NOTE: The full text of the Turkish-language transcript is available here.
GV: My name is Günder Varinloğlu. The date is May 19, 2011. I have the pleasure of interviewing Semavi Eyice, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History at Istanbul University. This work of oral history is a joınt project between the two departments of Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, located in Washington D.C.: namely, the Image Collections & Fieldwork Archives and the institutional Archives. Before we begin, do I have your permission to record this interview?
SE: Yes, you do.
GV: Thank you. Could you tell us your name for the record?
SE: Professor Semavi Eyice. I served both as a professor in the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Arts as well as the chair of Byzantine Art at Istanbul University. That chair was later abolished, and I retired 21 years ago.
GV: Where and when were you born? Let’s start from there.
SE: Well, my year of birth, according to official records, is 1923 in Kadıköy, Istanbul. However, because our house in Kadıköy at the time, around the end of 1922, burnt down, I think this is a little – I think my birth must have been registered with some delay – that is, from what I can gather. But because it was recorded as ’23, there isn’t much use in debating the date, although it should actually have been ’22. I was born in Kadıköy. My family, my roots – both my mother and my father are from Amasra near Bartın on the Black Sea shore. It’s an interesting place historically in that it’s a former Genoese colony port in Northern Anatolia, in the northern part of Turkey. It wasn’t until after the conquest of Constantinople that Mehmed II took the city from the Genoese. Genoese coats of arms can still be found on its fortifications. I even have an article on those.
GV: Alright, let’s get back to your family. I know that in previous interviews you were frequently asked about your father, and yet no one seems to have asked a question about your mother.
SE: Yes. [laughing]
GV: Could you tell us a little about your mother?
SE: Well, as I have just mentioned, both my father and my mother are from Amasra, both of them from families with a long-standing past. My father is Kamil Eyice from the line of Eyices and my mother Hatice Eyice from the line of Hacinuris. I mean, her father had actually passed away around 1948. His last name was Denizci, so Haci Ibrahim Denizci. That is, she was the daughter of a seaman. And my father had come to Istanbul with my grandfather around the 1890s and got registered at the Naval School, which was later renamed the Naval Academy. He graduated as a naval officer. And so, he then got married to my mother and they had a baby, who didn’t survive. After that my brother was born. And then – later, in 1922 – but according to the official records in 1923 – I was born. As I have said, my father is a retired naval officer. And then – but he retired at a rather early age. And then he worked at various naval jobs as a captain, etcetera, at the Port Management Office and such. Later, for a period around 1925–26, he served as a director at the factory that produced those ships steaming across Lake Van. And after that he was the captain of the khedive of Egypt. Because the khedive didn’t recognize, well, the British yoke, in Egypt, he became – he remained a Turkish subject. Until the end he retained his Turkish citizenship and so his yacht was sailing with a Turkish flag.
SE: But that yacht never set sail for Turkey. And yet its captain was legally required to be a Turkish citizen. So, he served as the captain of his yacht. Later on in 1930, when, in Ortaköy, the Ministry of Transportation established for the first time a college for educating civil captains, he was among the faculty. And he worked for the education of captains there for nineteen years until he got retired once again, for the second time, in 1948. He passed away in 1955. My mother passed away in ’72. And so, my mother was, well, the daughter of a seaman. And so, then, my mother – she didn’t have a profession; she was just a housewife. As for my brother and his maritime association – he graduated from Technische Hochschule in Berlin as a marine engineer. He was a senior engineer. He was a world-renowned specialist in steam engines and turbines. And he has written several books on, well, machines used in ships, etcetera. He has also passed away a long time ago.
GV: So you have one sibling?
SE: Yes, one.
GV: Yes. What is your “maritime association”?
SE: Well – our family in general has to do with the sea or naval professions. For example, I have only one uncle who was a doctor. He passed away, many years ago, in 1943. But my other uncle, that is my younger uncle – he also retired as a captain. And he also passed away a while back after having served as a civil captain for a long time. His elder son, too, was a naval officer. He rose up in the Navy ranks first to admiral, and then, from admiral to being the Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces. Until, well – he served as the Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces in the 1970s, Admiral Celal Eyiceoglu.
SE: Well, so after that – after his retirement he went to Tokyo, appointed as the ambassador there. He served, well, a term as ambassador there. He passed away, too. And now I am the only – well, the only old member [laughing] of the family. Yes.
GV: Do you have children?
SE: Well, we have two daughters, but both of them are adopted. We also have a granddaughter from each of our daughters.
GV: Praise be!
SE: One of them, one of the granddaughters finished college. She is doing her Master’s now. And the other one goes to primary school. She is eight years old.
GV: So, did your daughters take an interest in Byzantine History?
SE: Well, no. The elder daughter didn’t really continue her education. She wasn’t very interested in going to school in general. The younger one graduated from Archaeology. Yes. And then she said she would practice it, etcetera, and even went to some excavations and the like. But then she didn’t practice it. And then she managed an insurance company, etcetera, and is now managing some trading business – that is to say she has nothing to do with the profession. I used to have a library comprising some 45,000 to 50,000 books. It could be considered a fairly rich library. And it used to take up a whole – there is a little house next door to here. All the three floors of that house used to be my library. But after then I sold it.
GV: Is it the real estate – was it the three-story real estate office next door?
SE: The one right next door, just here.
GV: Yes, just next door.
SE: Yes. That little building used to be my, well, my library. But then I didn’t keep it. It was sold. I don’t have books any more. I mean, of course, some books pile up in time again, but I don’t have a library proper, anymore. I mean, I had acquired many of the rare books on Byzantium, on, well, on Istanbul, etcetera. I had tracked them and got them. I would always get them. I mean I had books in German, in French, in English, in Italian, and even in Russian.
GV: Do you read Russian?
SE: I don’t, but, for example, there is a hefty monograph on the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev in Russian. Well, it is directly relevant to my field of – given that I lectured on this building, I had to order the book. Of course, you couldn’t order directly from Russia at that time. I got the book through, well, through Germany. Also, I don’t know, for example, there is a Byzantine manuscript with miniature paintings in Moscow. There is a book in Russian on this manuscript. I ordered that book, too. And so I had even some books that were rather difficult to find right here, within easy reach. Yes.
SE: Well, I – my story is as follows: When I was a kid, my father had got me enrolled to a French school. Priests used to run a primary school here in Kadıköy at the time. These primary schools of foreigners were later banned; they were all shut down. But at that time they were still open. And so I started learning French there. But later – my father, having sensed the danger that the government is closing down these language immersion schools run by foreigners – and it was the ’30s. And my brother was in Saint Joseph High School. My father, then, took us both and got us in Galatasaray High School instead. I graduated from Galatasaray High School in ’43. And then – but I had started this profession as early as in middle school. I mean I had started my archaeological and art historical quests when I was in the seventh grade. I had traveled around Istanbul, had taken pictures and notes. I knew all the Byzantine buildings in the city, etcetera. I was the first person in Turkey to realize that this should be a field of scientific inquiry. And then, and so I was determined to study this – I mean, to acquire a degree in Byzantinology. My father actually hemmed and hawed at first, but didn’t oppose me in the end. “I would have preferred you to have studied Foreign Affairs at a Political Science department,” he told me. “But,” he said, “since you are enthusiastic about this, then go ahead and do it.” And so I – when I graduated from high school in ’43, it was the most severe period of World War II that had started in 1939. As you know, the German troops had penetrated deep into Russian territory and France was under occupation. Everywhere was in – I was not educated in German culture or language. My second language in high school was English. I also knew French, of course. But not even a single family member of mine had anything to do with the German language or German culture. My father was more acquainted with English, as would be any seaman. And there was no other country than Germany that one could go. So, I decided to go to Germany. I also met the German Byzantinist Alfons Maria Schneider in Istanbul the same year, the year I graduated from high school.
GV: How did you meet him?
SE: Well, with him – there was this bookstore owned by an Armenian man in Beyazid where we would buy books and things. Whenever a new book on Istanbul or Byzantium would come out in Europe he would definitely have it. And when you would walk into the store he would pull that book out and put it on the table for you. He would know who would buy it. He was a very peculiar man, this Bedros. And so, I had gone to his store as usual one day. It was a very narrow, tiny store this one. And it was cramped with shelves full of books, but there was nothing there that would sell, nothing that was worth much, anyway. But he would keep his valuable books piled up next to him – not even having a chair in there; he would always be standing up, with his coat on. He didn’t have a heater, either. And but everybody would stop by that book store. All the professors, etcetera would come. And so one day when I was there, I saw this German – Schneider was there, as well. He had many publications on Istanbul. And so we introduced ourselves and started talking – in French, of course. He invited me to Germany and told me that I could study with him. My spirits rose – he was in Gottingen. I applied to go to Gottingen to study Byzantinology, I mean, Byzantine Art and Archaeology. He was the assistant director, or something, of the German Archaeological Institute in, well, in Istanbul at the time.
GV: Do you remember who the director was at that point?
SE: I think it was Bittel.
SE: Kurt Bittel. But he – you know, he is more of a Hititologist. He doesn’t work on our periods. In fact he isn’t even interested in the Ancient Period. And then – Schneider was there, was the sub-director. He worked on the Byzantine Empire and, later even on the Ottoman Empire. His last publications before his death are kind of “mixed” in any case. I mean they involve both Byzantium and the Ottomans. For example the book on the topography of Istanbul that was later published by Müller-Wiener is originally his work. The notes that he had left in a closet at the German Institute – it is even written in the introduction to the book – the book of his called “Topography of Istanbul,” it proclaims the book as the result of a work started out by Schneider. And he [Schneider] had first published a couple of articles on the historical topography of Istanbul – both in Gottingen and in Oriens, etcetera. He had explored not only Byzantine but also Ottoman architecture in those articles. At any rate, he encouraged me and I applied with that in mind. Of course, it wasn’t easy to get a passport or anything at that time. I got my passport that summer after, well, working to get it for quite a bit. And then I packed quite a bit of, like a suitcase full of food with me – because we needed stamps to buy anything in Istanbul then. After that I took a train from the Sirkeci Station. That train crossed the whole of Thrace, with several stops along the way, etcetera, and then one car of the train crossed the border. I was the only passenger on that car, and I rode it until Sophia. The Turkish car could only go until that point because the German sleeping cars were not allowed into Turkey. They had their own operator called “Mitropa.” We were using “Wagons-lits,” which the Germans had refused to let into Europe, saying that it was part of the Jewish Organization. It was a very awkward situation. They had their own sleeping car operator called “Mitropa.” We, on the other hand, had train services with sleeping cars that went to Ankara, etcetera, and they operated with – the Turkish Republic was engaged in working with “Wagons-lits.” It was an intricate situation. That was why there was no sleeping car service across Thrace. You had no other option but to take the regular car to Sophia. It wasn’t until Sophia that you could take a sleeping car service. There you could take the German train service with a sleeping car. And I took a route that nobody would take at that time, which was crossing the whole of Bulgaria and what was then Yugoslavia. Nobody would take that route because it would be sabotaged regularly and severely. Serbian guerillas would open fire onto trains, etcetera. It was a frightening route. The route that people generally preferred passed, instead, through Bulgaria to first Romania and then, through Hungary, to Germany. I took that [other] route, just like that, and nothing happened to me. Save that these two nation-states – there were two countries that were given statehood by the Germans due to their alliance with them. Because our government didn’t recognize them, I didn’t have their visas. One was Croatia and the other Slovakia. And then – now, they have all become nation-states, but at that time – it was only for a short period that they were established as states by the Germans. And they weren’t recognized by our government. As a result, I could not get their visas. And so, when the train had a long lay-over in Belgrade, I got off to look for their embassies. I finally found them by persistently asking around. I got the visas in haste, etcetera, and so by passing through the Slovakian border, etcetera, I made it to Berlin. Then, in Berlin – because I didn’t speak any German, I settled in a small village as a guest in a family house. It was a small town between Berlin and Stettin with a population of 7,000. I settled there with a host family. And then I found a retired teacher who could teach German to me. I started studying German with her every day for three hours or so. After having learned some German in this manner I headed to Gottingen. It turned out, however, that Schneider had stayed here, in Turkey. He had written a letter, etcetera, and so a professor there took care of me. But I couldn’t find any – there was no way. I couldn’t find a place to stay or a room to rent. There were two reasons for this. One was that the city had turned into a military hospital. And so – the hospitals were cram-full with the injured, etcetera; their relatives had rented out the apartments and houses there. There wasn’t any available housing. But they were also reluctant to give out anything, to rent a room, to a stranger. And so this professor of archaeology, Kurt Müller, he was an old one – an old professor. He even had a becoming nick-name. They used to call him “leichen Müller.” “Leichen” means corpse, you know.
SE: Why was he nick-named that? Well, he was once – his dissertation was on the catafalque of Alexander the Great, you know, what they call a “leichenwagen,” a funeral coach, if you will. For him not to be confused with other Müllers – as you know, Müller is a very common name among Germans. And so, in order to tell him from other Müllers they used to call him “leichen Müller.” This old fellow and me, we looked for an apartment for quite a while. I stayed with him for more than a week. But I couldn’t find housing for myself. After that I packed very lightly, taking only the most essential logistics like sweaters, a scarf, etcetera; and I set out for Austria, which, at the time, was part of the German territory. From Stettin and passing along the Baltic coast I traveled all the way to Vienna. I was stopping at universities along my way – there were around twenty-five universities in Germany at that point. But the ones in the West were not popular because they were subjected to constant air strikes and even more frequent air strike alarms. It was impossible to sleep at night. In places like Heidelberg, Köln, Freiburg, etcetera, it was impossible. We preferred universities that were as much away from the war zone as possible, on the other hand – good universities such as Breslau – which is, now, part of Poland – or Konigsberg in the East. Most parts of Germany were also dangerous because of their proximity to the Russian front. As a result we would go for one in the central parts. Like, this university on the Baltic coast that I visited – but I found out that, the one professor who had worked on Byzantium – he has a book on it, too – was no longer – well, so there is another college town on the Baltic coast called Greifswald. A professor of Byzantine studies, who worked there from 1920 to 1925 or so – Schultze – Victor Schultze. He even has a very interesting and very important four-volume book. One volume of that is on Istanbul. Especially the second volume – that volume itself consists of two separate volumes. The third volume – that is the fourth book in the series if the second volume is counted as two volumes – is on Antakya. The two volumes in between are dedicated to Anatolia, and it deals with each one of the cities during the Christian Period. His book examines urban centers not archaeologically, but historically through textual sources. It was published as “Altchristliche Städte und Landschaften.” I am sure that your library has this book. So, I went there, too, wondering whether this Schulze was still there or whether there was any trace of him. But there was nothing left of him – in Griefswald! After that, well, wherever there was a – I traveled around. I first went to Erlangen. But there was no one relevant there. There was an Archaeology Department, but no – I actually even talked to a professor in that department, etcetera. And so I ended up taking this devious route to Vienna. Vienna, at the time, was under German control and was considered German territory. I was able to find a room – even in a good location. And there was a Byzantine scholar of Polish descent there by the name of Vladimir [unintelligible]. He had published books on Hagia Sophia and the like. His main area of interest was Art of the Balkans, but he was teaching classes on Byzantine Art, as well. Since I had also found a room to stay, I saw fit to enroll in [the University of] Vienna. And so I did, and I studied there for one semester. But I could study that semester until – well, until the beginning, or the summer rather, of ’44. In the meantime in February my apartment building had got hit by an air strike. Half of the building was completely gone. But the other half where I was staying was still standing. My belongings were all the way over there – in Northern Germany. And so I studied for a semester in Vienna. I also took courses in other areas, of course, such as archaeology, and the like. There was a priest turned archaeologist called Weissmuller in the School of Theology. He was teaching Christian Archaeology. I went to his classes, too. He was such a nice gentleman. Later on when I went to his residence – he was living in a church – to get my school report signed we had a long conversation. We discussed at length where I was from, who I was, what I worked on, etcetera. He was a, how shall I say, very estimable senior theologian-cum-archaeologist, actually both at the same time. He used to wear clerical clothing. He would start his classes with consecration. While others would enter the classroom saying “Heil Hitler,” he would greet his students with the sign of consecration, his hand raised to give his blessing to the class. So, I was thinking of spending August, the summer holiday – I thought I would go back to my old town, pack my things, and complete the visas, etcetera. I had got most of them, but I was missing one visa. I thought I would come back to Turkey, and would have a holiday for a month. I thought I could swim in the sea and fill my stomach as much as I pleased – because all food was given out with stamps in Germany. And, I thought, I could get myself back together, and then return – and so, I came home to Berlin on, I think, August 1. On that day I heard the news that ours [Turkey] had cut diplomatic ties with Germany. I was left helpless with no consulate, no embassy, nor anything else to turn to. They had expelled the German citizens working in Turkey back to Germany. Schneider, etcetera, were all sent back. And they set up an internment camp for the ones that were actually working for Turkey, that is, those that were hired by the Turkish authorities in Kırşehir – or, in Yozgat. With this, I was left there, like, out in the cold for some time. I didn’t know, of course, how my situation would pan out. I couldn’t go back to Turkey. On the other hand a general instruction was issued out there in Germany stating that only veterans – those young Germans who weren’t well enough to serve and needed to rest could go to university. Also admitted into universities were citizens of the Axis alliance, and the neutral states – how many nations remained neutral at that point, anyway? Only Sweden, Switzerland, and, well, Turkey had been one until that time. But by officially declaring, against the Germans, that – we were now part of the enemy. How about me? What would I do? Nothing was certain. A German friend of mine advised me to write a letter addressed to the Ministry of Education – he told me to ask them to clarify what my situation would be. I agreed and, with his help, penned a letter. We put it in an envelope and I took it to Berlin. It was – the town where I lived was eighty kilometers from Berlin. But Berlin was bombed every night! I found the ministry. And I saw that there is nothing left of the Ministry but four walls. The fenestrations were empty – the building had long been burnt down and destroyed. Where would I submit my document? At that I went back, of course. I found that friend of mine. “Listen,” I told him, “there was nothing left of the Ministry there! Not even a single soul left!” Without hesitation, he told me to go ahead and stamp the envelope as usual and put it in a mailbox. “It will reach its destination,” he told me. As a matter of fact, a letter did arrive from the Ministry at my address in my name in twenty – either fifteen or twenty days. It read: “This is to approve the continuation of your studies in the so and so Department of the University of Berlin. The University Presidency has been notified of the approval.” And that was it. Well, if Germany managed to prosper after such a horrifying war, it was by means of a level of organization of this kind. And, I have even told this on television.
SE: I pointed out on TV that even in the midst of war, and all that blood and fire, and with millions of people scattered, some of them died in trenches, some, as refugees, are running from the Soviets, etcetera and yet this service is run impeccably. “I,” I said, “was sent four traffic tickets to my address written on a car that I didn’t own.” I’d never owned such a car nor did I have anything official to do with that plate. “And so from this example,” I said, “You can imagine the sophistication of that bureaucracy.” Anyway. Not that these things are very important, but [laughing] –
SE: I mean, it exemplifies how they functioned well. Anyway, so I enrolled in the University of Berlin. There was a Byzantine scholar named Schweinfurth, who had worked before at Breslau, and who had done his doctorate at Riga University in Latvia – which used to be under Russian rule at that time. He was German in origin, of those that they used to call “Baltic Germans” – they are Germans who had emigrated to Russia. Just like those, you know, “Volga Germans” up in – the Caucasus. There used to be a German colony settled along the Volga banks; I’m not sure if it’s still there. In any case there were also these Germans, well, on the Baltic coast. This Schweinfurth spoke perfect Russian, and he also wrote the first book in German on Russian painting – murals, which, as you may know, are related to Byzantine Art. That book was published in the Netherlands. And then he published another one on Byzantine Art entitled “Byzantinische Form” in 19 – right in the middle of war – 41 or ’42. So, he has few books, but had numerous articles, and, especially, book reviews. His book reviews and analyses would appear in journals all the time. So, I became his student. And I continued taking Classical Archaeology, courses taught by this professor called Rodenwaldt. And then – well, there was also Islamic Art, which was taught by Erdmann, etcetera. But of course that university was in a terrible state. There weren’t any heaters, or glazing, for that matter. Wooden plaques were nailed onto the fenestrations. We were sitting in classrooms with our coats on and everything. As for students, well, we were only five or six people in Byzantine courses. One of them was male, but he was Bulgarian or something, and then there were two or three girls. That was all. Schweinfurth, his coat snugged tight – he had asthma – would be breathing with difficulty and trying his best to lecture. He would try to tell us some things, at least. At that, well, finally came the news. I was told that I could return to Turkey with the ship of the Red Cross but by a devious route that passed through Sweden. So, I took this very long – it took more than one and a half month to go from, well, from Germany to Denmark, from Denmark to Sweden, from Sweden – with a Red Cross ship – to Faroe Islands. To these islands to the north of the Atlantic there are these Faroese islands. From there to – well, to the Port of Liverpool in England, from there to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to, well, crossing the entire Mediterranean. The ship needed to sail in high seas or follow certain shores which were not yet in war. That was why it took such a long time. The voyage took a month and a half. Of course, there were other complications involved with that ship; there were Jews on board. There were quite a number of Jews who had escaped from German camps through acquiring some documents claiming them as Turkish subjects, etcetera. They came from various countries, like Italy, France and here and there. There were also the British, who had been working in Germany until they became civilian internees. The inhabitants of those islands, you know, the Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel, are British. The Germans had invaded that area, too. The civilian population of the islands had, since then, since the beginning of the war, been in Germany. They were all – and so as a large group – Argentinians, who were in a similar position to Turks, were also with us. After resisting for a long time they, too, were eventually forced to cut diplomatic ties with the Germans. We traveled dropping all these people along the way. For example we left some of the Jews in Britain and then, when we got to Lisbon, we left the Argentinians there, etcetera. Traveling this way I made it to Turkey. And then – it was April 15 or so of 1945 when we arrived in Turkey. After letting me rest for a couple of days, my father told me to go and enroll myself in the university right away so that I wouldn’t miss my chances. It was during that time that all the young people were being drafted. It was no joke. So, I went to the Faculty of Arts at Istanbul University. Of course, I didn’t know anybody there. Anyhow, a person named Muzaffer Bey, may his soul rest in peace, working at the office of Student Affairs helped me a lot. He told me that, for people specifically in my situation, it would be crucial to take the exams in the May of that year before the university’s summer break. He told me to take the exams right away, before May, so that my two semesters in Germany might qualify as valid. And so – well, this, obviously, was a very useful hint because I would be regaining an entire year.
SE: And so, I didn’t even know how to get the notes or anything – I had no idea what they had been reading even! I thought of asking the students in the Archaeology Department, but then, well, I met the late Professor Arif Müfid Mansel. Well, because he was single and all, he used to get the attention of the female students quite a lot. He summoned one of them, Mukerrem. “Your notes are very good,” he told her, “Why don’t you give them to Semavi Bey so that he can study?” Of course the girl replied: “My pleasure, Professor!” [laughing] And then I started working every day, until midnight, until the morning to copy the notes of all of the classes taught the previous year. After that I took the exams in, well, at the end of May. I had basically made up in one month. So, I took the exams, except for one, which I left for September. I passed all of the ones I took. Thusly, I was able to qualify the semesters that I had studied in ’44 and ’45 in Germany. These semesters counted as an academic year in Istanbul University. In other words, I didn’t lose a year.
SE: Then in Istanbul – of course, Steven Runciman was once there, but then he had left for Cyprus, thinking that it was nearly the end of the war and that he no longer had to stay in Turkey. He had walked out on all of the classes that he had been teaching before, including Byzantine Art. He had also taught Byzantine History in the History Department. I couldn’t get to work with him or anything, but I did copy all of the notes from his classes. The classes were administered through the semester system at the time. And, well, from the second year on, it was possible to get, well, the credits by passing the given exams. I passed them one by one. Professor Tietze, who had become an internee, returned from Kırşehir and resumed teaching. And, well, I became his assistant – I took his classes. And then he assigned “The Minarets of Istanbul” as my undergraduate thesis topic. I completed that thesis and graduated from, well – having finished my undergraduate thesis, I graduate from the Faculty of Arts in the year 1948. Following that, sometime between 1949 and ’50, Schweinfurth came to Istanbul. He had remained in East Germany. He had lived through a lot. His house had burnt down and everything. He had gone to Switzerland for a conference and never returned to Germany – I mean, to East Germany. He had come to Turkey from there. As I had said, he had been my professor when I was in Berlin. And so he – I was appointed his assistant as soon as I graduated. I worked with Schweinfurth for four years. He died here. And, here, at the Protestant Cemetery, is where we buried him. In the meantime Arif Bey had offered me to work on the Byzantine remains at their excavation in Side. “Given that you work on Byzantine art, you can write your dissertation on the Byzantine findings from the excavation,” he had told me. I said, “Okay.” So, from 1950 on, no, actually from ’49 on I started going to Arif Bey’s excavations in Side. I worked at the archaeological explorations there. I did my dissertation in ’52. It was entitled “Byzantine Buildings of Side.” Upon submitting it, I earned the title “doctor.” Later on – I beg your pardon?
SE: Yes it had.
GV: And in Kariye since 1947.
GV: Later in Fethiye Mosque and in Zeyrek – did you have any contact with them?
SE: No, no. No. No. They never made any contact with me. And none of the – I never knew anybody who worked there. There was even this incident at Kariye – when the high UNESCO officials were visiting Istanbul. When they consulted the university, the president assigned me to guide them. I guided them through Istanbul, and took them to the museums, and such. Many commissioners and high officials visited one by one as such. The work was ongoing at Kariye at that time. One time when I went to Kariye with one of these officials, our interaction with the workers there, who were predominantly Greeks –
GV: Were they?
SE: Yes, most of them were Greek. I mean, their head was American and all, but those who were responsible for the craftwork and for the scraping and cleaning were Greeks themselves. And they greeted us in an unpleasant manner. So, I lost my tempter and started yelling at these men.
GV: What kind of manner? What happened?
SE: They shut the door hard in our faces and things like that. And then –
GV: And this happened at Kariye?
SE: Yes, at Kariye. And I was fuming with rage. I started scolding so loudly that my voice was reverberating throughout the building. This is the kind of thing that the Greeks specifically – I mean, when a Turk gets angry, they run away. And so, well, I had one such experience. In other words, I did not have any contact in any way.
GV: How about Thomas Whittemore; did you ever – ?
SE: I wrote an article in his memory.
SE: It was published in the Touring Club Bulletin upon his death. It was an immature article, of course, because I was very inexperienced at the time. “Thomas Whittemore.” It was one of my first essays. I had also gotten hold of this – which was not published in the international media – an interview with him that had been published, with a photograph of his, in the Life Magazine’s United States print. I had specifically found that issue. I mean the American issue. We had also attached that photograph of his to the essay in the Touring Club Journal. Later on –
GV: But you never met him?
SE: Pardon me?
GV: You hadn’t met Thomas Whittemore, had you?
SE: No, I had not. I’d never met him.
GV: Did you meet anyone else from the Byzantine Institute?
GV: Did you know Hawkins?
SE: No. No – well, I had seen Underwood at cocktail parties, and here and there, but we didn’t really talk. I didn’t have any acquaintances among them.
GV: Alright, you mentioned that the Byzantine Institute didn’t hire many – so were there not many Turks employed for their works in Istanbul?
SE: No, there weren’t.
GV: The majority of them were Greek.
SE: No! They had no contact with Turks.
GV: What other nationalities were the people working there?
SE: There were, well – mostly, as characteristic of Whittemore – he was called professor, but I doubt that he’d actually held any academic title. Anyway –
GV: He had not.
SE: He was not, well, I mean, not an educator or anything. He was a man of organizational projects. He would go and collect money from the rich, establish certain foundations, and organize their work. For example, that man had also come to Turkey in the 1920s. Why? In order to gather those fugitives, you know, from the Tsardom of Russia, the Soviet Republic, the communist regime – in order to gather them and to resettle them in Europe by arranging jobs for them. Whittemore was involved in such kind of an organizational work. There is even a book on that, actually, on those people who took refuge, accompanied by his photograph. That was how I had found out about these in the first place. Therefore, he hired many young Russians this way, in this, well – in this Byzantine Institute he turned them into active employees.
SE: Majewski, etcetera. There were some people like Majewski, etcetera, at the time there. Many a – well, actually, Ševčenko was one of them, and he was Russian.
SE: I mean, all this was because of Whittemore. Later in 1930s, when he was again in Istanbul, dealing with Russians at the Hagia Sophia – there underneath the whitewash – even at the time when I used to be student – somewhat visible were some figures. So, he got the necessary permission from the Directorate of Pious Endowments. Hagia Sophia was functioning as a mosque at the time. At first, his permission applied only to the narthex area and not the main interior. He suggested uncovering a mosaic in that area and he did so. After that he uncovered the tripartite composition over the side entrance with Justinian and Constantine – and things like that. He first started to oversee this work. I had no contact at the time. Later, after I had finished my dissertation, I needed to write another thesis for an associate professorship. I was teaching at the university as an assistant professor – but it needed to be done under the supervision of a tenured professor. I worked under Schweinfurth until ’54. That is, he was the one teaching the course and I was doing translations into Turkish, etcetera – but the course was discontinued after his death in Istanbul in the June, or July, of ’54. And so in order for the students to continue with the class I – “My dear friend,” Arif Bey told me, “I think you should teach these classes.” Following that, and with his signature – I mean, Arif Bey, Arif Müfid Mansel, was signing for the classes, as if they were under his supervision. We coordinated in this manner. Well, so, I had already done my dissertation work on Side. Because I had uncovered two most interesting buildings that no one had cared for. I was the one to find them. And so Arif Bey advised me to also write my associate professorship thesis on these buildings. But they were such interesting buildings that I sensed that he actually regretted having given them to me. I could somehow feel his regret. So, I said to him one day, “Professor, I won’t do that.” “Oh, alright…!” “I won’t get involved with that project,” I said, “I have found myself another thesis topic. I will do that and take care of this assistant professorship business once and for all!” And I did write that thesis. Well, I think it was the beginning of ’55 when I –
GV: What was that thesis?
SE: “Late Byzantine Architecture in Constantinople,” the architecture of the Palaeologan era. I had already written a couple of articles on that topic. Thereafter, I put together a thesis, and it was published twice as a book. It has two editions; the second one is more comprehensive. I, well, submitted it in the year ’55 – I had already gotten married in ’54. And so, I submitted it in ’55, and I applied for the military draft. I served in the army for a year and a half; six months of training and a year of military office. Later, when I got discharged towards the end of ’56, in November, well, I returned to the University. Of course, there were some problems, some issues, some tough times, etcetera, etcetera, there and then, but that’s a long story and there’s no need to mention those here. Anyway, in the year ’56 I was finally – well, I was appointed to Istanbul University as an associate professor to teach Byzantine courses in the Department of Art History. At that time, however, they were inviting some German professors from Europe. They were being brought as art historians, or, well, to teach Byzantine studies – for those positions. None of them were Byzantinists or anything. Thereafter I felt alienated from the University. I even attempted to, well, to move to other places, etcetera. Certain people advised me not to; they said, “Don’t do it,” etcetera. But these are separate issues; they are personal stories. And consequently in, well, in ’58 – or in ’57, I’m not sure – these Germans were – there is this Foundation of Alexander von Humboldt –
SE: They were providing work and – you know, allowances for foreign academics there for a year, or two. People encouraged me to apply for this exchange program. And so I – I was annoyed by some tricks and conspiracy, anyway. I applied. Thereupon, there were some formalities and things involved, and after having gone through them, I got the response saying, you are admitted, and, you can go, etcetera. There was also this Byzantine Conference in Munich in ’55. In order to attend that – I had attended the Byzantine Conference for the first time in Thessaloniki back in ’53. I had even presented a paper there. And so, I went to Munich in ’55. I attended the conference. I presented a paper, too. I stayed there from then on. Thereafter, from September on, my scholarship had taken effect. I took my wife with me. We stayed there together for a year. As you can imagine, the amount that I was paid was a bit – the money that they were giving was not much, but I got by with it. At first it was 400, and later they increased it to 450. After that they made some small additions, etcetera, and so I was getting around 500 marks a month. I was paying 100 of that amount – I think it was 110 actually – for rent. I was staying, well, together with Kamran, in what they call a studio, you know, a small apartment with a kitchen and a bath, but consist of a single room. It was in a modern building. Aside from that, I was not paying for food or anything. We were cooking for ourselves. And so I lived an ordinary family life there. After that, well, for a couple of more months – some people who would go there would stay for a year and then apply to extend the scholarship for another year, and then another year, etcetera. I didn’t do such kind of – I only applied for one extension, which was for a month or two, and that was it. And then I returned to Istanbul in ’56, no – ’57, sorry ’58 – well by the end of ’59, in November. It was around that time that the first Turkish Art Conference was being held; I attended that in Ankara. So, following that, well, as an associate professor – I came back in ’59. And then – let me not pass up to tell you, while I’m at it, that after I got my Ph.D., well, I worked as assistant to Professor Tietze. Despite being primarily a professor of Islamic Art, he also had this wonderful book on Byzantium. It was on, well, you know, these – Byzantine mosaics in the church on Chios. That book – a beautiful book which featured color photographs for the first time, he coauthored together with Otto Demus, the Austrian. He had also written that book. So, I was his assistant. And then, after this associate professorship deal was sorted, I taught for some time. Then I went to Germany with this scholarship. I stayed in Germany for a little over a year, like thirteen months. After that I came back, I returned to my university here. Thereafter I stayed at Istanbul University. I prepared a thesis for tenure on, well – Turkish Art, on Early Ottoman Art. That thesis – and it is a mighty work of around one hundred pages – was published in Iktisat Fakultesi Dergisi [Journal of the School of Economics]. There was to be this special issue. And it was published there. It was also reprinted as a booklet. It is on the Ottoman – it is on Early Ottoman Architecture. Consequently certain preparations were made in the department for my tenure. There was turbulence at the University at the time, etcetera. One needed to know, I mean a tenure candidate needed two languages to get tenure.
SE: Now even those who don’t speak one single language get tenure. Now it’s another story. But then, it was different. So, I took a test for the second language. Following that, well, reports and things were written. And then it was the publications, etcetera, and finally – my tenure was unanimously given consent. There were no objections or anything at that point, so it was nice. And yet, thereafter, others who had applied alongside me – we were a group of seven, eight people who had applied at the same time. There was a complication with one person’s or something. “This would otherwise be considered,” they said, “so we shall do it all over again.” The whole procedure was repeated once again. Luckily, I didn’t have a problem. I mean, I got the tenure. However, the actual appointments were dependent on the availability of positions. Actually, a tenured professor could only actually get appointed if there was an available position. If there is no position then you would practically be unemployed. It is true you would be granted tenure as a title, but you would remain a tenured professor without a position. Something like what the Germans called “ausserordentlicher professor.” They also conspired against me. I mean, I don’t know whether it was deliberate or not. The dean told us, “The two of you, you have a substantial amount of publications, etcetera. Because there are eight of you,” he said, “we will put one of you, Munir, on top of the list, and the other one, you, at the bottom.” He said, “And the others without much publication will be put between the two of you. If we put the two of you at the top of the list then the others will be at risk,” we were told, “then their tenure may be rejected due to insufficient publication,” etcetera. I said, alright, I accepted that for my friend’s sake. When in fact, it turned out, I got cheated big time! They all got their positions – it turned out there were plenty of positions – as tenured professors and I was the one who was left without a position! Think about it, I remained a tenured professor without a position for eight years. In the meantime I became a senator. In a related discussion at the senate people revolted: “There is no such thing as a tenured professor without a position!” “Well, I don’t know whether there is such a thing, but I know I am one,” I said. I told them to cancel my tenure if they wished, yet, of course, they wouldn’t want that for their own business. Eventually they found a position for me. It was after then that I became a tenured professor in effect.
GV: Which year did you say this was?
SE: This was, well, in the ’60s –
GV: In the ’60’s –
SE: In the ’60’s. There was another thing, though. At the time was I got my tenure, certain professorship chairs – we had the professorship system then. There would be separate chairs, etcetera. At times there would be debates about those professorships established without any prospective staff, etcetera. In fact in my case the establishment of a professorship was thought to be especially appropriate. “This is exactly the way it should be,” they said, “here we have a professor who has the necessary academic background for – a chair in Byzantine Studies, which is elementary for a city like Istanbul in the first place. What is more this person already has the professional training, and is now being granted tenure,” and, “The professorship chair shall be established alongside his tenure,” they said. And so a separate Byzantine chair was established at the same time as – they did appoint me to that chair, but I lacked a teaching position. It was a very funny situation: There is a chair; a professor has that chair but no position. It was a bizarre situation like that. Still, as long as I had that chair and there were students, I was able to supervise theses and grant certificates by offering courses through the chair. They had the option of doing a thesis. So, they could come and write their theses with me. I supervised around one hundred fifty theses on Byzantine Art. All of them – I had also made a decision: Every student would have to prepare color slides on their topic. And they were to submit those slides to the chair. Actually I was also assigning seminar papers. Every student had to take two seminars in order to graduate. They would also prepare color slides for those papers, likewise, submit them to the chair. In other words, I created an archive of hundreds of color slides. Even the Belgian professor of Byzantine Art [unintelligible] I don’t know if you know of him –
GV: Yes, I do.
SE: Anyway, when he came and saw, “How did you manage to do this?” he asked. I told him how I had. “Well, we couldn’t have,” he said, “It would be impossible to implement a requirement like that.” “For the life of me I did,” I told him. “Everyone who did a thesis fulfilled it. And they brought along five, ten, twenty slides, or however much they had, to submit them.” That way, not only the Byzantine buildings and museum collections in the country, but also those abroad – because some thesis topics involved documentation abroad – made their way to our archive. And so, yes, as the chair, I supervised theses. I assigned some doctoral level topics, too. One of those, the one by our Yildiz Demiriz, was published. Well, actually that was not a dissertation, but a senior undergraduate thesis. It was turned into a book entitled “Byzantine Floor Mosaics” – you know, the entrelac ones with big diamond-shaped pieces.
SE: I don’t know if you have seen the book –
GV: I know the book.
SE: Yes, so she did that. It was originally done as a senior thesis. There are a few others, some dissertations; yet others that I had assigned, and were completed after I had left, etcetera. This went smoothly until, well, until the establishment of YOK [Board of Higher Education]. I would take the students in the summer for trips across Anatolia. I carried out my own archaeological explorations, too. I’d stopped my engagement in Side altogether. I didn’t work on Side thereafter. A building in Kırşehir, locally known as Ucayak – the plan of that building had been published a long time ago and with errors. I realized that that plan was nonsensical. And so I excavated there. The original form was revealed. Then I tried a little to understand what the building actually was – its meaning, etcetera. After going through a few more sites like this one in Central Anatolia, I decided upon the Silifke region as the focus of my work. I conducted examinations on those mountain ranges, those uncharted islands, and thereabout in the fall. I would usually go with a team of five or so. Because with a more crowded team one starts having vehicle problems. With five, on the other hand – five people fit into a taxi. And so, we would take a cab. After having gone to the furthest possible point on our destination that we can go by car, we would walk. I explored, or found, numerous interesting sites in that region. That one –
GV: How did you explore those –
SE: Pardon me?
GV: How did you explore it? Because over there are –
SE: Well, I would ask around –
GV: – no marked roads or trails –
SE: So, I would ask around. Either the locals would tell us, or we would use our – we had binoculars. We would climb up somewhere high enough, and we would be facing ruins, just like that. There the next day we would go about climbing up to that hill. One member of my team would always be an architect. Another one would be responsible for helping the architect, like holding the meter, etcetera. There was also this girl, Munevver, one of my students. She had also her thesis with me. I had hired her for some position in the department. It was not assistantship, but rather, something invented. And so this, well, poor girl would carry along a notebook and a pen in her brief, and would scribe my dictations. I still keep those notebooks.
GV: Where are they, those notebooks?
SE: Here with me. They are in the other room.
GV: So, you didn’t give it to, well, the Istanbul Research Institute?
SE: No, no. I didn’t give my, well, my notebooks. I didn’t give them my building surveys either.
GV: How about your slides?
SE: I kept some of the slides, and some remained at the University. I have no idea what they have done with them. I mean – I have had no relation with the University since I walked out of it twenty-five years ago. I even have it in my will: I fiercely abstain from entering that University, and I do not wish to be taken there even after I die. Is that clear?
SE: You see –
GV: When did it begin?
SE: You see, I got an invitation from Dumbarton Oaks for the first time, well, I think in the year ’66. And the invitation was for three months –
GV: Who was the invitation from?
SE: I don’t remember that, but it was a formal invitation, an official letter. So, I flew – I think they sent me flight tickets, but I don’t remember precisely, I’m not sure how that happened. I mean, I did go there by plane. But then there was this incident. A symposium was being held there when I arrived. It was starting at the same time as my arrival. They told me that they couldn’t put me in the guesthouse because it was already full with other visitors. “We are going to put you in a hotel for now. We can move you to the guesthouse once the symposium finishes.” You know that building for housing –
SE: “You will then move there.” “Alright.” It was an interesting hotel that they put me in. It was decorated fully in that, well, the colonial American style –
GV: Was it close to Dumbarton Oaks?
SE: It was. You know that main slope; it was right at the bottom of it. And then, I was even having my meals and things there but one night – it must have been the second night since I had arrived that I got terribly ill. It was horrible. The next morning, because I didn’t even have a phone number to call – anyway, I got up and managed to get dressed somehow. I walked all the way to Dumbarton Oaks. I said to whomever it was that I saw, “I am sick, and I am going back to rest. They shall find someone to take care of me.” I came back and I lied down to rest. Soon after, Underwood came. “What is it? What happened?” he asked. I told him the situation. He suggested calling a doctor; “It’s up to you,” I told him, “I will rest.” At that, they told me, “We have informed the doctor at your embassy,” – apparently there was a Turkish doctor at the embassy. But then that man didn’t come. He only came late in the evening, and I told him that there was no need for him anymore and sent him back. Underwood took me to his physician. He showed me, I mean, unbelievable warmth, sympathy and concern. “Staying in a hotel like this is impossible,” he told me. “How about your food and supplies, and what not?” I couldn’t eat anything there, you see. And so he said, “Let me take you to my place.” I said no, that I wouldn’t want to go to anybody’s home. Especially to a foreigner’s, you know – how foreigners are reluctant when it comes to – anyway, but, he even took his wife over. He has a very nice wife.
SE: Yes, Underwood’s wife.
SE: She came. And she insisted, too. Upon her insistence I finally – “My daughter,” she said, “she no longer lives here,” – she was studying elsewhere – “you can stay in her room.” And added, “We both go to work.” She was going to work every day. And Underwood was at the institute. “You can lie in my daughter’s bed,” she told me, “and help yourself from the fridge.” She then asked what I would prefer to eat under the circumstances. I told her, “boiled potatoes; plain, boiled chicken, and some feta. I don’t need anything else.” Thereupon they said, “We can find feta at the market because there are many Greeks, etcetera, here. We will put everything in the fridge and you can feel free to help yourself. Do not answer the phone or open the door or anything like that. Just rest upstairs.” So, they kept me there at their house for three days. I will never forget that care and friendship.
SE: I recovered in three days, anyway. And, well – the symposium had already finished. They invited me to move in.
GV: You missed the symposium in the meantime –
SE: Of course I missed it. But the best room in that housing – there was a large room, they gave that to me. A huge room! The lunches were eaten in a friendlier atmosphere at the time; well, it was very nice. There was a small dining room. We would sit there in groups of four to six or so. We would chat, talk, joke, etcetera, etcetera. It was a very intimate setting. I couldn’t find that same environment when I went back later for a month. It was gone!
GV: Who else was there that first time when you went?
SE: Well, I mean, Underwood was there, Ševčenko was there; Kitzinger was the director. Van Nice was there, too. I was in that circle. I was spending time with these people. There may have been others. For example, there was a young man, working on coins and things, that, by the way, was made into a hefty catalogue, two volumes or something. They – but I wasn’t friends with them. There was also this –
GV: They were not your close –
SE: Pardon me?
GV: Who were your close friends there?
SE: Underwood and Van Nice.
GV: Can you tell us a little bit about them?
SE: Well, sure I can. So, yes, Underwood showed a very close sympathy towards me, an unbelievably warm care! And, well, so did Van Nice. Van Nice even confided me one time: “Oh, how I wasted my life in Hagia Sophia! An entire life,” he said. I think his son was a navy officer, as well.
SE: Is he still, I don’t know –
GV: I think he’s retired now.
SE: Is he now. He used to tell me about how his son is a navy officer, etcetera, back then. Also, for example, when I wanted the Washington Memorial’s – did you ever descend walking down inside there?
GV: No I – I never descended walking.
SE: I took the elevator to the top floor, and then walked down the stairs round and round and round and round. On the fiftieth-some floor there is this stone sent by our Ottoman ruler. Because there – they wrote to several places asking them to send a stone to be displayed in Washington. And so they were sent inscriptions and things. Five, six of those samples were displayed on each floor. And ours is high up on I know not what floor, so quite prestigiously placed. It was a well-adorned inscription sent by Abdülaziz; a very ornate piece of masonry. Walking down the stairs you would be faced with it right in the middle there. And at the bottom were inscribed four verses in Ottoman script. I asked to have a photograph of that, for example. “Where? Who has the supervision over that?” they asked. They found out that it was under control of the Parks Department. And so they wrote a letter. [laughing] And then – they sent the letter. And that was it. I was sent a big, bright photograph. Things like that – they also gave me the books I wanted. From that –
GV: The library?
SE: From the library. You know, as a gift! There was also this other system of placing the extra copies outside on a table. The director of the library was an old person. Among those –
GV: Do you remember his name?
SE: No, I don’t. But he told the, well – I asked, “What are these – why are they placed here?” “These are extras that we are clearing up,” they said, “Register the names of those you want with the library director. The director, then – they will be allotted to interested people after a certain period.” Sometimes five people would go for the same book, and so the director would decide which books will be given to whom. Upon hearing that I signed up for five books, and eventually got three of them, I said, “Oh, how nice it would be if you might as well ship them so that I wouldn’t have to carry them.” They shipped them to my, well, my name but to my departmental address at the Faculty of Arts. I mean, they were for my private collection. One of them was Chantre’s book on archaeological excavations in Anatolia. It was a beautiful, large, hardcover book in French, based on research. Another one was about Byzantium. And I don’t remember what the other one was, but they were three on total. They had also given me some of their own publications. In addition, they had told me that they were already sending the Dumbarton Oaks Papers, but those were only sent to the general university library. I said, “If you send them to the General Library, nobody there will even know what they are, they won’t be used; if you mail them directly to the Fine Arts Library at least they will be used there, because there is always – ” Well, and so they started sending them there, I don’t know if they continued doing so.
GV: They are still sent there.
SE: Yes. “Mail it there,” I had told them. “Let them be part of the collections there, which would be more relevant.” They also gave, for my private use, a copy of what used to be the catalogue of the Dumbarton Oaks collections. I think that series was later continued, but I was given the two volumes that had thus far been published. In addition, I had told Kitzinger about these two articles I wanted from other publications, because his university was affiliated with these periodicals, like Art Bulletin. I asked him for the relevant issues – they were old ones from the 1930s or so. He found them for me and brought them over so that I could use them, etcetera. This is how my relations were; we used to have lunches altogether. The breakfast used to be served by these maids – I mean there were these black maids who served at the time. They were responsible for cleaning the rooms, making the beds, etcetera, as well as serving the meals. They would bring the food in large pots to the table and people would help themselves, etcetera. I found these kinds of services more or less gone during my second visit.
GV: When was your second visit?
SE: My second visit – I can’t remember the exact date, but it was, well, during the directorate of Constable. He had come and visited me here at the time of that Dumbarton Oaks incident – it was when the “Kumluca treasure story” broke. He found me at my home. This wasn’t home at that time; we were living in that building in the front. We sat on the balcony, etcetera. While we were talking he asked, “When was your visit?” When I replied, “Well, I visited once for three months twenty years ago,” he said, “We shall invite you again,” etcetera. And then perhaps, well, he told me about the incident. You know, there was a trial because of the Kumluca treasure!
GV: What was the incident?
SE: Well, Kumluca was where the treasure of the Holy Sion in the Lycia region – Arab, Muslim ships had used to raid the southern shores back then. They had used to hit, raid, burn and raid those shores. Monks from a big monastery in the region at the time had felt the need to seal the monastery treasure inside a grotto up in the mountain forests. Nobody had seen, or found it since then, nor had anyone opened the grotto. But then local herders accidentally found it in, well, in the 1950s, or, well, ’60s. They uncovered the grotto to find a treasure. There were gold inlaid or solid gold things, pieces of polycandilion, cups and things. They cautiously started putting items on the local market. And, of course, there are these wandering antiques-dealer-types. They regularly go around villages, etcetera. Villagers know them and they show them and not the museum staff or archaeologists. They get in touch with them. They had crushed out some of them, broke others. There were yet others that they had been preparing to melt. But then – somehow, it was taken notice. Thereafter the government confiscated, etcetera, but a number of pieces in good condition were smuggled into Europe. I mean there were some among them that were crushed, but others were in a good condition. They brought them to the Archaeological Museum. They cleaned them a little, etcetera. That was there I saw them. Those pieces, the ones that remained in the country that is, were later taken to Antalya Museum. However, Dumbarton Oaks – they were put in an auction, or something, I think it was in Switzerland. Dumbarton Oaks apparently bought a portion of the lot. They were displaying a polycandilion, etcetera, from there. And yet, other items – there was a laboratory downstairs. The storage was there. They were placed on shelves there all crushed, etcetera, like that. They were saying, “It is very difficult to unloosen them and bring them back to their original state. Only these specialized institutions in Italy can – there are specialists there. We are bringing them here and getting them to do the job intermittently.” Because they were very old, some pieces had crumbled into pieces when they were hammered. They were preserved like that, lined up as flakes. You have probably seen them – I don’t know, are they not there anymore?
GV: They are on the exhibit.
SE: Yes. So, the Kumluca treasure was preserved in three states, I mean, the first portion in good condition, the second portion crushed, and the third as crumbles. They were – it was either heard by or related to the then director of – the Director-General of Museums, Nurettin.
GV: What was Nurettin Bey’s last name?
SE: I think it was Yardimci, but I’m not sure. So, he got it in his head that he wanted these items back. “I will get them from Dumbarton Oaks!” he was insisting. There was a trial and what not – he hired lawyers and paid thousands of dollars, etcetera, etcetera. “I will get them back.” Look here! Dumbarton Oaks had bought them at an auction. It was you guys who let them get smuggled. Constable came here to discuss these things. He told me when he got here, “Let us establish a framework of twenty years. During that time let’s bring the pieces that are left here to the fore. Let us have these pieces get the scientific treatment and repair” – because what the staff here had done was to rub them a little, dust them, and then put them up on a shelf, and that was all. Nothing had really been done on the pieces that remained here. “The ones in, well – those pieces at Dumbarton Oaks that are in a restorable state shall be restored. There are more pieces in different locations, too,” he said. I for myself had seen that in a private collection in Sweden, for example. There were other buyers at that auction. “Let these other pieces be located and requested. We can then make a joint publication called the Kumluca Treasure, or treasures from the Holy Sion. After then we can return the pieces we have. Your pieces, too. And ours,” they said. And I mean – this project was to happen in twenty years’ time. It wasn’t a bad proposition at all! We were not in a position to manage this by ourselves in any case. But they didn’t agree to it. It even got to a point that, out of spite, their work permit at Hagia Sophia got cancelled, too.
GV: For this reason?
SE: Of course! Thereafter the – well, the Institute stopped their work on Hagia Sophia. Actually the negotiations on that were as such: They had this very nice, movable working platform on wheels, you know; it would go as high up as to the dome.
GV: Yes, yes I know.
SE: And so, they were working there easily. They would do their conservations, take their photographs, etcetera, and then they would move it to another location. They said, “We can leave that with you, as well.” And things like that, I mean, we could have benefitted greatly from these negotiations. We, well, had this meeting with Constable. And then there was this other person from Ankara, who was – his whole life was organized around taking scholarships in the first place. He had applied at the same time as me. So, when I was there he came as well. He got envious of my room – they had given me that big room again –
GV: I guess you don’t want to mention his name –
GV: It’s up to you.
SE: [laughing] And “Oh!” he said, “Your room is so nice and large,” etcetera, etcetera.
GV: Did they give you a room in the library?
SE: Pardon me?
GV: They had given you an office at the library, did –
SE: Well, you – that building, the one that is used for lodging. Yes, it was in the other building. It was a large room that stretched heftily on the street side. Well, so – I stayed there for a month. Kamran visited, too. We stayed together for a week. From there I went to New York. Thereafter I returned to Istanbul. After my first visit, I mean following my longer stay, I traveled to New York by bus. I got a multi-use ticket, and made stopovers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, etcetera. I visited the museums in these cities. And in one of them, in Philadelphia, I apparently had a narrow escape. I had visited the University Museum in Philadelphia. There is also a Rodin Museum there.
SE: I thought I should visit the Rodin Museum, too. And so I left, well, the University Museum. There is a bus stop in front of the building – I went to the stop. Because I didn’t know which bus to take to the Rodin Museum, I asked someone there. There was a man standing there, seemingly waiting for a bus. He pointed at a bus and said, “There it is.” The bus pulled over and I got on. Thereupon that man got on it, too. He went to the back and I was standing in the middle. There weren’t any, well, any seats. Soon he came near me. Then he asked, “Where are you going? What do you do?” I said, “I’m going to the Rodin Museum,” etcetera. “Ha,” he said, “me, too. I love it. Let me come along.” He was American – I said, “Why would an American be so interested?” I mean, I found it strange that he showed that much interest. But we did go to the Rodin Museum together. Together we did this – he said, “Come, let’s go the café.” “Man!” I responded, “Do you not have a job or something?” For, an American to me is always in a rush. His idleness like that seemed very strange to me. He told me, “I was supposed to go to the dentist today, that’s why.” He said that he had a tobacco stand at the university in Philadelphia, but that he had closed it for the day. Then – he even told me, “You have these special pipes in your country that are carved as busts,” well, “I have ordered those white ones made of Eskisehir’s sepiolite.” Kennedy used to be very popular at the time, as you know. “I ordered ones with Kennedy busts, the ones they sent didn’t resemble Kennedy,” etcetera, he said. Anyway, after we had the coffee and everything, he still wouldn’t leave me alone! We left the building. He gave me his – I wrote down his name and address in my notebook, too. We left and he asked, “Would you be interested in – ” How do you – ? You know, what is it, this kind of boxing –
SE: People monstrously attack each other. “No,” I said, “I don’t enjoy those kinds of things.” But he kept following me; he was constantly like, “Would you come to this place? Would you come to that place?” Finally in the evening I was able to get away from him. I got rid of him and returned to the hotel. I stayed there for however longer I had to stay, like a couple of days more. Then I went my way. I made it to New York. I took the plane. I had never seen Paris until then, I went to Paris. Anyway, thereafter – a couple of years had passed. They used to deliver Hurriyet Newspaper to our patio – we were living in the other building at that point. One day I picked up this Hurriyet Newspaper. Kamran had set the breakfast table. I sat down. While browsing through the newspaper, on the back page – and there are usually intriguing features on Hurriyet’s back page, what was I to see: A horrible murderer in the United States killed such and such number of people and buried them. And [laughing] so on and so forth. “Look here!” I said to Kamran, “I know this man.” “Don’t mess with me! How could you possibly – ?” I said, “Look!”
GV: That was a narrow escape.
SE: “Let me check my notebook; see, here is his name,” I said. It was him. I had wandered around with that murderer! An entire day. Think about it, maybe he would have put me away.
GV: God forbid!
SE: You see! And it wouldn’t have been understood what had happened: lost!
GV: Lost, yes.
SE: I mean it would seem as such: he arrived at the hotel, he left his suitcase, and then he disappeared. So, apparently he had this house somewhere; they discovered many bodies buried there. It turned out that he was one abnormal guy. Written in my notebook with his full name. “Check this name,” I said.
SE: I didn’t do a specific topic. I found the books that I had been wondering, and searching. I examined them. It used to be easy at the time. You would walk into the library and you could pull out any book you wished. But by the second time I went they had constructed these, well, this system on rails – they were not there yet. Oh, and also – there was also an interesting arrangement: after lunch everybody would convene in this sitting room, and would engage in a conversation. Everybody would sit down, etcetera. There would be chatting and the like and then people would leave. Everyone would go back to their work.
GV: Let me also ask – so you mentioned that you had given three talks there –
GV: What were they about?
SE: Two of them were Byzantine topics –
GV: Do you remember what they were?
SE: It was on these explorations in the Silifke region, etcetera. And one of them was on the renowned Ottoman Sadabad in Kagithane – with its parks, gardens, etcetera, as well as streams and cascades – as an interesting but non-extant example of landscape architecture. I had very nice slides of it at hand. So I gave a presentation using those.
SE: However we encountered a problem during my first talk. All of the slide machines they had there were carousels.
SE: Some of the slides had these cardboard frames. These ones would get stuck – they would get caught up. And every time there was even – well [laughing] the lights would be turned on and we would look for tweezers. Luckily one of the women in the audience had a pair of tweezers in their purse. We used it to pluck out the stuck slide, etcetera. Constable apologized from the audience, and told the guests that these slides, because they were European, were incompatible with their machines, etcetera, but then we realized that the machine was Kodak! [laughing] He then told me, “For your remaining presentations let’s provide you with one of those long ones.” You know that type, the cartridge –
GV: Not a carousel one but –
SE: Cartridge – not a carousel one but a cartridge thing. I would prepare them, that is to say I would arrange them the night before in my room. And the next day I would submit the completed cartridge at the lecture hall before my presentation. The audience would be quite large. Of course, because I was not proficient enough in English to be able to deliver a lecture, I was delivering in French –
GV: You presented in French –
SE: I did – she would come to listen, as well, Underwood’s wife. Underwood had died by then, he was no longer there. But his, well, his wife would attend the talks. And these comprise my memories. At first they sent me annual reports and, I don’t know, some such things. But later they – everything ceased. I would hear so and so went to Dumbarton Oaks, such and such went to this other place, etcetera. They do go; there are some who do. I don’t know. There are those who stay there, too. I have no idea what they do.
GV: Yes, your last contact was during the directorship of Constable –
GV: Your second time –
SE: Yes, and that’s it. From then on they never ever called me or – I sent them two articles, by the way. Two articles of mine were published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers.
SE: One of them was on two floor mosaics from Bithynia. One of them was the floor mosaics of Hagia Sophia in Nicea, which had been completely unknown because that building had been filled with soil and vegetation for one hundred fifty years. And then it – it was cleaned and a mosaic was uncovered. We prepared a drawing of it. Yildiz Demiriz was a very skilled draftsperson. She was very good at it, so she made the drawing. Also – I later assigned this to her as a thesis topic, too, and she did it. The other one – the other mosaic was, well – another previously unknown one – in the church in, well, in Bursa, that was converted into the Tomb of Orhan Gazi –
SE: There are mosaics of a similar type on the floor of that building. However, those mosaics had never been noticed because of the carpets covering the floors throughout the Ottoman reign. But then – on a visit to Bursa, when I was walking in the tomb, etcetera, I saw, to my surprise, that they had removed all the carpets. The mosaics were revealed. I took photographs and everything. Thereafter I also told about it to Yildiz. She went there and drew it –
SE: Later these two mosaics were published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers as “Two Mosaic Pavements from Bithynia.” And the last one was this, well, the castle of Afyonkarahisar, which rises high on a steep rock formation. The castle sits atop. It is very difficult to climb up there. And – the only way to climb is on foot; no vehicle can go up there. When I went up there I noticed something: The highest point of it is visible as a bare rock – that rock had been nicely cut and carved to form a reservoir. It is a double-tank reservoir with a fountain built onto one side. The tap was connected to the tanks. There is a Byzantine inscription of two lines above this. This also has a cross in the center, guaranteeing one hundred percent that it is Byzantine. And yet many archeologists, epigraphists, and the like who had climbed up that castle, didn’t mention a word about this! How bizarre.
GV: You published that –
SE: I published that. There was a late architect, Yilmaz Onger. He climbed up there, too. He drew a very nice restitution of that –
SE: Of that reservoir. We published that along with the article. This was how my two essays were published there.
SE: Of course. There were even these two American girls who were Fellows there. One of them – and I have no idea what they did; I mean, I used to see them at lunches and then, you know those after-lunch casual meetings. Ševčenko married one of them.
SE: Actually, he helped her write a book on theology or something. He had a private library. When he took me to his place I saw an intriguing book there. You know our Celal Esad Arseven; he is Turkish –
SE: He has a book, “Byzantine Istanbul,” written in French – it was first published in Turkish, and then in French. The French version is called, “De Byzance à Istanbul.” It turns out that the Russians had translated this book into Russian shortly before the First World War. So, a Russian version was available. And Ševčenko had it. Later, I wrote a letter to Ševčenko upon Arseven’s death. “You had the Russian translation of such and such book,” I wrote, “I am preparing to publish his obituary. Please send me the information on the book including the name of the translator, etcetera – ”
GV: Yes. The full reference.
SE: “Send along the bibliographic notes on when and where it was published, etcetera,” I said. He sent them. I didn’t have any other contact with him. Oh, and there was this one time during my first visit when I stayed until the beginning of the summer, when, for a few weeks, a ceremony was organized in the garden. It was a very pompous event with cocktails and all. All the Fellows, young people, etcetera attended. And she was still alive at the time, well, Bliss –
GV: Was she?
SE: His wife. Yes.
GV: So, you met with Mildred Bliss?
SE: She, the rusty tool, would be brought in and sat down on an armchair –
GV: Could you tell us a little bit about what you remember?
SE: There is nothing, she was in no state to talk or anything. She was too old.
SE: And, well – they would sit her down there in the garden. People who wanted to talk to her would go and talk although she was not in a shape to talk, really.
GV: She was not.
SE: She was too old. People showed great reverence to her – she had bought that, well, you know – that estate, which originally belonged to a general. She then decorated it with purchases from Europe. For instance they brought the ceiling of some chateau and installed it up there. They took out a fireplace from a monastery, brought it over and built it in. They brought many parts in this manner and created an interesting building, but then for fear of an accident – early on it was in use, people could go in. But later, I believe, they stopped using it.
GV: I think the building that you mention is the music room now.
GV: They organize concerts there.
GV: Symposia are held there, too.
GV: Byzantine Symposium –
SE: During my second visit I couldn’t find the same liveliness. Those services and dinners were not there, either. I told them that it didn’t use to be like that. “Because the funding has been reduced,” they said, “we have budgetary constraints.” And so – the dinners would be served by, you know, black maids before and things like that. These things had gone.
SE: I think only the women who made the beds were left. And they weren’t any – every evening when I returned to my room I would find the pitcher completely stuffed with ice.
GV: [laughing] Yes.
SE: And a glass of water – once that melts it is impossible to drink it, anyway; it tastes horrible. But when it is ice you don’t feel it much. And so these are my Dumbarton Oaks memories. Sure, I also traveled around Washington. I even climbed to the top of that, you know, the obelisk. And then – what else –
GV: How about Cyril Mango – ?
SE: With Mango I didn’t really –
GV: Did you have any relationship?
SE: He was frequently visiting here. There were others who used to frequent here. There was this mysterious Hungarian, for example; he used to spend a lot of time here. He had taught in the Faculty of Language, History and Geography at Ankara University. He was there, too – I saw him there; he was visiting –
GV: Do you remember his name?
SE: Um, well – what was his name? He had come to the Language and History during the time of Fuat Köprülü. And then he had left to settle down in the United States, University of California or something – he would still visit Turkey, etcetera, later on. He would take the Hungarians who were trying to escape from the communist regime in Hungary first to California. After having kept them for a while, back to Hungary he would – Ha – Halasi-Kun! I saw him, too. He was at Dumbarton Oaks. I don’t know what he had to do there.
SE: So, Halasi-Kun –
GV: Yes, I actually encountered his name in – another context –
SE: I didn’t really like that guy’s, well – I mean he was a spy of some sort. He worked on other kinds of projects. And, I don’t know, in Turkey, too, he had the air of some kind of a double agent. You know, there are also such types from Germany. For example there was one in Language, History at Ankara, but that’s outside of our – he has nothing to do with Dumbarton Oaks. There was this, self-proclaimed as a history professor called Herbert Merzig. He was a very mysterious character. He wandered around and got himself into many dealings and things like that and finally in ’47-’48 or so – or perhaps it was after the ’50s that he left, allegedly, to go to Argentina. Many Germans were settling down in Argentina at the time as you know, and it was said that he went there, too. He was nowhere to be found at all, when, all of a sudden, his letters began to be published in one of the communist newspapers here. There was this one – there were a few communist journals and newspapers, where he appeared. Guess where he was sending them from – from East Germany. After a while we received a petition from him addressed to the Historical Society – I was a member at the time – and it read: “I am back in Turkey. I need money urgently. Help me,” etcetera. I mean, for which side he was working was – is he really a professor? He was not exactly the type to be so.
GV: Let me ask you another name then –
SE: I beg your pardon?
GV: Let me ask you another name. He is not a professor. His name is Archibald Walker. He works closely with the Byzantine Institute. He lives here in Yeniköy. He is the head of an oil company. Have you ever heard of such a person?
GV: You have never met him –
SE: Though, this kind of American character does exist. One of them visited me here, sat down over there, and said, “Oh, Sir, how I shall give you this many thousands of dollars, and the like,” or, well, “that many books”! Their names, to me, in general sound like Ashkenazi Jewish. His name was Cahn or something. That is the Europeanized version of the name Kohen. Names such as Cahen, Kohn, etcetera are, generally speaking, you know, derivatives of the Jewish name that we are familiar with as Kohen. That man told me he was American, etcetera. He spoke Turkish, too. He made such big empty promises and left like that. He disappeared thereafter. But then, I think it was last year, we ran into each other in Taksim Square. “Oh, hello!” Etcetera, etcetera. He was with a tiny Turkish girl. He introduced her to me, and all. He said to me, “Oh, let’s see each other!” – etcetera. I mean, these are up to some things. There is also this other – he was visiting Dumbarton Oaks, as well: Lowry.
Gv: Heath Lowry?
SE: I have no idea what he does. He scatters promises around, and yet, no action, not a thing. I met him when he was here, etcetera. He would come to my room at the department. But then when I was writing something I came across these texts from a newspaper published in French in Istanbul – it had started as early as during the rule of Sultan Mahmud. I was only able to find the first issue of the newspaper in one library in Turkey. When I searched the catalogues I realized that a complete set of issues was available at, well, the Library of Congress –
SE: And this character had founded something called a Turkish Institute, you know –
SE: I wrote him a letter. I had known him, anyway. I told him, “So-and-so is available at the Library of Congress. I was able to find one issue here in Istanbul, but I couldn’t find the second issue, etcetera.” I added, “I would appreciate it if you could send me copies of the texts related to such and such topic that may be found in those issues.” No response. It had been quite a while when I went to a cocktail party on a summer day. I came across him there. “Hey,” I said, “I wrote you a letter,” well, “saying such-and-such.” “Oh! Where did you send it? Who did you address it to?” “Come on,” I said, “I sent it to the Institute; the address is clear and everything is straightforward.” He had managed to put together quite a substantial library there. They had quite a number of Turkish books, etcetera. Our government supplied them; our government apparently had helped out a lot! He responded, “Oh, well, let me give you another address!” “Alright then, give me the address.” He did. Attaching a photocopy of the first one, I wrote yet another letter. I reinstated my request. I put it, once again, in an envelope. I resent it. Again, no response! We ran into each other again five, six months ago here in Istanbul. Actually he visited my room at the Religious Foundation. He came and told me, “Ah,” you know, “I wrote a book on such and such topic.” “Well,” I said, “It’s not like I have been able to see any of your books.” “Ah, sir, I will bring them; I will give them to you,” and so on and so forth – his wife is Turkish, as you may know –
GV: I know.
SE: And so on and so forth and etcetera and etcetera. Have I ever seen him again once? No, he is not around. So, he had written a book – a book on some Turkish edifices in Greece, etcetera, etcetera, that he was supposed to bring to me – talk is cheap. He is another strange character, another one that I couldn’t figure out.
GV: How about the ones who worked with the Byzantine Institute, but more closely with Dumbarton Oaks, such as Nezih Firatli, Feridun Dirimtekin –
SE: Now, first of all, they didn’t produce scholarly work. Firatli worked at the museum –
SE: Because he worked at the museum, foreign institutions were constantly aiding him. I mean they would send invitations; they would give him grants, and things like that. Only to establish, with the museum, some – in order to have a contact person. Is that clear? Well, Nezih Firatli was invited several times to Britain, to Germany, to the United States; he would constantly go on trips. Through these aids he gained veritable popularity. However he actually didn’t do much. He went and stayed in the United States, as well. And then one year he was supposed to go to Italy. He was preparing his paper, when he came to see me – I was going, too. He had been appointed director in the meantime. He served as the director of the Archaeological Museum. He was in an effort to prepare to deliver a paper. He had to give this lecture. He didn’t really speak any foreign language. I mean he spoke a little English. But there would always be someone helping him. He published a book in French, for instance. But he didn’t speak French at all! “I will present a paper in French,” he told me – in Oxford – and we sat down under the stairs and I told him how to read. Somebody had prepared the text for him. So, I told him things like, “Put a mark there, that is a glottal stop,” etcetera. It was in this manner that he would take. He didn’t have any affiliation or anything. As for Dirimtekin – he was a “dilettante” to the core. He was a retired soldier. He had dealt with the conquest of Istanbul as part of his service in the military and published books about that. Following his retirement, he had some civil – well, he took some positions. As a result of those, he was elected the head of the Eminonu Community Center. It was at that time that he got in contact with museums, etcetera. And then he became, well – I mean, form out of the blue, as a true dilettante, he became a museum – well, a classicist. They would invite him, too, as a leading figure, etcetera. In reality he didn’t have any in-depth knowledge on anything. I even remember him making a bit of a fool of himself at the Byzantine Conference in Oxford. He presented a cave in, well, in Anatolia that was used during the Early Christian period of the type that is very common across Anatolia, in Thrace and elsewhere. He had chanced upon a natural cave and turned it into a presentation. I mean, it was an ordinary, unadorned cave without any painting or fresco or anything! It was used as a sanctuary, with a carved cross – and a Christogram, with letters from “ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ NIKA.” And when he showed his photographs people started laughing. Anyway, Dirimtekin was not important. I had a good friendship with him and everything. He had started fashioning himself as a Byzantine specialist recently. “I will start excavations, I will conduct research,” etcetera, he would claim. There is this one memory, though, from my first visit, about this very nice, very charming young girl who worked at the library. And I – at some point I give her a list. I mean, I had a list of five, six publications that I had thought I would search when I would get to the United States. Some of them were articles from journals or newspapers, and so forth – telling her that I wanted to see the items there, I gave the list to the girl. She sent it to the Library of Congress. Library of Congress in turn sent the relevant journals, etcetera, the same day. They had inserted cards in each one. For example, in a hardbound compilation of journal issues, then they would insert the card near the article that I had asked for. They had sent a letter alongside the lot. Addressing the girl, I don’t remember her name, “Dear so-and-so,” it read, “We do not have the such-and-such book that Professor Eyice is asking for at the Library of Congress. We have detected that the City Library of Duluth does. If Eyice needs it, we can request a transfer. However this may take a while. It may take up to five, six days,” etcetera. The girl suggested we ask for the transfer. “No need,” I told her, “I only wanted to see the book because I was curious to see what it was.” I mean, it was not a book that I knew I needed. “But,” I said, “What I am wondering now is where this Duluth is.” Do you know?
GV: No, I don’t –
SE: The girl said, “I don’t know either.” [laughing] So, we ended up opening the world atlas together, scanning the entire American section and we eventually found Duluth. You know those lakes near the Canadian border?
SE: It was a small town amid those. But the Library of Congress had such an impeccable, well, “cartotheque” system –
SE: And so, they know the books in other libraries and find them – through their records.
SE: For example I was able to get this article, with photographs, in an American journal on the severe earthquake in Istanbul in 1894. They found it, transferred it, and sent it, and so I was able to get it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photocopy of it, but, anyway. There were other articles, etcetera, that I did photocopy; I brought the copies here. In sum, I mean, this is all I remember about Dumbarton Oaks. Like I said, though, they never called me or were interested in me thereafter – so in that sense I am also resentful, to be honest. I kept hearing how this person went there, and that. For god’s sake, what do they have to do with – they have nothing to do with Byzantium! Nothing! Okay, aside from Dirimtekin, maybe, because he became the director of Hagia Sophia by chance. He served as the director there, and he went with that title. Nezih Firatli, too, was the, well – the conservator at the Archaeological Museum. He went with that title. But some others who went had nothing whatsoever.
GV: Can I also ask you about Muzaffer Ramazanoglu?
SE: Oh! He, well, was such – a different story, he was. He was from around Gaziantep, from Adana. As a young boy, no, actually as a child, when that area was under French occupation – after the First World War – he had joined the guerilla forces that were fighting against the French. He was a hefty man at that, too. And then when the war ended they had told Ataturk about this patriotic, hardworking boy. “Take him and educate him,” he had responded, “Make a man of him,” etcetera. And so they had taken him and sent him to Vienna. He had learnt German really well. Finishing his studies in Vienna, he had returned. Thanks to his German he got into Language, History. He did translations for the Hittitologist there, etcetera, and graduated from that department. In fact, his first few books are these very thin little pamphlets made of – called “Hittite Art,” or “Hittite Architecture,” etcetera. He also wrote pamphlets like “The Epic of Gilgamesh” at that time. Later – something must have happened; I don’t know what exactly – I think his advisor was Landsberger, and they were all leaving anyway. All of them returned back to Germany after the war. He left the University, too, thinking that there was not enough money in assistantship to begin with – he was working as an assistant at the University. He left to work at the Eregli Coal Enterprise or something. In the meantime Sami Boyar was appointed as the first director of Hagia Sophia – well, there was no directorship at Hagia Sophia until then. The directorship was established upon its conversion into a museum. He was a painter! A retired navy officer who earns his living through painting. They appointed this painter director. He stayed at Hagia Sophia until his retirement. After he got retired the directorship was left vacant. Somebody, somehow, thought of recommending Ramazanoglu. They rashly took Ramazanoglu and brought him to Hagia Sophia as the director. Hagia Sophia until then had operated under the Archaeological Museum, and, I mean, not a separate directorate. First, Ramazanoglu introduced or proclaimed himself as the director. Second, he got completely under the thumb of the Greek minority in Istanbul. And do you know what their sole motivation was? It was to prove the seniority of the Constantinopolitan Church, of Hagios Andreas, to the Vatican; to prove against the Vatican that – the Church in Istanbul is the true leader of Christianity. You know the everlasting competition – ?
SE: Catholic vs. Orthodox, whether or not the two churches would unite –
Se: Ongoing for centuries. That is what the Greeks are perpetuating. There were a couple of these Greeks, who worked on Byzantine history, etcetera. They were quick to get close to him. They started inciting him by telling him how, oh, he was the great archeologist, how he was the great scientist, etcetera. And he was gearing up. However, he started going so fast at some point that he started insulting all the European scientists, etcetera. For example, in one writing he referred to Schneider as “the ignorant priest, whose knowledge consists of a word in Greek and a couple of words in Latin.” Not a nice thing to say, that is for certain. He also carried out explorations in Hagia Sophia. Therein, as could be expected, he did not employ any scientific method, or anything. I don’t know, he dug nearby Hagia Irene. And he did reveal some very interesting remains there. And yet how was he doing these excavations? As if mining for coal, I mean, by means of some old posts, etcetera, without removing the earth! Naturally, when those posts become unsound due to decay they collapse. And so – they are interesting indeed. Why don’t you prepare proper surveys of them, etcetera? “No!” He dug here and there – he removed all of the floor pieces on, well, Hagia Sophia!
SE: The old floor level was uncovered. The dome that was built during Justinian’s reign was lying there, broken into pieces at the time of its collapse. They had poured earth on top of it, and the current floor was laid over it. So, the findings were actually interesting. But his interpretations of them were wrong. From Hagia Sophia originally being a basilica, to that basilica still having been preserved, to its having a different direction – first of all, every basilica is directed towards the east. There is no point in discussing ideas of some kind of a reversed directionality – interesting as it is, but – he wouldn’t publish any reports, either. Some of them he would give out to newspapers, etcetera, in Greek. I collected those published in newspapers.
GV: Have you ever discussed these with Van Nice?
SE: Pardon me?
GV: You have never discussed these issues with Van Nice or with Underwood, have – ?
SE: No, no. No, because he was the director at the time. Who was I to interfere? Ramazanoglu’s attitude towards the University was negative to begin with. And, well – he wouldn’t even refrain from insulting Arif Bey. He was lightly throwing indecent words. I mean, his behavior in general was unpleasant. He didn’t have anything personal. We would say “Hello” to each other, and that was that. Rarely when I would visit Hagia Sophia we would have a conversation, etcetera, but I would never touch upon these subjects – involving his gossip talk or his scientific discoveries. Nevertheless, I asked him to publish. Because, I mean, it would have been enough for him to publish them as mere findings and say, “I found so and so in my excavation of such and such place.” He shouldn’t have tried to publish a commentary. For, that is when he fails miserably. Now, what he had found next to Hagia Irene was very interesting! It was hitherto unknown. And it disappeared just like that. Later Dirimtekin made use of that, well, the drawings of that, etcetera, at the directorate archive, and he published them under his name. But photographs of the original excavation finds should have been – there were frescoes and things on the walls. But he – wouldn’t. He could never assess these appropriately. He published a tiny little pamphlet on the complexes of Hagia Irene and Hagia Sophia alongside his pieces published in Greek newspapers. They also made an offprint of his collected pieces in these newspapers. Oh, and he had sent articles on Hagia Sophia to the Byzantine Congress, which were published – and this was all that was left. In the meantime he started brawling with, well, the Minister of Education. At the time, museums operated under the Ministry of Education. He entered into a serious argument with the Ministry. Angry at him, the Minister, in turn, displaced him from the directorate. In the meantime he had married a lady who was a teacher, and I think they had a child, too. They had reorganized the “royal box” [hünkar kasrı] on to the side of the building across from the fountain of Sultan Ahmet –
SE: They had turned it into a housing unit. Therein, he had arranged an office for himself. He had also installed a bedroom, etcetera. It lacked light and air. They divided the unit into separate rooms by partitions. He brought his wife there and everything. Dirimtekin, after him, also used those spaces. Later on all of those partitions and additions were removed. Anyway, after having used up the time allowed by the displacement decree they had to reappoint Ramazanoglu. The Minister of Education appointed him to Adana Museum. Subsequently he went to Adana. Later when I ran into him at – on the bridge in Karakoy, we greeted each other, and I asked, “What happened? Where are you? What are you doing?” “I’m in Adana,” he said, “I drink in large amounts.” He had always drunk a lot, in any event. He was fat, too – think what would happen to a man who drinks a lot of ouzo in the heat of Adana. I told him things like, “Come on, Muzaffer Bey, don’t do this to yourself,” etcetera. “No,” he said, “I drink.” He died shortly thereafter. His wife, well – he had quite a number of things left at his place, for the summer had subletters downstairs. His wife was friends with them – or they were related to the Ramazanoglus. She came and told me, “Let us donate them to the department.” He didn’t have much, really, some five to ten books or something. She gave them to the department. I ordered this seal that read “Gift of Muzaffer Ramazanoglu” and imprinted the books with them. We put them in the library. He had also possessed some coins. They were in separate envelopes and had been analyzed by a Greek specialist. They wrote information on those tiny envelopes. She had also brought them to me. After a while she told me to give them back to her. I said, “Alright.” I gave them all back; I don’t know what has become of them. There was a gold one among them. I think it was a Constantine Monomachos coin. And then – the rest were all copper coins. And, so, yes, this is all that happened thereafter. A Greek, who was an accountant or something at certain shops and who would keep the records there, used to spend a lot of time with him. Likewise a Jewish boy. This one knew French very well. I think he knew Latin as well. They would do his translations for him from French. This was Ramazanoglu’s life. Oh, but, Patriarch Constantine has a book on Istanbul called “Constantiniade.” The first two editions are in Greek from 1820s, 1825 or so; it was then translated into French. The French edition was published in Istanbul. But the latter had no information of its author or translator. This French edition is the international version. I had one. But the Greeks had presented him with a copy of the French edition. It was very nicely adorned. I kept that for myself. It is a very intriguing thing – they found a nice, clean copy in full size – with no trimmed sides. It had a binding in its original Moroccan leather color, that is, cream. There was a Byzantine-style frontispiece on an added whole sheet. Above that is written a dedication, “To Archaeologist Muzaffer Ramazanoglu,” etcetera, in Greek. This was added as the first page while it was being bound. That – considering the importance of its idiosyncrasy, I didn’t give it to the library, and kept it for myself.
GV: It is at your apartment – ?
SE: Yes, I have that copy.
GV: Do you have anything else to add?
SE: Honestly there is nothing else regarding Dumbarton Oaks, to the best of my recollection. I mean, this is all there is concerning the time when I held the Chair of Byzantine Studies. After I left, there were others who claimed to be Byzantinists, and even became tenured professors. Maybe you – I don’t know whether they visit now or not.
GV: Yes. Alright then, I shall thank you –
SE: It’s up to you –
GV: And – let me stop recording.
SE: And, well –
GV: Thank you very much for your time –
SE: You’re welcome.