Ottoman historical works composed in Persian occupy an important place in the corpus of court-oriented Ottoman historical writing of the early and classical periods. Although the predominant literary language of the Ottoman realm was Turkish, Persian, as a language of prestige and the preferred vehicle for the projection of an imperial image, provided an alternative linguistic medium for historical composition. Despite the smaller volume of historical works produced in Persian—approximately one-sixth of the total number of Ottoman histories from the beginning of the 9th/15th to the end of the 10th/16th century—the esteem accorded Persian compositions, as well as the influence of Persian works on subsequent Ottoman historical writing, is immeasurable. Persian histories for the most part were written by Iranian émigrés seeking Ottoman patronage. These émigrés, primarily scholars, men of letters, and/or former officials employed at the Āq Qoyunlu and Safavid courts, were important in transmitting Persian literary traditions to the Ottoman domains as well as valuable reservoirs of first-hand information on the eastern Islamic lands. Since displaying one’s learning and rhetorical skills through the composition of historical works was a common way of earning the patro-nage of the grand vizier or sultan, historical works were often written and presented to the court with the hope of receiving a high-ranking official appointment. Throughout the ninth/fifteenth and tenth/sixteenth centuries, literary expertise and talent in Persian was highly sought after, yet not easily found among primarily Turcophone Ottomans, hence the special position and status accorded to Iranian men of letters, often to such an extent that it aroused the jealousy of other courtiers. After reaching its peak in the mid-960s/late 1550s to the 990s/early 1590s, however, Ottoman patronage of Persian historical writing came to a sudden halt and from the beginning of the 17th century onwards we know of no Persian historical work produced for the Ottoman court.

The influence of Persian models on early Ottoman historiography. The assumption that Persian was the first literary language of the Ottoman Turks, together with its corollary that the earliest Ottoman historical works were composed in Persian (Lewis and Holt, p. 10), are misconceptions contradicted by textual evidence. Turkish appears to have preceded Persian in the writing of histories among the Ottomans as indicated by the earliest surviving Ottoman historical texts which were written in Old Anatolian Turkish, a newly developing literary language since the early 8th/14th century. It would be more accurate to state that Ottoman historiography composed in Persian was a development which began in the mid-9th/15th century during Meḥmed II’s reign in conjunction with rising imperial aspirations, and which paralleled, stylistically, thematically and content-wise, Turkish works. It has also been erroneously claimed that early Ottoman historiography developed as a distinct tradition from that of the Arabo-Persian model (Humphreys, p. 251). This commonly-held notion is a generalization derived from a slim base of scholarship which has narrowly focused much of its energies on the major vernacular Turkish dynastic chronicles of the late 9th/15th century characterized by folk-style narrative and stylistic elements. This notion does not hold up, however, when the entire corpus of Ottoman historical works produced between the ninth/fifteenth and tenth/sixteenth centuries is taken into consideration. Not only was Persian patronized as a medium of historical production up until the end of the 10th/16th century, but Persian histories were widely read, studied, copied, and translated by Ottoman scholars and litterateurs. Persian histories, especially those dating from the Mongol, Il-Khanid, and Timurid periods, served as important stylistic, thematic, and structural models for Ottoman Turkish works. It would be more accurate to characterize Ottoman historiography of the early and classical periods as an amalgamation of both Perso-Islamic forms and stylistic elements with Turkish narrative and epic elements.

Persian historiographical traditions deeply influenced the writing of Ottoman Turkish histories. Many early Ottoman Turkish historical works derived structural and stylistic models as well as content from Persian histories. Two such examples are the histories of Yazıcıoğlu ʿAli and Enveri (Anwari). Yazıcıoğlu ʿAli’s historical work, composed in Turkish for Murād (Morād) II (r. 824-55/1421-51) in 840/1436-37 (Wittek, 1964, p. 265), and known variously as the Oğuz-nāma, the Saljuq-nāma, and the Taʾriẖ-i āl-i Seljuq (Tāriḵ-e āl-e Saljuq), consists of various accounts of the Oğuz, the Great Seljuqs (Saljuqs), and their various branches in Anatolia, Iraq, Ker-mān, and Kurdistan, as well as the Mongol period up to the Il-Khanid ruler Ḡāzān Khan (r. 694-703/1295-1304). Aside from 65 lines extracted from an unidentified Oğuz-nāma and contemporary authorial interpolations, the content of the work is taken almost entirely from Persian histories dating from the Il-Khanid period. The Anatolian Seljuq section is a loose translation of Ebn Bibi’s history (composed ca. 680/1281), prefaced by a briefer section on the Great Seljuqs from Rāvandi’s earlier work (composed ca. 601/1204-05). The section on the Mongols is based for the most part on Rašid-al-Din’s (d. 718/1318) Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, a work which is not only the most comprehensive written source of Mongol and Il-Khanid history, but also the oldest surviving written text of Oğuz lore(Wittek, 1952, pp. 642-43; Melikoff, p. 163). While it does not treat the history of the Ottoman dynasty per se, the concerns of Yazıcıoğlu ʿAli’s work are still very much Ottoman. The ideological impetus behind treating the Turkish and Turco-Iranian dynasties preceding the Ottomans was to demonstrate that the Otto-mans, as the supreme representatives of the Oğuz Turks, were the legitimate successors to leadership in the Turco-Iranian world, where nomad legitimizing principles continued to influence notions of political sovereignty following the disintegration of the Chingizid order. The work articulated a direct political challenge to the Qara Qo-yunlus, Āq Qoyunlus, and Timurids as well as Anatolian Turkmen dynasties such as the Karamanids by claiming that the Ottoman sultan Murād (Morād) II was superior in origin and genealogy (süngük) to all the khan families of the other Oğuz Turks as well as to the various branches of the Chingizids, an ideological stance referred to as the Oğuzian theme (Wittek, 1952, pp. 645-47; Woods, p. 5; Fleming, 1988, p. 123). Rivalry with Turco-Iranian polities continued to be an important impetus behind much of subsequent Ottoman historiography of the ninth/fifteenth and tenth/sixteenth centuries.

Enveri’s Düstur-nāme (Dastur-nāma), a Turkish maṯ-nawi written in 869/1465 for the Ottoman grand vizier Maḥmud Pasha, is an eclectic Islamic universal history of three general sections. The first part goes from Adam to the Mongols and concludes in 806/1403-04 with the death of Sultan Aḥmad, the Jalayerid ruler in Iran. This section is based primarily on the Persian history Neẓām al-tawāriḵ of Qāżi Nāṣer-al-Din Beyḏāwi (Beyżāwi) dating from ca. 674/1275 (Melville, passim), as well as later compilations not mentioned by the author. The second part, by far the longest with some 1,250 couplets, consists of a dāstān characterized by a Turkish folk narrative style in its praising of the exploits of Umur Beg (r. 734-48/1334-48) of the Aydınid principality of central western Anatolia, and appears to have been derived entirely from oral sources. The final section of around 850 couplets dealing with the Ottoman period up to 868/1464 has a more formal style pointing to the fusion of written sources with the author’s own personal experiences, especially his participation in some of Meḥmed II’s campaigns in the 860s/1460s (Menage, I, pp. 134-36). Enveri’s eclectic composition thus exemplifies the coexistence and co-mingling of oral or folk Turkish narrative style along with more formal narrative and Persian structural models.

The role of Persian in the development of Ottoman historical writing. Ottoman historical writing emerged in the early 9th/15th century as a manifestation of a newly emerging political consciousness in the face of political rivals from both Anatolia and the Turco-Iranian east. Historical works were patronized by the Ottomans with the intention of articulating justification for territorial claims as well as creating an ideology of Ottoman political legitimacy. Timur’s establishment of political hegemony in Anatolia following his defeat of Sultan Bayezid (Bāyazid) I (r. 791-805/1389-1402) in 804/1402 at the Battle of Ankara, referred to by Cemal Kafadar as the “Timurid shock,” was the historical juncture which jolted the Ottomans into consciousness of their precarious political position vis-à-vis their predominantly Turkish political rivals (Kafadar, p. 93). It was in the immediate aftermath of this devastating defeat and the Ottoman civil war among the sons of Bayezid I that the “Dāsitān-i tevāriẖ-i müluk-i āl-i ʿOsòmān” (“Dāstān-e tawāriḵ-e moluk-e āl-e ʿOṯmān”) was written by Tāceddin Ibrāhim Aḥmedi (Tāj-al-Din Ebrāhim Aḥmadi; d. 815/1412-13), an eminent Anatolian poet and scholar of the late 8th/14th and early 9th/15th century. Completed in around 807-12/1405-10 in Anatolian Turkish, this relatively small chapter of 340 couplets is appended to the universal history section of Aḥmedi’s İskender-nāme (Eskandar-nāma), an encyclopedic, didactic work of more than 8,000 couplets framed around the Alexander legend (Aḥmedi, İskender-nāme, Ünver, ed., passim; Köprülu, p. 216; Menage, I, p. 52 and pp. 59-60). This early pseudo-history briefly traces the rise of the Ottoman dynasty up to the short reign of Süleyman Chelebi (Solaymān Čalabi) (r. 806-14/1403-11) without the benefit of dates or detail, and is more notable for its ideological claims of the Ottomans as the supreme ğāzis, or wagers of jehād, than for its historical information. Ottoman historical writing throughout the rest of the 9th/15th and 10th/16th centuries con-tinued to refer to the theme of the Ottomans as the leading ğāzis of the Islamic world as a defense of Ottoman political legitimacy.

The use of Persian as a medium for historical composition under Ottoman patronage first began under Meḥmed II (r. 855-86/1451-81), whose reign, following the conquest of Constantinople in 857/1453, ushered in the imperial phase of the Ottoman polity. With a significant increase of patronage of literary and historical works, this period witnessed the true beginnings of an Ottoman court historiography, the main function of which was to glorify the exploits of Meḥmed II and to enhance the image of the Ottoman dynasty. Meḥmed II’s grand vizier Maḥmud Pasha (d. 879/1474) was the major patron of the period. He gathered at his court a brilliant circle of poets and litterateurs, giving special importance to Persian letters and patronizing Iranian talent. (Tekindağ, 1957, p. 188; Ünver, p. 192).

Şükrullāh’s (Šokr-Allāh) Bahjat al-tawāriḵ (composed 864/1459), Muʿāli’s Ḵonkār-nāma (880/1475), and Kā-şifi (Kāšefi)’s Ğazā-nāma-ye Rum (882/1478) are three representatives of the Ottoman Persian historiographical tradition as it rose during Meḥmed II’s reign under the patronage of the Ottoman grand vizier Maḥmud Pasha. While Šükrullāh appears to have been of Turkish origins and entered Ottoman service while quite young (Atsız, p. 39), the other two authors were both émigrés from Iranian lands: Muʿāli was originally from Ṭus and Kāşifi (Kāšefi) from outside of Širvān. The production of Şükrullāh’s and Muʿali’s works must be put into the context of political rivalry with competing Iranian polities: Şükrullāh’s work appears to have been stimulated by the long-standing political rivalry between the Ottomans and the Timurid ruler Šāhroḵ Mirzā (d. 850/1444), set within the immediate background of Ottoman attempts to form an alliance with the Qara Qoyunlu Turkmen against their mutual enemies, the Timurids. Muʿali, on the other hand, began composing his work in the midst of the Ottoman-Āq Qoyunlu military conflict during the mid-870s/early 1470s. These works focus on events and rulers in the Persian east and in one way or another address Ottoman claims of political legitimacy in face of their Timurid and Āq Qoyunlu rivals.

Šukrullāh served as Murād II’s envoy to several Turkish principalities in Anatolia and Iran in the 850s/1440s. One of his missions was to forge an Ottoman alliance with the Qara Qoyunlu ruler Jahānšāh (r. 843-72/1439-67) against the growing power of the Āq Qoyunlu. In 864/1459 during his retirement from official service, he composed in Persian the Bahjat al-tawāriḵ, a work which was dedicated to the grand vizier Maḥmud Pasha and the sultan. The history of thirteen chapters is an Islamic universal history beginning with creation, geographical and cosmographical information, and covering the Prophets, Moḥammad and his Companions, great religious figures and the ancient philosophers, pre-Islamic Iranian rulers, the Umayyads (referred to as Yazidis), and the Abbasids. The account continues with historical topics of great concern to the Ottoman Turks such as their purported ancestors, the Oğuz Turks, their predecessors, the Seljuqs, as well as the rise of their own dynasty up to the accession of Meḥmed II in 855/1451 (Rieu, Supplement of Persian Manuscripts, p. 884; Storey, Persian Literature, I, pp. 91-92; Demiroğlu, p. 349). The author apparently incorporated material from an Oğuz-nāme or similar work of Oğuz lore, most likely having come upon a copy while at the Qara Qoyunlu court in 852/1448-49 (Atsız, p. 39) While Şükrullāh’s work was based on Aḥmedi’s narrative or at least a common source used by Aḥmedi, among other unknown sources for the earlier Ottoman period up until Bayezid I, it also includes much original material for subsequent periods. A contemporary witness to events in the 9th/15th century, Şükrullāh also includes accounts from his diplomatic missions as well as from the reign of Murād II and Meḥmed II, making this work valuable for these periods of Ottoman history (Atsız, p. 41; Menage, II, p. 318, pp. 324-28). Şükrullāh’s history was translated into Turkısh in 937/1530-31 for Sultan Sülayman, and served as the major source for a subsequent Ottoman history, Meḥmed Zaʿim’s Turkish history Cāmiʿ al-tavāriẖ (Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ), commissioned by Murād III’s grand vizier Soḳollu Meḥmed (Soqollu Moḥammad) Pasha in 985/1578. Meḥmed Zaʿim’s made such extensive use of Şükrullāh that parts of it could be considered a word-for-word translation (Babinger, pp. 98-99).

Mir ʿAli b. Moẓaffar, known by his maẖlaṣ (taḵalloṣ) of Muʿāli, was a sayyed originally from Ṭus. He arrived at the Ottoman court after years of traveling through Islamic lands, approximately from 850-57/1446-53. Muʿāli’s history, the Ḵonkār-nāma, composed in Persian verse of around 5,000 couplets mostly in the motaqāreb meter, is difficult to describe generically, for it does not adhere to any particular historical format. Menage describes its composition as a “patchwork “ of events stitched together with little concern for chronological sequence, composed in a “bombastic language.” It consists of four sections, beginning with a brief overview of Meḥmed II’s reign and his defeat of two Turkmen rulers in Anatolia, the Āq Qoyunlu ruler Uzun Ḥasan and Ismāʿil (Esmāʿil), the Isfendiyarid prince of the region of Kastamonu near the Black Sea, before launching into a more detailed expose of the circumstances leading up to and following the Ottoman defeat of Uzun Ḥasan in 878/1473. The second section deals with the history of Timur and his successors as well as the Qara Qoyunlu and Āq Qoyunlu Turkmen confederations. Here Muʿali’s describes the recep-tion of an embassy sent by Murād II after the Battle of Varna in 848/1444 to the Timurid court, a common diplomatic strategy meant to promote one’s victories as a form of political intimidation. The work concludes with an autobiographical account of the author’s extensive travels, appendixed with a few significant events in 879/1474-75 as the author was concluding the work’s composition. Of notice were the traumatic death of the Ottoman prince Muṣṭafā (Mosṭafā) that year at the hands of the rebellious Karamanid Turkmen of south central Anatolia, as well as the execution of the grand vizier Maḥmud Pasha and the arrival in Istanbul of a Mamluk embassy (Anhegger, p. 147; Menage, I, pp. 147-49).

Muʿali’s Ḵonkār-nāma comprises an important source for Ottoman relations with the few remaining rival Turkish Anatolian regional principalities as well as the neighboring powers to the east, the Timurids, Āq Qoyunlu, and Qara Qoyunlu. Composed while the Ottomans were in the midst of military conflict with the Āq Qoyunlu, its completion in 879/1474-75 coincided with the Ottoman defeat of Uzun Ḥasan, bringing an end to the Āq Qo-yunlu ruler’s territorial ambitions in Anatolia (Menage, I, p. 151). As a result of his Iranian origins as well as his extensive travels to various eastern courts where he had personal contacts and of whom he had first-hand knowledge, Muʿali was uniquely able to provide the Ottoman court with accurate and detailed information regarding eastern enemies.

Like Muʿali, Kāšifi (Kāšefi) was an émigré from Iranian lands. Originally from Baku, which at the time was in the domains of the Shah of Shirvān, Kāšifi arrived at the Ottoman court towards the end of the reign of Meḥ-med II after having spent many years traveling throughout the Islamic world and having lived for some time at Aleppo and Urfa (Ruḥā, Edessa). He approached the Ottoman Grand Vizier Ḳaramāni Meḥmed (Qaramāni Moḥammad) Pasha in 882/1478 with a partial Persian maṯnawi of the military exploits of Meḥmed II, the Ğazā-nāma-ye Rum, the completed portion of which consists of 1,139 couplets in the motaqāreb meter and exists in a unique manuscript in Istanbul (Istanbul University Library, ms. FY no. 1388, ff. 43). Victor Menage speculates that the work, which resembles an earlier anon-ymous Turkish §āzā-nāma composed over thirty years earlier for the sultan’s father Murād II, was an attempt to bring the author, new to the Ottoman capital and seeking court patronage, to the attention of the sultan. The text may represent a first draft of the beginning of a proposed longer work which would have been undertaken upon the approval and financial support of the sultan. After describing the sultan’s birth and his father’s brief abdication to him when he was a mere youth in 848/1444, Kāšifi launches into a detailed account of the 848/1444 Varna campaign against the European Crusaders. It describes other campaigns such as the expedition into Albania in 851/1447 and the campaign at Kosova in 852/1448. The text ends with an unfinished section consisting of only the heading announcing the marriage of Meḥ-med II with the Ḏu’l-Qadr princess in 853/1449. We have no information on whether or not the text was ever completed (Erzi, pp. 596-97; Menage, I, pp. 153-55). Halil Inalcık points out that the text contains original information regarding Murād II’s reign and Meḥmed II’s youth (Inalcık, p. 11).

By the time Bayezid II (r. 886-918/1481-1512) came to the throne, the Ottomans appear to have been conscious of their lack of a detailed and cohesive dynastic historical tradition. Up to this point Ottoman historical works consisted of either universal histories containing relatively brief appendixes of the Ottoman period, covering the reign or part of a reign of a particular sultan, or the more limited accounts of particular campaigns, in addition to the miscellaneous works discussed above focusing on the rule of previous powers such as the Seljuqs or Ottoman relations with political rivals to the east. Bayezid II’s reign represents a watershed period for the development of Ottoman historiography, both in Turkish and Persian, for this period marks the development of a detailed Ottoman dynastic tradition compiled in the form of dynastic chronicles written in simple and straightforward Turkish, geared to a less educated audience. Later during Bayezid II’s reign, this relatively unsophisticated dynastic chronicle tradition was recast into enšāʾ-style rhetorical prose histories, both in Turkish and Persian, with the intention of projecting an imperial image for the dynasty with a more elite audience in mind.

The first major Ottoman dynastic chronicles produced in Turkish drew upon various sources such as early 9th/15th-century taqwims “retrospective historical calendars,” narratives such as manāqeb-nāmas, works of semi-legendary tales of the exploits and deeds of important individuals, and Ğazawāt-nāmas, accounts focusing on battles waged by the sultan or his amirs, in addition to oral traditions and personal recollections (Inalcık, pp. 11-12; Woodhead, 1998, p. 291). This initial flurry of dynastic historical composition, written in an unpretentious and straightforward Turkish vernacular, was mainly concerned with selectively creating an official Ottoman dynastic narrative out of an array of often contradictory sources and oral accounts. Victor Menage and Halil Inalcik have pointed out that the many works produced during this sudden increased activity of historical writing during Bayezid II’s reign conclude with events of 891/1484-85. This date is not coincidental in being the end-point of these series of narratives, but indicates a political imperative in the production of image-enhancing accounts of the sultan whose ascension to the throne in 886/1481 was marked by both dynastic succession struggle as well as general unrest and widespread discontent throughout his realm. Added to the disaffection resulting from the unpopular drastic fiscal measures introduced by his father and the grand vizier Ḳaramāni Meḥmed Pasha as well as the general internal unrest in different parts of the empire, was the Cem (Jam) problem. The ongoing succession struggle with his brother Cem (d. 900/1495), as well as the eagerness of the European powers to exploit this internal conflict with the hopes of a civil war breaking out in the Ottoman empire, made Bayezid II’s less than secure. In order to solidify his precarious hold of the throne and enhance his stature within and outside the empire, he took to military campaigning as well as initiated a new wave of historical production bent on putting his reign in the best possible light (Menage, I, p. 35; Inalcik, p. 12). Anxious to placate his restless Janisary corps who were responsible for bringing him to the throne, yet extremely unhappy with the execution in 887/1482 of their idol the grand vizier Gedik Aḥmed Pasha, Bayezid undertook his first military campaign in 889/1484 in the region of Moldavia. There he successfully seized the important fortresses of Aḳḳırman (Āq-Qermān) at the mouth of the Dniester and Kilia on the Danube estuary, something his father the great conqueror had failed to accomplish. The first set of dynastic chronicles composed during the reign of Bayezid all invariably conclude in 889/1484 emphasizing Bayezid’s military successes (Inalcik, p. 12) in the context of Bayezid as the legitimate successor to the glorious Ottoman legacy as the premier ğāzis (warriors for a holy cause) of the Islamic world as well as the legitimate successors to the Anatolian Seljuqs.

Part of establishing a canonical dynastic narrative was the creation of an ideological fiction upon which Ottoman political and territorial claims could be founded. The political ideology of the Ottomans as the legitimate and sole successors to the Seljuqs of Anatolia underlies the Ottoman myth of their origins which appear in the dynastic chronicles composed in this period. Ḳaramāni Meḥmed Pasha prefaced his Arabic Ottoman dynastic history, the earliest surviving Ottoman dynastic history, completed in 885/1480, one year shy of Bayezid’s succession, with an overview of the Anatolian Seljuqs as the background to the rise of the Ottoman dynasty (Menage, I, pp. 129-30). This narrative strategy as first seen in Ḳaramāni Meḥmed Pasha’s work, which places the Ottomans as the legitimate successors of the Seljuqs and completely bypasses the Mongols, was repeated throughout subsequent chronicles of the period, including the Anonymous Chronicles, and the histories of Ruḥi, ʿĀşıḳpāşazāde (ʿĀšeq-Pāšāzāda), ʿUruc (ʿOruj), and Neşri (Našri). The concern to show the Ottomans as the rightful and legitimate successors to the Seljuqs must have become especially pressing considering the great difficulty the Ottomans were faced in their attempts to take control of Karamanid territory in south-central Anatolia beginning with Meḥ-med II’s conquest of Konya in 873/1468. It was not until early on in Bayezid’s reign, in 888/1483, that the Ottomans were able to bring an end to the Karamanid dynasty, the Ottoman’s greatest Anatolian Turkmen rival, who likewise viewed themselves as the sole and legitimate successors to the Seljuqs. Even with the end of Karamanid rule in the region, outbreaks of rebellion in the name of the Karamanids continued as late as 906/1500-1501. Stability in the region was likewise threatened with a border war with the Mamluks beginning in 809/1485 over control of the southeastern Anatolian frontier.

Two Persian histories were produced during the earlier part of Bayezid II’s reign: the prose dynastic history Ketāb-e tawāriḵ-e āl-e ʿOṯmān of Meḥmed Emin b. Ḥacci Ḫalil El-Ḳonyevi (Moḥammad Amin b. Ḥajji Ḵalil Qonyavi), of which two known unpublished manuscripts exist (Biblio. Nat. ms. Schefer supp. pers. no. 1394, foll. 87 and Kayseri Reşid Efendi Library no. muvakkat 68, foll. 47), and an anonymous verse history entitled Bāyazidnāma, a unique unpublished manuscript illustrated with 13 amateurish miniatures at the Cambridge University library (ms. Or. no. 196, foll. 2a-105b). Like the set of Turkish Ottoman histories produced for Bayezid II during this period, these two Persian works conclude with events of the year 889/1484.

El-Ḳonyevi states that he began writing his history at the command of Meḥmed II, and continued to work on it throughout the early part of Bayezid II’s reign, concluding it with the conquests of Kilia and Akkırman in 889/1484. Much of el-Ḳonyevi’s work, as Menage has shown, consists primarily of Şükrullāh’s history recast in a more elegant and ornate Persian with an update of events. The work is prefaced with an abridged history of the Anatolian Seljuqs, demonstrating that the Ottomans, as the true successors of the Seljuqs, owed their claims to sovereignty when the Seljuq Sultan Kayḵosrow III (663-82/1264-84) granted ʿOsmān, the eponymous founder of the Ottomans, the insignia of royalty. The author claims that his section on the Anatolian Seljuqs is superior to previous works, incuding that written by Şükrullāh. A šariʿa court clerk from Konya, el-Ḳonyevi added additional information to this section from inscriptions of buildings in his native Konya as well as information found in waqfiyāt, previously unused historical calendars (taqwims), and other miscellaneous histories. Whether or not this section presents original and reliable information on the Anatolian Seljuqs is a question that awaits further investigation. The section on the Ottomans was taken directly from Şükrullāh going up until Meḥmed II’s accession to the throne in 855/1451. The account subsequent to 855/1451, the period up to 889/1484, consists of original material presented in a sparse narrative recounting events year by year, most likely based on contemporary historical calendars (Menage, I, pp. 102-4; Blochet, p. 87).

The value of the Bāyazid-nāma, an anonymous Persian verse history dealing solely with the reign of Bayezid II, has been overlooked as a contemporary source of the period, perhaps due to the inaccurate description as a non-contemporary history of Bayezid I (r. 791-805/1389-1402; Storey, II, p. 411, based on Browne’s description). Written in 891/1486, the historical narrative of the work begins with a chapter on Bayezid II’s role, while still a prince, in the military efforts to pacify the Karamanids. A third of the work details Bayezid’s succession struggle with his brother Cem (Jam), who had formed an alliance with the Karamanid prince Ḳāṣım (Qāṣem) Beg, and continuing until Cem’s flight to Rhodes in 887/1482. The rest of the work is devoted to various Ottoman princes, grand viziers, and other officials of the realm, and concludes with Bayezid’s military activity in Moldavia along the Danube and the Dniester region, and the arrival of a Mamluk embassy just as the Ottoman-Mamluk border conflict was to erupt. In order to emphasize both Bayezid II’s military successes and his imperial grandeur and majesty, the sultan is referred to as Abu’l-Nāṣer throughout the work, or alternatively, as Ḵosrow, the “imperial one.” This Persian verse history appears to be the only known work solely dealing with Bayezid II’s reign. It also marks an early attempt to cast the sultan in a truly imperial light, with its highly rhetorical Persian and mystical tone, as especially seen in the exordium of the work.

Towards the latter half of Bayezid II’s reign, at the beginning of the 10th/16th century, we see a significant shift in Ottoman historiographical concerns, in which Persian plays a significant role. With the semi-official establishment of the content of the Ottoman historical narrative in the 880s-90s/1480s-90s through the series of vernacular Turkish chronicles, the concern turned towards the creation of historical works which adequately exerted an imperial image of the Ottoman sovereign. Thus at the beginning of the 10th/16th century, efforts were made to recast the established narrative into a rhetorically embellished style, both in Ottoman Turkish and in Persian. Bayezid II thus commissioned what were to become two of the most important and influential Ottoman dynastic histories ever to have been composed. Idris-i Bidlisi (Edris-e Bedlisi)’s Persian Hašt behešt and Ibn-i Kemāl (Ebn Kamāl)’s Turkish Tevāriẖ-i āl-i ʿOsòmān (Tawāriḵ-e āl-e ʿOṯmān) mark the development of an imperial ornate enšāʿ style in dynastic historical composition. These texts in Persian and Turkish respectively can be considered parallel efforts in both languages to lay down the groundwork for an imperial tradition of dynastic historical composition.

Originally from an important ulema family of the Kurdish region of Bidlis in eastern Anatolia, Ḥakim-al-Din Edris b. Ḥosām-al-Din ʿAli Bedlisi (d. 926/1520), known simply by his maḵlaṣ (taḵalloṣ) Idris (Edris), accompanied his father Ḥosām-al-Din, a well-respected Sufi shaikh, to Tabriz when the Āq Qoyunlu ruler Uzun Ḥa-san moved his court from Diārbakr (Amid) to Tabriz. Under the Āq Qoyunlus, Tabriz became a major gathering place for scholars and shaikhs of the time. Edris Bedlisi completed his education at Tabriz and served the Āq Qoyunlu rulers as divān secretary and chancellor (ne-šānji). Edris stayed in Āq Qoyunlu service until the Safavid conquest of Tabriz in 907/1501-02, and upon the invitation of Bayezid II, who had been impressed by his finely composed correspondence written in highly embellished Persian, established himself in Istanbul. Immediately afterwards, in 908/1502, the sultan commissioned Edris to compose a high-style Persian history of the Ottoman dynasty. Edris presented his massive work for the sultan in 912/1506. Despite the sultan’s initial praise, Edris did not receive his due reward for his literary labors, due to the emnity of the grand vizier Ḵādem-ʿAli Pasha (d. 917/1511) and jealous ministers who accused him of praising the Persians too highly and thus cast doubt on his loyalty to the House of Osman. Edris had to wait until Selim I (r. 918-926/1512-20) took the throne for his history to receive the recognition that it deserved. Not only was his work well-received, but he also entered the highest ranks of Ottoman service in close association with the sultan and accompanied him on his campaign against the Safavids in 920/1514. Edris remained east following the campaign, having been granted the task of winning over to Ottoman loyalty the Kurdish tribal borderlands of his ancestral home and organizing the region into a semi-autonomous Ottoman province (Uğur, pp. 7-9; Menage, II, p. 254 and p. 591; Fleischer, 1990, pp. 75-76).

Edris’ massive history consisted of eight chapters, each chapter devoted to a single sultan and briefly prefaced with a treatment of the Seljuq period. Taking Jovayni’s (d. 681/1238), Waṣṣāf’s (fl. ca. 728/1328), and Šaraf-al-Din Yazdi’s (d. 858/1454) highly embellished histories as stylistic models, the work was composed along the lines of the Ottoman dynastic narrative tradition established by Aḥmedi, Şükrullāh, the Bodleian (Oxford) Anonymous chronicle, and Ruḥi, ending with Selim I’s struggle to take the throne in 918/1512. Idris Bidlisi’s son Ebu’l-Fażl Meḥmed el-Defterdāri (Abu’l-Fażl Moḥammad al-Daftardāri; d. 982/1574), defterdār (daftardār) “financial minister” and later, başdefterdār (bāšdaftardār) “chief treasurer” under Süleyman, wrote a ḏayl, or appendix, to his father’s work, simply known as the Ḏayl-e Hašt be-hešt, carrying the narrative up to 920/1514. The longevity and popularity of Edris’ monumental history is attested to by the numerous extant copies in Turkish and European libraries, yet the text still remains unpublished. Not only did the Hašt behešt, highly praised by his contemporaries, provide a stylistic model for Ottoman Turkish histories, but it was also an important repository of historical information that was later drawn upon by subsequent historians such as Ḫoca Saʿdeddin (Ḵᵛāja Saʿd-al-Din), who used it as his main source for his masterful Tac al-Tavāriẖ (Tāj al-tawāriḵ; Fleischer, 1990, p. 76; Inalcık, p. 14; Eyice, pp. 356-57; Babinger, pp. 45-46).

Ottoman historiography blossomed during the long reign of Süleyman (926-74/1520-66) after a period of little historical production during the reign of one of the more militarily active sultans, Selim I (r. 918-26/1512-20). Cor-nell Fleischer attributes the explosion in Ottoman historical writing during the second half of the 10th/16th century to the growth and systematization of the Ottoman bureaucracy, which necessitated an increase in bureaucratic appointments (Fleischer, 1994, p. 59), for which one had to prove one’s worthiness through literary skill as demonstrated via the composition of historical and other literary endeavors. Not only was there an increase in short episodic Ğazawāt-nāma works detailing battles and the heroic acts of those participating in them, reflecting the increased military activity of the Ottoman state, but also a variety of historical forms. Historians of the early Süleymanic period of the late 920s-30s/1520s and the early to mid-940s/1530s were particularly concerned with bringing up to date existing general and dynastic histories by appending the events of Süleyman’s reign and with producing accounts dealing with the sultan’s father Selim (Salim)’s undocumented reign. The latter works, composed in both Persian and Turkish, were generally known as Selim-nāme. A central theme of these works is Selim I’s controversial ascension to the throne after supposedly deposing his father and defeating the armies of his brothers. Thus the main concern underlying these works was the restoration of the tarnished reputation of the sultan accused of rebelling against his father. Considering the great energy that went into composing these works throughout the sultan’s reign, it would appear that Süleyman’s sultanic image was in some ways affected by the legitimacy and reputation of his father. Yet not all Selim-nāmes (Salim-nāmas) focus on Selim I’s difficult road to sovereignty. Some works concentrated on the controversial sultan’s military successes by recounting the battles which brought Egypt, Syria, and eastern Anatolia under Ottoman rule as well as Selim’s containment of the Safavid threat. Kešfi Meḥmed Čelebi’s (Kašfi Moḥammad Čalabi; d. 931/1524) Selim-nāme, officially entitled Tāriḵ-e Solṭān Salim-e-Kašfi, a trilingual work of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish, composed predominantly in verse interspersed with prose around 926-27/1520-21 upon the occasion of Süleyman’s enthronement (Istanbul Süleymaniye Library, ms. Esad Efendi no. 2147, foll. 134; Tekindağ, 1970, p. 202) is one such example. Passing over in silence his battle with his father, the work extols Selim’s campaigns in Iran and conquests in Syria and Egypt, events which the author eyewitnessed as part of the sultan’s entourage as secretary to the imperial council. Other such Persian examples of Selim-nāmes is that by Kabir Qāżizāda (Istanbul, Süleymaniye Library, ms. Selim Ağa no. 825) and an anonymous Persian prose Salim-nāma of the Istanbul Yapı Kredi Library (ms. no. 517, foll. 62).

Selim-nāmes continued to be in demand even in the post-Süleymanic period. Towards the end of his reign Süleyman commissioned Ebu’l-Fażl (Abu’l-Fażl) to complete the draft of a Persian Salim-nāma left unfinished by his father’s untimely death. This reworked version of his father’s original work composed in Persian mixed prose and verse was renamed the Salim šāh-nāma. It begins with the Qezelbāš rebellion led by Şāhḳulu (Šāhqoli) in 917/1511 and concludes in 925/1518 towards the end of Selim’s reign. Completing the work in 974/1567, Ebu’l-Fażl presented it to Selim II (974-82/1566-76) following his enthronement, possibly as a way to ensure the renewal of his post of chief financial minister (başdefterdār) (Tekindağ, 1970, pp. 204-6; Fleischer, 1990, pp. 75-76; Eyice, pp. 357-358; Özcan, pp. 356-357).

A particularly important Persian history presented to Selim II upon his enthronement in 974/1566 was the Merʾāt al-adwār wa merqāt al-aḵbār, a universal history composed by Muḥammed Muṣliḥiddin al-Lāri al-Anṣāri (Moḥammad Moṣleḥ-al-Din Lāri Anṣāri; d. 979/1571-72). An Iranian émigré originally from Lārestān, Lāri was educated in Shiraz by, among others, a disciple of Jalāl-al--Din Davāni. Before coming into Ottoman service, the itinerant scholar spent many years in India serving as tutor to the household of the Mughal ruler Homāyun Shah (q.v.). Following the ruler’s death in 963/1556, Lāri spent some time in Aleppo before making his way to the Ottoman court. His stay in Istanbul did not last long due to a serious misunderstanding with his powerful would-be patron, the Ottoman Şeyẖülislām (Šayḵ-al-Eslām) Ebu’s-süʿud (Abu’l-Soʿud). Lāri settled in Diārbakr far from the Ottoman court, where he tutored the children of the Ottoman governor and taught at a local madrasa and undertook the composition of his massive work, which according to the author was based on around fifty Arabic and Persian sources, including the Tāriḵ-e Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (q.v.) and the Rawżat al-ṣafā, in addition to several Turkish works. It consists of ten books or chapters (bābs). The universal history concludes with a very brief section on the Ottomans, stopping at the death of Süleyman in 974/1566. Books one to six cover the pre-Islamic Iranian kings, the early Islamic period, the Iranian dynasties of the Saffarids, Samanids, Daylamites, Ghaznavids, Ghurids (qq.v.), and Kurts (Karts), as well as the Great Seljuqs and their branches in Kermān and Anatolia, the Atabegs, Ḵwārazmšāhs, and the Ismāʿilis. Book seven narrates the history of Chingiz Khan and his successors and the Mongol successor states of the Chopanids and the Muzaf-farids. Book eight is dedicated solely to Timur and his de-scendants, and book nine treats the Āq Qoyunlu, ending with a brief mention of Shah Esmāʿil and Shah Ṭahmāsb. Embedded in this section is the lamentation of the author, himself a Shāfiʿi who later converted to Hanbalism, that all the great minds of Iran had been driven out of the realm due to the fanaticism of Shah Ṭahmāsb. Book ten concludes the work with a rather brief synopsis of the Ottoman period within a mere sixteen folios and an appendix of a biographical section on statesmen, scholars, and poets (Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts I, p. 116; Sohrweide, 1979a, p. 682, Riāḥi, p. 185).

Lāri’s Persian history, a work which awaits further detailed study, represents the quintessential general or universal history popular in the eastern Islamic world at the time. Ḫoca Saʿdeddin (Ḵᵛājā Saʿd-al-Din; d. 1008/1599) translated the work into Turkish and dedicated it to his pupil prince Murād, who took the throne as Murād III (982-1003/1574-95). In addition to translating Lāri’s universal history into Turkish, Saʿdeddin (Saʿd-al-Din) produced a masterful Ottoman dynastic history, a work which originally developed as a continuation and elaboration of Lāri’s sparse chapter on the Ottomans, which he found inadequate and not worthy of merely translating. Basing his narrative on Idris Bidlisi’s dynastic history (Inalcık, p. 14), Saʿdeddin took the work up to the end of Selim’s reign, composing it in the high rhetorical style that had become de rigeur for literary renderings of Ottoman dynastic history. Saʿdeddin (Saʿd-al-Din)’s choice of title for his masterpiece, the Tācü’t-tevāriẖ (Tāj al-tawāriḵ) (Crown of Histories) points to the conceptualization of the Ottoman dynasty as the zenith of Islamic history, as well as possibly carrying a double meaning of praise for his own work. Considered a discrete work on its own right, the Tācü’t-tevāriẖ superseded previous Ottoman chronicles and remains one of the Ottoman histories most consulted by both Ottomans and modern historians (Fleming, 1979, p. 27; Sohrweide, 1979a, p. 682).

The production of Persian historical works under Ottoman patronage reached its peak with Sultan Süleyman’s establishment in the late 950s/early 1550s of the institution of the composer of sāh-nāmas, the šāh-nāma-ji or šāh-nāma-guy, who, like any other Ottoman official, received a regular salary. The roots of the position of the šāh-nāma-guy may be found in Süleyman’s commissioning of a šāh-nāma style Ottoman history by ʿAbdurrah-mān b. ʿAbdullāh Ğubāri (ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān ʿAbd-Allāh Ḡobāri; q.v.) a Naqšbandi shaikh, calligrapher, scholar, and tutor to the royal princes of Süleyman’s son Bayezid at his court in Kütahya. Ğubāri completed his task in 958/1551 with his partial dynastic history covering Selim I’s campaigns and the early years of Süleyman’s reign. While the reception of Ğubāri’s šāh-nāma is impossible to trace, one can speculate that it was not very successful and received little further attention. Ğubāri’s career in Ottoman service likewise took an unexpected turn of bad luck. As the tutor to prince Bayezid’s household, he found himself on the losing side of the succession struggle between Süleyman’s latter son and prince Selim in 966/1559. Following imprisonment for a few years, Ğubāri resettled at the Naqšbandi dervish lodge in Mecca, where he remained until his death (Parmaksızo-ğlu, p. 349; Alpaslan, p. 168).

Five successive official šāh-nāma-guys were officially appointed during the second half the 10th/16th century. The chief function of the šāh-nāma-guy was to compose Persian verse in the format of universal history up to the current Ottoman sultan in the style of Ferdowsi using the motaqāreb meter. The texts in turn were lavishly illustrated by a team of miniaturists at the palace workshop. The aim of the production of these works, both the written text as well as the accompanying illustrations, was glorification of the Ottoman dynasty. Christine Woodhead places the development of the post as a response to the waning political authority and legitimacy of the sultan during the troubled decade of the late 950s and 960s/1550s (Woodhead, 1983, pp. 172-73). The establishment of the post may also have been related to the ongoing rivalry between the Ottomans and the Safavids.

The post of the šāh-nāma-guy, with its requirement of composing verse in Persian, was, not surprisingly, dominated by Iranian émigrés: with the exception of the last holder of this position, all šāh-nāma-guys were of Persian origins or émigrés from Iranian lands. The first šāh-nāma-guy ʿĀrifi (ʿĀrefi; d. 969/1561-62) was the grandson of the celebrated Iranian mystic Ebrāhim Golšāni (q.v.), the founder of the Golšāniya branch of the Ḵalwatiya Sufi order (Yazıcı, 1982, pp. 245-47; idem, 1992, pp. 121-22; Atıl, p. 55). The second brief holder of the post, Eflāṭun (Aflāṭun), had been, as the prince’s court poet, part of the renegade Safavid prince Alqās Mirzā’s entourage from Iran. The post was brought to its height under the third šāh-nāma-guy, Sayyid Loḳmān Urmavi (Sayyed Loqmān Ormavi), who held the post for twenty-seven years. Originally from the region of Lake Urmiya in southwestern Iranian Azerbaijan near the Ottoman-Persian border, Loḳmān came to Istanbul in the late 960s/early 1560s and found employment as a divān secretary under Feridun (Faridun) Bey, the head of the Ottoman chancellery. Precedence was broken, however, when the sultan Meḥmed III (1003-11/1595-1603) appointed Taʿlīḳī-zāde (Taʿliqizāda) in Loḳmān’s place. Not only was he not of Iranian origins—as a member of the influential Istanbul Fenāri family, he was from a thoroughly elite Ottoman Turkish background—but also, during his four years as šāh-nāma-guy,he wrote entirely in Turkish (Kütükoğlu, p. 9; Fodor, p. 165).

The project of composing a continuous Persian šāh-nāma style verse universal history in which the Ottoman dynasty took center stage was initiated by ʿArifi, the first of the official Ottoman šāh-nāma-guys. ʿArifi’s literary labors resulted in laying the ground for the universal history with the set of works collectively known as the Šāh-nāma-ye āl-e ʿOṯmān or the Šāh-nāma-ye homāyun, which supposedly consisted of five volumes. Only three volumes have survived or were actually completed: the first, fourth, and fifth volumes. The first volume, the Anbiāʾ-nāma, completed in 959/1552, begins with creation and goes up to the early prophets. The fourth volume covers all of the Ottoman sultans up to the reign of Selim I. The fifth volume, the Solaymān-nāma, completed in 965/1558, goes up to 962/1555 with the death of prince Mustafa (Moṣṭafā) and the rebellion of an impersonator of him, the false Mustafa (Atıl, p. 60).

Loḳmān (d. 1010/1601-02) completed ten major works during his tenure as šāh-nāma-guy, five of which were Persian verse, four in Turkish prose, and one in Turkish verse. Loḳmān completed his first work in 986/1578, the Tatamma-ye aḥwāl-e Solṭān Solaymān, which brought the reign of Süleyman to a close, continuing chronologically from where ʿĀrifi’s’s fifth volume stopped (Sohreweide, 1979b, pp. 813-14; Nyitrai, p. 110). In this work covering Süleyman (Solaymān)’s later campaigns, Loḳ-mān emphasizes Süleyman’s strict adherence to the šariʿa such as his ban on wine-drinking and other attempts to control public morality. Loḳmān continued the imperial šāh-nāma project with the completion of his Šāh-nāma-ye Salim Ḵān, a two-volume work on Selim II’s (974-82/1566-74) reign, in 991/1581. At the same time that he was working on the Persian Šāh-nāmas, Loḳmān busied himself with other works for Murād III, all in Turkish. The Ottoman Persian šāh-nāma project concluded with Loḳmān’s two-volume šāhinšāh-nāma, which covered Murād III’s rule until 996/1588, stopping nine years short of the sultan’s entire reign. Although Loḳmān completed the narrative in 1001/1592, the work was not ready for presentation until 1007/1597 upon the completion of its miniatures at the royal workshop (Mahir, p. 318; Çağman and Tanındı p. 60; Atasoy and Çağman, p. 50).

Loḳmān’s final šāh-nāma on Murād III’s reign marks the last Ottoman attempt to employ Persian in historical composition. We see no further production of historical works in Persian, with the exception of Šaraf-al-Din Bidlisi’s Šaraf-nāma, composed sometime between 1005/1597 and 1012/1603, a Persian history of the Kurds and Kurdish tribes as well as material on the Ottomans, Safavids, and Central Asian rulers (Glassen, pp. 76-77). This work, however, lies outside the Ottoman tradition. Thus Loḳmān’s work represents both the peak and the end of the production of Persian historical writing under Ottoman patronage. By the end of the 10th/16th century there appears to have been a major shift in the cultural orientation of the Ottoman court. Suddenly there was a notable lack of interest in Persian, the prestige language of the court since the 9th/15th century. Only until the complex changes in the political, military, cultural, and economic structures of the Ottoman empire at the end of the 10th/16th century are better understood, including the changing role of the sultan within a vast and rapidly developing bureaucratic system, can we find a satisfactory expla-nation for this cultural reorientation. Woodhead points to the less active role of the sultan in patronizing historical works, which led to a more general “state” focus of subsequent Ottoman historiography, as opposed to the heavily dynastic and imperial interests of earlier and classical historiography (Woodhead, 1998, p. 292). For whatever reasons, Persian historiography, especially in the form of šāh-nāma versified imperial dynastic accounts, no longer found resonance in the Ottoman court or among elite or educated elements of Ottoman society.



Manuscripts and edited sources. Aḥ-medi (Aḥmadi), ed. İ. Ünver, İskender-nāme: Inceleme-Tıpkıbasım, Ankara, 1983. Bāyazid-nāma, Cambridge University Library, ms. Or. no. 196, foll. 2a-105b.

Enveri (Anwari), Düsturnāma-i Enveri, ed. M. H. Yinanç, Istanbul, 1929.

Idris Bidlisi (Edris Bedlisi), Hašt be-hešt, Istanbul, Millet Library, ms. Ali Emiri, Farsca no. 806, foll. 147b.

Muḥammed Muṣliḥiddin al-Lāri al-Anṣāri (Moḥammad Moṣleḥ-al-Din Lāri Anṣāri), Merʾāt al-edwār wa merqāt al-aḵbār, London, British Museum, ms. Add. no. 7650.

Salim-nāma, Istanbul, Yapı Kredi Library, ms. no. 517, foll. 62.

Şükrullāh (Šokr-Allāh), Bahjat al-tawāriḵ, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale Catalogue, ms. supp. pers. no. 1120; Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, ms. H.O. no. 1; Istanbul, Süleymaniye Library, ms. Fatih no. 4203.


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(Sara Nur Yildiz)

Originally Published: December 15, 2004

Last Updated: March 22, 2012

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Vol. XII, Fasc. 4, pp. 403-411