“Consent, Construction, Conquest: The Options and The Choices of Bayezid II”

Prof.  Cemal Kafadar (Harvard University)
January 29, 2021
6:30 pm (Istanbul)
10:30 am (New York)

The online event organized by Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) in collaboration with Columbia University’s Sakıp Sabancı Center for Turkish Studies as part of the exhibition Şeyh Hamdullah on the 500th Anniversary of His Death explores the political and cultural climate of Bayezid II’s reign, a period, where the calligrapher Şeyh Hamdullah worked and lived.  

In  his talk, Prof. Cemal Kafadar of Harvard University History Department will aim to reinterpret the reign of Bayezid II (r. 1481-1512) independent of the shadow of his father and his son, consider the role of Amasya independent of the place of Bursa and Edirne, and reflect on the late-fifteenth/early-sixteenth century independent of the telos of Çaldıran. Bayezid II's cultural patronage and library will be scrutinized to better understand the ruler and his vision.

Şeyh Hamdullah is the founder of the Ottoman school of calligraphy, and honored by such epithets as “the pole of calligraphers” and “the qibla of calligraphers.” He grew up in Amasya, a city known for its flourishing cultural life throughout the 15th century and moved in the circle of crown prince Bayezid, a patron of scientists and artists, who resided there for many years. He began to acquire a reputation as an outstanding calligrapher while still in Amasya and during that period made copies of several manuscripts for the personal library of Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1444-46, 1451-81). When Bayezid II acceded to the throne in 1481 after a struggle for power with his younger brother Cem Sultan, he invited his calligraphy master to the court and Şeyh Hamdullah moved to Istanbul with his family. Şeyh Hamdullah began to do his finest work after his court appointment and from then on signed his work with his name and the title “scribe to sultan Bayezid Han.” Both the sultan and his son Korkut (d. 1513) were among his students. Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum has a major collection of calligraphy and arts of the book, which include outstanding works by Şeyh Hamdullah and other calligraphers in his milieu.

The event will be held in English.

Please click for registration.


Prof. Cemal Kafadar

After completing his secondary education at Istanbul High School for Boys (1965-69) and Robert College (1969-73), he studied at Hamilton College in the USA, graduating in 1977. He received an MA in Ottoman History at the Islamic Research Institute at McGill University in Canada (1977-81), staying on to study for a doctorate (1981-1986). Professor Kafadar was a member of the academic staff at Princeton University Department of Near Eastern Studies (1985-89), transferring to Harvard University Department of History in 1990. In 1997, he was made Vehbi Koç Chair of Turkish Studies. He served as director of the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies (1999-2004 and 2009-10) and still lectures in the university’s Department of History, teaching archival research, popular culture and Ottoman historiography. Professor Kadafar was a guest lecturer at EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in Paris from 1997 to 1998 and at Boğaziçi University in 2005 and 2009. His areas of interest are the social and cultural history of the Middle East and Southeast Europe at the beginning of the modern era.