Aşık Çelebi

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Aşık Çelebi
Senses of Poets
Senses of Poets
Native name Pir Mehmed
Born 1520
Prizren, Ottoman Empire
Died 1572
Üsküb, Ottoman Empire
Resting place Gazi Baba, Skopje
Language Ottoman Turkish
Nationality Ottoman
Genre Tezkire, Diwan Poetry
Notable works Senses of Poets (Meşairü'ş-Şuara)

Aşık Çelebi ("Gentleman Bard" in Turkish) was the name of Pir Mehmed ("Mehmed the Pir"; 1520–1572), an Ottoman biographer, poet, and translator. Born in Prizren, he served as kadi (judge) in many towns of the Rumelia. His major work Senses of Poets (Meşairü'ş-Şuara) of 1568 is of major importance.

Life and work[edit]

Çelebi was born in Prizren,[a] Kosovo.[1] His birth name was Pir Mehmed, and descended from a seyyid family. After his father's death in 1535 (941 in Ottoman calendar) he departed for Filibe and later to Istanbul. He studied in a medrese in Istambul under best tutors of his time and received an excellent education. His first civil servant position was that of a court secretary in Bursa. There he was also a trustee of a vakif.[1] He returned to Istambul in 1546. There he obtained a clerical position of justice with the help of his tutor Emir Gisu. He applied for the position of the head cleric of the Imperial Council left vacant after the death of Receb Çelebi, but did not succeed, following with accepting a position as a cleric at the Fatwa Office.[2]
After that he would work in many cities of Rum as a judge, such as Pristina, Servia, Arta, Kratovo, Nikopol, Rousse, etc.[3] In overall, he failed to get the position of his dreams which his father and grandfather had, the Nakibü'l-eşraf (MP, representative Sayyid and Sharif of the Empire).[2]

He translated into Turkish many poetry of prose works from Ottoman writers, originally in Arabic.[1]
His main work is Meşairü'ş-şuara (Senses of Poets), a tezkire (bibliographical dictionary of poets and poetry). It was published in 1568 and is an excellent source not only on the life and work of Ottoman poets, but also on social life and customs of the scholar-bureaucrat cast (to which he belonged) of Istanbul of those times.[1] He completed it while working as a kadi in Kratovo, and presented it to the Sultan Selim II in 1568. 30 copies have been encountered which makes it the second most read tezkire of all times after that of Latifî (1491-1582) with 91 copies. It cover 427 poets, in poetry or prose.[2]
Among many example of his poems, the majority are placed strategically rather than for decoration purpose. Once a selected few exhibit his poetic skills. He used the rest (majority) to convey feelings of hardship, joy, and desire.[2]
Aşık was part of the shared culture of the Ottomans of the 16th century. His work in Arabic translations shows high proficiency and intrinsic gasp of the language. He shows himself in various situation as a master in Persian. To this is added his vast knowledge on the Ottoman literature.[2]

Aşık lived for many years as a kadi in Üsküb[4] where he died in 1571 or 1572. He is buried there, which coincides in today's Gazi Baba Municipality. His türbe is known as Aşık Çelebi Türbe. It was severally damaged during the 1963 earthquake and was not repaired or reconstructed by the Yugoslav authorities. Today, only a few ruins remain.

Sexual orientation[edit]

He explains that he chose the name Aşık (lover) as his pen name because of his fondness for beauty, by which of course he alludes to male beauties.[2] He also describes how he visited hamams (Turkish baths) in order to watch and flirt with beautiful young men, quite common for his caste in those times.[5]

See also[edit]


a.   E.J.W.Gibb mentions that both Latifî and Kınalızâde Hasan Çelebi describe Aşık Çelebi as "a native of Bursa". Riyazi, who came later, states in his Riyazü'ş Şuara that Çelebi was from Rumelia.[6] Today's scholars accept Prizren as place of birth.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Selcuk Aksin Somel (2003), Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire, Scarecrow Press, p. 25, ISBN 9780810843325, OCLC 50316319 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ralf Elger, Yavuz Köse (2010), Many ways of speaking about the self : Middle Eastern ego-documents in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish (14th-20th century), Harrassowitz, pp. 17–24, ISBN 9783447062503, OCLC 657597041 
  3. ^ MacHiel Kiel (1990), Studies on the Ottoman Architecture of the Balkans, Variorum Publishing Group, p. 314, ISBN 9780860782766, OCLC 22452904 
  4. ^ Cornell H. Fleischer (1986), Bureaucrat and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire : the historian Mustafa Âli (1541-1600), Princeton University Press, p. 63, ISBN 9780691054643, OCLC 13011359, ...stopped at Uskup (Skopje) for three days to visit the poet and prose stylist Asik Celebi, who was then judge of the town. 
  5. ^ E. L. McCallum, Mikko Tuhkanen (2014), The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9781107035218, OCLC 880831204, AşıkÇelebi describes his and other poets' visits to bathhouses to flirt with and watch beautiful young men. 
  6. ^ E.J.W.Gibb (1904), Edward Browne, ed., A History of Ottoman Poetry, 3, London: Luzac & Co, p. 7, OCLC 2110073