Erdogan is mesmerized by Calilph Selim but, unlike Machiavelli, he doesn’t fear him; he wants to emulate him
By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at the Asia Times
Once upon a time in Anatolia, in the late 13th century a Turkic principality – one of many shaped in the wake of the Mongol invasion of the 1240s – consigned the Seljuk Turks to the past and emerged as the Ottoman emirate. It was named after its founder, Osman I.
By the middle of the 15th century, the time of the game-changing conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II, the expanding Ottoman empire had absorbed virtually all its neighboring Turkic emirates.
And by the start of the 16th century, what sprang up was a multi-religious and multi-ethnic empire that – pragmatic and tolerant – ruled for four centuries over the Balkans, Anatolia and Southwest Asia.
Talk about a major historical riddle: How did a small principality in the western fringe of what used to be known as Asia Minor turn into what could arguably be defined as Islam’s most important empire? The key to unlocking the riddle may be offered by Sultan Selim I.
God’s Shadow, which in its original English edition (Faber & Faber) is subtitled The Ottoman Sultan Who Shaped the Modern World, may reveal that author Alan Mikhail, chair of the Department of History at Yale, is uniquely qualified to argue the case.
Mehmet II, who with his endless obsession and cunning extinguished the Byzantine empire on the fateful May 29, 1453, when he was only 21, was a larger-than-life figure for peoples of the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Asia Minor.
He bridged Europe and Asia. He refashioned Constantinople, renamed Istanbul, into the capital of the sprawling empire. He lorded over the silk roads from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The Fatih (“Conqueror”) assumed mythical proportions east and west – and even branded himself Caesar, heir to Byzantine emperors.
Mehmet II conquered the Balkans in the 1460s, finished off with Genoese trading colonies in Crimea and imposed vassalage over the Crimean Tatar Khanate in 1478. That meant, in practice, turning the Black Sea into a virtual Ottoman lake.
Author Mikhail stresses right at the start that the Ottoman Empire was the most powerful state on earth – more powerful than the Ming dynasty, not to mention the Safavids – for quite some time. It was the largest empire in the Mediterranean since ancient Rome and “the most enduring” in the history of Islam.
Then he sets the crux of the – explosive – thesis he will develop in detail: “It was the Ottoman monopoly of trade routes with the East, combined with their military prowess on land and on sea, that pushed Spain and Portugal out of the Mediterranean, forcing merchants and sailors from these 15th-century kingdoms to become global explorers as they risked treacherous voyages across oceans and around continents – all to avoid the Ottomans.”
This thesis will be extremely unpalatable to a hegemonic (at least for the past 150 years) West, now confronted with its turbulent decline. Mikhail does his best to show how, “from China to Mexico, the Ottoman empire shaped the known world at the turn of the 16th century.”
Obviously ideological, military and economic competition with the Spanish and Italian states – and then Russia, China and other Islamic states – was no holds barred. Still, Mikhail relishes showing how Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Montezuma, Luther, Tamerlan – one and all “calibrated their actions and defined their very existence in reaction to the reach and grasp of Ottoman power.”
It takes a lot of balls for a historian employed by an elite American university to offer a self-described “revolutionary” narrative on the role of Islam and the Ottomans in shaping not only the Old World, but also the New World. Mikhail is fully aware of how this will come as “a bitter pill for many in the West.”
Exit Muslims as the “terrorist.” Exit “the rise of the West.” Enter the Ottomans as a civilizing power. Mikhail is adamant: The practice “since the Industrial Revolution and the so-called glories of the 19th century” of stretching European primacy back to Columbus “is a historical absurdity.” The Ottoman empire “struck fear into the world for centuries before it earned its derogatory 19th-century sobriquet, ‘the sick man of Europe.’”
The fact is that, for all its setbacks, the Ottoman Empire – in over 600 years of history – remained the hegemon in the Middle East and one of the most important states in Europe, Africa and Asia until World War I. From 1453 up to the 19th century, the Ottomans remained “at the center of global politics, economics and war.”
Just imagine. Ottoman armies ruled over vast swaths of Europe, Africa and Asia; the most crucial Silk and non-Silk trade corridors; key city hubs along the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. They ruled over Damascus, Istanbul, Cairo, Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina. That’s a long way from their humble beginnings as sheepherders in desolate trails across Central Asia.
And then there’s the ultimate badass: Sultan Selim.
Mikhail spends a great deal of his narrative carefully setting the stage for the eruption of the quintessentially Machiavellian Selim, even before he became Sultan in 1512. Still in Trabzon, in the Black Sea, as provincial governor, consolidating the imperial forces in the East, by 1492 Selim was fully aware how the alliance between Istanbul and Cairo conditioned European trade in what US neo-cons not long ago called the “Greater Middle East.”
The Ottomans and the Mamluks – whom Selim would later destroy as Sultan – controlled all access to the East from the Mediterranean. This geoeconomic fact by itself destroys the fable of European ascendancy during the Renaissance and the much-lauded “Age of Exploration”; it was all about Ottoman control of trade and commerce.
If anyone in Europe wanted to trade with China and India, they would have to adjust to the Ottoman’s “my way or the highway.” The Venetians tried, and it didn’t work. Genoese Columbus went full highway. Mikhail relishes nothing more than showing how the voyages of Columbus, in so many ways, “were a response to the power of the Ottomans.” They were “the political force that shaped Columbus and his generation more than any other.”
Things get positively heavy metal when Columbus is depicted as a Christian jihadi, as “he used the notion of a global civilizational war between Christendom and Islam to push his case for the Atlantic voyage.” Queen Isabella ended up buying it.
And then it all went downhill, in a literally bloody way, as “the vocabulary of war with Islam became the language of the Spanish conquest in the Americas.” The West conveniently forgets that all indigenous peoples were required (Mikhail’s own italics) to acknowledge that the Catholic Church was the universal power and that their own belief systems were absolutely inferior.
From Selim to Erdogan
Machiavelli was a huge fan of the Ottomans, whom he admired and feared. He was particularly impressed by Selim’s strategic acumen, always prevailing over nearly impossible odds. Machiavelli finished The Prince in the exact same year – 1513 – when Selim eliminated his half-brothers to finally secure the Sultanate, which he had conquered in 1512.
Selim started with a bang – with no less than an economic blockade against the Safavids, outlawing the export of Persian silk from the Ottoman empire. (That trade had been how the Iranians reached the Eastern Mediterranean and the lucrative European markets.)
Selim’s victory over the Safavids in the Battle of Chaldiran was intertwined with something immensely eventful; the Portuguese capture of ultra-strategic Hormuz in 1515. That was the first European possession in the Persian Gulf. And what a prize: The Portuguese would now have control over shipping to and from the Persian Gulf, as well as a key hub linking to their new colonies on India’s west coast.
After the battle between Christians and Muslims crossed the Atlantic, the stage was set for the next chapter: Ottomans and Portuguese fighting for global power in the Indian Ocean.
Selim was on a roll. First he took Syria – incorporating legendary Damascus and Aleppo. Then he smashed the Mamluks – and that meant not only Cairo but also Jerusalem, Mecca, Medina and even Yemen, with its strategic access to the Indian Ocean and infinite possibilities for Ottoman commerce, starting with a monopoly on the silk trade.
The Selim Sultanate lasted only 8 years, from 1512 to 1520 – with geopolitical tectonic plates moving non-stop. Luther plunged Christianity into a religious civil war. The Ottomans controlled more territory around the Mediterranean than any other power. The European imperial drive hit the Indian Ocean. And then there was the ultimate theological challenge presented by the ultimate Other: Native Americans, north and south. They could not possibly be part of “God’s creation.”
When he died in 1520, Selim – sultan and also caliph – thought that being the ruler of the world’s largest empire was a given. He was, indeed, “God’s shadow on Earth.”
By the end of the last chapter in the book, “American Selim,” Mikhail again tackles the most burning question: why (his italics) Columbus had to cross the Atlantic. In a nutshell: “Hoping for an alliance with the Grand Khan of the East, he aimed to retake Jerusalem and destroy Islam; more prosaically, his voyages promised an end-run around the trade monopolies of the Ottomans and the Mamluks.”
After Columbus arrived in the Americas, Europeans inevitably filtered their experiences “through the lens of their wars with Muslims” and engaged “in a new version of their very old Crusades, a new kind of Catholic jihad.” Nevertheless, “Islam would continue to forge the histories of both Europe and the New World and the relationship between the two.”
After so much drama, Mikhail and the book’s editors still manage to present an outstanding image in the next before the last page: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ceremoniously staring at Selim’s tomb in Istanbul in 2017, after winning a constitutional referendum that expanded his powers enormously.
Like Machiavelli, Erdogan is mesmerized by Selim. But, unlike Machiavelli, he does not fear him; he wants to emulate him. What – weaponized – imperial dreams still lurk in the mind of the neo-Ottoman sultan?
Two small comments:
(1) You write: He refashioned Constantinople, renamed Istanbul,” comment: No and no over again. The Ottoman empire continued to call that great City “Konstantinopolis” both in Greek, Turkish and Arabic for several centuries. The name “Istànbul” has one of two possible origins: Either as a corrupted pronunciation of the Greek name by local Turcic peakers, or as a form of Greek/Turkish Pidjin mellée of a phrace meaning “to the polis” (to the city=
(2) You undere-estimate the importance of the early diplomatic coöperation and intrigues between the Turks and The Most Serene Republic of Venice in out-manuring their Genovese, Amalfi and Florentine and Pisa rivals — and in the final end the Greek rulers of the East Roman Empire themselves so as to take the city. After a while, the Venetians moved theur money to Amsterdam and to the City of London, but kept their colonies and forts on Crete, Cypros and some in mainland Greece also — and of course a “factory/emperium ” within Canstantinopel.itself and on the Krimea.
Istanbul appears to be a corruption of Islampol, ie. City of Islam.
No, Istanbul is a corruption of the Gereek εἰς τήν Πόλιν (eis ten polin) and meaning “in the city” or “to the city”. The names of all Turkish towns are corruptions of their ancient Greek names.
You are correct Tollef.
The name Istanbul is derived from ancient Greek “Istim bol in”.
The name was changed in 1930. This was done by Mustafa Kemal so nothing to do with Mehmet nor the Ottomans!
How does Alan Mikhail a Yale scholar get this so wrong?
The article is interesting, but unfortunately misleading. Too much credit is given to the Ottomans, who came to power in 1300 after overthrowing their arch enemies, the Seljuk’s. This animosity between the Ottomans and Seljuks continued throughout Turkish history, right until the age of Kemal Ataturk. The Seljuk Turks got their revenge in the 17th century, when they introduced the tradition of bribery and corruption, which almost led to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. This tradition exists to this day.
The Ottoman Empire is an accident of history, where a heterogeneous state created an empire. Since the Ottomans could never trust a single Turk, not knowing if he was a Seljuk, they employed Christians as Grand Viziers (Chancellors), notably Greeks and Serbs, like the famous Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha Sokolovich, who was of Serbian origin. His brother Makarije Sokolovich was a Serbian Orthodox Patriarch.
The reason why the Ottomans were able to create an empire lay in the simple fact that the Ottoman state was a centralized entity with a standing army. European kings, on the other hand, were at the mercy of their aristocrats who provided the troops, many of whom were poorly trained levies. Once centralized absolutism was introduce in Western Europe, the tide turned. The Turkish siege of Vienna in the 17th century was crushed when the German-Polish Army appeared on the field. On that occasion the Turkish military met professional troops, who outplayed them.
The Turkish Empire stayed in Europe until 1912, when it was driven out by a combined Serbian-Bulgarian-Greek Army, to the astonishment of Western powers, who did not expect this. And the only reason the Turks stayed in the Balkans until 1912 was – incredibly enough – due to the backing of Western powers, who used the Turks as a buffer against Orthodox Russia. The Serbs, Bulgarians and Greeks who defeated the Turks are also Orthodox Christians.
And yes, the Age of Discovery was due entirely to the Turkish control of the Mediterranean and the silk and spice trade. This, ironically, was to turn Western states into imperial powers, who colonized North and South America. And Turkey ? it cannot forget the Ottoman past. It can neither forget the tradition of bribery and corruption introduced by the Seljuks in the 17th century, which will always keep Turkey internally weak. Look what happened in 2016, when Erdogan was almost overthrown in a coup d’etat, being saved by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian military.
“The tradition of bribery and corruption introduced by the Seljuks in the 17th century, which will always keep Turkey internally weak.” ??
The Seljuks in Anatolia were absorbed at the beginning of the 14th century. They weren’t around in the 17th. Bribery and corruption usually arise in any empire, often not long after the third generation once the memory of the founding passes with those active in creating it. For the Ottoman’s the Sultans became more decadent after Süleyman, more interested in their own pleasures than managing the empire and accompanying the armies on campaigns. Some grand vizirs, like the Koprulus (Mehmet was originally Christian from Albania taken in the Devşirme) staved things off a bit and eventually a Sultan (Mahmoud II) tried to reform the Army, but too late, too tradition bound, but decline generally begins with decay at the top.
This stubbornness and hubris brought on by success led them to underestimate their rivals and ignore advances in military technology and tactics. This is why they weakened and eventually collapsed
Kind of like a more recent empire that has been having difficulties lately.
“The Seljuks in Anatolia were absorbed at the beginning of the 14th century. They weren’t around in the 17th”.
I am afraid you are misinformed. The Seljuks were very much around in the 17th century. Revise your knowledge of history.
Really, where were they? They weren’t in Anatolia.
I don’t think this is very “revolutionary”. I have always understood that Columbus et. al went west to seek out China’s riches. This was partly but largely because of the Ottoman monopoly on trade with the Far East. Columbus was looking for, what he calculated to be a shorter more direct route. The Americas got in the way.
Selim the Grim did manage to expand the Empire to its largest limits to the east, but it was Mehmet’s conquest of Constantinople that put the monopoly in the Ottoman trade empire. That is when the squeeze began.
As for Erdoğan, it is well known that Yavuz Sultan Selim is a particular hero of his, and yes, his neo-Ottomanism is inspired by this admiration, as he does seem to want to emulate him. This also explains his graniose mega projects, the last and potentially most destructive of which is Kanal Istanbul. But, he is rolling the dice. It is another way to distract his citizens from the economic troubles he has caused for his people.
Anyway, the book may be a interesting read
True, he was looking to to get to India for the spices primarily. In any case, it was for the same reason, to find a more effective route that would by-pass the difficulties caused by the Ottoman monopoly among other things.
RE: Bluedotterel on May 15, 2021 · at 6:49 am EST/EDT
“Mehmet’s conquest of Constantinople that put the monopoly in the Ottoman trade empire.”
Thank you for your examples of how prevalent the myth of the “great man in history” was and continues to be.
Further examples include opponents’ resort to assassination/decapitation of “great men in history” in hope that this will be a “problem solver” predicated on hopes/wishes of what is for afters.
The Bolsheviks also believed in this practice from 1919 until 1979 – although Mr. Kaganovich and Mr. Stalin were more attracted/prone to this practice as blue pencil marks in the archives can attest – the 1979 evaluation horizon being chosen since the preface/opening bars of the “invasion” of Afghanistan” is held to a bookend of this practice, since even when a person heading the KGB was part of an attempted coup, he wasn’t decapitated but merely reminded of good manners and the proper course, the choice he chose being different from his associates in the attempted coup.
Some opponents do understand that “decapitation” with suitable ideological preparation in the capitation process, such as in respect of Mr. Bandera, Mr. Citrone, Mr. Guevara, Mr. Hussein, and Mr. Epstein is not a risk free option in obfuscating their previous agency in “those individuals/bad apples capitation”, but ponder on a case by case basis – delineated by hit lists such as Mr. Obama’s – in Ms. Albright’s rendition whether it would be “worth it” – and when outcome varies from expectation, how to make it seem to have been “worth it” – the elevation of Mr. Guevara to T-shirt status being one example.
Such considerations have often informed the opponents’ decisions on the half-lives/expendability of their agents/associates, however so far, Mr. Guaido and Mr. Navalny have not yet suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that have been annointed upon Mr. Bandera, Mr. Citrone and Mr. Hussein, although the “Skripal affair” was likely a part of the analyses to test hypotheses – another proof of concept with benefits?
Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Navalny fortunes were likely facilitated through the agency of others with different notion of fortunes and their continuation, a likely shark on believes he is shark performance when shark analysed that believes he is shark was a risk to the environment, despite difficulties with cadavers and the processes of their decay.
RE: MagdaTam 12030 CET 051721 approx.
RE RE: Bluedotterel on May 15, 2021 · at 6:49 am EST/EDT
“ Mr. Citrone”
Typing error should read Mr. Mitrone instead of his local designation “Mr. Citrone”.
Uruguay 1970, CIA and Los Tupamaros refers
I’ve heard this theory before, though not in as much detail. Venice lost its monopoly on Silk Road trade so Portugal, Holland, England, etc, seized the opportunity to look for alternatives, including going around Africa. Kind of like how Russia’s response to sanctions today has been to find another way. When one thousand year old trade route closes… The western route was thought impractical since they didn’t know about the Americas and the distance would be astronomical in Columbus’ row boats. That shows how desperate Ferdinand and Isabela were to (send someone else) to try. Good luck, fellas!
A more interesting discussion would be how the fall of Moorish Spain brought classical learning into backwards Europe. As far as European intellectual revolutions go, that was much more of a game changer.
The enormous influence of Ottomans in the events that led to the discovery of America by Columbus has been widely accepted for very long in Latin American countries, at least those speaking Spanish. In fact, I was taught in school in the 70s that the main force driving Columbus across the ocean was to find alternative routes to trade with East Asian countries given the fall of Constantinople. Thus, I suspect that the Western resistance to Mikhail’s book refers mainly to Anglo-Saxon circles.
Later, I learned that trade implied not only luxury items for the courts (silk among them) but also species from India. At that time, famines were pervasive and crippled the efforts of monarchs to build armies to defend their kingdoms. Without refrigerating technology available, the few alternatives to keeping meat and other protein sources were the spices coming from India. With the fall of Constantinople, Western European kingdoms had a hard time getting the spices needed to preserve meat. The need to secure food became stronger than the fear of “monsters” waiting for ships to swallow at the verge of the “flat Earth”…
We learned the same in North America, at least in the 1960’s. Don’t know what Escobar is talking about there.
We didn’t learn about the enormous influence of the Jewish slavers, sugar planters and traders in shaping the modern world and “discovering” America, though.
See https://christiansfortruth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/The-Secret-Relationship-Between-Blacks-and-Jews.pdf (banned by Amazon since 2019)
They were exploring and colonizing fertile vulcanic islands in the Atlantic, starting with Madeira (around 1420), Cape Verde (around 1460), Sao Tome (around 1470), America (1492), and eventually around Africa to India in 1498.
That’s before Sultan Selim’s Ottoman Empire. The slave trade / exploitation (sugar plantations) made the Jewish mafia very wealthy. and influential. They managed to get control over entire countries (central banks), starting with Holland and England, and then over almost the entire world. Nice article by Pepe, though, and no doubt it was an extra incentive.
Here in Brazil we were taught the same: the main driver for the expansion of Spain and Portugal was the search for an alternative trade route bypassing the Ottomans – Reconquista and Christianity vs. Islam were barely touched in classrooms (maybe because the Portuguese reconquista was concluded 200+ years before Spain).
Recently some previous facts that contributed to the expansion have been added to the curricula, such as the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385, eliminating Castille’s threat to Portugal) and a possible support, including money and know-how, from the English and chivalry orders (Order of Christ, AKA Templars) on the expansion.
The Spanish initiative of investing in Columbus is treated as a “misty” subject: nobody is able to explain exactly why Ferdinand and Isabel decided to support Columbus project.
Last time I looked at Wikipedia in English about this subject, it mentioned Portuguese conquests in West Africa as part of the Reconquista… it seems like northern Europeans wants to forcibly take part of the glories of the Iberians, or at least being considered part of the effort; honestly, I don’t think it is the case.
Ottoman invasion and rule in Balkan is greatest historical disaster that ever happened to us.
The Ottoman Empire created a secure safe zone from Albania to India, and Crimea to Egypt. It was characterised as primarily a multi religious empire with Jews and Christians having many senior positions. If it had been such a disaster, it would not have lasted 600 years.
Your ancestors were not so stupid or weak that they would not have gained their independence earlier. No empire can survive so long without being largely benign to its citizens. Eg the Mongolian empire (largest ever) lasted barely 100 years. Rome lasted 500 years. The brutally extracted British empire lasted barely 200 years (and that only because they hid behind their puppet Mughals), as did the equally extractive French, Spanish and Portuguese empires.
Russia is still going after 250 years and China after 3000.
We should be careful evaluating history thru the now dominant Anglos Zionist empire’s lens. Look at how the utterly defenceless Palestinians resist the entire might of Anglo Zionist empire spearheaded by Israel. It’s an fundamental part of the human spirit to resist oppression and your ancestors had it also.
Of course Ottoman Empire created a secure safe zone. Every empire do this, otherwise they wouldn’t be empires. But what kind of empire created the ottoman turks? One were arbitrary despotism was the norm; where freshly crowned sultans strangled their 20+ brothers; where sultans made their “battles” in the harem from where they rarely exit; where sultans “the light” of the “true believers” died of alcoolism and made abominabile acts with male slaves; where mothers of sultans, concubines, eunuchs and who knows what other goombas, driven by bribes or vanity, made and unmade affairs of millions ; where subjects were held in abject misery; where art has meant brown-nosing, lokum and nothing more; spirituality was hypocrisy. The pillars of the empire were: 1) cruelty 2) corruption 3) mankurts slave-soldiers made from kidnapped boys of subjugated Christian peoples 4) renegades go-getters 5) passivity of the conquered 6) incredible short-sighted enemies more preoccupied to fight each other for the inheritance then to put an end to grand turk 7) strategic position. It was a viscous stinking swamp perfumed periodically with bloodsheds.
Are you serious. You think the Ottomans were actually worse than the British, Spanish and French empires. Strangling of brothers ended in the 16th century when Henry the VIII was offing some of his wives heads.
Can you name an empire that was not cruel and corrupt? Just look at the US empire in the 21st century. Yes, technically, everyone in Ottoman society was a slave of the Sultan, but it might be noted that many Christians were happy to see their sons taken to the Sultan’s service. It was better chance than they would have as a Serbian peasant. Some, like the architect, Sinan, and many of the Grand Viziers in the 16th and 17th centuries made successful careers. Some, of course, had their careers ended in the same way as their contemporary Thomas More. But that only underscores that the in context of the times, the Ottomans were really no crueler than the Christian empires contemporary to them.
Ye of so little historical understanding. I am always amazed at the one-sided view of the world certain people harbor. They are often so focused on those they hate the most, that they do not realize that they were no worse really than their contemporaries.
“many Christians were happy to see their sons taken to the Sultan’s service”
First thing: they were not “taken” but abducted and second you missed a few things: “they were happy their wives, doters, sisters and mothers been raped and/or abducted to be sold as slaves or to harems, properties sized and/or destroyed”
Ottoman even had a rule that local rulers had a right to get first night with every Christian bride. That is the reason most girls would either get pregnant prior to wedding or whole families abandoning the property prior to wedding and moving to some distant area.
If Ottoman soldiers raped women or of the First Night rule was done, everything born 6 to 10 months after that was strangled.
Babies were killed…it was custom in Bosnia in Catholic and Ortodox communities during Ottoman rule.
Ottoman period was the worst nightmare for us, for more than 400 years.
@ Blue Dotterel
The only path was for the Byzantines, as their empire declined, was either falling to the Vatican or falling to the Ottomans. I am personally of the belief that the Ottomans were the lesser of two evils as they respected the culture and religion of those they subjugated. They still killed a lot of people, though, and whats worse, in systematic top-down pogroms and genocides.
For you to claim this was enlightened hegemony generously offering social mobility to the kidnapped Christian children of the Janissaries is ridiculous and offensive.
To (rightly) condemn the Western colonialists but to give the Ottomans a free pass…Now that is one-sidedness!
I didn’t say it was enlightened hegemony. The Ottomans were no less brutal than the Spanish, English, French and later Russians of those past times. I am merely saying that many Christian boys becoming slaves in the Ottoman empire, including those becoming Janissaries often could in displaying merit advance very high up in the Ottoman society and court and a few often wielded considerable power (the numerous vizirs). Whereas, as peasants in Serbia in those times their lives were much more difficult and their opportunities for advancement much more limited.
When the Ottoman Empire did have success, it was because, in part, of this objective educational meritocracy, largely designed to primarily benefit the Sultan and the Empire, of course, but not inconsequentially often the victims of the devşirme. This does not mean it was a noble system, but the fact is, it did enable those boys opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.
By the way, I do not give the Ottomans a free pass, I was merely pointing out the equivalence of others to them. That is, they were all equally brutal and vicious. I do this because in Europe, East and West, the Ottomans and Turks, in particular are viewed as particularly evil, but in reality, they were no more evil then than their contemporaries. At times, in many ways, they were actually better, and at other times, worse.
It is funny because just leftist westeners believe living under the ottoman yoke was nice and tolerant, the balkan citizens who their ancestors lived under this disgraceful empire think otherwise.
”This does not mean it was a noble system, but the fact is, it did enable those boys opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.”
So what? Is it better to have a simple life with your family, traditions, religion and people than fighting for the enemy and receiving earthly benefits.
The Ottoman Empire never lasted 600 years, but less than that. It’s creation began in the second half of the 14th century until the First Balkan War of 1912 and the First World war of 1914-1918. It almost collapsed in the 17th century. The reason it lasted so long was compliments of Western powers, who used it as a buffer against Orthodox Russia. This is the reason why the people of the Balkans did not regain their independence sooner. As for the Turks being “benign” to their subjects, this was partially true due to the fact that the Ottomans could not trust the Seljuk Turks and thus employed Christians. However, how much looting did the Turks do in the Balkans, and how many women and kids were abducted, not to mention periodic massacred of the Christian population ?
The British Empire lasted more than 200 years, beginning in 1628 with the colonization of North America, the current day USA. After that came current day Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, etc. The Empire started disintegrating after World War Two.
I see that according to you “Russia is still going after 250 years”. What are you talking about ? When it comes to Siberia, for example, the Russian ethnic group is the largest numerically. Please do not misrepresent things.
British Empire lasted 300 years – from 1628 to 1931 when Statute of Westminster was adopted.
It has not disintegrated – it is still fiddling and interfering with things everywhere.
Currently attempting a takeover to destroy and recover the rebel American colonies via operatives like Soros.
They even have that reject royal Prince Harry over there interfering attacking their 1st Amendment free speech rights which wont go down well at all.
The first Serbian battle with Ottomans was in 1312 at Gallipoli where Serbian heavy cavalry at Byzantine Czar’s request came as help and destroyed the invading Ottoman army.
The last Serbian state was conquered in 1530 by the Ottomans.
In other words it took ottomans 218 years to completely conquer the Serbs.
The next permanent Serbian state was formed in 1882 (Kingdom of Serbia), not counting short-lived Serbian states formed during the numerous uprising earlier in the 19th century.
So at the bast (or the worst) the Ottoman rule lasted for 252 years.
And no, Ottoman rule was not tolerant, not in the least nor many Christians had senior positions (working as some kind of skilled professional is not a senior position).
1389 after Kosovo battle, Serbia was just vassal state
So practically was occupied by Ottomans.
Serbia completely stopped to exist in 1459.
And then the winged hussars arrived!
“it had been such a disaster, it would not have lasted 600 years”
The reason for the Ottoman empire’s longevity is they had a standing army at a time when many countries could not afford one. (Janissaries who were kidnapped Christian children, were trained as soldiers.)
If you add the all victims of all the people the Ottomans massacred and included the Greek, Assyrian and Armenian genocides, they probably killed more people than the British.
(Not people who died due to famine, but who were deliberately, systematically killed)
The Serbians have always done well.
An example for others to follow.
The Europeanisation of the Balkans has been a far worse disaster.
There is a reason the Romans would say that they prefer the turban to the tiara.
The ottomans hardly did anything new: the geographic position of Constantinople is such that it dictates the policies toward the silk road. Ottomans restrengthened the position that was weakened during the last centuries of Roman rule.
The story goes like this.
Somewhere in the tenth century, partly because Venetians and Genovese were their lenders and they were probably in a difficult position and partly by misjudgement, handed the control of tax system of the Eastern Roman Empire from the state to the Venetians and the Genovese.
This was the mistake that ultimately destroyed the Empire. It simultaneously handed the control of the state money to the V+G and the control of the silk roads to the same people.
The ottomans reinvigorated this geopolitical space by continuing the policies of the Romans in their best times: blocked access to the silk road, to anyone else but them.
Selim was the most successful of them.
The impact was huge in a changing world.
By the way the city was called Constantinople, then Constantinople and afterwards, in begining of the 20th century was changed to Istanbul.
“The ottomans hardly did anything new: the geographic position of Constantinople is such that it dictates the policies toward the silk road.”
Exactly. When you’re sitting on the intersection between East & West you’re bound to have some sort of influence..
In spite of their privileged geopolitical position, the Ottomans were unable to make any mportant contribution to humanity regarding science or culture. They could only borrow from the superior Byzantine, Arabic, Persian culture..
They were warlords. That’s about it.
‘They were simply warlords’. Really? For 600 years? That’s not sustainable. You’re making history fit the current Anglo Zionist empire narrative. Your ancestors would have thought differently else it could not have existed for 600 years. They probably considered it their empire.
They were a warrior caste with a conquest ideology, on a geographical crossroads, parasitizing on the remnants of the host cultures for a time, and when they took over completely, they collapsed from within.
That’s the story of Islam.
You’re the one making history fit the Anglozionist narrative by glorifying a group of Muslims who were such close allies of the Jews.
As for my ancestors, here is a monument of how we remember Ottoman occupation. Here is Skull Tower:
Here is how my people remember the times of the ottoman empire https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak_massacre
Also in the local history those times are referred as the ottoman slavery. All Christians of bulgarian descendence were 2nd class citizens of your beloved ottoman empire. And this was the official law decreed by the sultans. How can anyone sane (looks like Pepe has lost it) think that an Empire could be good?!
You need to let go of the black or white thinking. Just because something is not so, doesn’t mean it must be the other.
It restricts your thinking and forces you to play the game according to the “rules” that have been laid out for you by others.
“Your ancestors would have thought differently else it could not have existed for 600 years. They probably considered it their empire.”
What exactly does this mean – “your ancestors would have thought differently”? Is this meant as an intentional racist provocation? Who are you to be speaking on behalf of my Serbian ancestors? The historical record is clear, the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans, & Serbian territory, engaged in continuous non-stop warfare from the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 to the so-called First Serbian Uprising in 1804 – which is called “First” because it began the process of leading to Serbian independence. The fact is, there were Serbian rebellions against Ottoman rule continuously, read up on the Serbian migrations in the 17th & 18th centuries which followed Serbian uprisings against the Ottoman Turks. There were Serbian uprisings in Hercegovina in the 19th century, in Montenegro the Turks were never able to even establish full control over the territory because the Serbian population there constantly fought against Ottoman Turk rule. The establishment of the Military Frontier in the Habsburg Empire followed the great Serbian migrations and was a territory were the Serbs fought Turkish incursions on a constant basis. But of course, it’s not like you’re going to read into any of this or learn some real history, because if you were so minded you would know this already & not claim to know things that you actually do not – such as what my ancestors thought. My ancestors hated the Ottoman Turks, hated them with a passion, & that hatred was 100% justified.
Maybe it was fear of the Ottomans, but trade moved at walking pace and every day added another 10% tarrif, so only the most expensive items made it to the Med.. Trading by ship offered a much cheaper option, I recall a story of a consortium of traders investing in 5 ships to go to India, only one returned loaded with pepper which at the time traded on a par, weight for weight, with gold. All the traders made enough profit to send out more ships of their own. Also western Europe was in the grip of a so called mini ice age so setting off on a voyage south after a bad years harvest may have seemed a better option than a long hungry winter.
“It takes a lot of balls for a historian employed by an elite American university to offer a self-described “revolutionary” narrative on the role of Islam and the Ottomans in shaping not only the Old World, but also the New World”
Actually it doesn’t. It’s the opposite:
American and Jewish-American scholars regularly lionise the Ottomans because they were allies of the Jews.
When the Spaniards kicked out the Jews (Alhambra decree), they were welcomed with open arms by the Ottomans.
The Jews of the Ottoman empire were very priviged. They could hold public office, did not have to pay levies and were also not subject to the “Devshirme” blood tax.
So what does this history have to do with modern times and Sultan Erdogan or Turkey?
Erdogan may have imperial delusions of grandeur, but Turkey today is a NATO and American proxy state that spreads jihadist terrorism around the world from Libya to Syria and beyond.
That is Turkey’s real role in the world: Turkish state terrorism as a NATO/American sock-puppet.
Erdogan? All I would say is remember what Marx said about history repeating itself and remember Napolean III, emperor of France.
Turkey today is but a shadow of the hey-days of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1355 Czar Dushan of Serbia was, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, poisoned by agents of the Vatican as his Serbian army was about to take Constantinople, with apparently the approval of many of its citizens The last thing the Vatican wanted to see was a young vigorous Serbian Orthodox state reinvigorate the Byzantine Empire . As usual, quarrels among the Serbian leadership resulted in the Army turning away from the conquest,
Later in 1389 Czar Lazar requested aid from Rome to make a stand against the Turks on the field of Kosovo. The Pope refused, apparently preferring the Ottoman Islamist to the Slav Orthodox. This preference of the Catholics was to repeated many times up this very day, including most recently, the Vatican siding with the Bosnian and Albanian Muslims in the destruction of Yugoslavia and the attempted subjugation of Serbia .
The subsequent Battle of Kosovo on June 28, 1389 destroyed both Serb and Ottoman armies and killed Czar Lazar and Sultan Murad. It took nearly another century to completely subdue Serbia,, but not even then as the Serbs of Crna Gora (Montenegro) fought on for another 500 years.
The Catholic Church has a big payday coming from Serbia.
I am not sure why Orthodox Catholics on this site always like to blame the Roman Catholics for everything that befell them. It sort of sounds like the West constantly blaming the Russians for every evil under the sun. Get a grip on reality.
It is because the Orthodox Catholics can feel and see that the Roman ‘Catholics’ despise and hate them and they don’t even bother to hide it.
I notice it works both ways. Being without organized religion has its advantages sometimes. You don’t have to hate the other.
It is not the Pope who refused help…his offer of assistance came with strings attached, which were more onerous than those of the Turks:
Frim the book “History of the Balkans”, by SK Pavlovic, 1999. Introduction p. 6& 8:
“During its last throes, Byzantium viewed itself as doomed, whether it fell to Latins or Turks. To be rescued by Latins meant loss of Orthodoxy, a danger which did not exist if the Turks took over, and most Greeks at any rate preferred the latter.”
“On the eve if the fall of Constantinople, a desperate emperor had been ready to access to the union of the Churches under the Pope. This was formally accepted in Florence, but was rejected at home, not to mention by the Orthodox elsewhere.”
“The Turks considered all Orthodox as part of the autonomous Rum Millet. This enabled the Eastern Church to be a preserver in more ways than one. Since its senior prepares were Greek, Hellenic culture endured. At a lower level, ethnic individuality was preserved with kinship associations.”
Finally: “The Christians of the Balkans were protected from the confusion that tormented Europe during the wars of religion. They withstood the onslaught of initial and Catholicism on the fringes”.
@Lest we (not) forget,
do not harbour feelings of resentment or regret what happened. It was a choice of lesser of two evils, and in the end, it worked in our favour as we prevailed with our culture and Orthodox religion intact.
..” initial and Catholicism on the fringes” That should read “Uniatism and Catholicism” sorry
Yes Serbian girl. despite the horrors inflicted on the populations, Ottoman subjugation was always preferable to Latinisation. Orthodoxy is more important than anything else.
God’s mercy allowed us to lose our lands and cities to the Ottomans, who allowed us to preserve our faith, and we were shielded from the delusions of the west, for a time.
A lot was lost after the people gained their “freedom”, as that “freedom” was usurped by other interests.
The states and identities that appeared since are a result of the schemes and intrigues of others in order to prevent a rival from appearing.
God has His own plan though, and no matter how powerful the schemers believe they are, it amounts to nothing against this.
Beautiful put Anonymous.
You know I find it amazing that Orthodox Catholic Christians preferred Ottoman rule to Latin rule. This is despite the oppression of the Ottomans. Does this mean that the Latins would have been worse?
To me it seems that today, the most hated people in the sight of the Greek and Balkan Orthodox Christians are the Ottomans. Do they agree with the decision made by the Romans to give up to the Ottomans rather than accept Papist succour?
Erdogan sees that the west and zionists are what stand in the way of the ascendance of Turkey. Selim’s ghost is telling him the oil and gas of the Persian Gulf, Libya belong to Turkey/Islamdom and not to the punk arrangement from 1945 and earlier.
” So what if the Ottomans shaped the modern world ? ”
Pepe Bay, enough is enough.
Obviously, you haven’t talked much to Serbs, Kurds, Russians, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Greeks
whose collective Ottoman memory is written in erythrocite red.
I don’t want any past empire or resurrected sultanic vampire shaping anything, much less world.
You might say, someone will. Indeed, Putin and Xi are doing their best “shaping” while carefully
avoiding imperial traps, especially those trading barriers all past empires being so fond of.
However, I do want to thank you for a wonderfully written essay about Ottoman history, much of it
Best regards, Spiral
I suspect Slavs and ‘Teutons’ have killed vastly more Slavs in 50 years of the 20th century than the Sultans could manage in 500 years. I have no proof, of course, but what do you think? Sounds possible? But then again, a death seen in religious terms is more meaningful than a secular deaths.
Could this apparent adoption by PE of Alan Mikhail’s God’s Shadow, subtitled “The Ottoman Sultan Who Shaped the Modern World,” to orient PE’s perspective on Middle East/Turkish geopolitics–and therefore PE’s readers’ understanding– be a celebration of confirmation bias: find a thesis that fits one’s already embraced notions and run with it?
Amateur geopoliticians beware.
Here’s another take on the book:
How to Write Fake Global History
Not surprised to see scholars calling out Alan Mikhail for his obvious embellishments (to put it mildly) of Ottoman history.
It makes me wonder why the book received so much traction in the main stream media… The Washington post even published excerpts….what for?
RE: Serbian girl on May 16, 2021 · at 9:24 am EST/EDT
“The Washington post even published excerpts….what for? “
Amateurs, particularly in social relations self-designated as “The United States of America” tend to be averse to complexity, and tend to be more comfortable in the myth that We the people hold these truths to be self evident informs perception..
The designation of “Amateur” is a function of rigorous evaluation not an indicator of job-title/role as you may have already determined.
Consequently Amateurs tend to conflate a reason with the reason and frame questions of purposes in the singular and hence limited perceptions of interactions and co-ordinations, which the opponents seek to encorage by intoning the “comspiracy theory” spell.
Another consequence of the above is the tendency of amateurs to avoid analyses of context.
The social relations presently self-designated as “The United States of America” – relations not restricted to a geographical area with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, are predicated on the practices of equal but different clothed in myths of equal and different – the simultaneous notions of “great men” and all carry Marshal’s batons in the knapsacks – both being attempted to be systematised in “The American Dream”.
Mr. Escobar’s “Deep State” spokesman’s narrative is in hope of reinforcing notions of prime/sole agency (we are in control, we have been all along, don’t worry) and related myths in hope of facilitating the continuation of fantasy land.
The attempt to undermine Mr. Kissinger’s status as oracle was to undermine/deflect perception of:
“ His “achievements” were turned to dust with his complicity, rendering his “achievements” useful foolery, as previously forecast in respect of social relations which operate in fantasy lands where wishes are conflated with strategies, and the designation of “loser” is a mark of greatest contempt, whilst being the most likely outcome.”
and suggest that he had a vision on the Road to Damascus – possibly due to his age and “waning powers” – a tragedy of King Learian proportion.
God’s Shadow, which in its original English edition (Faber & Faber) is subtitled The Ottoman Sultan Who Shaped the Modern World, may reveal that author Alan Mikhail is a party in such co-ordination of evangelising an outdated and crude form of “great man” history, in which only rulers and other outstanding heroic individuals “make history.”.
The various coordinated attempts to misrepresent interactions with the rest of the world, including attempts at coralling democracies, all using the “tools” of fantasy land are attempts to ensure the continuance of fantasy lands, within which many are complicit by default and/or design – “Stop the Empire’s War on Russia” being one example of a mutation of the myth of “great men” and
““I challenge any modern-day general who is still in command to try to win a battle or war by consciously deviate from and ignoring the principles of war by Sun Tzu. “
which solicited the response
“Please encourage the continuation of all opponents’ reliance on “great men of history” and “derived devotional texts” since this may prove an additional component and accelerant of the opponents’ complicity in their own transcendence.”
being yet another.
Orthodox peoples of the Balkans and Anatolia have a different appreciation (and memories) of the ‘civilizing’ role of the Ottomans. They do not gloat at the ‘liberation’ of Constantinople at the hands of the sodomite Mehmet II and the demise of the Christian Empire, but still mourn it.
Indeed, this veiled apology of Mehmet II is the more disturbing that it coincides with the absolutely provocative prayers which marked the debut of Ramadan and the Bayram in the Haghia Sophia. Quite offensive, actually.
It had been a mosque for about 500 years, so if the Turks want to return it to being a mosque fine. I preferred it as a museum but the building belongs to the Turkish Government in the same way that the Ummayad Mosque, cum Cathedral in Cordoba belongs to the Catholic Church. They are still places of worship, ostensibly worshiping the same monotheistic deity. At least they have not been allowed to fall into ruin. Churches are converted into homes in many countries. Those should be the real offense, not that another monothestic religion is using it as a place of worship for essentially the same deity.
The intolerance of believers for other believers of technically the same deity just because of some differences in approach is one of the reasons I refuse to take part in organized religion. Agree to disagree, and remember that all have more in common with each than differences
Absolutely correct. Churchill was the scum of the planet. He should have been tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg. I expect that when he met his maker he got what he deserved.
Its a pity Erdogan doesnt have the forces to get over to France and deal with that clown Macron.
He’d get a round of appaulse by the locals there.
Yes a very two faced swine was Churchill on many fronts.
There were a few attempts to kill him that they have covered up. Some by locals.
Churchill colluded with Stalin on some things and with Hitler on others. And also double-crossed the US.
He was aware the BOE and other private banks were funding Germany during the war but did nothing to stop it.
But the real truth now is the UK needs a pirate like Cromwell to save the common people from the swine currently running things.
Well and good, but, Overall, (not Ottoman) the roots of European power sprung from their own sources and this power shaped the world past 200 years.
The Neo-Ottoman Empire now has troops in 5 “sovereign” nations at least:
Turkey to Keep Troops in at Least Five Nations