The origins of the Ottomans, whose enterprise ruled much of the Near East for more than half a millennium, have long tantalized and eluded scholars, many of whom have thrown up their hands in exasperation. While the later fourteenth- and fifteenth-century history of the Ottomans has become better known, the earlier years have proved an alluring and recalcitrant puzzle. A reconsideration of the sources and a canvass of new ones has long been overdue. Rudi Paul Lindner’s Explorations in Ottoman Prehistory is the first book in over sixty years to reassess the overture to Ottoman history.
In addition to conducting a critical examination of the Ottoman chronicles and the Byzantine annals, Lindner develops hitherto unutilized geographic data and previously unknown numismatic evidence and also draws on travelers’ descriptions of the Anatolian landscape in an earlier epoch. By investigating who the Ottomans were, where they came from, and where they settled and why, as well as what sort of relationships they had with their neighbors in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Lindner makes an engaging and lucid contribution to an otherwise very small store of knowledge of Ottoman history in the early stages of the empire.
Rudi Paul Lindner is Professor of History at the University of Michigan and author of Nomads and Ottomans in Medieval Anatolia,part of Indiana University’s Uralic and Altaic Series.
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Explorations in Ottoman Prehistory
By Rudi Paul Lindner
The University of Michigan Press
Copyright © 2007
University of Michigan
All right reserved.
Chapter One Origines Gentium Othmanidarum
We cannot establish the ancestry of Osman. It is altogether probable that he had none of note, but was what Americans would call "a self-made man." -Herbert Adams Gibbons, The Foundation of the Ottoman Empire
There is nothing more absorbing than maps of tribal wanderings. How vaguely and slowly nations float! Lonely as clouds, overlapping and changing places, they waltz and reverse round each other at a pace so slow as to be almost stationary or work their expanding way across the map as imperceptibly as damp or mildew. What a relief it is when some outside event, with an actual date attached to it, jerks the whole sluggishly creeping osmotic complex into action! -Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
To seek the origins of Ottoman history is a bit like eating cotton candy, with a fuzzy, tantalizing exterior and, perhaps, the taste of cardboard at the end. To inquire, for example, about the origins of a Scots clan leads either to prehistory or to a maze of related but distinct issues: the first appearance of a distinctive name, maternal versus paternal lines, oral tradition as opposed to official record, location and employment, and the like. Further, the answers to questions about origins may not be very helpful in understanding the later career of a family or an enterprise. Thus, it is far from clear that a look into the earliest Ottoman traditions will help us understand later Ottoman developments. Nonetheless, there is reason to hope that it will throw some light on the beginnings of the enterprise and, at the very least, let us know what we may not expect to and.
There is an additional attraction that comes from sifting through the sources that purport to describe the origins of a great power. The tendentious nature of the sources reveals much about those contending powers of tradition, invention, and family pride whose jostling and cooperation lead in modern, polite society to the happy conclusion that all families are distinguished. We see early Ottoman history as a picture whose outlines we may try to discern through the glitter and ornamentation situated to delight and delude the viewer. Seeking to delineate the actual outlines is a process interesting in itself. This is not at all a game, for we may hope to determine that point before which all is conjecture and after which we can begin to triangulate with some confidence. It is in the nature of the analytical procedure that we may reach beyond our grasp and that all we succeed in doing is to limit the range of possibilities.
Where and when does Ottoman history begin? The Byzantines first found Osman and his tribe worth special notice and attention in 1302, the year of the battle between the forces of Osman and Mouzalon at Bapheus, a place just outside Nicomedia. While Osman's activities may well have engaged Constantinople at an earlier date, the Turkish leader's name does not appear in surviving Byzantine sources before the spring of that year. By this time Osman was a mature leader, and it is reasonable to try to reach back to generations before him. The purpose of this chapter is to test how far our reach extends. Others might try other tests, and there are alternative explanations, but at this stage of work on those who succeeded the Seljuks, it is too much to expect proof both necessary and sufficient.
The first point for us to grasp is that there seem to be no secure dates in Ottoman history before the 1302 campaign. Ottoman chronicles list dates, but there may be contradictions even within a given source, and there are numerous disagreements between sources, which suggests that few of these discordant dates are due to scribal errors. They reflect an unsuccessful attempt to at together more than one tradition, a hesitancy to choose one tradition over another, an incomplete homogenization of a text to at a patron's philosophy. When there is agreement, there is still room for doubt. When Franz Taeschner commented on those conquests that the Ottoman sources ascribed to Osman in A.H. 699/C.E. 1299-1300, he suggested that the sources were summarizing the work of a number of years. So we and that only the Byzantine sources provide good dates (dates that may be tested) for the earliest events in Ottoman history. The Ottoman sources will allow us to speak of a range of years but not of many more chronological details.
Given this difficulty, how far back can we go? The Ottoman sources redacted after 1420 give a very confident response: back to Noah. All the early traditions and their later homogenizers agreed on this point. Sükrüllah's chronicle (composed in 1465-68 at Bursa) informs us that "among the descendants of Yapheth b. Noah was a certain Oguz, and among the descendants of Oguz [after twenty-one generations] was a certain Ertogrul [father of Osman]." The Anonymous Chronicles edited and translated by Friedrich Giese list the generations from Osman back through Oguz to Noah, as does Asikpasazade. But these genealogies do not help us very much. They are useful tools in the study of Ottoman history writing and the ideological needs of the fifteenth-century Ottoman court but not in the analysis of early Ottoman history.
It might be easier to move back from the well-known to the lesser-known in smaller steps. Osman's career after his victory at Bapheus is known to some degree, and some parts of his earlier years are recoverable. Of his father, Ertogrul, nothing was known positively until recently, so a student could claim that "it is with [Osman] that Ottoman history begins." There are now, however, two epigraphic attestations to his existence. Both are coins: the first, in a private collection in London, bears on one side the inscription "Osman ibn Ertogrul." The second, found by Ibrahim Artuk in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum's cabinets, bears a different design from the first and, on both sides, the name "Osman bin Ertogrul." This evidence confirms that Osman's father was Ertogrul, but it does not tell us anything about Ertogrul or his deeds. Barring further ands, it looks as though we will have to rely on the Ottoman chronicles for hints about him, although they differ about his or Osman's responsibility for a given deed, which is not surprising. The most celebrated among these accomplishments-and in some ways the most tendentious-is a legendary dream of future power.
If there is so little that we can agree on about Osman's father, is the situation not more troublesome yet in discussing Ertogrul's father, called Süleymanshah in the chronicles? Three generations ago, two authors with practically nothing in common, Herbert Adams Gibbons and Paul Wittek, heaped substantial abuse on the tale of Süleymanshah, and their strictures against the Ottoman tradition remain as examples of the best of amateur enthusiasm (Gibbons) and meticulous scholarship (Wittek). But there may be something left worth discussing-the story of how the early Ottomans got to Anatolia. This is an interesting subject, for there were many occasions in the thirteenth century when newcomers arrived in the peninsula, for better or worse. Let us examine the stories again.
Of the threads that later chroniclers gathered together to weave their tapestries of great "elaboration and subtlety," there are three of great interest to the student of early Ottoman times, for they formed a base on which later authors elaborated. The first strand, which begins with the source used by Ahmedi for the last section of his Iskendername and appears in fuller form as the basis of Sükrüllah's universal chronicle, does not tell us how the Ottomans came to Anatolia. But the two other, more discursive sources provide lengthy accounts. The first of these appears in the "popular" Anonymous Chronicles. Here is my translation based on the text published by Giese.
From generation to generation through that line [sc., linking Osman to Noah through Gök Alp and Oguz] came rulers of Persia. The Oguz people, a pious people, believed in the Prophet. They were rulers in the city of Mahan. Indeed, Abu Muslim of Marv [the great general of the Abbasid revolution of the 740s] stemmed from this line.
Chinggis Khan left the realm of Khitay and devastated the city and country of Balkh and the land of Khurasan. The then ruler of those lands was the Khwarezmshah: he ruled Balkh and Khurasan. Mevlana Jelal al-Din [Rumi] was four years old at the time when Chinggis Khan destroyed the city of Balkh. When Chinggis Khan laid that land waste and drove the Seljuk people from their lands, and after he himself perished, his son Ögödei Khan became ruler. He came and destroyed Baghdad, ended the Abbasid dynasty, and took the Abbasid throne from them: the Chinggisids held their lands. All creation went pell-mell.
Sultan Alaeddin, from the Seljuk house, set out from the Persian lands and came to Rum. He seized "Yunan," which is today the land of Karaman, and became its ruler. He had the cities of Sivas and Konya built.
And the lands of Persia, thrown topsy-turvy at the hands of Chinggis Khan, were in confusion. The Oguz people, who were believers, were nomad yürüks. Now the city of Mahan had been destroyed by Chinggis Khan. At this time its ruler was Süleymanshah, Osman's grandfather. As the Seljuk and Abbasid houses had scattered, Süleymanshah also left Mahan city and set forth for Rum. He had heard that in Rum there was warfare on behalf of the faith. Süleymanshah left his own land and came to Erzincan, and from Erzincan they entered the lands of Rum. The area around Amasya was in Byzantine hands. They performed many raids [ghazalar] from that territory and seized much territory from the lands of Rum.
Finally, they left there and went to Aleppo. There is, there, a castle they call Ja'ber. They camped before it and came to the bank of the Euphrates, which they wished to ford. They were the sort of nomad yürüks who didn't know the proper way, and they pushed on heedlessly into the Euphrates. Süleymanshah spurred his horse on in his desire to ford the river. There was a sudden drop in the riverbed before him, and, along with his horse, Süleymanshah drowned in the Euphrates. His appointed hour was there, and he died a martyr. The people made haste and took him from the river. They buried him before Ja'ber castle. Now the place is called "the Turk's tomb."
Süleymanshah had three sons. One was called Sunqurtekin, another Gündogdu, and the third Ertogrul, who was Osman's father. And these three brothers were also nomads. They went on the way by which they had come. From the upper Euphrates they went to Pasin Ova and Sürmelü Çuqur. Sunqurtekin and Gündogdu went to Persia. Ertogrul decided to remain there for a while and performed many raids [ghaza] thereabouts. After a time, Sultan Alaeddin (of the Seljuk house) came from Persia and settled himself in Rum, where he became a great ruler.
Ertogrul heard about Sultan Alaeddin's sultanate and power. Ertogrul also had three sons: Savci, Gündüz, and Osman. Ertogrul sent Saruyati (whom they called Savci) to Sultan Alaeddin. They wanted a little bit of land that they might settle. Sultan Alaeddin assented, remarking, "They are needy"; he was pleased by them. The lord of Karahisar and the lord of Bilecik obeyed Sultan Alaeddin and paid him kharaj. He gave them the lands between Karahisar and Bilecik, Domalic Dagi, and Ermenak [sic] Dagi as summer pasture and water source.
Afterward, the Tatar Bayju Khan advanced against Sultan Alaeddin, and Sultan Alaeddin turned to those parts, commending this area to Ertogrul. Ertogrul's sons Saruyati and Osman came to Ankara, remained there, and performed many raids [ghaza] in Rum. Finally, Ertogrul died.
Our second view of the entry into Anatolia is the chronicle of Asikpasazade. The early sections of this chronicle derive in the main from two sources, the Anonymous Chronicles and the account of early Ottoman history by Yakhsi Fakih, which preserves traditions from the time of Osman's son and successor, Orhan. Asikpasazade wrote a version of his chronicle in the 1480s, but the early sections derive from material of an earlier era. Here is my translation of his tale.
The reason for Süleymanshah coming to Rum is this: [from the time of the Abbasid house until the days of Süleymanshah, the descendants of the Arabs were victorious over the descendants of Yafes. Both Rum and Persia were overcome. Because they were from the descendants of Yafes, the rulers of Persia had strong feelings about this: "The Arabs dominate us," they said. They brought the nomad tents descended from Yafes for their assistance and so won the upper hand over the Arabs. Since the Arabs had been subdued, the land of the unbelievers was disobedient. Now the rulers of Persia took precautions and guarded themselves against these nomads. They sent Süleymanshah farther on, as he was one of the leaders of the nomads; and they sent along with him fifty thousand Turkmen and Tatar tents. They said, "Go and perform the holy war in Rum!" Süleymanshah assented. He came by Erzurum and came to Erzincan. They entered the land of Rum from Erzincan and campaigned there a few years. They conquered the region, and Süleymanshah performed many acts of heroism. But the mountains and valleys of Rum caused them damage, for the nomads' sheep suffered from the valleys and peaks. So they started back to Turkestan. They did not go by the way they had come. They set forth to the land of Aleppo and arrived before Ja'ber castle. In its vicinity, they came to the banks of the Euphrates and desired to ford the river. So they said to Süleymanshah Ghazi, "My khan, how shall we cross the river?" And Süleymanshah spurred his horse into the water. There was a steep drop-off before him, and his horse stumbled. Süleymanshah fell into the water. His appointed time had come, and he died. They brought him out of the water.] They buried him before Ja'ber castle, and even now they call that place "the Turk's tomb." [There is a branch of that line, called the Döger, who possess that castle today.] In any event, these nomads scattered in different directions. Some went to the desert [at the present time, they are called the Syrian Turkmen], some returned to Rum [some of them Tatars, some Turkmen; the Tatars and Turkmen now in Rum are from this group], while some followed Süleymanshah's three sons: one was Sunqurtekin, another Ertogrul, and another Gündogdu. These three brothers returned by the way they came [by the upper Euphrates]. They reached Pasin Ova and Sürmelü Çukur. Ertogrul stayed there [and did not go with his brothers]. He remained with four hundred nomad tents, while his two brothers left [for their homelands]. [Ertogrul remained there some time, spending summers in summer pastures and wintering in winter pastures. After some time,] Sultan Alaeddin turned to the land of Rum, conquering as much as his fate allowed, and became ruler. There are many details that I have abridged [because here I am telling the story of the Ottoman house].
Ertogrul Ghazi learned that Sultan Alaeddin, of the house of Seljuk, [had come to Rum from Persia and] had become its ruler. Ertogrul said, "It is necessary for us, too, that we go to a land where a man's value and dignity are appreciated, and where we too can perform the ghaza."
Ertogrul Ghazi had three sons: one was Osman, one was Gündüz, and one was Saruyati [whom they called Savci]. They turned toward Rum and came there, arriving in the land of Hasan Musil. [There are a number of stories of Ertogrul Ghazi's coming to Rum. The soundest version is this one that I relate.] Ertogrul Ghazi sent his son Saruyati to Sultan Alaeddin to say, "Assign us a place to settle [yurt] also so that we may go there and fight the ghaza." [Saruyati presented his father's message to Sultan Alaeddin.] Sultan Alaeddin was very pleased at their arrival. [At that time,] the lord of Sultan Öyügü and Karacahisar was obedient [and the lord of Bilecik was obedient to the sultan and was paying him kharaj]. [As winter quarters,] they assigned them as a home [yurt] [the land between those two castles and Bilecik, the land of Sögüd]. As summer pasture, they gave them the mountain of Domalic and Ermeni Beli. [Saruyati came to his father and gave him the message. Ertogrul Ghazi agreed, and they went to Ankara.]
They entered this land. [They settled on their lands. In the days of Ertogrul Ghazi, there was neither war nor dispute nor killing. They summered on their summer pastures and wintered on their winter pastures. At that time, Alisir, the father of Germiyan, was in the land of Sahib Karahisar and also a Tatar whom they called Çavdar. Now and then, they used to come and raid and harass the lands of Karahisar and Bilecik. With Ertogrul Ghazi's coming, that land of unbelievers became secure from those Tatars.]
A few years after their arrival, Ertogrul Ghazi died. There are a number of stories of Ertogrul Ghazi's coming to Rum. The truth is this that I have related. At Sögüd, they deemed Osman Ghazi worthy of his father's position. As Osman Ghazi took his father's place, he began to appear very friendly toward the neighboring unbelievers. Hostility broke out, however, with the house of Germiyan, because the unbelievers of the land to which they had come received continual injuries at the hands of Germiyan. Osman Ghazi also [began to hunt in distant areas; sometimes he set out by night and sometimes by day, and many men collected by his side.]
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Table of ContentsAcknowledgments ix
Setting the Stage 1
Origines Gentium Othmanidarum 15
Why Sogud? An Interlude 35
A Tale of Three Cities: Eskisehir, Kutahya, and Karacahisar 57
The Forging of Ottoman Independence 81
Springtide on the Sangarius, 1302 102