Ankara Sosyal Bilimler Üniversitesi, Sosyal ve Beşeri Bilimler Fakültesi, Tarih Bölümü, Ankara/Türkiye.

Keywords: The Battle of Lepanto, Richard Knolles, James I, early modern English texts, the Ottoman/Muslim other.


The victory achieved by the combined forces of Spain and Venice under the leadership of Pope V. Pius in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 against the Ottoman Empire resulted in great excitement in the Christian world. It served as a success story, demonstrating how effective European powers could be when they united against the Ottomans. King James’s epic poem “The Lepanto” (1591) and Richard Knolles’ famous history book General History of the Turks (1603) are two widely known early modern texts that address the events of this battle. Presenting a close reading of these two works and the image of “the other” they produce, this article argues that the relatively positive image of the Turkish other that emerged in certain texts produced in early modern England cannot be generalized to all works of the period.

With the economic developments that took place between England and the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, Ottoman society began to occupy a significant place in the English intellectual world. Queen Elizabeth I’s steps toward making commercial agreements with the Ottoman Empire led to the emergence of various and sometimes contradictory images of the Ottomans in the early modern English mindset. On one hand, the Ottomans were perceived as the enemy of the entire Christian world, while on the other hand, they assumed the role of supporters of England, which had been excluded from the Catholic world and was seeking new partners. This situation implies a diversification of the Ottoman image in texts of the period. Moreover, the Ottoman image in texts of this period was not solely based on the English/Western/Christian - Ottoman/Eastern/Muslim binary opposition. Reading the Ottoman image in early modern England within the English/Protestant - European/Catholic - Ottoman/Muslim triangle instead of the traditional East-West binary allows for a more accurate understanding of the images in the texts. The close reading of King James I’s poem and Richard Knolles’ work on the Battle of Lepanto approaches the depiction of Turks and Spanish in these texts from this perspective. James I’s attempt to respond to criticisms after the publication of his poem, which accuses him of praising a Catholic victory, and Knolles’ meticulous avoidance of praising Spain and the Catholic world in his work indicate that the Western/Christian perception in early modern England was not homogeneous or unified.