Vol 21 (2017-2018)
From Comparative to Global History

Greek as Ottoman? Language, identity and mediation of Ottoman culture in the early modern period

Michał Wasiucionek
New Europe College Bucharest/LuxFaSS
Published January 8, 2019
  • Ottoman Empire,
  • Danubian principalities,
  • Greek language,
  • Identity
How to Cite
Wasiucionek, M. (2019). Greek as Ottoman? Language, identity and mediation of Ottoman culture in the early modern period. Cromohs - Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 21, 70-89. https://doi.org/10.13128/Cromohs-24549


The scope of the paper is to examine the role of Greek as a conduit for the flow of cultural models between the Ottoman centre and the Christian periphery of the empire. The Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia witnessed throughout the early modern period a number of linguistic shifts, including the replacement of Slavonic literature with the one written in vernacular. Modern Romanian historiography has portrayed cultural change was a teleological one, triggered by the monetization of economy and the rise of new social classes. What this model fails to explain, though, is the partial retrenchment of vernacular as a literary medium in the eighteenth century, as it faced the stiff competition of Greek. The aim of this paper is to look at the ascendancy of Greek in the Danubian principalities and corresponding socio-economic and political changes through Ottoman lens. Rather than a departure from the developments that facilitated the victory of Romanian over Slavonic, the proliferation of Greek can be interpreted as their continuation, reflecting the growing integration of Moldavian and Wallachian elites into the fabric of the Ottoman Empire at the time when a new socio-political consensus was reaching its maturity. By its association with Ottoman-Orthodox Phanariot elites, the Greek language became an important conduit by which the provincial elites were able to integrate themselves within the larger social fabric, while also importing new models from the imperial centre.