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Jem Sultan: The Adventures of a Captive Turkish Prince in Renaissance Europe Hardcover – 19 Jul 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (19 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007150660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007150663
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,706,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By travelswithadiplomat on 29 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jem, son of Mehmet II, sacker of Constantinople in 1453, and Cicek (Serbian princess) is the central historical personage in this biography by John Freely. It approaches the years around the shift in power around the Black Sea and Anatolia and the power struggle that erupted after the untimely death of the Grand Turk, Mehmet II, scourge of Italy and the Papal States leading to Jem's self-imposed exile in Europe and unwitting use as a political pawn before his poisoning.
Over the first sixty odd pages of the hardback version Freely gives us terse introduction to the politics of the Ottoman Empire, specifically focusing on Jem's grandfather and father and the subsequent ill-fated and short-lived push for power that ended the aims of the sole heir actually `born-to-the-purple'. After losing the battle at Yenisehir he fled to Cairo, epi-centre of the Mamluk empire under Kaitbey and thence to the commencement of his final exile via Rhodes where he was put in the first of his many gilded cages by the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, Pierre d'Aubusson. For the rest of his life he would be sought after by Kaitbey, Beyazit, Charles VIII of France, the papacy, King Ferrante of Naples and Matthias Corvinus and
Jem and his retinue arrived on the Grand Neuf de Tresor at Nice in the autumn of 1482. At this point Jem's legend begins to acquire that romantic status so prevalent of medieval lore with its concepts of chivalry. Key moments are his meeting and loving of Phillipine de Sassenage which gave rise to `La Belle Helene', his romance of Jeanne le Veste to `La Dame a la Licorne, the Nice prostitutes whose parting gift to Jem of a chess playing chimpanzee and talking parrot remaining enduring legends, his mistress Almeida's tragic suicide.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "Nobody" on 21 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Well writen and quite an interesting adventures story of the Ottoman prince during the period of renaissance Europe.
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Format: Paperback
"Jem Sultan" by John Freely tells the story of the pretender to the Ottoman throne, his subsequent loss of rule and how he ultimately ended up hostage in Renaissance Europe. International politics of the time are also expounded; illustrating how each party used him for their own wider plans and aspirations, from the prevention of an Ottoman invasion of Italy to a new Crusade.

The book follows a chronological and factual structure and undoubtedly the author has researched his topic well, but has perhaps focused too much on the international powerplays and intrigue instead of Jem himself. The picture that emerges is what a prize Jem must have been for the European powers and what a considerable threat the Ottoman Empire was to Europe during the Renaissance.

The book is written with pace and is a lucid easy read despite the complicated relationships between the main antagonists; Venice, the Ottoman Empire, Mamluk Egypt, the Knights Hospitaller, the Papal states, France and Hungary.

Overall a good read; Jem Sultan is informative for those looking for insight to the international political landscape during the Renaissance or for those seeking an intriguing story of a little known and unfortunate Ottoman prince.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An erudite biography 29 July 2005
By ilmk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jem, son of Mehmet II, sacker of Constantinople in 1453, and Cicek is the central historical personage in this biography by John Freely. It approaches the years around the shift in power around the Black Sea and Anatolia and the power struggle that erupted after the untimely death of the Grand Turk, Mehmet II, scourge of Italy and the Papal States leading to Jem's self-imposed exile in Europe and unwitting use as a political pawn before his poisoning.

Over the first sixty odd pages of the hardback version Freely gives us terse introduction to the politics of the Ottoman Empire, specifically focusing on Jem's grandfather and father and the subsequent ill-fated and short-lived push for power that ended the aims of the sole heir actually `born-to-the-purple'. After losing the battle at Yenisehir he fled to Cairo, epi-centre of the Mamluk empire under Kaitbey and thence to the commencement of his final exile via Rhodes where he was put in the first of his many gilded cages by the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, Pierre d'Aubusson. For the rest of his life he would be sought after by Kaitbey, Beyazit, Charles VIII of France, the papacy, King Ferrante of Naples and Matthias Corvinus and

Jem and his retinue arrived on the Grand Neuf de Tresor at Nice in the autumn of 1482. At this point Jem's legend begins to acquire that romantic status so prevalent of medieval lore with its concepts of chivalry. Key moments are his meeting and loving of Phillipine de Sassenage which gave rise to `La Belle Helene', his romance of Jeanne le Veste to `La Dame a la Licorne, the Nice prostitutes whose parting gift to Jem of a chess playing chimpanzee and talking parrot remaining enduring legends, his mistress Almeida's tragic suicide. These aside it is Jem's manipulation by the Papacy that governed the latter years of his exile and life. Have secured his captive in 1489, Pope Innocent VIII imprisoned Jem in the Apostolic palace and began to negotiate with Beyazit for maintenance. Jem survived several assassination attempts and indeed, Innocent who died just before Columbus set sail for the New World, Alexander VI succeeding him. Jem may well have lived out the rest of his life in peaceful exile had it not been for the crusading aspiration of Charles VIII of France who invaded Italy to secure Jem and his Neapolitan kingdom, cutting a swathe through the Papal states with no opposition. It was at this point that during Jem's move from Rome to Naples he died en route (suspected pneumonia) and Freely highlights this a primary cause for Charles failure to attack Beyazit, his figurehead having gone. With the death of Jem, Freely swiftly moves on to highlight the remainder of Beyazit's life and indeed that of the Ottoman Empire before returning to the theme of his prologue that highlights the enduring legend of Jem Sultan to the modern day.

John Freely's erudite prose is immensely readable and whilst he does not give a focused biography of Jem Sultan he does retell a crucial point in European and Ottoman history from the perspective of an unwitting political pawn. It would have been more complete to get a sense of Jem's personality and bearing during his exile but there is no investigation of his daily life or interaction. However, this is not to distract from an excellently accessible piece of scholarship (apart from one small error on page 211 where Freely states Rodrigo Borgia had six children by the time of his election, but then lists, on the following page, seven of them) on a man who had such influence on European politics over a decade of turmoil and whose life has descended into romantic myth in many histories. By the final page I felt I had read a historical biography that was well written for the general reader and possessed that edge to keep both the story and the reader rolling along with Jem Sultan.

Worth reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Marvelous, Full-Blooded Biography 19 Sep 2007
By Mike Finn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have never read a biography by Mr. John Freely, but he does a superb job here. He has a gift for narrative, and his story of Jem Sultan, son of Mehmet II (the Conqueror of Constantinople), never flags for a single moment. He has done a superb job of research, and it is this depth of knowledge which allows him to convey a feeling for the period and the different players in this convoluted, ultimately tragic story.
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