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Yahya bey Dukagjini

Dukaginzâde Yahyâ
Extract from Gencine-i Raz, Millet Manuscript Library, Istanbul
Born 1498
Taşlıca, Sanjak of Herzegovina
Died 1582 (mostly accepted)
Loznica, Sanjak of Zvornik
Occupation Poet, military
Language Ottoman Turkish
Nationality Ottoman
Ethnicity Albanian
Education Acemi oglan
Literary movement Diwan poetry

Yahya bey Dukagjini, known in Turkish as Dukaginzâde Yahyâ bey or Taşlicali Yahyâ bey, in Albanian Jahja bej Dukagjini, was one of the greatest Ottoman poets of the diwan literature of 16th century[1] who wrote in Ottoman Turkish, as well as an Ottoman military.


  • Life 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Rise as a soldier and poet 1.2
    • Exile 1.3
  • Poetry 2
  • Relation with his Albanian origin 3
  • Trivia 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Early life

Yahya was born in Taşlıca (therefore Taşlicali), modern day Pljevlja in Montenegro. Exact year of birth is unknown but is believed to be 1498. A scion of the Catholic Dukagjini tribe which lays close to the Albanian Alps north of the river Drin, he was taken by the Ottomans as a Devşirme,[2] trained and sent to serve among the Janissaries. He was put in the corps of "Adjemi Oghlan" where the officers for Janissaries and Spahis were trained, and received the rank of Yaya Bashi (infantry officer) and Bülük Bashi (senior captain). The Shihāb al-Dīn, the Katib (secretary) of the Janissaries recognized his skills and accredited him a lot of freedom. He got access to intellectual coteries of Kadri Efendy, Ibn Kemal, Nishandji Tadji-zade Dja'fer Çelebi, Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha, and İskender Çelebi.[2]

Rise as a soldier and poet

Yahya Bey is known as a young man to have taken part in the Battle of Chaldiran under Sultan Selim I in 1514 and in the Egyptian campaign of 1516-1517, and Baghdad expedition of 1535 under Sultan Suleyman, earning the respect of the important people of the time, including the Sultan because of his poems.[3] Yahya spend most of his early years in Ottoman campaigns, which inspired him.[4] According to E. J. W. Gibb, he was inspired to write the "Yusuf and Züleyha" while in Palestine in the road to Mecca. Egypt was also an inspiration for him, especially Cairo, which he called "the city of Joseph".[5] Yahya was a bitter enemy of K̲h̲ayālī Mehmed Bey,[6] another contemporary poet which he had first met in 1536. He satirically attacked K̲h̲ayālī Mehmed Bey in his verses. Yahya wrote a kasîde (a kind of panegyric) against him and presented it during the Persian campaign to the Sultan and Grand Vizier Rüstem Paşa who was declared as "enemy of the poets". Rustem Pasha was so delighted with the level of contempt towards K̲h̲ayālī, that Yahya was made administrator of several foundations in Bursa and Istambul.[2][3]


Sultan Mustafa Mehmet's mother weeping at the coffin, after he was strangled in Bursa - extract from Hünername, Topkapi Palace Museum Library

In 1553, Prince fief) near Zvornik in today's Bosnia and lived pretty well afterwards reviving a 27,000[2] or 30,000[7] akçe annual income.[4] Others point to Tamışvar, center of the Province of Temeşvar,[3] where he for sure fought at a certain point.[2] In 1565, at a ripe age, he served with his men (the Yahyâli corps) at the siege of Szigetvar. It was there that he composed a qasîdeh and presented it to his patron, Sultan Suleiman. After that, being at an old age, he turned to Islamic Mysticism.

While in exile in Bosnia, Yahya met in 1574-75 with Mustafa Âlî, a local and well known Ottoman historian and bureaucrat. The life-story of Yahya made an impression on Ali, who would later use it as a baseline when he referred to himself as "a poet too talented to be supported by jealous politicians and subsequently condemned to exile in the border provinces".[7] Yahya sent his son Adem Çelebi to Ali with a draft of the most recent revision of his diwan for Ali to proofread, especially the Arabic construction parts, although apparently there was no need for that.[7]

There is no wide consensus for the year of death. Yahya bey could have died in 1575,[8] 1573 (982 in Ottoman calendar),[2] even 986 for some,[2] or 1582 (990), most of the sources pointing to 1582.[4][9] Place of death also varies. Most sources indicate Loznica, Sanjak of Zvornik,[4] some Timișoara in Romania,[3] There are also claims that he was buried in Istambul, while Bursalı Mehmet Tahir Bey and Muhammed Hadzijahić place also Loznica as place of death.[10]


Yahya bey Dukagjini is the author of a large diwan of poems and of a group of five mesnevî, (long narrative verse-romances[4] about allegorical-mystical love) that contained rhymed couplets which he wrote without the influence of Iranian traditions[3] and put together in a Khamsa ("five poems"). The most popular of the latter is Shâh u gedâ (The King and the Beggar), which he claimed to had finished in just one week, and Yusuf ve Züleyha (Yusuf and Züleyha). This much-appreciated metrical romance idealizes the pure love for an Istanbul youth of unequalled beauty.[4] His Gül-i Şadberk (Rose of a Thousand Petals) describes Profet Muhammed's miracles.[9]

Like many other poets, Yahya's work was inspired by the work of Sufi poet Mevlevî (also known as Rumi, Mevlânâ, or Jalāl ad-Dīn, founder of Mevlevi Order). There are references to Mevlevi in a few couplets in Yahya Bey’s diwan, and in some other rhymed couplets in his khamsa as "Mevlana", "Molla Hünkar", "Molla-i Rum". Mevlana is the leading character in three different stories: Gencine-i Raz, Kitab-i Usul, and Gulşen-i Envar. Moreover, he retold the story Süleyman Peygamber'le Sivrisinek that appears in Mevlana’s mesnevi without changing it.[10]

Yahya also wrote "Şehrengiz" (City Book), describing Edirne. Some of his poems were published in diwan collections in Istanbul in 1867-1868.[11]

Relation with his Albanian origin

Yahya bey was not oblivious to his Albanian origin. He notes this in his verse, claiming that he stemmed from a land of cliffs and crags.[4] According to the Turkish poet Muallim Naci (1850-1893), he did not use the title "Taşlicali".[10] Nevertheless, for Yahya Bey, the cruel Devşirme was his opportunity for rise in fame, considering that back then birth counted for nothing and good luck and particularly tack meant everything.[2]


A brave soldier, he is remembered as representative of a type which admirably combined the sword with the pen. His independence intertwined with frankness and courage is his most notable trait.[2] Yahya Bey is considered one of the greatest Ottoman poets.[1]

Yahya bey Dukagjini is depicted in the Turkish TV series Muhteşem Yüzyıl (The Magnificent Century), performed by Serkan Altunorak.

See also


  1. ^ a b İ. Güven Kaya (2006), Divan edebiyatı ve toplum (in Turkish), Donkişot, p. 123,  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j M Th Houtsma (1987), First Encyclopaedia of Islam: 1913-1936, E.J. Brill, p. 1149,  
  3. ^ a b c d e Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Culture and Tourism - TAŞLICALI YAHYA
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Elsie, Yahya bey DUKAGJINI, Albanian Literature in Translation 
  5. ^ H. T. Norris (1993), Islam in the Balkans: Religion and Society Between Europe and the Arab World, University of South Carolina Press, p. 79,  
  6. ^ Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb, Bernard Lewis, Johannes Hendrik Kramers, Charles Pellat, Joseph Schacht (1998), The Encyclopaedia of Islam 10, Brill, p. 352,  
  7. ^ a b c d Cornell H. Fleischer (1986), Bureaucrat and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire : the historian Mustafa Âli (1541-1600), Princeton University Press, pp. 63–64,  
  8. ^ Marcel Cornis-Pope, John Neubauer (2006), History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures, Comparative history of literatures in European languages, Book 20 2, J. Benjamins Pub, p. 498,  
  9. ^ a b Emine Fetvacı (2013), Picturing History at the Ottoman Court, Indiana University Press, p. 51,  
  10. ^ a b c İdris Güven Kaya (2009), ]Dukagin-zade Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey work on Mevlana Celaleddin [Dukagin-zade Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey'in Eserleridne Mevlana Celaleddin (PDF), Turkish Studies 4 (7), Erzincan 
  11. ^ Muhamed Hadžijahić, ]One unknown Tuzla Hagiološki Catalog [Jedan Nepoznati Tuzlanski Hagiološki Katalog (PDF) (in Bosnian), p. 217 

External links

  • En Hazin Mersiyenin Şairi: TAŞLICALI YAHYA BEY (in Turkish)
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