Crete, Rhodes, And Cyprus
( Originally Published 1904 )
COASTING southward, we call at Crete, formerly a dependency of Turkey, but now a part of the kingdom of Greece, having its representatives in the Greek parliament at Athens. Crete is a long narrow island about as big as Puerto Rico. It has a chain of mountains running through it, Mount Ida being two thousand feet higher than Mount Washington.
The mountains of Crete have numerous caves, including one on the slope of Mount Ida in which the ancient Greeks supposed the Minotaur lived. This was a terrible monster with a human body and the head of a bull, which, according to tradition, ate nothing but human flesh. Every year, so the story goes, the king of Crete compelled Athens to send seven boys and seven girls to be fed to this monster, and this continued until a brave young prince, named Theseus, came here and fought the Minotaur and cut off his head.
We call at the town of Candia, on the northern coast.
The people are much like those we saw in the Grecian islands. They have oval faces, pointed chins, and dark, rosy cheeks. Many of the men wear white shirts, blue waistcoats, and long boots, with their trousers gathered in at the knees. Some have red fez caps, and others wear hoods. The chief business of Crete is farming and fruit raising, the principal products being olives, oranges, lemons, and wines.
Leaving Candia, we next call at Rhodes, where we get a ship which takes us to Cyprus, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Rhodes has been a very important island in the past, and it was once a great commercial center, having trade with Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece, and other parts of Europe. Its capital, the famous city of Rhodes, at its northern end, was in ancient times one of the finest cities of the world, noted for its schools and culture.
Today the island belongs to Turkey. It is governed by a pasha, and is comparatively poor. The great city of the past has disappeared, and in its place is a town of about thirty thousand people, made up of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, and Jews. The island is mountainous, with many well-watered valleys. It produces wine, wax, honey, lemons, oranges, and figs, and has some manufactures of silks.
It was upon Rhodes that the famed Colossus stood. This was a statue as high as a country church steeple, put up to the god of the sun, in honor of the successful defense of Rhodes, about three hundred years before Christ. The people erected it at the entrance of the port, so that it was seen by ships coming in, just as the great Statue of Liberty is seen in the harbor of New York.
They were years in building it, and when completed it was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. It was finally destroyed by an earthquake about 224 B.C., and its fragments lay where they fell for almost one thousand years.
Cyprus is the third largest island of the Mediterranean. As we near it from Rhodes, it looks like two islands, for it has two mountain ranges* running along its north and south coasts, with a large plain between them. As we get nearer, the mountains seem to grow in size, and the real shape of the island becomes more apparent. We steam around the southern side, calling first at Limissos and then at Larnaka, the chief port, with a very poor harbor.
We land, and make our way through the town, and then take horses and ride across country to Nikosia, the capital. We pass many little fields of wheat and barley on our way. Now and then we see a cotton plantation, and up on the hills olive orchards and vineyards. Farming is the chief business of Cyprus ; although the country is very rough, and there is much waste land.
Cyprus now belongs to Great Britain, being governed by a high commissioner appointed by the king of England. The island is noted for its antiquities; and many statues, vases, and other curiosities used ages ago have been dug out of the ground and sent to museums all over the world. The people are mainly of the Greek race, and most of them belong to the Greek Catholic Church, although some few are Mohammedans. There are many schools, including high schools, and several newspapers are published in Greek. The people elect many of their own officers and fix their own taxes.