quarter of the city. Swain's lens caught images of the city's diminishing cosmopolitanism.

Most telling was Swain's image of a fez-pressing shop. Swain photographed the storefront with an open door. Inside men were doing business, but Swain's picture does not allow us to enter the scene. The barely visible drama of exchange happens behind a dark glass. It gains its poignancy through the perspective time brings. The picture becomes a relic. When it was taken, who knew that the fez would soon become extinct just after reaching its prime? From where we stand, we look at the photograph and see the store's impending doom.

The fez-pressing shop was located somewhere along a stretch known as Divan Yolu, the Road of the Divan, which becomes Yeniçeriler Caddesi, the Avenue of the Janissaries.

KS46.10 (12/9/19) Shop where they pressed the Turkish tabbooses or fezzes

The fez was not unlike the Janissary corps, the Sultan's guard. At the height of their power in the eighteenth century, they paraded imperiously up and down this street. They wore proud "uniforms of blue cloth and a majestic pleated white head-dress with a giant sleeve, sometimes decorated with plumes. When Janissaries bowed their heads at the same time, they were compared to a field of ripe corn rippling in the breeze" (Mansel 221-2). By 1919, the Janissaries had been extinct for almost a hundred years. The fez, an Ottoman adaptation of small red skullcaps worn by Greek islanders and North Africans, had ruled for nearly as many years. It took the place of the cumbersome white headdresses when Mahmud II imposed it on his army and administration in the 1820s and signified Ottoman modernization during several moments of radical change. This particular season the fez's popularity reflected Kemal Mustapha and his nationalist sympathizers' successes in Anatolia. It symbolized the desire of Christians and foreigners working in the region to deflect Muslim hostility. Now when Muslims and Christians raised their heads at the same time, they could be compared to a horizon of burning roof tiles.

What Kelsey and Swain did not know, and what no one had the power to foretell, was not only that the nationalists would win the present power struggle, but that they would move quickly to outlaw the fez. By 1925 Kemal would submit Turks to the "civilizing" power of black and brown hats. Wearing the fez would become a criminal offense.

Unsuspecting and unprepared, like the Janissaries before it, the fez-pressing shop went about business as usual that Tuesday, December 9, 1919. After Turkey's modernization extinguished the fez, this legendary stretch of road would wear new signs for each successive era. Today the street bustles with activity. Internet cafés, digital photo shops, and McDonald's restaurants featuring an American menu rendered in Turkish words written with the Latin alphabet all manage their businesses with supreme confidence.

5. To Imameli Han No. 10

Kelsey looked beyond the pyramid of fezzes inside the shop window. While Swain stopped to capture a cobbler's tiny workspace, then the burnt column of Constantine, and a street view with Turkish women, Kelsey moved toward one of the main gates of the covered bazaar. This led through the outer courtyard of Nuruosmaniye Çamii. The eighteenth-century mosqu's baroque architecture appealed to Swai's eye."Good architecture" Swain wrote in the caption of a picture of the front of the mosque. (Others have pronounced the mosque a charming failure.) Another caption reads,"Men washing feet before entering a mosque" Kelsey pulled Swain along.

Kelsey's plan was to tour the bazaar to see what vendors were openly selling, then seek out the right persons to ask about the availability of ancient manuscripts.

As always, he would be wary of forgeries. Kelsey had warned his students about the effects of entrepreneurs and amateur archaeologists who turned to archaeology as a means of amassing treasures. "In almost every country town may be found a man with a passion for collecting and often these collections are valueless from a scientific point of view, for ofttimes they have been gathered for beauty and not for meaning, nor has attention been paid to their forgeries" (Lectures in Roman Archaeology 57). He urged caution to anyone desiring to purchase antiquities: "Wherever you find antiquities exposed for sale consider them false till proved genuine" (59).

Yet Kelsey's scavenger instincts took fire in the covered bazaar. He had a collector's passion, tempered by his strong advocacy for a "scientific" approach to learning. Like many people, he was full of contradictions. He abhorred amateur collectors, but passionately devoted himself to enhancing the collections of the University of Michigan almost from the moment he arrived on campus in 1889. His aims were pedagogical. He used artifacts in his teaching and felt that objects (even in the form of replicas and photographs) lent the vividness of specimens to classical studies. The objects Kelsey collected, however, also represented another dimension of his thinking about the world. Like others imbued with a sense of the past, Kelsey felt that antiquity was vulnerable to decomposition. Ruin happened as an irresistible part of life's course, he wrote. Contributing to the decay of valuable old things were nature and human civilization in equal parts. Although ruin was to a degree inevitable, it could take a slower or faster course, depending on how people treated remnants of the past. Among human civilizations in the Mediterranean, Kelsey observed that some were more destructive than others were. He pointed a finger at "Mahometan countries," which in his era "cover or have covered a large part of the territory ruled by the Greeks and Romans." These he characterized as particularly destructive because "there is the greatest hatred of anything in the shape of the human figure or face" (26), on the one hand, and hostility to Christianity, on the other. Kelsey felt that archaeologists should find ways to intervene in order to slow the agents of destruction and save antiquities from disappearance. In practice he found ways to turn a group's negative disposition to antiquities into an opportunity for American institutions to salvage treasures from what he called "unappreciative hands." He spoke of promoting the science of learning. What he did not say was what university leaders and donors understood: collections added to an institution's resources, wealth, and power, and to America's standing in the world.

Anyone who loves to scour markets for a rare, hidden bargain can imagine the thrill of Constantinople's Grand Bazaar. It is now as it was then, a virtual city within a city: a maze of streets, shoppers moving in throngs, vendors assaulting passers-by with gestures and words in pidgin languages, merchandise in piles, good mixed with the bad. Stocks of goods—some unclassified, others unclassifiable—also lie hidden behind the scenes in the old Hans, commercial buildings for storage and industrial activity. Kelsey sensed that the manuscripts he was looking for, early Christian texts, were of the unclassifiable, invisible kind. Christian towns and monasteries were being looted in Asia Minor. The market for their valuable remains would be thriving behind the scenes or underground.

We have in Kelsey's own words the story of how he found hidden in an obscure old Han just beyond the bazaar a small stock of biblical texts: a Hebrew scroll offered for fifteen Turkish pounds, fragments of lectionaries (twenty pages on ten leaves in two hands) offered for eighty Turkish pounds, another Greek manuscript (late but with eight leaves of palimpsest) offered for four hundred Turkish pounds. "Made tour of Bazaar. Inquiry for ancient mss., was taken by young Jew to shop of ANDRONICOS M. KIDAOGLON (sic), IMAMELI HAN NO 10 (MERDJAN)." In greater detail, Kelsey described his discovery to W. W. Bishop, the university librarian, in a letter he composed and enclosed with the manuscripts:

Mr. Kidaoglon is a dealer of a different type. He speaks Greek and Turkish, but no other European language. He has the queerest sort of shop just outside the Grand Bazaar, and has a kind of love of manuscripts himself. I found him by going through the Grand Bazaar and asking who had manuscripts; an Armenian dealer in antiquities, who had only Persian manuscripts, referred me to him as the only man about the Bazaar who might have Greek manuscripts, and sent a messenger to find his place; otherwise I never could have located it. (letter dated 12/26/19)

Though Kelsey was not able to learn the manuscripts' provenance, he was prepared to purchase everything Mr. Kidaoglou was offering after making careful inquiries and comparisons. About the Greek palimpsest, the most expensive of the three, he discovered "nothing except that the bound manuscript came from a Greek village which the Turks had destroyed" (letter to Bishop, 12/26/19). He examined the merchandise again more carefully on December 19, then "walked to residence of Greek patriarch at Phanar, along crest of hill, with wonderful sunset views across the Golden Horn. Was appalled by extent and desolation of burnt district seen from this walk, near aqueduct of Valens" (journal entry 12/19/19). Here again were signs of imminent change. Who knew what the future would bring to this volatile place? Four days later he visited the library at the residence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in the Phanar district of Stamboul, and learned there were "few mss., as result of removals and lootings by Turks. . . . The men explained that the library, which is kept in a room vaulted with modern fireproof construction, is mostly gifts of metropolitans who in recent decades have sent in what they happened to find and thought worthy of preservation" (journal entry 12/23/19). On December 23, Kelsey would return to Imameli Han No. 10 with one hundred English pounds drawn from a local bank. Mr. Kidaoglou would never again have anything to show Kelsey, who repeatedly made inquiries.

KS047.6 (12/9/19; detail) Courtyard of the shop of the antiquarian looking toward the street

At Kelsey's bidding, Swain photographed the Han from three angles.

We were able to trace Kelsey's and Swain's path through the covered market to the Han in 2004, with Swain's photographs and the address in hand. We stood outside the courtyard. Turkish-speaking laborers stopped their backbreaking work of unloading boxes to watch us. We stooped to clear a metal grille drawn halfway down the Han's entrance. The workers encouraged us to enter. The Han was much as it appeared in Kelsey's time, shutters and all, though there was no trace of a Greek-speaking merchant or his descendants. Like the fez-pressing shop, Mr. Kidaoglou's back-alley business was extinguished by Turkish nationalism. Kelsey's and Swain's wide-ranging interests and good sense of timing allowed them to reap benefits from the Empire's great capital just before its fall.

6. Near the Egyptian Bazaar

En route from Imameli Han to the Golden Horn, Swain's camera focused on this scene: A young man leans toward the old public letter writer. He studies the experienced hand over a pile of papers written in beautiful Ottoman script. How he wishes he could read that script! His intense gaze draws our eyes to the pen—is it a reed pen?—of a bespectacled, bearded scribe, then allows them to wander to his wizened face, the empty chair in the foreground, and the mix of dark figures, draped cloths, and umbrellas and their shadows, which fill the background. We return to the dramatic focal point of the scene. The young man has expressed his desire. He has drawn his breath. He watches as his words are rendered in writing. His body's right angle, the weight of his hand and elbow on his knees betray his vulnerability. How can he know if the scribe has put down his words directly?

KS47.10 (12/9/19) Young man having a letter written by the old public letter writer, near the Egyptian Bazaar

Although the camera reproduced an intensely vivid scene, the photograph's work did not end with the shutting of the lens. It has continued to gather meaning with the passage of time. It represents what is no longer possible: a glimpse of a moment passed, a living breath expired, an evanescent scene Swain and Kelsey encountered, recognized in an instant, then left behind. The passage of time has brought to the scene not only temporal decay but also historical irony. What do we see today? Look, we say, here is an old photograph. Two men are sitting under an umbrella near the Egyptian Bazaar. (Today we call this the Spice Bazaar.) Look again. They are wearing the fez. They are reading and writing Ottoman script. They are so completely absorbed in the moment, so firmly caught in the exchange that they give no heed to the life-altering revolution that is churning around them. They are living in the moment, but the scene is almost already obsolete.

Why was Swain's eye drawn to imminent obsolescence? How did it happen that he and Kelsey, while passing through Constantinople with the intention of collecting ancient materials, repeatedly seized the moment to capture traces of a world that was about to change?

On the Golden Horn a few days before, Swain had photographed a throng of boats anchored by the shore. Three masts were flying Ottoman flags. Men wearing fezzes relaxed in clusters on the quay. They had stopped their work. They were passing the time. They leaned toward one another—the angle of their bodies resembled that of the young man who leaned toward the letter writer, though their faces expressed pleasure rather than concentration. They looked each other in the eyes. Everything in the scene conveyed an intrinsic familiarity. Here was perfect communion between all the scene's parts: boats, masts, barrels, tarps, crates, oars, sails, flags, and, above all, the men who had stopped their work to pass the time.

KS45.2 (12/4/19) Throng of sailing boats by the old bridge (farther up the Golden Horn than the Galata Bridge)

Yet the image evokes feelings of strangeness. The viewer stands apart. Here are alien waters, filled with foreign sounds, shapes, gestures, affections. Swain's eye returned to this visual theme again and again. He later explained his obsession with the throngs of boats that gathered around docks in the region. His practical criticism takes one by surprise. These are the words not of an artist but of an entrepreneur. Swain was observing the number of people it took to load and unload boats. He superimposed onto that inefficient, old-world system a cost-effective, American way. Might not this backward place learn something from the Great Lakes docks, Swain seemed to be saying:

It is very slow and, even with a low per diem cost of labor, must be expensive. I have watched this transfer of merchandise in half a dozen ports—and it does give employment to a lot of men. . . . I wonder what they would say in beholding the speed with which grain, coal, ore, and crushed stone are handled on Great Lakes docks and ships by conveyers—not to mention cranes that pick up forty ton freight cars bodily and dump their contents in a few seconds. (George Swain, Notes and Comments of a Wolverine Abroad, V, 3)

7. Beyond the Golden Horn

Like Swain, Kelsey was looking beyond the horizon. He was imagining opportunities where others saw danger.

"It is in periods of disturbance that plans can best be worked out and formulated in readiness for immediate execution when the time comes for carrying them into effect," Kelsey would later write to the New York businessman, collector, and philanthropist George A. Plimpton (letter to Plimpton 9/3/20). Beginning that Tuesday, December 9, Kelsey turned his eyes to areas of Constantinople where he saw opportunities for rebuilding, whether to repair physical destruction or because the fabric of human relations was being torn. During this period of Constantinople's allied occupation, when America was playing just a minor role next to the powerful allies of Britain, France, and Italy, Kelsey imagined a broader American intervention in the city's political, material, and moral refashioning. He and Swain spent time photographing the city's burnt regions, or old wooden buildings that presented a fire hazard. They also observed American institutions in the city. Robert College on the Bosphorus near Rumeli Hisari, a school run by American missionaries, became a regular visiting ground. Kelsey believed it was cultivating tolerance and brotherhood among ethnic groups, though in reality it was a breeding ground for nationalism. The American Committee for Relief in the Near East (A.C.R.N.E., later Near East Relief), an American-funded charity established in that era (like the Y.M.C.A.) and used to generate images of American moral superiority and practical resourcefulness worldwide, greatly impressed Kelsey with its organization and industry. He took Swain to photograph its facility near Pera, which was baking twenty thousand loaves of bread daily in just one bakery and feeding thousands (journal entry 12/18/19, photos 7.96, 7.99). Kelsey thought the A.C.R.N.E. might coordinate the city's rebuilding. Kelsey and Swain also regularly dropped in on the American Embassy in Pera to collect information, send cablegrams, "talk . . . about the situation" (journal entry 12/17/19), and, in consultation with Mark Bristol, Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy and U.S. High Commissioner, compose a proposal for the rebuilding of "The Burnt Areas of Constantinople." The thought has crossed our minds that Kelsey might have been working for the American Foreign Service.

7.96 (12/18/19) A.C.R.N.E. (American Committee for Relief in the Near East), formerly an Armenian Bakery

7.99 (12/18/19) N.E.R. (Near East Relief) bakery, sacks of flour in the upstairs storeroom

What moved Kelsey to take such a big detour from classical scholarship? To Plimpton (who Kelsey hoped might convince some New York banker to take a chance on Constantinople) Kelsey indicated that his interest in promoting the city's development was, "of course, humanitarian and scientific." His scientific interest centered on archaeological excavations: "If the rebuilding of Constantinople under suitable governmental guarantees should be undertaken by an American corporation with adequate funds, I should expect that the direction of it would be sufficiently intelligent to safeguard scientific interests in all excavations" (letter of 9/3/20). We picture Kelsey or another scholar of late antiquity working on an excavation team next to construction workers. But what of the humanitarian appeal? Kelsey saw Constantinople's need for rebuilding as an opportunity for America to lead the way as a guarantor of progress in the world. It is not surprising that Kelsey closed with an ideological appeal, a slogan. America had the responsibility to play a strong role in rebuilding this critical region, Kelsey wrote. "The future of Constantinople hangs in the balance." The words echo rallying cries for American intervention in our own times, though it is hard for us to discern in which direction exactly Kelsey would have taken his country.

8. Pera

The day ended as it began: on the Grand Rue de Pera, today's Istiklal Cadessi. Kelsey "visited shops of antiquities near Embassy and Continental Hotel, finding one leaf of Greek uncial and one late Greek ms., also one Armenian ms. illuminated under Roman Catholic influence." In his hotel room later that evening, he wrote letters, sending out feelers to American Consul George Horton in the city of Smyrna, "asking him to look out for mss. for me" (journal entry 12/9/19). Both efforts, like so many steps taken that day, yielded some kind of fruit. From the Armenian dealer in Pera Kelsey purchased manuscripts. In Horton he found an intriguing correspondent and witness to crucial events in the Turkish revolution, including the burning of Smyrna and the destruction of its Christian population in September of 1922. Kelsey's horizon was continually broadening.

As his projects took shape during the coming weeks in Constantinople, followed by months, then years in the eastern Mediterranean, Kelsey's tireless efforts produced a small legacy. Most of what he is remembered for is contained within the fields of Latin learning and Greek and Roman archaeology. Kelsey's name is memorialized in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, with its collection of over a hundred thousand objects, nearly half of which came from Kelsey's purchases and excavations. His legacy is linked to the fields of study he promoted, the artifacts he collected, the sites he excavated, the significant collection of papyri and manuscripts he created at the University of Michigan through purchases and excavations. Swain's photographs of ancient objects and sites support Kelsey's legacy, whereas his scenes from the Empire in its last years occasionally resurface as surprise discoveries. Of Kelsey's ventures beyond his area of expertise into the upheaval of the Ottoman present, none of his ideas for America's involvement in shaping the falling Empire's future was of direct consequence, though America found ways to gain influence in the region. Modern Turkey followed its own path away from the cosmopolitan capital: the burnt districts remained undeveloped, the Near East Relief Committee was forced to leave the region, Robert College produced more famous nationalists than multilateralists, and Constantinople lost its status as one of the world's great capital cities.

Only Pera retains something of its old reputation for nurturing an anomalous population that enjoys crossing boundaries. A bit of Pera must have rubbed off on us, the Neolithic archaeologist and Neohellenist turned documentarians. We discovered Swain's photographs of Pera and Stamboul when we were preparing an exhibit of poet Constantine P. Cavafy's life and work, Cavafy's World, for the Kelsey Museum. It was Cavafy who drew us to the region. It should be noted that Cavafy's homosexuality was rumored to have expressed itself for the first time in Pera. In preparing the exhibit, we faced an intriguing assignment: to select objects and images for an exhibition and book that attempted to match the worlds created by Cavafy with works from Kelsey's collection. Our regular meetings drew us deeper and deeper into the museum collection, until we eventually found our way to Swain's pictures and Kelsey's journals and letters. In the photographs we saw wonderful complements to Cavafy's poems. In the archive of Cavafy's exact contemporary, Francis W. Kelsey, was a counterpoint to Cavafy's life. Where we least expected it, in an archive of an archaeological museum, we encountered these bits and pieces of a twentieth-century day's journey, made at a crucial time in world history. These we followed outside our disciplinary boundaries, into another time and place, through a city and era so different from our own, yet one that strangely brings us back to ourselves.


Our primary research was in the Kelsey Museum Archive and the personal archives of Francis W. Kelsey and George R. Swain, all housed in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan and in the photographic archive that resides in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. All photographs are courtesy of the Kelsey Museum Archive. The Kelsey Museum library has a copy of Kelsey's Lectures in Roman Archaeology. Notes and Drawings by George R. Swain, from the University of Michigan Second Semester 1895-1896, a book we carefully read alongside Kelsey's other publications.

Our thinking about the intersection of archival and documentary work began with the conference Doing Documentary Work: Life, Letters, and the Field, organized by Tom Fricke and Keith Taylor. It developed further through our reading of Robert Coles's Doing Documentary Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) and Jonathan Raban's Bad Land (New York: Pantheon, 1996), a model work.

We relied on some very fine, learned yet accessible sources on Ottoman Constantinople and Turkish Istanbul. John Freely is the author of several excellent guidebooks. We consulted Blue Guide Istanbul (London: A&C Black, 1997); Istanbul, The Imperial City (London: Penguin, 1998), and The Companion Guide to Istanbul and around the Marmara (Suffolk and Rochester: Companion Guides, 2000). Philip Mansel's Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924 (London: John Murray, 1995) is unsurpassable as a history of the Ottoman capital city. For America's philanthropic and missionary work in the region, we referred to several sources, including Dimitra Giannouli, "American Philanthropy in the Near East" (Ph.D. dissertation, Kent State University, 1992). We have only touched the surface of the immense body of work on photography, archives, and collecting, which owes much to Walter Benjamin's writings. We found Yannis Hamilakis's essays on photography and archaeology especially thought provoking.

We are grateful to the Kelsey Museum for financial support, including funding for a five-day journey through Istanbul. Special thanks to Robin Meador-Woodruff, Sharon Herbert, Helen Baker, Kate Carras, and Sebastián Encina. Special Collections and the Papyrology Collection in the Hatcher Graduate Library, where the manuscripts and papyri Kelsey purchased are preserved, have been important resources. We thank Peggy Daub and Traianos Gagos, who answered questions about the history and value of materials Kelsey deposited at the University of Michigan. The librarians at the Bentley Historical Library hauled and copied Kelsey's papers for us. We thank our colleagues Fatma Müge Göçek, whose public lectures on the Armenian genocide introduced us to the relation of that event to the foundations of modern Turkey, and Asli Igsiz, who "read" Swain's photographs with us and guided us through Istanbul.

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