Apr 29, 2013

Neither Muslim Nor Christian

with Zeynep Türkyılmaz
hosted by Chris Gratien and Vedica Kant

Stories of insincere conversion under duress and secret Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire give the impression that many Christians lived in hiding from a Muslim majority. However, as Zeynep Türkyılmaz argues in this podcast, the phenomenon of Crypto-Christianity is really more complex, as diversity and heterogeneity among the Ottoman Empire's rural communities gave rise to "in-between" groups that did not conform to categories of identity being formulated in the center. In this episode, we focus on the Trabzon region in order to understand how local communities sought to define their participation in a rapidly transforming society and economy of the nineteenth century.

Zeynep Türkyılmaz is an Assistant Professor of History at Dartmouth College. (see faculty page)
Chris Gratien is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Georgetown University. (see academia.edu)
Vedica Kant is a graduate of Oxford University's Middle Eastern Studies program.

Episode No. 104
Release Date: 29 April 2013
Location: Şişhane, Istanbul
Editing and Production: Chris Gratien
Musical excerpt: Andonis Katanos
Bibliography and images courtesy of Zeynep Türkyılmaz

This episode is part of our Historicized Identities series


Andreades, Georgios [Yorgos]. The Cryptochristians : Klostoi : Those Who Returned ; Tenesur : Those Who Have Changed. Translated by Theodota Nantsou. Thessaloniki: Kuriakidis Bros., 1995.

Baer, Marc David. Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Bryer, Anthony.   "The Crypto-Christians of the Pontos and Consul William Gifford Palgrave of Trebizond." Deltio Kentrou Mikraasiatikon Spoudon, no. 4 (1983): 13-68.

Deringil, Selim. ""There Is No Compulsion in Religion": On Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire: 1839-1856." Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, no. 3 (2000): 547-575.

Krstić, Tijana. Contested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2011.

Reinkowski, Maurus. "Hidden Believers, Hidden Apostates: The Phenomenon of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Christians in the Middle East." In Converting Cultures : Religion, Ideology, and Transformations of Modernity, ed. Dennis C. Washburn and A. Kevin Reinhart. Leiden; Boston; Biggleswade: Brill ; Extenza Turpin [distributor], 2007.


Late Ottoman Postcard of Kurum, near Trabzon (Source: Hakan Akcaoglu)
Signiature of Küpcüoğlu, one of the leaders of the Istavri movement (from Ottoman archives)

Apr 28, 2013

Athenian Monument Turned Sufi Lodge

by Emily Neumeier
published 28 April 2013

Buildings have many lives, and over time can serve many purposes. For the Ottoman Empire, it is common enough to read about Byzantine churches converted into mosques, but there were actually many types of buildings that ended up being re-purposed for different communities and uses. 

This is especially true in Athens, where, in the Ottoman period, the monuments of ancient Greece were utilized by the local population. We know from old engravings, for example, that there used to be a mosque, a converted Byzantine church, located within the sanctuary of the Parthenon itself. 

[1] Tower of the Winds, first built c. 50 BC
Another interesting example is the Tower of the Winds [1], today located in the ancient agora of Athens. Allegedly built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus  around 50 BC, it was originally built essentially to be a glorified, 12-meter-tall clock, with sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane at the top. The frieze located at the very top of the monument features the eight wind deities, representing the cardinal directions. At some point the tower fell into disuse, and by the Byzantine period, it had been converted into the bell-tower for a church. In the Ottoman period, the Tower of the Winds became a Sufi lodge (tekke). 

[2] Tower of the Winds, idealized view,
 from The Antiquities of Athens (1762)
At least by the 18th century, it seems that a local group of the Mevlevi order (the so-called "whirling dervishes") co-opted the monument for their meetings and ceremonies. That's how the British archaeologists James Stuart and Nicholas Revett found the site in the 1750s; they published both idealized and contemporary views of the tower in their book The Antiquities of Athens (1762), which essentially jump-started the Greek Revival in European architecture [2,3]. There is a stark contrast between the idealized view, which strips away the changes to the tower over the centuries and restores the building back to the pristine, "original" Classical period, and the contemporary view of the monument as the archaeologists encountered the tower themselves in the 18th century, the scene brought to life by the local villagers and the walls and roofs of the Ottoman neighborhood. The theme of re-use is continued in the bottom-left corner of the contemporary view; pieces of a male nude sculpture and an ancient Ionic capital are embedded into the wall of a village garden. From this engraving, it is apparent that in the 18th century the tower was half-buried after centuries of urban life, and one probably had to descend to the doorway via a flight of stairs from the street level. 

[3] Tower of the Winds, contemporary view,
from The Antiquities of Athens (1762). 

Another British traveler, Edward Dodwell, visited Athens in the beginning of the 19th century. This is what he saw: 

To the south-east of the Agora is the octagonal Tower of the Eight Winds; the Clepsydra of Andronicus Cyrrhestes, described by Vitruvius; called Horologium by Varro, and was the waterclock, or chronometer, as well as weather guide of ancient Athens. It is worthy [of] admiration more from its peculiarity than beauty. It escaped the observation of Pausanias, while Stuart, in numerous plates, renders justice to so considerable and perfect a remain of antiquity.

[4] Tower of the Winds, Entrance to the
Sufi Lodge, Views of Greece (1821). 
Over the lintel, which faces the north-east, upon a red-ground, is inscribed the Arabic La Illah, Allah, Mahamed u resoul ullah--declaring there to be no God but God, and Mahamed to be his prophet. [4]

The wooden floor of the interior rests upon the lower cornice, many feet above the ancient pavement. The marble walls are washed with an uniform white. The Mihrab, painted in perpendicular stripes of green and red, indicates by its position the direction of the Kaaba, or oratory of Mecca; each side of this is a wax candle, and the green flag of the prophet has also its place. The Koran is deposited within this niche, and an imitation of the two-edged sword of Ali is attached to the adjoining wall. 

[5] Tower of the Winds, "Dance of the
 Dervishes", Views of Greece (1821).  
Before these is performed the circularly whirling dance of the Dervishes, [5] witnessing which, the spectator will find it as difficult to remain serious, as it would be dangerous to appear otherwise. Dervishes are not alone the actors in this piece of mummery, as other Turks mix with the party. In a circle, sitting upon the floor, they begin with the praises of God and the prophet; their heads and bodies by their motion backwards and forwards indicating the fervency of their devotion, as well as keeping time in unison with two small drums, the only instrumental accompaniment, until the paroxysm of enthusiasm animates the whole congregation, who simultaneously start up and whirl in ceaseless frenzy around the apartment, while the sheikh or chief, attired in the sacred green, and wearing a large white turban, incites them by his voice and the sound of his larger tambour. This curious ceremony bears a strong resemblance to the festivals of the Corybontes, who, in honour of Cybele, danced to the sound of their cymbals until they became delirious; of which dance the description furnished by Apuleius and Strabo is remarkably applicable to that practiced by the modern Athenian Dervishes.

Although the text is rife with Orientalist commentary (referring to the ceremony as "mummery", for example), this passage and the accompanying engravings nevertheless can serve to help us understand how the dervishes adapted the ancient tower into a lodge space. It seems that in this period the tower was half-buried, with the wooden floor of the lodge being several meters above the original ground level of the tower, which is now again exposed due to modern excavations. We can also see from the engravings that the walls of the tower were decorated with calligraphic panels, many probably figurative. In image 4, Dodwell depicts the entrance of the tower, with an inscription in Arabic of the shadiha ("There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God") having been affixed above the doorway. Although the inscription is not exactly accurate, it is still very legible in the engraving, meaning that Dodwell, presumably not knowing Arabic, very carefully sketched the letters by sight. The ceremony that Dodwell describes witnessing, represented in image 5, is the sema, or the famous whirling dance of the Mevlevi order. 

DODWELL, Edward. Views in Greece. London, 1821. 
STUART, James, and Nicholas Revett. The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece. London, 1762.

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Apr 24, 2013

Komitas: a Biographical Mixtape

The biography and intellectual legacy of Komitas Vardapet, an orphan from Kütahya who became one of the foremost Armenian intellectuals of his day, is firmly embedded within Armenian national lore. Yet, seldom has it been told as an Ottoman story. This mixtape presents the life and works of Komitas through some of the earliest recordings of Armenian music, including his own performances. 

Section 1: From Bursa to Berlin: the Rise of an Armenian Ethnomusicologist

Section 2: Komitas Between Armenian and Turkish Nationalism

Chris Gratien is a PhD candidate studying the history of the modern Middle East at Georgetown University. (see academia.edu)

Note for the listener: Although this podcast refers to certain primary sources, it is not primarily a work of primary source research. It is a synthesis of publicly available information and draws extensively from the following works below, which are also mentioned during the course of the episode. For the purposes of academic citation, we encourage you to consult these works.


Komitas: Essays and Articles : the Musicological Treatises of Komitas Vardapet. Pasadena, Calif: Drazark Press, 2001.

Kuyumjian, Rita Soulahian. Archeology of Madness: Komitas, Portrait of an Armenian Icon. Princeton, N.J.: Gomidas Institute, 2001.

Gasparean, Gurgen. Komitas Vardapet: 1869-1935. Yerevan: Sargis Xačenc̕, 2009.

Azatean, Toros. Komitas Vardapet̕: Ir keank̕n ow gorçownēowt̕iwnë. Istanbul: Kiwt̕emperk, 1931.

Adıvar, Halide Edib. Memoirs of Halidé Edib. New York: Century Co, 1926. (click for PDF)

Komitas Virtual Museum (komitas.am)


This episode contains excerpts of recordings by Komitas, his contemporaries, and his interpreters. All of these recordings are available for download or streaming through Komitas Virtual Museum or on Youtube. Here is a complete list of these music samples as they appear in the podcast as well as links where you can listen to the entire recordings.

To read about the history of the recordings of Komitas, see Will Prentice's commentary.

For the Komitas Virtual Museum, see komitas.am

"Antouni" performed by Armenak Shahmuradian and Komitas Vardapet [audio]
"Qristos i mej mer haycanav" performed by Male Chamber Choir of the Yerevan Opera Theatre [audio]
"Mokats Mirza" performed by Komitas Vardapet [lyrics] [audio]
"Hol Ara Yezo" performed by Komitas Vardapet and Vahan Ter Arakelian [audio]
"Andzrevn Ekav" performed by State Academic Choir of Armenia, artistic director and conductor Hovhannes Tchekidjian [audio]
"Tsirani Tsar" performed by Lusine Zakarian [audio]
"Lorva Gutanerg" performed by Komitas Vardapet [audio]
"Garun a" performed by Armenak Shahmuradian and Komitas Vardapet [lyrics] [audio]
"Krunk" performed by Armenak Shahmuradian and Komitas Vardapet [lyrics] [audio]

Additional Background Music

Zemphira Barseghian piano performances the works of Komitas
Komitas String quartet, 1st violin - Edward Tadevosyan, 2nd violin - Souren Hakhnazaryan, viola - Alexander Kosemyan, chello - Felix Simonyan
"Urakh Ler" performed by Mari Pozapalian [audio]


Komitas in Cairo, 1911
Source: komitas.am
Komitas in Berlin
Source: komitas.am

Komitas in his Pangaltı Apartment in Istanbul, 1913-4
Source: Gurgen Gasparian, Komitas Vardapet (2009)

Komitas's Choir in Alexandria, 1911
Source: Azatean, Toros. Komitas Vardapet̕: Ir keank̕n ow gorçownēowt̕iwnë (1931)

Komitas with Astuatsatur Harents on Büyük Ada near Istanbul, 1916
Source: Gurgen Gasparian, Komitas Vardapet (2009)

Apr 19, 2013

Child and Nation in Early Republican Turkey

with Yasemin Gencer

hosted by Chris Gratien and Emily Neumeier

Following the World War I period, the founders of a new Turkish Republic sought to define and legitimize the new order as a break with the Ottoman past. In this episode, Yasemin Gencer explains the ways in which  notions such as childhood were used to construct the image of a renewed Turkish society in the nationalist press during the early years of the Republican period.

Yasemin Gencer is a PhD candidate at Indiana University studying Art History. (see academia.edu)
Chris Gratien is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Georgetown University. (see academia.edu)
Emily Neumeier is a PhD student of Ottoman art history at the University of Pennsylvania (see academia.edu)


Citation: "Child and Nation in Early Republican Turkey," Yasemin Gencer, Chris Gratien, and Emily Neumeier, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 102 (April 19, 2013) http://www.ottomanhistorypodcast.com/2013/04/childhood-family-press-turkish-nationalism-republic.html.


Chris Gratien and Yasemin Gencer / Kurtuluş, Istanbul
Gencer, Yasemin, "We Are Family: The Child and Modern Nationhood in Early Turkish Republican Cartoons (1923-28)," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 2012 Volume 32, Number 2: 294-309.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London and New York: Verso, 2006.
Breuilly, John. Nationalism and the State. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Brummett, Palmira J. Image and Imperialism in the Ottoman Revolutionary Press, 1908-1911. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000. 
Cristi, Marcela. From Civil to Political Religion: The Intersection of Culture, Religion and Politics. Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2001. 
Çeviker, Turgut. Gelişim Sürecinde Türk Karikatürü-III. Istanbul: Adam (Anadolu) Yayınları, 1991.
Göçek, Fatma Müge, ed. Political Cartoons in the Middle East. Princeton: Markus Weiner Publishers, 1998. 
Karpat, Kemal H. "Historical Continuity and Identity Change or How to be Modern Muslim, Ottoman, and Turk." In Ottoman Past and Today's Turkey, ed. Kemal Karpat, 1–28. Leiden, Boston, and Köln: Brill, 2000. 
Robinson, Kathryn. “Families: Metaphors of Nation (Overview).” In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, vol. 2, Family, Law, and Politics, ed. Suad Joseph, 154–60. Leiden: Brill, 2005. 
Sönmez, Cemil. Atatürk’te Çocuk Sevgisi. Ankara: Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi, 2004. 
Ünder, Hasan. “Atatürk İmgesinin Siyasal Yaşamdaki Rolü.” In: Modern Türkiye’de Siyasi Düşünce: Kemalizm, vol. 2. Istanbul: İletişim Yayınevi, 2001.


“The Republic is Walking!” Karagöz (no. 1650, p. 1), 9 January 1924.
 “Ottoman Empire vs. Turkish Republic,” Akbaba (no. 199, p. 1), 30 October 1924.
“When I Grow Up,” Akbaba (no. 407, p. 4), 28 October 1926.
 “Our Father is Coming!” Cumhuriyet (no. 1128, p. 1), 1 July 1927.
 “We Are Saved,” Akbaba (no. 614, p. 1), 29 October 1928.

“The Republic is Walking!” Karagöz (no. 1650, p. 1), 9 January 1924.Source: Yasemin Gencer
 “Ottoman Empire vs. Turkish Republic,” Akbaba (no. 199, p. 1), 30 October 1924.Source: Yasemin Gencer

“When I Grow Up,” Akbaba (no. 407, p. 4), 28 October 1926.Source: Yasemin Gencer

“Our Father is Coming!” Cumhuriyet (no. 1128, p. 1), 1 July 1927.Source: Yasemin Gencer

 “We Are Saved,” Akbaba (no. 614, p. 1), 29 October 1928.
Source: Yasemin Gencer

Apr 12, 2013

Hydropolitics and the Hajj

with Michael Christopher Low

hosted by Chris Gratien

This episode is part of an ongoing series entitled History of Science, Ottoman or Otherwise.
Download the series
Podcast Feed | iTunes | Hipcast | Soundcloud

Water Distillation Machine
Installed in Jidda (1911)
Source: Kasım İzzeddin, Hicaz'da
teşkilât ve ıslahat-ı sıhhiye (1330)
During the nineteenth century, imperial states became increasingly concerned with the management of disease and resources. For the Ottoman Empire, the issues of disease and water converged on the hajj pilgrimage, which brought annual throngs of thirsty disease vectors to the Hijaz region. In this podcast, Michael Christopher Low examines the su meselesi or “water issue” of the Ottoman Empire during the Hamidian era and its importance for understanding the ecological transformation of Saudi Arabia over the past century.

Apr 4, 2013

Gelenekten Gelenekçiliğe: Osmanlı ve Müzik | Cem Behar

100.     Music and the Making of Tradition

Over the past century, a genre of music called Turkish classical music (sanat muzikisi) emerged as a would-be revival of traditional Ottoman/Turkish music that emerged during the sixteenth century. In this episode, Cem Behar clears up some widespread misconceptions about the history of this music and explains how we have gone from tradition to "traditionalism" with regards to the Ottoman musical past (note: podcast is in Turkish).

Bu ezber bozan podcastımızda Prof. Dr. Cem Behar bizlere 16. yüzyılın ortalarında zuhur eden geleneksel Osmanlı/Türk musikisinin modernizasyon projesi çerçevesinde bir çok "icat edilmiş gelenek" ile nasıl inkıta'ya uğratıldığını anlatıyor. Günümüz Türk Sanat musikisi ile Osmanlı dönemindeki musikinin kompozisyon ve icraları arasındaki farklılıklar üzerinde durarak "gelenek"in yerini nasıl "gelenekçilik"e bıraktığına dikkati çektikten sonra, geleneksel Osmanlı/Türk musikisinin bir çok karanlık yönüne ışık tutuyor.

Prof. Dr. Cem Behar İstanbul Şehir Üniversitesi İşletme Bölümü'nde öğretim üyeliği yapmaktadır. (see faculty page)
Yeniçağ Akdeniz Tarihi ve Osmanlı İmparatorluğu üzerine uzmanlaşan Dr. Emrah Safa Gürkan İstanbul 29 Mayıs Üniversitesi'nde ders vermektedir. (bkz. academia.edu)
Osmanlı Askeri Tarihi üzerine uzmanlaşan Dr. Kahraman Şakul İstanbul Şehir Üniversitesi Tarih Bölümü'nde öğretim üyesidir. (academia.edu)

Citation: "Gelenekten Gelenekçiliğe: Osmanlı ve Müzik," Cem Behar, Emrah Safa Gürkan, Kahraman Şakul, and Chris Gratien, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 100 (April 4, 2013) ttp://www.ottomanhistorypodcast.com/2011/04/music-modernization-tradition-ottoman-empire-behar.html.


Cem Behar, Klasik Türk musikisi üzerine denemeler (İstanbul: Bağlam Yayınları, 1987).

Cem Behar, Ali Ufkî ve Mezmurlar (İstanbul: Pan Yayıncılık, 1990).

Cem Behar, Zaman, mekân, müzik: Klasik Türk musıkisinde eğitim (meşk), icra ve aktarım (İstanbul: Alfa Yayınları, 1993).

Cem Behar, Aşk Olmayınca Meşk Olmaz: Geleneksel Osmanlı Türk Müziği'nde Eğitim ve İntikal (İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 1998). 

Cem Behar, Musıkiden müziğe: Osmanlı / Türk müziği: gelenek ve modernlik (makaleler, kaynaklar, metinler) (İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2005).

Cem Behar, “The Ottoman Musical Tradition,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey, Volume 3: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603-1839, ed. Suraiya N. Faroqhi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006): 393-407.

Cem Behar, Şeyhülislâm'ın müziği: 18. yüzyılda Osmanlı/Türk musıkisi ve Şeyhülislâm Es'ad Efendi'nin Atrabü'l-âsâr'ı (İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2010).