Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

The Changing Attitudes Towards Mountains in Ottoman Empire and Turkey, A Case Study: Mountaineering

Selim Ölçüoğlu (Leiden University)

During my time in Istanbul I acquired access to the Ottoman State archives and had the chance of searching relevant primary sources that could benefit my project, titled: ‘The Changing Attitudes Towards Mountains in Ottoman Empire and Turkey, A Case Study: Mountaineering’ Along with many sources that depicted mountains in general, adventurers that came for Ottoman mountains and the incidents that happened in the mountains, one of them in particular gained my interest. This report will focus on this very material that I had the chance of come across.

This report includes a close reading of the primary source, transliteration and translation of it as well as an image of the original document.

The material that will be discussed in this report has been found in the state archives (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı Devlet Arşivleri Başkanlığı) and its catalog code is ‘Y..PRK.UM 15-28’. The material is handwritten using the Riqʿah script and dates to 1888 in Gregorian Calendar system.
The title of it in the electronic catalog is: ‘Keşişdağı'nda kaybolan İngiliz Mc. Millian'ın tüm çabalara rağmen bulunamadığı’ In very general terms, The material reports the disappearance of an English man who was ascending to Keşiş Dağı (now, Uludağ) in Hüdavendigar (Bursa) and the unsuccessful search attempts of finding him. The writer of the report, as indicated at the end line of the document, is the mayor of Hüdavendigar and the report is sent to Mr. Besim, probably a chamberlain.

The source raises substantial amount of questions and, if tracked, such questions and the search for answers can tell us many more interesting things. I have tried to track and search answers to certain questions that came into my mind after and while reading the source. However, a close reading of the source does not only provide us with valuable questions but since the material includes interesting details, it also gives us insights about the Ottoman bureaucracy and the attitude towards mountains.

The first major question that needed to be clarified was, who was MacMillan? The only information that I had was that he ‘liked’ mountains and he was British. After a brief research on the surname MacMillan, I decided to look over the family members of MacMillan publishing company which was one of the biggest publishers in the world in late 19th century. While reading the history of the family, I coincided with the eldest son of the family named Malcolm Macmillan who recorded to be lost in the ‘Mount Olympus’. Although some sources mention the place as Greece, most probably confused with the Mount Olympus in Greece.

After convincing myself that the lost British might have been really Malcolm MacMillan, I searched for him in the literature and fortunately I found a book titled ‘A Diplomatist in the East’ written by Arthur Hardinge. He had a section titled ‘Constantinople’ in his book and he was detailly narrating ‘their’ trip the Keşiş Dağı. His companion was our very Malcolm MacMillan. At some point during their climb, they were separated by their speed. The vital part of this narrative is that Hardinge claims that he never heard of MacMillan again until decades later when he heard from another college that an Albanian Christian from a mountain village in Keşiş Dağı confessed in his dying moments that he killed and robbed a British man and eventually buried him in the summit of the mountain.

The second question that came into my mind is that what was their purpose on climbing the summit of the mountain. However, looking into the past European travelers who happened to visit Bursa, I saw that some of them have already went to the top of Keşiş Dağı for recreational purposes. Given the relatively small community of Europeans who travelled to Ottoman Empire and climbed mountains. I suppose they, our two British gentlemen, might have read, heard or even knew people who have climbed the top of Keşiş Dağı and perhaps recommended it to them. If studied more detailed, this network of connections between westerners who climbed mountains in the Ottoman Empire can shed light on their motivations, attitudes and even methods on climbing mountains.

The third point of interest, though not a question, that sprouts from this short primary source is the way that this material has been written. The writer’s selection of words and his organization of the text tells the researcher a lot about the Ottoman bureaucracy as well as how they, at least the state officials like the writer of our report, saw mountains.

To conclude, this short primary source on a British gentleman who got lost in Keşiş Dağı in 1888 tells the curious researcher things that are definitely more than just a story of disappearance. Through contextualization, primary sources can be used to generate questions that leads the researcher to further spheres. In this occasion, my selected primary source gave me insights about, an strand of Ottoman attitude towards mountains, possible inter-Western networks on mountains and mountaineering, and an wider mechanism of Ottoman bureaucracy.



Line 1: b[i-smi ‘llā]h

Line 2: ḳurenā-i ḥażret-i şehriyārī sacādetlü Besīm Beg ḥażretlerine

Line 3: sacādetlü efendim ḥażretleri

Line 4: geçende Keşīş Ṭaġında żāyic olan İngilizli Māḳ Mīlānıñ keyfīyet-i ġaybūbeti ve olbābda icrā ḳılınan taḥḳīkāt ve tedḳīḳātı evvelce ber-tafṣīl carż olunmuş idi mūma ileyhiñ aḳrabāsından iki

Line 5: zātıñ bu kerre Londradan Der-Sacādete geldikleri ve İngiltere sefirinden aldıḳları bir ḳıṭca tavṣīye-nāme ile Brusaya da vürūd eyledikleri cihetle ṭaleb ve arzūları vechile cānib-i hükūmetden yanlarına

Line 6: tekrār jandarma ve polis me’mūrları terfīḳ olunaraḳ cānib-i sefāretden gelen Mösyö Palaḳ dahi birlikde olduḳları ḥālde Keşīş Ṭaġına çıḳub her ṭarafını teftīş ve mucāyene eyledikleri ḥālde żāyic-i

Line 7: merḳūmuñ hiç bir eserine teṣādüf ėtmemişlerdir evvelce de carż olundıġı vechile sāye-i ḥażret-i pādişāhīde Keşīş Ṭaġınıñ her ṭarafında emnīyet ve āsāyīş-i mahallīye kāmilen mevcūd olub şimdiye ḳadar buralarca

Line 8: hiç bir vuḳūcāt ẓuhūr ėtmemiş iken şahṣ-i merḳūmuñ żāyic olması mücerred bir ḳażāya uġramasından ve yolları bilmeyüb ḳābil-i nüzūl olmayan bir dereye düşüb ḥayvānāt-i vaḥşīye ṭarafından itlāf ėdilmesinden

Line 9: başḳa ḥāṭırlara bir şey huṭūr ėtmeyüb merḳūmuñ keyfīyet-i żiyācı sefīr-i müşār ileyhiñ leffen taḳdīm ḳılınan taḥrīrātında dahi ḳażā’en oldıġını dahi taṣdīk ve beyān olunayor şimdiye ḳadar cereyān ėden taḥḳīḳāta

Line 10: göre sāye-i ḥażret-i velī-nicmet-i bī-minnetimiz muḥill-i āsāyīş buralarca öyle bir ḥādise vuḳūcbulmadıġını yār ve aġyār dahi taṣdīḳ ve ictirāf ėdiyor binā’en caleyh merḳūmuñ żāyic olması yine kendüleriniñ eser-i taḳṣīrāt

Line 11: ve tesāmuḥundan ilerü gelüb bubābda ḥükūmet-i senīyeniñ her dürlü taḥḳīḳāt ve tedḳīḳātı mükemmelen icrā ėtmiş idügi maca ‘t-teşekkür ictirāf ėderek bu kerre Der-Sacādete cavdet eyledikleri berā-i maclūmāt carż

Line 12: olunur olbābda emr ü (= ve) irāde efendim ḥażretleriniñdir fī 6 zī ’l-hicce sene 306 ve fī 22 temmuz sene 305

Above the seal: ḥüdāvendigār vilāyeti valisi

Seal: es-seyid ismāil ḥaḳḳı es-seyid bin calī yāver



In the name of God

In the name of God To the chamberlain of His Majesty, his excellency Besim Bey Your excellency, the case of the British citizen Macmillan who got lost and disappeared on the Keşiş Mountain (Olympos) and the investigaiton that has been carried out to find him have been reported in detail to you before. Two relatives of him came from London to Istanbul. Through a recommendation letter from the British ambassador, the relatives eventually arrived in Bursa and a group of soldiers and police officers have been assigned to accompany them. With Mr. Palak who came from the British embassy, they have searched for the lost man all around the mountain but did not find any clue. As has been mentioned before, the Keşiş Mountain and its surroundings are completely under control and safe. Such an event has never happened before, therefore, it is highly likely that the mentioned man has been fallen into a steep river ravine and was eaten by wild animals because of his lack of knowledge of paths. Anything else seems unlikely. In the enclosed report given to the aforementioned ambassador it has been stated that the disappearance was an accident. According to the investigations done until now no disturbance of public order has taken place (thanks to the sultan). Friend and foe agree on this. Consequently his disappearance occurred due to his own actions, but still the local authorities have worked hard in investigating the case and searching for him. His relatives have thanked us and subsequently returned to Istanbul. In this case, the order and command is yours. Written on 6 Zilhicce 1306/ 22 July 1305. Governor of Hüdavendigar es-seyyid İsmā c īl Ḥaḳḳı bin es-seyyid cAlī yāver