ottoman empire, ottomans, golden age, plato, Murad IV, Suleiman, Muhammad, Islam


This paper considers the role and construction of golden age myths in seventeenth-century debates about how to renew the flagging Ottoman Empire. Policymakers and preachers prescribed radically different solutions based on which golden age they idealized—whether the time of the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century or the reign of Sultan Suleiman in the sixteenth. Throughout most of the 1600s, the pendulum swung back and forth violently depending on which faction had the sultan’s ear. Charismatic mosque preachers like Kadizade Efendi whipped up Istanbul crowds against coffee, while advice writers such as Koçi Bey urged expelling “outsiders” from the military and civil service. Then, in the reign of Murad IV, court preacher Vani Mehmed Efendi proposed a powerful synthesis of the two golden age myths; by alleging an ethnic link between the Turkish people to Arab Muhammad’s legacy of conquest, Vani was able to propose military reform and adventurism under the guise of religious reformation. The paper concludes with an analysis of the power and continued relevance of the idea of a golden age, both in contemporary Turkish society and beyond.