Howitzers on the Hill

Neal Ascherson

In a corner of the eastern Mediterranean, where the coast of Anatolia turns south towards Syria, a mountain massif rises by the sea. Its name in Ottoman times was Musa Dagh, the Moses Mountain, and its summit forms a high plateau called the Damlayik. Just over a century ago, as the genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was reaching its climax, four thousand Armenian villagers living round the foot of the mountain left their houses. Carrying their household belongings and all the food they could find, more than eight hundred families set out one night in 1915 to climb Musa Dagh. On the plateau, they began to dig trenches, and to distribute the few firearms they had managed to hide from Turkish searches. Elsewhere, one and a half million Armenians were being herded into endless death-march columns, heading east to perish by bullet, bayonet or starvation in the desert. But the men and women on Musa Dagh had decided to fight.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in