BUSBECQ, Ogier Ghiselin de
Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522-1592) was a Flemish humanist, naturalist and diplomat. He studied Latin at the University of Leuven and continued his studies in Paris, Venice, Bologna and Padova. He knew seven languages and his interests covered a wide spectrum, from natural sciences to the history of Antiquity. In 1552 Busbecq entered the service of Ferdinand I of Austria, and became ambassador of Flanders to England. In 1554 and 1556 he was sent to the Sublime Gate as official embassador, with the mission to settle the border question in Transylvania.
He arrived in Istanbul in 1555 and met Suleiman the Magnificent in Amasya. Busbecq returned to Vienna in 1556 and left again on a new mission to Istanbul in the same year,. He stayed in that city unitl 1562. When he returned definitively to Vienna, emperor Maximilian II entrusted him with the education of his two sons. He spent the rest of his life in the service of the imperial family, but also went on confidential missions to France, Spain and the Netherlands. He died in his native city in 1592.
Busbecq spent the best part of his stay in Istanbul shut up in the embassy, as his diplomatic maneuvers caused him to fall out of grace with the Sultan. He dedicated himself to naturalistic studies and also obtained two hundred and forty Grrek and Latin manuscripts, (among which a sixth century scroll of Dioscurides), coins, inscriptions and other antiquities. Busbecq introduced Ancara sheep to Europe, a contribution that would lead to the expansion of mohair textiles. He also introduced to the West the tulip, which was to be cultivated extensively in the Netherlands and mark its golden age a century later.
His travel chronicle was published in Latin in 1581. Two expanded editions followed, in 1582 and 1589. His work was translated into French and English and republished many times. It is considered the most complete text on administration and everyday life under Suleiman the Magnificent, that is, when the Ottoman Empire had reached the peak of its strength and power.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou