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.

The Puzzles of the Gardens from the 10th Century Onwards

In some cases, the more you learn about a topic, the more questions arise and the further from the truth it seems you become. The role of the bostans throughout history both fascinates and frustrates me for this very reason. Last week, we looked at a few photographs of a former Yedikule bostan in the Fatih neighborhood. In class, we discussed how the photographs we looked at painted a linear progression of this bostan from a fertile land to an abandoned area but that that wasn’t necessarily the case. What happened in between these snapshots? Are we to believe the area was unchanged and static in between the images? My guess is no. Continuing with the idea that spaces do not follow a linear progression in terms of function, last Thursday we visited the former Langa bostan (famous for its cucumbers) where it became apparent that the area went from being a land area, to one filled with water that became a central port, back to land whose alluvial soil made it the perfect place for a bostan. Part of the bostan has already been destroyed to build a metro station and another part will soon be destroyed to build a parking lot — the thought alone saddened me. The function of this space is in no way linear over the years, which leaves me wondering what function other garden sites have played throughout history. This past weekend, other students enrolled in the Harvard summer school program and I were fortunate enough to journey to Gallipoli and ancient Troy. While at Troy, I was greatly intrigued by a well I saw dating back to c. 300 BCE. My curiosity regarding this well, its function overtime, and what that says about the surrounding space continue to leave me with more questions than answers.

Aside from the living remnants and literary and pictorial sources describing the gardens, some surviving primary sources on gardens dating back to the 10th century AD with the publication of the Geoponika exist today to aid the study of gardens’ historical past. The Geoponika, a Byzantine Greek farming manual from the 10th century AD dedicated to Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, reveals the many influences and techniques of farming practices dating back to the 3rd century BC as well as the important role farming played not only for pragmatic purposes but also for medicinal, therapeutic, and leisurely ones (Dalby, Geoponika, 247). In Book 12, part 2, entitled “Making a vegetable garden,” Andrew Dalby translates Florentinus’ section as, “Gardening is essential to life. For health and convalescence a garden should be developed not at a distance from the house but in proximity to it, where it will give enjoyment to the eyes and pleasure to the sense of smell.”(Dalby, 247) Additionally, Dalby notes that Homer and Hesiod are quoted and language used primarily in the 3rd century BC appear in this text, showing the longstanding history and presence of gardens (Dalby, 13). The many authors cited in this text further reveal the great focus on gardens through history. However, as this was a text only members of the elite had access to, were there different practices others followed or are these the only ones? Two typikas, “Typikon of Athanasios Philanthropenos for the Monastery of St. Mamas in Constantinople” and “Typikon of Theodora Palaiologina for the Convent of Lips in Constantinople” from the 12th and 13th centuries, respectively, law books for monasteries, reveal the important role gardens played in providing food as much of the diet was fruits and vegetables. From this information, can we say most monasteries relied heavily on fruits and vegetables during these periods? Two surveys from 1455 and 1735 survive today which also reveal the presence of bostans in numerous quarters during these years. The 1735 survey tells us there were 344 bostans with 1,381 gardeners employed (“The Survey of the Bustans (Gardens) in Istanbul intramural from 1735”).

While these three sources make it clear that gardens were numerous when these sources were written and played an important role throughout history, they leave the reader with a number of new questions to ponder. What was the situation of gardens in between these periods? Do these documents tell the entire story during the periods they were written? These sources also leave me with many questions regarding the sources’ weight in the present. How should these documents influence our views on bostans and the preservation of them today versus how do they? These documents are clearly instrumental to the study of the agricultural past but what do they say about the present and the future? Is the historical presence and importance of gardens evidence enough for the preservation of them? Despite the many missing pieces of the puzzle, it is clear the importance of the gardens in history is truly immense and the primary sources discussed earlier further speak to that.

Istanbul’s Agricultural Historiography

A complete historiographical analysis of the economic and agricultural history of Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire includes various types of primary sources. This diversity helps to avoid misplaced assumptions or forgotten actors and draws a more complete picture of the past. Dominant power structures often write a history that reflects distinct motivations and intentions without considering many other perspectives. Less traditional primary sources like literary and artistic exphraxi, professional manuals and guidebooks, religious typica, and city surveys include important but perhaps underrepresented actors that contributed to the agricultural development of Istanbul.

Mavroudi and Dolezal discuss the importance of exploring potentially problematic sources that require a significant amount of interpretation. For subjects that no longer exist, exphraxi can be useful tools through which to understand history. “The multiple allusions to divergent genres, in effect, contribute to more precise definitions of late Byzantine culture, not the least of which is sustained attraction to gardens, real or imaginary.” (Dolezal and Mavroudi, 2002) Alternatively, a quantitative analysis of city surveys and censuses can describe an increase or decrease in the amount of farms and gardeners in various neighborhoods within Istanbul. The very inclusion of bostans in a survey might indicate a type of centralized regulation and therefore a higher degree of control and oversight. This introduction of government presence to the management of urban farming demonstrates the role bostans have played as an integral part of city life.

Similar to the exphraxis examined by Mavroudi and Dolezal, the Greek Byzantine Dioskorides’ Materia medica pharmacology encyclopediaand Geoponika farming manual have important cultural implications that inform the agricultural history of what is today Istanbul. In addition to the practical utility of farms and their crops’ nutrition, Book 12 of the Geoponika describes the intangible value of gardens and the importance of their proximity to residential zones. “Gardening is essential to life. For health and convalescence a garden should be developed not at a distance from the house, but in proximity to it, where it will give enjoyment to the eyes and pleasure to the sense of smell…” (Cassianus, 2011)Dioskorides similarly discusses the uses of plants medicinal qualities in the Materia medica. While neither document says anything about specific Byzantine gardens, they represent a vocal and visual discourse that indicates a high level of social and academic engagement with agriculture in the ancient empire. This commentary suggests that an “informed involvement in the everyday realities of plants and their medicinal uses” was expected from those that were responsible for the public good. (Brubaker) The significant cultural value given to these farms and gardens by these manuscripts may also be applied to the city’s gardeners. Creating a lucrative market for plants that could be grown in an urban environment for medicinal, hygienic, or superstitial applications and required a skilled gardener would likely have important social implications.

Istanbul’s monastic typica also provide important information on the status of gardens and urban farms from the 12th through the 14th centuries. The typicon for the St. Mamas’ monastery in 1158 describes important connections between manual labor and spirituality that includes gardening and providing food sources for its monks. There is also an interesting community building element for the role of gardener and for the act of sharing meals. “Vine-dressers, gardeners and others working outside the monastery should take meals along with the other monks in order that ‘the name brotherhood may not be just a name.’” (Philanthropenos) The gardens of the St. Mamas monastery also provide most of the food eaten by the brothers. According to the document their diet consists largely of vegetables (mentioned no fewer than eight times), legumes, bread, fruit, cheese, and fish. While fish were probably bought elsewhere in the city, the explicit inclusion of “gardener” as a manual labor position indicates that monks grew at least some of the food. Furthermore, due to vows of poverty, one can infer that most sustenance items were made within the monastery’s grounds.

The typica of the Convents of Lips and Sts. Kosmas and Damian are valuable in deciphering how much land was operated as working farms and gardens in Istanbul. The Convent of Lips included at least 18 hectares of operational gardens with an additional 74 hectares of arable land and about 17 hectares of vineyards “inside Constantinople” including Blanga and Galata. (Palaiologina) The Convent of Sts. Kosmas and Damian owns at least 2,342 hectares of arable land both inside (Blanga, Chalcedon, Galata) and surrounding (Philopation) the city as well as 92 hectares of vineyards and 24 hectares of olive trees. (Palaiologina) This substantial amount of land dedicated to agriculture speaks to the cultural and economic significance of gardening in Istanbul between the 12th and 14th centuries.

The urban farms and agricultural history of the city requires creative interpretations of primary sources that may, at first glance, not seem to contribute directly to the historical narrative. The ephemeral nature of gardens as subjects need not inhibit thoughtful historical analysis.

Istanbul’s Agricultural Past: An Ekphrasis Revealed Across The Centuries

This week’s readings, particularly the primary source texts, provide a window into Istanbul’s agricultural past. Through the Typikons of the monastery of St. Mamas and the convents of Lips, Kosmas, and Damien, and in the surveys of both 1455 and 1735 – along with the highly detailed advice of the Geoponika farming handbook – we glean valuable data and context regarding the agricultural production of the day and the farming practices as well as the diet of Istanbul’s citizens.

In the survey of Istanbul of 1455 (Inalcik), we are provided an evaluation of the city, broken down quarter-by-quarter. We learn the number and size of its houses and the identity, professions, and religious profiles of the inhabitants. Interspersed with this detail are references to other structures from which we can glean information about the city’s agricultural production. For example, the survey contains references to the city’s gardens, vineries, stables, storehouses, mills, and wells, including their placement within certain quarters or neighborhoods. Some quarters or districts had little or no agricultural activity to speak of. Others, particularly those housing the city’s many monasteries, were clearly successful centers of food production. For instance, we learn that Quarter Balat II housed two gardens along with a citizen named “Ripotos,” identified as a gardener (Inalcik, 306-98); that Quarter Bab-i-I Edirne housed the evidently productive Monastery of Prohermez, which counted among its holdings three storehouses, and a vinery  (313); that Quarter Top-Yikigi was home to two mills and a garden (327-335), and that Quarter Alti-Mermer had a garden, a mill, and a well (347-350).  Quarter Kastel Hirige featured a monastery with four storehouses, stables, and two vineries (352); the Ayos Athanos monastery held a vinery and a storehouse (357), and Quarter Isa-Kermesi housed a factory for making linseed oil (358).       

The 1735 survey of the bostans of Istanbul, covering the neighborhoods of “Great Langa,” Kucuk, Yedikule, Ynibahce, and Cukurbostans, documents the continuing, indeed growing, prevalence of agricultural production in Istanbul. For example, we learn that there were 1,381 gardeners resident in the city, the vast majority of them Christians, tending over 344 individual bostans (1735 Survey of the Bustans) – not insignificant figures, particularly when compared to the greatly diminished numbers of the present day.

In the Typicons documenting life in the city’s monasteries and convents, we can glean further information about the food production and consumption of Istanbul’s population. First, we learn that the Convent of Lips employed a steward to oversee its various land holdings; the steward’s salary consisted of gold and “100 annonikoi modioi” each of wheat and barley, and “100 measures of wine” (Thomas & Hero, 1272). The Convent’s “Inventory of Property” provides an accounting of its vast agricultural holdings including many thousands of modioi of “arable land,” vineyards, gardens, and mills (1279-1281). The document goes on to provide a detailed recitation of the diet allowed the nuns, specifying “fish, cheese and legumes” on non-fast days; legumes, vegetables and “seasonal shellfish” on Mondays; and other days on which only “vegetables and legumes” were permitted (1258; 1275). The Typicon for the Monastery of St. Mamas provides an even more detailed prescribed diet of the monks, even specifying the manner in which such food should be prepared, to wit: “…two of three cooked dishes containing olive oil” or a meal “… composed of “legumes soaked in water and perhaps some raw vegetables and fruits” (Thomas & Hero, 1006). Clearly, the inhabitants enjoyed a varied if highly regulated diet.

Perhaps the most illuminating document to provide insights into the nature of farming in 10th century Istanbul is the Byzantine Greek farming manual Geoponika. From Book 12 we learn exactly what crops Istanbul’s residents were growing and consuming: beets, lettuce, cabbage, melons, turnips, mint, celery, leeks and onions, garlic, artichokes, mushrooms, and asparagus. We also learn the best soil for cultivation – non-clayey and “not too rough” – as well as how manure (the best being ash and pigeon dung) can be used to work Istanbul’s “clayey” soil and how the region’s sandy soil should be used to grow asparagus (Dalby, 248). Among the manual’s encyclopedic recommendations for addressing seemingly every conceivable cultivation, pest, and medicinal issue are a number of hygienic properties ascribed to certain plants – an emphasis on personal hygiene being central to the lives of city dwellers living in close proximity to one another. For example, rocket is described as being useful in cleaning up facial blemishes; it also “helps with smelly armpits” (261).

Book 12 also highlights the importance of gardens in proximity to the house, noting the gardens provide pleasure to the senses of sight and smell. The existence of texts like Geoponika and The Vienna Dioskorides highlights the important role of agriculture: “the extent to which people believed in the power of plants, and in the ability of men and women to harness that power” (Brubaker, 213).  

Finally, the examples of Ottoman historical literature included in the readings – for example, Hyrtakenos’ description of the garden of St. Anna, capturing the “science and art” of Byzantine gardening (Dolezal and Mavroudi, 115-118; 140-148) – provide further evidence of the importance of land cultivation in Istanbul history and culture. In addition, literature like Hyrtakenos’ Description of the Garden of St. Anna highlights another aspect about gardens that is frequently neglected: the spiritual feeling a garden can induce. While many sources on bostans focus on the production aspects of urban farming, Hyrtakenos’ detailed prose reminds us that gardens also possess authentic aesthetic qualities, and that the emotions evoked from merely being in the presence of nature’s beauty can be just as valuable as a garden’s tangibles products.    

These texts, while not necessarily set down for the purpose of telling the story of agriculture, nonetheless provide myriad clues to the agricultural heritage of Istanbul. They serve as an ekphrasis – a graphic, dramatic description of the city’s powerful agricultural past. 

Private to Public: City Gardens of Constantinople and the Continuity of their Role in Socialization

It is impossible to know the entire history of a place because all we know is what has stood the test of time. More frustrating than that is what has stood the test of time has been wrapped, warped, and twisted by the perceptions, opinions and sometimes manipulation of history by its story tellers. This idea was eloquently shared in Raymond Williams’ book, The Country and the City, when he said, “a memory of a childhood can be said, persuasively, to have some permanent significance,” (Williams, 12). There exists a constant challenge for historians to see passed this “problem of perspective,” to render the truest core of the past.

But that isn’t exactly what I am doing here.

Constructing a historical narrative about the gardens of Constantinople is in many ways an open-ended question because even the sources from which we have chosen to examine admit there is far more to decrypt.  That being said, however, the primary sources, if they are an accurate and unbiased collection, show snapshots of city agriculture throughout the past millenium and a half. They have revealed to me an important pattern of city gardens that has been shared over time. The city gardens of Constantinople have migrated from a private to public institution, opening in inclusivity over time, while perpetually meeting socialization needs of  the city dwellers.

The gardens of constantinople began as private places owned by private entities in the Byzantine era. In Henry McGuire’s “Gardens and Parks in Constantinople,” the gardens that were kept in memory best by historians and artists were the grand gardens administered by the Church and Emperor. Gardens were also privately run by individuals and households. This is clear from the Geoponika, which states in its 12th chapter that gardens are essential for life and health, and should therefore be located close to the home (tl. Dalby, 247).  Despite the usage of “others” and “they” as sources for explanation of the different garden capabilities, the colloquial nature of the text is misleading. Meant for “the improvement of mankind,” the Geoponika was an elite text, further showing that the conversation of gardens and gardeners themselves was a private institution kept to the usage of the home. The Dioskorides show again this confusing mix of private and public, as there existed an alphabet key and several drawings to make the text seemingly accessible to the masses. But this gardening guidebook was intended for an aristocratic crowd and the finer Viennese copy was not a commonplace copy (ed. Littlewood, 204). In “Theodore Hyrtakenos’ Description of the Garden of St. Anna and the Byzantine Descriptions of Gardens,” the idea of a private, fortified garden was the subject of his writing (Mavrudi and Dolezal). St. Anna, locked in the rings of trees and vegetation, is the subject of a major Eden-like garden. This representation shows that contemporary usage and perception of gardens in 10th century Byzantium were for private usage, ushering intimate relations between individuals and nature.

Through the Typika of three centuries, the transition from private to public usage of the gardens is more pronounced. The Typika, charters from the monasteries and convents of Byzantium, serve as historical sources reporting on the day to day and seasonal life. From their descriptions we can draw deeper conclusions in regard to the private and public relations to gardens. The Monastery at St. Mamas, in the 12th century, completely banned women (unless they had specially privilege or standing) and guests of any sort. Even the gatekeeper was to be selective in giving to the poor, further making the monastery and its private garden a separate entity from the public sphere (tl. Bandy, ch. 13, 26, and 27).  In the 13th century Typika of the Convent at St. Lips, access to the grounds, and more specifically to the women in the convent, was limited to outside visitors (tl. Talbot, ch. 17). In this Typika there exists a detailed description of the lands that provide the self-sustaining ability of the convent. This characteristic shows again the exclusivity and privacy of the major city gardens at the time. By the 14th century, however, in the Typika of the convent at St. Kosmas, we see an important bridge between private and public gardens. The inner-workings of the convent were dependent on food no longer produced within church property, but instead from gardens outside the church. People providing the food from these gardens were a separate yet connected entity from the church, as they constitute a lower social class and symbol of poor public beings (tl. Talbot, ch. 4). Towards the end of Byzantium, the gardens written about started to become less confined as private institutions.

In the Typika of St. Mamas, however, there exists one quote that speaks to the private nature of the gardens yet also highlights the spirit of what gardening meant for the people of Constantinople. Those who worked on the gardens for the purpose of producing food were given the title “gardener” and their work was done separate and isolated from the monastery. The meaning of gardens being a tool for personal and household health is shown again. The gardeners were to produce food for the meals that the other monks ate, but they would invite the monks in for meal time in “the name of brotherhood,” so to show that food and agriculture served a social function (tl. Bandy, ch. 19). This concept is shown in different forms throughout the sources presented here.

The Ottoman Era saw a complete change in city gardens as they became far more public entities. This is clear by the involvement of the state and the making of official records, begun by Mehmet II and his official survey of the city’s subjects in 1455. The role of the state in categorizing and organizing these gardens shows that the authority of the land was no longer monitored by private institutions or households, but instead by the Sultanate itself. In her article about the public spaces of Istanbul, Shirine Hamadeh concludes that the gardens of the city became centers for vibrant public life in an era known by historians as the Tulip Period (Hamadeh, 300).

Throughout the change over time from private to public nature of the city gardens, there lies continuity in the gardens’ role in socialization of the city people. From the early guidebooks on agriculture and the various medicinal uses of the garden’s products, there exists a notion that the men and women who counted on the gardens for health also counted on them for social needs. In the Geoponika, it is outlined that the plant rocket serves to combat body odor (tl. Dalby, 259). There would only be a remedy like this if there was a need, which seems to be the case with the growing socialization of the Byzantine society. The rise of coffeehouses paralleled with the phenomenon of urbanization revolutionized the social scene of Ottoman Constantinople. Individuals were socializing at degrees previously unmatched and there grew a greater inclusive nature about the city. This was in the time when public gardens began to flourish. Gardens in this sense also served social needs as being the forum for discussion, courtship, and basic human interaction beginning in the 15th century.

The relationship of man and nature is a very unique one. In the early city gardens of Constantinople, there existed a mystical and revered spirit of the  gardens as they embodied the idea of man’s conquest of nature (ed. Littlewood, 115). Overtime, the skills of gardening became specialized and there arose a separate term and occupation for “gardeners” (tl. Bandy, ch. 9). Finally, gardens were transformed to be conquered by humans once again, but in a completely different context, while still embodying the socialization of the era. Today, we see man against nature repeatedly. The fine line between symbiosis and disruption, unfortunately, has only blurred over time, and today, we find ourselves questioning our relationship with gardens as being one of fruitful ends or ultimately destructive outcomes.

Agricultural Pasts

When looking at history, agriculture is something not always closely studied. For the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, agricultural data reveals intricate details about the society that existed in both rural and urban areas. Through close analyses of agriculture, one can ascertain a significant part of a city’s past. The production of foodstuffs, the livelihoods of the producers, and the relationships between planters and buyers showcase the importance of the farming community on a civilization.

For a historical jewel like Istanbul, the agricultural past illustrates the production and consumption of the city. Looking at Geoponika Book 12, a tenth century Byzantine agricultural guide, one could learn much about Istanbul’s horticulture. The monthly descriptions of what would be planted are indicative of the people’s diet during those seasons. This allows modern scholars to extrapolate which plants would have thrived and consequently, how climate and crops were coupled during those times. Further, the individual sections on specific vegetation point to the careful examination of their full uses, including for medicine and healing as well as for cuisine and nutrition. This is exemplified in mint being “deemed to be of no use” while radishes “when eaten with honey [,]…cure coughs” (Owen 1805, 118, 121).

Another source that offers intriguing insights into the agricultural life of the past are surveys. Although city surveys are not intended only for agricultural history, their data depicts the complex connections between what are perceived as urban and rural life within a city. In Inalcik’s translation of Mehmed II’s 1455 survey of Istanbul, the fact that a house is located next to a church and contains a vinery suggests the possible reputation of the house as a farm on the church’s land and producing for the church (Inalcik 2012, 348).

Meanwhile, an examination of life within a church also illuminates aspects of agricultural life. In the Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents, it is stated that the monks would use “a diet of dry food and water as a punishment for repeat offenders” who did not participate in the “services of the canonical hours or vigils” (Thomas, Hero 2000, 978).

Moreover, documents that point to the uses of herbs in turn highlight how society perceived the role of medicine in society. For instance, “the early Byzantine centuries provide many examples of aristocratic women whose Christian good works, it is claimed, included caring for the sick” (Littlewood, Maguire, Wlschke-Bulmahn 2002, 212). Thus, women were seen as the caretakers who tended to the vegetation relevant for therapeutic uses.

Hence, agricultural records disclose much about a city that may be too easily overlooked. While the sources analyzed may have been written for data collecting purposes, historians can link quantitative factors to qualitative understandings about society and life in agricultural Istanbul.

Brubaker, Leslie. The Vienna Dioskorides and Anicia Juliana, in Byzantine Garden Culture ed., Anthony Littlewood, Henry Maguire and Joachim Wolschke – Bulmahn, 189-214.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5111268/Harvard%20summer%20school%20readings/week%204/Geoponika_Book%2012.pdf.

Inalcık, Halil. 2012 . The Survey of Istanbul 1455: The Text, English Translation, Analysis of the Text, Documents. İstanbul, Turkey: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2012, preface, introduction and  pp. 295- 368.

(Twelfth century) Typikon of Athanasios Philanthropenos for the Monastery of St. Mamas in Constantinople (trans. Anastasius Bandy).

 

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.