Saturday, April 19, 2008

Suleymanname [Book of the conquests of Suleyman the Magnificent]

Last week our postman rang the bell. Not twice, but once. Because I was so eager to get my book and did not keep him waiting. He brought my new book ,Suleymanname.

Suleymanname is about the conquests of Suleyman the Magnificent.

The full name of the book is "Tarih-i Feth-i Siklosh, Estergon ve Istol[n]i-Belgrad". It is written by Sinan Cavush. We don't know so much about Sinan Cavush though at least we know that he is the author of an another book, "Gazavat-i Hayreddin Pasha [The Holy Campaigns of Barbarossa]" . The powerful narrative style of Sinan Cavush was very popular among his readers. The anecdotes he told in his books which were related by story-tellers and listened to with great interest especially in the Ottoman Coffee houses and sometimes became the subjects of many other books.

Four written copies of Suleymanname survived till today. The book I have is the facsimile of the manuscript kept in the Topkapi Palace Museum Library[no:1608]. It has 146 folios, contains 4 maps and has 32 miniatures. You can see the Constantinople miniature on the left.

The story of the book goes like this:

After Suleyman succeeded to the throne, there were no threat from east left.The year following his accession to the throne,he attacked Belgrade. It was year 1521 , he captured Belgrade after some struggle.After he attacked and annexed Hungary after the Battle of Mohacs on 29th of Agust 1526.

The events written in the book are the events happened after the Battle of Mohacs. The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand attacked Budin[Buda]. They captured Peste on 27th of August 1542. Peste is across of Buda and they form Budapest of modern times. Ferdinand put 32 cannon and started to pound Buda. As you can imagine, Suleyman did not wait so long to declare war. The section about the archduke is given on the left.

When Suleyman reached Belgrade, enemy forced immediately fled. Suleyman began to prepare for the avenge of Buda.
In the meantime, an envoy sent by the French king requested the Sultan to send Barbarossa to help him. The king of Spain and Germany had attacked the French king and thrown him into prison.Sultan sent Barbarossa for the help.

Barbarossa and his men captured the outer fortress of Nice in 19 days. In retaliation against the violent siege, the commender of the fortress made a secret pact with the French ambassador to surrender the fortress if the Ottoman fleet departed. French ambassador talked to Barbarossa and said him that he has to end the siege because the fortress had been handed over to the French. Barbarossa lifted the siege immediately but the enemy did not keep their word, they did not surrender. After that, French ambassador sought help from the Ottoman Navy for the attack. Barbarossa attacked Nice again, heavily bombarded the city but the stormy season was approaching. Barbarossa returned to the island Santa Margarite for winter.

The book also tells the stories of how Estergon, Valpo and Shiklosh conquered. I cannot write really all of the things that are being told in the book as it is a really thick one. But I might let you enjoy the beautiful miniatures!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ancient Graffiti

"Unauthorized writing or drawings on a surface in a public place."

This is how Oxford English Dictionary describes what a graffiti is. Graffiti are very important records of the common folks in a society.

They come out with no control or regulation. Sometimes they represent the views of an individual living in it's time, sometimes they represent a widely accepted view which was being suppressed by the ruling hegemony; sometimes they are nasty, sometimes they are wise, sometimes they are more worthy than formal records...

The media of a Graffiti is the street. That is very important and the main point of the very fabric of the relationship between the Graffiti and the masses. It is anonymous, anyone could have done it. I will give you some examples of "Ancient Graffiti" around the world. You could have a glimpse of the mind-set of the carvers(yes, not painters) of these Graffiti makers, which helps to understand their time from the angle of a common folk.

Alexamenos Graffito

Did you know that the earliest pictorial representation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a Graffiti? But not a praising one so. This graffiti is known as the "blasphemous graffiti" as well. It is dated back to 1st century AD and it shows a man worshiping to a crucified donkey. Unsuspectingly, this graffiti had been carved by a non-Christian and the crucified donkey represents Jesus Christ.

There is a writing which comes with the picture as well. The writing is in Greek but with a wrong grammar. It is written "Alexemenos sebete theon" which actually have to be "Alexemenos sebetail theon"; which means "Alexemenos worships his god". So someone was mocking the belief of Alexemenos, and having fun with the guy he believed (Jesus Christ of course). But Alexemenos had his answer. Next to this Graffiti there is a writing in Latin that goes "Alexemenos fidelis" ;"Alexemenos the faithful". Apparently, Alexemenos wanted to react.

Political Graffiti of Pompeii

Like everything, graffiti of Pompeii had been reserved in the volcanic ash untouched. On the left, you see a graffiti on a wall which caricaturizes a Pompeian politician with exaggerated features. Probably he was an old man as the graffiti reveals. There were so many graffiti in Pompeii, so that I will only write some of them.

"Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex"(Celadus the Thracier makes the girls moan)

"Myrtis bene felas". (Myrtis, you do great blow jobs)

Well, no wonder why the brothels of Pompeii were so famous.

Hagia Sophia Graffiti

This interesting graffiti was carved by Varangians (north Europeans who were serving in Constantinople) in the 9th century CE. It is written in Viking runes.

The name of the soldier who had written this graffiti is Halvdan, as we read from the graffiti. It writes "Halvdan was here". Vikings were not Christians in those times so I wonder how could a "barbarian" Viking soldier had been let into the most sacred church of Orthodox Christianity. There is another graffiti in Hagia Sophia which has not been fully deciphered. Experts suspect that there might be more graffiti in Hagia Sophia.

Maybe you can hunt one?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Year There Was No Summer

I'm exactly a quarter century old and I've never had the chance to learn cycling until last week. Finally I made it! Ibn-i Batuta and I cycled approximately 10km yesterday -that is a good distance for such a beginner like me- and planned our much longer journeys which we'll go by bike. I guess you wonder what this has to do with that summerless year. Well, our story doesn't have anything to do with that, but bicycles automatically have, as their predecessors, velocipedes or Draisines, were invented mainly as a result of this unlucky year of many Westerners.

The Year There Was No Summer: Poverty Year, Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death, The Year Without a Summer. All of these refer to the same year: 1816. Very unfortunate for the people from England to Canada, from North America to Germany.

It began with a usual winter. Everything was just as normal as it had always been, until Spring came...

It all started in the beginning of May. On the 12th of May, cold waves started to sweep around beginning from northeastern Canada. Frosts hit Quebec City, New England, Connecticut, New Haven, Rhode Island. Cold fronts traveled across the area. Although there was a couple of days break causing farmers and dwellers to cheer up, the cold came back much worse in July and August.

The cold weather, frosts and so forth kept striking the areas during June and July, killing most of the crops (e.g. 90% of the usual crop in New England) and causing terrible famines. Finally, in Autumn, things went back to normal and the people had a warmer winter than usual. On the right, there is a chart I got from Wikipedia:
"The development of global average temperatures during the last thousand years. A significant drop shortly after 1800 is visible in the majority of concurrent reconstructions."

Well, why? Let's also explain that. There had been 3 significant volcanic eruptions in the near past. First one was in 1812, the La Soufrière eruption on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. The second was in 1814, the Mayon (above) eruption in the Philippines. And, finally, in 1815 volcanic eruptions of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. As previous eruptions caused massive volcanic dust to mix in the air, the final eruption of Mount Tambora prepared the necessary conditions for a dramatic temperature decrease. As this post keeps getting longer and longer, I'll cut it short for now and explain volcanic dusts and temperature changes in my future posts.

Then, what happened? Of course, famine, riots, floods, national emergency declarations from England to Switzerland, from France to China; and a death toll of 200,000 people.

Here comes the best part of this whole unfortunate year: People could not feed horses in Germany due to hay shortage. Karl Drais, wanted to invent some horseless transportation vehicle, and came up with the Draisines (above)!

For more and detailed information about the subject, including journals and news of that year, please click on the title of this post.

It is really upsetting to learn that the predecessors of these vehicles called bicycles, providing such a feeling of freedom, emerges from such terrible conditions. Hmm, well, who cares! I'll go and get my bike! *evil laugh fading out*

Thursday, April 10, 2008

European Pirates in the Ottoman Navy [1]: Jan Janszoon

If you were someone who was living by the shores of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Ireland, Iceland or in other Mediterranean islands between 15th and 18th century, you would had to worry. You'd better had to worry about the Corsair Raids to the shores, which always pop up instantaneously and enslave everyone in sight in a very short time. You could be enslaved and end up in the Barbary States.

I am talking about the Barbary Pirates who ravaged Mare Nostrum for centuries. They were very capable seamen, equally ruthless and cosmopolitan in both religion and race. Barbary Coast was a magnet for the people who wanted to become a pirate to have a fortune in a short time, go for an adventure or take revenge from the Spanish and the Italian. The revenger were mostly Moors and Jews, who were expelled from their lands with the ReConquisita of Spain. In this series, I will investigate individuals who were born as Christians out of the Ottoman Soil. Being have born in Ottoman Soil or not makes a big difference. If you were not, your way which leaded you to North Africa was probably different than an Ottoman Citizen's; Slavery.

If you know Dutch history a bit, that means you know how much do the Dutch involved in Seamanship. Being squeezed by the English, French, German and Spanish; Dutch people looked for their fortunes in distant shores. In their golden age, they built a very big trade fleet consisting of hundreds of ships which were carrying goods from all over and around the World. They were brave adventurers who were looking for making a fortune in the shortest time. Jan Janszoon was one of them. A perfect fit for an adventurer profile of his time.

Jan Janszoon was born in Haarlem, in the Netherlands. In his youth he attacked Spanish trade ships as a privateer. Apparently, he could not make so much money there. So he moved to Barbary Coast.

While he was active in the Barbary Coast, he flew the Dutch flag when he was attacking to Spanish ships, and he flew the Turkish Flag when he was attacking other ships. Yet he had been caught by the Barbary Pirates in the Canary Islands in 1618. And well, the usual story: he was enslaved.

If you were pursuing a career in the Barbary Coast in those days, you had to have some qualifications. Jan was well aware of that. The best qualification in those days (you can compare to a MBA of today;)) were converting to Islam. Well, Jan did that and he got the name of Murat Reis the Younger. He began to raid Christian ships and lands with an another man: Suleyman Reis. Suleyman Reis was originally from the Netherlands, too. His Christian name was De Veenboer before he converted to Islam. De Veenboer (aka Suleyman Reis) was known with a trait: He was not attacking Dutch Ships; and if he had to, he never killed the Dutch crew. Because of him, the crew of Murat Reis and the crew of him were mostly consisted of Dutchmen. De Veenboer was killed by a cannonball in 1620.

Jan Janszoon went on his pirating activities. After all, it was a prosperous business. He became the admiral of the Pirate Navy. In 1622 he went to the Netherlands again, claimed diplomatic immunity as he was protected under the Turkish flag. Dutch authorities could not do anything. He collected new volunteers and set sail back.

In 1627 he raided Reykjavik, Iceland and enslaved 400 people. This event is known as "Turkish Abductions" in Iceland. In 1631, the target was Ireland. He enslaved 108 people.

After that, he got caught by the Knights of Malta and stayed in prison till 1640, until his escape. In the following year, his daughter from his first wife visited him. He died peacefully in Algiers afterwards.

And, now, when we make an overland through Afghanistan or India, we call ourselves adventurers.

We gotta think about it twice..

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Best Birthday Present Ever!

Well, well, well..
That's a fact folks, we all grow old as our planet completes another tour around our GV2 class star. I'm turning 29 this year and I got plenty of presents for my birthdays till now, as you can imagine. But the one I got this year, from my sweetheart, beats them all.

Diadra gave me a rare book of Asikpasazade, "Tevarih-i Al-i Osman"(The History of the Ottomans). It is in Ottoman Turkish Language, thus in Arabic Alphabet. It is dated to 1332. Well, Hegira Calendar of course, no need to have over enthusiasm.
This book had been printed with the reference to the manuscript 478, which is in Istanbul Archaeological Museum. I have an another version of Tevarih-i Al-i Osman in Latin Alphabet (a 2003 publish) and it is based on the manuscript 4954, in Suleymaniye Manuscripts Library.
What I do nowadays is to read two manuscripts and compare them. There are some differences between the two manuscripts; such as place names, some dates and names of some people. I am taking notes while I compare the two manuscripts. Well, maybe someday I will publish it. Or I might romanize the manuscript 478 and publish it with explanatory notes.

Of course, with the prologue with thanks to Diadra... :)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Slaves of the Orient and the Occident

Well folks, here I am again with a new subject. It is about Slavery both in the East and West. Sorry, no pictures of concubines... :)

Both in the East and in the West, after the Middle Ages, the concept of slavery began to differ quietly than the old ages.

First of all, slaves were not seen only as a “muscle power” machines. They were actually captives whose ransom could be paid by their families and beloved ones, and the owner of the slaves could conduct a very profitable business. Yes, I called slaves as “captives” but hopefully, this will not disorient you. They were captives, right. Yet neither in the Muslim World or in Christendom they did not worth more than mere a dog. Not as a Meta (they used to cost a lot sometimes) but as the receivers of respect.
It was true that slaves in the Muslim World had some rights gained by the Shari’a (Islamic Law). So, generally speaking, they were in a better condition. In the Muslim World, one thing could change the fate of the slave: Conversion. If a slave would be converted to Islam, he would immediately have the same right of a free Muslim in the very society and would have the opportunity to rise in the hierarchy.

On the other hand, the situation with the Christendom is a bit different. Infants and women had a better treatment in the Christendom. They were seen as objects of joy and fun. But when they grew up, or their beauties diminished, they had the fate of a regular slave. The dehumanization against an Ottoman P.O.W. was very high in Christendom. First of all, an Ottoman Soldier was a barbarian who flocked from the East to batter down the West. He was a heathen who was following the “Blasphemous Sect of Mohammad”. It was also believed that Turks were the "Slash of the God" (anyone remember Huns?) who had been sent to Byzantium as Byzantium Empire separated their church from Roman Catholic Church. For the Muslims, Christians were heathens as well (how surprising?). They were worshiping three gods and blasphemously alleging that Jesus Christ was the son of the God! Of course there were so many common points among them but one point was more common than others. They were referring each other with the same word: Dog!

Both the East and the West chroniclers used this word excessively. That point of view also lies beneath the Martin Luther’s naming of homosexuality. He named homosexuality as “Hundehochzeit”, which means “Marriage of dogs”. Homosexuality was quite common in the Ottoman soil and was tolerated widely. Martin Luther was thinking that a sinful intercourse like homosexuality could only be linked to the blasphemous Turks, in other words “Dogs”.

As I said before, slaves were not treated humanely at neither sides. Sometimes our anachronistic perceptions really blur the vision of the past. One record tells us what happened in Ferrara, a city in modern Italy, once upon a time. Our record tells us that one of the Ottoman P.O.W.s (A.k.a. "slave" in these days) had been beaten up to death in the middle of the main street when a group of P.O.W.s forced to march the streets to demonstrate the victory of the Christian Armies. After killing him they buried him. The governor of Ferrara took him out from his grave, cut his head and filled it with straw. He put the slaves head on to display in the room he called “Wunderkamer”.

On the other hand it is known that Christendom was continuously in a shock as Ottomans continued to cut the head of the soldiers they killed in battles, P.O.W.s and sometimes civilians who showed up at the wrong time and place.
Decapitation was a very barbaric act according to Christian Lands. It was carefully and systematically carried out by Ottoman Armies as mutilation of the body by tearing it apart, chopping the head off or cutting it into two means there would be no single grave for the enemy. This was very insulting for the Ottomans. That was the main reason for mutilations. Actually Ottomans did not invent this way of mutilation. Romans were the first ones who carried out this tradition widespread. Apparently, this Roman habit had been forgotten by Europeans of that age.

Slaves were allowed to write letters and send news to their families. In these letters they were -of course- asking their beloved ones to pay their ransoms to their owners. Also, family members of the slaves were allowed to visit them; just to show the family that how poor the slave is! So that his/her family can hasten the process of gathering money for the ransom, to save the poor slave as soon as possible.
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