All these patriarchal customs are, however, in the cities of the iEgean, and in the towns of European Turkey, things of the past. Western education and ideas are, with every succeeding generation, more and more permeating every class, and though a good many of these apparent changes are merely superficial, and present strange and sometimes ridiculous anomalies, unavoidable in a period of transition from Eastern to Western habits and modes of thought, real progress is no doubt being made by this section of the nation. A young wife becomes the mistress of her husband’s house, his parents merely receiving her on her arrival according to the ancient etiquette in matters of marriage, which I shall presently describe, and which is still to a great extent adhered to. She now enjoys the same freedom of action and social status as the European ladies with whom she may be acquainted. All the usual facilities for social intercourse are at her disposal, and she may, if philanthropically disposed, spend some of her leisure time in endeavouring to ameliorate the condition of those of her countrywomen less favoured by fortune.
She has her box at the theatre, and attends the balls given at the casinos of the different nationalities as well as those more exclusively Armenian. I was once, when at Smyrna, invited to a fancy dress ball, given during the Carnival by the members of the Armenian Cercle or Club, where I found myself the only European present. The arrangement of the rooms left nothing to be desired, and the stewards were perfect in their duties. The costumes of the ladies especially were extremely rich, varied, and picturesque, and set off to great advantage the beauty of many of the wearers. Many of them were ancient Oriental dresses of a style no longer worn, and composed of rare silk damask decorated with exquisite old embroidery. Others were of the more conventional type of Floras, “Nights,” and Shepherdesses. Though none of the company had probably ever had a dancing lesson, there was little fault to be found with their performance, and some of the younger ladies, indeed, waltzed most gracefully. Many of the company spoke English, nearly all expressed themselves fluently in French, and I was indebted to them for a very enjoyable evening.
The travelled Armenian lady often returns to her native town imbued with a sense of her own superiority, and sometimes, I must admit, inclined to treat with contempt her less favoured sisters. I was some years ago slightly acquainted with a lady of this description, who posed as a complete Parisienne and femme du monde. One day among the numerous callers, both native and foreign, whom. we met in her drawing-room, was an Armenian lady whose resplendent toilette was completed by a pair of bright blue kid gloves. After some conversation with this lady and her party, the hostess crossed over to where I sat with my friends, saying, as she joined us, “Je viens m’asseoir du cote” de la civilisation ; ces gants bleus la m’ont donne mal au cceur.” On another occasion this very ” civilised ” lady, after deploring the want of literary taste at Smyrna and Bournabat, said, referring to the English Levantine ladies who constitute the principal element of “society” in that suburb, “Really they have no topics of conversation beyond the success of the last boughadha’ and the price of soap!”
The domestic virtues of the average Armenian woman are, however, many. Her house is a model of neatness and cleanliness, and, even if she is sufficiently wealthy to employ several servants, she will often assist in making the many choice delicacies for which the Armenian cuisine is famous, but which I fear that I have not here space to describe. She is a fond and devoted, if not always a judicious, mother, and an affectionate wife ; and, as a rule, the greatest harmony prevails in Armenian households. When, however, family dissensions occur, they are often aggravated by the fact of the absolute indissolubility of the marriage bond, for, though a separation may be effected, neither party is free to contract a fresh union.
As has been already pointed out in the Introduction, two entirely distinct types are to be found among the Armenians—the fair and the dark, or, as the Turks designate them, the “Pure” (Indje) and the “Coarse” (Kalun). It is, no doubt, to this fact that we may attribute the very contradictory estimates formed by different authors of the personal attractions of Armenian women. Dora d’Istria, writing some forty years ago, describes their beauty in glowing terms ;i while Sir Paul Ricaut, though speaking favourably of the appearance of the men, can find nothing to say in favour of that of the other sex.s At the period, however, when this quaintly interesting author recorded his impressions (1679) it was customary for Armenian ladies, even at Smyrna, to live in great seclusion, and when abroad to be veiled and cloaked like Moslem women ;3 and consequently the female specimens of the race with whom he would, under these circumstances, come into contact, would be only women of the lowest class and of the most mixed blood. .. The Armenian ladies of Constantinople enjoy a great reputation for beauty, and those of Smyrna may, I think, be said to be not far behind them in this respect. One of their greatest charms consists
1 The ” great wash” performed every three or four weeks, when the clot hos are bleached with the ley of wood ashes.
1 “La beaut i des Armeniennes quand clle n’est pas defiguree par une embonpoint prGcoce est veritablement remarquable. ….. Leur fraicheur
est merveilleuse, leur taille svelte et fiancee, leurs sourcils quoiqu’ t,pais, parfaitement dessines, &c.”—Les Femmes en Orient.
2 “Their women are commonly ill-shaped, long-nosed, and not one of a thousand so much as tolerably handsome.”—The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, p. 386.
i The Armenian were distinguishable from the Turkish women by the dark colour of their feridgit or cloaks, and by the red shoes which the sumptuary laws of the time obliged them to wear when abroad.
n the languorous expression of their dark, almondshaped eyes. These beauties naturally belong to the “pure” type, and have, as a rule, black hair and eyes; though brown hair and blue eyes are not unfrequently met with, and are distinctive of some families. The complexion of this type is also good, the figure and carriage graceful, and the hands and feet are frequently small and well shaped. A Viennese painter was so struck with the exquisite proportions of the hand and arm of an Armenian lady of my acquaintance that he begged her to sit to him as a model for that part of a picture upon which he was then engaged. This lady belonged to a family famous for the beauty of its female members, among two generations of whom quite half a score of handsome women might be counted, mostly of the brown-haired and blueeyed type, though of pure Armenian blood, and belonging to the Gregorian Church. And the window of a house in the Armenian quarter of Smyrna, where several of these belles were often visible, was named by their admirers “The Seventh Heaven of Mohammed.” A comely specimen of the “coarse ” type may occasionally be met with, but, as a rule, there is not among them, as Sir Paul Ricaut says, “one in a thousand so much as tolerably handsome.”
But, whether “coarse” or “pure,” Armenian women resort more or less to the use of cosmetics, either to enhance their charms, or to conceal their defects. Nor is this practice a result of the emancipation from ancient customs of the daughters of Smyrna and Constantinople. For earlier in the century, when Armenian women still went abroad
veiled and. cloaked like Moslems, as above described, and were, in their homes, equally secluded from the gaze of strangers, the passion for “getting up,” which appears to be as inherent in the plain little hired drudge as in the elegant kokona, was perhaps more largely indulged in than at the present day, when the practice is being abandoned by educated women. I was greatly amused during some idle summer weeks at Bournabat by witnessing the open-air preparation and subsequent application of the mysterious compound used for the purpose by the gardener’s wife, who lived in an adjoining cottage. The result of her many hours’ pounding, mixing, shaking, and straining was generally made use of on a Sunday or Feast-day, and the effect was truly dazzling. On the opposite side of the lane lived two girls of a rather higher grade, whose daily occupation might be summed up in the words—they “painted their faces, and tired their heads, and looked out of a window;” and the attempts of the gardener’s wife to rival these “young ladies” were highly amusing. The concoction and sale of these “washes” constitute, in the cities of the East, one of the minor domestic industries. It is generally carried ou by elderly women, who are also skilled in the manufacture of rose- and orange-flower-water and of the delicious preserves met with only in the East. On one occasion, when I had expressed a wish for some rose-water, one of these persons was sent for, who brought with her a handkerchief full of fresh roses (the Rosa moscata), and a small still. Setting up the latter in the garden, over an impromptu fireplace of stones, she in a few hours produced, for the modest charge of six piastres, or one shilling, two large bottles of exquisite rose-water.
The native Armenian costume is now, in the cities of the seaboard and the towns of European Turkey, a thing of the past. A few of the elderly women still retain, it is true, as among the Greeks, the oldfashioned head-dress of the taktikios, which consists of a red fez, the full tassel of which is combed and spread all over it, surrounded by a kerchief of darkcoloured muslin, with a painted border and an edge of coloured needle-point lace. The hair, plaited into one tress, is twisted round the taktikios, and secured with a gold or silver pjn.’ A long plain skirt of stuff or silk, and a loose jacket lined with fur in winter, complete the costume, both for outdoor and indoor wear, though a shawl is sometimes added. In adopting Parisian fashions, Armenian women have retained their partiality for the vivid dyes which accorded so well with their ancient style of dress, but which now often asserts itself in combinations of colour most unpleasing to a Western eye; and the outdoor display they make of their superabundant jewellery says more for the security of property than for the taste of the wearer. But this tendency generally, if not always, disappears after a visit to Paris, or some other European capital.
There are, however, very few of the Europeanised Armenians who, in the privacy of their homes, are neat in their attire. All those I have known were in the habit, immediately on their return from a walk or a visit, of exchanging their Parisian finery for a loose skirt and jacket, their high-heeled and manybuttoned boots for slippers (generally down at heel), and their elaborate coiffure for two plaits, hanging loosely over their shoulders. In this guise, too, they sit at their windows, their fair elbows resting on the cushioned sill, chewing gum-mastic, a practice which, though common to all women of the Levant, is more especially characteristic of the Armenians, and in the motions it gives to their jaws, unpleasantly recalls ruminating animals. This bad habit, however, is said to be good for the teeth.
1 Twenty years ago, all the elderly women of Smyrna of every class, whether Armenian, Greek, or Frank, wore this head-dress, and also many middle-aged matrons belonging to the two former races.
The native costumes still worn in Armenia and in the far interior of Asia Minor vary in form, but the garments, worn one over another, of which they consist are all equally brilliant in colour and durable in material. At Van, the women allow their luxuriant black hair to fall loosely over their shoulders, and on their heads they wear a fez of red cloth, round which is folded, turban-fashion, a many-coloured kerchief. The remainder of the costume closely resembles that formerly worn by all Osmanli women, and still retained by them in many parts of the Empire. It consists of the intarie—a long gown of striped cotton, fitting tightly to the figure; the shalvar—full trousers of raspberry-coloured silk, drawn in at the ankles; the shdpo—a long sleeveless jacket reaching to the feet, and open at the sides up to the waist; and, over all, the jupbe—an ample pelisse leaving exposed to view only the front of the shdpo and the cuffs of the intarie, which are shaped en sabot and edged with “needle-lace.” The pattern always found on the shdpo deserves a word as illustrating a survival of the cone-fruit so frequently found on Chaldean monuments. This garment is made of a kind of cashmere of mixed silk and cotton in wide stripes of contrasting colour. On these stripes are printed various running patterns, of which the leading motive is always the cone. This favourite design of Oriental artists is, however, also said to be merely a modification of the figure of a cypress with its crest bent by the wind, that tree being, both in the folk- and culture-lore of most of the nations of Eastern Europe, the type of grace and beauty.
The costume of the women of Kaisariyeh, in Cappadocia, where the Armenians number some 16,000, is composed of very beautiful stuffs, and decorated with embroidery of remarkable delicacy. The headdress is particularly rich. Strings of gold sequins cover the front of the fez and hang over the forehead. From behind the ears are also suspended strings of seed pearls, and the neck and wrists are similarly decorated with ornaments of gold and pearls. The dress now worn at Sivas is said to be identical with that of the women of ancient Persia. Out of doors, however, all the women of the interior conceal the luxury of their costumes under a cloak of plain stuff, similar to that worn by Moslem women, and shroud their heads and faces with a thick veil.
Armenian girls of the poorer classes manifest an •even greater repugnance than Greek girls to employ
ment outside the sphere of their own homes, and the latter are often employed as servants in Armenian houses, owing to the difficulty of obtaining Armenian domestics. To see the Armenian girls lounging about their doorways one might indeed say that their leading characteristics are apathy and listlessness. Yet, though so much less energetic than their sisters inhabiting the less enervating climate of Armenia, they can hardly, as a class, be stigmatised as indolent. Many little home-industries are pursued, such as the making of the coloured lace called oya or bibil, formerly so much in demand for trimming the native costumes both of Armenian and Turkish ladies, and also embroidery in gold and silks. The taste and aptitude displayed by Armenian girls for the latter pursuit led to the formation of a class of “art needlework” in connection with the Industrial Institution for Girls, founded at Constantinople in 1887 by Mr. Ohannes Nourian, a philanthropic Armenian resident of that city. To the pupils of this establishment, who now number one hundred and twenty, and are presided over by thirty teachers, was entrusted the task of decorating with their needles the State apartments occupied by the Emperor and Empress of Germany during their recent visit to the Sultan’s capital. The Empress’s satisfaction with their handiwork was, it is said, expressed to the Sultan in such glowing terms that His Majesty conferred decorations on the lady directresses of the institution.1 The silk factories of
1 It is a rather curious fact that the conferment of Orders on Women, fhould have been initiated in Turkey.
Broussa, as before mentioned, afford employment to a considerable number of women, of whom a certain proportion are Armenians, who are, I am told, greatly valued for their powers of steady work.
In Armenia Proper it would appear that the women are not less industrious than their Christian peasant sisters in other parts of Turkey, and, in this respect at least, they rival the men of their nation, who are indefatigable workers. Besides her household work, and the care of the family and domestic animals, the manufacture of clothing for the family and furniture for the house also devolves upon the Armenian woman. The spindle is to her what knitting is to a German housewife, and, with the help of her daughters, many beautiful tissues are produced on the loom, the surplus of which find their way to the bazaars of the capital. Among these are fine linen and silk gauzes; so-called Turkish towels, and havlus, or bathing gowns of the same material, with fringed and embroidered borders, made chiefly at Trebizond, Erzeroum, and Van; cloth of fine camel’s-hair, and handsome stuffs for covering the seats and cushions of divans. The process of making the felt or Ukke carpets so much used in the country is very simple. On a mat, larger than the carpet and strengthened at the back with stout linen, the dyed wool is arranged according to the pattern intended. On this another layer of more finely carded wool is placed to the depth of about a foot. Several persons then carefully roll up the mat, and the cylinder thus formed is rolled about and pressed with the feet until the wool is reduced to the thickness of half an inch. The upper surface is then carefully clipped in order to accentuate the outline of the pattern.
A distinguishing trait of the Armenian character is their fondness for, and consequent kindness to, animals, which contrasts very favourably with the cruelty displayed by their Greek, and more especially by their Jewish, neighbours towards their dumb fellow-creatures. To kill a cat, a rat, or a bird was formerly considered so grave a crime as to deserve ecclesiastical punishment, and M. Fleurian1 records a case in which a fast of twenty years’ duration was imposed by the priest upon a woman for killing her cat. And though much leniency is not, I believe, shown at the present day to the larger vermin, I well remember the horror and indignation of some Armenian ladies at Smyrna on witnessing the inhuman treatment by a Greek baker of a rat which had been caught in a trap in his shop. In Armenia, as before mentioned, the dogs are housed under the platform of the selamlik, and the beautiful white cats with long silky fur, and tails oddly dyed of a reddish hue with henna, sit on the knees of their masters or purr by their sides on the cushions of the divan. Besides these more common animals there are the tame, or half tame, lemmings, jerboas, and kara guez, or “black-eyes.” The last are pretty little creatures, with soft grey fur. Like the pink-eyed lemmings, they hybernate every year, and are easily domesticated. As for birds, the popular reverence for them is so great that it, to some extent, accounts for the immense numbers to be found in Armenia. Some travellers describe them as literally ” covering the ground;” and their variety appears no less great, for Mr. Calvert, when Consul at Erzeroum, collected as many as one hundred and seventy different species.1 Armenian salutations and greetings partake of a decidedly religious character. The reply to goodmorning and good-evening is invariably, “The blessing of God to you.” On separating in the evening the reply to good-night, “And a good dawning,” extends the salutation to the next day. At Easter, and for forty days afterwards, the greeting is, “Christ is risen from the dead!” and the response, “Blessed be the Resurrection of Christ.” The ordinary form of felicitation on the marriage of a son or daughter, the birth of a child, or any other happy domestic event, is “Light to your eyes!” and the acknowledgment, “May you also enjoy the light.”
1 Ktat present de I’Arme’nie, p. 25.
From the above described contrast between the social life and manners of the two sections of the Armenian nation in Turkey, naturally follows a wide difference in the degree of education to which they have respectively attained. While in point of culture the Armenians of the ^Egean would compare not unfavourably with Europeans, the dwellers in the remote Fatherland have advanced but slowly, and female education especially is in a very backward state. Great efforts are, however, being made to remedy this defect, and various educational associations have been organised, which number among their most active members many ladies belonging to the communities at Smyrna and Constantinople. The “Philomathic Society of Armenian Ladies” have founded at Koum-Kapou, Constantinople, a Training College for native schoolmistresses to be sent to Armenia, Cilicia, and elsewhere; and in this establishment seventy-five have already been trained, and appointed to schools in those districts. The “National Society of Armenian Women” also maintains five girls’ schools in the towns of Moush, Hadjin, Keghi, Seghert, and Alashguerd, at which some six hundred pupils are now being educated. The “United Societies for the Promotion of Education in Armenian Centres ” have also in their list ten girls’ schools, scattered over four different provinces, in which instruction is, according to the returns for 1889, afforded to more than seven hundred girls. All these institutions are maintained by voluntary contributions; for, though the Porte imposes an “Education Tax” on its Christian subjects, Moslem schools alone are benefited thereby. The proportion of girls’ to boys’ schools, however, notwithstanding all the praiseworthy efforts of these various societies, is as yet, as with the Greeks of Turkey, only as one to four.
1 Curzon’s Armenia, p. 154. . .<
The American missions to the Armenians, which have been established for more than half a century at Kharput, Kaisariyeh, Sivas, Van, Erzeroum, Aintab, and some other places, have already done much for the education of the female portion of the nation in these towns. The schools attached to these establishments, and presided over by devoted ladies from the
Far West, are attended not only by the daughters of Protestant converts, but of orthodox Gregorians, some, who come from a considerable distance, being received as boarders. Many parents who would gladly follow their example are, unfortunately, too poor to be able to pay even the very low fees required for board and education. The course of instruction comprises the English, Turkish, and Armenian languages, Scripture lessons, arithmetic, and more advanced subjects for those who wish to be trained as teachers.
Among the Armenians, as formerly among the Greeks, the Turkish language has, in some districts, and notably at Broussa and Kaisariyeh, entirely replaced the mother-tongue, which is there used only in the church liturgies. This fact forcibly illustrates the state of denationalisation into which this nation has in many places sunk during the Ottoman domination. With the re-birth of national sentiment and aspiration, a reaction has, however, naturally set in, and the rising generation now everywhere learns in the national schools the mother-tongue, which will, it is hoped, soon entirely supersede the use of Turkish, save as a foreign language. Good schools both for boys and girls have long been established in the capital and in Smyrna, and for very many years past the teaching of French has in the latter city been obligatory. Some of the wealthier families at Smyrna send their daughters to the establishment of the German Deaconesses, where, besides receiving a sound general education, they add a good knowledge of English, French, and German to the three native languages of Armenian, Turkish, and Greek, which they have orally acquired in childhood. Many girls are also educated at home by European governesses, who find their pupils, as a rule, extremely intelligent and painstaking. While Armenian men have been engaged on translations of such works as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, some of the Armenian women of the Capital and of Smyrna have occupied themselves with rendering into their native language, for the benefit of their less cultured sisters, the more popular works of Victor Hugo, Dumas, Ohnet, and other French authors. A literary Salon, too, has been formed at Constantinople, though whether the “culture ” of its members is, or is not, of the kind satirised by Moliere in Les Precieuses Ridicules and Les Femmes Savantes, I am not in a position to say. Armenian women are also in considerable demand as actresses in Turkish theatres. The plays most in vogue in this country are French operettas, the librettos of which are translated into Turkish, though original comedies are also often placed on the boards. The Sultan employs a company of these women, and himself writes, or rather furnishes, the plots for some of the comedies and burlesques. Armenian literature, the most brilliant period of which was from the fifth to the seventh centuries, long neglected, is at present in a transitional stage, and there is now, I am informed, “more imitation than creation.” The recent revival of education and national sentiment, however, will no doubt be followed by a revival of letters, and of this there are, indeed, already various unmistakable signs. Old traditions are being collected and published; periodicals started, devoted to the national cause; and, as before mentioned, great efforts are being made in the schools to restore the use of the ancient language of Armenia.
I ought not, perhaps, to close this chapter without some remark on the patriotism of the Armenians. For however far from the land of his ancestors a son of Haik may roam, he never forgets its former greatness, nor ceases to long for its deliverance from a foreign yoke. And this sentiment seems to be as strongly developed in the communities which have lived so long in exile that they still retain forms of speech which are obsolete in the Fatherland, as in the emigrant of yesterday. Indeed, the couplet from the ancient folk-song,
Thy native land still bear in mind,
To it be ever true and kind,1
attributed to an old nurse when taking leave of an Armenian princess about to be married to a foreign monarch, seems always to find an echo in the Armenian breast. And from the women no less than from the men of such far-off colonies as those of Batavia and Sourabayia, in Java, as well as from those inhabiting the Turkish cities, come messages of sympathy, accompanied by more substantial assistance, to the Armenian Patriotic Associations lately established in Europe.