Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, The Turkish Letters, 1. Ogier de Busbecq () was a Flemish nobleman who spent most of his life in the service. Busbecq, a Fleming, was the ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor at the Sublime Porte (the Turkish Sultan’s court in Constantinople) from A native of western Flanders, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq served in several posts as diplomatic representative for the Habsburg ruler Ferdinand I (King of.
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Some modern Western scholars would ascribe the long-lasting existence of Ottoman rule busebcq oppression and a strong military presence. According to this view, it was fear and terror that brought authority and control over at least the Balkans, a dominantly Christian territory.
Careful and accurate scholarship, however, has revealed that this was certainly not the case. The majority of historical sources and archives have so far disclosed highly turiish administrative skills in the Ottoman state affairs.
The Ottoman experience of social and cultural life provides valuable lessons for those nations that live in these regions today: The value of putting aside ethnic, religious and cultural differences, of living together and cooperating for turrkish better future, and the sacredness of human life and the respect for the right of others to live, as well as freedom of expression and religion all existed in this state.
Historically thrkish, Western Europe has always been in contact with the Ottomans through commerce or other forms of international relations. Diplomacy in the Middle Ages and afterwards was made possible by ambassadors. These ambassadors would conduct negotiations regarding disputes and sign new agreements.
The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq: A Biography by Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
On his part, the Caliph turoish sent many gifts to Charlemagne, one famous one being a clock. In a similar vein, many ambassadors had the chance to see lehters study Ottoman life closely during their visits. These visits considerably increased in number with the agreement of concessions granted by the Ottomans.
The ambassadors would often record their experiences as notes or letters, which have proven to be of indispensable value for us today in studying an era and civilization about which not much is known. He came to Turkey and wrote about the life in Ottoman lands and their public administration practices. Busbecq grew up at Busbecq Castle as the son of the reputable Busbecq family. He studied in famous schools and like his father and grandfather he followed a career as a servant of the crown.
For the duration of his service in the Ottoman lands, Busbecq constantly wrote letters to a friend in the Netherlands. These were later on published many times, most bsubecq by Forster and Daniel in as the Turkish Letters. One of the letters busvecq of particular interest as it sheds light on certain historical aspects related to the Janissaries, the well-trained Ottoman guards.
The Ottoman Muslim conquests in Eastern Europe certainly contributed to this. Bussbecq, Busbecq, after a prolonged visit to the Ottoman sultan, had the chance to evaluate the Janissaries and he developed some sympathy with them. In his letter he describes these guards as being of good character and spiritually elevated.
In fact, Busbecq starts this letter with a description of these highly-educated Janissaries, how they function and their duties in the Ottoman lands, as well as their equitable and unbiased treatment of the public, poor or rich, Muslim or non-Muslim:. There is no district with any considerable amount of population, no borough or city, which has not a detachment of Janissaries to protect the Christians, Jews, and other helpless people from outrage and wrong. Busbecq goes on to comment about the gentle and polite disposition of Janissaries.
In fact, he seems to be quite impressed by the simplicity and modesty of these guards, praising them highly, as can be seen in his next letter:.
When they were admitted to my dining room they first bowed, and then came quickly up turkisn me, all but running, and touched my dress or hand, as if they intended to kiss it… After reaching the door, they would stand respectfully with their arms crossed, and their eyes bowed to the ground, looking more like monks than warriors… To tell you busbbecq truth, if I had not been told beforehand that they were Janissaries, I should, without hesitation, have taken them for members of some order of Turkish monks, or brethren of some Moslem lettets.
Yet these are the famous Janissaries, whose approach inspires terror everywhere. According to Busbecq, these soldiers were ready to act even under extremely harsh conditions, accepting with resignation all that happened due to their faith. The Janissaries were certainly trained to obey their commander under the most severe of circumstances.
In addition, Busbecq admired the Janissaries, who would never complain about difficulties:. Busbecq then goes on to compare the attitudes of these soldiers with their Western counterparts and admits the supremacy of the former with stunning self-assessment and criticism:.
The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq: A Biography
What a contrast to our men! On ours are found an empty exchequer, luxurious habits, exhausted resources, broken spirits, a raw and insubordinate soldiery, and greedy quarrels; rurkish is no regard for discipline, license runs riot, the men indulge in drunkenness and debauchery, and worst of all, the enemy are accustomed lteters victory, we to defeat. Can we doubt what the result must be? Thus, Busbecq sets out several universal virtues and ethical and moral principles as belonging to the Janissaries.
Selflessness, humility, simplicity, integrity, and honor are among the virtues that Busbecq attributes to the Janissaries. He believes the way that individuals are ranked and merited for turkisb job or promotion in the Ottomans is certainly of importance and may help us at least to partially explain the lofty character of the Janissaries.
According to Busbecq, the merits for an important position in public service and authority should be based on character and ability, rather than privileges of birth, prosperity or social status:.
In making his appointments the Sultan pays no regard to any pretensions on the score of wealth or rank, nor does he take into consideration recommendations or popularity, he considers each case on its own merits, and examines carefully into the character, ability, and disposition of the man whose promotion is in question.
These remarks are astounding, even to us today. Being awarded with a position is based on qualifications and past accomplishments rather than social status and rank.
This normative statement certainly has political and social implications. Busbecq continues in his claim even further:. Among the Turks, therefore, honors, high posts, and judgeships are the rewards of great ability and good service. If a man be dishonest, or lazy, or careless, he remains at the bottom of the ladder, an object of contempt; for such qualities there are no honors in Turkey!
Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
Nobody is held responsible for the misfortunes or sins of their parents. Everybody is accountable for his or her own deeds. The lofty character of a mother and father does not pass to the children at birth.
It is how a child is raised and educated bisbecq really matters in society. People who are elevated intellectually or spiritually are those who benefit themselves and society. Without a doubt these universal messages that Busbecq proclaims with honesty are ones that we wholeheartedly support. In addition to being an indispensable source of information about Ottoman life more than four centuries ago, these letters also provide valuable lessons for policymakers.
They remind us that the foundations of great civilizations and military power were lofty values and virtues. Power, when in the hands of the righteous, becomes an instrument for stability and balance. On the contrary, when in the hands of a tyrant, power causes chaos and anarchy in the world. Morality, integrity, equity and fairness, as well as merit, are some of the principles that may guide nations towards progress and prosperity.
They will also be remembered forever. Those who put their own hedonistic ambitions before all else are doomed to be forgotten. Nobody will remember lftters lavish and inconsiderate lives or existence. Several uprisings by local populations in different parts of the Ottoman State occurred. But their number was very limited.
In the case of the Balkans, for at least years, and in the Middle East for at least years, social life was very calm and stable. All words Any word Exact Phrase Wildcard. Relevance Newest First Oldest First. The “Turkish Letters” of Ogier G. Home Issue 78 November – December