three pairs of lovers with space

THE PRESENT STATE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE BY AARON HILL, 1709

 

Aaron Hill (1685-1750) was an English writer, mostly of plays. In about 1700, and aged only about fifteen, he set out on a long journey to the Near East as protégé of Lord Paget, the English ambassador to Constantinople, with whom he returned to England in April 1703. His adventures abroad furnished the material for his first publication, A Full and Just Account of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire In all its Branches, published in 1709.

Presented here is the only passage in this book touching on Greek love, taken from the second edition, published in London in 1710, pp. 80-81.

 

CHAP. X.

Of the Turkish Morals.

                                                  The Turks are much inclin’d to Sodomy.

Aaron Hill, aged 24, 1709

BUT now, O black and horrid Shame! I must with all the detestation of a Christian Zeal, descend to speak a shocking Truth, relating to the strange and curs'd Pollution of inverted Nature, that ancient hellish Crime, which ruin’d Sodom, and at present reigns among the Turks, with such libidinous extravagance, that they will publickly avow their countenanc’d delight in such a beastly and inhuman Practice.

THEY have their favourite Pooshts, or Catamites, as common as their Concubines, and ride attended to the Wars or distant Governments, by rich and splendid Numbers of these young Male Prostitutes.

      The means whereby the Turks grew fond of
                                     Sodomy.
‘TIS more than probable, that the raging Fire of this impetuous Lust, began to flame from the original Confinement of the Turkish Janizaries, denied, like Roman Priests the liberty of Marriage; who, therefore not supporting the unwelcome Prohibition with expected resignation to the Will of their Commanders, broke out in loose and wanton searches after unknown Pleasures; and like Water, check’d in its incumber’d Chanel, soon doubled former force, and rapidly o’erflow’d the delug’d Banks, whose lofty Mounds had formerly confin’d them.

                                                          The Vice encourag’d by Impunity.
IMPUNITY for such unnatural and encroaching Guilt, emboldens their Presumption to so vast an height, that I remember with the greatest horror and amazement, an unexampled Impudence I was my self a witness of at Adrianople.

                                                             A Story of a Turk, at Adrianople.
SIR Robert Sutton, now Embassador from Her Present Majesty to the Court of Constantinople, being just arriv’d in the abovenam’d City,[1] where his Predecessor had some time expected him; it was my Duty to Congratulate his Entrance on that Dignity, which I did in company with many British Gentlemen at that time there: The House in which Sr. Robert lodg’d, was seated pleasantly upon a noble River, which runs along the City, and an open Kiosk or airy Summer House look’d out upon the Water.

WE were standing here extreamly pleas’d with the delightful Prospect, when from the Plain upon the other side, we saw a Turk of middle Age and decent Habit, lead a Boy about Fourteen directly to the Bank which slop’d upon the River, where he thought himself securely shelter'd from the People of a Village not far distant.

                                                     An incredible Proof of Turkish Insolence.
DESCENDED to a Place convenient as he thought for the execution of his Purpose, he began, to our surprize, and inexpressible confusion, to prepare himself and his consenting Catamite, for acting a Design so hateful to our sight, and such a stranger to our Customs, that we scarce believ’d our Eyes, when they beheld this Object: We hallow’d loudly to the lustful Wretch, who turn’d his Head with seeming wonder to perceive us there, but still persisted in his first Attempt, till snatching up a Fowling-piece, which lay by chance upon a Table in the Summer House, I cock’d it, and presented it against his Body, as if I would have shot him dead immediately; at this he started, and adjusting the disorder of his loosned Dress, retir’d precipitately, with a thousand Curses on the House and Company, for having baulk’d so impious an Intention.

A noted Proof of God’s abhorrence of the crime. Why unbeliev’d. The folly of believing Travellers
                                                              more apt to lie than other People.

A man caught in bed with boy (from Nefḥat ül-ezhār, a 1721 ms. of an earlier poem by Atai)

THERE is in Barbary upon the Coasts of Fez, and in the Neighbourhood of that Imperial City, a most strange and dreadful Proof of God’s Resentment of this growing Guilt, in his surprizing Judgment on a certain Moor, inflicted in the very moment of the beastly Action:[2]

[The remainder of this section of the book on sodomy is devoted to the story (of which no “judicious reader” will doubt the truth) of this Moor, who, while sodomising an ass, as was his habit, was turned into stone by the wrath of God along with the beast he had sinned with; pp. 80-81]

 

[1] Adrianople (Edirne in Turkish) was the capital of the eyalet of Rumelia in the Balkans. This was in 1702.

[2] The author clearly thinks of pedicating humans and bestiality as the same crime, since he sees God’s wrath over one as evidence of the wrongness of the other and calls them both “sodomy”, but he was inaccurate according to both English and Islamic law.  Certainly both were sexual crimes (“buggery” in England or “zina” in Islam), but they were still distinct ones: the English “sodomy” and its Islamic equivalent, liwāt, were both limited to the believed biblical crimes of Sodom or the people of Lot, and did not by law or strict usage include bestiality.

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