CREASY'S HISTORY OF THE OTTOMAN TURKS. * OF all the so-called
histories of the Turks which the present war has produced, this is by far the best. Professor Creasy has brought to his task a mind more practised in historical investigation, and raised nearer to the elevated tone which is looked for in an historian, than the numerous race of compilers who have preceded him. In many cases, he has, we think, relied too much upon second-hand authorities, able and trustworthy as many of them • History of the Ottoman Turks, from the Beginning of their Empire to the Present Time. Chiefly founded on Von Hammer. By E. J. Creasy, MA., Professor of His- tory in University College, London, Sze. ; Author of 'The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World," Stc. In two volumes. Published by Bentley.
are, to reflect so truly as might be desired the character of the original narrative and description ; but he has well caught, and presented with spirit, the Oriental aceounts as they appear in Von Hammer ; so that the reader is relieved from the established histo- rical style, by a combination of modern rhetoric with Oriental record. Such is the opening of the book, and the first historic ap- pearance of the house of Othman.
" About six,centuries ago, a pastoral band of four hundred Turkish fami- lies was journeying Westward from the upper streams of the river Euphrates. Their armed force consisted of four hundred and forty-four horsemen ; and their leader's name was Ertoghrul, which means the Right-Hearted Man? As they travelled through Asia Minor, they came in sight of a field of battle on which two armies of unequal numbers were striving for the mastery. Without knowing who the combatants were, the Right-Hearted Man tools instantly the chivalrous resolution to aid the weaker party ; and, charging desperately and victoriously with his warriors upon the larger host, he deci- ded the fortune of the day. Such, according to the Oriental historian Neschri, is the first recorded exploit of that branch of the Turkish race which, from Ertoghrul's son, Othman, has been called the nation of the Ottoman Turks. And in this their earliest feat of arms, which led to the foundation of their empire, we may trace the same spirit of haughty generosity that has been their characteristic down to our own times."
This picturesque mode, which preserves the spirit of the original actions and actors without altogether falling into a manner un- usual to English readers and even contrary to their tastes, is not indeed maintained throughout. Mr. Creasy, especially when com- pressing his account, becomes somewhat too conventional, though of the most approved school.
Although prompted by the occasion, the work is the result of much previous study. In 1841 Mr. Creasy delivered a course of lectures on Ottoman History at the University of London, chiefly founded on Von Hammer. They were revised for another course of lectures at an institution. The whole field has been again traversed in order to the present publication ; though the au- thorities enumerated, in addition to the laborious German' are rarely to be called original except as regards the present century. This story, however, is to come. The first volume only reaches to the death (in 1640) of Amurath the Fourth, the last great Sultan of the Ottoman race, unless we should include the late Sultan, Mahmoud.
Long consideration, coupled with the natural disposition and training of the author, has introduced a good deal of thought and exposition into the work. Mr. Creasy does not profess to write a philosophical history, but he presents a coup d'ceil of the laws and institutions of the different Sultans. He notes the causes which in his opinion conduced to the rapid advance of the Ottoman power, and have caused its equally rapid decline. This view, if not original, is neither crude nor borrowed, unlike much that has lately been advanced. Mr. Creasy fails in arriving at a complete judgment, rather from leaving certain circumstances out of sight than from erroneous conclusions on what he advances. It is quite true that the character of nearly all the Turkish Sultans from Oth- man to Solyman contributed to the steady growth of the empire, by the personal vigour, the martial virtue, and the lofty justice, or on the other hand the energetic ferocity, displayed by each ; and that their military system was strenuously seconded by the exube- rant strength of a young and fanatical race. Yet these powers must have rusted in chafing idleness, or been destroyed in rash ad- ventures, but for the social condition of the world on which they fell. It was the decrepitude of the Byzantine empire, the rapid decay of the power of the Caliphs, and the political if not social decomposition in the East, which enabled the Ottomans to ex- tend their conquests, and so readily to consolidate what they acquired. A history of the Turks should not be either a history of the Saracens or of the Lower Empire ; and Mr. Creasy has done right in limiting his narrative to the Ottomans. The work, however, would have been improved by a fuller picture of the condition of the countries which subsequently became the Turkish empire. This is necessary not only to explain the possi- bility of their conquests but the character of the wars they ne- cessarily waged. Asia conquests, was in a very different condition from Europe South of the Balkan, Syria from the Danubian and Adriatic provinces. At the outset of the house of Othman, the region in Asia Minor, where they were seated, was occupied by various clans of Turcomans and by Greek towns. It was the suc- cessive subjection and amalgamation of these tribes, mutinous though they often were which gave the Turks an officina gentium, and which renders Anatolia to this day the most truly national part of their dominions. The effete and cowardly Greeks were so thoroughly contemptible that they could not of themselves resist any enterprise the Ottomans thought fit to undertake. Intrigue with the Asiatic Turcomans or the Sultan's own family, or some accident, alone preserved Constantinople for the century that fol- lowed the Turkish settlement in Europe till its final capture by Mahomet the Second. It would have fallen to Bajazet in 1400, but for the advent of Timour the Tartar ; and to Amurath the Second in 1422, but that an Asiatic insurrection compelled him to raise the siege, and gave Constantinople another respite for thirty years. But the Greeks, though contemptible, were numerous, skilful in mercenary and intriguing arts, indefatigable in trade and business. It was not desirable, perhaps not possible, to overwhelm or transplant them. Hence their numbers, com- bined with difference of religion and Mahometan intolerance in matters of political equality, rendered the provinces South of the Balkan much less national than Asia Minor. Bulgaria is per- haps more truly Turkish in spirit than Roumelia. Servia and the provinces North of the Danube were hardly vanquished, never really subdued. -Unless these and similar fads are fully impressed upon the reader, he will not have a rational idea of the rapidity of
the Turkish conquests, nor a conception of the real nature of the Turkish power in its zenith or its present decline : Russia, in fact, is a similar agglomeration. These points are not developed by Mr. Creasy. His book is rather a very readable and often picturesque narrative of Ottoman story, with some information on laws and institutions, than a philosophical or essentially an instructive his- tory. If not a "curious coincidence," it is worth noting, that our first diplomatic connexion with the Sublime Porte was in the time of our troubles under Elizabeth, when Spain was threatening the na- tional existence.
"Commercial and diplomatic relations were established under Amumth with the greater part of Western Europe ; the Ottomans ever showing the same wise liberality in all that relates to international traffic that has been already mentioned. England, which, until the time of the Amurath ILL had been a stranger to Turkey, sent in 1.579 three merchants, William Hare- bone, Edward Ellis, and Richard Stapel, to Constantinople, who sought and obtained from the Porte the same favour to English commerce, and the same privileges for English commercial residents in Turkey, that other foreign nations enjoyed. In 1583, William Harebone was accredited to Constanti- nople as the Ambassador of our Queen Elizabeth, who was then the especial object of the hatred of Philip II. of Spain, and sought anxiously to induce the Sultan to make common cause with her against the Spanish King and his great confederate the Pope of Rome. In her state papers to the Ottoman Court, the Protestant Queen takes advantage of the well-known horror with which the Mahometans regard anything approaching to image-worship, and styles herself The unconquered and most puissant defender of the true faith against the idolators who falsely profess the name of Christ ' ; and there is a letter addressed by her agent at the Ports to the Sultan in Novem- ber 1587, at the time when Spain was threatening England with the Great Armada, in which the Sultan is implored to send, if not the whole tre- mendous force of his empire, at least sixty or eighty galleys, against that idolater, the King of Spain, who, relying on the help of the Pope and all idolatrous princes, designs to crush the Queen of England, and then to turn his whole power to the destruction of the Sultan, and make himself universal monarch.' The English advocate urges on the Ottoman sovereign, that if he and Elizabeth join promptly and vigorously in maritime warfare against Spain, the 'proud Spaniard and the lying Pope with all their followers will be struck down '; that God will protect his own, and punish the idolaters of the earth by the arms of England and Turkey. * * *
"The Turks seem to have met these applications with fair promises ; but they certainly did no more. The English are said to have given consider- able sums to the Turkish historian Seadeddin, to employ in their favour the influence which that learned writer possessed, or was supposed to pos- sess, with the Sultan, who inherited the family fondness for literature. Some of the Ottoman grandees were much impressed by the distinction between the Roman Catholic image-worshipers and the Protestant English. Sinan Pasha is reported to have told the Austrian Ambassador, Pezzen, That there was nothing needed to make the English into genuine Mussulmans, save a lifting of the finger and a recital of the Eschdad ' (the formula of confession of faith). But Seadeddin does not seem to have been worth his pay. Perhaps, if Sultana Safiye, or the matron Djanfeda, had been well bribed by our Virgin Queen, the result might have been different. A Turk- ish squadron in the Channel, cooperating with Drake and Raleigh, would have formed a curious episode in the great epic of the Spanish Armada."
As long as the Ottoman sovereigns exercised regal power them- selves, and were trained to its exercise by filling subordinate of- fices before their accession, their rule, if severe, was just and im- partial. Turkey was probably better governed than any other country in Europe, and with far more of religious toleration. The earlier facts of the following passage are well known as truths ; it would be desirable to.ascertain the truth of the story about the present emigration from Greece.
"The difference between the lot of the Rayas under their Turkish masters and that of the serfs of Christendom under their fellow Christians and fel- low countrymen, who were their lords, was practically shown by the anxiety which the inhabitants of the countries near the Turkish frontier showed to escape from their homes, and live under that Turkish yoke which is frequently represented as having always been so tyrannical. I have seen,' says a writer who was Solyman's contemporary, 'multitudes of IIungarian rustics set fire to their cottages, and fly with their wives and children, their cattle and instruments of labour, to the Turkish territories, where they knew that, besides the payment of the tenths, they would be subject to no imposts or vexations.' •
"At a later period, the beginning of the seventeenth century, we learn from Sandys that the inhabitants of the Mores sought eagerly to return to the Turkish from the Venetian rule. Dr. Clarke's Travels inform us how bitterly the natives of the Crimea regretted the change of masters when the Russians succeeded the Turks in the dominion of that country. At the present time, it is said that the current of emigration sets steadily from that part of Greece which is under King Otho to that which is still under the Sultan. All this does not disprove the occasional or even the frequent com- mission by the Turks of atrocious acts of oppression ; but it shows that they have been at least no worse in this respect than their neighbours."