Greeks and Turks

  • Anthony Bryer


Other papers in this book are on Greeks and Romans, Greeks and Byron (and I presume the philhellenes too), and our editors might have added Greeks and Slavs. With friends like these, what do Greeks need Turks for? The difference is that the Turks were something more intimate than friends. Eager suitors, they asked not only for the Greeks’ board, but their bed too. So I am dividing my paper into the three stages of intimacy, indeed three of the ages of Man: courtship, marriage, and separation (or its alternative, integration). I am going to emphasise how real and lively that courtship of Greek and Turk was from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries — the heroic years of the first encounter of the people of Rum with the Seljuks and Türkmans, celebrated in Turkish epic poetry; and of how, among the Greeks and Türkmans at least, came the first warning light of any engagement — the realisation of economic disparity between the two parties. But courtship was followed by a series of marriages, albeit shotgun, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, finally consummated by the Ottomans in 1453. This age is best symbolised by an actual marriage that took place one day in May 1346 at Selymbria on the sea of Marmara: that of the beautiful Theodora, daughter of the Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, to the ageing Ottoman Sultan Orhan.


Fifteenth Century Fourteenth Century Twelfth Century Warning Light Dung Cake 
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© Tom Winnifrith and Penelope Murray 1983

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  • Anthony Bryer

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