Temptation to plunder
We brought not a relic from Ephesus!
From Haj Mirza Khan
November 23, 2001
"All American literature comes from one novel: The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." That's how Ernest Hemingway
regarded Mark Twain's masterpiece. Twain's genius exposed the hypocrisy
of racism with simple, folk humor - and reverse logic. He put the intelligent,
last nail in the coffin of slavery in America. I was glad to hear he traveled
widely and had made it to the Middle East. He never passed through Persia,
but maybe you'll find the following passage from Innocents
Abroad (1867), interesting.
WHEN I last made a memorandum, we were at Ephesus. We are in Syria, now,
encamped in the mountains of Lebanon.
The interregnum has been long, both as to time and distance. We brought
not a relic from Ephesus!
After gathering up fragments of sculptured marbles and breaking ornaments
from the interior work of the mosques; and after bringing them at a cost
of infinite trouble and fatigue, five miles on muleback to the railway depot,
a government officer compelled all who had such things to disgorge!
He had an order from Constantinople to look out for our party, and see
that we carried nothing off. It was a wise, a just, and a well-deserved
rebuke, but it created a sensation.
I never resist a temptation to plunder a stranger's premises without
feeling insufferably vain about it. This time I felt proud beyond expression.
I was serene in the midst of the scoldings that were heaped upon the Ottoman
government for its affront offered to a pleasuring party of entirely respectable
gentlemen and ladies I said, "We that have free souls, it touches us
The shoe not only pinched our party, but it pinched hard; a principal
sufferer discovered that the imperial order was inclosed in an envelop bearing
the seal of the British Embassy at Constantinople, and therefore must have
been inspired by the representative of the Queen.
This was bad -- very bad. Coming solely from the Ottomans, it might have
signified only Ottoman hatred of Christians, and a vulgar ignorance as to
genteel methods of expressing it; but coming from the Christianized, educated,
politic British legation, it simply intimated that we were a sort of gentlemen
and ladies who would bear watching!
So the party regarded it, and were incensed accordingly. The truth doubtless
was, that the same precautions would have been taken against any travelers,
because the English Company who have acquired the right to excavate Ephesus,
and have paid a great sum for that right, need to be protected, and deserve
They can not afford to run the risk of having their hospitality abused
by travelers, especially since travelers are such notorious scorners of