Antakya: An Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century

Kara, Adem. XIX. Yüzyılda Bir Osmanlı Şehri: Antakya. Istanbul: IQ Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık, 2005, 288pp.




Antakya: An Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century


XIX. Yüzyılda Bir Osmanlı Şehri: Antakya


This book explores Antakya’s physical, demographic, administrative, economic and social history and serves as a good example of scholarship on Ottoman urban history. While the title refers to the whole of the century, the author explains that he will be mainly looking at the first half of the nineteenth century.


The book narrates the history of the city from its foundation in the Seleucid times (c300 BC), covering thereafter the Byzantine, Sasanid, Arab, Crusades and Ottoman periods in chronological order. The author defines the city’s character as Turko-Islamic and provides information on its physical outlook and administrative structures. He describes some physical aspects (such as places of worship, trade, artisanal workshops and religious foundations) of villages and neighbourhoods belonging to the province of Antakya, which in turn was part of the state of Aleppo. He emphasises Antakya’s importance as a fortress town and trade centre, being situated on important trade and pilgrimage routes.


Turks, Arabs, Greeks and Armenians constituted the ethnic groups in Antakya, while the prevailing religions were Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The author provides some information on missionary activities, underlining the fact that the city is an important religious centre in the East, housing the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate. He presents examples from Ottoman court records on instances of co-existence and social relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Again, relying on evidence from court records he talks about the city’s tribal clans and mentions the important role they play in the social and economic life of the city.


By examining court records and records of credits and debts, sales and purchases, as well as testaments, the author has been able to review types of goods for sale, prices, quantities and taxes paid. He lists various artisan groups, different types of occupations, cites the jobs favoured by certain religious groups, and discusses in detail the types of taxes paid by the residents.


The study is based primarily on Ottoman sources and makes no use of foreign literature. At the end of the book, drawings on the spatial organisation of the city, tables of tradesmen’s accounts and some sample Ottoman documents are included, however the print is so minuscule that these pages are practically illegible. However, in the conclusion the author suddenly offers his own political opinions on the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox presence in the Ottoman Empire and the demise of the multi-religious social structure of the city, offering definitions that have no basis in scientific language (p.234).


Feryal Tansuğ

Translated by Aysu Dincer


Tansuğ, Feryal. “English abstract of 'Antakya: An Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century'". Translated by Aysu Dinçer. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 157. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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