Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space

  Bazzaz, Sahar, Yota Batsaki, and Dimiter Angelov, eds. 2013. Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space. Hellenic Studies Series 56. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

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 {69|70} 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

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. {70|71}

Selim’s Early Examples of Ottoman Cartography of the Mediterranean

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

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.

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. {75|76} 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 {76|77} 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.

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

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 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 {81|82} 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 {82|83} 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.

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. {84|}

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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.