Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leo's Adventures

As we discussed in class, Leo Africanus did not live the life of an ordinary man. He had many adventures and with them many unique experiences. He saw many magnificent places, exchanged words with several notables of that time and era, and had his share of fortune and misfortune. Things that plagued many people occured in his life also - like the death of his wife in childbirth and the death of his future son, losing the love of his life (Hiba), losing fortunes, being banished. Extraordinary things like meeting nomads, being saved by his beautiful slave and then becoming father of the heir to the Turkish empire also occurred. Leo's travels to Cairo proved to be exciting and fruitful - the first time he met his future wife Nur and became father to Bayazid - heir to the Turkish Empire. On his return trip on the insistence of Nur - he was essentially a political spy, bearing the burden of the Ottoman Empire's secrets and real plans. There he received another girl from Nur and also witnessed a bloody yet brave and courageous (on the side of the Mamelukes) battle between the Mamelukes and Ottomans. While on a campaign, Hasan is captured as a slave because of his high connections - being a diplomat, merchant and wide traveler - and taken as a "gift" to Pope Leo X. The Pope finds his thoughts on religion and war very interesting and takes an avid liking to Hasan, who after being baptized becomes Leo. Leo is delighted at all the love he is given by the Pope as well as all that he learns under his charge.

I found it interesting that despite having so many women in his life (in wife/lover figures), Hasan has yet to have a son. In the culture back then, it was very important to have a son to carry on the family name and be the heir to the family fortune. I wonder if this small detail will unfold into something bigger later in the book, or if it just an insignificant detail. I also found the fate of Hasan in regards to Bayazid to be very ironic. However, how Hasan responds to the situation shows great character, morals, and courage. Hasan seems to be a very honest, smart and compassionate man.

This is more of a history question - but diplomatically, what exactly was happening between the Ottomans and the Mamelukes? It seems as though in the Muslim world, the Ottomans were the "big boys on the block." That probably meant that after their fall after WWI there were a lot of problems in the Muslim world - as they were.

1 comment:

  1. I know that from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to about 1571 (the Battle of Lepanto where the Ottomans navy was defeated by European powers) the Ottoman empire was one of the most powerful forces in the World. Their neighbors in Egypt were rich and provided an attractive target for the ever expanding Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were militarily superior with its Christian born Janissary troops and sound cavalry that easily bested many of their Muslim and European rivals.