Byzantium in the 16th century
This workshop will explore aspects of the survival of Byzantine Constantinople within the context of early Ottoman Istanbul. The fact that elements of the tangible and intangible heritage of the capital of the Byzantine empire were preserved as the city’s urban layout was gradually transformed during the decades after the Ottoman conquest of 1453 is well known to international scholarship. Yet, the nature of this transformation and the degree to which the Byzantine background affected 16th-century realities is possible through the thorough study of an array of texts, careful examination of the material remains still visible in modern Istanbul, and a close focus on the diverse institutions active in Ottoman Istanbul.
This Byzantine background was extremely important for contemporary life at an international level for several religious and social groups, often with conflicting interests. For the Ottomans it was a reference point for an imperial legacy which the Ottoman Empire was in the process of claiming for itself as the new global power. For local Christians, it was a reminder of a glorious past and binding element for their survival as a minority community within the dominant Islamic state. For Western Europeans it was a source of knowledge about late Roman and early Christian antiquity and even an ideological lever within the context of western powers’ confrontation with the Ottomans. Thus, the memory of the Byzantine empire was still a defining factor for politics, society, and culture in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the workshop the participants will investigate diverse aspects of the urban physiognomy and cultural activity of Constantinople/Istanbul during its early Ottoman phase. They will adopt various points of view and will focus on aspects of the Ottoman urban and institutional framework, the theological, humanist, and political interests of scholars and diplomats active in the city, the identity and organization of the local Christians under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the availability of books, the appearance, use, and re-use of the Byzantine monuments and public spaces, and the ways the image of the city was captured by artists and mapmakers for western European audiences. By combining these approaches, they will address more complex issues, such as the ways Ottoman-Habsburg relationships were affected by the familiarization of westerners with the physical space of the Ottoman capital and its Byzantine background and the ways the Patriarchate assumed a leading role in the organization of Christians in the Ottoman Empire, as well as internationally, through its discussions with the Orthodox world and other Christian denominations beyond the Ottoman empire, as well as the importance of the physical space for the development of classical and Byzantine studies on a world-wide basis.
By bringing together scholars specializing in Ottoman history and art history, Byzantine and post-Byzantine history and diplomatics, Byzantine architecture and archaeology, Western European travel literature, and Byzantine art history and historical topography from Germany, Italy, Greece, Russia, and Turkey we aim to explore these issues from a broad variety of aspects, disciplines, and methodological approaches.
20. May 2022