Ottoman Impressions: Domenico’s Istanbul

Modern readers are apt to sigh when they turn from Busbecq’s letters to artless contemporary accounts, but Domenico’s rather stilted descriptions take up only about a quarter of Domenico’s Istanbul, and the rest is a hugely enjoyable commentary by the late Michael Austin – the sort of inspired monologue a great expert might give his fellows towards the end of a pleasant outing on the Bosphorus.

Among many other things, he uses Domenico to demonstrate how little we may ever actually know about life in the imperial harem. “Besides those who, according to their tastes, identified themselves breathlessly with the lustful Sultan or his ravished slaves, there were men of learning to whom it was vexing that there should exist an area of activity, related to the ruler of a powerful empire, to which they were denied the slightest access.”

Domenico Hierosolimitano himself led two lives, the earlier as a Jewish physician to Murat III, the later as a Catholic scholar in papal Rome.

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 24
  • Light Years from New York

    American-born Carla Grissmann wrote Dinner of Herbs, her portrait of an isolated hamlet in central Anatolia, to assuage her loss when she was forced to leave at a few days’ notice. She talks to Maureen Freely of her love of remote places and people.

  • Soups for Cool Cooks

    Soup, the most elementary form of cooking, was perhaps the starting point for man’s culinary adventure. Refined over time, evolving into consommés, veloutés and bisques, it has entered the rarified realms of haute cuisine.
    More cookery features

  • The Wild East

    Home to the world’s oldest settlements, land of biblical prophets – the Tigris and Euphrates basin is a fabled but forgotten frontier. In a 30-page celebration, Manuel Çitac captures its splendour in photographs, while Min Hogg keeps a wry diary on her sortie to this hard-baked corner of Anatolia

  • Raise a Glass to Gallipoli

    In the first of a series on the great wines of Turkey and its ancient dominions, Kevin Gould visits Gallipoli. A land of heroes from Homeric times to the First World War, the peninsula has also for 3,000 years prided itself on its wines.

  • The Monsignor and the Minister

    Osman Streater recounts a remarkable piece of unrecorded history: the wartime friendship between the future Pope John XXIII and his great-uncle Numan Menemencioğlu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister from 1942 to 1944. The most important area of their joint work is one that is not mentioned in histories official or unofficial: they saved about 100,000 Jews from the Nazis

  • Connoisseur 24

    London’s Islamic Sales Week, Washington’s textile exhibitions, New York’s Mughal jewellery, Ara Güler’s Turkey in black and white and the Biennial in Istanbul

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Issue 24, 2001 The Wild East
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