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   THE SULTAN'S NEW CLOTHES: OTTOMAN—MAMLUK GIFT EXCHANGE IN THE FIFTEENTHCENTURYAuthor(s): ELIAS I. MUHANNASource: Muqarnas , Vol. 27 (2010), pp. 189-207Published by: BrillStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25769697Accessed: 29-09-2016 03:54 UTC  R F R N S  Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article:http://www.jstor.org/stable/25769697?seq=1&cid=pdf-reference#references_tab_contents You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references.   JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusteddigital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information aboutJSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available athttp://about.jstor.org/terms Brill   is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Muqarnas This content downloaded from on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 03:54:38 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms   ELIAS I. MUHANNA  THE SULTAN'S NEW CLOTHES: OTTOMAN-MAMLUK  GIFT EXCHANGE IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY  This article was the winner of the 2008 Margaret B. Sevcenko Prize, awarded by the Historians of Islamic Art Association. Long before the caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786-809) sent Charlemagne (r. 768-814) his famous gift of an  elephant named Abu V Abbas in 802, rare and valuable  goods?fine garments and precious stones, slave-girls  and stallions, relics and eunuchs?had played an impor tant role in diplomatic relations.1 The artfully chosen  gift is an eloquent envoy, capable of imparting a multi  tude of messages and of engendering diverse and even  contradictory sentiments: deference and admonition,  allegiance and bravado, submission and disdain. For  as long as embassies have visited foreign capitals, gifts have been used to establish and solidify bonds between  empires. They also display the magnanimity and for  tunes of their givers and compel responses in kind from  their recipients.2  The exchange of gifts was a significant aspect of the  relations between the burgeoning Ottoman empire  and the aging Mamluk state, from the earliest contacts between the two polities in the late fourteenth century  until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. A period  of great flux in the eastern Mediterranean, the long fif teenth century witnessed momentous shifts in political  and military hegemony, diplomatic and cultural rela  tions, and patterns of trade and migration. The history  of the relations between the two empires has been the subject of much scholarship in recent years, revealing  the intricacies of a complex bond between two Muslim  polities that were continuously engaged in a process of  self-definition and legitimization vis-a-vis the other.3 To shed further light on the formation, development, and  deterioration of this bond, it is necessary to examine the political and ideological discourses through which  it was expressed and that often depended upon the lan guage of gifts. This study addresses the following questions: Did gift  exchanges take place between the Ottoman and Mamluk  sultans during the fifteenth century? If so, what shape did the flow of gifts take as the century progressed? Did  it proceed in fits and starts, abating during periods of  conflict and resuming during periods of entente? What  kinds of gifts were sent by each side, and what might this  suggest about the availability of, and attitudes toward,  different kinds of commodities and materials? Finally,  what kinds of diplomatic messages can be distilled from  the choices of specific gifts on certain occasions?  In order to answer these questions, I have compiled a corpus of data from six late medieval Arabic histor  ical chronicles and one collection of diplomatic cor  respondence: Hawddith al-duhur ft madd 1-ayydm  wa 'l-shuhur4 and al-Nujum al-zdhira ft muluk Misr wa 'l-Qdhira5 by Ibn Taghribirdi (d. ca. 1470); Nuzhat al-nufus wa 1-abdanfi tawarikh al-zamdn6 by Ibn al Sayrafi (d. 1495); Mufdkahat al-khillan fi hawddith  al-zamdn7 by Ibn Tulun (d. ca. 1546); Munse'dtu  's-seldtin* by Feridun Ahmed Beg (d. 1583); BadaT  al-zuhurfi waqdT al-duhur9 by Ibn Iyas (d. 1524); and al-Suluk li-macrifat duwal al-muluk10 by al-Maqrizi  (d. 1442). With the exception of Feridun Ahmed Begs collection of Ottoman diplomatic correspondence, the  remaining works are chronicles written by scholars in  the Mamluk empire.  Taken together, these texts provide a wealth of infor  mation about the world of diplomatic courtship?such  as the dispatch and reception of envoys, the gifts they  bore from their patrons, and the language of official  letters?allowing us to reconstruct a history of gift This content downloaded from on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 03:54:38 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms   190 ELIAS I. MUHANNA  exchange over an extended period. Our sources make  reference to a total of sixty-six encounters between Otto  man and Mamluk envoys and rulers during the period  under examination (an average of one every two years).  About two-thirds of these references contain explicit  mentions of diplomatic gifts, often with accompanying  descriptions. On the basis of these descriptions?tan  talizingly brief though they often are?it is possible to  discern some broad trends of exchange, and to make  some observations about the ways in which each empire  projected a certain political identity on its sometime  ally and rival.  The following pages present the corpus of diplomatic  visits assembled from the sources listed above. I have  included every mention of a gift, including the few cases  where all efforts to decipher the object in question have  been in vain. The analysis that follows aims, firstly, to  provide a bird's-eye view of the flow of gifts and dip  lomatic encounters as the Ottoman-Mamluk political relationship evolved. Secondly, it attempts to isolate  patterns of gift giving and evidence pertaining to the  availability and popularity of different commodities and materials in the fifteenth century.  THE CORPUS OF DIPLOMATIC VISITS AND  GIFT EXCHANGES  Below is a list of all sixty-six diplomatic encounters mentioned in the historical sources surveyed. Proceed  ing on the assumption that an official envoy would not  likely have appeared in a foreign court without a gift? an insult that, if intended, would probably have been  remarked upon by contemporary chroniclers?I have  also listed every encounter not accompanied by a men  tion of gifts. Each record in the list contains the names of two rulers, with an arrow indicating the direction in which the letter and/or gift traveled.11 This is followed by the date of the encounter (or the date of the official letter), and a description of the gift, if one is supplied.  The gifts are emphasized in bold type.12  1. Bayezid I (r. 791-804 [1389-1402]) -+ Barquq (r. 784-791 [1382-89]; 792-801 [1390-99])  (Muharram 790 [January 1388]): No gifts mentioned.13  2. Bayezid I -+ Barquq (6 Shawwal 793 [6 September 1391]): No gifts mentioned.14  3. Barquq -+ Bayezid I (undated): Reply to previous letter. No gifts mentioned.15  4. Bayezid I Barquq (Dhu 'l-Qa'da 795 [September 1393]): News came of the arrival of the envoy  of the King of Rum, Abu Yazid ibn 'Uthman, bringing with him gifts (taqadim) for the sultan.  The reason that he came was...to inform the sultan about Timur Lank and to warn him...He  also sent a request to the sultan for a skilled doctor (tabib hddhiq) and medicine suitable for his  illness (adwiya tuwafiq maradahu), for he was suffering from joint pain (daraban al-mafdsil).  When the sultan read Ibn 'Uthman's letter.. .he appointed [the doctor] al-Rayyis Shams al-Din  ibn Saghir to him, and sent two loads of medicines that suited his malady, as well as a grand  gift with his envoy. 16  5. Bayezid I -+ Barquq (Shacban 796 [June 1394]): Next arrived ambassadors of the Ottoman sultan Yildirim Bayezid, ruler of Asia Minor (Rum), stating that he was sending 200,000  dirhams as assistance for al-Zahir, and that he would await the sultan's reply so that he might  act accordingly.. .Letters of praise and thanks were written to all three rulers, stating the wishes  of the sultan. 17  6. Bayezid I -> Faraj (r. 801-15 [1399-1412]) (15 Dhu l-Hijja 803 [27 July 1401]): And on this  day, a large group of envoys arrived from Ibn Yazid [sic] b. Murad b. cUthman, the King of Rum.  Their most senior member was one called Amir Ahmad, and he was one of Ibn Yazid's eminent  princes. He was received by the office of the chamberlain.. .and they lodged him in the home of  Amir Qushtamar al-Mansuri, in Bab al-Barqiyya. 18 This content downloaded from on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 03:54:38 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms   OTTOMAN-MAMLUK GIFT EXCHANGE IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY And on [16 Dhu T-Hijja], the envoys of Abu Yazid b. ?Uthman?the King of Rum?presented a gift, consisting of ten slaves (mamdlik), ten horses (khayl), ten lengths of broadcloth (qitac tnin al-jukh)y two silver cups (sharibatdn tnin al-fidda)y ten pieces of silver plates, and other  things (qitacJidda ma bayna atbdq wa-ghayraha)-and several gifts for the nobles.... 19  7. Mehmed I (r. 816-24 [1413-21]) -> al-Mu'ayyad Shaykh (r. 815-24 [1412-21]) (middle of  Dhu T-Hijja 817 [February 1415]): We have sent to you...intended as a gift, five taquzdt of various Rutnl fabrics (aqmisha), three taquzdt ofEuropean (Ifranji) fabric, and two bundles (bughjatayn) of Persian (cAjami) fabric.... 20  8. al-Mu'ayyad Shaykh -+ Mehmed I (Shacban 818 [October 1415]): We have sent two fine horses  {khayl)y and two saddles (sarjayn) made of gold and silver, and five taquzdt of Egyptian fabric (aqtnisha)y and four taquzdt of Indian and Alexandrian wares (al-amtica 'l-Hindiyya wa 'l-Iskandariyya)... . 21  9. Mehmed I al-Mu3ayyad Shaykh (7 Safar 823 [22 February 1420]): On Thursday...envoys  from Kirishji [Mehmed I] arrived and they had with them thirty slaves (tnatnluk)y birds (tuyur)y  many beasts of prey (jawdrih), silk clothes (thiydb harir), and other things... On Monday, 25  Safar, the Portico Hall [iwan] was in the service of the envoys.. .and the sultan bestowed a robe of honor upon the chief emissary. 22  10. al-Mu'ayyad Shaykh Mehmed I (17 Safar 824 [21 February 1421]): No gifts mentioned.23 11. Muradll (r. 824-48 [1421-44]; 850-55 [1446-51]) -> Barsbay (r. 825-41 [1422-38]) (27 Shacban  826 [5 August 1423]): A large group arrived from the lands of Ibn cUthman, and among them  was a man named cUmur.. .And they had brought with them a gift from Ibn cUthman, the ruler  of Bursa, and they presented it to [the sultan]. And he, too, presented to Ibn cUthman things  of his own.... 24  12. Murad II -+ Barsbay (2 Rabi11 831 [21 December 1427]): A man named Taghribirdi al-Hijazi  al-Khassaki al-Ashrafi arrived from the lands of Rum. The sultan had sent him to Sultan Murad Beg to affirm his friendship and affection.. .and because a mighty army had arisen in the lands of Rum and met Murad Beg, and the sultan did not know the truth of the matter regarding this. So  he sent the aforementioned emissary to discover the news and also convey greetings to Murad Beg.. .The emissary was absent for about five months, and upon his return he reported Murad  Begs victory over the Rum and the infidels. He met Murad in the land of Qustantiniyya and  Murad was greatly pleased that the sultan had sent him to inquire about the state of affairs. He  bestowed upon him the very cloth that he was wearing (qumdshuhu)y and even his turban  (Hmdmatuhu) and his cap (qubbacuhu)y which was made of pure gold. The turban was made of silk and very high-quality cloth with gold brocade (kdna qumdshuhu hariran wa-jiikhan raficanjiddan)y and it was said that each cubit cost two dinars. 25  13. Murad II Barsbay (end of Jumada II 831 [mid-April 1428]): ...Envoys arrived from Murad  Beg...and they were received by the chamberlains and some of the chief officers...And on 2  Rajab...court service was held in the Portico Hall for the envoys from Ibn cUthman and other  Turcoman (turkman) envoys, and it was a memorable and well-attended day. Then, when the  service was over, Ibn 'Uthman's gift was presented and it included: fifty Rutnl slaves; a white  eunuch (tawdshi abyad); fifteen birds and various wild animals, including some that looked  like a sable (satntnur)y a gray squirrel (sinjdb)y a lynx (washaq)y and a fox (fanak); twenty  velvet garments of European make (al-mukhmal shughl al-Franj nahwa Hshrina thawban).  The sultan reciprocated by bestowing upon the nobles some slaves and fabrics (qumasfe). 26  14. Murad II Barsbay (Dhu T-Hijja 831 [September-October 1428]): No gifts mentioned.27 This content downloaded from on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 03:54:38 UTCAll use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
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