George Horton

From Phantis
Jump to navigation Jump to search

George Horton was a member of the US diplomatic corps who held several consular offices, principally in Greece, in late 19th century and early 20th century. During two different periods he was the US Consul to Smyrna, the first time between 1911-1917 (till the cessation of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Ottoman Empire during the First World War) and the second time between 1919-1922, during the Greek occupation of the city in the course of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).

George Horton was born on 11 October 1859 in Fairville (perhaps Fairview), New York. In 1909, Horton married Catherine Sacopoulo, a Greek-American.

Today, George Horton is best remembered for his book about the events leading up to and during the fire. The book was published in 1926, and its title, The Blight of Asia, refers to what he considered the abominable behavior of the Turks, and by extension, all of Islam.

Professional career

Horton was a literary man. He was a scholar of both Greek and Latin. He translated Sappho. He wrote a guide for the interpretation of Scripture. He wrote several novels and was a renowned journalist in Chicago, a member of what was called the “Chicago Renaissance.”


Horton started his career as a literary journalist, first as the literary editor of Chicago Times-Herald (1899-1901) and then as the editor of the literary supplement of Chicago American newspaper (1901-1903).


Horton was also a professional diplomat who loved Greece. He became U.S. Consul in Athens in 1893, where he actively promoted the revival of the Olympic Games and inspired the U.S. team's participation. He wrote a lyrical visitor's guide to Athens and composed a reflective description of his stay in Argolis.

Horton served twice as the U.S. Consul in Athens 1893-1898 and between 1905-1906. Horton was the US Consul in Salonika between 1910-1911.

He then served as U.S. Consul in Smyrna up to the U.S. break-off of diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire (1911-1917) in World War I. He served again as consul in Smyrna after the war (1919-1922) and remained in Smyrna until after the |fire began on September 13, 1922, spending the last hours before his evacuation signing passes for those entitled - and others who were not - to American protection and transportation to Piraeus. Through his initiative, Greek ships and boats were permitted to fly the American flag and dock in various harbours of Asia Minor to pick up and transport refugees to mainland Greece.

The Blight of Asia

Today, Horton is most remembered for his 1926 account "The Blight of Asia" relating, among a variety of topics, the Great Fire of Smyrna that ravaged the city of Smyrna, Asia Minor, starting on 13 September 1922, two days after the consul's departure from his post there on 11 September, and that lasted for 4 days. [1]

Horton wanted his book to make four main points.

First, he wanted to illustrate that the catastrophic events in Smyrna were merely “the closing act in a consistent program of exterminating Christianity throughout the length and breadth of the old Byzantine Empire.”

Second, he wanted to establish that the Smyrna fire was started by regular Turkish army troops with, as he put it, “fixed purpose, with system, and with painstaking minute details.”

Third, he wanted to emphasize that the Allied Powers shamefully elevated their selfish political and economic interests over the plight of the beleaguered Christian populations of Asia Minor, thereby allowing the Smyrna catastrophe to unfold without any effective resistance and, as he said, “without even a word of protest by any civilized government.”

And fourth, he wanted to illustrate that pious western Christians were deluded in thinking they were making missionary headway in the Muslim world.

By the time of publication Horton had resigned his diplomatic commission, and he wrote strictly in the capacity of a private citizen, drawing on his own observations and those of the people he quotes. His account remains as controversial as the fire itself. [2]


External links


  1. The Blight of Asia, An Account of the Systematic Extermination of Christian Populations by Mohammedans and of the Culpability of Certain Great Powers; with the True Story of the Burning of Smyrna; George Horton, 1926. Hellenic Resources Network
  2. [1] In an article published in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies ("George Horton: The literary diplomat)", Brian Coleman describes his subject matter as follows: "George Horton was a man of letters and United States Consul in Greece and Turkey at a time of social and political change. He writes of the re-taking of Smyrna by the Turkish army in September 1922. His account, however, goes beyond the blame and events to a demonization of Muslims, in general, and of Turks, in particular. In several of his novels, written more than two decades before the events of September 1922, he had already identified the Turk as the stock-in-trade villain of Western civilization. In his account of Smyrna, he writes not as historian, but as publicist."

A portion of content for this article is credited to Wikipedia. Content under GNU Free Documentation License(GFDL)