3. Cartography and the Ottoman Imperial Project in the Sixteenth Century

Pınar Emiralioğlu
In the sixteenth century, Ottoman encounters with the Habsburg Empire in the West and the Safavids in the East turned violent as the Ottomans fought these rival empires on the battlefields. During this period, Ottoman ruling elites articulated the imperial claims of the Ottoman dynasty to universal leadership by representing the Ottoman sultans as the new world conquerors. Travelers, historians, sea captains, cartographers, poets, and astrologers assisted in this enterprise by creating a distinct body of geographical literature. Although it is well known that rulers in medieval and early modern Europe commissioned geographical works to project their royal or imperial aspirations, [1] the rich collection of surviving Ottoman geographical accounts has never before received the same analytical treatment, presumably because the Ottomans did not participate in the so-called “Age of Exploration.” While recent studies demonstrate that Ottomans not only participated in, but helped to define, a variety of early modern diplomatic, economic, and religio-political trends, including to some extent European activities in the Indian Ocean, [2] Ottoman geographical works have been analyzed only rarely by historians for their value as tools of imperial propaganda. [3]
Through an examination of sixteenth-century portolan charts, atlases, and isolario in Ottoman-Turkish, this chapter demonstrates a heightened sensitivity to geographical knowledge about the Mediterranean in the period. It claims that this development was intimately related to the articulation of the Ottoman claims to universal imperial sovereignty that had to be broadcast to the political and religious rivals in both East and West. By depicting the geographical and political features of the Mediterranean, Ottoman geographers portrayed the Ottoman Empire as ruling the whole world. They recast available geographical knowledge and promoted the imperial magnificence of the Ottoman sultans. They projected the Ottoman Empire as the center of the universe over which they ruled.

Selim I and the Formation of Ottoman Imperial Ideology

The beginnings of the Ottoman claims to universality coincided with the reign of Selim I. Shorty after ascending the Ottoman throne in 1512, Sultan Selim embarked upon one of the most difficult military campaigns in Ottoman history against the Savafi sufi brotherhood and their Turcmen supporters, whose rapid territorial expansion in the East threatened Ottoman power. In 1501, Shah Ismail, their young and charismatic leader, declared Tabriz his capital and eventually gained nominal control of Ardabil, Yazd, Kashan, Hamadan, Isfahan, Shiraz, Diyar Bakr, and Baghdad. [4] Ismail placed further pressure on the Ottomans by introducing a religious dimension to the conflict because he declared Twelver Shi’ism the official religion of his realm. [5] In his poetry, Ismail referred to himself as Faridun, Khusraw, Rustam, Alexander, Jesus, and he also claimed to be the Mahdi, the Expected One, who would emerge from concealment and reform the world drastically. [6] Safavid military power and Shia proselytizing activities thus constituted a two-pronged attack against Ottoman sovereignty in Eastern Anatolia.
Selim’s armies defeated Shah Ismail at the Battle of Chaldıran in 1514 and then immediately launched his next campaign against the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria. After capturing Aleppo and Damascus in 1516, Selim I ordered immediate preparations for the invasion of Egypt and was able to enter Cairo in 1517. The Islamic holy lands of Mecca and Medina now fell under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman sovereign following his defeat of the Mamluk sultan. For the first time in the empire’s history, the Ottoman sultan was in command of a predominantly Muslim population and the trade routes connecting the eastern Mediterranean to Anatolia and Central Asia.
Selim’s conquests had important implications for the evolution of Ottoman imperial ideology. [7] Despite his military successes against Muslim rivals and the resulting territorial conquests, the sultan needed to legitimize his wars against other Muslim powers in the eyes of Ottoman soldiers, subjects, and neighboring Muslim rulers. The well-established tradition of frontier warfare known as the ghaza, which the Ottomans used to legitimate their campaigns against Christian states in the past, no longer sufficed. The Ottoman response to the Safavid challenge required a new political and cultural discourse in Constantinople. After conquering Egypt and Syria, Selim assumed the role of the champion of Islam against ‘heretics’ and ‘infidels’—in other words, Safavids and Mamluks—whose intransigence hindered the Ottoman struggle against the Christian enemies of the empire. [8] In response to Shah Ismail’s embodiment of important Mediterranean religious and political figures, the Ottoman sultan and his ruling elites began to refer to Selim as “the protector of the two holy cities and the pilgrimage routes, and of all Muslims of the world,” the Mahdi (the guided one), [9] and sahib-kıran -ı heft iklim (master of the auspicious conjunction in seven climes), pertaining to his universal persona. [10] Thus began the transformation of the sultan from a temporal political ruler into the embodiment of an idealized universal sovereign.

Selim’s Early Examples of Ottoman Cartography of the Mediterranean

Selim’s conquests extended Ottoman control to the major trade ports of the eastern Mediterranean, including Alexandria and Tripoli, from which vital Egyptian grain now flowed. Their defense was indispensable for the success of Ottoman economic and political policies. Furthermore, the communication lines between Anatolia and Arab lands, in particular with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, had to be kept open. As soon as he returned from his eastern campaign, Selim I strengthened the Ottoman navy by enlarging the shipyards in Kasımpaşa on the Golden Horn and by constructing a new arsenal for the Ottoman navy in Constantinople. [11] In 1519, Hayreddin Barbarossa (d. 1546), an influential corsair in the Mediterranean, offered his services to the Ottoman sultan. [12] These small but important engagements in the Mediterranean during the reign of Selim help to account for a new growing sense at the Ottoman court that the Mediterranean was central to the empire’s new political ideology.
Selim’s military campaigns meant that Ottoman sultans could take on the roles of world conqueror and universal sovereign. As bureaucrats, administrators, and the military actively consolidated this image, Ottoman cartographers provided the geographic knowledge to articulate and assist this imperial claim. Ottoman interest in cartography dated back to the reign of Mehmed II (r. 1451–1481), who actively collected and drew maps. Mehmed was also known to commission Byzantine and European geographers to translate the works of Ptolemy and to prepare atlases for him. [13] It was during the reign of Selim I, however, that Ottoman geographers started to organize and refine Ottoman involvement in geography and geographical understanding, and made the Ottoman Empire an active player in the transmission of geographical knowledge across the Mediterranean. They collated recent geographical knowledge and material from the travel accounts and maps circulating in the Mediterranean into traditional Muslim accounts of geography.
Perhaps the most influential of these geographers was Piri Reis (d. 1554), a sailor who joined forces with Ottoman naval captains during the reign of Bayezid II. [14] Piri Reis produced a world map in 1513, which he presented to Selim I after his conquest of Cairo, and assembled the notes for an isolario (island book). [15] The sultan rewarded Piri Reis by assigning him to the imperial sea captains corps in Alexandria. [16] Sadly, the eastern two-thirds of the map have been lost. The extant section depicts the Atlantic Ocean, the western coast of Europe, Africa, and the eastern coast of the New World. On this segment, there is a long legend where Piri Reis lists his sources: twenty portolans (sea charts), a world map, eight Arab and four Portuguese sailing charts, and a map by Columbus. [17] In his own words, Piri Reis “took into consideration the maps that have recently appeared of the seas of India and China that up to now nobody knew in the lands of Rum.” [18] As the sections of the map depicting the Mediterranean, China, and the Indian Ocean are missing, we cannot evaluate Piri Reis’ claims.
Today, the manuscript libraries in Istanbul hold copies of the portolan charts by al-Katibi from Tunis (1413–1414), the Majorcan cartographer Johannes de Villadestes (1428), and İbrahim al-Mursi (1461), as well as Pedro Reinel’s world map (ca. 1519). [19] It is possible that Piri Reis drew on these and other maps. As a sea captain, he also had an easy access to other sea charts circulating in the Mediterranean. What is striking about his world map is that, by claiming to incorporate the latest knowledge and discoveries, the cartographer advances his own vision of what a good geographical work should encompass while also seeking imperial patronage. In the early sixteenth century, this was the practice of cartographers and mapmakers who catered to important political figures in Europe. [20] Henricus Martellus Germanus’s world map (1488) and the Nuremberg merchant Martin Behaim’s terrestrial globe (1492) are the earliest examples of this endeavor. [21]
Piri Reis’s world map is drawn in the tradition of portolan charts and it is contemporaneous with the Cantino map (1502), the Pesaro map (ca. 1505–1508), and Vesconte Maggiolo’s map (1516). These three maps were meant to please their patrons, and to relate the most recent information on the geography of the world. In this respect, though no different than his contemporaries, Piri Reis was a pioneer who contributed to the development of geography as a distinct genre in the Ottoman Empire. Though he presented his work to the sultan as a prestigious patron, his maps also sought to serve a larger cause—to buttress the emerging Ottoman imperial ideology, which anticipated the sultan’s universal sovereignty. Piri Reis’s world map, in presenting the Ottoman domains and beyond, sought to depict the borders of the known world over which the sultan’s imperial authority would radiate.

Süleyman the Magnificent and the Ottoman “Grand” Project

After the death of Selim in 1520, his son Süleyman ascended the throne. Süleyman I inherited an empire that encompassed lands extending from the Arabian Peninsula in the east, to the Balkans in the west, and to Egypt in the south. He assumed a host of imperial titles, including that of the “sultan of seven climes,” a direct and geographical reference to the universal sovereignty of the Ottoman sultans. Süleyman had to prove himself as a successful ruler by continuing Selim’s conquests and by consolidating the imperial claims for universal sovereignty that had evolved so rapidly during his ambitious father’s reign. About the same time that Süleyman ascended to the Ottoman throne, Europe witnessed the rise of Charles V who wished to fulfill both the Spanish and the Austrian/Germanic aspirations to a universal monarchy. His dignitaries presented him as the messianic ‘Last World Emperor.’ [22] In 1519, Charles added Austria to his domains, which already included Spain, Naples, the Netherlands, and the New World. The same year he was elected Holy Roman Emperor. Süleyman and Charles, each ambitious and intelligent, soon became famous rivals. Their armies fought on two fronts—in Hungary, where Ottoman military campaigns challenged Charles’s European domains and culminated in the 1529 seige of Vienna [23] and in the Mediterranean—while their palaces saw advisors and intellectuals articulating competing imperial discourses.
Under the leadership of Süleyman’s grand vizier, İbrahim Pasha, both the military campaigns and the political discourse conveyed one clear message: Sultan Süleyman was challenging the authority of both the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. The sultan was the expected Last Emperor, a universal ruler who would unite all mankind under a single rule and single religion before the Day of Judgment. [24] While Charles V and his advisors had made similar universalist claims, Süleyman had one great advantage: he laid claim to the Byzantine legacy and to being the legitimate heir to the Roman Empire as emperor of Constantinople, the New Rome. In accordance with the apocalyptic expectations of his age, the tenth century of the Muslim Era, Süleyman also proclaimed that he would disseminate justice around the world as the messianic ruler. [25]
It is not a coincidence that during the first half of Süleyman’s reign, most Ottoman military campaigns challenged Charles’s domains in Europe. In this period, the Ottoman-Habsburg rivalry focused in particular on control of Hungary. [26] Ottomans entered Budin (Buda) in 1526 and claimed Hungary as an Ottoman vassal state. As Charles V’s forces sacked Rome in 1527, Süleyman I was planning his second campaign to Hungary. His long siege of Vienna, the royal capital of the Habsburgs, ended in failure in 1529, but his armies entered Hungary again in 1532. Though this campaign also ended in failure, İbrahim Pasha carefully scripted Süleyman’s triumphal entries into Nish and Belgrade, as spectacles designed for western observers and European diplomats present in those cities. In these massive processions, Süleyman carried a tall helmet, fashioned with gems and constructed out of four superimposed crowns, with a tiara at the top. Commissioned by İbrahim Pasha, the priceless helmet imitated not only the crown that Charles V wore during his 1530 coronation in Bologna, but also the papal tiara. [27] Ottoman sultans had not worn or carried crowns before, nor did they do so after: the symbolic meaning of the object was clear. Messianic ambitions aside, the campaigns in Hungary were unsuccessful, and İbrahim Pasha, their mastermind, came under criticism after a 1533 treaty left western and northern Hungary in Habsburg control.

Süleyman’s Mediterranean and Ottoman Canonical Cartography

Following the unsuccessful siege of Vienna, the Ottoman-Habsburg rivalry entered a new phase in the Mediterranean exemplified by conflicts between Andrea Doria, the Genoese admiral of a Habsburg armada, and Hayreddin Barbarossa, the kaptan-ı derya (naval captain) of the Ottoman fleet. They challenged each other in particular around the Aegean Sea and North Africa. Süleyman’s campaigns during the first half of his reign, and in particular his rivalry with Charles V over Hungary and the Mediterranean, spurred the production of geographic and cartographic works in the Ottoman Empire that highlighted the importance of this region for the Ottoman imperial claims for universal sovereignty.
During this period, Ottoman geographers created an independent body of geographical literature that was accessible to palace dignitaries and the sultan. The maps that the sultan had at his disposal in the sixteenth century were the works of various individuals. In the Ottoman Empire, there was no official cartographer. There was no school of navigation in Constantinople similar to the Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade) established in 1503 in Seville to regulate all commerce and navigation to the New World and to the Indies. The House of Trade recruited skilled cartographers and sea pilots to draw maps of the Habsburg possessions in the New World and to train navigators, growing into an important center for cartographic production in Europe. [28]
Piri Reis was as close to an official cartographer as we can find in the Ottoman Empire. [29] His Kitab-ı Bahriye ( Book of the Sea Lore) best exemplifies the heightened importance of the Mediterranean in Ottoman geographical consciousness. Piri Reis had initially completed his isolario in 1521. Later on, commissioned by İbrahim Pasha, he prepared an expanded version of the work for the Sultan Süleyman. [30] Piri Reis completed his revisions and presented the Book of the Sealore to Süleyman I after his 1522 conquest in Rhodes and while he prepared for his first campaign to Hungary. Written during a period of consolidation of the claims to universal sovereignty, Piri Reis’s isolario focuses exclusively on the history and geography of the Mediterranean and represents the Mediterranean archipelago with great accuracy and detail. [31] This first Ottoman Turkish isolario offers a more detailed and up-to-date account of the Mediterranean than his contemporaries prepared in Europe. [32] The book contains Piri Reis’s own observations and experiences as a sailor, his descriptions of landmarks and of facilities offered by each port, and his practical sailing suggestions supplemented by brief accounts of local history and mythology. Like his contemporary, the Portuguese cartographer Valentin Fernandes, whose isolario, De insulis et peregrinatione Lusitanorum, focuses exclusively on the Atlantic islands, Piri Reis’s Book of the Sealore is written in the vernacular and thus marks a turning point in the development of Ottoman Turkish as a technical language for mariners. [33] The book circulated widely among the palace circles from the sixteenth century onward. [34]
Although Piri Reis compiled the initial edition of the Book of the Sealore as a sailor’s guidebook, in the second edition he improved the work by adding colorful charts depicting the Mediterranean islands and ports. He extended the narratives of local anecdotes and practices, his activities in the region, and excerpts from naval battles. He also wrote a new and a lengthy introduction in rhyming verse, in which, after a long passage on the mariner’s life, Piri Reis conveys his knowledge on topics ranging from the classifications of sea storms, to techniques of mapmaking and compass navigation, to the history of Portuguese discoveries in the Indian Ocean and Columbus’s discovery of the New World. Although Piri Reis had already described the discoveries of Columbus in the New World in the text surrounding his 1513 world map, [35] in this new work he discusses in some detail Portuguese activities in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and their effects on the trade, as well as the difficulties of sailing in the Indian Ocean. [36] He devotes the rest of his work to the Mediterranean. As early as the reign of Mehmed II, the Ottoman rulers claimed to be the Roman Caesars. During the first half of Süleyman’s reign, unification of the Mare Nostrum and extension of Ottoman control over the Mediterranean became the sine qua non of Ottoman claims for world conquest. Piri Reis’s work, prepared during a crucial time in this enterprise, articulated these Ottoman assertions and aided their realization by offering detailed geographical and historical knowledge.
In the Book of the Sealore, the description of the entire Mediterranean is divided into 214 sections, each accompanied by one or two maps illustrating different Mediterranean islands and port cities. In this section, Piri Reis changes his writing style from verse to prose. He explains his reason for this change in style as follows: “The reason for shifting to prose here is that so far in this book, we have explained the matters regarding compass, map, and the situation of the winds and shallows completely in verse. But we described the Mediterranean in prose. Had we done it in verse, it would have taken very long. When you use this book at nights or at places of difficulty, verbosity is not proper.” [37] This passage clearly shows that Piri Reis’s main goal was to produce a guidebook for the seaman. However, by presenting the sultan with a work on a region that occupies a central position in the imperial claims for world conquest, he also hoped to gain his favor. Piri Reis was a talented and an ambitious cartographer.
The Book of the Sealore focuses in particular on the regions that Piri Reis deemed important for his patron: the eastern Mediterranean and the North African coast. Although he portrays important islands and port cities of the central and western Mediterranean, such as Malta, Corsica, Sardinia, and Gibraltar, in separate chapters, these sections are devoid of historical or anthropological information. For the eastern Mediterranean and the North African coast, which Piri Reis knows best, the author provides short episodes from recent history and discusses various geographical features. [38] The chapters on Egypt, the Nile, Damascus, and Alexandria, in particular, include minute details about geography and useful hints about how to navigate complex waters. Similarly, his chapters on Djerba, Tunis, and Tripoli are remarkably rich in details regarding castles, harbors, the recent history of the region, and local customs. [39]
Piri Reis was obviously driven by the desire to create an instructive and impressive work on the Mediterranean for his patron. The way that he prioritizes North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean also speaks to their importance for the Ottoman world order. His chapters on these regions are far more detailed than anything found in contemporary Italian or Catalan portolans or isolarii. [40] Indeed, Piri Reis’s isolario presents unique firsthand knowledge of the geography of the Mediterranean. But perhaps more importantly, Piri Reis’s particular geographical focus served a political purpose more than a cartographical one: to remind the Ottoman sultan of his role as world conqueror and to affirm the importance of the Mediterranean to Ottoman imperial aspirations. Written originally on the eve of Süleyman’s conquest of Rhodes in 1522, Piri Reis’s Book of the Sealore reminds the Ottoman sultan of past victories and assures him of future success.
After the Book of the Sealore, Piri Reis compiled another cartographic work, a world map drawn in portolan style. Today, only the northwest corner of this map from 1528 survives. In 1547, Piri Reis was appointed Admiral of the Fleet of Egypt and India and commanded expeditions against the Portuguese in the Red Sea. After a failure in a campaign in Hormuz in 1552–1553, he was executed in Cairo.

Second Half of the Sixteenth Century: A Somber Image and Sober Policy

By the 1540s, it was clear that neither Charles V nor Süleyman I could establish universal rulership. The military confrontation in Hungary ended in stalemate, and Charles V withdrew to a monastery in 1556. The aging Süleyman, meanwhile, stopped participating in imperial campaigns and royal processions except for the Friday prayers. He delegated most of his power to the imperial bureaucrats and withdrew to his own quarters in the palace. [41] Although Ottoman campaigns into Central Europe did not bring a major victory after the 1540s, Ottomans still reigned supreme in the Mediterranean. If Süleyman was to be considered a true successor to the Roman emperors, he had to control the Mare Nostrum. Hayreddin Barbarossa had erased the bad memories of the loss of Tunis with a victory at Preveze in 1539 against the Venetians. After this incident, which brought the whole of the Peloponnese and the Dalmatian coast under Ottoman control, the Ottoman fleet was in nominal control of the eastern and central Mediterranean. Then, in 1565, the Ottomans faced their greatest challenge in the Mediterranean when they failed to conquer the strategic island of Malta. [42] European visual, musical, and verbal depictions depicted the event as a victory of Christianity in southern Europe against the Muslim Empire. [43]
During this period, in order to increase pressure on the Safavids, the Ottomans also attempted to secure a foothold in the Red Sea that would serve as an entrepôt into the Indian Ocean. When Süleyman ascended the Ottoman throne, the Portuguese had already established commercial and political networks in the Indian Ocean. In a report addressing İbrahim Pasha in 1525, the Ottoman captain Selman Reis warned the grand vizier about Portuguese control over the spice trade in the Indian Ocean and the threat to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and even to Egypt. Selman Reis urged the grand vizier to take measures as soon as possible. [44] As the Portuguese successfully blockaded Muslim shipping in the Red Sea, the Ottoman fleet prepared war galleys in Suez. [45] Around the same time, the possibility of opening a canal between the Nile and the Red Sea port of Tor was also discussed in the Ottoman court. [46] Although the canal never materialized, Ottoman captains struggled against the Portuguese in the Red Sea in the next decades and attempted to penetrate into the Indian Ocean both by military and diplomatic means. The Ottomans took control of Aden in 1538 but failed in the siege of Diu the same year. In 1552, their attempts to conquer Hormuz, which since 1543 had been a Portuguese base used primarily to ship Iranian silk to their possessions in India, also failed. [47]
After these incidents, Ottoman attempts to establish a foothold in the Indian Ocean slowed and eventually vanished. As the imperial campaigns fizzled on both fronts, the aging Süleyman I faced a series of personal setbacks. The sultan felt compelled by rumors and military defeats to order the executions of his beloved grand vizier İbrahim Pasha and later his son Mustafa. Shaken by these events, the sultan began to espouse a somber imperial image and employed a far less personal icon of rulership: the imperial law. During this period, the Şeyhülislam (chief jurist consult) Ebussu’ud Efendi (1490–1574) and the chancellor Celalzade Mustafa (1490–1567) systematically codified, compiled, and reconciled the kanun (imperial law) with Islamic Law. [48] In other words, the imperial law was reformulated and became the embodiment of impersonal rule and the sign of the sultan’s impersonal authority. [49]
The historian, mathematician, and geographer Matrakçı Nasuh (d. 1564) provided an excellent example of the centrality of imperial law to the sultan’s universal authority in his work the Beyan-ı Menazil, the diary of Süleyman’s Iraq campaign between 1533 and 1536. Only one manuscript copy of this work has survived; it is located in the Istanbul University Library. [50] Matrakçı entered the palace service as a devshirme and was a product of Ottoman schooling and administration. He became a protégé of Rüstem Pasha, the grand vizier to Sultan Süleyman during the second half of his reign. [51] Matrakçı, who composed the Beyan-ı Menazil during the actual journey and later illustrated it with 130 miniature depictions of the major stations en route, presents the Ottoman sultan as the dispenser of justice within and beyond the Ottoman realm. When describing the Ottoman entrance to Tabriz, the geographer writes: “After the victorious troops who were in that region [Tabriz] set their aims on reaching eternal success with reverence and honor and respect and consideration, with the appearance of the sultanic and imperial throne and the starlike arrival of the Rumis, they held the court of justice because the celestial-sphere-adorning court of the Sulaiman of the time was necessary for that land.” [52] Matrakçı Nasuh reminds his readers on several occasions that the sultan brought security and justice to Anatolia and beyond. Whenever he reached an important station along his campaign route, the author recounts, the sultan set up his divan-ı adalet (court of justice). In several miniatures, Matrakçı even depicts the sultan’s tent, the physical symbol of his justice, and where the imperial court was held, surrounded by smaller tents of his retinue. [53] In his depictions and narrative, Matrakçı highlighted the importance of imperial law for the universal claims of the Ottoman sultan.
In 1566, Süleyman I died under the walls of the fortress of Szigetvar during his last campaign to Hungary. His grand vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha continued the siege and conquered the town, but under the reigns of Süleyman’s successors Selim II (r. 1566–1574) and Murad III (r. 1574–1595) Ottoman military campaigns slowed down. The Ottoman conquest of Cyprus in 1570, followed by the Ottoman defeat at Battle of Lepanto in 1571, led to a stalemate in the Mediterranean.
The reign of Murad III, in particular, was a period of acute political and financial crises for the Ottomans as the empire was forced to fight wars on two fronts. The Ottomans were in intermittent conflict with the Safavids from 1579 to 1639 in Iraq while in Hungary, a long and costly war with the Habsburgs raged between 1593 and 1606. [54] Facing financial crisis, the Ottoman state levied new taxes on peasants, borrowed money from internal moneylenders, and debased the silver coinage. Irate over lost wages, the janissary corps revolted in the capital. Contemporary historians in the Ottoman capital noted these events as a sign of decline. [55]
The realpolitik in this period prompted urgent and practical solutions from the Ottoman dignitaries. As Murad III continued the claims of his predecessors to universal sovereignty, the Ottoman court proposed unconventional and creative answers to address the rising Shi’i power beyond its eastern frontier. Safavid economic, military and political achievements under Shah Abbas I (r. 587–1629) seriously challenged the Ottoman presence and legitimacy in the East. [56] The chroniclers of the Safavid court in Isfahan articulated the Safavid supremacy vis-à-vis the two Sunni powers: the Ottomans in Anatolia and Iraq and Uzbeks in Transoxiana. In their works, Safavid literati associated the Safavid dynasty with Tamerlane (d. 1405) in an effort to consolidate their authority in Central Asia. [57] Istanbul responded to these Safavid claims and attempted to influence the changing conditions in Central Asia. A decade earlier, in 1568–1569, Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, the grand vizier to Selim II (r. 1566–1574) had promoted a project to increase the Ottoman presence in the region by opening a canal between the Don and Volga rivers. The project aimed at creating easier connections from the Ottoman lands to Central Asia. Although the plan failed to gain the sultan’s approval, it was one of the earliest attempts to consolidate Ottoman control over the trade routes and establish better connections with the Muslim rulers in the region. [58] Negotiating political and economic alliances with the Central Asian Muslim rulers against the Safavids was the Ottomans’ only option.
During the peak of the conflict with the Safavids in the 1580s, the Ottomans continued to assume a pious Sunni Muslim image vis-à-vis their Shi’i Muslim neighbors, the Safavids. Contemporary accounts picked up this thread, portraying the Ottoman sultans more and more as pious rulers. In 1582, at the fifty-day imperial circumcision festival, Murad III made a public display of his piety with the circumcision of his sons and thousands of orphans and devshirme recruits as well as conversions of the members of the Safavid embassy to Sunni Islam. [59] He commissioned chroniclers and miniaturists to depict and describe these ceremonies and to articulate his piety. [60] Concomitantly, Ottoman literati highlighted the prestige and political legitimacy of the dynasties of Chingiz Khanid descent in Central Asia more than before. For instance, the renowned historian, Mustafa Ali (d. 1600) compares the universal empires of Tamerlane and Chingiz Khan to that of the Ottomans in his monumental world history, the Künhü’l-Ahbar (Essence of History) written between 1591 and 1599. [61] Mustafa Ali and several other contemporary historians from the same period prepared works for the Ottoman sultan where they attached great importance to Uzbeks and Crimean khans due to their Chingizid descent. [62] The Ottomans could never claim to descend from Chingiz Khan; however, they made use of their only plausible connection to Central Asia extensively in this period. In 1593–1594, the court historian Talikizade delineated twenty qualities of the Ottoman dynasty that assured their supremacy in the Islamic world. One of these qualities, Talikizade asserts, is the Ottoman dynasty’s descent from the Central Asian Turkic ruler Oghuz Khan. [63] These references to the Ottoman lineage going back to Chingiz Khan indicate the Ottoman awareness of shifting economic and political networks at the end of the sixteenth century. The Ottoman sultans were no longer the Roman emperors but rather pious Sunni-Muslims who tried to bolster their connections to Central Asia.

Boundaries of the Ottoman World and Ottoman Cartography in the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century

In 1534, the French cosmographer Orance Fine (d. 1555) prepared a woodcut heart-shaped world map. This map integrated the latest geographical discoveries in the New World in a conventional way and represented the world in a unified form with no political or religious borders. [64] What is striking about this map is that in 1559, a world map based on Fine’s 1534 woodcut was also prepared in Ottoman Turkish. The map, entitled The Representation of the Whole World Designed in its Entirety, was prepared in Venice by Hacı Ahmed of Tunis. Today we know that Hacı Ahmed was a fictitious character and that the compiler of the text was neither an educated Tunisian nor an Ottoman. [65] Unfortunately no copies of the map survive from the sixteenth century. The woodblocks remained in the Venetian archives and only in 1795 were twenty-four impressions made. [66] Despite the misspellings and grammatical mistakes in the text, the language and the correct honorifics used for the Ottoman sultan make it plausible that the map was prepared with the Ottoman market in mind. [67] Recent research in the Venetian archives showed that Prince Selim, the future Sultan Selim II and son of Süleyman I, ordered world maps from the workshops in Venice in the early 1550s just before the succession struggle started. All three sons of Süleyman I were most probably interested in Venetian cartographical productions as symbols of prestige and power during their struggle for the Ottoman throne. [68] The Hacı Ahmed Map and the story of its production is an example of how European cartographers sought the patronage of the Ottoman princes and sultans for their latest works.
In the 1560s, a time when the Ottoman struggle against the Spanish Habsburgs intensified, we see a flurry of world maps, navigation charts, and portolan atlases circulating in the Ottoman court in Constantinople. The earliest of these atlases, Walters Sea Atlas (ca. 1560), features seven portolan charts and a world map based on European cartographic concepts. [69] The atlas was probably prepared in Italy for a readership in the Ottoman Empire. [70] Although we cannot identify the cartographer or the client of the atlas, the elaborate illustrations on the charts suggest a wealthy and prestigious customer, possibly a member of the Ottoman dynasty. [71]
On the eve of the Lepanto defeat and Cyprus conquest, we see two more portolan atlases produced in Europe for an Ottoman patron. The atlas of Ali Macar Reis, which is today preserved at the Topkapı Palace Library, dates from 1567. [72] A work of eighteen pages, the atlas consists of six nautical charts and a world map prepared in the style of the contemporary Italian schools of Ottomano Freducci and Battista Agnese. [73] Ali Macar Reis, supposedly an Ottoman sea captain of Hungarian origin, drew the maps of the atlas. It has been suggested that the atlas was actually prepared in Italy and that the place names, which were left blank, were filled in later by Ali Macar Reis. [74] The world map in the atlas is a copy of the large Gastaldi world map of 1561. [75]
The Atlas-ı Hümayun (Imperial Atlas) (ca. 1570) is the last and the largest of the atlases prepared in Ottoman for an Ottoman patron in this period. Reminiscent of the Ali Macar Reis Atlas and the Walters Sea Atlas, it is a combination of eight portolan charts and a world map. There are differing opinions regarding whether the atlas was produced in an Ottoman or an Italian workshop. [76] Another chart that represents Ottoman interest in the cartographical productions in this period is the Aegean Sea Chart by Mehmed Reis of Menemen. This portolan chart dates from 1590–1591. It is still uncertain whether Mehmed Reis is a fictional character or not. Like Hacı Ahmed, we do not have other references to Mehmed Reis in any other document from the period. [77] Mehmed Reis’s chart encompasses the eastern Mediterranean in great detail, covering the Aegean archipelago and circumnavigating the Peloponnese from Durazzo (Albania) to the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara as far as Constantinople. It also charts the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor until the Gulf of Alexandretta.
The three Ottoman atlases from the sixteenth century are strikingly similar in style and coverage to the atlases prepared and diffused in European centers. They were produced in one of the cities along the Mediterranean for a wealthy patron. The structure of these atlases directly reflects Ottoman imperial aspirations to world power even at a time when imperial conquests had begun to slow down. The charts in these atlases depict the Mediterranean more than any other area of the world. Less attention is paid to the more distant regions of the British Isles, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Indian Ocean. Except for the Walters Sea Atlas, which contains a chart of the Indian Ocean, the remaining atlases do not provide any record of explorations across the Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean. The presentation of a world atlas structured to emphasize the Mediterranean in this period may be interpreted as a way to reaffirm and reiterate to the highest echelons of the Ottoman court the centrality of the Mediterranean. In a post-Süleymanic era, the Mediterranean was still the space where the imperial claims for universal sovereignty should be validated and consolidated.

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[ back ] 1. Harley 1988; Buisseret 1992.
[ back ] 2. Casale 2010; Subrahmanyan 1997.
[ back ] 3. Karamustafa 1992; Soucek 1992; Jardine and Brotton 2000; Pinto 2001; Ebel 2002; Goffman 2002; Hagen 2003; MacLean 2005; Birchwood and Dimmock 2005; Emiralioğlu 2006; Ágoston 2007:75–103.
[ back ] 4. Minorsky 1940–1942:1006a–1053a; Aubin 1959:37–81; Aubin 1970:235–244; Aubin 1988:1–130; Newman 2006:13–25; Mitchel 2009:19–58.
[ back ] 5. Uluçay 1953:53–90; Uluçay 1954:117–142; Uluçay 1955:187–200; Tekindağ 1967–1968:54–59; Uğur 1985; Çıpa 2007:14–71.
[ back ] 6. Arjomand 1984:109.
[ back ] 7. Agoston 2007:94.
[ back ] 8. Feridun Ahmed Beg 1858, I:386–395.
[ back ] 9. Celalzade Mustafa 1990:39–40.
[ back ] 10. Chronicles, gazavatnames (accounts of military campaigns), shahnames (royal histories), and travel accounts portrayed Sultan Selim not only as the servant of the two holy Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina, but also as the sahib-qıran (master of the auspicious conjunction), a Turco-Muslim and Alexandrine world conqueror, and the Mujaddid (the Renewer). These titles were direct answers to Shah Ismail’s claims to be Alexander, God, and Ali. Fleischer 1992:160–163; Subrahmanyam 1997:751–752. On Shah Ismail’s usage of similar titles see: Minorsky 1940–1942; Subrahmanyam 1997:753.
[ back ] 11. Celalzade Mustafa 1990:45.
[ back ] 12. Bostan 2002–2003:64–66.
[ back ] 13. Babinger 1951:8–15; Babinger 1978:81; Karamustafa 1992:210; Brotton 1997:90; Pinto 2001:5.
[ back ] 14. Soucek 1993:308–309.
[ back ] 15. Babinger 1936:1070–1071; Kahle 1956:99–108; Adıvar 1991:74–78; Kreiser 1986, 2:607–609; Afetinan 1987; Soucek 1992:267; Soucek 1993:308–309.
[ back ] 16. Orhonlu 1967:35–45; Casale 2010:36.
[ back ] 17. Piri Reis 1513.
[ back ] 18. Piri Reis 1526, 1:3a.
[ back ] 19. Soucek 1992:264–266; İhsanoğlu 2000:3–4.
[ back ] 20. Fernandez-Armesto 2007:754–758.
[ back ] 21. Woodward 1987:316.
[ back ] 22. Peirce 1993:25; Peter Burke 1999:411–418, 426–433; Ágoston 2007:97–98.
[ back ] 23. Fodor 1991:271–345; Gökbilgin 2001:12–16.
[ back ] 24. Necipoğlu 1993:175–225; Fleischer 1992; Turan 2007.
[ back ] 25. Fleischer 1992:159–165.
[ back ] 26. Fodor 1991:271–345; Gökbilgin 2001:12–16.
[ back ] 27. Necipoğlu 1993:401–427; Ágoston 2007:101.
[ back ] 28. Parker 1998:59–63; Kagan 2000:55–63; Padrón 2004:40; Portundo 2009:95–102.
[ back ] 29. Soucek 1994:134–135.
[ back ] 30. Piri Reis 1526:3a.
[ back ] 31. Tolias 2007:268–269.
[ back ] 32. Soucek 1992:262; Tolias 2007:269–270.
[ back ] 33. Tolias 2007:270.
[ back ] 34. Even today, there are 45 extant copies of the work. There are 5658 manuscript maps in the known copies of the work. Nine of these copies are located in British, Italian, French, Austrian, and German libraries. The rest are listed in the catalogues of different libraries and museums in Istanbul. Among the 45 manuscripts of the work, two of them include text only, and three of them consist of maps only. The copy that is located at the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul under the catalogue number Ayasofya 2612 was donated to the library by Mahmud I (r. 1730–1754) and is attested to be the most complete copy (Esiner 1996:20–22). Among the extant manuscript copies, about two-dozen are from the sixteenth century, and, with a few exceptions, these copies found their way to the Ottoman palace library (İhsanoğlu 2000:23–25).
[ back ] 35. Piri Reis 1513.
[ back ] 36. Casale 2010:37.
[ back ] 37. Piri Reis 1526:43a.
[ back ] 38. Soucek 1992:262.
[ back ] 39. Piri Reis 1526:333a–336b.
[ back ] 40. Soucek 1992:272–279.
[ back ] 41. Fleischer 1986:135–142; Necipoğlu 1991:29–30.
[ back ] 42. Cassola 1994:325–355.
[ back ] 43. Cassola 1994:83–89.
[ back ] 44. Kurtoğlu 1935:67–73; Özbaran 1978:81–88; Casale 2010:36–40.
[ back ] 45. Özbaran 1994:94.
[ back ] 46. Casale 2010:48–49.
[ back ] 47. Newman 2006:61.
[ back ] 48. Fleischer 1992:166–170; Imber 1997.
[ back ] 49. Fleischer 1986:191–252.
[ back ] 50. Matrakçı Nasuh, Beyan-ı Menazil-i Sefer-i Irakeyn-i Sultan Süleyman Han, Istanbul University Library, TY. 5964.
[ back ] 51. Selen 1943; Taeschner 1956:53–55; Johnston 1971:159–166; Orbay 2001; Ebel 2002:222–225.
[ back ] 52. Matrakçı Nasuh 1533–1536:28b–29a.
[ back ] 53. Matrakçı Nasuh 1533–1536:13b–14a, 15b, 20b, 24b, 25a, 26b, 29b, 31a, 72a, 73a, 74a, 74b.
[ back ] 54. Imber 2005:101–102.
[ back ] 55. Kafadar 1993:37–48; Necipoğlu 2005:256–257.
[ back ] 56. Krstic 2009:35–63.
[ back ] 57. Newman 2006:50–73.
[ back ] 58. Casale 2010:135–136.
[ back ] 59. Terzioğlu 1995:85–86.
[ back ] 60. Terzioğlu 1995; Woodhead 2005:85–98.
[ back ] 61. Fleischer 1986:277.
[ back ] 62. Fleischer 1986:277.
[ back ] 63. Necipoğlu 2005:30.
[ back ] 64. Mangani 1998:59–82; Cosgrove 2001:113, 133; Lestringrant and Pelletier 2007:1464–1468.
[ back ] 65. Ménage 1958:299–311.
[ back ] 66. Manners 2007:21–22.
[ back ] 67. Ménage 1958:299–311; Brotton 2000:35–48.
[ back ] 68. Arbel 2002:21–30.
[ back ] 69. Goodrich 1986:25–50.
[ back ] 70. Soucek 1971:17–27.
[ back ] 71. Goodrich 1986:25–50.
[ back ] 72. Ali Macar Reis 1567.
[ back ] 73. Soucek 1992:280.
[ back ] 74. Soucek 1971:18–19.
[ back ] 75. Goodrich 1984:99.
[ back ] 76. Goodrich 1985:83–101; Soucek 1971:17–27.
[ back ] 77. Vedovato 1951:49; Brice, Imber, and Lorch 1977; Brice and Imber 1978:528–529.