William Wittman was in the Ottoman Empire from the end of 1798 until 1802. He was a member of the British Military Mission that allied with the Ottoman Army to march against Napoleon, who had attacked Egypt. W.M. Leake, E.D. Clarke and W. Hamilton, secretary to Lord Elgin, were also members of this mission. Wittman spent a winter in Constantinople. He described Pera and the bazaars, as well as the life and the celebrations of Greeks and Turks at their religious feasts. He also recorded his observations on the weather and climate of the region. Wittman crossed the Hellespont with the British fleet. In his text he describes Sestos, Abydos, Troy and the fortresses of the strategic pass of the Dardanelles. He then returned to the Ottoman capital. His chronicle includes his observations on the plague, Turkish Ramadan and Greek Easter, as well as the party given by Lord Elgin for the Sultan's birthday. The military mission continued on to the Middle East to join the Ottoman Army. Wittman visited the Holy Land and Syria, and reached Cairo and Alexandria. Of major interest are his observations on the plague and other epidemics that afflicted both armies, Ottoman and British. His medical suggestions for treatment, together with a history of the plague, are to be found in the Appendix. Remarkable too are his depictions of Ottoman military officials. On the voyage back to Constantinople, Wittman visited Rhodes and Samos. He gives a detailed account of the highlights of Chios (mastic, lazaretto), of Lesbos and its products, and of Tenedos. He returned to England via Varna, Silistra, the Danube, Vienna and Germany.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou