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  • Writer's pictureGüldeniz Kurtulus

Ottoman in, Roman out!

Recently, you might have heard of a trend that has flourished by Saskia Cort, a Swedish influencer, about how often men think about the Roman Empire. When I saw this trend, I thought it had touched upon the core things about our daily life and made us aware of it. I had read some essays related to the topic, and they all have some certain points.

Some think that the Roman Empire is a way to 'run away' from our daily-life's stress, kind of a nostalgia that helps us to tackle our problems and makes us think of how magnificent jobs they achieved despite the objects they had.

As Dwight Schrute from 'The Office' said "People underestimate the power of nostalgia. Nostalgia is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses... second only to the neck."

On the other hand, some think that men do think about the Roman Empire frequently because of biological reasons. For instance, according to 'the masculineedge' (TikTok), men think about the Roman Empire instinctively. He claims in one of his videos that it's in the nature of men and men 'inherently' need to conquer something. When you think of a couple of things fundamentally related to the Roman Empire, paternalism, hierarchy, war, etc. all these notions are correlated with power and authority. If we consider the trends rising currently, due to its content related to the notions I've mentioned, men also think of themselves as Napoleon or Maximus Decimus Meridius or any other specific character that may have the same effect as the Roman Empire did.

Although he hit the right notes, at some point, I don't agree with him. Yes, men may think of the Roman Empire a lot compared to women however, women also have their own 'Roman Empire' to tackle with their daily life problems. As a historical movie lover, the Kingdom of Heaven is my Roman Empire -it's just a simple example I have many more-, and I can count many women who are into the same interests about the things which had seen correlated to the nature of men. In sum, I don't totally agree with the second idea, but I highly agree with the first idea which supports the nostalgia thesis.

As a result of this 'Roman Empire' trend, an idea occurred in front of my eyes: There were a lot of empires that had described themselves as the rightful successor of the Roman Empire. Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire), Frank Empire (under Charlemagne's rule), the Ottoman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and many more -and those empires are also debatable.

However, this also might be worth thinking from the Turkish perspective: Do men think of the Ottoman Empire?

Under the dominance of the Western perspective, the followers of the West, may not enlighten them sufficiently about my point. When I was searching for my opinion paper, I saw comments on the Ottoman Empire. For instance, the Ottoman Empire is interpreted as an empire that did not and cannot inspire people to look back at them with fondness or from a general but not Western view, the West tends to whitewash the eastern fragment of the Roman Empire and mainly focus on the Western parts to glorify and originate itself from the Roman Empire but associate with the Western part which is more superior to the Eastern part. But there are other reasons such as religion, language, and authoritative continuity. It's still open to debate, you may not see the Ottoman Empire as a successor to the Roman Empire, but it is clear that a portion of people do.

For many of the Turkish men, the Ottoman Empire is their Roman Empire.

If we consider the nostalgia effect, it makes sense. Many achievements, the architecture, buildings, conquests, the sultans, the Mehteran and many more inspire the Turkish men in their daily life. Of course, there are other significant empires or the earlier time of the Turkish Republic that inspired the Turkish men however in this paper my main concern is only the Ottoman Empire.

In my research, I asked my inner circle family members on how often they think of the Ottoman Empire. The results were more interesting than I thought. They stated that they, at least, a couple of times think of the Ottomans, or something related to them. I kept searching for a broader result then I asked the communities of Reddit.

Results were almost the same as in the Roman Empire case: a couple of times, very frequently, every few minutes or so, all the time, every day, every day at 14:53 a Mehter band plays inside in his brain, and shocking answers go on. There was even someone who stated that he is not Turkish or Muslim but likes and thinks about them regularly.

If we turn back to my main concern, the Ottoman Empire occupies in the hearts and the minds of Turkish men more than we guess. There is another way to read this 'fondness'. I hope you are familiar with the term 'Neo-Ottomanism'. Neo-Ottomanism is a term coined by David Barchard in 1985 to describe and advocate the honor of the Ottoman past of Türkiye and promote greater political engagement of the Republic of Türkiye within regions formerly under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor state that covered the territory of modern Türkiye among others.

Neo-Ottomanism was heavily felt by Turkish citizens under the AKP government and Ahmet Davutoglu - former minister of foreign affairs and prime minister - was the most outstanding name when we talk about the notion. Neo-Ottomanism may be misinterpreted by some parts of Turkish society however, it has a direct connection with the nostalgia term which is the core of this paper.

From that perspective, we can say that the sweet breeze of the glory days of the Ottoman Empire has influenced deeply the Turkish decision-makers, visibly.

On the other hand, there is also the religious/cultural effect on that matter. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the territories it ruled for hundreds of years either occupied or became a mandate of a European colonial power. After the First World War -of course, other nations claimed their freedom earlier-, many revolts performed against the Ottoman Empire, and considering the high tension of the idea of nationalism, people from these territories claimed their freedom and right to establish a nation-state.

Now, if we return to our topic, with the dreadful war increasing day by day in the Middle East between Palestine and Israel, people in Turkey started to think more about the Ottoman rule in the region. The nostalgia effect can be concretely felt here in retrospect. Of course, other people think the total opposite but if you think in general, a retro wave from the Ottoman era started to show itself in Turkish people's minds.

This trend taught me a concrete lesson. We can learn and inspire ourselves from the ancient or medieval times and nostalgia can help us tackle our daily-life problems and may become our comfort place to feel safe.

However, nostalgia may become dangerous since that is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses.


Wastnidge, David. ( January 2, 2019). Imperial Grandeur and Selective Memory: Re-assesing Neo-Ottomanism in Turkish Foreign and Domestic Politics. pp 11, 12.

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