Mapping the Ottomans: Sovereignty, Territory, and Identity in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Brummett)

This new book on the Ottomans published by Cambridge University Press should inform our readings of the sizable corpus of 16th to early 19th century traveler accounts to the Corinthia. The work considers how European maps, travel itineraries, and accounts of the eastern Mediterranean served to appropriate territory and construct an image of the Ottoman against classical and biblical imagery:

Brummett, Palmira. Mapping the Ottomans: Sovereignty, Territory, and Identity in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

The publisher page describes the book in the following way:

Mapping the Ottomans“Simple paradigms of Muslim-Christian confrontation and the rise of Europe in the seventeenth century do not suffice to explain the ways in which European mapping envisioned the “Turks” in image and narrative. Rather, maps, travel accounts, compendia of knowledge, and other texts created a picture of the Ottoman Empire through a complex layering of history, ethnography, and eyewitness testimony, which juxtaposed current events to classical and biblical history; counted space in terms of peoples, routes, and fortresses; and used the land and seascapes of the map to assert ownership, declare victory, and embody imperial power’s reach. Enriched throughout by examples of Ottoman self-mapping, this book examines how Ottomans and their empire were mapped in the narrative and visual imagination of early modern Europe’s Christian kingdoms. The maps serve as centerpieces for discussions of early modern space, time, borders, stages of travel, information flows, invocations of authority, and cross-cultural relations.”

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction: mapping empire and ‘Turks’ on the map
2. Reading and placing the ‘Turk’
3. Borders: the edge of Europe, the ends of empire, and the redemption of Christendom
4. Sovereign space: the fortress as marker of possession
5. Heads and skins: mapping the fallen Turk
6. From Venice and Vienna to Istanbul: the travel space between Christendom and Islam
7. Authority, travel, and the map
8. Afterword: mapping the fault lines of empire and nation.

While there are only a half dozen references to the Corinthia in the book, this kind of book reinforces previous scholarship on European traveler accounts in the Corinthia. An important dissertation by Leslie Kaplan, especially, has surveyed the “visions” and “tourist gazes” of early European visitors to Corinth and its environs. As the abstract (or at least part of it) puts it, her study

“examines the way in which the ideas and perceptions of foreign visitors shape the identity of a place. It takes as its subject travel accounts written by European visitors to the Corinthia in Greece in the period between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. These travelers looked at places they visited with certain expectations and ways of valuing them based on the worldview of their home culture. Their expectations were closely tied to popular theories of cultural identity, including romantic nationalism, evolutionary understandings of culture and an incipient colonialism. This study explores the evidence for different perspectives, or “gazes”, used to interpret these experiences. Special attention is paid to the impact those gazes have had on the development of a particular village, Ancient Corinth. The evidence for the gazes is found through an exploration of over one hundred fifty travel accounts published by European travelers who visited Greece after the Ottoman conquest (1453), though most of the extant accounts date from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries”

The thrust of Kaplan’s dissertation was recently published as a separate article titled ‘“Writing Down the Country”: Travelers and the Emergence of the Archaeological Gaze.,” in Stroulia and Sutton’s Archaeology in Situ: Sites, Archaeology and Communities in Greece (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2010). That article, in my view, is a must read for students who converge every summer on ancient Corinth or archaeological work.

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