R04c_The Case for Historical Continuity: The Byzantine and Ottoman Civilizations.
At midday Tuesday, May 29, 1453, Mehmed, whom history will call the Conqueror, rides into the city on his white horse. The chronicler Kritovoulos reports that the sultan shed tears of compassion: ‘What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction.’.
Priding himself as a new Constantine sitting on the throne of the Caesars, Mehmed the Conqueror repopulated his new capital and restaffed its bureaucracy partly with Greeks and Serbs. In his court, influenced by Persian as well as Byzantine traditions, he became an aloof autocrat surrounded by elaborate ceremony.
The once migratory Ottomans, now based in Constantine’s city, proceeded to conquer a mosaic of nations similar in extent to Justinian’s empire. The Ottoman Empire let its Orthodox subjects keep their Christian religion and Greco-Roman laws – so long as they paid tribute, kept their churches inconspicuous so as not to offend Islamic eyes, and furnished levies for its armies and administration. This tithe in humans periodically took the most intelligent Christian Balkan boys … converted them to Islam, and drafted them into the elite army corps, the Janissaries, or trained them as court functionaries.
The conquerors emulated Hagia Sophia in their great single-domed shrines, such as Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, built over and using materials from the Great Palace. Greeks became prominent in trade, seafaring, banking and medicine.., and the Turks, who had long used Byzantine currency in foreign exchange, minted their own gold coins two decades after the conquest.
‘When we Turks came off the steppes, we were nomads with little culture,’ Dr. Nezih Firath, the director of Istanbul’s Museum of Archaeology, told me. ‘It was natural to adopt some Byzantine ways. Our forebears had no ovens for making bread – only portable iron griddles for unleavened flat cakes. Hence the Turkish word for oven comes from the Greek.’ The Turkish han inn for merchants replaced the Byzantine caravansary, and the famed Turkish bath, the Byzantine bath.
Daily life in Nicaea or Philadelphia (Turkish Iznik & Alaechir) only two generations ago differed little from Byzantine times. ‘Byzantine continuity is not a popular idea in Turkey,’ said Dr. Firath, looking at me squarely in the eye, ‘but it is the truth.'”
Source: Merle Severy, “The Byzantine Empire: Rome of the East,” National Geographic, December. 1983, p.756 and 757.
To what extent can we assert that the former Byzantine Civilization continued thriving as part of the Ottoman Empire?