A Most Beautiful Sunset on The Bosphorus!
It's amazing to follow your travels. Your mind must have more images of oceans, straits. ports, rivers, docks and ship building hangers than most of us here of streets, landscapes and people!
If you stopped the sea birds would miss you!
We fell in love with Istanbul, and as people saw it in the 19th Century,(as Constantinople), "The Paris of the Orient". Allow me to take everyone back to reveal the importance of this city and its tentacles of power to the entire modern world. This has been a place of scholarship, imperial power, Islamic art, and architecture for many, many centuries. For at least 1200 years, what this city said, could be heard all the way to the Baltics!
Here, to orient people, we are going south from the direction of the Black Sea to passing the Blue Mosque on the Western shore of the mighty Bosphorus. That is on the Western half of modern bustling Istanbul; further west is Bulgaria and Greece, in case you wanted to know!
Photo Nicolas claris 2008
Here was the refuge for Jews each time the Christian States has another pogrom each decade or so for the past thousand years! This was the place from which Jewish Scholars of the court of the Sultan came to Spain to translate the libraries of Moorish Spain when it fell to the Christian armies. The science was so advanced that there were no words in European languages for example for some Astronomical concepts. This was one of the largest influxes of knowledge, literature and beautiful poetry the west had known. It was the maps that got the Europeans ideas of trading routes. Jewish Physicians in Italy and France started medical schools with students directly paying them. (Of course 100 years later, Jews were banned from entering these prestigious institutions, go figure!)
"...face à la culture europeenne de la même époque, la culture musulmane se characterize socialement par une plus large diffusion, liée a l'essor urbain et à la fabrication du papier...pas de ville, sans parler des princes, qui n,eut pas sa ou ses bibliothèques, ses ecoles et ses etudiants, autour de mosques ou de foundations privées, car c'etait faire oeuvre pie que de contribuer a repandre la science. On faisait rechercher a travers le monde les manuscripts qui la contenaient, et des armies de copistes travaillaient à les multiplier...33Source
By 762, expansion under the Abbasid dynasty (ca. 750-1258) had slowed, and the rulers in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo and Cordoba could survey their empire's peaceful boundaries, stretching from Asia to the Atlantic. Their attention turned to domestic matters rather than expansion. Baghdad, under the Caliph al-Ma'mun (770-813), was made home to the empires first formal academy and library. Modeled to some degree after the Alexandrine model, it was devoted to the transcription and translation of poetry, science, philosophy and theology. In 788, the construction of the colossal Royal Mosque of Cordoba, with its attached school and library, was underway.34 By 794, paper mills were being constructed along the rivers around Baghdad, with that precious material being shipped to all the capitals of Islam. Book production in the east blossomed into a vital industry as textual materials, translators, scholars and tradesman all spread throughout the Near East and Mediterranean. A new sector of the economy was born, specializing in acquiring, duplicating or locating rare books. The new libraries and colleges of Spain were no exception. 35 The prestige of one's city or royal library led to a spirit of noble competition between the caliphs, viziers and deputies of various provinces, each wishing to attract the brightest scholars and rarest literary talents. As one history surmises,
Andalusia was, above all, famous as a land of scholars, libraries, books lovers and collectors...when Gerbert studied at Vich (ca. 995-999), the libraries of Moorish Spain contained close to a million manuscripts...in Cordoba books were more eagerly sought than beautiful concubines or jewels...the city's glory was the Great Library established by Al-Hakam II...ultimately it contained 400, 000 volumes...on the opening page of each book was written the name, date, place of birth and ancestry of the author, together with the titles of his other works. Forty-eight volumes of catalogues, incessantly amended, listed and described all titles and contained instructions on where a particular work could be found."
The most profound boost to western Civilization which took over 100 years to digest was the collection of books from the Library of Cordoba which fell into the hands of the Christian Armies in 1236 A.C.E. That one year marked the fulcrum of the swing of scholarship from East to West and injected Europe with Aristotelian knowledge and logic that would set the Europeans on a path that lead to all its scientific achievements of the last thousand years. That logic (that finally escaped from the corked up bottle of religion under Islam and Christianity) led to the science and Enlightenment of the West and to electricity, the periodic table of chemistry, the harnessing of the Atom, trips to the moon and now the unravelling of the genetic codes of life itself!
But who of you ever knew about this date, 1236?
"With the removal of the long-standing al-Hakam family, effective cultural leadership over the region receded to individual cities, such as Toledo and Seville. Some reports state the great Library of Cordoba was broken up, or even burned, by the Berber insurgency after the expulsion of the Arabs from that city. 59 As chaos spread, the defensive line which insulated Andalusia from Europe faltered, and between 1085-91, Toledo, Sicily and Sargasso were all occupied by Christian armies. In 1095, seeing the successful mobilization of European forces in Sprain, and hoping to revive Christendom, Pope Urban II declared the Crusades. Cordova itself would not fall to Christian siege until 1236 however, and it was actually during this period of political and religious conflict that much of the cultural exchange took place through the scholarly pilgrimages Averroës and Michael the Scot. Yet by 1248 all of Eastern Spain had fallen to the Crusaders. This new regime enable a wave of Jewish and Christian translation, particularly of the 'lost' Greek sciences, in what one scholar terms 'the invasion of Aristotle.' So began the great resurgence of European thought and science:
Over a period of roughly a hundred years (1150-1250) all of Aristotle's writings were translated and introduced to the West, accompanied by a formidable number of Arabic commentaries...this amounted to a vast new library. The work of assimilating and mastering it occupied the best minds of Christendom and profoundly altered the spiritual and intellectual life of the West...such masterful Arabic commentators as Avicenna and Averroës - who emphasized the unreligious and unspiritual character of the philosopher's thought - precipitated a grave crisis for the intellectual leaders of the West...harmonizing all of it with the Christian faith constituted a tremendous task...it inaugurated a period of unparalleled intellectual activity that reached its climax in the 13th century, especially in Paris and Oxford.60"
Just this one picture took me back to Istanbul, one of the finest and most important cities on the planet. This is the place to visit. From the markets underground and the water Cisterns, the modern city on the Western side to the sunset on the Bosphorus, you could get seduced never to leave the place your whole vacation. If, however, you take just one bus tour south, you will visit places like Ephasus, the most intact classical city of the Eastern Mediterranian, and Troy where the Greeks and Romans (and layers of civilizations before, centered their power over this area for centuries. (At the request of his lover, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony made the foolish mistake of transferring one massive library of Greek science to Alexandria which was later burnt up with the arrival of the Moorish Armies!!).
Of course, that was then and this is now. Back to the wonderful images brought to us by my good friend Nicolas. These pictures are beautiful. I'll comment more once the impact of the beauty of the first picture and the flurry of memories calms somewhat.
In the streets of Istanbul, vendors with hanging trays offer tea!
So that's what I'll have right now. Thanks so much Nicolas for this one impressive image.