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Ottoman studies triumphant: the success story of Rethymno, Crete

  • Michael Ursinus (a1)


Ottoman Studies, in particular what we might call ‘hard-core’ or ‘archive-based’ Ottoman Studies with its considerable emphasis on Ottoman palaeography, Ottoman diplomatics and/or the cataloguing and editing of archival holdings (not necessarily as an end in itself but a first step towards advancing document-based studies on Ottoman history and culture) is a field that has come under considerable strain in recent years across (most of) Europe. This prompts the following question: Will the subject as we have known it still be able to reproduce itself in future?



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1 Mitteilungen des Seminars für orientalische Sprachen an der Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität zu Berlin 34.2 (Berlin 1931) 1–64 and 35.2 (Berlin 1932). The most up-to-date account of Ottoman archival sources in German archives and libraries (in Turkish) is H. G. Majer, ‘Almanya arşivleri ve kütüphanelerindeki Osmanlı belgeleri’, in Y. Köksal und M. Polatel (eds), Avrupa Arşivlerinde Osmanlı İmparatorluğu [Vekam Yayınları Araştırma Dizisi, II] (Ankara 2014) 15–29.

2 Cf. Stojanov, V., Die Entstehung und Entwicklung der osmanisch-türkischen Paläographie und Diplomatik. Mit einer Bibliographie (Berlin 1983).

3 A report by Franz Dölger about his research trip to Mount Athos in the spring of 1928 devoted to the study of Byzantine imperial diplomatics includes a brief account of the history of the discovery, cataloguing and editing of Byzantine imperial decrees from monastic holdings on Mount Athos from as early as 1726 and 1744: Dölger, F., ‘Der Kodikellos des Christodulos in Palermo’, Archiv für Urkundenforschung 11 (1929) 165; here pp. 57–65 (reprinted in Dölger, F., Byzantinische Diplomatik (Ettal 1956) 174).

4 Zajączkowski, A. and Reychman, J., Zarys dyplomatiki osmańsko-tureckiej (Warsaw 1955) 19, with a reference to Jacob, G., ‘Urkunden aus Ungarns Türkenzeit in türkischem Text und deutscher Übersetzung’, Der Islam 7 (Strassburg 1917) 170–85, in which Jacob had expressed the view that ‘Athens Besitz an türkischen Urkunden ist übrigens recht dürftig’, referring to two individual documents from the late 18th/early 19th centuries housed in the ‘Bibliothek zu Athen’ (presumably the National Library) (p. 178, n. 2). The English translation of the Zarys entitled Handbook of Ottoman-Turkish Diplomatics (The Hague and Paris 1968) repeats the sweeping 1955 statement.

5 Binon, S., Les origines légendaries et l’histoire de Xéropotamou et de Saint-Paul de l’Athos (Louvain 1942) 275. For his hand-drawn copy of the tuğra of Bayezid I above this Sultanic decree, composed in Greek, from St Paul's monastery on Mt Athos see Wittek, P., ‘Notes sur la ṭughra ottoman (I & II)’, Byzantion 18 (1948) 311–34; 20 (1950) 267–93; here 271. According to Wittek, Binon had sketched Bayezid's tuğra ‘sans connaissance ni des caractères arabes ni du contenu d'une tughra’. For Wittek's ‘reconstitution’ of Bayezid's tuğra see op. cit., Planche I, no. 3.

6 Personal communication from Elizabeth Zachariadou, March 2015.

7 See Balta, E., Ottoman Studies and Archives in Greece [Analecta Isisiana, 70] (Istanbul 2003, 2010); eadem, ‘Ottoman Studies in Modern Greek historiography’, in Z. Toska (ed.), Kaf dağının ötesine varmak: Festschrift in Honor of Günay Kut. Essays Presented by her Colleagues and Students, III, Journal of Turkish Studies 28.1 (2004) 9–16.

8 A. Anastasopoulos, Kolovos, E. and Sariyannis, M., ‘In honour of Professors Vassilis Demetriades and Elizabeth A. Zachariadou’, in Anastasopoulos, A. (ed.), The Eastern Mediterranean Under Ottoman Rule: Crete, 1645–1840: Halcyon Days in Crete VI: A Symposium Held in Rethymno, 13–15 January 2006 (Rethymno 2008) ix.

9 Demetriades, V.’, ‘Some thoughts on the origins of the devşirme’, in Zachariadou, E. A. (ed.), The Ottoman Emirate (1300–1389) (Rethymnon 1993) 23–34.

10 Zachariadou, E., ‘Symvoli stin istoria tou notioanatolikou Aiyaiou (me aformi ta patmiaka firmania ton eton 1454–1522)’, Symmeikta 1 (1966) 184230.

11 Cf. Vatin, N., Veinstein, G. and Zachariadou, E., Catalogue du fonds ottoman des archives du monastère de Saint-Jean à Patmos: Les vingt-deux premiers dossiers (Athens 2011).

12 For the project's website see

13 For the Programme's research activities in Ottoman archives across Greece, such as in Andros, Chania, Heraklion, Lefkada, Mount Athos and Veroia, see the distribution map on the IMS/FO.R.T.H. website:

14 For the Historical Archive of Macedonia:; for the Veroia Ottoman archive, made available online by the Greek General State Archives:, and for the Turkish Archive of Chania see: (in Greek only).

16 A. Anastasopoulos and E. Kolovos (eds), Ottoman Rule and the Balkans, 1760–1850: Conflict, Transformation, Adaptation. Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Rethymno, Greece, 13–14 December 2003 (Rethymno 2007). This volume is available also as an e-book:

18 E. Kolovos (ed.), Μοναστήρια, οικονομία και πολιτική. Από τους μεσαιωνικούς στους νεώτερους χρόνους (Heraklion 2011)

19 M. Sariyannis et al. (eds), New Trends in Ottoman Studies: Papers presented at the 20th CIÉPO Symposium, Rethymno, 27 June - 1 July 2012 (Rethymno 2014). The volume is available as an e-book on

20 See the Final Report on the situation of the so-called ‘Small Subjects’ in Baden-Württemberg:

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Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies
  • ISSN: 0307-0131
  • EISSN: 1749-625X
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