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The Ottoman Conquest of Egypt (1517) and the Beginning of the Sixteenth-Century World War

  • Andrew C. Hess (a1)


Throughout the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries major changes in the relations between great states once again highlighted the importance of a land whose history marks all ages — Egypt. Students of Western naval explorations are familiar with the significant place of Egypt in the imperial plans of the Portuguese during their expansion into the Indian Ocean after 1488. But while the Portuguese attempt to control the Red Sea and Persian Gulf trading routes brought Egyptian history solidly within the periphery of European scholarly interest, the almost simultaneous conquest of the Mamluk empire by the Ottomans (1517) makes no such impact on the historiography of the Western world. Yet the seizure of Syria, Egypt, and Arabia not only catapulted the Ottomans into a position of leadership within the vast Muslim community, but it also gave the Istanbul regime resources sufficient to project its power north to the gates of Vienna and west to the Strait of Gibraltar. Could this ‘distant’ conquest have played a more active role in the history of Europe than hitherto imagined? Clearly the answer to this question involves a comparison between the imperial histories of Europe and the Middle East during the age of the Renaissance. Once the first steps are taken to break the artificial historical divisions preventing such a comparison, there is little doubt that Selim the Grim's victory over the Mamluk empire was a major event in both European and Middle Eastern history.



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page 55 note 1 Western authors who recognize the importance of the Ottoman conquest of Egypt are Braudel, Fernand, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II, 2nd ed. (2 vols., Paris, 1966), vol. 2, pp. 1618; and de Magalhāes Godinho, Vitorino, ‘A viragem mundial de 1517–1524 eo o império português’, in Ensaios Sobre História de Portugal (2 vols., Lisbon, 1968), vol. 2, pp. 141–53. The arguments contained herein owe much to the scholarly exchange that took place at the University of Washington conference on ‘Islam in the Later Middle Ages’, 19–21 June 1970.

page 56 note 1 The best expression of this point of view is in Toynbee, Arnold J., Civilization on Trial (New York, 1948), pp. 6296.

page 56 note 2 A study of the Asian reaction to the Oceanic Revolution from the Western point of view is covered in the following article collections published under the general editorship of Stavrianos, Leften: The Muslim World on the Eve of Europe's Expansion, ed. Saunders, John J. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1966);European Expansion and the Counter- Example of Asia, 1300–1600, ed. Levenson, Joseph R. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1967); and Asia on the Eve of Europe's Expansion, ed. Lach, Donald F. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1965). The technological conservatism of Asians during the Age of Discoveries is the special concern of Cipolla, Carlo M., Guns, Sails, and Empires (New York, 1965).

page 56 note 3 This tendency reaches a climax with Lach, Donald F., Asia in the Making of Europe (vol. 1 in two books to date, Chicago, 1965), vol. 1/2, xv, where he defines the Islamic world out of Asia.

page 56 note 4 For example, Saunders, John J., ‘The Problems of Islamic Decadence’, Journal of World History, vol. 7/3 (1963), pp. 701–20; and Cahen, Claude, ‘Quelques mots sur le déclin commercial du monde musulman à la fin du Moyen Age’, in Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East, ed. Cook, M. A. (London, 1970), pp. 31–6.

page 58 note 1 Mamluk policy in the Red Sea regions at the time of the Ming voyages in the Indian Ocean is covered by Darrag, Ahmad, L'Égypte sous le règne de Barsbay 825–841/1422–1438 (Damas, 1961,), pp. 197237. For the Chinese view of international relations see The Chinese World Order, ed. Fairbank, John King (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968), passim.

page 58 note 2 The drift of events in fifteenth-century Persia has been summarized by Minorsky, Vladimir F., ‘La Perse au XVe siècle’, in Iranica (Tehran, 1964), pp. 317–26. On the military and administrative history of the Ak Koyunlu dynasty and the Ottomans compare Minorsky, V., Persia in A.D. 1478–1490, in Royal Asiatic Society Monographs, vol. 26 (London, 1957), pp. 20–4, 36–41, 63, 88, 116, with Neşrî, Mehmed, Kitâb-i Cihan-Nümâ (2 vols., Ankara, 1949–57), vol: 2, p. 819;Kemal, Ibn, Tevârih-i-Al-i Osinan. VII Defter, photo. reproduction in vol. 1, transcription and criticism in vol. 2 by ŞSerafettin Turan (hereafter all references to vol. 2, cited as Ibn Kemal) (Ankara, 1954–7), vol. 2, pp. 316– 19, 338–9;Savory, R. M., ‘The Struggle for Supremacy in Persia after the Death of Timur’, Der Islam, vol. 60 (1964), pp. 3565; and Wittek, Paul, ‘De la défaite d'Ankara à la prise de Constantinople’, Revue des études islamiques, vol. 12 (1938), pp. 134.

page 59 note 1 Darrag, Ahmad, L'Égypte, pp. 5–7, 162, 381, 391–9, covers the boundary problems in the early portion of the fifteenth century. The struggle between the Ottomans and the Mamluks for influence at the Ak Koyunlu court after 1453 is inTihrânî, Abû Bakr-i, Kitâb-i Diyârbakriyya, ed. Lugal, Necati and Sümer, Faruk (2 vols., Ankara, 1962–4), vol. 2, pp. 553–4. The Ottoman defeat of the Ak Koyunlu at Otlukbeli in 1473 is in Ibn Kemal, pp. 353–8.

page 59 note 2 Ehrenkreutz, A. S., ‘Contributions to the Knowledge of the Fiscal Administration of Egypt in the Middle Ages’, BSOAS, vol. 16/3 (1954), pp. 502–14.

page 60 note 1 On fifteenth-century Portuguese expansion see Boxer, C. R., The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415–1825 (New York, 1969), pp. 138. The economic side of Portuguese activity in Africa is in Magalhães-Godinho, Vitorino, L'Économie de l'empire portugais aux XVe et XVIse siècles (Paris, 1969), pp. 33–4, et passim.

page 60 note 2 Ibid. pp. 17–31, 290–310, 550–5, 783.

page 60 note 3 Boxer, The Portuguese, pp; 33–8; and Livermore, H. V., A New History of Portugal (Cambridge, 1966), pp. 122–31.

page 61 note 1 Darrag, Ahmad, L'Égypte, pp. 210–11, 331–9.

page 61 note 2 Elliott, J. H., Imperial Spain 1469–1716 (New York, 1963), pp. 128–60, gives a general picture of Spanish expansion. The counter-expansion of the Ottomans is described in Hayreddin Barbarossa's history.Rang, Sander and Denis, J. F., Fondation de la régime d'Alger, histoire des Berberousse (2 vols., Paris, 1837), vol. 1, pp. 21283.

page 62 note 1 For a summary of Turkish naval history through the conquest of Egypt see Hess, Andrew C., ‘The Evolution of the Ottoman Seaborne Empire in the Age of the Oceanic Discoveries, 1453–1525’, The American Historical Review, vol. 75/7 (12 1970), pp. 18701919.

page 62 note 2 Figures on the Ottoman fleet are in Ibn Kemal, pp. 42–3; ‘Aşikpaşzâde, , 'Aşikpaşazâde Tarihi (Die Altosmanische Chronik des 'Aşkpaşazâde), ed. Giese, Friedrich (Leipzig, 1929), p. 132; and Kritovoulos, , History of Mehmed the Conqueror, trans. Riggs, Charles T. (Princeton, New Jersey, 1954), p. 37. Italian and Greek figures are given by Runciman, Steven, The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 (Cambridge, 1965), pp. 215; 76, n. I.

page 62 note 3 Kemal, Ibn, pp. 220–1, 285, 383–5, 470–3, 500, 507–8, records the imperial use of the Ottoman fleet.

page 62 note 4 Kritovoulos, pp. 37, 83, 93, 140–1, 148–9, 184–5; 'Aşikpaşazâde, pp. 133, 148; Ibn Kemal, pp. 96–8, 101;Argenti, Philip P., The Occupation of Chios by the Genoese and their Administration of the Island, pp. 1346–566 (3 vols., London, 1958), vol. 1, p. 219; and Sanjian, Avedis K., Colophons of Armenian Manuscripts, 1301–1480 (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), pp. 245, 284, 326.

page 63 note 1 Compare Thiriet, Freddy, La Romanie vénitienne au Moyen Age (Paris, 1959), pp. 445;Kemal, Ibn, pp. 105–6, 117, 165, 176, 180, 219–20, 287, 291, 309, 384, 388, 500; and Kritovoulos, pp. 15–16, 24, 96, 107–8, 138, 163.

page 63 note 2 Kemal, Ibn, pp. 500–7, 528, 542, 544.

page 64 note 1 A bibliography on Cem can be found in Inalcik, Halil, ‘Djem’, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition (hereafter EI2) (2 vols. to date, Leiden, 1960 ), vol. 2, pp. 529–31.

page 64 note 2 Tansel, Selâhattin, Sultan II Bâyezit'in Siyasî Hayati (Istanbul, 1966), pp. 93116, describes the Ottoman–Mamluk wars. Note the reproduction on pages 97–8 of the proposal to conquer the Arab lands.

page 64 note 3 Mordtmann, J. H. and Yinanç, Mükrimin H., ‘Dulkadirlilar’, in Islam Ansiklopedisi (10 vols. to date, Istanbul, 1950–), vol. 3, pp. 654–62.

page 64 note 4 Tansel, Bâyezit, p. 178.

page 65 note 1 Minorsky, Persia, pp. 61–8; Rûmlû, Hasan-i, Ahsanut-Tawârîkh (A Chronicle of the Early Safawis), trans. Seddon, C. N. (Baroda, 1934), pp. 18, 26–7, 57–71;Savory, R. M., ‘The Consolidation of Safawid Power in Persia’, Der Islam, no. 41 (10, 1965), pp. 7194; and Sohrweide, Hanna, ‘Der Siege der Safaviden in Persien und seine Rückwirkungen auf die Schiiten Anatoliens im 16. Jahrhundert’, Der Islam. no. 41 (10, 1965), pp. 131–7, for the Kizilbaş centers in Anatolia. The Ottoman response is treated in Tansel, Bâyezit, pp. 245–64; Tansel, Selâhattin, Yavuz Sultan Selim (Ankara, 1969), pp. 31100;Tekindağ, M. S., ‘Yeni Kaynak ve vesikalarin işiğnda Yavuz Sultan Selim'in Iran Seferi’, Tarih Dergisi, vol. 17 (1968), pp. 4978; and at the propaganda level Eberhard, Elke, Osmanische Polemik gegen die Safawiden im 16. Jahrhundert nach arabischen Handschriften (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1970), pp. 159, et passim.

page 65 note 2 This is not to argue that the Ottomans were in a defensive stage of their history. On the relation between ideologies and frontier history see Khaldun, Ibn, The Muqaddimah, trans. Rosenthal, Franz, 2nd ed. (3 vols., Princeton, New Jersey, 1967), vol. 1, pp. 313–36.

page 65 note 3 Iyâs, Ibn, Journal d'un bourgeois du Caire, trans. Wiet, Gaston (2 vols., Paris, 19551960), vol. 1, pp. 148–9.

page 65 note 4 Rûmlũ, Hasan-i, Ahsan, pp. 57–64.

page 66 note 1 Hess, ‘The Ottoman Seaborne Empire’, pp. 1904–6. The development of Ottoman sea-power makes an impact on histories from Venice to Persia.Sanuto, Marino, I Diarii, ed. Barozzi, Nicolo et al. (58 vols., Venice, 18791903), vol. 1, cols. 398–9, 323; vol. 2, cols. 568–70; vol. 3, cols. 1348–9; and Hasan-i Rûmlû, Ahsan, pp. 16–17.

page 66 note 2 Khalfah, Haji, The History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks, trans. Mitchell, James (London, 1831), pp. 1924, observes how Bâyezid's naval victories allowed Selim the Grim to punish the ‘Persians’ and annex Syria and Egypt. For further references to European and Ottoman sources see Fisher, Sidney Nettleton, The Foreign Relations of Turkey 1481–1512 (Urbana, Ill., 1948), pp. 5489; and Tansel, Bâyezit, pp. 176–225.

page 66 note 3 Godinho, ‘viragem’, pp. 143–4.

page 66 note 4 For this part of South Arabian naval history see Sergeant, Robert B., The Portuguese off the South Arabian Coast (Oxford, 1963), pp. 4151;Schuman, L. O., Political History of the Yemen at the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century (Amsterdam, 1961), p. 9.

page 66 note 5 Portuguese sources are abundant. de Góis, Damiao, Crónica do Felicíssimo Rei D. Manuel (4 vols., Coimbra, 19491954), vol. 2, pp. 8591, 132–7, chronicles the two battles.

page 67 note 1 Godinho, L'Économie, pp. 713–64.

page 67 note 2 Hess, ‘The Ottoman Seaborne Empire’, pp. 1909–14.

page 67 note 3 Iyâs, Ibn, Journal, vol. 2, pp. 435, 440–6.

page 67 note 4 al-Dîn, Sa'd, Tâc-ut Tevârîh (2 vols., Istanbul, 1862–3), vol. 2, pp. 241–2.

page 67 note 5 Savory, ‘The Consolidation’, pp. 82–94; Tansel, Selim, pp. 31–72.

page 68 note 1 Bey, Ahmet Feridun, Münşa' ât-us Salâtîn (Istanbul, 1858), vol. 2, p. 401; and al-Dîn, Sa'd, Tâc, vol. 2, p. 259, describe the Janissary revolts. On the problems of the Persian frontier seeKütüukoglu, Bekir, Osmanli-Iran Siyâsî Münâsebetleri (Istanbul, 1962), pp. 36, 144–6;Inalcik, Halil, ‘Osmanli-Rus Rekabetinin Menşei ve Don-Volga Kanali Teşebbüsü (1569)Belleten, vol. 12/46 (04, 1948), pp. 349–97; and Peçevî, Ibrâhím, Târîh-i Peçevî (2 vols., Istanbul, 1866), vol. 2, pp. 36–7.

page 68 note 2 The crucial role of Idrîs Bidlîsî on the eastern frontier is clear in al-Dîn, Sa'd, Tâc, vol. 2, pp. 321–3. For his Ak Koyunlu background see al-Bidlîsî, Sharaf Khân, Sharaf Nâmeh, ed. 'Abbâsî, Muhammad (Tehrân, 1333/1914–1915), p. 448. On the fall of Mardin and its role in the history of the Ottoman invasion of Mamluk territories see Göyünç, Nejat, XVI Yüzyilda Mardin Sancaği (Istanbul, 1969), pp. 1534.

page 68 note 3 Tansel, Selim, pp. 101–7.

page 69 note 1 Ibid. p. 193; and Ayalon, David, Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluk Kingdom (London, 1956), on the whole question of military technology.

page 69 note 2 Çelebî, Seyfî, L'Ouvrage de Seyfî Çelebî, trans. Matuz, Joseph (Paris, 1968), pp. 1925, discusses the Asian proposal. On Selim's plans after the conquest of Egypt see Hess, ‘The Ottoman Seaborne Empire’, p. 1911.

page 69 note 3 Tansel, Bâyezit, pp. 93–100, summarizes the reasons for Mamluk–Ottoman hostility up to the accession of Selim the Grim in 1512.Iyâs, Ibn, Histoire de Mamlouks Circassiens 872–906, trans. Wiet, Gaston (2 vols., Cairo, 1945), vol. 2, pp. 201–11, 234–5, 240–8, 265, 280, 302–3, 357, documents the rise of Mamluk hostility toward the Ottomans.Uzunçarşili, I. H., ‘Memlûk Sultanlari yanina iltica etmiş olan Osmanli Hanedanina mensup Şehzadeler’, Belletin, vol. 17/68 (10. 1953), pp. 519–35, underlines the use of Egypt by Ottoman political refugees. Information on the Ottoman relations with India as a cause of tension is in Gelibûlîlî Mustafa ‘Âlî, ‘Künh-ul ahbâr’, Istanbul Univ. Library TY 5959, IV, fo. 140a ‘Aşikpaşzâde, pp. 200–34, has a long section on the reasons for Ottoman-Mamluk enmity in which the question of imperial titles is a main issue. For an analysis of that question see Haul Inalcik, ‘Padişah’, IA, IX, pp. 491–5.

page 70 note 1 On the importance of the Holy Places see ed-Din, Cutb, Geschichte der Stadt Mekka und ihres Tempels, ed. Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand in Die Chroniken der Stadt Mekka (4 vols., Leipzig, 1858–61), vol. 3, p. 278; and Iyâs, Ibn, Journal, vol. 1, pp. 356–7, 371–4, 401–2. Tansel, Selim, pp. 210–17, studied the problem of the Caliphal title. The drive toward political unity in the Islamic community is discussed inGibb, H. A. R., ‘The Heritage of Islam in the Modern World (I)’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 1/1 (01 1970), pp. 317. The world-wide implications of Selim's religious policy are covered in Inalcik, Halil, ‘Les peuples de l'Europe du sud-est et leur rôle dans l'histoire: l'empire ottoman’, in Éditions de l'Académie Bulgare des Sciences, vol. 3 (Sofia, 1969), pp. 8894.

page 71 note 1 Laoust, Henri, Les Gouverneurs de Damas (Damas, 1952), pp. 137, 143–7, 154–9, gives one example of the attitude of religious leaders toward the arrival of the Ottomans. For Selim's actions in Jerusalem regarding non-Muslims see Tansel, Selim, pp. 159–60. The place of Egypt in the social history of Ottoman Europe is pointed out by StanfordShaw, J., ‘The Ottoman View of the Balkans’, in The Balkans in Transition, ed. Jelavich, C. and Jelavich, B. (Berkeley, California, 1963), p. 67.

page 71 note 2 As in so many other areas, the social history of the Ottoman Empire is only beginning. Nevertheless see the Misir Kanunnâmesi (1524) in Ömer Lûtfi Barkan, Osmanli Imparator-lugunda Zirai Ekonominin Hukukî ye Malî Esaslari (one vol. to date, Istanbul, 1945– ), vol. pp. 360–8, for the internal objectives in Egypt of the Ottoman Empire. The important question of guild organization is taken up by Baer, Gabriel, ‘The Administrative, Economic and Social Functions of Turkish Guilds’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 1/1 (01. 1970), pp. 4950.

page 71 note 3 Godinho, ‘viragem’, pp. 141–4, using Venetian figures, documents Ottoman financial strength. Two studies from Ottoman sources for the captured territories support Godinho's conclusions.Shaw, Stanford J., The Financial and Administrative Organization and Development of Ottoman Egypt (Princeton, New Jersey, 1962), pp. 283312; and Göyünç, , Mardin, pp. 125–40. Non-Muslim sources also reflect the improvement in economic affairs after the conquest of EgyptLewis, Bernard, ‘A Jewish Source on Damascus just after the Ottoman Conquest’, BSOAS, vol. 10/1 (1939–42), pp. 179–84.

page 72 note 1 Shaw, Financial, pp. 272–9, 283, 305–7, 313–15, 332–5. There is abundant documentation for the importance of the sea route from Istanbul to Egypt. Matrâkcî Nasüh, ‘Dastân-i Sultân-i Suleymân’, TKS R. 1286, fos. 54b -55b;Efendî, Selânikî Mustafâ, Târîh-i Selânikî (Istanbul, 1864), p. 100; and Güçer, Lütfi, Osmanli Imparatorlugunda Hububat Meselesi ve Hububattan alinan Vergiler (Istanbul, 1964), pp. 32–6.

page 72 note 2 Pachazadeh, Kemal, Histoire de la Campagne de Mohacz, trans. de Courteille, M. Pavet (Paris, 1859), pp. 719, 24–6, notes the connection between the conquest of Egypt, the development of the Ottoman navy, the exploitation of Hapsburg-Valois rivalry, and the victory over the Hungarians in 1526.

page 72 note 3 Braudel, , La Méditerranée, vol. 2, pp. 377–82, 415–17.

page 73 note 1 European historians, however, emphasize what limited Ottoman expansion. Koenigsberger, H. G. and Mosse, G. L., Europe in the Sixteenth Century (New York, 1968), pp. 174–96.

page 73 note 2 As an example of how Ottomans tried to take advantage of European religious difficulties see Hess, Andrew C., ‘The Moriscos: An Ottoman Fifth Column in Sixteenth Century Spain’, The American Historical Review, vol. 74/1 (10. 1968), pp. 125; for Eastern Europe consult Fischer-Galati, S. A., Ottoman Imperialism and German Protestantism, 1521–1555 (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), pp. 3856.Boxer, C. R., ‘Portuguese and Spanish Projects for the Conquest of Southeast Asia 1580–1600’, Journal of Asian History, vol. 3/2 (1969), pp. 118–36, shows how the war between the Ottomans and the Iberians extended along religious lines into Southeast Asia.

page 73 note 3 The use of this term in Ottoman history is described by Gibb, H. A. R. and Bowen, Harold, Islamic Society and the West: volume 1, Islamic Society in the Eighteenth Century (vol. 1 in 2 parts to date, 1950–7), vol. 1/2, pp. 207–61.

page 74 note 1 On the absorption of Orthodox Christians see Babinger, Franz, Mahomet II, le conquérant et son temps (1432–1481) (Paris, 1954), pp. 130–1,.Inalcik, Haul in ‘Arnawutluk’, EI2, vol. 1, pp. 651–8, discusses the Albanian case. Djurdjev, Branislav, ‘Bosna’, EI2, vol. 1, pp. 1261–75, describes the Ottoman conquest and absorption of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Spanish Muslims and their impact on Mediterranean politics is developed in Hess, ‘Moriscos’, pp. 1–25. The activity of influential Jewish refugees from Iberia is the subject of Grunebaum-Ballin, P., Joseph Naci duc de Naxos (Paris, 1968).

page 75 note 1 Hamilton, E. J., American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, 1501–1650 (Cambridge, Mass., 1934), pp. 32–4, provides the economic data; Elliot, , Imperial Spain, pp. 179204, 281316, relates the financial condition of Spain to imperial adventures. Parker, Geoffrey, ‘Spain, Her Enemies and the Netherlands, 1559–1648’, Past and Present, no. 49 (11, 1970), pp. 7295, describes the economic consequences of northern frontier warfare for Spanish policy in the Mediterranean. On the Ottoman side see Shaw, Financial, pp. 283–5, and Sanuto, vol. 61, cols. 534–5.

page 75 note 2 Godinho, , L'Économie, pp. 573–4, 630–1, 713–834; and Parry, V. J., ‘The Economy of Expanding Europe in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe (4 vols. to date, London, 1966– ), vol. 4, pp. 155200.Boxer, C. R., ‘A Note on Portuguese Reactions to the Revival of the Red Sea Spice Trade and the Rise of Acheh, 1540–1600’, JSEAH, vol. 10/3 (12. 1969), pp. 415–28, shows how Ottoman economic activities reached out as far as Indonesia.

page 75 note 3 Ettinghausen, Richard, Turkish Miniatures (New York, 1965), pp. 524.

page 75 note 4 Morosini, Gianfrancesco, ‘Venetian Ambassador's Report on Spain, 1581’, in Pursuit of Power, ed. Davis, James C. (New York, 1970), p. 73.

page 76 note 1 For the reflection of the Turkish menace in early sixteenth-century German hymns see Moore, Sydney H., ‘The Turkish Menace in the Sixteenth Century’, The Modern Language Review, vol. 60 (1945), pp. 30–6.

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