THE JEWISH MILLET IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
PROF. DR. STANFORD J. SHAW
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA/LOS ANGELES U.S.A.
VISITING PROFESSOR OF TURKISH HISTORY AT BİLKENT UNIVERSITY/ANKARA-TURKEY
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
It was only with the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in Southeastern Europe and the Middle East starting in the 14th century that Jewish refugees from Christian persecution found the kind of tolerance and freedom that enabled them to prosper without fear. As a result, those Jews who had survived in Byzantine Constantinople and Asia Minor did everything they could to contribute to Ottoman success, particularly during the sieges which led to the Ottoman conquests of the centers of Byzantine administrative and economic life in Asia Minor and Thrace, Bursa and Constantinople. The Ottoman rulers very quickly contrasted the support provided by Jews in the conquered Byzantine territories with the hostility manifested by the conquered Greeks and Armenians, who from the earliest days of Ottoman rule attempted to stimulate European Crusades to rescue them from the domination of Islam. Insofar as the Ottomans were concerned, therefore, they trusted and relied on their Jewish subjects far more than on the Christians. The Ottomans therefore preferred to use Jews wherever possible to develop the trade and commerce of their new empire. In return for their support, Ottoman Jewry received rewards from the sultans, including not only toleration and ability to pursue their own lives and religious practices without any of the restrictions which had so limited their lives in Christian Europe, and protection against Christian attacks, but also encouragement for their co-religionists remaining in western Europe to emigrate into the lands of the Ottoman Turks.
The 16th century Jewish historian, Eliyahu Kapsali, writing in Crete, attributed the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and its conquest by the Ottomans directly to the Byzantine persecution of the Jews:
Pass through the gateways of this book, turn to the way of God, study its tales, read and see that God, in His wisdom and understanding, rendered this Turkish nation great.... The Turks is the rod of His wrath, the staff of His anger, and by means of Him He takes His vengeance of the gentle nations and tongues and states whose time has come.
Following the Ottoman conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople in 1453, Mehmed II 'The Conqueror' (Fatih) encouraged the persecuted Jews of Germany and Spain and elsewhere in Western Europe to immigrate into his Empire, using for this purpose the Chief Rabbi of Edirne (Adrianople), Isaac Tzarfati, who himself had fled from persecution in southern Germany earlier in the century, sending Tzarfati's appeal to his fellow Jews to join him in the dominions of the sultan:
Your cries and sobs have reached us. We have been told of all the troubles and persecutions which you have to suffer in the German lands.... I hear the lamentation of my brethren.... The barbarous and cruel nation ruthlessly oppresses the faithful children of the chosen people..... The priests and prelates of Rome have risen. They wish to root out the memory of Jacob and erase the name of Israel. They always devise new persecutions. They wish to bring you to the stake.... Listen my brothers, to the counsel I will give you. A too was born in Germany and studied Torah with the German rabbis. I was driven out of my native country and came to the Turkish land, which is blessed by God and filled with all good things. Here I found rest and happiness. Turkey can also become for you the land of peace.... If you who live in Germany knew even a tenth of what God has blessed us with in this land, you would not consider any difficulties. You would set out to come to us.... Here in the land of the Turks we have nothing to complain of. We possess great fortunes. Much gold and silver are in our hands. We are not oppressed with heavy taxes, and our commerce is free and unhindered. Rich are the fruits of the earth. Everything is cheap, and every one of us lives in peace and freedom. Here the Jew is not compelled to wear a yellow hat as a badge of shame, as is the case in Germany, where even wealth and great fortune are a curse for a Jew because he therewith arouses jealousy among the Christians and they devise all kinds of slander against him to rob him of his gold. Arise my brothers, gird up your loins, collect your forces, and come to us. Here you will be free of your enemies, here you will find rest.
Capsali relates how Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) sent out his own invitations to the Jews of Spain as soon as he learned of their expulsion at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition:
So the Sultan Bayezid, King of Turkey, heard of all the evil that the Spanish king had brought upon the Jews and heard that they were seeking a refuge and resting place. He took pity on them and wrote letters and sent emissaries to proclaim throughout his kingdom that none of his city rulers should be wicked enough to refuse entry to Jews or to expel them. Instead, they were to be given a gracious welcome, and anyone who did not behave in this matter would be put to death.... Sultan Bayezid, king of Turkey, having learned of all the evil that the King of Spain did to the Jews, who were seeing a place of refuge, had pity on them and ordered his country to greet them well, and he ordered the same thing for the island of Chios, which had been paying a tribute to him....
Just as Sultan Mehmed gathered the Jews living in other communities and brought them to live with him in Costantinople and said: 'Come and shelter in my shade as we have written,' similarly his son, this Sultan Bayezid, treated the seed of Abraham, servants of God, well,... and did not cast them out from before him as some of the Gentile Kings did to us.... Were it not for this, the remnant of Judah and traces of Israel, exiled from Spain and Aragon and Portugal and Sicily by the unsheathed sword of the wicked King of Spain, would have been lost....
Even before the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and its transformation into the Ottoman capital Istanbul, therefore, and increasingly afterwards for another two centuries, the Ottoman Empire became the principal object of immigration for the persecuted Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, to whom were added the flood of exiles from Spain and Portugal and of the Spanish Jews who had converted to Christianity (Marranos), but who still were persecuted by the Inquisition in the early decades of the 16th century, as well as those found in the Middle East as it was incorporated into the empire at the same time.
These Jewish immigrants settled all over the expanding Ottoman empire, in the lands that today are the states of Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Cyprus and the other Aegean and Mediterranean islands and in what is now Turkey at Bursa, Gallipoli, Manisa, İzmir, Tokat and Amasya. Some also went to the east Mediterranean islands of Cyprus, Patras and Corfu, but with their native Greek populations remaining substantial majorities, they were not as welcome as in those areas of the new Empire in which Muslims dominated society. For the most part, however, the newly arriving Jews settled down where there were substantial Muslim populations, in the Ottoman capital Istanbul, in the capital of Ottoman Thrace Edirne (Adrianople), along the Macedonian shores of the Aegean at Salonica, and in the Holy Land, particularly at Jerusalem and Safed, in total numbers estimated at from 150,000 to 200,000 people, far more than the 30,000 Jews then living in Poland and Lithuania. Ottoman Turkish Jewry thus constituted by far the largest and most prosperous Jewish community in the world at that time, a period that came to constitute the Golden Age of Ottoman Jewry.
AN OVERVIEW OF OTTOMAN SCIENTIFIC ACTIVITIES
PROF. DR. EKMELEDDİN İHSANOĞLU
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ISLAMIC HISTORY, ART AND CULTURE/İSTANBUL-TURKEY
Ottoman science developed further owing to the personal interest of Mehmed II and the educational institutions which he established after the conquest of Istanbul. Consequently, some brilliant scholars emerged in the sixteenth century and made original contributions to science in this most vivid period of Ottoman history of science. Mehmed the Conqueror patronized the Islamic scholars and at the same time he ordered the Greek scholar from Trabzon Georgios Amirutzes and his son to translate the Geography book of Ptolemy into Arabic and to draw a world map. Mehmed II's interest in European culture had started while he was the own prince settled in the Manisa Palace. In 1445, Italian humanist Ciriaco d'Ancona and other Italians who were in the Palace taught him Roman and European history. While Patriarch Gennadious prepared his work on the Christian belief İ'tikad nâme (The Book on Belief) for the sultan, Francesco Berlinghieri and Roberto Valtorio wished to present their works Geographia and De re Militari. On the other hand, Mehmed II encouraged the scholars of his time to produce works in their special fields; e.g. for the comparison of al-Ghazzali's criticisms of peripatetic philosophers regarding metaphysical matters, expressed in his work titled Tahafut al-Falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), and Ibn Rushd's answers to these criticisms in his work Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of Incoherence), he ordered two scholars of his time, Hocazade and 'Ala al-Din al-Tusi, each to write a work on this subject (Adıvar, 1983; İhsanoğlu, 1992/1). No doubt the most notable scientist of the Conqueror's period is Ali Kuşçu, a representative of the Samarkand tradition. The total number of his works on mathematics and astronomy is twelve. One of them is his commentary on the Zij-i Uluğ Bey in Persian. His two works in persian, namely, Risala fi'l-Hay'a (Treatise on Astronomy) and Risala Fi'l-Hisab (Treatise on Arithmetic) were taught in the Ottoman medreses. He rewrote these two works in Arabic with some additions under new titles, al-Fathiyya (Commemoration of Conquest) and al-Muhammadiyya (The Book dedicated to Sultan Muhammed), respectively. Another noteworthy scholar of the Bayezid II period (1481-1512) was Molla Lûtfi. He wrote a treatise about the classification of sciences titled Mawdu'at-Ulum (Subjects of the Sciences) in Arabic and compiled a book on geometry titled Tad'if al-Madhbah (Duplication of Cube) which was partly translated from Greek. Mîrîm Çelebi (d. 1525) who was a well known astronomer and mathematician of this period and the grandson of Ali Kuşçu and Kadızâde-i Rûmî, contributed to the establishment of the scientific traditions of mathematics and astronomy and was renowned for the commentary he wrote on the Zij of Uluğ Bey.
Scientific literature developed considerably in the period of Sultan Süleymân the Magnificent. We find two major mathematical books in Turkish entitled Jamal al-Kuttab wa Kamal al-Hussah (Beauty of Scribes and Perfection of Accountants) and 'Umdat al-Hisah (Treatise on arithmetic) by Nasuh al-Silahi al-Matraki (d. 971/1564). His book in Turkish entitled Beyân-ı Menâzil-i Sefer-i Irakeyn (Description of the Stopping Places of the Campaign to the Two Iraqs), related to geography, should also be mentioned. Musa b. Hamun (d. 1554), one of the famous Jewish physicians from Andalusian descent, was appointed as Sultan Süleymân's physician and wrote the first Turkish and one of the earliest independent works on dentistry which is based on Greek, Islamic, and Uighur Turkish medical sources and in particular Sabuncuoğlu Ceerefeddin's works (Terzioğlu, 1977). In the sixteenth century, important works on astronomy were written by the representatives of the Egypt-Damascus tradition of astronomy-mathematics. The greatest astronomer of this period was Taki al-Din al-Rasid (d. 1585) who combined the Egyptian-Damascus and Samarkand traditions of astronomy and mathematics in his studies. He wrote more than thirty books in Arabic on the subjects of mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, and medicine.
From the sixteenth century onwards, noteworthy geographical works were produced by Pîrî Reis, In 1511, Pîrî Reis drew his first map. This map is part of the world map prepared on a large scale. It was drawn on the basis of his rich and detailed drafts an in addition, European maps including Columbus' map of America. This first Ottoman map which included preliminary information about the New World represents south western Europe, north western Africa, south eastern and Central America. It is a portalano, without latitude and longitude lines but with lines delineating coasts and islands. Pîrî Reis drew his second map and presented it to Süleymân the Magnificent in 1528. only the part which contains the North Atlantic Ocean and the then newly discovered areas of Northern and Central America is extant. Pîrî Reis also wrote a book entitled Kitâb-ı Bahriye (Book of the Sea) (1521). In this work, Pîrî Reis presents drawings and maps of the cities on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, and gives extensive information about navigation and nautical astronomy. Admiral Seydî Ali Reis (d. 1562), who wrote the work in Turkish titled al-Muhit (The Ocean), was a notable figure of the period in maritime geography. This work contains astronomical and geographical information necessary for long sea voyages and his own observations about the Indian Ocean.
Another work of the sixteenth century which contains information about the geographical discoveries and the New World is the book entitled Târih-i Hind-i Garbî (History of Western India). This work, whose author is unknown, was presented to Sultan Murâd III in 1583. It was based on Spanish and Italian geographical sources. It is important in showing that the geographical discoveries of the West were known to the Ottomans. The work has three parts; the third part which is the most important and which comprises two thirds of the whole book, relates the adventures of Columbus, Balboa, Magellan, Cretes, and Pizarro during the sixty years from the discovery of America in 1492 until 1552 (Goodrich, 1990). Apparently, cartography was organized as a profession in the Ottoman Empire, for example, in the seventeenth century, fifteen individuals were occupied with the art of surveying, in eight locations in Istanbul and nearby areas.