"Contra Turcos": The Church in the Discourse regarding the 'Turkish Threat'

von by Mariano Delgado Original aufOriginal in German, angezeigt aufdisplayed in English
PublishedErschienen: 2023-07-06
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    Following the conquest of Anatolia by Turkish tribal warriors led by Seljuk prince Suleiman ibn Kutalmiş at the end of the 11th century, a view of the "Turks" gradually emerged in Orthodox and Latin Christendom which adhered to a basic pattern: The Turks are cruel "Asiatic" barbarians and descendants of the Scythians who threaten Western/European civilization. (The term "Turkey" first appears in occidental sources in 1190 in an account of Frederick Barbarossa's crusade and is generally used from the 13th century onward, especially since 1256 as a result of the recurring references to "regnum Turquiae" and "Turcomania" in the "Speculum historiale" of Vincent of Beauvais, died ca. 1264.) The perception of the Turks as Muslims/Saracens went hand in hand with the shift in Christian-Islamic religious polemics. This extended from the consideration of Islam as a reservoir of Christian heresies and the demonization of its leaders as champions of the Antichrist – the basic pattern of John of Damascus (died 754), which was also advocated in the above-mentioned work of Vincent of Beauvais – to irenic-discursive constructions of a fundamental unity of religions in the works of Raimundus Lullus (Ramon Llull, 1232–1316), Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), or Guillaume Postel (1510–1581) and Muhammad's rehabilitation in the writings of Goethe (1749–1832).

    InhaltsverzeichnisTable of Contents


    The negative perception patterns regarding the Turks were amplified under the shadow of the general "fear of the Turks" that emerged following the conquest of in 1453 by the Eroberung Konstantinopels durch die Osmanen 1453 IMG led by Sultan Mehmed II (1432–1481)[Sultan Mehmed II. IMG].1 This event – for Christianity comparable only to the fall of ancient 2– functioned as a beacon for a Turkish advance that also threatened in the early modern period and led to the culmination of Western "Contra Turcos" or "Turcica" writings (pamphlets,3 cosmographies, chronicles, travelogues, tracts of every kind on the Turks, the Turkish War, etc.). The following article concerns the Western discourse models in the face of the "fear of the Turks" (a term emerged at the end of the 19th century) between the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II and the campaign of Napoleon I. (1769–1821)[Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) IMG]1798–1801.

    Pope Pius II

    Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405–1464)[Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405–1464) IMG] summed up the Western sensibilities of the time after the conquest of Constantinople:

    In the past, we were defeated in and , in other words, in foreign countries. But now we are being confronted in Europe, our homeland, our home. It will be objected that the Turks had earlier invaded from Asia, the gained a foothold in Europe, and the occupied part of after crossing the straits of Gibraltar. But we have never lost a city or stronghold like Constantinople.4

    The popes, beginning with Nicolas V (1397–1455), responded with crusade bulls, with the view of Europe as a Christian, civilizing project and with complaints about the discord in Europe in the face of the advance of Turkish/Ottoman barbarism.

    We encounter an example of this thinking of reinforcing European-Christian identity to defend against the Turkish-Islamic threat in the writings of Piccolomini, who was first imperial secretary and legate to Frederick III (1415–1493) and eventually Pope Pius II (1405–1464).5 In his oration before the Council of in November 1436, he already defended the war against the Turks as a task of all Christendom. In his oration Moyses vir Dei delivered on April 24, 1452, he again defends the legitimacy and expediency of a crusade against the Turks before Pope Nicholas V and Emperor Frederick III. The tone of his reaction to the fall of Constantinople intensifies between the time before and after the election of the pope. He speaks emphatically of the crusade; of the atrocities committed by the barbarian Turks (who were not descended from the Trojans, as some thought, but from the "Scythians," i.e. those who were considered the epitome of barbarism in Greco-Roman antiquity); of Europe as the home of Christians (who should overcome their disunity and defend themselves against the common threat posed by the Turks); of the perfidy and crude butchery displayed by Sultan Mehmed II (which continued that of his wicked namesake and sectarian founder Muhammad), etc.

    In 1461, however, Pius II surprised his contemporaries with his Epistola ad Mahometem, which was inspired by the vision of a "Christian-Ottoman" convergence and sought to include the Turks. Pius II points out to Mehmed II that the path to spreading his empire among Christians and to glorifying his name will not be laid using his gold, weapons, army, or armada, but his acceptance of Christianity. The reward for baptism would be a papally legitimized "translatio imperii": "Erit tuum regnum super omnia, quae sunt in orbe, et nomen tuum nulla aetas silebit."6 This "very enigmatic"7 Epistola is considered to be an authentic text of Pope Pius II, yet it presents many riddles to scholars: Was the letter meant to be taken seriously and was it really meant to address Mehmed II, or is it rather an example of theological-rhetorical literature with the aim of awakening the Christian princes through provocation? It should be noted, following Johannes Helmrath (*1953), "that it must be negated that the text was actually sent to the Sultan's court."8

    Finally, Pius II is dominated by exclusionary thinking as his death on August 15, 1464 in as the leader of a crusade against the Ottomans shows, after being abandoned by Christian princes: This, too, was a last, desperate act to rouse Christianity. It is, however, also true that the Epistola (dated between the end of the Congress of [January 1460] and the new idea of a personal crusade from March 1462) represents "a distinct change of tactics, an interlude of unconventional reflection."9 It reflects an irenic approach that put Pius II into the proximity of other humanists and theologians of his time such as Nicolaus of Cusa (1402–1464) and John of Segovia (1393–1458). Due to his exclusionary thinking, Pius II has been called "the greatest crusader pope of the fifteenth century."10 By contrast, his irenic approach in the Epistola prepares the ground for further inclusiveness in the early modern period.

    The humanists

    In the 1520s, we notice the following: Christianity is torn apart by reformation movements and numerous wars in changing alliances, while the Turks conquer one city after another, even arriving at s doorstep. This historical backdrop challenged humanist leaders such as Juan Luis Vives (1492–1540)[Juan Luis Vives  (1492-1540) IMG] and Erasmus of Rotterdam (ca. 1466–1536)[Erasmus von Rotterdam IMG]to intervene in the conflicts of their time qua modern "intellectuals."

    Between 1522 and 1526, Vives11 wrote small, contextual writings on the state of Christendom, in which he castigated war and exhorted peace (concord) so that the Turks could be defeated and driven back from Europe. These writings are fundamentally characterized by the exclusionary model, but they also portray the Turks as being far from as cruel as the Christians among themselves.

    The work De Europae dissidis, et bello turcico. Dialogus (, October 1526) is especially revealing. This dialogue, written in the wake of the Turkish victory over the at the Battle of [Die Schlacht bei Mohács 1526 IMG], takes place in the Underworld. With so many souls falling into hell like hailstones after a thunderstorm, it asks at the outset: "What is going on up there?" This question is then followed by a lament about the general discord and hatred that prevails in Christendom:

    The Italian abhors and despises all Transalpines as barbarians; the Frenchman spits when he hears the word Englishman; the latter do not like the Scots and the French very much; between the French and the Spaniards there have been wars with great bloodbaths in our time, which have embedded deep roots of enmity in their hearts ... In the philosophical schools ... there are rivalries and certainly deadly serious ones among those who devote themselves to the study of Latin and Greek, dialectics and philosophy.... Then there are the theological schools: Some are followers of Thomas, others of Duns Scotus, still others of Ockham.... Even among the Lutherans, even though they constantly speak of faith, the gospel and charity, there is neither love nor harmony. And, finally, as for those who have vowed supreme charity and are therefore called brothers: What disputes there are among them and how bloody they can sometimes be! The monks against the mendicants, the Friars Minor against the Friars Preachers, the Conventual Friars Minor against the Observants: What attacks and insults, what threats and persecutions!12

    The text describes with biting sarcasm the many conflicts that had occurred in Europe.
    He follows up the question "What were the Turks doing in the meantime? Sleeping perhaps?"13 by describing the relentless Turkish expansion since the conquest of Constantinople (, , Mohács) and lamenting the missed opportunities of a torn Christendom: "Oh, how much land and sea could have been conquered with the blood spilled in the fratricidal wars! Not only could the Turks have been crushed, but all the land and sea between the east and the west could have been conquered."14

    Vives is especially critical of the impious non-aggression pact of some Christian kings with the Turks (although not mentioned by name, Francis I looms large here):

    Who promised the Turks in the name of the Christians that after their invasion of Hungary all Christians would not unite against them, take up arms and rush to destroy them as one extinguishes a fire? ... The enormous and irreconcilable discord among the Christians is enough for the Turks as a guarantee that everything will remain tranquil ... Nothing seems to have been sufficiently sworn to, sanctioned, secured, and contracted; there is no valid peace and no secure treaty of peace; what had been achieved is once again destroyed; what had been firmly agreed upon is once again annulled.15

    To those who seem to prefer life under Turkish rule to life under the rule of another Christian king, Vives counters that it is utter nonsense:

    With Christians, it will always be possible to negotiate through envoys, through the law, through consultations, through common friends, through petitions and mediators; from the Turks, on the other hand, one will never achieve anything good and right. [The Christians who desire their rule] have nothing in common with them, neither in customs, nor with regard to what concerns the people, nor with regard to God. Won't the nations [of Europe] be able to live better under a Christian prince than under the Turks...? If the Turks are now victorious: What solace will they continue to have? What hope will they still cherish? They contemplate this scenario idly and carelessly; and far removed from the common enemy, they fight each other.16

    Before the siege of Vienna in 1529Contrafactur, wie der Turck Wien belagert IMG , which signified a new stage in the Turkish threat to Europe, and in light of the cruel wars among Christians and the papal "tyranny," more than a few Christians (especially the Antitrinitarians) were inclined to consider Turkish rule a lesser evil. Many Eastern Christians even preferred the Turkish turban to the papal tiara after the conquest of Constantinople and the Balkans. Vives strongly disagrees. In support of his opinion, he also described the woeful existence that awaited Christians under Turkish rule in a short text written in 1526 entitled De conditione vitae Christianorum sub Turca. It was a life without power, offices or dignities (non opes, non honores, non dignitates); a dog's life, without freedom, without a cultivation of the arts or Christian piety.17

    Christians should recognize the peril of the moment, settle any discord among themselves, and aim their war stratagem at the Turks. They should even take the war to Asia, for a united Europe had hitherto always defeated Asia:

    Europe has never advanced into Asia without having defeated and subjugated it; Asia has never invaded Europe without having been devastatingly repulsed by it ... The discord in Europe, at first among the princes of Constantinople, delivered Asia to the Turks ... [T]hen followed the disagreements and the wars among the kings of Europe ... [I]f the winds would now blow a little in the opposite direction and if you would direct your hatred and your anger against them, you would soon get to know the true spirit of the Asiatics ... For they would then show that they were not strong and brave because of their might, but because of your culpability.18

    By waging war against the Turks, great treasures and sublime glory would be gained, and the Christians, "like wild beasts on the hunt," could even "pursue" the Turks – as "enemies of their religion and of the Christian name."19

    The war against the Turks, Vives summed up, was the most glorious undertaking of the period:

    ... both to free the peoples of Europe from fear of and slavery under the Turks, as well as to expand the Christian world and preach Christianity to the many. I do not know if Christ feels the same, but in any case this would be a lesser evil than the madness of the fratricidal wars.20

    In 1526, then, Vives is not quite sure whether the "just" war against the Turks would also be in the spirit of the humanist "Philosophia Christi." This very notion lies at the heart of his work De concordia et discordia in humano genere (On Concord and Discord in the Human Race), which he dedicates to Charles V (1500–1558) in July 1529, on the eve of the Turkish siege of Vienna. In the first three books, Vives philosophically and theologically elaborates on the ideas presented above: concord in Christendom, i.e. Europe, in order to crush the Turks, i.e. Asia. When Vives praises21 the peacemakers, the meek, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and refers to 1 John 4:20 ("If anyone says 'I love God!' but hates his brother, he is a liar"),22 he is thinking primarily of concord among Christian princes as the necessary condition for being able to avert the Turkish menace that threatened to destroy Christian Europe:

    Such great evils could be remedied with the unanimity of opinions and the laying down of arms on the part of princes, under the guidance of moderation and reason, without hatred and passion. Indeed, nothing has strengthened our religion more than concord among Christians, and nothing has weakened it so much as discord. As for the law of love, the following is certainly true: What is more befitting of it than consensus, peace, concord, and u­nanimity? And what contradicts it more and is more disadvantageous to it than profound discord?23

    The same tenor is also evident in the first chapters of the fourth book, the last book of the series: "The Turks are knocking terrifyingly at the gates of the orbis christianus, spreading before them the defeat and destruction of Christendom"24 – and the Turkish advance is only due to the discord in Christendom.

    Nonetheless, in chapters XII–XIV (and in the booklet De pacificacione, which Vives also completed in 1529 and dedicated to Alfonso Manrique (1471–1538), the Archbishop of Seville who sympathized with Erasmus)25 the path to true unity and true peace is described in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. It is the path exemplified by Christ himself: "our leader and very wise Father" (Imperator noster, et Pater sapientissimus),26 who, as a paragon of humanity, said, "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:19).27 The Philosophia Christi means: The desire for revenge is illegitimate;28 we are to forgive so that we may be forgiven.29 The commandment of love (John 13:34: "A new commandment I give you: Love one another!")30, which Vives previously cited with a view toward intra-Christian concord, is now understood to include love of the enemy and love of the Turks:

    How absurd it is to think that being a Christian means hating the Turks or other Saracens! And we consider him a martyr who kills many of them, as though the most perverse and cruel thief could do no better! You have to love the Turks because they are human beings. Let those love them who wish to obey the word, "Love your enemies" (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:27).31

    The thrust of Vives' earlier writings – marked by exclusion – is "concord/peace in Christendom – war against the Turks," or civilized Europe against barbarian Asia. Vives had taken the topos from antiquity (see Aristotle's (384–322 B.C) barbarian doctrine), but it was also familiar from the writings of Pius II. Does Vives' exhortation in his writings from 1529 to love one's enemies in reference to the Turks now mean that he no longer considered war against them necessary or just? Hardly. Unlike Erasmus or Martin Luther, Vives rarely spoke explicitly about the Turkish wars after 1529. Nonetheless, several passages in his later writings indicate how the call to love one's enemies was to be understood.

    In a letter from January 13, 1531 to Henry VIII (1491–1547), he recalls how much the victories of the Turks had afflicted Christendom and that if the discord persisted, all of Europe would fall into the clutches of the Turks.32 In the late treatise De veritate fidei Christianae (completed in 1540, published posthumously in 1543), he again emphasizes how terrible the life of Christians would be among the Saracens.33 At the same time, however, he emphasizes that no coercion is permissible in matters of faith (nulla violentia est in fide)34 and that Christianity should only be spread in a peaceful, apostolic manner.

    Vives did not cease to regard the Turks as an acute danger to Christian Europe, against which Christians were to defend themselves by means of war as an ultima ratio. But the thrust of his call to "love your enemy" is different; it is missionary: Let us not defeat the Turks with the ordinary weapons of war, but let us try to change their minds and win them over with the "weapons of Christ" – just as we ourselves were converted by the apostles "with arguments suited to the nature and mind of man, with a lifestyle of integrity, with abstinence and temperance, with irreproachable morals."35 Convinced of the truth and beauty of the Christian faith, Vives cherishes the hope that one day even the victorious Turks will be unable to resist his arguments. "Asia" does not need to be driven back from Europe, but evangelized and Europeanized.

    Erasmus' Consultatio de Bello Turcis inferendo was written in 153036 – in other words after Vives' Turkish writings – as a letter to the Cologne jurist, merchant and councilor Johann Rinck (1458–1516). Substantively, he shows much agreement with Vives, for instance, in the image of the Turks as cruel barbarians threatening the Christians and in the criticism of the discord among Christian kings and of the cruel conduct of war, which sometimes eclipsed the barbarity of the Turks. Their views also overlap as follows: in the fundamental belief that war is a great evil that should be accepted only under certain circumstances as an ultima ratio, a "necessary evil;" in the preference for the Philosophia (Imitatio) Christi as an ethical ideal, which was already represented in Erasmus' Querela Pacis (1517); and in the (seemingly naive) hope for an inclusion of the Turks, if one tried to win them over with "the weapons of the apostles" (Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474–1566) had the same attitude towards the Indians at the time).

    One could fight against the Turks with a "bellum necesarium" because they pose a threat as cruel aggressors, but not because they have a different faith. If one wants to observe the dictates of humanity, however, one may go no further than to use weapons to repel the aggression. To sum up Erasmus' attitude: It is necessary to demonstrate to the Turks through one's own behavior that the Christian ethos is superior. Since Christianity is discursive, not coercive, one should strive for this ideal: "What would really be most desirable would be the subjugation of the Turkish empire in the manner in which the apostles subjugated all the nations of the world to the kingdom of Christ."37

    We should send genuine messengers of the faith to the Turks, who do not seek advantage for themselves, but rather only for Jesus Christ. The "weapons of the apostles" should be used in such a way that the Turks rejoice in being defeated. And it should be permitted that those who do not to accept Christianity (yet) can live under their own law.

    Mindful of the siege of Vienna, not all humanists were so circumspect. In his 1529 writing Ad Carolum V ut bellum suscipiat in Turcas, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1490–1573) encouraged the emperor not only to defend himself, but to wage a "legitimate" war of conquest against the Turks in order to crush them. Other humanists at the imperial court thought along similar lines, trying to persuade Charles V to seize the universal monarchy.38 After the latter's victory at in 1525 over archrival Francis I (1494–1547), Alfonso de Valdés (1490–1532) dreamed in prophetic tones of the end-time conquest of :

    It seems that God miraculously made this victory possible for the Emperor, not only so that he could defend Christendom and resist the power of the Turk if the latter dared to attack it, but rather so that, after these civil wars (for that is what we should call them, since they occur among Christians) have been pacified, he himself might proceed to attack the Turks and the Moors; further, that in glorifying our holy Catholic faith, as his ancestors did, he might reconquer the kingdom of Constantinople, as well as the holy site of Jerusalem, which they occupy because of our sins. Let this happen so that, as has already been prophesied by many, the whole world may embrace our holy Catholic faith and the words of our Savior may be fulfilled: "There shall be but one flock and one shepherd."39

    This sentiment is also reflected in Paulo Giovio (1483–1552) in his Commentario delle cose de Turchi (1532), which combines humanist irenicism and scholarship with exhortations to engage in crusades.40

    Reformers and Catholic theologians

    In the early modern period, history is largely understood as salvation history. As such, it is interpreted according to the biblical categories of election, covenant, faithfulness/betrayal, translatio imperii and world empire doctrine, judgment of God, as well as the Antichrist and the end of the world. Particularly in the age of the "Turkish threat" and church schism, this interpretation of history thrived among reformers and Catholic theologians.41

    The attitude of Martin Luther (1483–1546)[Portrait von Martin Luther (1483–1546) IMG] towards the Turks and Islam can be summarized with Johannes Ehmann42 in this way: 1. The Turks are enemies of the Christian faith; 2. the Turks are God's rod and their threat is an expression of God's wrath; 3. the Turks are military opponents and as such it is legitimate to fight them; 4. the Turks are end-time enemies of Christ and as such are condemned to destruction (damnation); 5. the Turks are followers of a rational, merit-based, and violent religion; 6. the Turks are followers of an effusive religion that despises and fights the incarnation-based Christian faith and is to be understood as a reservoir of Christian heresies.

    Luther saw the Turkish advance as an injustice, but one that should be understood as God's judgment on a sinful Christendom. Consequently, the Turks could not be stopped, and resistance would also be futile resistance against God. In the shadow of the siege of Vienna in 1529, he defends the war in the writings Vom Krieg wider die Türken (On War Against the Turk) and Eine Heerpredigt wider den Türken (Army Sermon Against the Turks), albeit as a "profane" task that the emperor should not conduct as a crusade. If the war were under the "banner of the cross," then "I would want to run away from it as if the devil were chasing me."43

    For Luther, the Antichrist was operating in a twofold way: first, in the form of the Turk as the external, political enemy of Christendom; second, in the form of the pope as the internal, ecclesiastical enemy and thus considerably more dangerous. The pope directs his tyranny against the gospel of justification, and in his obduracy and wickedness closes his mind to every argument. He is therefore "the most Turkish Turk" who incites Christians against "the better Turks."44 Luther also called both of them Gog (the Turk) and Magog (the pope) who would be destroyed at the forthcoming day of God's judgment.

    Luther and his Wittenberg friends identified the Turk with the little growing horn or foreign body between the ten horns of the fourth beast according to Daniel 7:25, the eschatological enemy of God and his saints. In the exegesis of Daniel, the ten horns represent the ten monarchies that will arise in the territory of the Roman Empire before the coming of the Antichrist. The little horn, on the other hand, was considered a symbol of the Antichrist. The end times will come when the Turk succeeds in destroying the empire which, according to 2 Thess 2:6, holds back the Antichrist. Luther therefore calls on the princes to strengthen the emperorship in the fight against the Turks. Luther of course wrote other – religio-polemical and quasi-ethnographic – texts and commentaries on the Turks and Islam, but "he could no longer escape" his ambivalence toward the resistance against the Turks, which was situated between eschatological defeatism and the real-political necessity of a profanely waged war.45

    The writings of other authors of the Lutheran Reformation have a similar thrust. One example is the Chronicon Carionis, which appeared in 1531/1532 and was written under the influence of Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560). Here, too, the Turk is regarded as a foreign body among the ten horns or monarchies and is excluded from any "translatio imperii." The same is true of Melanchthon's commentary on Daniel, printed in 1543,46 and the universal history by Johannes Sleidan (1506–1556), printed in 1556.47

    John Calvin (1509–1564)[John Calvin (1509–1564) IMG], on the other hand, occupied a special place among the Reformers.48 For him, all interpreters err (omnium error) when they search for present qualities of the pope or the Turk in the qualities of the beast in Daniel 7. This criticism is probably aimed primarily at Melanchthon's commentary on Daniel.49 For Calvin, the prophecy of end times in Daniel is so obscure that we cannot decipher it by identifying the Antichrist in the happenings of the time.

    Jean Bodin (1530–1596) explicitly criticized Luther's, Melanchthon's, and Sleidan's interpretation of Daniel and praised Calvin. However, despite the objections of Calvin and Bodin, the exegesis of Daniel continued to be used even among the Puritans to identify the Turk with the Antichrist, as, for example, in Thomas Brightman's commentary on Daniel.50

    In the Catholic camp, where Pope Nicholas V had already equated Mehmed II with the red dragon according to Rev 12:3ff. in his crusade bull of September 30, 1453, it is necessary to distinguish between specialized exegesis and the political-theological literature. For this purpose, we can look at two Spanish authors as examples.

    In his commentary on Daniel, the Jesuit Juan de Maldonado (1533/1536–1583) interpreted the little horn "that spoke arrogantly" (Dan 7:8) as a symbol of the Antichrist who is supposed to arise at the end of times. Like Calvin, he also rejected all attempts of contemporary authors to locate the Antichrist in contemporary events: It is not the Turk, as some authors think, and certainly not the Roman Pontiff, as Protestant "heretics" say, but some future guise at the end of times after the destruction of the fourth beast or destruction of the fourth empire.51

    In his work Política española (1619),52 the Benedictine Juan de Salazar (ca. 1575–after 1622) saw the Catholic king (Spain) and the Turk vying to control the universal monarchy. The Turks, like the Spaniards, are seen as descendants of Japhet, which is a remarkable inclusion of the Ottomans, who are said by other Renaissance authors to have descended from the Scythians. After listing the supposed assets of the Turk (he has absolute dominion over the land and people, the possessions and goods of his subjects; he has no pope over him and no grandees who could rise against him; he has plenty of people since the subjects could marry multiple times; he wages the wars personally and continuously; he has placed himself on the throne of Constantinople; he has all his kingdoms close at hand), he refutes them in detail and justifies the supremacy of the Spanish monarchy.

    But what about the interpretation of Dan 7? For Salazar, the little horn can only signify the Turk and the House of the Ottomans. This is true because, as Daniel has prophesied, this house has arisen among the other ten horns, at the feet of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Saracen Empire, which were the two largest horns of the fourth beast and the two greatest successor empires of the Roman Empire. Despite its lowly origins, the Ottoman house has already conquered the three largest of the ten successor empires, if we include North Africa, i.e. the empire of the Vandals. As a consequence, the prophecy of Daniel is fulfilled, according to which the little horn would pluck out the three largest horns and take away their power and strength. Daniel's prophecy is also fulfilled because this little horn blasphemes against the Most High and quarters the saints of the Most High. The Ottomans fight against Christianity, make fun of the "weaker" God of the Christians, who apparently cannot come to the Christians' aid, persecute the Christians and want to eradicate Christianity and spread their wicked Mohammedan sect all over the world. Thus, in Salazar, the Turk is included in the world empire doctrine and the struggle for universal monarchy on the one hand, and is considered and demonized as a "little horn" and apocalyptic enemy of Christians, on the other.

    It is not until after 1700 that the instrumentalization of the Book of Daniel to identify the Turk (or the pope) with the Antichrist starts to fade:

    Prince Eugene's Turkish victories made fears of an Islamic conquest of Europe disappear. The papacy lost its political influence even in Catholic countries. Thus, as before the Reformation, both Catholic and Protestant theologians once again projected the Antichrist into an indefinite future, rendering him meaningless for present political assessments.53

    A productive curiosity

    In the shadow of the Turkish wars, early modern Europe developed a productive curiosity about the Islamic world, an interest in the foreign that had no equal in the Islamic world. Chairs for the study of Arabic were established in Europe (1539 at the Collège de France in Paris, 1613 at the University of Lleida in Spain, 1634 at ).54 Scholars devoted themselves to the study of the great cultures and languages of the Islamic world. The Qur'an, printed in Basel in 1543 by Johannes Oporinus (1507–1568) in the Latin translation of the Qur'an by Robert of Ketton (active 1141–1147) which had been revised by Theodorus Bibliander (ca. 1504–1564), was later translated into European languages, and the first printing in Arabic also took place in Europe.55 Diplomats, merchants, prisoners of war, and even churchmen wrote travelogues. While their perception of the Turks and Islam generally follows the basic negative pattern mentioned at the beginning (moral barbarism, religion of the Antichrist), they nevertheless convey a differentiated picture of the Ottoman Empire – mostly according to the following schema: (1) court, government, and military; (2) customs; (3) religion.56

    We find nothing comparable in Islamic culture, which, like Chinese culture, scarcely seems to be interested in anything foreign. Bernard Lewis has pointed out that when Napoleon embarked on his Egyptian campaign, Europeans had nearly seventy grammars and ten dictionaries of Arabic; ten and four, respectively, for Persian; and 15 and seven, respectively, for Turkish. By contrast, Arabs, Persians, and Turks possessed neither a single grammar nor a single dictionary of any European language whatever, not even in handwritten form.57

    To be sure, the European curiosity about the Turks and the Islamic world, which was accompanied in the Age of Discovery by a similar curiosity about the entire non-European world,58 did not primarily serve to vindicate the honor of foreign, maligned cultures or to satisfy an intellectual thirst for knowledge, but rather to dominate and appropriate the Other out of a sense of superiority. Even scientific "Orientalism" cannot be absolved from this accusation, especially since it contributes to constructing a certain image of "homo islamicus" and to signify to him how he should understand himself – as Edward W. Said (1935–2003) stated in his famous reproach.59

    Towards a cultural and religious-historical inclusion of the Turks and the Islamic world

    To the extent that the Turks ceased to be a "menace" after the repeated victories of European powers (, ) from 1683 onwards and that the early modern "fear of the Turks" disappeared, Europe opened up to Turkish culture (Turquerie in art and fashion, Turkish operas…). In the shadow of the Enlightenment, a different view of Islam thus began to emerge. Until then, the image of Islam was shaped in the manner found in the work Speculum historiale of Vinces of Beauvais (1190–1264). According to this work, Islam is not a third religion, but a devilish sect that has no place between Judaism and Christianity.60 Mohammed is understood as a false and wicked prophet, as a seducer of the people and a forerunner of the Antichrist. The irenic-discursive approaches (Petrus Venerabilis (1092–1156), Ricoldo da Monte Croce (1242/1243–1320), Raimundus Lullus (Ramon Llull, 1232–1316), John of Segovia (1393–1458), Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), Martin Luther himself in a certain sense, Theodor Bibliander, Guillaume Postel (1510–1581)), which all strove for a better understanding of the Koran, did little to change this. After all, the purpose of their study of the Koran remained the discursive refutation of the Mohammedan false doctrine.61

    This image of Islam is still present in the world history of Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704), as perpetuated by his German translator Johann Andreas Cramer (1723–1788).62 A long section is devoted in it to the Mohammedan religion, but at the very outset it states:

    Such a religion infects like a plague; it becomes popular among the people, is confirmed by the laws and asserted by means of the blissful taking up of arms ... Mahomet distorted and falsified all the religions he was familiar with, intending to form one out of them that would please all peoples.63

    There is talk here of a "fictitious mission."64 The Koran is described as "an amalgamation of the Christian and Jewish doctrinal concepts of the time, some of which are true, and apocryphal history, as well as of many superstitious customs and opinions of the idolatrous Arabs."65 But even though Cramer considers the Koran to be full of errors and incapable of "educating people who can please God," he sees in it an advance over pure paganism. For Islam, "considered against the obscurities of idolatry, is nevertheless a kind of twilight, and conscientious Mahometans, if they will but use their reason, are nearer to the full light than an idolater."66

    Another philological-historical approach, aimed at the salvation of the Arab, Persian and Turkish cultures, is the monumental work Bibliothèque orientale ou Dictionnaire universel, contenant tout ce qui regarde la connaissance des peuples de l'Orient by Barthélemy d'Herbelot (1625–1695), completed in 1697 by Antoine Galland (1646–1715). In his detailed and programmatic preface, Galland, who began publishing a French translation of the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights in 1707, emphasizes that d'Herbelot first learned Arabic, Persian, and Turkish as the "foundation and basis" for his great undertaking.67 In the work, Tartars, Mongols, and Turks are referred to not as descendants of the Scythians, but as Japhets, "which many will find hard to believe."68 It is true that the religion of the Muslims continues to be apostrophized as a "perverted teaching of Mohammed that has caused so much damage to Christendom."69 But, he added, this was no reason to ignore the cultural achievements of Muslims. After studying the enormous amount of material that d'Herbelot collected in his Bibliothèque orientale, the reader will be able to judge "whether the Orientals are really as barbarous and ignorant as they are said to be in the world."70 He went on to say that in Europe one is sometimes inclined to recognize the cultural achievements of the Arabs and Persians, while making the Turks out to be a "barbarous, coarse, and extremely uncultured people." "However, one does them an injustice by slandering them so severely."71

    It is rather astonishing to note how long it took "Frankish" Europe to arrive at such a view of Islamic culture. Indeed, d'Herbelot's approach is fundamentally the same one that we find as early as 1575 in the work of the Spanish Franciscan Bernardino de Sahagún (1499–1590), Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España, vis-à-vis the Aztecs. This work is also characterized by cultural inclusion while retaining religious exclusion, but above all by the intent of absolving the Aztecs from the accusation of barbarism. Sahagún writes in the preface:

    They are thus considered barbarians and a people of the lowest degree of perfection, while in truth, in matters of statecraft they surpass many other nations who consider themselves to be such states... For it is quite certain that all these nations are our brethren, sprung from the tribe of Adam like ourselves; they are our neighbors, whom we are obliged to love as ourselves.72

    La vie de Mahomed (Amsterdam 1731) by Count Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722) represents yet another departure. The author is likewise at pains to appreciate the ways of the Muslims, overcoming a number of prejudices: The Muslims have their place in the history of the world, for they have achieved great things and founded a world empire "more extensive and more fearsome than that of the Macedonians and Romans."73 Although the negative Christian optic ultimately prevails in the evaluation of Muhammad and his religion,74 Boulainvilliers attempts to document the Muslim point of view faithfully. Thus, it is said that the patriarch Ishmael is for the Arabs the first restorer of "that simple and natural religion which, although it is in everyone, is distorted by the passions." Since later, and despite the efforts of all the prophets, idolatry reasserted itself, it was necessary for God to send Muhammad at the end of times "to restore this simple cult, originating from God Himself, first in Arabia, then in much of the world – under the name Islam or Islamism, a name probably derived from Ishmael."75

    La vie de Mahomed did not fail to influence Voltaire (1694–1778)[Voltaire (1694–1778) IMG] and other Enlightenment thinkers who considered Islam to be the natural religion.76 Still, even among them – Voltaire being the best example – we find a fundamental ambivalence, a vacillation between positive and negative evaluation, between cultural-religious exclusion and inclusion. In Le fanatisme ou Mahomet le Prophète (1736, 1741), Muhammad is portrayed as the epitome of religious zealotry,77 while in Essais sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations (1756), the culture and religion of the Muslims appear in a positive light. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)[Johann Wolfgang Goethe in der Campagna 1787 IMG]was the first to rehabilitate the Arab prophet in his Mahomet's Song (1772/1773).


    The new epoch, which begins with Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, is marked by the sense of superiority of the expansionist West, which considered itself to be the pinnacle of civilization, over Islamic culture and religion, which had seemingly left the stage of world history. Hegel put it in a nutshell: "At present, driven back into Asia and Africa and tolerated only in one corner of Europe due to the jealousy of Christian Powers, Islam has long disappeared from the
    stage of world history and has retreated into oriental leisureliness and tranquility."78 The hallmark of the age is now historicism, the religious-historical or religious-scientific consideration of Islam.

    Even in the 19th century, however, we encounter medieval-early modern stereotypes such as the barbarism of the Turks or the purely negative view of Islam, including in the works of great minds such as John Henry Newman (1801–1890). In his four Lectures on the History of the Turks in its Relation to Christianity (1854), which appeared immediately in German translation, Islam is called "the false creed of Mahomet" and "a religious imposter" that "imitated" Christianity.79 The Turks are called "the great Antichrist," who have "the resources of Tartars, with the fanaticism of Saracens."80 Newman discounts immediately every positive quality he was able to find in the Turks: "their gifts and attainments, whatever they may be, do but make them the more efficient foes of faith and civilization."81

    It seems that the typologies of exclusion that emerged in the shadow of the cultural and religious antagonisms of the Middle Ages and the Turkish threat of the early modern period were long-lasting – and they likely continue to play a role in popular collective memory to this day. 

    Mariano Delgado



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    1. ^ This article is based on the following publication by the author: Europa und der Islam in der Frühen Neuzeit: Exklusions- und Inklusionstypologien zwischen 1453 und 1798, in: Toleranz und Identität: Geschichtsschreibung und Geschichtsbewusstsein zwischen religiösem Anspruch und historischer Erfahrung, ed. Kerstin Armborst-Weihs und Judith Becker (publications of the Institute for European History Mainz. Department Abendländische Religionsgeschichte. Department Universalgeschichte, supplement 79), Göttingen 2010, pp. 53–77.
    2. ^ See Meuthen, Der Fall 1983; Schwoebel, The Shadow 1967; Blanks, Western views 1999.
    3. ^ See Gollner, Die europäischen Türkendrucke 1968, vol. 1–2; Gollner, Die Türkenfrage 1978.
    4. ^ Delumeau, Angst im Abendland 1985, p. 398 (cited in Cardini, Europa und der Islam 2000, p. 171).
    5. ^ His attitude towards the Turks is now very well researched, see Helmrath, Pius II. und die Türken 2000; Mertens, Europäischer Friede 1991; Meuthen, Der Fall 1983; Reinhardt, Pius II. Piccolomini 2013.
    6. ^ Gaeta, Sulla "Lettera a Mahometo" 1965, p. 198 (cited in Helmrath, Pius II und die Türken 2000, p. 125); see also the edition of the Latin text of the 1551 Basel Opera Omnia in: (Piccolomini) Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, Epistola ad Mahomatem 1990, p. 122.
    7. ^ Margolin, Place et fonction 1991, p. 243 (here cited from Helmrath, Pius II. und die Türken 2000, p. 124).
    8. ^ Helmrath, Pius II. und die Türken 2000, p. 126.
    9. ^ Helmrath, Pius II. und die Türken 2000, p. 126.
    10. ^ Hankins, Renaissance Crusaders 1995, pp. 129f.
    11. ^ See his writings: (Vives) Joannis Ludovici Vivis, Opera omnia 1964, vol. 1–8, abbreviated: OO with volume reference in Roman numerals and page reference in Arabic; Vives, Obras políticas 1999, abbreviated: OPP with page reference; Vives, Epistolario 1978, abbreviated: E with page reference. The following works are recommended from the secondary literature of recent years: Abellan, El pacifismo de Luis Vives 1997; Buck, Juan Luis Vives 1981; Dust, Three Renaissance Pacifists 1987; Dust, Luis Vives's Pacifist Sociology 1986; Garber, L'humanisme européen 1990; Heath, Erasmus and war 1980; Zappala, Vives's "De Europae Dissidis et Bello Turcico" 1990; Margolin, Conscience européenne 1981.
    12. ^ Vives: OO VI, pp. 454f. (OPP, p. 93).
    13. ^ Vives: OO VI, p. 462 (OPP, p. 99).
    14. ^ Vives: OO VI, p. 464 (OPP, p. 101).
    15. ^ Vives: OO VI, p. 467 (OPP, p. 103).
    16. ^ Vives: OO VI, pp. 468f. (OPP, p. 104).
    17. ^ See Vives: OO V, pp. 447-460 (this writing is not found in OPP), here p. 460.
    18. ^ Vives: OO VI, p. 475 (OPP, p. 109) and p. 478 (OPP, p. 111).
    19. ^ Vives: OO VI, S. 473 (OPP, p. 107). This is an allusion to the Aristotelian barbarian theory, which says that if the barbarians do not want to submit, they can be hunted down like animals. See Aristoteles, Politik I,8 (1256b). For Aristotle as well the barbarians are the "Asiatics" in contrast to the Hellenes or Europeans.
    20. ^ Vives: OO VI, p. 479 (OPP, p. 112).
    21. ^ See Vives: OO V, S. 311 (OPP, p. 225).
    22. ^ Vives: OO V, p. 315 (OPP, p. 227).
    23. ^ Vives: OO V, pp. 319f. (OPP, p. 231).
    24. ^ Vives: OO V, S. 334 (OPP, p. 243).
    25. ^ See Vives' dedication letter and booklet in: OO V, pp. 404–446 (OPP, pp. 295–334).
    26. ^ Vives: OO V, S. 385 (OPP, p. 280).
    27. ^ Vives: OO V, S. 387 (OPP, p. 281).
    28. ^ See Vives: OO V, S. 386 (OPP, pp. 280f.).
    29. ^ See Vives: OO V, p. 388 (OPP, p. 282).
    30. ^ Vives: OO V, p. 389 (OPP, p. 283).
    31. ^ Vives: OO V, p. 390 (OPP, pp. 283f.): "Amandi sunt Turcae, nempe homines, amandi ab iis qui illi voci volunt parere: Diligite inimicos vestros."
    32. ^ See Vives: E, p. 549.
    33. ^ See Vives: OO VIII, pp. 403–413.
    34. ^ See Vives: OO VIII, p. 374.
    35. ^ Vives: OO V, p. 390 (OPP, pp. 283f).
    36. ^ Weiler, La "Consultatio de Bello Turcis inferendo" 1990; Margolin, Guerre et Paix 1991; Margolin, Érasme et la guerre 1986.
    37. ^ Margolin, Guerre et Paix 1973.
    38. ^ See Bosbach, Monarchia universalis 1988; Delgado, Der Traum von der Universalmonarchie 2003.
    39. ^ Textual evidence in: Bataillon, Erasmo y España 1986, p. 227.
    40. ^ See Bisaha, Creating East 2004.
    41. ^ See Andermann, Geschichtsdeutung 2000; Delumeau, Angst 1985; Delgado, Europa 2003.
    42. ^ Ehmann, Luther 2008, pp. 445–449; see also Brecht, Luther und die Türken 2000; Bobzin, Martin Luthers Beitrag 1985; Francisco, Martin Luther and Islam 2007; Kaufmann, Aspekte der Wahrnehmung 2008.
    43. ^ WA 30/II; 108,19–115,28, here 115,2f.
    44. ^ Brecht, Luther und die Türken 2000, p. 11.
    45. ^ Brecht, Luther und die Türken 2000, p. 24.
    46. ^ Köhler, Melanchthon und der Islam 2010.
    47. ^ See Andermann, Geschichtsdeutung 2000, pp. 41 f.
    48. ^ Zur Haltung anderer Schweizer Reformatoren see given below: Campi, The Reformers and Islam 2013.
    49. ^ See Miegge, "Regnum quartum ferreum," 2003, p. 242.
    50. ^ Vgl. dazu Reventlow, The Saints of the Most High 2003, pp. 312–314.
    51. ^ See Maldonado, Joannis Maldonati, Commentarij in prophetas IIII 1610, pp. 673f. and pp. 676f.
    52. ^ Salazar, Política española 1945.
    53. ^ Koch, Europabewusstsein und Danielrezeption 2003, p. 335.
    54. ^ See Bobzin, Der Koran im Zeitalter der Reformation 1995.
    55. ^ See facts and figures in, among others, Schimmel, Islam und Europa 2002.
    56. ^ See Höfert, Den Feind beschreiben 2003, et al. pp. 313-321; also Kleinlogel, Exotik - Erotik 1989; Neuber, Grade der Fremdheit 2000.
    57. ^ See Lewis, Islam and the West 1994.
    58. ^ Delgado, Produktive Neugierde 2002.
    59. ^ See Said, Orientalismus 1981; Pace, Islam e Occidente 1995.
    60. ^ Vincenz von Beauvais, Speculum 1965, vol. 3, p. 916.
    61. ^ Hagemann, Christentum contra Islam 1999.
    62. ^ Bossuet, Einleitung 1775.
    63. ^ Bossuet, Einleitung 1775, p. 503.
    64. ^ Bossuet, Einleitung 1775, p. 512.
    65. ^ Bossuet, Einleitung 1775, p. 517.
    66. ^ Bossuet, Einleitung 1775, p. 557.
    67. ^ Galland, Discours 1777, p. VI.
    68. ^ Galland, Discours 1777, p. XIV.
    69. ^ Galland, Discours 1777, p. XVI.
    70. ^ Galland, Discours 1777, p. XVII.
    71. ^ Galland, Discours 1777, p. XVII.
    72. ^ (Sahagún) Aus der Welt der Azteken 1989, pp. 13–15.
    73. ^ La vie de Mahomed 1737, p. 5.
    74. ^ La vie de Mahomed 1731, p. 375, p. 397, p. 409 (in the first book he was already apostrophized as a "would-be prophet": p. 191).
    75. ^ Ibidem, p. 34.
    76. ^ See Neaimi, Islam 2003.
    77. ^ See, among others, Djaït, L'Europe e l'Islam 1978, pp. 27–35; Schmeisser, "Mohammed, der Erzbetrüger" 2008.
    78. ^ Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte 1986, p. 434.
    79. ^ Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte 1986, p. 434.
    80. ^ Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte 1986, p. 434.
    81. ^ Newman, Lectures 1854, p. 134; see Baumer, Die Türken und Europa 2009; Sobotta, Ein Beitrag J. H. Newmans 2000.

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