Samuel S. Cox, an American diplomat stationed in Constantinople at the end of the 19th century, published his memoirs about the Ottoman Empire under the title of “Diversions of a diplomat in Turkey” in 1887.
In one section (pages 181-182) on various ethnic groups (Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Israelis, Kurds, Turks, etc.) of the Ottoman Empire, he wrote the following:
“It is often very difficult to distinguish between Israelis, Armenians, Turks, or Greeks. For this, you must be very observant. You need to know the person first.
The arrogance of the Turk will soon make it clear to you that the person you are addressing to does not have the subtle sophistication of the Greeks. That manners distinguish him or her from an Albanian, Israeli, or Arab.
Armenians are the most quick-witted people in the world. They are Yankees of the East with a lot of extra cleverness. They are also divided: some may seem to lean toward Catholicism while others follow their own church. Both are far from Greek orthodoxy.
The Levantines, the descendants of French, Italian, German, and other settlers of European descent, are also among the most perceptive of people. They are a class in themselves and have very little contact with Greeks or Armenians.
There is a controversial question as to which race is superior in terms of intelligence, or, as we say, mind. I will not try to discuss this issue. Certainly, those are not the Turks, although they are the ruling force.
There is a common saying stating that you need four Turks to outwit one Frank, two Franks to deceive one Greek, two Greeks to deceive one Israeli, and six Israelis to deceive one Armenian. The Armenian takes the prize!
Maybe because Armenians have more enterprise. Or maybe because they were abandoned to wander outside their native lands alone like the Israelis. But regardless of where or who they are – a prime minister of Egypt or the Governor of Ohio Thomas Corwin, who is of Armenian-Hungarian origins – the intelligence of this nation gives them grace, a sense of humor, eloquence, genius and, above all, fearlessness in self-interest, or, all put more simply, intelligence. Armenians have never been intimidated by threats, and that’s why they are successful.
Here, carriers are usually the Armenians. Watching after how he moves with the majestic force of Samson and walks with wide strides in the midst of various street salesmen, sugar vendors, and repairmen, who all day try to sell their goods, is one of the most interesting shows of the capital.
One carrier I saw wore a loose gray jacket with white sleeves, gray gaiters, and a red belt. He carried incredible loads on his shoulders. I saw him carrying a piano and even a coach on his back.
One should watch a carrier climbing up the hill of Pera (now Beyoğlu) to understand what the Bible means by “bear the burdens of each other.” When his day of festivity comes, he plays strange music on an old pipe and dances in the streets of Pera like an elephant in the middle of a tableware.”