An Ottoman Tragedy: History and Historiography at Play by Gabriel Piterberg

By Gabriel Piterberg

Within the house of six years early within the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire underwent such turmoil and trauma--the assassination of the younger ruler Osman II, the re-enthronement and next abdication of his mad uncle Mustafa I, for a start--that a pupil mentioned the period's three-day-long dramatic climax "an Ottoman Tragedy." lower than Gabriel Piterberg's deft research, this era of main issue turns into a old laboratory for the background of the Ottoman Empire within the 17th century--an chance to monitor the dialectical play among historical past as an incidence and event and historical past as a recounting of that have. Piterberg reconstructs the Ottoman narration of this fraught interval from the foundational textual content, produced within the early 1620s, to the composition of the country narrative on the finish of the 17th century. His paintings brings theories of historiography into discussion with the particular interpretation of Ottoman ancient texts, and forces a rethinking of either Ottoman historiography and the Ottoman kingdom within the 17th century. A provocative reinterpretation of a big occasion in Ottoman heritage, this paintings reconceives the relation among historiography and background.

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19 Ottoman Historiography / 37 In addition to the histories of Apz and Nes¸ri that were written in Bayezid II’s reign, this sultan commissioned two works that, in retrospect, might indicate the shift from Persian to high Ottoman Turkish. Bayezid first asked Idris-i Bildisi, who had been chancellor at the court of the Akkoyunlu, to produce a history of the House of Osman in a learned fashion. The result was the famous Eight Paradises (Hasht Bihisht) in Persian. Slightly later the sultan decided that a history on a similar topic and of the same stylistic elegance and elaboration as Bildisi’s, but in Ottoman Turkish prose rather than Persian, was necessary.

The conflictual nature of Ottoman historiography between these two alternative worlds is most evident with regard to the interpretation of gaza and its significance in the narrative. The bureaucrats of the medreses (Islamic institutes for higher education) who produced the eventual narrative were not, and could not be, anti-gaza. Their interpretation, however, severely undermined, even ostracized, the narrative of the gazi milieu in two ways: first, their allusions to gaza and gazis were devoid of the enthusiasm and passion that abounded in Apz and in the anonymous chronicles; second and most significant, they constructed a teleological narrative in which gaza was a necessary phase that inevitably culminated in a dynastic, bureaucratic state.

The title (and content) of Fleischer’s study on Mustafa Ali—Bureaucrat and Intellectual—neatly captures this process and its constituent features. Like other things Ottoman, historiography was an amalgamation of the cultures and traditions bequeathed to the Ottomans. The imprint of the older and prestigious traditions, the Arabic and the Persian, as well as the Turco-Mongol, Turkish-Anatolian, and Greek-Byzantine, is evident in Ottoman history. Like other things Ottoman, what renders the historiography Ottoman is precisely the eclectic amalgamation rather than the originality of a particular feature in terms of Ideengeschichte.

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