Speaker: Amy Singer, Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic Studies and Professor of History, Brandeis University
Abstract: Hekim Beşir Çelebi was apparently a fifteenth-century physician (hekim), invited to leave the court of the Karamanid ruler in south-central Anatolia in order to join the Ottoman sultan, Mehmed II (1451-81) in Edirne, in eastern Thrace. Edirne remained the most important Ottoman city in southern Europe until the end of the Ottoman era and beyond. The text – Tarih-i Edirne. Hikayet-i Beşir Çelebi (The History of Edirne and Tale of Beşir Çelebi) – offers a unique description of Edirne, apparently from the mid-to-late-fifteenth century. Divided into two sections, the first narrates a conversation between Beşir Çelebi and the sultan setting out the natural health advantages of the city: it is altogether “a most excellent place.” The second part narrates how the Romans and then the Ottomans fortified and developed the city through the time of the sultan’s father, Sultan Murad II (1421-1451). The narrator (Hekim Beşir himself?) described the spritual advantages of Edirne: a place of wonder, with legends attached to its sites emphasizing the sanctity of the city and justified its favored status among the Ottoman gazis (fighters). Hekim Beşir Çelebi’s text has thus been understood to sustain the gazis’ objections to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and its transformation into the Ottoman capital as Istanbul. This lecture examines closely the wondrous legends associated with Edirne to understand how key personalities like the prophet Muhammad and contemporary spiritual leaders like Haci Bayram and Shaykh Hamid, together with key buildings and sites, are invoked to establish Edirne’s excellences.