Evliya Celebi’s The Book of Travels: An Invaluable Source of Information on Social Life in the Ottoman Empire
Evliya Celebi, also known as Evliya “The Book of Travels” is considered to be one of the most important works on social life inside the Ottoman Empire. It is a picaresque and exhaustive account of different social issues in Ottoman society. The work was written in the 17th century and is still considered to be one of the most important sources of information on social life in the Ottoman Empire.
2. Evliya Celebi and his work
Evliya Celebi was born in Istanbul in 1611. He was from a wealthy family and had a good education. He started his career as a clerk in the Ottoman bureaucracy, but soon left this job to become a traveller. He travelled all over the Ottoman Empire and even beyond its borders. He visited Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Anatolia, the Balkans, Russia, Ukraine, Moldavia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Persia and India. He also went to Mecca and Medina on the hajj pilgrimage.
In total, he travelled more than 60 000 km and visited more than 1000 cities and towns. He kept detailed notes of everything he saw and heard on his travels. These notes formed the basis of his great work “The Book of Travels” (Seyahatname). The work is divided into ten volumes and contains more than 3000 pages. It is an invaluable source of information on social life in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century.
3. Social life in the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire was a very complex and diverse society. It was made up of many different ethnic and religious groups. The largest group were the Turks, but there were also Arabs, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, Jews and many others. The official language of the empire was Arabic, but Turkish was also widely spoken.
Religion was also very diverse in the Ottoman Empire. The largest group were Muslims, but there were also large numbers of Christians (Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian) and Jews. This religious diversity was tolerated by the Ottomans and everyone was free to practice their own religion.
The social structure of the Ottoman Empire was also very complex. There was a large divide between the rich and the poor. The ruling class were the “ulema” (religious scholars), the military elite (the Janissaries) and the bureaucracy (the “askeri”). Below them were the peasants (the “reaya”) who made up most of the population. At the bottom of society were slaves (the “kul”). Slavery was an important part of Ottoman society and many people were born into slavery or sold into it.
4. Melek Ahmed Pasha
Melek Ahmed Pasha was one of celebi’s travel companions during his journey to Circassia and Abkhazia.He belonged to pasha family which have high political status at ottoman empire.He himself became governor at Aleppo province.Melek Ahmed Pasha wrote interesting things about Circassians in his book which is called “Mevsime-i Kırkas “.According to him; “The Circassians are tall and well-built. They have white skin, blue eyes and red hair. The women are particularly beautiful. They wear beautiful clothes and jewelry”.
5. Abkhazia and Circassia
Abkhazia and Circassia were two of the many regions that Evliya Celebi visited during his travels. He has left us with a detailed account of what he saw and heard in these regions.
Abkhazia is a region in the northwest Caucasus. It is bounded by the Black Sea to the west, Russia to the north, Georgia to the south and Turkey to the east. The capital of Abkhazia is Sukhumi. The population of Abkhazia is around 250,000. The majority of the population is Muslim ( Sunni), but there are also large numbers of Christians (Orthodox and Armenian).
Circassia is a region in the northwest Caucasus. It is bounded by the Black Sea to the west, Russia to the north, Georgia to the south and Turkey to the east. The capital of Circassia is Cherkessk. The population of Circassia is around 1 million. The majority of the population is Muslim (Sunni), but there are also large numbers of Christians (Orthodox) and Jews.
6. The Caucasus
The Caucasus is a region in the north of Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It is bounded by Russia to the north, Iran to the south, Turkey to the west and Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia to the east. The Caucasus mountains range through the middle of the region. The highest mountain in the Caucasus is Mount Elbrus (5642 m).
The Caucasus is home to many different peoples, including Russians, Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Chechens, Ingush, Dagestanis and many others. The largest city in the Caucasus is Baku (Azerbaijan). Other important cities include Tbilisi (Georgia), Yerevan (Armenia) and Makhachkala (Dagestan).
Evliya Celebi was a remarkable man who travelled more than 60 000 km and visited more than 1000 cities and towns during his lifetime. His great work “The Book of Travels” is an invaluable source of information on social life in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. It provides us with a detailed account of different aspects of Ottoman society, including its diversity, its religion, its social structure and its economy.