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Turkey: A Very Short History



 
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Outline of the geography, peoples, and languages of the region now called Turkey, followed by very concise fact-filled history of the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, and other ancient peoples, the Byzantine empire, the origin of the Turks, the Seljuk and Ottoman empires, the rise of modern Turkey, the Kurds, Armenians, and other minorities. Originally written for those traveling to Turkey for the solar eclipse of August 11, 1999.

Outline of the geography, peoples, and languages of the region now called Turkey, followed by very concise fact-filled history of the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, and other ancient peoples, the Byzantine empire, the origin of the Turks, the Seljuk and Ottoman empires, the rise of modern Turkey, the Kurds, Armenians, and other minorities. Originally written for those traveling to Turkey for the solar eclipse of August 11, 1999.

Tughra (official monogram) of Mahmud II, who reigned 1808-1839. (Colors added by someone in, I think, Germany to show the structure.) It reads: Mahmud (the red part) Han bin Abdulhamid muzaffer daima, "Mahmud Khan, son of `Abd al-Hamid, victorious always" (all Arabic words, in Turkish pronunciation). Each sultan, beginning with Orhan I in 1326, had such a tughra, designed at the start of his reign by the court calligrapher, and used on seals, coins, and documents. The art of the tughra is perhaps the most refined exploitation of Arabic right-to-left script - which represents only consonants (so there are fewer characters to superimpose) but is cursively connected (so that winding them back onto each other is a subtle problem). A tughra is like a maze, of which the pathway is the sequence of letters, and the regions are the sere ("soft part of the hand between thumb and first finger", the downward bulge); beyze (Arabic bayda, "egg", the leftward bulge); tug ("flagstaff", the three uprights); zulfe (the S-like swirls across the middle, representing the east-to-west "breeze" of Turkish conquest); and hancer (the rightward "dagger").

The tughra has deep connections for me: I used another (that of Suleyman the Magnificent) on a page of The Astronomical Companion, because it has a resemblance to the illustration relating units of distance; and I thought a lot about mazes, the interplay between their geography (regions) and topology (pathways), while growing my Lenore Maze.

8 1/2 x 11 in. 28 pages. April 1999; reprinted with revisions May, June, July, Oct. 1999; 2nd edition Jan. 2004; 3rd edition Jan. 2009. ISBN 978-0-934546-39-3.


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