Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Wisdom of Seydi Ali Reis

Seydi Ali Reis is one of those interesting figures of world history that Westerners, with their Eurocentric bias, are never introduced to. Under the Ottoman emperor Suleiman the Magnificent, Seydi Ali was an admiral in the navy. During the course of his service, he was shipwrecked in India. His journey home took four years and involved travel through India, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran. In 1557, he composed a memoir of his travels, the first of its kind among the Turks, entitled Mir’ātü’l-Memālik, or The Mirror of Countries. His protracted and grueling travels taught him a number of lessons, primarily the overwhelming greatness of the Ottoman Empire. Buried, however, in all this proto-nationalist rhetoric is the following more spiritual insight, quoted by Giancarlo Casale:

He who wishes to profit from this narrative, let him remember that not in vain aspirations after greatness, but in quiet and contented mind lies the secret to the true strength which perishes not.

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