Evliya Çelebi, the Turkish Herodotus

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After the great architect, the great traveler. Evliya Çelebi was undoubtedly one of the most complete and interesting testimonies about the Ottoman Empire, analyzing it in all its people and places. A real Turkish Herodotus.

Evliya Çelebi

The great traveler was born in İstanbul in 1611 from a family of incredible prestige and fame, always active in the court life of the sultan. It appears that his father was descended from the Turkish Sufi Khoja Akhmet Yassawi, while his mother was related to the Circassian grand vizir of origin Melek Ahmet Pasha. From a very young age his passion for travel was always clear to him, so much so that he refused any assignment that kept him blocked for a long time.

Çelebi
Street of İstanbul

This will lead him to explore every corner of the Empire, starting with Turkey itself, which will observe every detail, dedicating an entire volume of his travel notes to Istanbul, collected in his Seyahatnâme “the travel book”.

Seyahatnâme

In this work, still one of the most complete in the travel-themed history, Çelebi reports all his notes in this legendary text, giving the reader an incredible overview of life during the Ottoman Empire. The places covered are many and for this reason the text is divided into 10 different volumes, each one reporting the life, customs and traditions of the peoples with whom it came into contact.

  • The first is dedicated to İstanbul and its surroundings
  • The second to Anatolia, the Caucasus, Crete and Azerbaijan
  • The third to Syria, Palestine, Armenia and Rumelia
  • The fourth to Eastern Anatolia, Iraq and Iran
  • The fifth to Russia and the Balkans
  • The sixth to the military campaigns in Hungary during the 4th Austro-Turkish war
  • The seventh to Austria, Crimea and again in the Caucasus
  • The eighth to Greece and still Crimea and Rumelia
  • The ninth to the pilgrimage to Mecca
  • and finally the tenth to Sudan and Egypt
Çelebi
İstanbul

As for Herodotus, his works aimed to tell the reality he saw, trying to bring the peoples with whom he came into contact as faithfully as possible. As evidence of this, a particular anecdote should be remembered. Çelebi visited Rotterdam in 1633, coming into contact with a Native American brought to Europe by European explorers. This made him reflect more than ever on human greed and how much it could corrupt everything, destroying peaceful peoples like those of America. He died in 1682 but, as belonging to a particular Sufi order active in Egypt, it is not known for sure if he was buried in İstanbul or Cairo, his last trip on this earth.

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