Turkish history Sultan Suleiman in Urdu
About a year ago, I began watching a Turkish historical soap opera called Muhtesem Yüzyil (Magnificent Century) about Süleyman the Magnificent’s life, loves, and military campaigns. I was hooked, even though only one episode, the first, has English subtitles. From the second episode on I’ve had to rely on my imperfect Turkish. Fortunately, I do understand Turkish, having been married for 20 years to a Turk and having lived in Turkey long enough to learn the language. I did have to learn some new expressions in order to appreciate Magnificent Century, though: for example, I now know how to say “Off with his head!” and “Prepare yourself; you’ve been chosen tonight for the Sultan’s bed.”
Since the Magnificent Century is set in the 16th century, which happens to be a favorite period of mine (my own novel Fires of Destiny is set in the 1550s), I’m familiar with the major characters who were on the world stage at the time, and with the general European political situation. Like most Americans, though, it wasn’t until I met my Turkish husband that I knew very much about Turkey or its history. My history courses in high school and college had been sadly lacking in information about any land east of Greece, and I had only the vaguest idea about the extent of the Ottoman Empire.
The Turks I knew during those early years (the seventies) weren’t particularly interested in the Ottoman Empire, either. In 1976, when I was living just down the hill from Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara, the country was still heavily Kemalist and secular. Out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire, Atatürk, regarded as the father of modern Turkey, had carved a new nation imbued with Western cultural ideals and a western-style government. Turks had turned their back on Ottoman dress, lifestyles, religion, and even the Ottoman Turkish language. The Turkish alphabet was translated from Arabic script into Roman script, and the language itself was cleansed of many of the Persian and Arabic words it had accumulated over the centuries. Atatürk was so successful with his language reform that many young Turks today can’t understand his speeches unless they are translated into modern Turkish. In episodes of Magnificent Century, when Süleyman’s poetry is spoken on screen in its original Ottoman, the producers provide modern Turkish subtitles so the audience for this very popular show will be able to understand it.