Friday, August 10, 2018

City of Countless Names- Illustrations


The work on the fine finishing details for North of the Golden Horn continues. Right now we are proofreading, formatting, writing some introductory text, and finalizing the illustrations. Much like City of Countless Names, North of the Golden Shore will be fully illustrated with over 25 period sketches, landscapes, and street scenes gloriously spread over its 35 pages. I give my undying thanks to the British Library and Internet Archive’s Flickr streams for providing the original artworks.
Here are a few of the finished illustrations:


 Some pieces are pretty much perfect. They just need a little clean-up and some cropping. This illustration of Dolmabagtche Palace captures the grandeur of Beshiktash. Some contrast and saturation adjustment and it’s ready.


 At its heart, this whole project strives to bring life in Constantinople to the gaming table. I mixed in an interesting assortment of street scenes showing common everyday occurrences and people, but whenever I can I try to give them a subtle Victoriana twist. For example, in this picture, I shrunk down the farmer and made him a little stockier to indicate his dwarven heritage. Simple and subtle.


In contrast, I had to do a fair bit of dancing in my editing program to get that ogre behind the soldiers. I am very proud of how well he blends in, and if you look closely, the slim soldier in the foreground has elf ears. Wherever I could, I pulled elements from Victoriana’s setting into the illustrations, because the words on the page give the Gamemaster facts and rules, but the art is where the style and tone most effectively shine through.

Friday, August 3, 2018

City of Countless Names- Tophane p3

Okay, this is the last post exploring the incredible sights (and often smells) of Constantinople's Northern Shore.  For the next couple of week, I'll be assembling these posts together into a fully illustrated PDf. You'll get some glimpses of the art next Friday.

Tophane Fountain
Constantly teeming with hamals, vendors, commuters, and sailors, the streets of Tophane are the busiest arteries in Pera-Galata. In 1732, Sultan Mahmud I commissioned the building of Tophane Fountain, one of the largest and most beautiful fountain kiosks in Constantinople, to provide drinking water for the passing crowds. He may have committed this charitable deed to curry favor with his subjects after having over 7,000 members of a revolt executed.
The four ornate walls of the fountain kiosk form a large white marble square twenty-six feet high. Each identical side possesses an inset arch with a water-dispensing spigot above a trough surrounded by arabesque reliefs of trees, roses, and calligraphy in gold plate. Despite possessing a dome with overhanging eaves in its original construction, renovations in 1837 crowned the fountain kiosk with a veranda surrounded by a protective balustrade matching the dimensions of its walls. Tall trees growing up around the fountain shade the many thirsty visitors to the fountain from the sun’s rays.
The freely given water draws people from every nation and class to fountain square. Livestock slake their thirst at the water troughs. Tired laborers wash under the cistern’s cool stream. Servants and sons fill their buckets with water for household uses. Nithamiyeen faithful perform their ritual washings kneeling at the fountain’s troughs before praying at the nearby Kilic Ali Pasha mosque. Peddlers of vegetables and fruits gather their stalls in the square around the fountain.

Nusretiye Mosque and Clock Tower
On the far eastern end of the fountain square, the sharply pointed twin minarets and dome of Nusretiye Mosque rise over the east side of Tophane. In 1823, construction began to rebuild the mosque attached to the Tophane barracks which had been damaged in a fire. Work completed in 1826, only a few months after the Sultan Mahmud II defeated the Janissaries in “the Auspicious Incident”. The Sultan commemorated his recent eradication of the Janissary class by naming his new mosque “Nusretiye” meaning “Divine Victory”. To this day, Nusretiye remains a symbol of Tanzimat reforms.
Nusretiye is an unusually large mosque and its grand baroque architecture makes it even more distinctive. High granite walls with rectangular windows enclose the building. Short turrets grow around the mosque’s majestic 108-foot tall dome. A raised foundation lifts the mosque above the receding ground of the Bosporus shore and brings its minarets closer to the sky. In the vast, square prayer hall, four arches growing from the corners of the room support the magnificent ceiling elaborately ornamented with gold and shades of blue.
To the east of the mosque stands a rare sight in the Ottoman Empire, Nusretiye Clock Tower. Turks prefer to keep the time of day by the muezzin’s call to prayer than the loud ringing of bells. Sultan Abdulmejid modernized punctuality in Tophane by building a clock tower for his father’s mosque in 1848.  The 50-foot tower of extravagant neoclassical style offends traditional Ottomans. The chimes remain unused, but the tower’s silence is not enough to keep the peace. Only the monogram of the sultan sealed above the tower’s doorway stops vandals and zealots from damaging the delicate mechanisms, stopping the tower’s four clock faces for good.

Friday, July 27, 2018

City of Countless Names- Tophane p2


Tophane-i Amire
Across the fountain square a short distance from the Bosporus shore, near the foot of Pera’s hill, Turkish craftsmen labor furiously in the foundry which earns Tophane its name. Operational, since 1455, the Tophane-i Amire (meaning Imperial Gun House) produces the cannons desperately needed by the Turkish military. Once their artillery struck fear into nearby nations, but their technology failed to advance alongside European industry. Ottoman gunsmiths still make their cannons of brass which distorts with repeated firing, though it is simple to recast.
A complex of low domes and turrets cover the foundry’s roof and allow heat to escape from the blazing works below. Within its high walls, only columns and arches divide its vast open interior, but the industrial machinery needed to mass manufacture cannons, gun-carriages, small arms, and ammunition leave mere walkways between workshop to workshop across the length of the building. Fresh air breezes through broad latticed windows high over the gunsmith’s heads slightly dispersing the smell of cooling brass and gunpowder. Open pits, channels for molten metal, and water cisterns in the floor force visitors to watch their step.
The sultan recently provided Tophane-i Amire with rows of the latest British industrial equipment for the smelting, casting, boring, and stamping of weaponry curtsey of Maudsley, and Nasmyth of Manchester. Despite the craftsmen’s quick proficiency with these machines, the foundry cannot possibly match the needs of the Ottoman military, but there is hope that far older technologies may help turn the tide. Certain massive guns cast in the 1400s were used to great effect against the British Navy as recently as 1807. Now, Turkish gunsmiths and mages hope to reinvigorate the old bombards for use against the Russians in the Crimea.
The ground under Tophane-i Amire once held temples of worship for two Greek goddesses: Artemis, the virginal deity of the hunt, wild beasts, and the moon, and Aphrodite, the less virginal deity of beauty, love, and sex. Strange indeed, that a goddess armed with a bow, and another whose son, Eros, was similarly armed, were once worshiped at a place now devoted to firearms.

The Docks of Tophane
The rotten wood of Tophane’s crumbling docks, entire sections of which have fallen into the waters of the Bosporus without replacement, disillusion most first-time travelers to Constantinople. Gaps between planks and mold lined holes catch the legs of the unwary, and a broken leg might be more favorable to some than a plunge into the discolored waste-filled waters.
A constant flotilla of sixty to seventy clean and brightly painted caiques float in the filthy muck around the dock awaiting fares to Skutari, Stambul, or other sights up the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. Their caiquejees fight for fares by shouting and making violent motions to approaching travelers. When business is slow, twenty or more caiquejees may accost a customer at a time, often frightening away uninitiated travelers.
Boatwrights skillfully practice their craft in the small boatyards along the docks, manufacturing oars and caiques just as their fathers and forefathers taught them. Although their trade and techniques are ancient, and their tools primitive, their methods are perfectly adapted through the centuries for life in the Bosporus.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Skullduggery in the Smoke’s 200thPost! – A Congratulatory Explanation!


Hold your applause to the end of the post, please.

We reached another milestone today and it’s a big one. When my sister told me to start a blog because I wasn’t doing anything else three years ago, I didn’t think I could. I tested the waters slowly, every month I posted a one-thousand word article to the recently deceased Cubicle7 forums about Victoriana. After a few months I realized I wasn’t running out of words to write, and better yet some people were reading what I had to say. That lead to this blog, and yes, I know “Skullduggery” is misspelled. However, I did not know that when I named it.
So thanks to my wonderful sister’s encouragement, I am in the middle of the largest undertaking I have ever undertaken. Last year about this time, I started a short (I thought) series of posts describing Constantinople as a setting for Victoriana. I discovered a rich incredible city built on layer after layer of religion, full of ethnic tensions, in a period of incredible transition. I dug deep into period memoirs, travelogues, and city guides, assembled maps, and illustrations, and found far too many names for absolutely every location. This became “City of a Thousand Names” (which can be found here).
Now with the introduction to Constantinople finished (for now), I am nearing the completion of part two. The plan is to polish, rewrite, and expand these blog posts into another complete and illustrated PDF called “North of the Golden Horn”. This is the second section of City of Countless Names detailing Pera-Galata for Victoriana campaigns. After that is released, I’m going to go back over the City of Countless Names PDF and fix some errors and add more historical background I’ve found since its release.

After all that, it’s time for something completely different. I’ve been writing about Constantinople for about a year now. I am as interested in the city’s history and bringing it to you as ever, but I’m going to stop for a while. As a monolingual American, I found plenty of sources for the sections of Constantinople commonly traveled by Europeans, but there are tons of pertinent stories and perspectives I need to access before I can confidently wade into Stambul and start writing. Until resources from the Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish residents of 1850’s Constantinople come into view, I can’t continue this project.
 There is a lot more to say about Constantinople, and we will get there eventually, but it’s a natural time to take a break and return to the British Empire. The world of Victoriana is endlessly rich and fascinating and I plan to write 200 posts more.

Okay, applaud now.

Friday, July 13, 2018

City of Countless Names- Tophane p1


Moving south to the shore of the Bosporus, we finally reach the last quarter of Constantinople North of the Golden Horn, the industrial dockside quarter of Tophane.

 Tophane (Arsenal, Top-Khaneh Metopon)

Every traveler carried by ship to Constantinople takes their first step into the city at the chaotic quarter of Tophane. The beautiful, exotic metropolis glimpsed from offshore vanishes replaced by a filthy, industrial reality. A complex of piers in a state of disrepair meets muddy and indifferently-paved streets. Small wooden houses pushed close together around narrow alleys seem to invite the devastation of a city fire. Only a short distance from shore, the tightly clustered rookery briefly opens to the beautiful square containing Tophane Fountain bordered on the east by Nusretiye Mosque and on the north by the cannon foundry. In the background, the elegance of Pera rises up the slope.
The smallest neighborhood on the northern shore, Tophane grows east out of Galata and ends west of Findikli. This diminutive patch of turf was the Greek village of Metopon before the conquest of the Ottomans in 1453.  The Ottoman fleet began their circumnavigation of the Golden Horn’s defenses by portaging their fleet up the Tophane banks and across the Galata peninsula on wooden planks. Two years after his victory, Sultan Mehmed II here built Tophane’s cannon foundry to produce more of the guns which had proved so effective against Constantinople’s defenders. The surrounding village grew into the first industrial center along the Golden Horn, and gained its name meaning “Gun House”.
Waves of new arrivals eager to reach their lodgings, hamals stooped by their work, and donkey’s bearing heavy burdens pour through the streets. Most aquatic excursions leaving Pera-Galata for Scutari or the villages further up the Bosporus embark from Tophane’s docks, adding commuting tradesmen, foreign sightseers, and social-calling locals to the bustling crowds. Everywhere peddlers sell grapes and flat cakes to hungry passersby. Tophane holds a heterogeneous variety of peoples, most numerous are the working-class Greek and Armenians.
The Ottoman military seems omnipresent in Tophane. Along with the cannon foundry, waterside workshops produce deadly projectiles for the increasingly outdated Ottoman artillery. A shipyard at the docks produces ships for their navy. A large barracks accommodates the contingent of Turkish soldiers watching over the mouth of the Golden Horn. Now in war, the Turkish military and their European allies daily set off from the quarter’s docks as supplies and fresh troops arrive.
Commerce flourishes in Tophane. Every day workmen unload exotic new wares from foreign markets. Merchant’s offices make sure goods newly imported or due for export fill their warehouses and customs officials keep a keen eye on trade laws.  In the street, vendors sell wares the get “lost” on their way up the gangplank. Everything is for sale. Despite its banishment from the Ottoman Empire, a band of Circassian slavers still auction their fellow man in the hidden corners of Tophane. Smugglers bring their stock of human tragedy from the North African coast.
Despite the blue beauty of the Bosporus, industrial filth and waste from docked ships thicken the waters of Tophane. Mules carry loads of trash accumulated in Pera and other neighborhoods further up the hill down to Tophane’s docks to dump their disgusting burdens into the water. Horrible things often drift ashore.

Friday, July 6, 2018

City of Countless Names- Tatavla p2

We've reached our penultimate exploration of interesting locations in Pera-Galata. Next week begins our look at Tophane, the last quarter along the northern shore. For now, we root through two iconic locals of this Greek neighborhood.

The Church of St Demetrios
At the top of Tatavla’s hill, stands the center of Greek Aluminat worship in Pera-Galata, the massive Church of Saint Demetrios. Saint Demetrios may be the oldest church on the northern shore of the Golden Horn. The building began as a simple chapel dedicated to the oft exiled Saint Athanasius, and the Greek slaves working in the Golden Horn worshiped at the Church of Saint Demetrios in Kassim Pasha. When the freed Greek slaves left the shipyards in the late 1500s and settled in the hills of Tatavla, the Turks converted their abandoned church into a mosque. The Greeks placed their old church’s icon of Saint Demetrios into the chapel of Saint Athanasius, thus rededicating it to Saint Demetrios.
Saint Demetrios is quite a militaristic saint, as befits the patron saint of soldiers. The church’s icon is a large metal ba relief depicting the saint astride a rearing war horse skewing Kaloyan of Bulgaria with a spear. According to Greek Aluminat legends, St Demetrios appeared at the siege of Thessalonica over a thousand years after his death to kill the pagan king. One wonders how the Sultan feels about a church in Constantinople venerating the slaying of a heathen ruler.
In 1726, extensive renovations from the foundation upturned the humble chapel into the majestic basilica as it stands today, an enormous stone-block rectangle. A school, other church offices, and a high garden wall enclose the church. Congregants sit in 5 aisles of pews, with a domed ceiling supported by ebony pillars above the central aisle. Beautiful embellishments of wood and gold reflect the prosperity of Tatavla’s faithful.
St Demetrios has its own cemetery exclusively used by the deceased of Eastern Aluminat faith. Recently, one-hundred and sixty-three Russian prisoners of war died during a hard winter laboring on the docks of Kassim Pasha. The Greeks of Tatavla respectfully buried their brothers in faith in St Demetrios’ graveyard, casting no further doubt on their sympathies in the Crimean war.

Papaz’s Winehouse
The thirsty and hungry from all nations and religions in Pera-Galata convene in the southern end of Tatavla three times a day to dine and drink at Papaz’s Winehouse. The rickety walls are made of gaily painted boards like scenery on the theater stage. Crowds of laughing and loudly conversing Greeks sit on the short stools which serve as both tables and chairs. In the center, the proprietor, a portly deerfolk named Papaz Hieromachos, exists as a whirlwind of glasses and bottles.
Papaz serves thick muddy coffee in the Turkish style, terrible brandy, fine local wines, and strong raki, although the raki is always called “Angelica” due to raki’s illegality under Ottoman law. A small cup of raki or coffee and a large cup of wine or brandy all cost about 10 paras.
In the eating room away from the bar, diners feast at European style tables and chairs. The food is superior to that served in the hotels of Pera at a fourth of the cost. Six or seven piastres buys a filling meal and a good bottle of wine.
Papaz’s doe-eyed daughters serve his patrons, but his oldest, Afroditi is a real card sharp. Money daily changes hands through games of faro and billiards, but when Afroditi plays it all goes into her pocket.
Papaz’s opens his Winehouse at sunrise for clients looking for breakfast and he generally shuts his doors a few hours after sunset. The officers of the Zabtiye patrolling Tatavla all know Papaz. If his business occasionally stays open all night with a noisy party, Papaz simply pays a small “fine” to the officer on patrol, instead of a prison sentence or the bastinado as punishment for breaking curfew.

Friday, June 29, 2018

City of Countless Names- Tatavla p1



Tatavla (Agios Dimitrios St. Dimitrius, Küçük Atina, Little Athens)

North of Pera, the great hill’s incline lessens. The urbane elegance of embassies and mansions quickly changes into the pleasant middle-class suburb of Tatavla at the hill's crest. Tiered houses and cobbler or seamstress shops line the rocky lanes winding around and over hills.  No trace of devastation remains from the 1832 fire that destroyed over 600 houses. Tatavla is primarily a Greek quarter, but its Greek inhabitants exclusively call their home “St. Dimitrius” after the famous church at the center of their community. The Turks refer to the neighborhood as Tatavla, (or more insultingly Giaour Tatavla) because Genoese merchants kept their stables on the land long ago, Tatavla being Greek for “horse stables”. Colloquially, they also name the quarter Küçük Atina, meaning Little Athens.

In the mid-1500s, the Ottoman navy populated Tatavla with captured Greek sailors from the Aegean Sea, brought to Constantinople as slaves for the shipyards of Kassim Pasha. Soon after, the Ottoman Empire obtained the Greek island of Chios. As its denizens immigrated to Constantinople, they chose to settle near their countrymen in the idyllic and beautiful quarter of Tatavla. Under the protection of the Kapitan-I Deryas needing Greek labor in their shipyards, the quarter grew in relative tranquility. In 1793, a proclamation from the Sultan prohibited followers of religions other than Greek Aluminat living in Tatavla much to the approval of quarter’s population.

Both Greeks and non-Greeks patronize the tavernas and wineries of Tatavla. Small communities of Armenians, Jews, Turks, and Englishmen live in the southern slopes of Tatavla. The relaxing holiday atmosphere attracts Europeans escaping the bustling pace of Pera or the often impenetrable ways of Stambul. Music and singing flow from the windows of houses and the doors of coffee houses. Colorful festivals and carnivals frequently fill the streets and bring visitors of all nations and faiths across Constantinople to Tatavla.

Although it sees far less of the Turkish reprisals and bigotry than the Greek communities across the Golden Horn in Stambul, an atmosphere of unease and revolt rises up from Tatavla’s narrow upward-sloping streets. If the Greek War for Independence lurks in recent memory, so much more does the massacre of Chios back in 1822. Thousands of rebellious Greeks died at the hand of the Ottoman army on the island from whence descends much of Tatavla’s population, and their children taken into Ottoman families. Many Greek Aluminates would rather ally with their fellow believers in Russia than fight for a Nithamiyeen Sultan but the Russian influence in Tatavla lies deeper than that. Long before the outbreak of war, the Russian Embassy funded several charities, community associations, and schools serving the Greek population of Constantinople. While the Czarina closed the embassy’s doors and recalled the staff, some of the charities remain. For example, the Tatavla Philanthropic Society still operates a free clinic and arranges loans to growing businesses.

Tatavla’s physical and ethnic distance from Ottoman authority made some sections of the quarter a criminal haven. Bandits and rouges stealing from travelers along the roads to Constantinople find safety or even veneration in Tatavla as a sort of philanthropic protector of the Greeks. Houses of ill repute and sordid tavernas offer dangerous distractions.