Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, Imperial Ambassador at Constantinople – A Response Paper
The Turkish Letters of the Imperial Ambassador Busbecq, including all their historical essence, primarily depict Busbecq’s adventures and personal account of life in the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century. It comprised vivid details and analyses of politics, religion, culture, history, court life, costume, military settings, geography, social classes, women of the period, art, as well as several other significant aspects which the author had found a great deal of interest to divulge for the modern-day reader to relish. He is considered to be the man who introduced both the lilac, which generally earned acceptance to the West, and tulip due to his fascination for herbalism local flora according to scholarly records.
Based on the scholars, it is interesting to note how Busbecq demonstrated a picture of the international politics at the time through the Turkish letters, especially detailing the relations between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire which is claimed to be given negligible focus in history courses. Hence, Busbecq’s letters are regarded as amply useful as a firsthand reliable source in studying the Western Civilization or European history for students in higher undergraduate levels. Since the inner workings of 16th century European diplomacy are also dealt with, a reader would essentially perceive the historical and personal insights of the Flemish author regarding the culture and society of the great empire of the east. Such undertakings as Busbecq’s become noteworthy of being judged as open-mindedly capable in ridding itself of inevitable biases so as to create a better illustration of the truth which the audience should be left mostly to evaluate.
As a polymath who had been able to obtain remarkable education via Europe’s erudite capitals, Busbecq managed to exhibit in the Turkish letters, forwarded to the knowledge of a fellow diplomat at Hungary, the potential to respond to the heightening tensions between the Ottomans and Ferdinand of Habsburg between 1555 and 1562. By chronicling the encounters of his journey in fulfilling the mission assigned him as part of the imperial embassy, the ambassador quite proved that he deserved the position to settle border treaty negotiations between Suleiman ‘the Magnificent’ and the future emperor of Rome.
With Ogier Ghiselin’s composition of the Turkish letters, one acquires a perspective of making history through diverse experiential learning like that of Busbecq as he made the most of his stay in Istanbul. Eventually, this establishes for him a character where a sense of adventure could be readily felt over the objective for pure exploits that are political by nature. The several indispensable items described with the finest scrutiny in the letters, such as the collected valuable manuscripts derived from specific places of great importance, are an indication that Busbecq cherished a life filled with wisdom due to pursuits of knowledge in wonderful voyages rather than of territorial schemes that serve a one-sided interest only. Overall, his correspondences truly sound more of an enduring classical piece in the absence of unnecessary partiality for which majority of other historians are inclined to characterize in their scholastic endeavor.