Horrors of Slavery, or, The American Tars in Tripoli

By William Ray; Hester Blum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
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I HAVE before mentioned, that on the 5th of June, 1805, I entered on board the United States frigate Essex, of which Capt. Cox was then commander. The next morning we sailed for Syracuse, and arrived there a few days after. There were a great number sick on board the ship, and two of the Philadelphia’s crew, James Ingalson and John Garrabant, soon after died. This place was the rendezvous of our squadron. There we lay till about the middle of July. While here I went ashore, and meeting a Mr. Irving, we proposed visiting the cave of Dionysius. We hired a boy to conduct us thither for a quarter of a dollar; it is about two miles from town. We passed through several very pleasant gardens, groves of orange trees, and beautiful vineyards. When we came to the entrance of the cave, he struck fire and lighted a torch. We entered it by a gradual descent. It is hewn out of a solid rock. I do not exactly know the dimensions of it; but should suppose it to be about 100 feet in length, 40 in breadth and 30 in height. At the top it is quite narrow, and at the farthermost end of it is a winding communication to the palace of the tyrant, where he used to sit and sate his infernal ears with the groans of his subjects. This communication, from its ingenious construction, is called Dionysius’ ear. It is formed in such a winding manner as to convey a low whisper, to the apartment above, in distinct accents. Our guide fired off a pistol, which made a report louder than a 24 pounder in the open air. Here are to be seen the staples and rings in the sides of the wall, where the wretched victims of a despot’s cruelty were often fastened, to groan out their lives in tortures, merely for the amusement of their tormentor. They were placed in an erect posture against the wall—an iron ring around their necks—their arms extended and pinned to the wall, and their feet chained to the floor. In this situation many a hapless wretch, without the least shadow of a crime, has wasted his life in fruitless lamentations and excruciating agonies. Just released from Turkish slavery, the reflections and sensations, which a sight like this inspired, are to be conceived, but not described.

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