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Growing the Ottoman Capital: Apocalyptic Narratives, Urbanism, and the Rise of the Bostans after 1453

03.02.2023 06:00 PM

Event Summary

Shopov sits in front on the audience and addresses them

Photo by Abel Arciniega

After the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453, Istanbul underwent a dramatic transformation. The making of the new capital was crucial to Ottoman state-building and the centralization policies initiated by Mehmed II and subsequent Ottoman sultans. However, not everyone was happy with Istanbul’s new centrality. By the 1470s, opposition to Istanbul as the capital emerged within Ottoman society, finding expression in apocalyptic narratives. In an anonymous Ottoman chronicle written in the late 15th century, agriculture and agricultural metaphors are invoked in arguments about Istanbul’s unsuitability as a capital; Istanbul is characterized as an ecologically unstable and unproductive space, prone to natural disasters and decay. As if in reaction to this, in the following decades the rebuilding of Istanbul would incorporate agriculture into the city’s very foundation: produce gardens (bostans) would come to be seen as a metaphor for the city itself as a flourishing, nutritive, and productive space, with techniques of urban farming likened to the techniques of political power.

This event was presented as part of a lecture series jointly organized by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society and the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at the University of Chicago.


Aleksandar Shopov


Aleksandar Shopov is an Assistant Professor of History at Binghampton University.