Pro Turcis and contra Turcos: Curiosity, Scholarship and Spiritualism in Turkish Histories by Johannes Löwenklau (1541–1594)
It is still partially unexplained why, in 16th–17th-century Hungary – as opposed to Western countries – Ottoman history was not processed in an authentic and scholarly way. Why is it that intelligent Western reports of the Ottoman Empire and its history had no echo in Hungary, even though these reports wrote about, and were written to, Hungarians? This paper aims to answer the above questions when discussing Johannes Löwenklau, one of the most excellent 16th-century experts in the Ottomans. First we examine the three main sources used for his Ottoman Histories, all of them related to Hungary. Then we describe the intellectual background of Löwenklau's Chronicles. The two parts of the study off er two diff erent answers to the above question. (1) In the 16th century, Hungary fell apart, so it was impossible to conduct deep studies, although they would have served the country's interests. It is thus not surprising that the learned synthesis of sources of Hungarian origin was made by a German Humanist. (2) Löwenklau was a tolerant, gentle, intellectual member of the Bohemian Brethren. His books paint an alternative image of the Turks, one that does not match the commonplaces on the ancient enemy of Christianity, and one that is also distinct from the "the scourge of God" destined to revenge crimes according to the Wittenberg Reformation. A desire for universal peace clearly appeared in his works, in addition to the confrontation with the Turks and the idea of the Crusade. The ordinary Hungarian audience was averse to this combination of scholarly research and apocalypticism, so it is notsurprising that Hungarian historiography has been largely silent about this great historian of his age.