Christians in the City: Aleppo in Ottoman Times

20.01.2015, Seminar, OI Beirut

Public Research Seminar taught by Bernard Heyberger (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris). 6-8pm.

Aleppo was one of the largest cities in the Ottoman Empire, with an important number of Christians, who played a pivotal role in the different Churches of the Near East. A huge and varied documentation concerning the city offers an insight on what it was like to be a Christian in an Islamic urban context. Dhimmis were subject by the Islamic law to a number of discriminatory rules, nevertheless they were relatively integrated within the Ottoman social and political system. They shared values and customs with their Muslim neighborhood.

However, an important cultural shift occurred there in the 17th and 18th centuries, which heralded the so-called Nahda, the Arabic Renaissance. From the 17th century on, the Christians of Aleppo profited from the unification of a very large territory under the “Ottoman peace”, and began contact with Egypt and Constantinople, and beyond the borders of the Empire, with Persia, India and Christian Europe. Their links to Rome, but also to Moscow and the Greek Orthodox, improved dramatically. This contact with the outside world offered to the Christians of Aleppo the opportunity to work on their own culture and their own history, and to construct a new identity.

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