Bridge between the East and the West. The role of French and imperial embassies in Europe’s acquaintance with Eastern culture
In the early modern period, the South-Eastern and Eastern part of Europe, just like the Mediterranean, was part of a contact zone linking the East with the West, Christians with Muslims. The region was cosmopolitan and multicultural where orientation was difficult in the 15th-16th centuries; there were a number of misunderstandings and problems among people. This era, however, was a cognition process as a result of which the Ottoman Empire became part of the European state system by the end of the 17th century. These areas became in-between spaces where people but even things (e.g.: books, household objects) and customs also crossed the political–religious borders. Getting to know other societies continuously gained importance, knowledge was mediated by people originating from different social layers and reached the old continent in many different forms. This paper examines the interactions between these two worlds, in particular it is describing the role of the permanent missions of European powers to Constantinople, including the French and the Habsburg embassies. The final conclusion is that interactions were manifold, in the course of which, however, the permanent embassies of the Europeans in the Ottoman capital played a significant role. They were not only political and diplomatic centres but cultural ones as well, through which Ottoman scientists could take part of the European scientific community. It can be stated that, besides the outstanding and important role of interpreters as transimperial subjects, other members of the European embassies in Constantinople–the ambassadors themselves, scientists arriving there, and also other employees such as embassy secretaries or artists sent there–all played important roles in the interactions between the two worlds. In the future, I plan to study the roles of certain groups more deeply.
Ambassador or impostor? The labyrinths of Habsburg diplomacy in the context of a homicide in Constantinople
While I was conducting research on the circumstances of Simon Reniger’s appointment as Habsburg ambassador to Constantinople, a crime started to excite my interest. The offence had been committed during the term of the previous resident ambassador, Alexander Greiffenklau but it caused a lot of difficulties even at the time when Reniger came into office. Namely, in the autumn of 1646, Greiffenklau killed a certain Don Juan de Menesses, an adventurer of dubious origin, who – according to Habsburg informants – had been involved in conspiring against the dynasty within the Sultan’s entourage. In my paper, I want to describe what led to Menesses’ murder and what kind of consequences can be drawn on the basis of the crime as to the diplomatic cooperation between the Spanish and the Austrian lines of the Habsburg dynasty in the last years of the Thirty Years’ War.
The Ottoman social network of a Habsburg ambassador, Simon Reniger in Constantinople. Viziers, muftis and Hungarian renegades
The paper focuses on the Ottoman social network of a Habsburg ambassador, Simon Reniger, who lived in Constantinople in the middle of the 17th century. The ambassador’s connections can be broken down into different groups based on the nature of the connection. The fact that, apart from the members of the uppermost circles, those belonging to the middle and lower classes are not mentioned in contemporary historical works, only in Ottoman, German or Hungarian archival sources, makes the research and the identification of persons difficult. As the case studies presented show, including one about the life of an Ottoman envoy who lived in Vienna as well, how difficult it is to discover the identity of Ottoman officials. But all things considered we can claim that Simon Reniger surrounded himself with an Ottoman social network which mostly comprised Hungarian renegades.
Grand dragoman Zülfikar Aga
The paper is an attempt to highlight the most important facets of the extraordinarily long career of Zülfikar aga, a Hungarian renegade who was serving the Sublime Porte as a court interpreter for more than fifty years in the seventeenth century. Born around 1578, Zülfikar's first translation activities are documented from the peace negotiations at Zsitvatorok (1606) and he seems to have been living in Constantinople from 1608 on continuously, with the exception of some shorter diplomatic journeys until the early 1630s. He is first mentioned as grand dragoman in 1629, a post he held (in spite of not mastering any other language than Hungarian and Ottoman Turkish) until 1657. As the translator of all letters coming from beyond the northwestern borders of the Ottoman Empire, but also as a trusted counselor to successive grand viziers, he was an influential player of politics at the Sublime Porte – an influence he was ready to bring to the market. The most important strings connected him to the Transylvanian embassy (from where he received regular salary), but he also mediated the interests of the voivodes of Wallachia and Moldavia, as well as the governors of the empire’s border provinces for payment. Another source of income was his job as an information broker: in exchange for rewards, from the 1640s on he regularly informed the Habsburg embassy about any important news he had read in the incoming correspondence; and from the 1650s we have evidence of similar services to Muscovy (with the mediation of Constantinople Greeks). The last section of the study is a discussion whether Metin Kunt’s thesis about an ethnic solidarity in the Ottoman elite can be applied to the case of Zülfikar. It was beyond doubt the Transylvanian contacts that were the most useful for the dragoman when building his career. Nevertheless, the multiple loyalties he had during his long career and especially his dubious activities in cases of political crisis suggest that the dragoman was motivated by pragmatic reasons rather than ethnic solidarity–something he was ready to give up when the situation changed. From the Transylvanian side, the diplomats emphasized in their letters a lack of solidarity with Zülfikar on an ethnic basis by never referring to him as Hungarian, but rather always highlighting his “Turkish nature”.
A gem of 17th-century Habsburg intelligence – The activites of Hans Caspar, secret correspondent in Buda (1646–1659). Draft for a longer overview.
During the Ottoman occupation, Buda played an important role in the communication between the Habsburg and the Ottoman empires. After the peace of Zsitvatorok in 1606, Vienna had the opportunity to build up the system of “secret correspondents”, with one of its major stations in Buda. In the middle of the 17th century, Alexander Fischer, a renegade interpreter born in Vienna, who could also speak Hungarian, occupied the post. As the chiaus of Hüseyn at the side of the reigning pashas of Buda, he had access to important information, for example, about the raids on the border castles. He wrote his reports to the Vienna court under the pseudonym Hans Caspar, dated from Tata. In the turbulent 1650s, the role of Hans Caspar became more valuable to the Habsburg intelligence service, moreover, we have evidence that he even provided information to the men of the Transylvanian princes, thanks to his knowledge of Hungarian. At the same time, he most probably shared the information he gained during his missions in Vienna and Győr with his official superior. By analysing what Hans Caspar did as a spy, we can claim that his activity does not completely fit the typology the literature has drawn up about the operation of the “secret correspondents”.
The information channels of Venice and its connections with the Porte during the War of Candia
The outbreak of the Cretan War had an immediate effect on the Venetian-Ottoman relations. The Venetian embassy was closed, and diplomatic relations were maintained at a lower level through occasional missions as well as secretaries acting as envoys. For a long time, Giovanni Battista Ballarin occupied this post, whose task was to continue collecting news and forwarding them to Venice. In this job, he received a lot of help from the ambassadors of other powers, especially that of the emperor and the French monarch, while his “confidente” also played a key role as he was tasked not only with gathering intelligence but also with the liquidation of persons, often former informants, who had become troublesome. Yet, such actions required the approval of the organizations of the Venetian state, namely that of the Inquisitione di Stato and the Consiglio dei Dieci. The most important route through which the news traveled went along the Dalmatian coastline, with Raguza being in its center. We also know of other routes, one passing through Buda and another one through Transylvania. An interesting and so far not completely known piece of information related to this is that the Republic made an attempt to construct an information highway passing through Transylvania and Vienna, but ultimately failed to realize this project.
The visit of the Habsburg envoy Walter Leslie at the Porte. Additions to diplomatic history (1665-1666)
The last point of the treaty of Vasvár, concluded on 10 August 1664 between the Ottoman and the Habsburg courts, declared that the two states would mutually send envoys to each other. Walter Leslie, who departed from Vienna on behalf of Leopold I, was exchanged at the border with Kara Mehmed Pasha, the representative of Mehmed IV, in the last days of May 1665. Tasked with reestablishing diplomatic relationships, the Habsburg envoy spent almost ten months on the soil of the Ottoman state. He held negotiations with Ottoman statesmen in both Istanbul and Edirne. The secretary of the Habsburg mission was keeping a diary of their travels, in which he recorded the resting places where the mission stopped on its way to Edirne; what the envoy did in the towns they visited; and described those events and celebrations that were organized by the Ottoman officials in honor of the diplomatic mission. The paper aims at outlining chronologically the diplomatic mission of the Habsburg envoy Leslie on the basis of the daily reports provided by the mission secretary, Leslie's reports, the memoirs and notes of some members of the entourage, and lastly using information from Ottoman archival documents containing financial registers related to the supply of the mission.