The definition of cross-cultural transmissions is the exchange of ideas between communities and empires over time, which includes the transfer of ideas, culture, religion, political identities and knowledge of medicine being spread into nations and communities of differing ideas along the Silk Road. The Ottoman Empire is one example of an empire that used the Arabs and Greeks already gained knowledge in medicine and empire building, which operated as the super structure for the Ottoman society. Also, travelers from Western Europe would often visit Istanbul, writing and exchanging ideas concerning knowledge and medicine. However, it is of vital importance that Evliya Celebi traveled to the West and East to witness and write detailed accounts of important surgeries and baths paying particular detail to their medical properties and medical knowledge. “The second tradition’s is the mathematical-geographical lore of Greek antiquity which is connected to the name of Ptolemy.”[1]

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“Greeks from the Phanariot aristocracy went to study in Italy, and later found employment as interpreters and as physicians in the Ottoman palace.”[2] This exemplified the importance of the role that the Greek and Jewish communities had, going to other schools of thought in order to practice other western ideas of medicine, herbal interaction and surgery, which could be learnt and brought back to the Ottoman Empire and the capital to practice in the madrasas and hospitals.

What was the importance behind understanding cross-cultural transmission between the Greek antiquities and Arabs knowledge of medicine, science and the super structure of that had been incorporated into the Islamic ottoman element during the scientific revolution and medical knowledge transmissions!.

Firstly it should be noted that the Ottoman Empire had always been a cross-cultural transmission amongst communities and other empires evidenced by its very location and geography.

“To be sure, among the ancients there did appear Plato and Hippocrates and Socrates, during the reign of Sultan Selim there appeared the physician Kaysuni, but the Khan is superior to them all—still, because Bitlis is an ancient metropolis,”[3]

Here Evliya Celebi talks about the important texts from antiquities and how the transmission over time from the ‘ancient metropolis’ which used the important texts of medical knowledge to be omitted into the Ottoman elite society and medicine to be provided, used by scholars and physicians.

The age of enlightenment played an important role, but during the age of reasoning and understanding of the different science but however, did it played a important part for the Ottoman Empire by cross cultural transmissions.

The age of enlightenment was important for the Ottoman Empire because there was an increase in the interaction with Europe even though this interaction had always existed. It was now the case that more ideas concerning science, reason and medicine were being exchanged. Despite these exchanges in ideas the religious identity of the Ottoman Empire was never questioned because the ‘faith of Islam was strong’.[4]

An important point to recognise is that the Ottoman Empire was an ever-expanding military empire, which continued to expand its borders from 1300 onwards to 1700 from the borders of Europe, Africa and Asia. However, it could be said that in the process of venturing on conquests and adopting and taking in other knowledge, people’s cultural elites were negotiating amongst the powers. Over time this gradually become very important for the transmission of knowledge and ideas regarding medicine, and how it could be facilitated both in economic and political terms.

“finally, because of the conquest of Constantinople on 29 May of 1453 by the Janissaries of Sultan Mehmet II (1434-1481) A.D., Sultan: 1444-46 and 1451-82).[5]”This quote exemplifies the importance of the conquest of Constantinople in the year 1453 and how it played a major role in cross cultural transmission amongst the Greek population, as well as following the practice of scientific medicine which was being used and transmitted amongst the population.

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“In this perspective, it is often affirmed that Greek Culture and Science were transferred to the West. Where they contributed to the Renaissance. Albeit fundamentally correct this view of History is, however, highly fragmentary, as the Greek culture and scientific lore continued to be transmitted among Greek-speaking people within the Ottoman Empire.”[6]

This shows that the ‘Greek communities in the Balkans had extensive amounts of knowledge and culture which was one of the cores practices in the Ottoman Empire and was important in helping to advance Ottoman medicine. Transmissions of knowledge from the Greeks, which were seen to be important, include, ‘galen’ and ‘discordies’.

Such transmissions of knowledge had also taken place in Jewish practices in Spain where they had developed their own unique practices of medicine. There are famous Jewish physicians, which were used in the Ottoman places to heal the Ottoman sultans,

“For example, Jewish physicians brought with them the much higher level of medical knowledge that characterized Europe in contrast to the Near East.”[7]


“The most prominent of these was Joseph’s son, Moshe Hammon (c.1490-c. 1554), who served as the personal physician to Suleiman the Magnificent.”[8] This quote shows the importance of skills and cross-cultural transmission of other cultures being practiced.

During the Ottoman Empire in Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent period he had a Jewish head physician who cured his pains in his knee in various ways such as ointment. When he was going through some heart problems they used various methods such as ensuring his breathing was constant and that he was properly cooled over using ice to facilitate the process. The Jewish tradition concerning medicine was very important for the operation of the Ottoman systems as they often brought rare commodities, knowledge as well as special herbs that couldn’t be found in the Ottoman region. They also possessed political leverage over the west, making it an important incorporation of the Ottoman Empire.


Thirdly it was very common for Jewish physicians to be in the ottoman courts because there was a large population in Istanbul, around about 30,000 of their communities and they highly skilled and cross cultural transmissions into the ottoman system.

Further expansion of Empire

“In the Ottoman Empire Avicenna became a legendary hero; he was accepted or named as elokman Hekim’ who knew the secret of eternal life.”[9] This is another important quote because it the shows the legendary past of Avicenna and how his works was vital in the development of the Ottoman Empire and how his works played a part in cross cultural transmissions.

He conducted important studies concerning plants and other various collections of treatments relating to various diseases, which were present during the 15th century.[10]

This idea of transformation between cultures and transmissions between empires of the ages was a common tradition regarding medicine and was commonly shared. According to Prof Esin kaya article,

‘“Ancient Turks also had an idea about contagion and contagious diseases. For instances they used the crust of smallpox to prevent it.”[11]This showed how common practices were utilised in attempting to prevent certain illnesses.

Another example of how an idea is transmitted of illness and ideas of how to cure or deal with it such as ‘leprosies’ where the ideas which was transmitted from Byzantium and carry on the tradition in the Ottoman Empire such as the keep healthy and leprosarium separate here a example of a quote: rephrase

“For leprosy they built places of treatments where were named nosocomonium in Byzantium. Ottoman Turks also built leprosarium named Miskinler Tekkesi in Edirne where patients were not treated but simply isolated from healthy people as other leprosarium founded in different parts of the Ottoman Empire.”[12]

There were many kinds of medicines located along the Silk Road such as the divination and medical methods, shamanism, Buddhist medical system, India tantra, Persian and Arabic traditions as well as Greek traditions. It could honestly be said that there was a rich wealth of medical knowledge regarding medicine along the Silk Road.

There was also Avicenna medicine book tradition, which was very important because of all the recorded documentation it possessed.

Music therapy was also very important within the medical practice in Ottoman society and had been practiced for a long time.

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The aim of the organic music therapy was to help the mentally disturbed and would do so by attempting to balance the harmony of the body as well as the health of the ‘body, mind and emotion’. [13]The importance of the music therapy was a part of the Ottoman (Turkish) tradition identifying back to the Turkic tribes who had always played music and sung believing them to be therapeutic. The tradition of the music had progressed along the Silk Road with the migration of the Turks and Ottoman Empire that they are known.

Sufi and physicians practice the music in a mystical and shamanism way because of its mental healing properties. This was a very important practice, which was used because of its various healing properties. ‘Used for psychological effects’ – relaxation, [14]

Hot water springs were very important in the Ottoman Empire , the westerners thought the ‘baths’ and bathing itself would make the ottomans immortal.

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The majority of the works that originates from and formulates part of the Ottoman Empires heritage as a result of the conquest over the lands, dated from 1300 AD until the capturing of the Middle East and Africa. Examples include the translated records from the ancient Greeks, which were written in Latin, and when the Arabs conquered the lands and subsequently converted the texts to Arabic through the transmission of knowledge. Alain Touwaide emphasised on the importance of Greek inheritance regarding knowledge as it was seen to be central to their very thinking such as ‘Dioscorides”.

“It presents traces of use by Post-Byzantine or Ottoman people the Greek plant names of Dioscorides’ text have been transliterated into Arabic alphabet and/or translated into Arabic”.[15]

In addition to the quote, which shows that, the very translations of medical knowledge and plant names occurred prior to the Ottoman Empires expansion when the empire took on new ‘ideologies’. This demonstrates the cross cultural transmissions that occurred regarding knowledge and medicine where it occurred both naturally as well as being forwarded by Ottoman society and minorities as well as different communities hubs within the Ottoman Empire.

‘Therapeutic and surgical medical literature was an important area of medicine written by both Greek and Roman scholars. This was translated, copied and then organized by medieval Muslim societies. This lead to the transmissions within the Ottoman Empire which went on to lead other discoveries within the field of ‘autonomy and pathology’ the Arabs,[16]

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Inoculation was an important method in Ottoman medicine because:

It involved using a needle. As shown in the following extract, this was something that Westerners saw as highly valuable:“The Ottoman method of inoculation so astonished Lady Montagu, herself a survivor of smallpox, that she ordered the embassy surgeon, Charles Maitland, to inoculate her son on March 1718 with the help of the’ old woman. ‘Her daughter was later inoculated in April 1721 on her return to London. “”[17]

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This is a good quote which demonstrated how important and valuable inoculation was viewed by the western world but for the purpose of this essay it also exemplifies the transmission of Ottoman medicine to the West. This would then lead to the exchange of ideas between the British and the Ottoman Empire….

“She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch), and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle…the children and young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health”[18]

There were important medical healers throughout the 18th Century in Egypt as a result of the transmissions of other communities and improvements following centuries of development in medicine and knowledge along the Silk Road.

The 18th century was very important for the Ottoman Empire, as this was the period where it had witnessed major reforms because of the improvements within medicine in the Ottoman Empire. The reason behind why the Ottoman Empire wanted to reform was for the ‘fear‘ of falling behind other nations such as the West. In theory one could argue that this is an example of cross cultural transmission of ideas from the West into the Ottoman Empire which would go onto be integrated into their system. [19]They had a doctor known as Hekimbasi, which meant ‘head doctor’. It was a very important device because he was the sultan’s personal doctor during the Sultan Suleiman period. This ideas purpose designed for the elites, especially if there was something wrong with the ottoman sultan or Vizer.[20]

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“He writes that he attended patient examination and treatment sessions and describes some surgical operations in detail. He himself goes to a dentist to fix some broken teeth; the treatment is so successful that, as he records, he can now use his teeth to crack walnuts (VII.63a–b).”[21]This demonstrated Evliyaa Celebi as a recorder and travel account when he traveled into Vienna with his master Köprülüzade Fazıl Ahmed Pasha, which showed the narrative that he wrote as a eye witness account to help the Ottoman Empire learn about knowledge and how the western world used medicine, surgical instruments in a detailed account of operation. Celebi even had ‘treatment’ on his tooth, which he highly praised the venial physicians for being highly effective. In spite of this he had a very important role in cross cultural transmission and its influence over Ottoman research for the later parts of the 18th century because of its profound affect over society and hospitals.[22]


[1] Dankoff, Robert, An Ottoman Mentality: The World of Evliya Celebi (Leiden:Koninklijke Brill NV, 2004)p.219

[2] Robert, ‘An Ottoman Mentality: The World of Evliya Celebi ‘p.250

[3] Dankoff, Robert, Evliya Celebi in Bitlis The Relevant Section of The Seyahataname Edited with Translation, Commentary and Introduction (Leiden:EJBrill,1990)Pp.75

[4] Goffman Daniel, The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) p.33

[5] Alain, Touwaide , The permanence of classical Greek medicine in the Ottoman Empire The case of Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (Istanbul:ISIS,1999).pp.178

[6] Alain, Touwaide , The permanence of classical Greek medicine in the Ottoman Empire The case of Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (Istanbul:ISIS,1999)p.178

[7] Lawrence Fine, Physician of the Soul, Lawrence Fine, Healer of the Cosmos Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship, (California: Stanford University Press, 2003) pp.22

[8] ibidpp.22

[9] Prof. Dr. Esin Kahya, Prof.Dr.A. Demirhan Edemir, Medicine In The Ottoman Empire (And Other Scientific Developments) (Nobel Medical Publication Ltd STI: Istanbul, 1997) pp.12

[10] Prof. Dr. Esin Kahya, Prof.Dr.A. Demirhan Edemir, Medicine In The Ottoman Empire (And Other Scientific Developments) (Nobel Medical Publication Ltd STI: Istanbul, 1997) pp.23

[11] Prof. Dr. Esin Kahya, Prof.Dr.A. Demirhan Edemir, Medicine In The Ottoman Empire (And Other Scientific Developments) (Nobel Medical Publication Ltd STI: Istanbul, 1997).p.58

[12]Prof. Dr. Esin Kahya, Prof.Dr.A. Demirhan Edemir, ‘Medicine In The Ottoman Empire’.p.58

[13] Shefer-Mossensohn Miri, Ottoman Medicine Healing and Medical Institution 1500-1700, (U.S.A: State University of New York Press, 2009).p.189

[14] Shefer-Mossensohn Miri, ‘Ottoman Medicine Healing and Medical Institution 1500-1700’,p.86

[15] Alain, Touwaide , The permanence of classical Greek medicine in the Ottoman Empire The case of Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (Istanbul:ISIS,1999).pp184

[16] Richard G, Ellenbogen, Saleem I. Abdulrauf, Laligam N. Sekhar, Principles Of Neurological Surgery, (Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders ,2012) p.8

[17] Basil H. Aboul-Enein, Faisal H. Aboul-Enein, “Smallpox inoculation and the Ottoman contribution: A Brief Historiography” TPHA Journal Volume 64, Issue 1 (2012). pp.18

[18] Basil H. Aboul-Enein, Faisal H. Aboul-Enein, “Smallpox inoculation and the Ottoman contribution: A Brief Historiography” TPHA Journal Volume 64, Issue 1 (2012). p.18

[19] Kasaba,Resat, The Ottoman Empire And The World Economy The Nineteenth century, (New York: University Of New York,1988)p.35.

[21]<> [accessed on 15 Of April 2015] Gisela Proazka-eisl, Evliya Celebi Journey to Vienna p.112

[22]> [accessed on 16 Of April 2015] Gisela Proazka-eisl, Evliya Celebi Journey to Vienna p.111-112