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The island of Scio, and in particular its main town was located across from mainland Asia. The Genoese placed a small garrison on a bay of the mainland, which otherwise could have been used as a base by enemies to attack Scio. The garrison was housed in a tower.
View of the fortress
Cheshme is the ancient Cyssus, in which port the fleet
of Antiochus was defeated by the Romans. The town covers a shelving ridge to the sea, with the fortress in the centre, of an oblong
shape, consisting of double walls and a deep foss, and inclosing a
mosque and several houses. Its apparent antiquity is not higher
than when the port was in the possession of the Genoese. During
that period two very spacious baths, now in decay, were built by
James Dallaway - Constantinople Ancient and Modern with Excursions to the Shores of the Islands of the Archipelago and to the Troas - 1797
The Ottomans (who acquired Cesme in the XVth century) saw that the bay had the potential for becoming an important base for their navy, both from a military and a trade point of view. Sultan Bayezid II built a large fortress to protect the harbour and the original Genoese tower became part of it: at that time the threat came from the Knights of Rhodes, who often raided the coasts of Anatolia from their fortress at Bodrum.
During the War of Candia (1645-1669) Cismes was the port from which the Ottomans shipped supplies to their army and in 1647 the Venetian fleet attacked and destroyed an Ottoman convoy of 24 ships in its harbour. In 1658 the Venetians seized and almost destroyed the fortress so the current building is the result of a XVIIth century reconstruction.
Since 1770, memorable for the destruction of the Turkish fleet, by the Russians, the greater part of the town, with magazines on the scale for the accommodation of the trade, which is considerable
with the island of Chio, has been rebuilt, having at that time suffered from the conflagration. Dallaway
Cismes however is not usually cited in history books because of the battles which were fought there between Venetians and Ottomans, but because of that which took place in 1770 between a small Russian fleet and the Ottoman one. Empress Catherine the Great sent Count Alexey Orlov (or Orloff) at the head of the Baltic Sea Russian fleet to the Aegean Sea to foster a revolt of the Greeks against the Sultan.
(left to right) Oil jars; Ottoman tombstones; Byzantine capital
The Russian fleet, with the assistance of British advisors, engaged the Ottomans outside the bay of Cismes and in two days (July 6-7) they attacked the enemy ships one by one and sealed a victory which was heralded as a new Lepanto. Empress Catherine celebrated the event by building a palace and a church in St. Petersburg (Chesma Palace and St John's), an obelisk at the residence of Count Orlov at Gatchina and even a columna rostrata in her country house at Tsarskoye Selo.
Monument to Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha and a captured Russian cannon which was made at Olonez, a town near St. Petersburg which was known for its ironworking industries
The Turks prefer to celebrate other war events and other heroes. In the fortress and in the nearby gardens there are several guns which belonged to enemy ships. A monument is dedicated to Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha, an Ottoman admiral and vizier who after the 1770 defeat, modernized the fleet with the help of French naval engineers. From humble beginnings he rose through the ranks to become almost the supreme power: his name was just Hasan; Cezayirli (from Algiers where he was in command of the local corsairs), Gazi (victorious) and Pasha (high rank officer) are all titles he gained during his career.
Cesme in Turkish means fountain/source and the town still retains some traditional Ottoman fountains.
The image used as a background for this page shows a detail of the entrance to a small caravanserai near the fortress.