Sunday, January 05, 2014

Not Quite Turkish

I'm not sure what it is, but I've seen quite a few people in the past month refer to St. Nicholas of Myra as Turkish. I find this somewhat interesting. He is associated with Myra, which is in modern Turkey, but that's the only thing about him that has anything whatsoever to do with anything Turkish. Myra was an Anatolian Greek colony in Lycia in the Roman Empire. Chances are that he would be of an ethnically Greek family; chances are also that he would have considered himself culturally a Roman. He would certainly have spoken Greek and would have had no idea what 'Turkish' meant, since the Seljuk Turks didn't invade Anatolia and begin its Turkification until more than five hundred years after his death. One could as easily claim that Attila the Hun was Polish, or that Hannibal was a Roman.


  1. Allen Hazen8:15 PM

    There's a lot of that going around, sometimes just using modern geography for simplicity of reference, sometimes I fear with ideological animus. Sometimes hard to tell which. I've seen an encyclopedia article that referred to Kurt Gö¨del (ethnically German, born under the Austro-Hungarian empire, went to German-language schools in Brno before leaving for the University of Vienna...) as a "Czech-American" logician.
    What do the Turks themselves say? I suppose they aren't all that keen on Christian saints, but I think they are sometimes willing to "appropriate" the cultural glories of their predecessors (and, to at least some degree, literal ancestors) in Anatolia: I think they are quite proud of the Hittites.

  2. branemrys8:33 PM

    That's a good question; the Turkish government is usually pretty tourism-savvy, so I wouldn't be surprised if they did some active promotion -- I suppose Demre would be the modern-day town.

    There are going to be cases where using modern geography makes a certain amount of sense -- Italy and Germany come to mind as cases where it's often going to be almost unavoidable. A lot of times it seems like a crutch, though; a purely fictional pigeonhole.


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