What is Ottoman Historiography? XV-XVII. Century Ottoman Chronicles - NovaSofya

What is Ottoman Historiography? XV-XVII. Century Ottoman Chronicles

Ottoman historiography emerged relatively late to the foundation of the state. The first Ottoman histories are accepted as Yahşi Fakih Menakıbnâmesi, which was written at the beginning of the XV century but has not survived, and Dâsitân-ı Tevârih-i Mülûk-i Âl-i Osman at the end of Germiyanlı Ahmadi’s İskendernâme. Yahşi Fakih was the son of Orhan Gazi’s imam, Ishak Fakih. While writing his work, he must have used what he saw as well as the events that his father witnessed and heard. Aşıkpaşazâde, who wrote a history that gave important information about the first periods, fell ill while passing through Gebze in 1413 and became a guest in Yahşi Fakih’s house. Here, he saw and read the book written by Yahşi Fakih and used this information while writing his own history. This menakıbnâme was probably also a source for the anonymous Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osmân, which gave information about the first years of the Ottoman Principality.

According to the statements of Aşık Paşazâde, menâkıbnâme covers the period up to the end of the Yıldırım Bayezid period. In recent years, it has been suggested that an anonymous Tevârîh-i Âli Osman, known as Rûhî Tarihi, recorded in the Bâdi Efendi section of the Selimiye Library in Edirne, may belong to Yahşi Fakih.

The first surviving Ottoman history is Ahmedî’s İskendernâme, written in the second half of the XV century, and Dâsitân-ı Tevârîh-i Mülûk-i Âl-i Osman at the end of it. This work, written before 1410, is seen as the first Ottoman history from Ertuğrul Gazi to Emir Süleyman. In this verse work, Ahmadî mentions philosophy, theology, medicine and history based on the story of Alexander the Great. More than 8,000 couplets are prepared in a long masnavi type, and only 340 couplets of the İskendernâme mention Ottoman history. The section titled Dâstân-ı Tevârîh-i Mülûk-ı Âl-i Osmân contains some information about Ottoman history. It also served as a source for many Ottoman histories that were later copyrighted.

Apart from these first works, the second half of the XV century was an important period for Ottoman historiography. As a matter of fact, the first Ottoman histories Âşıkpaşazâde’s Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osman, Neşrî’s Kitâb-ı Cihânnümâ, İdrîs-i Bitlisî’s Persian Heşt Bihişt and Ibn Kemâl’s Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osman were written in this period. Again, according to Halil İnalcık’s words, the period between the years 1300-1490 is largely illuminated by menakıbnâmes.

Regarding the early Ottoman periods, it is necessary to mention the Anonim Tevârih-i Âl-i Osmanlar first. The works that emerged during the reign of Murad II and began to be written during the reign of Bayezid II and bear the name of “Tevârih-i Âl-i Osman” are structurally connected to each other although they are different in terms of content. Fuad Köprülü considers these anonymous as the products of the popular historiography of the XV century, as well as the historiography of the ulema that began to develop from the XVI century and was generally written for the intelligentsia. All of these anonymous names begin with the arrival of Süleyman Şah in Anatolia. But they differ in terms of end dates. One group of anonymous people date back to 1494, while another group recounts events up to 1550. But it is known that the tradition continued until the XVII century. There are three main sources of these anonymous Tevârih-i Âl-i Osmans. These; Yahşi Fakih menakıbnâmesi, historical calendars and Ahmadi’s Dâsitân-ı Tevârih-i Âl-i Osman

Although chronicling, which occupies an important place in Ottoman historiography, dates back to the XVIII century, its origins lie in shahnavivisy. The writing of the Shahname emerged in the reign of Fatih and became a permanent civil service since the Kanuni period. Although there are differences between them and chronicles, these two historiographical traditions are branches of official historiography. Şehnâme writing started in the reign of Fatih. Fatih commissioned Şehdî to write historical events in the style of şehnâme, but this first attempt at şehnâme was not successful. During the reign of Bâyezid II, official historiography gave its first products in Turkish and Persian with the works of İdris Bitlisî and Ibn Kemal.

Mehmed II commissioned a poet named Şehdî to write a verse Ottoman history in the style of a martyr in the palace. Şehdî, who could not finish his work as planned and could only write four thousand couplets, is considered the pioneer of martyrdom in Ottoman historiography. In the same period, one of the most important works in the Vekayinâme genre is Tursun Bey’s Târîh-i Ebü’l-Feth. In this work, the Fatih period is directly contained. The work, which started in 1444 with the culu of Fatih Sultan Mehmed, ends in 1488 with Hadım Ali Pasha’s Cilicia campaign and the defeat of the Mamluks. In fact, this work of Tursun Bey can be considered as a monograph as well as a chronic. In the introduction of the work, which consists of a preface, introduction and main text, ideas about the science and philosophy of history are put forward. Aşık Paşazâde’s work was used as a source. Târîh-i Abü’l-Feth, which was completed during the reign of Bayezid II, contains important information about Fatih’s conquest policy and strategy. In contrast to the plain language of the period, Arabic was written in a heavy language in Persian composition.

Another name that can be considered as one of the chronicle writers of the Fatih period is Kaşşifî. His Persian work Gazânâme-i Rûm, which he wrote with the encouragement of Veliyüddin oğlu Ahmed Pasha and completed after the conquest of Istanbul, is about Murad II’s wars in Varna and Kosovo. It was written in the style of 43 leaflets consisting of 1053 couplets. The historical events he involves end with the wedding of Şehzade Mehmed. In a sense, the work also has the quality of Gazâvatnâme and conquest. His work is a verse work that praises the sultans rather than being a detailed historical source.

Mehmed bin Hacı Halil al-Konevi’s Târîh-i Âl-i Osman, which began to be written in the Fatih period but was completed during the reign of Bayezid II, can be counted among the early chronicles. In the introduction of his work, the author says that he examined the publications of ancient historians. As a content, it focuses on Ottoman history up to the time of Fatih and especially on the period of Mehmed II and ends with the conquest of Ak-Kerman during the time of Bayezid II. The main sources of the work are Şükrullah’s Behjatü’l-Tawârih and Ahmadi’s Dâsitân.

During the reign of Bayezid II, İdris-i Bitlisî described the first eight Ottoman sultans in Persian in his work Heşt Bihişt. In this work, which was written by the order of Bâyezid II, the Vassaf and Juwayni histories were modeled and a very ornate style was used. In this work, which is an example of Iranian historiography, there is not much original information for the early periods of Ottoman history. Ibn Kemal, who wrote a Turkish history by order of Bâyezid II and then continued and turned his work into a 10-volume history in which the first ten sultans were described, is a building block in Ottoman historiography. As in the histories written before, the author did not treat history as a series of unrelated events, but as a chain of interconnected events. While describing a subject, he also emphasized the previous events that caused it to occur. Ibn Kemal’s work covers the period from Osman Gazi to the Battle of Mohac Square. A notebook was allocated to each sultan.

Another compilation in the same period is Neşrî’s Cihânnümâ. Like other Ottoman historians, he interpreted Ottoman history as a continuation of Islamic history. His work is the most comprehensive in terms of source among the Ottoman histories written at the end of the XIV century.

After considering Tursun bey’s Târîh-i Ebü’l Feth, which was written in the XV century in the chronicle genre, Kaşşifî’s Gazânâme-i Rûm, and al-Konevi’s Târîh-i Âl-i Osman, we can move on to the chronicle works written in the XVI century. The first name that appeared in the Vekayinâme style in this century was Selânikî Mustafa Efendi. Selânikî Mustafa, who also embarked on Kanuni’s Szigetvár campaign, wrote his work, which is referred to as Târîh-i Selânikî in his name. The work covers the years 1563-1600. In particular, it comprehensively presents the events that have taken place since the reign of Murad III. The author evaluated separately the magnificence and comfort of the Kanuni period, the calmness of the reign of Selim II and the sudden change of the situation during the reign of Murat III and the effects of endless wars. Thessaloniki did not make use of any chronicles while shedding light on this period of history, but consulted some oral and written sources. Written in a simple style, this work speaks of moral and economic collapse based on the widespread bribery and heavy taxes on the reais. In this context, it is important in terms of reflecting the socio-economic situation of the period.

Another chronicle writer of the XVI century is Şeref Khan. In fact, this author, who had taken refuge in the Ottoman Empire from Iran, appeared before Murad III in 1582 and was appointed to the principality of Bitlis and its surroundings by taking the quarry. His Şerefnâme, written in Persian, mentions Kurdish tribes, local beys named hakim, and Ottoman sultans from its foundation.

Shahnâmelik, which was not successful in the Fatih period, became an official institution in the Kanunî period. Arifî Fethullah Çelebi, the first shahnâmeci of this period, rewrote the shahnâme left unfinished by Şehdî. This work, which consists of 60 thousand couplets called Şehnâme-i Âl-i Osmân written in Persian, is in five volumes. Eflâtun bin Şirvânî, who was brought to the position of shahnâme after Arifî, continued to write the Hünernâme, which he started. However, upon his death, this work was replenished in 1569 by Sayyid Lokman, who was a shahnamaji.

Again in this XVI century, authors such as Ârifî Fethullah, Eflatun Şirvanî, Seyyid Lokman, Tâlikîzâde Mehmed Subhî, Şemsi Ahmed Pasha produced works in the field of şehnâme.

In the XVII century, it is seen that there is an increase in the type of works of the type of vekayiname. As a matter of fact, the most important feature of this period is the increase in works in the genre of vekayinâme that deal with a certain period rather than the general dates starting from creation and foundation. The main reason for this is that martyrdom is gradually being replaced by chronicling. One of the first examples in this century is Hocazâde Mehmed Efendi’s İbtihâcü’t-tevârîh. Unfortunately, the work covering the events of the Kanuni period up to 1554 could not be completed.

Sâfî Mustafa Efendi, a mosque imam of Macedonian origin who attracted the attention of Ahmed I, came to the forefront with his work Zübdetü’t-tevârîh, which he wrote by order of the sultan. In two works written between 1610 and 1615, he presented the period of Ahmed I until 1614. In the first volume of his work, he focuses on the spiritual and physical aspects of the sultan with the accession of Ahmed I to the throne. In the second volume, the events during the reign of Ahmed I (Austrian and Persian wars, Jalali rebellions, repair of the Kaaba, travels of the sultan) are mentioned. Although the author designed the events after 1615 as the third volume, there is no record of this being prepared. His work was used as a source by many historians, especially Kâtib Çelebi, who were his predecessors.

Another of the XVII century chronicles is the Târîh of Abraham of Pécs. İbrahim, who had ties to the Sokullu family and served as various provincial bookkeepers, was the author of the work known as the History of Peçevî. With the help of the Hungarians, he wrote his work and presented the historical events up to the end of the reign of Murad IV. Another feature of his work is that it specifies the names of the sources it uses from time to time, including Hungarian and Serbian sources. In the work written in plain Turkish, some official documents were also used as sources. Zeyiller was later written in the History of Pécs by Belgradî Mustafa Efendi and Mehmed Pasha. Apart from this work, the work written by the Topçular Clerk Abdulkadir Efendi is one of the most important Ottoman histories. His work, known as Vekayi-i Târîhiyye or Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osman, describes the events between February 1592 and March 1644. In particular, it gives detailed information about the expeditions. The most important feature of the work is the information it gives about the organization of the expedition, the supply and supply of the army.

Another important chronicle of the century is Kâtib Çelebi’s Fezleke. The work, which started in 1591, was handled year by year in the style of a proxy and brought until 1655. His main sources are the works of Hasanbeyzâde, Ibrahim of Pécs, Mehmed b. Mehmed, Topçular Kâtibi Abdülkadir, Sâfî Mustafa, Cerrahzâde Mehmed, Tûği Hüseyin, Pîrî Paşazâde Hüseyin and Nev’îzâde Atâi. Mehmed Ağa’s Silâhdar History, which appeared later, is the zey of Fezleke.

Another chronicle written in the century is Mehmed Caliph’s Târîh-i Gılmânî. The author, who is not very aware of his life, Mehmed Halîfe, who is understood to have witnessed the events that took place in the palace especially during the periods of Murad IV, Sultan İbrahim and Mehmed IV, collected them in an unsystematic way and created his work called Târîh-i Gılmânî. It covers the period from the reign of Murad IV to the Treaty of Vasvar. It has the characteristics of a scattered memoir that determines his personal views in places and draws attention with his heavy criticism of the sultans and statesmen of the period.

Vecîhî Hasan, who was of Crimean origin and wrote a chronicle under his own name, gave original information about the military, political and social situation of the period in his work covering the years 1637-1661. With the opportunity given by his duty as a clerk of the Court, he also used some official sources in his work.  Especially in the last four years of Sultan Ibrahim and the first thirteen years of his son Mehmed IV, he reflected the sad situation of the country with all its nakedness. The disintegration in the state structure was strongly criticized by Vecîhî, and the administrative and financial deterioration around the palace and some of its intrigues were also criticized, In this context, Târih-i Vecîhî, which is important, was later used as a source by Müneccimbaşı Ahmed, Naîma and Silâhdar Mehmed Ağa.

Nişancı Abdurrahman Abdi Pasha, one of the chronicle writers of the XVII century, served as the secret clerk of Mehmed IV and rose to the rank of marksman in the bureaucracy. He wrote a history book by order of Mehmed IV and named his work Vekayinâme by the sultan himself. In this respect, Abdi Pasha is also mistakenly regarded as the first official Ottoman chronicler. His work contains the events between 1648 and 1682 and is important in the sense that he made use of various sources. However, the period between 1678 and 1682 remained in summary nature due to the fact that the author was far from Istanbul. His Vekayinâme was later used as a source by XVIII century historians such as Naîma, Defterdar Sarı Mehmed Paşa, Silâhdar Fındıklılı Mehmed and Râşid Mehmed.

Finally, the other veininame of the XVII century is the Waqiât-ı Ruzmerrah of Mawkufâtî Abdullah b. İbrahim. Designed in six volumes containing the events between 1688 and 1695, only four volumes were completed. The unique aspect of the work is that it narrates the events up to 1693 day by day and comprehensively. Each volume of 300-350 folios describes the events of about a year.


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