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From Byzantine Constantinople to Ottoman Konstantiniyye: Creation of a Cosmopolitan Capital and Visual Culture under Sultan Mehmed II

From Byzantine Constantinople to Ottoman Konstantiniyye: Creation of a Cosmopolitan Capital and Visual Culture under Sultan Mehmed II

By Gulru Necipoglu

From Byzantion to Istanbul: 8000 Years of a Capital (Sabanci University Sakip Sabanci Museum, 2010)

Introduction: The conquest of Constantinople engendered Mehmed II’s lifelong ambition to revive the ruinous city’s ancient status as the prosperous capital of a world empire. This essay interprets the sultan’s negotiation of the western and eastern cultural horizons of his rapidly expanding domains through visual cosmopolitanism, a process of “creative translation” and fusion that contributed to the construction of a multifaceted imperial identity. Mehmed II engaged with diverse artistic traditions in refashioning his public persona and self-image upon the reconstructed stage of his new capital, which continued to be called Kostantiniyye (Costantinopolis), alongside its popular name, Istanbul (from the Greek eis tin polin, meaning “to the city,,). Strategically situated at the juncture of two continents (Asia, Europe) and two seas (Black Sea, Mediterranean), this was the ideal center for an emerging empire that combined Perso-Islamic, Turco-Mongol, and RomanByzantine traditions of universal sovereignty.

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