What the Primary Sources Tell Us?

Merve Uçar
Prof. Cemal Kafadar
15 July 2014

Primary sources like geoponika and typika registrations in Byzantine and tahrir defters, waqf records in Ottoman Empire shed light into the certain parts of the social life. Population, residence type and location, religious affiliation of people, variety of property, sources of income and models of production and consumption are some of findings which can be gained from the primary sources of the period.
For instance, the survey of Istanbul made by the order of Mehmed II in the year 1455 gave us most detailed and reliable datas about the conditions of the buildings, churches, monasteries in Istanbul right after the conquest. Furthermore, the survey also addresses the two waves of migration to the city. While first settlers came immediately after the conquest, the rest joined them after Mehmed II’s commitment that whoever come the city and select whatever abandoned house, it would belong him. But soon after, this group of people quitted the region due to the hardships of living in a ruined city. The number of the dead, wounded and captives during the conquest is among the issues are touched on the survey. Moreover, Conqueror ordered the construction of a mosque and a sultanic complex in his own name at Istanbul’s Fatih area. The complex included a mosque, a hospital, an imaret, a primary school and a library. According to waqf records of the complex the annual income reached around 32.000 gold prices and 383 employees received their salaries from the waqf fund. As it is understood from the Byzantine typika, monastic foundation documents from 12th century, wine dressers, groom, baker, gardener and gatekeeper were a part of monastery that they were taking meal along with other monks. They all act in a sense of brotherhood. We learned from the twelfth century typika even every day the gardeners, the vine-dressers and other employees were coming together at the refectory. Like Ottoman sultanic complex, monasteries were close the garden, bakery and vineyard which are all essential for human nutrition. Lip’s monastery also includes a hospital within. It was a common point between Byzantine and Ottoman society that institutional philanthropy goes over the foundations especially hospitals. Thirteenth century typika cites the existence of foundation hospital capable of bedding 20 patients at the same time and salaries of doctors and other servants and other expenditures of the hospital satisfied by revenues of certain property donated by someone. Plus, from this source we can gain some sort of information about the habits of diet of nuns. It appears that they were aware of the organic needs of human being hence they have specific dietary guideline: three dishes of fish, cheese and legumes on non-fast days and legumes, vegetables and seasonal shellfish for fast days. It means that there were regular vegetable productions around which satisfy monastery’s need.
To large extent similarly, Geoponika records, a Byzantine Greek farming manual in 10th century gave us information about the agricultural traditions of Roman Empire. We can gain sort of impression about the belief systems of the period. Because, there were some details about the astrological forecasting. Indeed, there is an assertion that gardeners finds the stars more reliable guides than calendars but Geoponika Book refuted this claim by showing the proofs that Julian calendar were using everywhere. Also, set of information about the weights and measures system could be found in the Geoponika which could means that magnitude of production or size of the arable lands were beyond our estimates. In my opinion, the magnitude of the agricultural production should be too much that people had to advance such kind of rational calendar and measure systems.
Dioskorides’s Materi medica is a pharmacology book includes lists of plants along with their medicinal uses. There are 383 botanical pictures and under them their features were written. It is mentioned that some herbs carry the magical properties. On the other hand, the supplementary text has set of animal pictures such as snakes, lizard, birds and fishes. I think, all these animals are sacred in the society and have a symbolic meaning therefore they found a place in this book. Animals are used in healing many years as well as plants. They are also part of medical treatment. In the late antique and early Byzantine period medical care was a job of women. So we can make some interpretations about women’s place in the society. Probably preserving lives is sacred job and this increases the status of women in the community.
On the other hand, tahrir registrations and typika records gave us detailed and reliable information about the size and number of the arable lands or gardens. For instance, thirteen century typika states that convent of the miracle-working saints Kosmas and Damian had a piece of arable land inside the city of 640 modioi, a garden at Blanga with the pasturage there…etc. Besides, from the estates of Achilleion and Barys which were inherited by a man he had gained cattle, a vineyard of 32 modioi, a garden of 20 modioi, a smaller garden of 10 modioi and arable land of 390 modioi. Shortly, we are able to obtain such detailed informations about the sizes and varieties of the gardens from the foundation records.
In sum, agricultural production and size and number of arable lands are always important for rulers that’s because they all tried to register them. Although the land taken by force in a way, the continuity of authority depends on the happiness and to what extend satisfy people’s natural needs at least. Hence, all rulers want to know how much is produced. The primary sources arranged by central government or pious foundations today grant the scholars a bunch of research field. Habits of diet, size and number of lands, variety of the vegetables which all is a significant part of social life could be found inside of these primary sources.

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Imagining a Destroyed and Lost Garden Through Written Works

Last week we visited Langa and Yedikule Gardens in order to see a long transformation in a region in terms of the usage of the land and field. I would like start by stating a philosophical and imaginary difficulty in order to draw the framework of this paper. Our visit was to a field which had been transformed for many times into different areas for agricultural or monetary production and habitation. Even if we are able to find some archeological remains of different periods the field and its aura had been transformed many times. In this framework an imagination of the past decades seems impossible for scholars and researchers. As a research methodology looking into the written works might help us for to illustrate the past decades. These sources are more helpful with a combination of different sources in different periods. Similarities and differences misght show the researchers the continuity in the era in terms of cause and consequences.

Studying primary resources that had been translated and edited recently by scholars might demonstrate us the transformation of the fields and the usage of the soil. One of our resources that we had discussed in Yedikule Gardens; Geoponika is on the farmwork of the Roman and Byzantine. It starts by setting the methodology that had been used in the modern translation. In Geoponika previous books are attributed to the climat conditions sun, moon, wind, schedule, finding water, soil, forests, calenders, seasons and planting. For instance book four is dedicated to grapes and gardening of grapes and includes ideas and observations of different authors of that period such as Demokritos, Tarantinos. Wine and the production of wine is also included in this and following chapters. As we might see cultivation of grapes had occupated an important place for Roman and Byzantine Empire. Book nine is dedicated to olive trees and production of olive oil. Other books include cultivation of fruits such as citrons, pears, peach, cheries, plums etc. Book twelve which seems important for our research on Istanbul focuses on the vegetables and cultivation theories and observations for gardeners. Garlic, onions, lettuce, mushrooms, mint, cabbage, basil are the main products that are discussed as the used products for prophets and the citizens of Istanbul in that era. Florentinus states that “gardening is essential to life” (Geoponika, 247) . In this respect he focused on the value of differetn vegetables in terms of medicinal use in various illnesses.

Our second document “A Complete Translation of the Surviving Founders” Typika and Testaments” focuses firstly on a prior history of the foundation. Accordingly Mamas had been an important monastry and occupied an important patriarchal responsability before 1000s. We might find some information on the diet of the monks and the importance of finding water at that era. The previous chapters are dedicated to the usage of the gardens and the relation of the monks with the gardens inluding the financial matters. Accordingly some fields had been used as cementry. Again we might find some information on olive oil and wine including their daily usage and routine of fasting. Vineyards and their cultivation occupies an important position from 19th chapter onwards. It is interesting to see how religious affairs were organized through the cultivation of the soil and the products for decades. The translated chapters provides us the diet of the monks and the citizens of Istanbul based on the institutions and religious places. For instance we might see this organizations in these lines “Since man is an organic being and is clad in a body which has need of food and requires covering, and there is a divine law that one should not desire to die nor dissolve the bond of union prematurely, my majesty has deemed it necessary to discuss the needs of the nuns, I mean food and clothing and all other garments.” (Typikon 1275)

As for me these documents provide us an important source for understanding the organization made based on the production and how it had effected the social life and daily routines during that period. Besides we might find important information about the products that had been cultivated since that period and their usage. Using primary sources might frame us the missing information and the aura that the scholars are working on. In this sence going through these documents seems important.

One day in Yedikule Orchards

This was our first visit to Yedikule district in the scope of the summer course entitled City and Agriculture: Studying and Preserving the Historic Gardens of Istanbul. I have been living in Istanbul since I was born and almost once a week I pass through the Yedikule gate with unawareness the spectacular historical gardens of Istanbul which are located behind the walls. I was occasionally encountering the sold fresh vegetables on the table in front of garden. This was my first time to come into the door and meet the gardeners. Despite the hot weather of Istanbul, we began the discussion our texts under the shadow of grapevine.

Uçar, 2014

Our readings were too deductive for me. The topic was new and there were a lot to discover. For instance, Kaldjian noted that Istanbul’s early masters of vegetable production were Greeks and Armenians in the seventeenth century Bulgarians by inheriting the skills, gardens and opportunities superseded Greeks then Albanian migrants came to Istanbul learned trade and dominate the field that is understood from the 1883 map of Istanbul which the many garden names derive from Greek or Albanian. In the 1990s Albanians and Bulgarians sold and left their bostans thus Cidelis who came after WWII and worked on the land inherited these gardens and became the chief gardeners in the region.
On the other hand before the course I supposed that Istanbul was one of the big city and also capital of the Ottoman Empire had been always consumed and imported the vegetables and fruits from the near provinces. However, the data asserts contrary. Historical map of Istanbul from 1883 indicates there are 102 recorded bostans within the old city and they were enough productive to satisfy the city’s fruit and vegetable needs such as spinach, lettuce, black cabbage.

Uçar, 2014

Furthermore, there is a critical question needs to be posed that where we get such detailed information about orchards. The kefil defters gave us data about the sizes, nationality of owners and employers of the garden. In early eighteenth century Istanbul had come cross with the migration flow and state let these people trading under the condition of a guarantor which confirmed the man’s honesty. These records have been kept in the name of guarantee notebooks and left set of information to us.
Interestingly, even Yedikule covers small part of the region the techniques for irrigations change field to field. For instance, Yedikule-Silivrikapı agricultural lands are deprived of canal irrigation therefore lands were watered by underground waters collected the wells and probably in the high regions the deepness of the wells were increasing.

Uçar, 2014
Finally, when we looked at the photographs taken by Artamonoff in 1937 and 1938 and by Sebah in 1890s Yedikule is less forested and densely built now. The gardeners worried about the losing their land which has been cultivating by their elders. This uncertainty also affects the production. If gardeners know that they will stay there for a long years, they would build greenhouse and seed in a large amount.

Uçar, 2014

In conclusion, today there is a clash between gardeners and municipality about the future of Yedikule orchards. Already decreased number of historical gardens of Yedikule is wanted to become parking area for vehicles. Marmaray subway line is too close the area and it is obvious that parking area is required but why municipality so insist on the transformation of the gardens. Approximately 500 meters away Yedikule gate there has been an animal shelter and it is also so close the Marmaray and I believe that alternative to the historical orchards this shelter which smells badly could be transformed multi-level parking garage and thus both gardens and gardeners could be preserved. The duty of state bodies should be preservation the cultural heritage sites not to destroy them.

Historical Gardens Inbetween Green and Grey

Visiting Yedikule Gardens have been an important experience for me as a person who was born and lived in Istanbul for 25 years. I have always been aware of the fact that Istanbul does not have an only city center and had been fragmented based on social and economic needs of certain decades. Nevertheless I had never taken my imagination to a point where agriculture might integrate itself to urban life. Apparently it did for decades and now this meaningful mixture is pushed to periphery of the city. My first impression with the gardens had been the absence of field cleaning. The bostans that are not cultivated anymore had been left to their own destiny which will be shaped by fast urbanization and by the needs of the growing population. Nevertheless the existence of the walls had made me feel the historical background and the ethos of the area. Therefore I strongly believe that it is important to start conducting our research by going through the historical photos. (You might find the photos I captured during our first visit to Yedikule Gardens below)

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Bostans 2014

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View from the Historic Walls 2014

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Bostans with Water Ways

Green and Grey

Green and Grey

 

This week I will be examining three photos captured by Sebah (1890), Artamanoff (1938) and myself (2014) in Yedikule Gardens. I would like to start by stating the identical points in these photos where evolution of a city couldn’t transform since the 19th century. By going through the identical points I will also be pointing out the main transformations which I believe will be important for understanding the socio-spatial position of bostans in the last decade. Paul J. Kaldjian had stated that the bostans which had provided city’s food and commercial network among the markets had been a part of Istanbul’s identity. For decades the gardeners of bostans were viewed as experts and held in high esteem in the society. Nevertheless with confiscatory urbanization, spatial-growth and modernization urban agriculture had scattered throughout the city, to the margins of the city. Locating bostans and the gardeners to the periphery had transformed frankly socio-spatial outlook of the area whereas some issues had survived until these days. The first common point that had occured to me is the mosque in these three pictures.

Sebah, 1890s.

Sebah, 1890s.

Artamonoff, February 1937

Artamonoff, February 1937

Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection, RV53, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.

2014

2014

2014

2014

Since Yedikule Gardens had been an important market place and retail center for the city there had been habitations around the bostans as we might see in the photos provided by Sebah (1890) and Artamanoff (1938). In my estimation the mosque that had survived through the transformation of Istanbul might be a good example of habitation of certain social groups (such as gardeners) around the bostans. We might say that gardeners of bostans had located themselves around their bostans and structured their daily life according to their profession. Their habitation and profession had located in the same area where the mosque might demonstrate us their continuity and long existence in the area. Instead of working as seasonal gardeners they had organized a social position which used to be a high esteemed position among the society before the relentless urbanization. Nevertheless the demolition of bostans and their function in the urban city could not change the existence of the mosque as people around the bostans had continued to live in the same place. It seems to me that urban gardeners had structured an important social group which had lost its reputation by modernization.

Second important issue that had occurred to me is the emptiness of the field in these three pictures. Even if the cultivation of the soil had disappeared in time the fields had remained empty (which is rare in a fast growing city such as Istanbul). This situation might be explained by the existence of the antique walls. Nevertheless according to “cognizance of urban security” empty fields are a big danger for crime. A field that had been pushed to peripheral area and left alone without cultivation also seems as an area of crime and danger. In our visits to Yedikule Gardens, I would like to talk to residents about their perception of the field and marginalized territories in the city.

A Place of Tranquility to a Place of Uncertainty: The Bostans of Yedikule

Last week, we visited an area of the city where urban farming had seen better days. The gardens of Istanbul have been an integral part of the city for centuries, facing their greatest challenges and undergoing their most profound transformations in recent years. Although the size, location, demographics and even crops being produced have changed over time for these gardens, the role of the state has had the greatest impact. Today, the overhauling of gardens in the city, owned and maintained by generations of families, has been the move by municipal authorities who feel there can be more beneficial options of the land. These projects, however, for stability and political reasons have not begun to reach completion and the “gardens” in some areas like Yedikule have been left in desolation. Although there were plenty of bostans still growing and producing at rates comparable to the past, there was an immediate feeling that things in essence were not the same when I stood and looked out at the emptiness that once was a productive city garden.

Rosenthal, July 2014

Rosenthal, July 2014

In the picture above, you can see the state of one of these gardens today. Just a few years ago, this entire area was full of green and the families that rented the land from the municipality were free to make their living the best way they, and their neighbors, knew how. In his article, Paul Kaldjian explains the gradual sprawl of the city gardens over time, further out from the center of the metropolis (Kaldjian, 287). When compared to the photographs of this land almost 80 years ago by Nicholas V. Artamonoff, (pictured below), you can see that along with the green agricultural production, there was also a sense of a settled and tight-knit community in the area. Houses were aligned near the gardens on which several families would work side by side. There was a sense of community present from the agricultural neighborhoods that existed along the city walls. In contrast today, there is little settlement in this area and the homes that do exist are, on the surface, in poor condition, and the community is not bond together by the green carpet that once existed.

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 6.33.17 AM

Artamonoff, 1937     Robert L. Van Nice Collection, 2012.0013.0031, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 6.35.13 AM

Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection, RV53, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.

Artomanoff, 1938

Over a hundred years ago, this area was captured in another photo by a man with the name Sebah (pictured below). Here, there is less of a sense of neighborhood and settlement around separate land plots and instead, greater stretches of land, all designated for production of crops. You can see from the photo that the agriculture is not nearly as interrupted by houses and roads as it is in the Artamonoff photographs. This was likely during a time before urbanization further inwards began pushing out to the walls and beyond and absorbing the plotted fields of crops for settlement. In the last century, urbanization revolutionized nearly every modern city into the size and power they are today. In the last few years, for the first time ever, the world’s population was settled more in cities than in urban settings (Kafadar, class 7/3/2014). The growth in population density, coupled with the increase in importation of cheaper, mass-produced agriculture into the city, has lowered the necessity for the urban gardens. Therefore, the city has further undermined the role of the gardens over time by making them smaller and smaller to accommodate the increasing levels of settlement. This can been seen when one compares the photos over time and notice the settlement patterns around the gardens that have changed in their degree of importance and role in the city.

Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 6.31.21 AM

Sebah, 1890

If farmed regularly, one bostan can host 15 to 20 different crops and be able to feed hundreds of people (Kaldjian, 293). This yield, along with the amount of bostans that exist (or would exist without recent destruction by the state) helps to debunk the many myths about these gardens that they are “marginal, inefficient, and unhygienic” (Kaldjian, 287). When looking out at these empty lands associated with the “gardens” today, these descriptive factors are not hard to believe. It is ironic that the very reason for destroying these gardens, because they aren’t productive enough, is causing the problem to only become worse.

Standing on the ancient walls of the city, it is impossible to not think about what the land below once looked like and functioned as. Although we have the convenience of seeing the land several centuries back from photographs and artistic representations, the origins and beginning histories of these lands are still being deciphered. In his article, “Garden and Parks in Constantinople,” Henry McGuire did his best to make an accurate depiction of the gardens by thoroughly researching four ancient gardens by comparing a variety of interpretations of the land throughout the centuries. Aretai, he concluded, was full of wildlife across a wide ground full of pastures and wooded areas, described as “delightful” by visitors (McGuire, 255). Another garden, the Philopation, was an imperial garden, which was full of places to relax and maintained by the ruling body at the time (McGuire, 252). In both cases, the gardens served a role of providing serenity and relaxation. McGuire goes on to confirm in his analysis of the 4th century perspectives on these gardens as being more appreciative of the areas primarily as a separate sphere of tranquility than a space of production (McGuire, 262). The idea that this physical space can cause a pysiological reaction is significant. The grounds were not just designed for production and economy, they were meant to create a feeling and be a place seperated from everyday life. In her article, “The Suburban Landscape of Sixteenth-Century Istanbul as a Mirror of Classical Ottoman Garden Culture,” Gulru Necipolgu explained that these gardens were a place to host friends and enjoy conversation with one another (Necipolgu, 33). Here we see a larger role the gardens played in society. From the photographs and the location of houses to one another and the gardens shows in the last 100 years a waning and waxing of a sense of community around the agriculture. Today, there is little to compare and I think it’s safe to assume the sense of community bound by the gardens is barren. Interesting to note, also, is the change in the role of the state and the gardens. Centuries ago, they were more or less patrons of these green spaces, today, they are quite the antithesis.

Although these ancient cities didn’t face the modern changes that exist today, such as the growing dichotomy of rural and urban life and economy (Whittaker, 116), there is a profound loss of care and appreciation for these green spaces and what they are capable of producing for our cities today. With the unpredictable and frankly unreliable plans of the municipality, tenants of the farms today face a constant threat that their land will also be taken over. Aleksandar, our guide through the gardens, shared with us a story about a cherry tree he planted five years ago in the Yedikule bostans. A tree, necessitating several years to reach its full production potential, require more certainty in investment than an annual crop. Just last year, Alex’s tree was taken down along with the acreage we don’t see today. The uncertainty of the municipality’s plans poses an enormous challenge to the owners who have to make investments and year-long plans for their crops in the ever changing market of agriculture. It is quite a cruel process to have long-term plans pulled out from under one’s feet, and unfortunately, that has been the pattern with some urban gardens in Istanbul today.