1846) The "Reformed" Arnold Toynbee on Turkish/Greek Myths

This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site - Arnold Toynbee in 1961
The following has been excerpted from Arnold Toynbee, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, 1922

(The numbers for the footnotes do not conform to the original.)

Following the Footnotes section:

2) Greek "Spoilt Child"; Turk "Whipping Boy"
3) Toynbee and the Armenians
4) Toynbee's "Blue Book" evidence

The third false antithesis, between civilisation and barbarism, is generally more picturesquely expressed. The Greeks ‘have Hellen the son of Deucalion to their father,’ while the ‘Unspeakable Turk’ is a ‘nomad from the steppes’ and shares the odium of the Scythian, the Mongol, and the Hun. This is the greatest nonsense of all. If it is a question of physical transmission, our Modern Greek contemporaries have about as little Hellenic blood in their veins as our Osmanli contemporaries have of nomadic. If it is one of spiritual heritage, I hope I have sufficiently demonstrated that the Hellenic civilisation of the Ancient Greeks and the Near Eastern civilisation of the Modern Greeks are totally distinct from one another; that we Westerners have as good a claim as any Near Easterners to be the true Hellens’ spiritual descendants; and that there is even a perceptible Hellenistic strain in the Osmanlis’ Middle Eastern culture.

The common statement that Ancient Greek literature was handed down to us by the Modern Greek refugees from the final wreck of the East Roman Empire in the fifteenth century, is inexact. The Modern Greeks did copy, preserve, and eventually sell to Western Connoisseurs the manuscripts of the Ancient authors. They also kept alive a knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of the Ancient language. But the part played by Modern Greeks in the revival of Classical Greek studies in Western Europe and America has been remarkably small. From the end of the fifteenth century onwards, the whole reconstruction and reinterpretation of the Greek Classics has been done by Western scholars. The Modern Greeks provided the texts and the linguistic key, but the most important qualifications of the Western Grecians were their previous familiarity with the Roman adaptations of Ancient Greek literature and their membership in a living society which rivalled the greatness of Hellas in her prime. Koraís, the great Modern Greek scholar who made the fruits of Western Classical scholarship accessible for the first time to any considerable number of his fellow-countrymen by editing the Classics with introductions and notes in the Modern Greek language, went as a young man to the French University of Montpellier to study medicine; was diverted from technology to scholarship under the influence of his Western professors; and spent the remaining forty-six years of a long life in Paris, where he found a more congenial atmosphere for Ancient Greek studies than on the classic soil of his native Smyrna.

It is worth noting that the differentiation of Near Eastern from Ancient Hellenic culture came about by a deliberate breach with the past, and not by a tearful parting. The Academy of Athens, founded by Plato, was not broken up by the Turks. It was closed, in the ninth century of its existence and just forty years before the first Turks visited Constantinople,[1] by Justinian, the Near Eastern sovereign who built Aya Sofía and who figures as a worthy in the legend of Modern Greek nationalism. Seven philosophers who refused to embrace the Christian religion took refuge in the dominions of Justinian’s Middle Eastern rival Khosru,[2] and the Persian Government stipulated for the repatriation and toleration of these last representatives of Hellenic culture in a treaty of peace with the East Roman Power.[3] The cult of the Olympian gods survived three centuries longer in the Mani, the most inaccessible promontory of the Morea, which was cut off from the East Roman Empire by the Slavonic migrations at the close of the sixth century. But in the latter part of the ninth century, when the Moreot Slavs had been reduced to subjection, this scandalous survival of Ancient Hellenic usages attracted the attention of the Constantinople Government. The Olympian cults of the Maniots were suppressed and the last taint of Hellenism was purged out of the Near Eastern world.[4] The repudiation of the Hellenic tradition had already been symbolized by a change in the use of names. ‘Hellene’ had come to mean a heathen outsider, in contrast to the Christian subject of the East Roman Empire. The latter was the orthodox pattern of the primitive Modern Greek, and Romyós, or ‘East Roman,’ as has been mentioned in Chapter IV., became the national name in the vernacular. The Modern Greek merchants and peasantry of the Ottoman Empire only learnt to call themselves Hellenes from the children of the French Revolution in the West, who delighted to speak of Switzerland as the Helvetian Republic and to have their portraits painted in the costume of Roman Senators. This classical affectation was a Western fashion which the Modern Greeks borrowed with other promiscuous properties of our puppet-show, just as the classical scholarship of Koraís was a part of his enlightened advocacy of Western culture among his fellow-countrymen.

This profound student who so impressed by the alienness of the Near Eastern spirit both from the Modern West, to which he had given his spiritual allegiance, and from Ancient Hellenism, to which he turned for the same inspiration as his Western models, that in his writings he frequently attacked the greatest of all Near Eastern institutions, the East Roman Empire.

‘If the Graeco-Roman Emperors had given to the education of the race a small part of that attention which they gave to the multiplication of churches and monasteries, they would not have betrayed the race to other rulers more benighted than themselves. For all the evils which we have suffered from the maniac Moslems, we are indebted to those fleshly and material-minded Christian Emperors.’ [5]

Koraís’s verdict is borne out by the following passage from the memoirs [6] of his contemporary Theódhoros Kolokotrónis, one of the most celebrated Moreot captains in the War of Independence:--

‘In my young days,[7] when I might have learnt something, schools and academies did not exist. There were hardly a few schools in which they learnt to read and write. The old-fashioned hoja-bashys, who were the local notables, hardly knew how to write their own names. The majority of arch-priests knew nothing but their ritual, and that only by picking it up; not one of them had been properly taught. The Psalter, Chant Book, Book of Offices, and other prophetical works were the books I read. It was not till I went to Zante [8] that I came across the history of Greece in plain Greek. The books I read often were the History of Greece, the History of Aristoménis and Gorgó, and the History of Iskender Beg. It was the French Revolution and Napoleon, to my mind, that opened the eyes of the world.’

The klepht was as well aware as the scholar of the quarter from which light and warmth were beginning to radiate through the Near and Middle Eastern dusk. Neither of them tried to pretend that the sun that was showing its face in their western heavens was a refracted image of Ancient Hellenic Hyperion, who had descended for ever into the shadowy underworld. That myth is one of the extravagances of Western Philhellenism.

Equally extravagant is the frequent reference of anything that is or is thought to be objectionable in Osmanli psychology and institutions to the influence of nomadism.[9] ‘Grass does not grow where the Turkish horse-hoof has trod!’ Whichever conquered nationality invented this much-quoted proverb had evidently no acquaintance with the economics of life on the steppes. Had the metaphor any relation to reality, those primaeval Turks who first took to stock-breeding would not have survived their first twelve months in business, for the nomad moves in an annual orbit, and drives his herds each season over the ground on which he has pastured them at the same season the year before. His perpetual motion is not a symptom of waywardness and perversity. It is as scientific as the agriculturist’s rotation of crops or performance of different operations in different fields at different times of year. Both are perpetually shifting the scene of their activities in order not to exhaust a particular parcel of ground. There is only a quantitative difference in the range of their oscillation, conditioned by the difference between their media of productivity. The nomad, ranging widely in order to convert grasses into human food through chemical transformations in the bodies of tame animals, regards the agriculturist as a stick-in- the-mud. The agriculturist, raising edible seeds and roots in sufficient quantities out of a much smaller area of land, regards the nomad as a vagabond.

There would be nothing more in this than the common-place mutual contempt of different trades, if the frontiers between nomad’s land and peasant’s land were stable. On his own ground, each of them is following that mode of life which the experience of generations has shown to be economically the most productive. He is in equilibrium with his environment and therefore more or less harmless and amiable. In fact, the nomad who visits the peasant or the peasant who visits the nomad at home is generally agreeably surprised at the courtesy of his reception. ‘Those splendid horse-dairy-farmers the Abioi, who live on a milk diet and are the justest of mankind,’ is the earliest reference to the Central Asian nomads that I know of in the literature of a sedentary society,[10] and if nomads were literary-minded, I daresay they would compliment us occasionally in equally gracious phraseology. The traditional bitterness between peasant and nomad arises from a physical cause for which neither is to blame. Their respective environments and the frontiers between them are subject to periodic change. Recent meteorological research indicates that there is a rhythmic alternation, possibly of world-wide incidence between periods of relative desiccation and humidity,[11] which causes alternate intrusions of peasants and nomads into one another’s spheres. When desiccation reaches a degree at which the steppe can no longer provide pasture for the quantity of cattle with which the nomads have stocked it, the herdsmen swerve from their beaten track of annual migration and invade the surrounding cultivated countries in search of food for their animals and themselves. On the other hand, when the climatic pendulum swings back and the next phase of humidity attains a point at which the steppe becomes capable of bearing cultivated roots and cereals, the peasant makes his counter-offensive upon the pastures of the nomad. Their respective methods of aggression are very dissimilar. The nomad’s outbreak is as sudden as a calvary charge, and shatters sedentary societies like the bursting of some high explosive. The peasant’s is an infantry advance. At each step he digs himself in with mattock or steam-plough, and secures his communications by building roads or railways. The most striking recorded examples of nomad explosion are the intrusions of the Turks and Mongols, which occurred in what was probably the last dry period but one.[12] An imposing instance of peasant encroachment is the subsequent eastward expansion of Russia. Both types of movement are abnormal, and each is extremely unpleasant for the party at whose expense it is made. But they are alike in being due to a single uncontrollable physical cause, and it is as erroneous to attribute its workings to human wickedness in the one case as in the other. Yet while the intrusive nomad has been stigmatized as an ogre, the intrusive peasant has either escaped observation or has been commended as an apostle of civilisation. The reasons for this partiality are clear. One is that the nomad’s tactics are more dramatic than the peasant’s and make a correspondingly greater impression on the imagination. The other is that history is written for and by the sedentary populations, which are much the most numerous and sophisticated portion of mankind, while the nomad usually suffers and pines away and disappears without telling his tale. Yet, if he did put it on record, he might paint us as monsters.

The relentless pressure of the cultivator is probably more painful in the long run, if one happens to be the victim of it, than the nomad’s savage onslaught. The Mongol raids were over in two or three generations; but the Russian colonisation, which has been the reprisal for them, has been going on for more than four hundred years—first behind the Cossack lines, which encircled and narrowed down the pasture-lands from the north, and then along the Trans-Caspain Railway, which stretched its tentacles round their southern border. From the nomad’s point of view, a peasant Power like Russia resembles those rolling and crushing machines with which Western industrialism shapes hot steel according to its pleasure. In its grip, the nomad is either crushed out of existence or racked into the sedentary mould, and the process of penetration is not always peaceful. The path was cleared for the Trans-Caspian Railway by the slaughter of Türkmens at Gök Tepé.[13] But the nomad’s death-cry is seldom heard. During the European War, while people in England were raking up the Ottoman Turks’ nomadic ancestry in order to account for their murder of 600,000 Armenians, 500,000 Turkish-speaking Central Asian nomads of the Kirghiz Kazak Confederacy were being exterminated—also under superior orders—by that ‘justest of mankind’ the Russian muzhik. Men, women, and children were shot down, or were put to death in a more horrible way by being robbed of their animals and equipment and then being driven forth in winter time to perish in mountain or desert. A lucky few escaped across the Chinese frontier.[14] These atrocities were courageously exposed and denounced by Mr. Kerensky in the Duma before the first Russian Revolution, but who listened or cared? Not the Tsar’s Government, nor the great public in the West.

So much, in vindication of the genus Hun. But even on the assumption that they are a generation of vipers, is nomadic ancestry as irretrievable as original sin? If it is, then where are we to stop? We may give up the nomad-descended Near Eastern Bulgars, and even the Westernised Magyars, as lost souls. (After all, they were both on the wrong side of the War!) But what about all the other nations of the Western world—including incidentally the French, the Belgians, the Italians, and ourselves—who speak languages of the Indo-European family?[15] Does not our speech be[t]ray us and convict us of the ineffaceable nomadic taint? Where did these languages come from? Our Western philologists trace them back to the same steppes from which the Turanian languages issued later. At any rate, the migrants who propagated one branch of Indo-European speech in Persia and India must have crossed the steppe to get there, and could hardly have lived except by practising the nomad economy on their way.[16] Yet their dubious origin is never cast up against the speakers of the modern Iranian and Prakrit vernaculars, even by those Westerners who are least inclined to believe that natives of India will ever be capable of governing themselves. Not only the morphology of the Sanskrit language, but the mythology and institutions of those proximate descendants of nomads who first gave that language its literary form, have been extravagantly admired by Westerners too fastidious to overlook the nomadic ancestry of the Osmanli Turks. Such inconsistencies make havoc of the prejudice that nomads generically are abominable, and few words need be wasted in exposing the fallacy in the case of the Osmanlis. It has been mentioned in Chapter IV. that, for good or evil, they have actually inherited an infinitesimal quantity of nomadic blood; and in Chapter I. some allusion has been made to their experiment in governing sedentary subjects by an adaptation of nomadic institutions. If they are to be condemned because that experiment broke down, or because they have bungled in borrowing Western institutions as a substitute, they cannot fairly be accused at the same time of never having got out of their unfortunate nomadic habits. An unprejudiced study of Ottoman history does point to the conclusion that, down to the latter part of the seventeenth century, their secular institutions (apart from the immense field covered by the system of Islam) were to a large extent conditioned by their nomadic antecedents. But it indicates equally strongly that, at any rate since the time of Sultan Mahmud II. (1808-1839), the traces of nomadic influence upon their social life and politics have disappeared.

The best commentary on all this false history and false sentiment which prejudice the thoughts of the Western public... is the judgment of those Westerners who speak from personal experience...

They find [the Turk] no less honest in his dealings, no less admirable in his character, and no less pleasant as a companion.

The best commentary on all this false history and false sentiment which prejudice the thoughts of the Western public about the Greeks and the Turks (on the rare occasions when it thinks about them at all) is the judgment of those Westerners who speak from personal experience. They are few in number, but they are mostly educated men, and the different vocations which have drawn them to the Near and Middle East enable them to see the situation from independent points of view. Some have gone as business men, others as soldiers, others as doctors, others as consuls, others as missionaries. Any point on which the majority of these diverse first-hand observers agree, cannot easily be dismissed as a delusion; yet they are almost unanimous [17] in the verdict that, as an individual human being in the local environment, the Turk is not the Greek’s inferior. They find him no less honest in his dealings, no less admirable in his character, and no less pleasant as a companion.
This consensus among Westerners who have had direct relations with both nationalities cannot possibly be the product of Turkish propaganda.

In the first place, the people who hold this view have formed it as the result of experience...

Secondly, the Turks, as a nation, are almost ludicrously innocent of the propagandist’s art.

This consensus among Westerners who have had direct relations with both nationalities cannot possibly be the product of Turkish propaganda. In the first place, the people who hold this view have formed it as the result of experience; and, secondly, the Turks, as a nation, are almost ludicrously innocent of the propagandist’s art. The difference between Western and Middle Eastern social conventions has restricted those forms of personal contact on which propaganda (as well as the more reputable forms of self-revelation) largely depends. The revolution in the position of Turkish women, which has been in progress for the last ten years, is beginning to break this barrier down, but it is still there. In addition to this material obstacle, there are subjective inhibitions. The Turks are aware of the prejudice against them that exists in Western minds, and are inclined to despair of the possibility of overcoming it. This pessimism arises partly from discouraging experiences and partly from pride, for the Turks have not lost possession of their distinctive Middle Eastern civilisation. It may have been a failure; it may even be inherently inferior to that of the West, yet it is, after all, a system of life which is a law unto itself and has its own standards and ideals. The more the West displays contempt and aversion, the more it discourages the Middle East from the pursuit of a modus vivendi and impels it to retire into itself. If there is any question of propaganda, it is on the other side. This questionable art, which is unfortunately characteristic of Western culture (the very name having originated in the bosom of our greatest Western institution, the Roman Catholic Church) has been acquired by the Greeks with uncommon virtuosity. The Greek colonies in the principal urban centres of the Western world, with their intimate affiliations—through business, naturalisation, and intermarriage—with ‘influential circles’ of Western society, are admirably equipped for practising it. They will themselves be the first to admit that they have not neglected their opportunity. This is not to their discredit, but it does suggest that the influence of propaganda is to be traced in the second-hand opinions of the majority of the Western public that has stayed at home, rather than in the first-hand experience of the minority that has been in contact with the Greeks an the Turks in their native surroundings.

The natural explanation of this minority’s judgment is that it is correct, in so far as categorical judgments are applicable at all in a realm of relativity, where the positions of Greeks, Turks, and Westerners are changing all the time in respect of one another. If ‘suggestion’ plays any part, it is rather an ‘inverse suggestion’ set up by the false prejudice with which the Western observer on the spot has previously been indoctrinated. The mental associations of ‘Christianity,’ ‘Europe,’ and ‘Hellenism,’ which the Modern Greeks have taken such pains to attach to their own image in Western minds, are really prejudicial to them. Because (as I have tried to show) they do not correspond to the facts, they cause embarrassment as soon as Greeks and Westerners who have theoretically accepted them attempt to establish personal relations. Each finds himself in a false position. The Greek assumes a character which he does not possess. He poses as a scion of Ancient Hellenic society, who has rejoined his long-lost Western brother after an interval of adversity, due to the accident of a brutal barbarian conquest. The Westerner, on his side, starts from the generous assumption that the only essential difference between them consists in his own accidental better fortune, and that if the Greek bears the marks of what he has been through, it is only delicate to draw a veil over a temporary infirmity. From the moment of contact, however, these mutual assumptions begin to break down, and the process of disillusionment is so awkward, and sometimes even painful, for the Western party to the relationship that he tends to bring it to an end and to avoid its renewal. In fact, he often cherishes a quite unjust resentment against the Modern Greek, because the latter does not come up to expectations which he would never have entertained if he had exercised his judgment. It is not to the interest of either Greeks or Westerners that this source of misunderstanding should be perpetuated.


1. The Academy was closed in A.D. 529; the first ambassadors from the Khan of the earlier Turkish Empire in Central Asia arrived at Constantinople in A.D. 569.

2. It must be admitted that the Hellenic philosophers did not find themselves at home at the Middle Eastern court.

3. In A.d. 533.

4. See Konstandínos Porphyroyénnitos (=’Constantine Porphyrogenitus’): On the Administration of the [East Roman] Empire, ch. 1. (ed. by Bekker, I., Bonn, 1840, Weber).

5. Koraís: Apánthisma Epistolón, pp. 46-7; cp. pp. 4 and 133 (Athens, 1839).

6. Kolokotrónis, Th.: Dhiíyisis symbándon tis Elinikìs Phylis (1770-1836), 2 nd ed. (Athens, 1889, Estía).

7. He was born in 1770.

8. An island then under British occupation, which had been under almost uninterrupted Western government for the preceding six centuries. Upper-class Zantiots used to complete their education in Italian universities.

9. So subtle a writer as Sir Charles Eliot seems to slip into this rut in his brilliant book on Turkey in Europe (revised edition, London, 1907). In describing the proclivity shown even by cultivated and well-to-do Turks for living from hand to mouth, taking things as the find them, and omitting to furnish their houses or to keep them in repair, he suggests that it may be due to some kind of inherited nomadic instinct. I feel great diffidence in criticising an observer of such ability and penetration, but a comparison between accounts of Modern Turkey and of the Southern States of the American Union before the Civil War suggests to my mind what is perhaps a less far-fetched explanation. If one reads standard descriptions of the South, like Olmsted’s, one cannot fail to be struck by the apparent resemblance, in this very respect, between old Southern and contemporary Turkish life and manners. Can one discover a common cause? I believe that one can. In both societies there was the conjunction of a racial ascendency with an abnormal mobility of population. In the South it was a white ascendency over Negroes, in Turkey a Middle Eastern ascendency over Near Easterners. In America the movement of population was due to the economic attraction of the untenanted West, in the Ottoman Empire to the eviction of the outlying Turkish minorities by their former Near Eastern subjects. But this conjunction of circumstances, however brought about, might well have the same rather demoralising and unsettling effect upon the ruling element in either society, and a very natural form of it would be the encouragement of the proclivity described above, for which we have the testimony in either case of independent observers. On this interpretation, the proclivity itself might be recent and temporary.

10. Iliad, Book XIII., lines 5-6. Cf. Herodotus, Book IV., chaps. xxiii. and xxvi., and almost every traveller who has visited the nomads at home.

11. See Dr. Ellsworth Huntington’s works passim, but especially The Pulse of Asia (Boston and New York, 1907, Houghton Mifflin Co.), and The Climatic Factor as illustrated in Arid America (Washington, D.C., 1914, Carnegie Institution).

12. Research has not yet proceeded far enough on the meteorological side to infer the length of period with any certainty from the scientific data. But the historical records of movements of population produced by this now well-established physical cause, point to a total period-length of 600 years between the respective ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ maxima. We are probably at present in the early stages of a ‘wet’ phase, the last ‘dry’ phase having extended from about 1550 to 1850, the preceding ‘wet’ phase from 1250 to 1550, and the previous ‘dry’ phase—of which the Turkish and Mongol explosions were a consequence—from A.D. 950 to 1250.

13. In 1881.

14. For details see Czaplicka, M.A.: The Turks of Central Asia in History and at the Present Day (Oxford, 1918, Charendon Press), p. 17. The respective estimates of the total numbers of murdered Kazaks and Armenians are both conjectural.

15. The only populations in Western Europe, besides the Magyars, who speak non-Indo-European languages are the Finns and Lapps (incidentally both ‘Turanian’), and the Basques—honourable exceptions, but hardly numerous enough to save our reputation!

16. This conjecture is supported by the fact that the Iranian and Sanskrit names for the staple agricultural instruments are not derived from the same roots as those common to so many Indo- European languages on our side of the Central Asian steppe. It looks as if the ‘proto-Aryas’ lost the use of these implements during their migration and rediscovered or borrowed them independently.

17. The chief exceptions are, of course, to be found among the missionaries, but (i) whenever I have heard the maintain the superiority of non-Western Christians over Moslems, it has been a priori and not with reference to their own experience; and (ii) a strong party among them take the same view as other Western residents.

More from Toynbee:
Greek "Spoilt Child"; Turk "Whipping Boy"

(Emphasis below is Holdwater's)

The Greek assumes a character which he does not possess. He poses as a scion of Ancient Hellenic society, who has rejoined his long-lost Western brother after an interval of adversity, due to the accident of a brutal barbarian conquest. The Westerner, on his side, starts from the generous assumption that the only essential difference between them consists in his own accidental better fortune, and that if the Greek bears the marks of what he has been through, it is only delicate to draw a veil over a temporary infirmity. From the moment of contact, however, these mutual assumptions begin to break down, and the process of disillusionment is so awkward, and sometimes even painful, for the Western party to the relationship that he tends to bring it to an end and to avoid its renewal. In fact, he often cherishes a quite unjust resentment against the Modern Greek, because the latter does not come up to expectations which he would never have entertained if he had exercised his judgment. It is not to the interest of either Greeks or Westerners that this source of misunderstanding should be perpetuated.

This phenomenon in the relationships between people of different civilisations is a commonplace in those between individuals of different classes in the same society. A cultivated class, for example, finds most difficulty in getting on with another which has acquired part—but only part—of its culture and customs, and which seeks on this account to establish the convention that no class-distinction is there, when both parties are secretly aware of its presence. On the other hand, it is comparatively at ease in its intercourse with members of one which makes no pretensions to similarity. In this relationship both parties can be themselves, and they can each enjoy the experience of discovering the other’s distinctive qualities, without the discomfort of detecting insincerity in his attitude and their own. Indeed, this relationship inclines people to be, if anything, unduly charitable. Each party having assumed that the other’s standards differ— and that legitimately—from his own, is easily led to suspend judgment. A working-man often makes allowances for an acquaintance who is a gentleman, and a gentleman for a working-man, which they would not either of them make undesirable as that noted above in the case of Westerners and Greeks; but it has the same psychological origins, and neither feature will disappear until the ‘complex’ of prejudice in Western minds has been removed.

It is imperative to remove it, for unwarrantable prejudice and unwarrantable indulgence do not in this case counter-balance one another. When you have made a spoilt-child of the Greek, it is no good rounding on him as an impostor; and when you have used the Turk as a whipping-boy, you do not heal the stripes that you have inflicted by congratulating him on his fortitude. Unnatural treatment is made doubly harmful by inconsistency in its application, and the deplorable effects of Western behaviour towards both nationalities are written large on the characters of the present generation. In both cases, the evil that we have done to them exceeds, and will probably outlive, the good.

It is not my intention to minimise the advantages which the Greeks—to consider them first—have derived from Western goodwill. Our sympathy has stimulated their efforts, our charitableness encouraged them to retrieve their mistakes, our exceptional disinterestedness and even generosity towards them has thrown open to them the highest career as a nation for which they may be qualified by their talents. When they took up arms for their independence and began to be worsted in an unequal struggle, Great Britain, France, and Russia agreed on intervention,1 and a few months afterwards the power of the Ottoman and Egyptian Governments to carry on the war was broken—‘accidentally on purpose’—by the Allied fleets at Navarino.2 Again, when state organisation had to be provided for the liberated Greek nation, Western statesmen bestowed on Greece, from the outset and on their own initiative, that ‘sovereign independence’ which they and their successors have always refused (in practice if not in theory) to Turkey. The demand for the realities of this status, formulated in Article 6 of the Turkish National Pact of 1920, 3 has been stigmatized as ridiculous and impertinent. On the other hand, the first point settled in a Protocol signed by the three Powers at London on the 3rd February 1830 was that ‘Greece shall form an independent state, and shall enjoy all the political, economic, and commercial rights attaching to complete independence.’ Yet, at that date, the Greeks had given no proof of capacity for self-government. They had fought two civil wars before they were half-way through their war against the Turks, squandered their Western loans, and generally ignored their Western advisers. The grant of sovereign independence in these circumstances was an act of faith on the part of Western statesmen, and if it has been justified by the event in Greece, they might be well advised to repeat the experiment for the benefit of Turkey.

At the same time, Greece has, on the whole, received greater injury than advantage from the Western attitude towards her during the first century of her independent existence. The general stimulus to her vitality and the concrete services rendered to her are outweighed by the demoralising effects upon her national character. We have encouraged her to be conceited and pharisaical—to over-estimate her own merits and achievements, and to ignore the qualities of the Turk (in spite of the fact that those qualities gave him the dominion over her for four centuries). Taking as their standard of comparison their respective degrees of Westernisation, the Greeks have learnt to regard the Turks as immeasurably their inferiors. They do not realise that their present relative positions, even in this respect, are only temporary; and having staked their fortunes on assimilation to the West, they do not suggest that, in the long run, it may prove no disadvantage to a non-Western people to have remained ‘radically alien to Western civilisation.’ In national conflicts, it is courting disaster to misconceive the potentialities of an adversary, and the Anatolian campaign, the history of which has been narrated in Chapter VI., is an illustration of the misfortunes which Greece has several times brought upon herself by this error of judgment. But the worst elements introduced into the Greek character by intercourse with the West have been the more impalpable weaknesses of superficiality and lack of originality. Having by our sympathy stimulated the Greeks to make efforts, we have often tempted them to relax them by premature and insincere commendation; and by placing our spiritual heritage unreservedly at their disposal, we have led them to turn their backs upon their own.

1 Treaty of the 6 th July 1827 for the Pacification of Greece.

2 On the 20 th October 1827.

3 See Text of the Turkish National Pact, pp. 207-10 above.

Holdwater: Regarding the emphasized passage in the paragraph above: does that not also perfectly describe the Armenians?

As much as Arnold Toynbee turned over a new leaf since his Wellington House days, he still could not let go of the idea of Turkish extermination efforts against the Armenians. Perhaps he was too deeply Christian, or perhaps he was a victim of auto-suggestion, after having drowned himself in so much propaganda; or perhaps he was in denial, having embarked on lies, in patriotic service to his nation. Whatever the reason or reasons, the following passage should be of great interest to those who believe the Ottoman government had the "intent" to kill off the Armenians, and yet have not come face to face with their sins; basically, Toynbee's explanation boils down to the fact that the Turks can only repent once the West can let go of its prejudice and hatred:

The Turks have been demoralised in a different way. Certainly we have avoided killing them by kindness, and if it is wholesome for the character never to be flattered or favoured and to be thrown upon one’s own resources, we have done them some negative service in this respect. In fact, the Turks have not only had the discipline of ‘self-help.’ As depositaries of the Caliphate and as the only even quasi-independent Power surviving in the Middle Eastern world, they have been looked up to by the other members of Middle Eastern society, and have had to shoulder some part of their burden in addition to their own immoderate load. This ordeal of acting as bulwarks against Western aggression might have been preferable to being made, like the Greeks, into protégés of the Western intelligentsia, if their Western adversaries had shown chivalry or had even played fair. But unhappily the record of the West in its dealings with Turkey has been not only ungenerous but unscrupulous...

But, as in the case of Greece, the concrete actions of Western Powers in war and diplomacy have mattered less, for good or evil, than the overwhelming though imponderable ‘suggestion’ exercised upon the Turkish by the Western mind. We have injured the Turks most by making them hopeless and embittered. Our skepticism has been so profound and our contempt so vehement, that they have almost ceased to regard it as possible to modify them by their own action. They incline to accept these Western attitudes as fixed stars in their horoscope, with a fatalism which we incorrectly attribute to the teaching of their religion, without realising that our own conduct has been one of its potent causes. But while they are discouraged, they are not deadened to resentment. They see us in a light in which we too seldom look at ourselves, as hypocrites who make self-righteous professions a cloak for unscrupulous practice; and their master-grievance against us so fills their minds that it leaves little room for self-examination. If a charge is brought against them from a Western source, that is almost enough in itself to make them harden their hearts against it, however just it may be. They do not get so far as to consider it on its merits. They plead ‘not guilty,’ and put themselves in a posture of defence, to meet what experience has led them to regard as one of the most effective strokes in the Western tactic of aggression. In 1921, I seldom found the Turks defend the fearful atrocities which they had committed six years previously against the Armenians, but repentance and shame for them were not uppermost in their minds—not, I believe, because they were incapable of these feelings, but because they were preoccupied by indignation at the conduct of the Allied Powers in fomenting a war-after-the-war in Anatolia. Remorse cannot easily co-exist with a grievance, and until we relieve the Turks of the one, we shall certainly fail, as we have done hitherto, to inspire them with the other.

In attempting to express and explain the Turkish point of view, I am not seeking to suggest that it is right, or to deny the charges brought against the Turkish nation and Government for their treatment of subject peoples during the past century. Their crimes are undoubtedly exaggerated in the popular Western denunciations, and the similar crimes committed by Near Eastern Christians in parallel situations are almost always passed over in silence. At the same time, the facts substantiated against the Turks (as well as against their neighbours) by authoritative investigation are so appalling that it is almost a matter of indifference, from the point of view of establishing a case, whether the embroideries of the propagandists are counterfeit or genuine. The point which I wish to make is that, if our aim is not simply to condemn but to cure, we can only modify the conduct of the Turks by altering their frame of mind, and that our only means of doing that is to change our own attitude towards them. So long as we mete out one measure to them, another to the Greeks, and yet a third to ourselves, we shall have no moral influence over them.

Toynbee and the Armenians

In his book's "ADDITIONAL NOTE ON CHAPTER V," Toynbee explains that "the official apologia of the Greek Administration" made claims on how well it was taking care of Moslem students of a captured Turkish school; in contrast:

"My information was to the effect that the Greek Administration had not only taken over control but had appropriated the endowment to its own purposes. On the other hand, since I had no time to make a personal visit to the school, and cannot therefore speak at first hand, I must put on record the Greek as well as the Turkish version of what was done with regard to it, and must accept the defendant’s statement unless or until I obtain stronger evidence controverting it.in."

Bravo, Arnold Toynbee. This is the manner in which a real historian operates, and the manner by which the earlier Toynbee did not operate, while in service to His Majesty's propaganda division, when he wrote, for example, 1916's Blue Book, "Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire." He never made "a personal visit" to the areas of the massacres he wrote about, could not "speak at first hand," and the rare times he referred to the "Turkish version," he certainly did not "accept the defendant’s statement," in the face of his hearsay evidence... the evidence he still could not let go of, until the end of his life.

It was my belief that he frowned upon his earlier work, denouncing it as "war propaganda," but I can see in this 1922 book (Ch. VII, THE WAR OF EXTERMINATION), Toynbee would go on to write: "...hundreds of thousands of [Armenians] were done to death and thousands turned into robbers and murderers by the administrative action of a few dozen criminals in control of the Ottoman Empire." Toynbee's footnote: "Blue Book Miscellaneous No. 31(1916), pp. 651-3" (there is an examination of this source, below), or his own war propaganda. Later in this book, he wrote: "The Greeks... declared that the Turkish villages which they had destroyed had harboured Turkish bands," adding, "it is quite possible that (as the Turks allege) there was similar provocation for the atrocities against the Armenians in 1915." As the Turks allege? Did not Toynbee read Boghos Nubar's admission of Armenian belligerence in the Times of London, two or three years earlier? (Along with countless other examples from Turk-unfriendly sources?) As wonderful a historian as Arnold Toynbee became after WWI, his deeply ingrained prejudices simply prevented him from shaking his extermination-against-Armenians theory .

Here is the theory, in a nutshell, as Toynbee spelled out in later pages:

‘Chetté’ soon became the synonym for ‘komitajy’ in Anatolia. Turkish ‘political’ chettés made their début in 1914 on the Western littoral, and in 1915, after being reinforced by convicts released for the purpose from the public prisons, they carried out the designs of the Union and Progress Government against the Armenians in every province of Anatolia except the vilayet of Aidin. The Armenian civil population was ‘deported’ from the villages and towns and marched off for ‘internment’ under the escort of uniformed gendarmes; but at the first point on their road out of range of Western observers, the chettés appeared and executed the massacre. The uniformed gendarmes arrived without their prisoners at their destination. What had happened? The chettés had waylaid them. It was unfortunate. The Ottoman Government, faithful to its tradition of clemency, had intended only to deport the seditious Armenians instead of taking severer measures; but the chettés, though outlaws, were Osmanlis. Their patriotic indignation had been too strong for them, and their armament too strong for the gendarmes, so that the Government could not be blamed for the mishap to the Armenians. The make-belief was as inept as it was disgusting, yet it was felt to be worth while.

If that was indeed the systematic plan, there would have been not one example of gendarmes losing their lives defending the Armenians; moreover, no Ottoman would have been tried for crimes committed against the Armenians. Most importantly, not a "single" Armenian would have remained alive, under Ottoman control. (Toynbee himself had written in his "Treatment" Blue Book that one half million Armenians had survived their marching orders.) The above is all speculation, not fitting in at all with the professional historian that Toynbee had become. In addition, he wrote himself in this 1922 book on how unreliable the Circassians were, some actually joining the Greeks; the ones who perpetrated crimes against Armenians mostly came from the ranks of non-Turks, such as Kurds and Arabs. If these tribes were as unmanageable as they often were, often working against government interests, they certainly could not be counted on to administer such a large scale program of extermination in conjunction with the government. It is amazing how the Armenian and missionary-told stories, all obtained secondhand, were still accepted as factual by the "reformed" Arnold Toynbee. He deserves credit for finally regarding Turks as human beings with feelings, and not as subhuman creatures, as he once did; but his prejudices simply ran too deeply.

(As the book came to a close, Toynbee further wrote that the French in Cilicia "even permitted the Armenians to raise and arm irregular bands. If the Armenians took this opportunity to revenge themselves upon the local Turkish population for what they had suffered [principally from other Turks)] in 1915, they can hardly be blamed." Incredible! If Toynbee justified such violence in a Biblical "Eye for an Eye" manner, then he neglects that it was the Armenians who had fired the first shot, massacring many even shortly before the war had begun. Those "Turks" who committed crimes against Armenians surely were acting in revenge mode, for what Armenians had done to their families. Toynbee then charges that Turkish "atrocities" in both Cilicia and "the Turkish invasion of the Republic of Erivan in the autumn of 1920... had the same genesis as the war of extermination in other parts of Anatolia," Yet Katchaznouni, Armenia's prime minister of the time, himself admitted the 1920 war was one the Armenians had provoked, and American eyewitnesses — primarily of the hostile "Near East Relief" variety — verified the Turks were on good behavior, as one may read on this page. When it came to Armenians, tainted sources were still perfectly acceptable to Arnold Toynbee.)


Christopher Walker informs us of what is meant by "Miscellaneous No. 31," in his own propaganda work, “ARMENIA: The Survival of a Nation”, p. 385: "...the Bryce/Toynbee Blue Book (published by the British government as Miscellaneous no. 31 (1916) and published commercially as The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire)"; while trying to confirm whether "No. 31" was another Blue Book or the notorious "Treatment" work, I visited an online version of this material. At first, I thought "No. 31" might have been "Document 31," which may be found here. Unfortunately, the online version does not contain page numbers, and I later realized "Doc. 31" is not what Toynbee alluded to in his all-important, genocide-proving footnote, pp. 651-53.

But since I perused Document 31, regarding the diary of a missionary ("Published by the board of foreign missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A."); it is very representative of the Blue Book, and I don't believe pages 561-53 will contain "evidence" that is more solid than the testimony of Document 31.

As we can see, this is the testimony of a biased missionary. (Toynbee is on record for having written "all" of the Blue Book testimony came from missionaries, which was not true; this may have been an attempt to demonstrate the credibility of his "evidence," since his Christian audience believed clergymen would not lie.) Missionaries possessed a "license from God" to vilify the Turks, as evidenced in their prayers. If this particular missionary (Miss Mary Schauffler Platt) represents what Christopher Walker terms as an example of "impartial eye-witnesses" (p. 384 of his book), that says a lot about Mr. Christopher Walker. Miss Platt already exhibits her deep bias by referring to the enemies of her faith as "evil-minded Moslems."

But even in the testimony of this religious fanatic, what do we find? Mainly, everyone was getting killed by typhus, including the Turkish soldiers, and the missionaries themselves. (Armenians killed by disease are naturally classified as "genocide victims.") Secondly, the Armenians' oppressors were usually not the Turks themselves. She even lets the Turks off the hook, at times:

"Here is a Mussulman thief, plundering Christians, shot by the Osmanli guard, and then brought to us by his friends that we might care for him."

The "Osmanli guard" then was working to preserve law and order, and was not working in cahoots with the "Mussulman thief."

Miss Platt refers to Lucy, the daughter of a preacher, visiting from Gulpashan, "where they had been refugees for some time, living in terror of Kurds by day and night. They also feared the Moslem neighbours and the Turkish guards sent in to protect the village."

They might have been fearing the non-Kurds because every evil Muslim was regarded as a potential threat, but it seems the ones who were committing the crimes were the Kurds. If the Turkish guards were sent in to protect the village, then that is an "intent"-busting point for the Turks.

"The prisoners taken from the English Mission yards by the Turks were kept about twenty-four hours, examined, and to the great and unexpected joy of everyone were set free without ransom. The Turks said they had heard that a Russian spy was being kept in that yard, and when they found no evidence of this, they set the men free."

If the Turks were bent on extermination, why would they have set the Christians free? Obviously, the Christians came under suspicion for colluding with the enemy, because that is what the Christians — including their missionary benefactors — usually did. There was a dangerous war going on, with the existence of the Ottoman nation on the line.

As far as "extermination" proof, I only noticed two references in Document 31:

"Just now two of the young Syrians who are the chief men in helping with the bread came in and told me that they had received warning secretly that they had better leave here and hide with some friendly Moslems, as the Turkish Consul is going to take out all the young men from our yards and other places in the city and kill them — "wipe them out." I cannot believe that it can be true, but we cannot know."

That's right. Chalk one up for Miss Platt for not arriving at a rash conclusion, because what she has heard was "hearsay," and not real evidence.

The second example:

"Some of the young Syrians who guard the gate report that a few days ago a bunch of Kurds in passing stopped to talk and said: ' We came down here to the plain with the intention of killing you all...'"

By now, we all know what that means, don't we? "Hearsay." This is exactly how the local Christian population fooled their missionary benefactors, by making such claims. Usually, the missionaries accepted such word at face value, because they knew the Muslims were, as a whole, so "evil-minded."

I took a look at the Blue Book's online version's Table of Contents, to get an idea of where pp. 651-53 might have fallen. Perhaps it is toward the end of the book, Chapter "XIX.— VILAYET OF DAMASCUS AND SANDJAK OF DER-EL-ZOR." Here, as everywhere, the "impartial eye-witnesses" are missionaries and Armenians. In this section, there is the testimony of an Armenian doctor (Toroyan) who goes to town in tugging at Christian heartstrings. ("'Tell the gallant soldiers [of the Allies] to come quickly to Mesopotamia,' they cried to me between their sobs; 'we are worse than dead.'") Nobody is denying that Armenians were suffering, like everyone else in the empire was suffering, but can't people get it through their thick skulls that someone such as Dr. Toroyan could have been saying anything?

Naturally, all of this calculated melodrama had a deep impact on those such as Arnold Joseph Toynbee; he accepted the propaganda and the hearsay as fact, even though he had arrived at a point in his life and career when he should have known better. His and Lord Bryce's Blue Book was a criminal work, designed to spread prejudice and hatred; we are still — remarkably — contending with its evilness today.

© Holdwater
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, links and the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing the direct link as follows:



Ara Baliozian said...

Toynbee questioned and reconsidered many of his former assertions but he at no time denied the reality of the Armenian genocide. in almost every book he published from first to last he mentions Armenians but again -=- and this must be emphasized -- he never questioned the reality of the genocide.

/ ara baliozian

Sukru Server Aya said...

I am getting fed up, with the remarks of persons who insist in not reading referenced sources. The excerpts from various anti-Turkish sources, prove the opposite. Holdwater's remarks are all explanatory and satisfactory. I suggest the parties also view following excerpts from my book "The Genocide of Truth", Posting 2429 open to the whole world on your site since 2008. I do not wish to serve those "who do not read"!

Book Page Par. # Source Book - Writer (Non Turkish or pro-Turkish)
128 # 56 Nassibian, Akaby
186 # 89 Sonyel, Selahi
313 # 4 Grabill, Joseph
321 # 17 Lewy, Guenther
338 P.77
355 # 8 Nassibian, Akaby
587 # 1 Nassibian, Akaby

Whom are we supposed to trust? Toynbee was prejudiced against Turks before he started his job and his mission was to defame Turks and the Ottoman Empire! he did his job very well. Later (1966) he confessed openly that it was part of his propaganda job.

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