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OTTOMAN MEDALS AND DECORATIONS
2001 / OCTOBER

Until the 19th century gifts symbolising royal favour and recognition of outstanding services took the form of hil'ats (robes of honour), furs, jewelled swords, aigrettes, wreaths, and horsetail standards. The plumed aigrette was that which corresponded in function most closely to the medals and decorations of western countries. During the reign of Mahmud II (1808-1839) the presentation of robes of honour and wearing of aigrettes became obsolete, gifts such as jewelled watches, and gold cigarette and snuff boxes were bestowed instead. However, such gifts did not carry the desired symbolic significance, and the Ottomans instituted their own medals and decorations. Wars, treaties, new parliamentary assemblies, new constitutions, major financial and other reforms, state visits, national and international exhibitions, and competitions all became occasions for issuing medals. Some Ottoman medals were struck at mints in Istanbul and others in European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Austria. They were mostly designed by well-known artists and architects of the

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OTTOMAN MEDALS AND DECORATIONS
2001 / OCTOBER

time, and their inscriptions by celebrated calligraphers. The former included Robertson and Kirkor Efendi, and the latter included Mustafa Efendi, Hasim Efendi, Sabit Efendi and Abdülfettah Efendi. Prior to this Ottoman medals were rare but not entirely unknown. Over four centuries earlier the first Ottoman medal had been produced at the request of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror in 1480 by the Italian artist Gentile Bellini, whom the sultan invited to Istanbul. The medal bears the portrait of Mehmed on the front and three crowns symbolising the territories of the Ottoman Empire on the reverse. Sultan Mahmud I (1730-1754) produced the Ferahi Medal (Medal of Prosperity) 250 years after this, and his successor Osman III (1754-1757) instituted the Sikke-i Cedid or New Medal in commemoration of monetary reform. When combined Ottoman and British forces defeated the French in Egypt, Sultan Selim III had a medal called Vak'a-i Misiriye (the Egyptian Campaign) struck for presentation to Ottoman and British troops. But it was only with the westernisation movement of the reign of

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OTTOMAN MEDALS AND DECORATIONS
2001 / OCTOBER

Mahmud II that medals and decorations began to be instituted and awarded on a sustained basis. In 1808 came the Hilal-i Osmani (Ottoman Crescent), in 1832 the Iskodra Medal awarded to soldiers who fought at the Battle of Iskodra (Scutari in Albania), and in 1833 the Hünkâr Iskelesi Medal in commemoration of the treaty which concluded the Ottoman-Russian War. Others dating from Mahmud's reign include the Syrian Desert and Akka Fortress, Tashih-i Ayar (Reform of the Coinage), Yemen, Bosnia, Silistra, Crimea, Sinop, and Kars medals.Mahmud's son Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861) awarded a commemoration medal to those who helped to finance the restoration of Haghia Sophia, and in 1850 issued a medal in commemoration of the Reform Bill of 1839. In 1839, 1853 and 1858 three different Iftihar Nisani (Orders of Honour) were instituted. During the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz (1861-1876) several commemoration and war medals were issued: the Ottoman Public Exhibition Medal, the Agricultural Medal, the Industry Medal, the Negroponte Medal and Crete Medal. Abdülhamid II (1876-1909)

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OTTOMAN MEDALS AND DECORATIONS
2001 / OCTOBER

instituted nearly 30 medals during his 33 year reign in commemoration of major social and political events, including the Russian War and Plevne, Privilege, Honour, German State Visit, Crete, Merit, Planetary Motion, Military Establishment, Hejaz Railway, Silk Competition, and 1900 Paris International Exhibition medals. The most significant of the political medals issued during his reign is the 1909 Constitution Medal in commemoration of the Second Constitution proclaimed on 10 July 1908. The Star of Liberty and Star of the Second Constitution were not awarded for services but could be purchased by the general public. The Niyazi Bey Star, issued in honour of the public hero Niyazi Efendi of Resne for his contributions to the proclamation of the new Constitution, is of particular significance as revealing the impact of the Constitution on society. During the reign of Sultan Mehmed V Resad a medal was issued commemorating the Constitution Monument, which was completed in 1912. In 1913 the Hamidiye Battle Cruiser Medal was issued to commemorate the ship of that name which had fought

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OTTOMAN MEDALS AND DECORATIONS
2001 / OCTOBER

in the Mediterranean during the Balkan War. During the First World War medals were presented to those who fought at Çanakkale, Gelibolu (Gallipoli) and Galicia, and others commemorated Turkey's allies in this war - the Allied States, Tripartite Alliance, German Audience and Austrian Audience medals.With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, all its medals and decorations became obsolete, and were replaced by the Turkish Republic with the Independence Medal.

* Ilhan Akbulut is a freelance writer.


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