Credits: Victoria Khroundin
Publish Date: 8 September 2013
A small but attentive group gathered in the beautiful bostan (garden) behind the Belgrade Church in Yedikule (above) last Sunday (September 1) to hear a talk on 16th-century remedies for ailing plants by Aleksandar Shopov – the PhD candidate at Harvard University who has spent the last month or so in Istanbul fervently trying to save from destruction the 1,600-year old bostans surrounding the land walls of the Old City. Shopov is one of the founders of the Yedikule Bostanları group, dedicated to disseminating information about the historical significance of the bostans and their importance to the local community. Last month they invited Dr Chantel White, an American archaeobotanist, to do an assessment of the land around Yedikule and write a research report that can be used to lobby the relevant groups. Chantel also conducted an engaging and informative workshop to mark the formation of the School of Historical Yedikule Gardens, which also organised Sunday’s event (click here and here to read more about Chantel’s workshop).
Aleks’s workshop (conducted in English with Turkish translation by Suna Kafadar, an enthusiastic proponent of the bostans movement), focused on the Revnak-i Bostan (Splendour of the Garden), the first known horticultural treatise written in the Ottoman-Turkish language, which discusses the science behind the cultivation of fruits and flowers. Although the exact date of the of the text – and the identity of the author – is unknown, it is thought to have come from the second half of the 16th century. The oldest copy, dating back to 1577, is kept in the Topkapı library. As Aleks tells us, ‘The text’s appearance on the Ottoman intellectual horizon in the 16th century has not received much attention by modern historiography, which has ignored changes in the horticultural techniques, technologies and science in Ottoman history.’