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The Yunus Emre Institute Sets Sail For Another Successful Humans Of The Ottoman Empire


Humans Of The Ottoman Empire Features Dr. Casale To Discuss Ottoman Sailors


Washington, D.C. - Dr. Giancarlo Casale joined Dr. Cengiz Sisman on May 5th to discuss sailors in the Ottoman Empire for the seventh edition of the Humans Of The Ottoman Empire series. The two discussed ways that Ottoman sailors lived their lives and their function within greater Ottoman society. Dr. Casale shed light on the realities of being in the Ottoman navy, dealing with pirates and corsairs, the Ottoman Empire during the age of European exploration, and much more.


Dr. Casale told the story of the navy of the Ottoman Empire, which challenged the assumption that the Ottoman Empire was only a land empire. Ottoman sailors, traders, and explorers reached all across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the Ottomans fielded one of the largest, if not the largest, fleet in the Indian Ocean prior to the 19th century. The Ottomans also maintained one of the largest fleets in the Mediterranean that competed with the other naval powers like Venice, Spain, and Portugal.


Dr. Casale explained that conditions on ships in the Early Modern period were extremely difficult due to the long periods of intensely hard work. Galleys were powered by oars, so dozens of people would have to row. Ship crews were made up of both free men and slaves. Slaves in the Ottoman Empire were very different than the West’s conception of slavery as Ottoman slaves could become people of authority like Viziers and Admirals. Dr. Casale peppered the event with stories about individuals such as a Venetian shipbuilder who defected to the Ottoman Empire and an Ottoman sailor who was captured by the Spanish Inquisition.


Many of the guests of this edition of Humans of the Ottoman Empire came to the event curious and posed a variety of questions to Dr. Casale about the Ottoman navy. One question that a guest had was about the use of force against the Ottoman navy’s opponents and whether it was successful in its conquests. Dr. Casale addressed the question by initially explaining that the Ottoman Empire had a long history of successful naval campaigns. For example, the Ottomans successfully invaded Cyprus and Crete despite fierce resistance from Western powers. He then went on to carefully elaborate that all naval warfare had been rather ugly throughout European history regardless of the country in question. He added that he felt it was better to be captured by the Ottomans than any other European power because the Ottomans frequently promoted their captives to positions of power. Members of the audience thanked Dr. Sisman and Dr. Casale for their wonderful conversation and said that they were excited for the next one.


Yunus Emre Institute is a Turkish cultural center located in Washington, D.C. and around the world. The institute hosts events and programs that educate the public about Turkey’s culture, history, and language. For more information about the institute’s mission or online programs, please email washingtondc@yee.org.tr or follow @yeewdc on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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