A glimpse at Athens in the Ottoman era

In his wonderful "Book of Travel," famed Ottoman explorer Evliya Celebi (1611-1682) said that writers of all faiths regard Athens as the "home of wise men." Celebi sang the city's praises in a beautifully written paean after visiting Athens in 1668. He encountered a medieval city, where the Parthenon was still almost intact. The Temple of Athena, which had initially been transformed into a Christian Orthodox church and then a Catholic one, had been turned into a mosque after the Ottoman invasion.

Celebi was able to admire the mosque he had read so many accounts about and describe it in laudatory terms nearly two decades before the destruction wrought by Francesco Morosini. After all, even Mehmed the Conqueror - no stranger to the classics - had visited Athens in the latter half of the 15th century to explore the city he had read so much about. According to historian and...

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