Category: turkey

The Moon Star Flag: How Turkey’s Flag Came To …

The Turkish national flag is mostly red, with a white star and a crescent in the center. Ottoman Sultan Selim III formalized the look in 1793, but the flag is actually much older.

The crescent-and-star combination has been used in Turkey since Hellenistic times (400s to 100 BCE). It likely came from ancient Mesopotamian iconocraphy. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star placed inside the crescent, for reasons that have been lost to time. When it came to Turkey, they gave it their own meanings. For Byzantium the moon symbolized Diana, also known as Artemis, the patron goddess of the city.

In 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the flag remained unchanged. With time, it became not just Istanbul’s flag but the Ottoman flag, with its design formalized in 1793 and its status as national flag formalized in 1844. Turks affectionately call the flag “ay yildiz” – the “moon star” flag.

Many nations that were once part of Ottoman Empire adopted the star-and-crescent when they gained independence, including Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. In the 1900s the symbol became associated with not just the Ottomans, but with Islam in general, and many states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire adopted it too, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Maldives. Pretty amazing that an ancient Mesopotamian symbol is flown around the world today.

A Tale of Two Brothers

Mihailo and Mahmud Anđelović were separated as infants. Although they belonged to a branch of the aristocratic Greek family Angelos, their branch had taken refuge in Serbia after the Ottoman conquest of Thessaly in 1394.

The family could not escape the Ottomans entirely. Mahmud was captured by Ottoman Turks as an infant, brought up near Edirne in Turkey, and converted to Islam. Mahmud grew up to be smart and capable. He rose through the Ottoman bureaucracy to become beylerbey (senior provincial governor) of Rumelia in 1451, and Grand Vizier in 1455.

Mahmud’s brother Mihailo (or Michael in English) stayed in Serbia. He served as a Serbian court official under the reigns of Đurađ and Lazar Branković. Serbia at the time was a state bordering the Ottoman Empire, and was largely dominated by the Ottoman Empire.

The two brothers were eventually reunited! But under strange circumstances. In the negotiations between Serbian ruler Lazar Branković and Ottoman emperor Mehmed II in 1457, Mihailo was sent to represent and negotiate for Lazar, and Mahmud represented and negotiated for Mehmed II!

THE HITTITES: THE Hittites occupied the ancien…

THE HITTITES: 

THE Hittites occupied the ancient region of Anatolia (also known as Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey) prior to 1700 BCE, developed a culture apparently from the indigenous Hatti (and possibly the Hurrian) people, and expanded their territories into an empire which rivaled, and threatened, the established nation of Egypt.

They are repeatedly mentioned throughout the Hebrew Tanakh (also known as the Christian Old Testament) as the adversaries of the Israelites and their god. According to Genesis 10, they were the descendants of Heth, son of Canaan, who was the son of Ham, born of Noah (Genesis 10: 1-6). The name they are known by today, therefore, comes from the Bible and from the Amarna Letters of Egypt which reference a “Kingdom of Kheta” identified today as the `Kingdom of Hatti’ (the designation the land of the Hittites was known by) but their own documents refer to them as Nesili, as do others of the time.  

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This Helmet Has A Tail

Technically, its a Thracian helmet from the Odrysian Kingdom, between 431 and 424 BCE. But really, does it not look like a tail?

Regular

In 2010 an ancient king’s tomb was found in Turkey. Now, after eight years of excavations and preservation, the site is being opened to the public.

Who was the king, and why is his tomb so important?

These earrings have a story to tell. Unfortuna…

These earrings have a story to tell. Unfortunately, we don’t know most of it. They were most likely made in Constantinople around 600 CE, perhaps as an imperial gift to a Visigothic ruler of medieval Spain, where they were found in Extremadura. The Visigoths by that point had become the settled rulers of the Iberian Peninsula, and had established trade and diplomatic contacts with the Byzantine Empire. And its known that the Visigoths particularly prized Byzantine jewelry.

Mahmud II: The Great Reformer

historical-nonfiction:

Often called “Peter the Great of Turkey,” Mahmud II was the 30th sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He reigned from 1808 until his death in 1839. Mahmud II oversaw extensive military, administrative, and monetary reforms which were capped by the Decree of Tanzimat in 1839.

Tanzimat was an overarching modernizing effort which, among other things, ended tax farming, created military conscription from districts based on size (instead of the hereditary Janissaries), and created legal and social equality before the law for all citizen (instead of different religious systems operating autonomously, often with special privileges for favored sects). One aspect of Tanzimat greatly limited the sultan’s power: it guaranteed citizens the rights of life and property. This meant sultans could no longer execute or confiscate the property of anyone at whim.

Unfortunately, Mahmud II died in 1839, so Tanzimat had to be implemented by his sons and successors.

derivativesequence: The Auspicious Incident

Mahmud II is mostly remembered today for his … harsh … elimination of the janissaries. The once-elite fighting force had become an outdated, hereditary power broker that had overthrown previous sultans who attempted to curb their power, rather like the Praetorian Guard of the Roman Empire centuries before. So Mahmud’s harsh elimination of the janissaries was warranted.

In a nutshell, the Auspicious Incident was a revolt by the Janissaries after Mahmud II attempted to organize a new army, which would be modeled after contemporary European armies. The janissaries revolted, predictably, as they had in response previous attempts to modernize the army. The revolt was put down by having his new, modern troops fire on the janissary barracks. They caught fire, and those who escaped the fires were shot. About 4,000 were killed. Survivors were hunted down, and had their property confiscated, were executed, or both.

Just like that, the janissaries were done. Mahmud II managed to do what many sultans before him could not. The janissaries were no longer a sword, held to the sultan’s throat, which could change policies and regimes on a whim.

Mahmud II: The Great Reformer

Often called “Peter the Great of Turkey,” Mahmud II was the 30th sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He reigned from 1808 until his death in 1839. Mahmud II oversaw extensive military, administrative, and monetary reforms which were capped by the Decree of Tanzimat in 1839.

Tanzimat was an overarching modernizing effort which, among other things, ended tax farming, created military conscription from districts based on size (instead of the hereditary Janissaries), and created legal and social equality before the law for all citizen (instead of different religious systems operating autonomously, often with special privileges for favored sects). One aspect of Tanzimat greatly limited the sultan’s power: it guaranteed citizens the rights of life and property. This meant sultans could no longer execute or confiscate the property of anyone at whim.

Unfortunately, Mahmud II died in 1839, so Tanzimat had to be implemented by his sons and successors.

Before Istanbul, here are studio portraits of Constantinople…

Before Istanbul, here are studio portraits of Constantinople teenage boys in 1930.

Akdamar Church Van/Turkey, 1912

Akdamar Church Van/Turkey, 1912

via reddit