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Ottoman Empire: Flags depicted in various sources

18th century

Last modified: 2011-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: horse tail flag | grand vizir | janissaries |
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Flags in Picart's engravings

The UCLA Digital Library (UCLA) shows a facsimile of the original Amsterdam release of Bernard Picart's Cérémonies religieuses. All volumes have the same general title:
Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde
Représentées par des figures dessinées de la main de Bernard Picart, &c.
Avec une explication historique, & quelques dissertations curieuses

followed by a subtitle specific to each volume.

The nine volumes are:
1. Jews and Catholic Christians - 1723
2. Catholics (part 2) - 1723
3. Idolatric peoples of the West Indies - 1723
4. Idolatric peoples (part 2) - 1728
5. Greeks and Protestants - 1733
6. Anglicans, Quakers, Anabaptists, etc. - 1736
7. Mahometans etc. - 1737
8. Topics related to the religious ceremonies, etc. - 1743
9. Historic parallel of religious ceremonies, etc. - 1743
Antoine-Alexandre Barbier's Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes lists two more volumes (10 & 11) in the original release, on religious superstitions, not shown (yet?) by the Picart Project website.

A plate with Turkish flags appears in Volume 7,
Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde
Représentées par des figures dessinées de la main de Bernard Picart, &c.
Avec une explication historique, & quelques dissertations curieuses
Tome cinquième
Qui contient les cérémonies des Mahométans &c.
à Amsterdam
Chez J.F. Bernard

The flag plate is facing p. 249 of the book. The caption below the plate reads (with modern French orthograph):
A. Petite enseigne ou guidon de la cavalerie [Small standard or cavalry's pennant]
B. Drapeau des Janissaires [Janissaries' flag]
C. Étendard de cavalerie [Cavalry standard]
D. Drapeau des canonniers [Gunners' flag]
E. Étendard du Grand Vizir etc. [Grand Vizir' standard etc.]
F. La queue de cheval [The horse tail]

The forked sword represented on flags B. and C. is Ali's sword, Zulfikar.

A similar plate, once offerred on eBay, shows mirrored images but the images and captions are the same. It must come from one of the numerous copies and reprints of the book that were released in the 18th-19th centuries. According to the aforementioned Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes, there were subsequent releases in 4 volumes (new release, Paris, 1783) and 11 volumes (new release, revised and increased, Paris, 1807-1809).

Ivan Sache & Bill Garrison, 26 October 2008

Horse tail standard

There is an image of an Ottoman horse tail standard in the Relation d'un voyage du Levant (1718) by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort* (illustrations by Mr ... Aubriet), volume 2 inserted facing page 28. The image can be seen on the website of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The image is captioned:
Estendart Turc ou Queüe de Cheval appelée en Turc THOU ou THOUY.
That is: Turkish standard or horse tail, called in Turkish THOU or THOUY.

The related text reads:

Lors des campagnes, la marche du Grand Vizir (1er ministre nommé par le Sultan de Constantinople) est précédée par trois Étendards ou Queues de cheval terminées chacune par une pomme dorée, ils sont l'enseigne militaire des Othomans appelée Thou ou Thouy. On dit qu'un Général de cette nation, ne sachant comment rallier ses troupes qui avaient perdu tous ses Étendards, s'avisa de couper la queue d'un cheval et de l'attacher au bout d'une lance; les soldats coururent à ce nouveau signal et remportèrent la victoire...

Which translates as:

During campaigns, the marching Grand Vizir (1st Minister named by the Sultan of Constantinople) is preceeded by 3 Standards or horse tails each ending with a golden apple. They are the military ensigns that the Ottomans call Thou or Thouy. It is said that a General of this nation, not knowing how to rally his troops which had lost all their standards, decided to cut the tail of an horse an to tie it to the end of a lance; the soldiers ran to this new signal and claimed victory...

Marc Pasquin, 22 November 2004

*Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708) should have been a priest but he was more interested in botany. He left the seminar of Aix-en-Provence and started to collect plant samples in Upper-Provence and build an herbarium, which he increased during his later expeditions. Tournefort's herbarium is kept today in the National Museum of Natural History (Muséum national d'Histoire Naturelle) in Paris. After Provence, Tournefort studied the flora of Savoy and Dauphiny and joined the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier in 1697, which allowed him to describe the flora of the neighborhood of the city. In 1681, he explored the Pyrénées mountains and Catalonia, helped by several disciples.
In 1683, Tournefort had not published anything yet but was so famous that Fagon, Louis XIV's physician, ceded him the Chair of Botany in the Jardin du Roi (now the Jardin des Plantes in Paris). This new duty did not stop Tournefort, who traveled to Spain, Portugal, England and the Netherlands until 1686.
Tournefort published in 1694 Eléments de Botanique ou Méthode pour connaître les plantes (Elements of Botany, or a Method to know the plants), in French (3 volumes), and translated the book in Latin as Institutiones rei herbariae in 1700. In 1698, Fagon awarded him the title of Docteur en Médecine of the Faculty of Paris, for a thesis entitled An morborum curatio ad mechanicae leges referando? (Is it possible to cure disease using mechanical means?) The same year, Tournefort published Histoire des plantes qui naissent aux environs de Paris (History of the plants which grow near Paris). The next year, his lessons in botany were published as Schola botanica.
In 1700, Louis XIV asked Tournefort to study the flora of the Levant, with the help of the painter Claude Aubriet (1651-1743). Tournefort visited the Greek islands, Constantinople, the coasts of the Black Sea, Armenia, Georgia, the mount Ararat, and came back via Smyrna (today Izmir). He could not land into Egypt because of the black plague and came back to Marseilles in 1702 with a huge collection of plant samples, published in Corollarium institutiones rei herbariae (Supplement to the Elements of Botany) in 1703, with the description of 1,350 plants from Levant. Tournefort also described mineralogy, zoology, ancient history, customs and trade in the countries he had visited. The book Relation d'un voyage au Levant fait par ordre du roi, contenant l'histoire ancienne et moderne de plusieurs isles (Relation of a travel to Levant, made upon the king's order, including the ancient and modern history of several islands) was published in 1717-1718, after Tournefort's death. Back to France, Tournefort was appointed Professor of Medecine in the Collège de France and Director of the Jardin du Roi.

Tournefort's classification of the plants was based on the morphology of the flowers, leaves, roots and stems of the plants, as well as on their flavor. He identified ten groups of flowers and placed the remaining flowers in an eleventh group. He was the first to separate the apétales (without petals and sepals, e.g., the oak, willow, beet, mistletoe and nettle flowers), monopétales (with the petals joined together), and polypétales (with many individual petals) flowers. This system was too rigid and was superseded by Linnaeus' system. However, Linnaeus himself acknowledged Tournefort's influence on his own taxonomical system.

After Encyclopaedia Universalis

Ivan Sache, 26 November 2004