Ambassadors Report on the Ottomans

Ambassadors Report on the Ottomans - OGlER GHISELIN DE...

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Unformatted text preview: OGlER GHISELIN DE BUSBECQ: AN AMBASSADOR’S REPORT ON THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE, 1555 About the Document Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq was the ambassador from the Holy Roman Empire to the court of the Ottoman Empire from 1555 to 1562. The Ottoman Turks controlled much of Eastern Europe and periodically pushed westward toward central Europe. This made them enemies of the European states. De Busbecq was given the task of using diplomatic means to put an end to the Turk raids into Europe. The years he spent in Constantinople gave de Busbecq close contact with Suleiman the Great and life at the Ottoman Court. Through his letters to a friend and his official reports, de Busbecq gives us a fascinating look into the world of the Ottoman Turks. Here was an empire the Europeans had to deal with, but whose lifestyle and customs were very different from what Europeans were accustomed to. The Document The Sultan’s hall was crowded with people, . . . but there was not in all that great assembly a single man who owed his position to aught save valour and his merit. . . . Those who receive the highest offices fiom the Sultan are for the most part the sons of shepherds or herdsmen, and so far from being ashamed of their parentage, they actually glory in it, and consider it a matter of boasting that they owe nothing to the accident of birth. . . .Among the Turks. therefore, honours, high posts, and judgeships are the re- wards of great ability and good service. . . .These are not our ideas. with us there is no Opening left for merit; birth is the standard for everything; the prestige of birth is the sole key to advancement in the public service. . . . when they [the Turkish army] are hard pressed . . . they take out a few spoonfii]; of flour and put them into water, adding some butter, and seasoning the mess with salt and spices; these ingredients are boiled, and a large bowl of gruel is thus ob— tained. Of this they eat once or twice a day, according to the quantity they have, without any bread, unless they have brought some biscuit with them. In this way they are able to support themselves from their own supplies for a month, or if neces- sary longer. . . . From this you will see that it is the patience, self—denial, and thrift of the Turkish soldier that enable him to face the most trying circumstances, and come safely out of the dangers that surround him. What a contrast to our men! Christian soldiers on a campaign refiise to put up with their ordinary food and call for thrushes, becaficos, and such like dainty dishes! If these are not supplied they grow mutinous and work their own ruin; and, if they are supplied, they are ruined all the same. For each man is his own worst enemy, and has no foe more deadly than his own intemperance, which is sure to kill him, if the enemy be not quick. It makes me shudder to think of what the result of a struggle between such different systems must be; one of us must prevail and the other be destroyed, at any rate we cannot both exist in safety. On their side is the vast wealth of their empire, unimpaired resources, experience and practice in arms, a veteran soldiery, an uninterrupted series of victories, readiness to endure hardships, union, order, discipline, thrift, and watchfulness. On ours are found an empty exchequer,° luxurious habits, exhausted resources, broken spirits, a raw and insubordinate soldiery, and greedy generals; there is no regard for discipline, license runs riot, the men indulge in drunkenness and debauchery, and, worst of all, the enemy are accustomed to victory, we, to defeat. Can we doubt what the result must be? . . . Against us stands Solyman, that foe whom his own and his ancestors’ exploits have made so terrible; he tramples the soil of Hungary with 200,000 horses, he is at the very gates of Austria, threatens the rest of Germany, and brings in his train all the nations that extend fiaom our borders to those of Persia. The army he leads is equipped with the wealth of many kingdoms. Of the three regions, into which the world is divided, there is not one that does not contribute its share towards our destruction. Like a thunderbolt he strikes, shivers, and destroys everything in his way The troops he leads are trained veterans, accustomed to his command; he fills the world with the terror of his name. Like a raging lion he is always roaring around our borders, trying to break in, now in this place, now in that. Analysis and Review Questions 1. For those in the Sultan’s service, to what do they owe their positions? 2. How does de Busbecq compare this system of service with the way the Euro— peans operate? . Compare Turkish and Christian soldiers. What are the diflemnces between the two systems in terms of wartime operations. . How does de Busbecq describe “Solyman”? How does he describe Solyman’s strategy in war? ——-__—.___—_ L» we ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2008 for the course CULTURAL S 300 taught by Professor Mcquinn during the Spring '08 term at Pratt.

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Ambassadors Report on the Ottomans - OGlER GHISELIN DE...

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