Osman Aga of Temesvar

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Osman Aga of Temesvár (Turkish: Temesvárlı Osman Ağa), was an Ottoman army officer (1670–1725?). He is known as one of the few Turkish-language autobiographers of the era. More important than that, he was a prisoner of war and he wrote mostly about his adventures in Habsburg Austria which makes the autobiography the sole Turkish example of its kind. He was born to a family of Serbian origin in Temesvár (modern Timişoara in Romania).[1]

Background[edit]

Famous mosques in the city of Timișoara, Romania in the year 1656.

Temesvár was a city in Banat, which is now in west Romania. The originally Romanian-Serbian-Hungarian city had been conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1552. Osman Aga was a low-ranking army officer in Temesvár. He excelled in learning foreign languages and equitation.

After the unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683, the tide turned and the Holy League of European nations began forcing the Ottomans out of Hungary in the Great Turkish War between 1683–1699.

Osman Aga in the war[edit]

During the war, the Austrians were unable to capture Temesvár. But in 1688, Osman's squadron of 80 men was given a special task. They had to deliver the salaries of army officiers to Lipova, Arad, just to the north of Temesvár. While they were in Arad County, it was attacked by superior Austrian forces and the city council decided to surrender. Osman thus became a prisoner of war at the age of eighteen.[1]

Osman Aga as a prisoner of war[edit]

Osman Aga was awarded to a military judge in Austrian army who asked for ransom. Although he was able to pay for his freedom, he was not released. He was sold to several new masters in Kapfenberg and Vienna. He spent several months in dungeons and was frequently beaten or even whipped by his masters during the early years. But his skill in equitation and learning German helped him to live a relatively less stressful life in later years. One of his masters even offered him freedom in return for converting to Christianity which he refused.[2] After the treaty of Karlowitz, he was able to return to Temesvár in 1700.

Aftermath[edit]

Austrian forces led by Eugene of Savoy besiege Belgrade in the year 1717, during the Austro-Turkish War of 1716-18.

In Temesvár, with the help of the German he had learned during his servitude, he became the official dragoman (translator) and served in several diplomatic missions to Austria. However his comfortable days were over at the outbreak of a new war between the Ottoman Empire and Austria in 1715. This time Eugene Savoy of Austria captured Temesvár in 1716. Osman Aga fled to Belgrad (modern Serbia). But Belgrad shared the same fate in 1717. Shortly before the final assault of the Austrians on Belgrad, the Austrians were able to explode the ammunition dump of the fort on 14 August 1717 resulting in the death of some 3,000 people. Most of Osman's family members were among the 3,000. After the loss of Belgrad he served in Vidin (in modern Bulgaria) and then came to Istanbul where he continued his civil service as dragoman.

His Works[edit]

Osman Aga's most important work is Prisoner of the Infidels (Turkish: Gâvurların Esiri, 1724) where he summarises his adventures in Austria between 1688-1700. (British Museum NR. MS Or. 3213[3]) He also wrote about Austrian History (Turkish: Nemçe Tarihi), an unfinished work up to 1662. His other works include notes about his diplomatic missions after 1700.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wendy Bracewell, Orientations: an anthology of East European travel writing, ca. 1550-2000, Central European University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-963-9776-10-4, p. 42.
  2. ^ Osman Aga: Gavurların Esiri (Modern Turkish:Esat Mermi), Milliyet yayınları, İstanbul, 1971
  3. ^ Kitapmekani: Prisoner of the Infidels