cover image The Ottomans: A Cultural Legacy

The Ottomans: A Cultural Legacy

Diana Darke. Thames & Hudson, $39.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-500-25266-6

The success of the Ottoman Empire lay in its ability to harness the diverse talents of its multicultural population, according to this lavishly illustrated history. Countering the West’s historic neglect of the Ottomans, Middle East Institute scholar Darke (Stealing from the Saracens) notes that the empire lasted longer than the Roman Empire and covered more territory than the Byzantine Empire. Detailing the Ottoman influence on commerce, architecture, literature, science, cuisine, and more, Darke notes that Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis’s 1517 world map gave Sultan Selim Yavuz “an accurate description of the Americas and the circumnavigation of Africa well before many European rulers”; that modern-day hummus is believed to have descended from an Ottoman bread made from chickpeas, cinnamon, and pine nuts; and that Ottoman physicians invented the forceps, scalpel, and other surgical devices and took a holistic approach that sought “to create the best ambience in which the body and mind could heal themselves.” Elsewhere, Darke delves into the influence of water on Ottoman architecture and explains how the millet administrative system fostered a sense of community and autonomy among the empire’s various religious and ethnic groups. Vibrant, full-color illustrations complement Darke’s insights and bring key Ottoman figures, events, and artistic traditions to life. This is a treasure. (Nov.)