Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq “The Turkish Letters”

I really enjoyed reading “The Turkish Letters” article. I liked learning about the author, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, who came from Belgium and was the ambassador of the Roman Emperor to the Ottoman Empire from 1555 to 1562. He is Catholic and did not come from a noble family but he achieved all of his accomplishments through education. In this reading, Busbecq is biased towards the Ottoman Empire over Europe or the Roman Emperor. He favors meritocracy, especially since he did not come from a wealthy family. He says, “ those who receive the highest offices from the Sultan are for the most part the sons of shepherds or herdsmen, and so far from being ashamed of their parentage…If a man is dishonest or lazy, or careless, he remains at the bottom of the ladder, an object of contempt.” In other words, he believes that high ranks in the military should not be achieved based on nobility or family but through hard work and accomplishment. Furthermore, I think that the purpose of this is to compare between the European military and Janissaries. Also, Busbecq is trying to make a change in the European military system and make it better. He says, “…on ours are found an empty exchequer, luxurious habits, exhausted resources, broken spirits, a raw and insubordinate solidarity, and greedy quarrels.” Busbecq thinks that the Roman Empire is not treating and training the military correctly. The soldiers should have different values.

Overall, Busbecq does not fully convince me about the Ottoman Empire. Even though he was an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, he is criticizing the Roman Emperor a lot rather than to give them only updates about the Janissaries. Also, he might have published his work to advertise for himself in the Ottoman Empire and gain more resources for that or to free some European hostages out of prison. His publications were in Latin and not a lot of people were able to translate it into Europe. He is courageous since he is risking his position for sake of sharing the truth from his point of view. This reminds me of Cugoano’s reading that talked about slavery since both readings talk about ideas and stories that were not heard before. On the other hand, it is different compared to Champlain’s reading since here Busbecq is referring to the Ottoman empire as superior to the Europeans. Champlain referred to Native Americans as lower in class compared Europeans.