Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922

Overview

On Saturday, September 9, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. The city’s vast wealth created centuries earlier by powerful Levantine dynasties, its factories teemed with Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Jews. Together, they had created a majority Christian city that was unique in the Islamic world. But to the Turkish nationalists, Smyrna was a city of infidels.

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Overview

On Saturday, September 9, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. The city’s vast wealth created centuries earlier by powerful Levantine dynasties, its factories teemed with Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Jews. Together, they had created a majority Christian city that was unique in the Islamic world. But to the Turkish nationalists, Smyrna was a city of infidels.

In the aftermath of the First World War and with the support of the Great Powers, Greece had invaded Turkey with the aim of restoring a Christian empire in Asia. But by the summer of 1922, the Greeks had been vanquished by Atatürk’s armies after three years of warfare. As Greek troops retreated, the non-Muslim civilians of Smyrna assumed that American and European warships would intervene if and when the Turkish cavalry decided to enter the city. But this was not to be.

On September 13, 1922, Turkish troops descended on Smyrna. They rampaged first through the Armenian quarter, and then throughout the rest of the city. They looted homes, raped women, and murdered untold thousands. Turkish soldiers were seen dousing buildings with petroleum. Soon, all but the Turkish quarter of the city was in flames and hundreds of thousands of refugees crowded the waterfront, desperate to escape. The city burned for four days; by the time the embers cooled, more than 100,000 people had been killed and millions left homeless.

Based on eyewitness accounts and the memories of survivors, many interviewed for the first time, Paradise Lost offers a vivid narrative account of one of the most vicious military catastrophes of the modern age.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Smyrna was a prosperous, cosmopolitan port on Turkey's Aegean coast where Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews and other nationalities lived in harmony. In his searingly vivid account of Smyrna's destruction by the Turks in 1922, acclaimed popular historian Milton (Nathaniel's Nutmeg) begins with a fairy tale-like description of the city focused lopsidedly on the wealthy European dynasties known as Levantines. But Milton renders an astute account of the clash of Greek and Turkish nationalisms and the unhelpful meddling of Western powers, particularly Britain, which supported a Greek incursion into Turkey. When the defending Turkish troops under Mustafa Kemal (aka Ataturk) took Smyrna in September 1922, a horrific killing spree of Greeks and Armenians began, and hundreds of thousands of refugees were trapped on the quayside between the sea and a city willfully torched by the Turks as a score of foreign vessels looked on. Milton draws on eyewitness accounts to render these events in all their horror, and ends with an almost incredible rescue led by an unlikely hero. Milton powerfully renders this tragic tale of an army that came to "liberate" Smyrna and instead massacred its citizens and burned their prize to the ground in a vengeful frenzy. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

At the beginning of the 20th century, Smyrna was the most vibrant, cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. Home to an overwhelming population of Greeks, Armenians, and wealthy Levantine business owners, this Turkish city was a multicultural model of peaceful cohabitation. Yet the advent of World War I and increasing sectarian tension transformed this Ottoman "paradise" into a war zone long after the war officially ended. A complete breakdown of law and order and an indifferent foreign military presence ultimately led to the city's brutal destruction and one of the worst humanitarian crises the world had ever seen. London journalist Milton (Nathaniel's Nutmeg) raises expectations for this chronicle of the destruction of Smyrna, and, thankfully, he does not disappoint. Drawing heavily from the personal narratives of Smyrna's Christian residents and foreign diplomats, as well as interviews with survivors, Milton offers a detailed portrayal of life in Smyrna, a comprehensive look at the politics that shaped the city, and a shockingly vivid eyewitness account of the city's violent demise. This extremely well-researched historical narrative is recommended for both public and academic libraries.
—Veronica Arellano

Kirkus Reviews
Gripping account of a half-forgotten 20th-century war that ended in gruesome ethnic cleansing. The Levantine city of Smyrna (today called Izmir) in 1914 was a vibrant commercial metropolis of 500,000 on Turkey's western coast. These coastal areas had formed part of ancient Greece, writes veteran historian Milton (White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves, 2005, etc.), and even after the 11th-century Ottoman conquest Greeks remained the dominant minority. They constituted two-thirds of Smyrna's prosperous polyglot community of Christian Greeks, Armenians and Europeans mixing freely with Jews and Turks under a benign Ottoman governor. This apparent harmony deteriorated after Turkey entered World War I on Germany's side. Smyrna's Christians mostly supported the Entente Powers, but the governor ignored orders from his superiors to persecute Greeks and massacre Armenians. At the war's close, the Treaty of Versailles gave Smyrna to Greece. Arriving in 1919 to an enthusiastic reception from their countrymen, Greek troops proceeded to loot the Turkish quarter, killing hundreds and enraging Turkish nationalists. Then Greek forces advanced deep into Turkey during a bloody three-year war. Finally overreaching themselves, they were crushed by armies under the charismatic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Pursuing the fleeing Greeks, Ataturk's forces reached Smyrna in September 1922 and engaged in an orgy of murder, rape and looting. They burned the city, leaving more than 100,000 dead, and eventually expelled more than one million Greeks from Turkey. A surprising number of survivors kept diaries, and Milton managed to interview a few still living. While hissources' fixation on their misfortunes is understandable, many readers will prefer to skim the lengthy account of Turkish atrocities. Teaches a lesson that needs repeating: Genocide is never the work of a few perverted individuals but springs from common patriotism accompanied by intense hatred of national enemies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465011193
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/7/2008
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Giles Milton is a journalist and best-selling author of five previous works of nonfiction: White Gold, Samurai William, The Riddle and the Knight, Big Chief Elizabeth, and Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

List of Characters

Map of Turkey and Greece: 1922

Map of Smyrna: 1922

Map of the Greek Military Advance

Pt. 1 Paradise

Wheel of Fortune 3

The Great Idea 29

Enemy Aliens 54

Rahmi's Double Game 69

Saving the Enemy 89

Pt. 2 Serpents in Paradise

Peace and War 111

Blood on the Quayside 135

Ex Oriente Lux 152

The Shattered Vase 171

Into the Desert 198

Pt. 3 Paradise Lost

Wednesday, 6 September 1922 221

Thursday, 7 September 1922 232

Friday, 8 September 1922 240

Saturday, 9 September 1922 249

Sunday, 10 September 1922 261

Monday, 11 September 1922 274

Tuesday, 12 September 1922 288

Wednesday, 13 September 1922 302

Thursday, 14 September 1922 327

Friday, 15 September - Monday, 18 September 1922 338

Tuesday, 19 September - Saturday, 30 September 1922 352

Aftermath 372

Notes and Sources 387

Picture Acknowledgements 414

Index 415

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