10 Ocak 2011 Pazartesi


Reminiscent of the cultural symbiosis in Asia created by the nomads and later bolstered by the Mongolians, the Mediterranean world was also passing through a similar stage during the same ages. When scrutinizing the period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, however, the stress should not only lie solely on Europe. A simple and reductionist focus on Europe would take us to the bloodshed of the Crusades and the gloomy atmosphere of the Middle Ages; but, if we widen our perspective and include North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean in our analysis, then we are faced with a completely different picture. This part of the world possessed an undivided cultural space that had shared patterns of co-existence. In other words, what we observe in the Middle Ages is not irreconcilable groups of people (ex. Christians vs. Muslims), but rather harmonious co-existence, i.e. “convivencia – living together”.
            Although the Muslim invasions are sometimes regarded as an interruption, we today know that the end result of these invasions did not diminish trade relations. On the contrary, after the invasions, Europe witnessed a booming cultural resurrection in the cities, and the population also increased together with intensified trading activities. These cities that were at the intersection points of a European culture and an Islamic one were indeed the “cultural contact zones”. For instance, Anatolia and the Levant, Islamic Spain, and Sicily were all frontiers where “convivencia” produced fruitful results which may be seen through the artistic value of the churches built in these regions. Besides, this cultural encounter is also well observed in the example of the Umayyads. In Damascus, the official language of the Umayyads was Greek, and in Cairo, it was Coptic.
            This mixed cultural space is best represented by 2 epic romances: Digenes Akritas and Seyyid Battal Gazi. Akritas fights on the Byzantine border against the Arabs, and Battal Gazi fights on the same border against the Byzantines. The interesting thing to point out is the extreme similarity of these two epics, which seemingly belong to two different cultures, in terms of narrative and the values upheld in the stories. For example, the enemies are never portrayed as evil but chivalrous.