Turkish Journal of History
THE CONTRUBUTION OF AN IRANIAN LITERARY MAN TO THE IMPERIAL IMAGE OF THE MEHMED THE CONQUEROR: MAWLĀNĀ RIYĀZĪ-I SAMARQANDĪVural Genç
FATİH’İN EMPERYAL İMAJINA BİR ACEM’İN KATKISI: RİYÂZÎ-İ SEMERKANDÎVural Genç
It is well known that many Iranian scholars and intellectuals traveled between Ajam and Rum towards the end of the 15th century, in order to secure wealthy and benevolent patrons. The reason for the mobility of scholars, which can be traced back to the reign of Murad the Second (1421-1451), was undoubtedly related to the changes occurred across the Islamic world. Of these changes, the conquest of Istanbul was the most important. Adding “the protector of Islam” to his extant titulatures with this conquest, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, proclaimed that he was the only representative of the Islamic world. The second reason was the decline of Timurid Empire after the demise of Shahrukh (d. 1447) who were the reputed patron of science and art like his father towards the second half of the 15th century. By exiling scholars and crafters from newly conquered lands to his capital Samarqand, Timur created a Renaissance era and bequeathed this cultural heritage to his successors. Timurid princes’ fights for the throne perpetuated in Iraq, Fars, Mazandaran, Mawara al-Nahr and Khurasan, and several handovers and plunders of Samarqand and Herat precipitated the exodus of Timurid scholars and craftsmen in order to secure wealthy patrons and safe places, after the demise of Shahrukh. This chaotic atmosphere pervaded in Iran and on the other hand Ottoman sultans’ patronage of science and art made the Ottoman lands a safe and inviting shelter for Iranian scholars and literary men. Based on the claims that they were the only representative of Islam, the Ottomans’ superiority over the Aqquyunlus who presented themselves as Timur’s licit heirs, led this competition to another phase. Reputed with his wealth, benevolence and power, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror made his capital Istanbul a center of attraction for Iranian scholars and poets.
His patronage of science and art had spread across Iran so much so that his palace was replete with Iranian scholars and encomiasts at the very beginning of his reign. Along with scholars and bureaucrats such as Şemseddin Fenârî, Molla Gürânî, Mevlana Şeyh Ebu İshak Tebrizî and Ali Kuşçu, encomiasts and man of letters such as Ma’âlî, Kâşifî, Hamidî, and Kabûlî presented their works to Sultan Mehmed and, made contributions to sultan’s imperial image from the viewpoint of Ajamness. It is also well known that Sultan Mehmed endeavored to take famous Iranian scholars under his patronage and, for this purpose he sends them enticing gifts.
Benevolent and wealthy image of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and, his capital’s hallmark as a center for a multi-cultural junction, attracted another Ajam known as Riyâzî. He was less known among the Ajams in Sultan’s palace. Neither contemporary chroniclers nor collection of the biographies of poets mention him. Beside his Persian epistle, which he penned on the occasion of Sultan Mehmed’s conquest of Akçahisar and constitutes the subject of the present study, there are at least three copies of his Divan survived to this date. None of these primary sources provide any information concerning his migration from Ajam to Rum and his residence in Istanbul. According to his Divan, his full name was Mawlana Riyâzî-i Samarqandî. This specifies the fact that he was native of Timurids’ cultural center Samarqand. Most probably in order to escape the political chaos and seeking a new patron, he headed towards Istanbul, after the decline of the Timurid Empire in Iran and Mawara al-Nahr. In the patrimonial states of the 16th-century Islamic world, scholars and craftier were more depended on court patronage. Because of that sultans were the only resorts. When the scholars fell from the grace of their patron(s), they set on a journey seeking for welfare and patronage in another sultan’s court.
Riyâzî’s venture was not different from the scholars and bureaucrats who lost their patronage and set out to secure a new one in 15th and 16th centuries Islamic world. Although it is not known how and when he managed, he might have come to Istanbul and secured Sultan Mehmed’s patronage prior to 1479. Beyond the Sultan Mehmed’s personal interest to attract many Iranians, this phenomenon should be supported with the role which sultan played himself. Eventually, patronizing Muslim scholars and craftsmen was an indispensable source of legitimacy for the sultan who had claims for superiority in the Islamic world.
Although his contemporaries Ma’âlî and Kabûlî gave huge details on their journeys, observations on the palace and how they managed to secure Sultan’s patronage, neither in his Persian epistle presented to Sultan Mehmed nor in his Divan replete with poems of love and separation Riyâzî-i Samarqandî does not provide any information about himself and his personal experiences. In contrast to Ma’âlî, Kabûlî, and Hamidî, he has never presented a panegyric to his patron. The only information about his life in Istanbul was his disease, which he could not recuperate and finally died in 884/1479-80. Though he did not relate his observations on the palace and the Sultan, and how he behaved, accounts of other Ajam’s provide details about the perception of Ajamness in the Ottoman palace, which we can further elaborate on. Furthermore, it is well known that there was a competition of superiority between highly-educated Ajams and their rival Rumîs in Sultan Mehmed’s palace.
Riyâzî-i Samarqandî penned his Persian epistle entitled with Risâle-i Tehniyet-i ‘Iyd ve Nevrûz Berây-ı Ebu’l-feth Sultan Mehmed or Tehniyet-i ‘Iyd ve Fethnâme-i Akçahisar in 1479 on the occasion of the conquest of Akçahisar in Albania and presented to the Sultan. The seal of Sultan Mehmed on the folios verifies that the epistle was accepted to the personal library of Sultan. The coincidence of Sultan Mehmed’s conquest of Akçahisar with Nawruz feast was a double occasion for Riyâzî to present himself to the Sultan. Unlike his fellows in this genre, he merely confined his epistle to create an imperial image for the Sultan with titles and titulatures, which he formulated for him. He furthermore explained the reason for giving these titles to the Sultan under each titulatures. It should also be specified that this Persian epistle penned and presented to the Sultan to proclaim Ottoman dynasty’s superiority over the other dynasties such as Aqquyunlu and Mamluk, and to show them how Ottomans were the only protectors of Islam.
As a wealthy, powerful, benevolent and just sultan, Mehmed the Conqueror took many Iranian scholars, encomiasts, and craftsmen under his patronage. Thus, he commenced “Eastern Renaissance” which would last in his successor’s reign Bayezid the Second (1481-1512). Thanks to this cultural mobility, those who came from Ajam, penned and presented many epistles and panegyric to the Sultan. It should not be forgotten that Iranian shahnama-writers had major contributions for the creation of the imperial image of Sultan Mehmed, which would be imitated in Bayezid the Second’s reign as well. It can be concluded that like his Iranian contemporaries’ pieces, Riyâzî-i Samarqandî’s Persian epistle was also a contribution to create an imperial image for the Sultan from the viewpoint of an Ajam.