The Fall of Constantinople or, more broadly, the reign of Mehmed II as a totality, marks the chronological terminus in time of Wittek’s work in Ottoman history. Apart from a few, uncharacteristic, and for the most part minor contributions, down to 1940 he published little on Ottoman history after 1453, and virtually nothing on the Ottoman state after the death of the Conqueror.a Some possible reasons for this state of affairs I have alluded to elsewhere; certainly it is to be regretted that Wittek did not write more at length on Mehemmed II and his reign: what we might have had from his pen, in terms of a work on the lines of Kantorowicz’s Friedrich II., inspired both by Wittek’s deep scholarship and command of the sources and, like Kantorowicz’s study, by the compelling ethos of the George-Kreis, can only be conjectured.b As it turned out, after his escape from Brussels in 1940, displacement and exile effectively put paid to Wittek’s work on pre-1453 Ottoman history for over a decade.c
In an attempt to rebalance the content of the present work in order to give more weight to the post-Ankara period of Ottoman history, as opposed to the pre-and early-Ottoman centuries that precede it, we have included here two short pieces on Mehmed II that furnish, if not by any means a detailed
examination of the man and his reign, at least a summation of Wittek’s ambivalent attitude towards the conqueror of Constantinople. The two essays also usefully bracket chronologically the other pieces published here. One, simply entitled ‘Muhammed II.’ [sic], was written for the second, expanded edition (1933) of a collective work, edited by P. R. Rohden, and published by the long-established Viennese firm of L. W. Seidel und Sohn, entitled Menschen, die Geschichte machten (‘Men who made History’).d
Wittek’s 1933 essay presents something of a publishing mystery. There was in fact already an article on Mehmed in the first edition (1931) of Menschen, die Geschichte machten, written not by Wittek but by his one-time collaborator and later fierce critic, Friedrich Giese.e This first edition had been jointly edited by Rohden and Wittek’s near-contemporary, the eminent Russianborn, later Yugoslav Byzantinist Georg Ostrogorsky.f Yet more strangely, when Wittek came in January 1966 to compile a bibliography of his published work, ‘Publications by Paul Wittek – a selective list’ (published as ‘Paul Wittek: Schriftenverzeichnis’, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, lxviii (1976), pp. 1-7), he carefully noted against the entry for ‘Muhammed II.’ that it had appeared in the second (1933) edition of the work, but cited his article as appearing (without any volume indication) at pp. 197-207. Why Giese’s not particularly noteworthy but unexceptionable article on Mehmed II should have been withdrawn from the second edition of Menschen, die Geschichte machten, and Wittek’s substituted, presumably at the behest of Peter Rohden, must at the present time remain a mystery.g
In their published versions, neither of these two essays carried footnote references. Fortunately, Wittek’s own archive copy of an offprint of his 1933 essay, meticulously footnoted in a minute hand, survives among the collection of his works that he presented to the Library of the Oriental Institute in Vienna in the mid-1970s.h These footnotes have been incorporated into the text of the present translation. The sequence and content of them has been preserved; originally they were numbered on a page-by-page basis, but his necessarily abbreviated references have been silently expanded. In a few places, where Wittek’s references – or the inferences drawn from them – might be seen to stand in need of updating or modification, this has been supplied editorially in curly brackets.