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© Calligraphic Galleon - Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 2003
The Metropolitan Museum New York, USA
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Key Concepts

Ottoman Europe

Coined at the beginning of the 19th century by the Weimar geographer Johann Georg Heinrich Hassel, the concept of “Ottoman Europe” is a fluid one.
We use it here in order to stress that according to us the Ottoman Empire and its European provinces form an integral part of Late Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern European History. For details, one may check the results of the research group / network “The Ottoman Europe: Methods and Perspectives of Early Modern Studies on Southeast Europe”, such as the volume edited by Andreas Helmedach, Markus Koller, Konrad Petrovszky, and Stefan Rohdewald: Das osmanische Europa. Methoden und Perspektiven der Frühneuzeitforschung zu Südosteuropa (Leipzig: Eudora 2014).

However, albeit “modern”, this concept is very much in line with the world view of many of the Medieval and Late Modern authors present in our data base. For example, the 17th century priest Synadinos of Serres thought that the “whole world” (ὅλος ὁ κόσμος) encompassed “Egypt and Anatolia, Bursa, Istanbul, the Islands, Rumelia, Thessaly, Serbia, Bulgaria, Philippopolis, Melnik, Siderokastro, Drama, the villages around Zichne, and Serres”. This world was populated by “Turks and Christians [i.e. Greeks], Jews and gypsies, Turkmen, peasants, Armenians and Karamanlis, Arabs and Anatolians, Franks and Islanders, Serbs and Bulgarians, Vlachs and Albanians”.

One century later, the world of the erudite monk Kaisarios Dapontes was even broader: his 1768 “Enumeration of the famous churches and monasteries dedicated to the Most-Holy Mother of God (Ἀπαρίθμησις τῶν ὀνομαστῶν ναῶν καὶ μονῶν τῆς Παναγίας) starts in Tatar Crimea, includes Moldavia, Wallachia, the Balkans, Anatolia (with the Pontos), and the Middle East.

As one may notice, we are not far from the three-circles model proposed by Gilles Veinstein in his “L’Europe ottomane à l’époque moderne. Essai de définition” (Turcs et turqueries (XVIe – XVIIIe siècles), Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris – Sorbonne 2009]. Nevertheless, our view of “Ottoman Europe” fits somewhere in between: it does not include Tatar Crimea, but it does reach as far as Moldavia and Crete.

Writing History

When he dedicated his “History of the events in Wallachia from Prince Șerban to Prince Gabriel, the present ruler” (Ἱστορία τῶν κατὰ τὴν Οὐγγροβλαχίαν τελεσθέντων, ἀρξαμένη ἀπὸ Σερμπάνου Βοηβόνδα μέχρι Γαβριὴλ Βοηβόνδα τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος δουκός), to Ioannis (Catargi), the Metropolitan Matthaios of Myra informed his friend that he would proceed “historically”. It is clear, therefore, that he was aware of the existence of several literary genres, one of them being the historiographical writing.

However, the way Matthaios understood the writing of history differs significantly from the why we understand it now. First, he wrote in verses, something we do not (usually) do anymore. Then, when the History was published (in Venice, in 1638), the 2.860 fifteen-syllable vernacular verses were put together not only with a similar composition on the Heroic deeds of the most pious and valiant voivode Michael (“the Brave”, prince of Wallachia) by a certain Stavrinos, but also with some spiritual advices to voivode Alexander Iliaș and all his successors on the throne, with a Lament for the fall of Constantinople under the Ottomans, and with a short liturgical hymn.

In order to pay respect to this different perspective, our database does not include only works belonging to “traditional” genres, such as the chronicles, but also certain hagiographies, inscriptions, and maps. We are also taking into consideration the Early Modern copies and translations of classical and Byzantine historiographical texts, such as the Histories of Herodotus or the Chronicle of Konstantinos Manasses.