Marsili in İstanbul

Notes, Maps and Drawings

Emin Özsoy(1) and Nadia Pinardi(2),


(1) Inst. Of Marine Sciences, Middle East Technical Univ., Erdemli, Mersin, Turkey

(2) Dept. of Environmental Sciences, Univ. Of Bologna, Ravenna, Italy

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A glimpse is given to Marsili’s rich inheritance in the archives of the University of Bologna.

Maps and Notes on the Bosphorus

The multitude of maps, notes and drawings inherited from the prolific scientist, diplomat, soldier and traveler, L. F. Marsili, fills shelves of the The Marsili Museum, in the University of Bologna Library, and documented in many entries of holdings (Rosen, 1885, Frati, 1928, Longhena, 1933).

Figure 1. Map of the Bosphorus – “Stambol Bogazi Cartazi (İstanbul Boğazı Haritası)” redrawn in 1692 in Bologna, annotated with names of the settlements along the straits, the city of İstanbul (İslambol – Stambol – Constantinie) and showing forests all along the European (Roumelia) and Asian (Anatolia) coasts. It is not known how this map ended up in Marsili archives, but apparently was an engraved copy dated 1692 made by Pietrasenta of a Turkish map, made by Ormus (Hürmüz ?), the helmsman as denoted in Marsili’s notes.

In Fig.1 the realistic map of Bosphorus from Marsili archives. We present a detailed map showing local names of  Bosphorus settlemenst and geographic features. It is likely that Marsili helped to create or copy this map during his second time visit to Istanbul in 1691-1692.

Figure 2. (a) map of northern Bosphorus annotated with comments: “dibinden akar - i.e. A fundo fluit = it flows down beneath”, “zincir taşı = chain stone” (a rock outcrop used to close the Bosphorus to ships at the time of the siege of Constantinopolis), “degirmen Bosna burnuna karşı mil bir buçuktur, i.e. mola é regione promontorij Bosna (distans) sesqui milliarij spatio = distance across the strait at Bosna Burnu / Sarıyer estimated as 1.5 miles” (b) sketch looking southward and notes showing the position of “zincir taşı” closer to the new castle (novo castello, identified as ‘Rumeli Hisarı’, with the same name as the other one in mid-Bosphorus) on the western coast (Romilio = Rumeli) and across from the old castle (vecchio castello, Anadolu Kale) on the eastern coast (present names are Rumeli Kavağı and Anadolu Kavağı), (c) Dikilikaya Lighthouse, the present position of the “zincir taşı” erected on banks of size 120x180m near Rumeli Kavağı - Sarıyer,

geographic coordinates: 41° 11' 00" N - 29° 04' 54"E.

Another map in Figure 2a (only part of the map showing the northern part of the Bosphorus is copied here), annotated by Marsili has significant markings and notes. It shows various embayments and bends, rocks near the shore, and lighthouses near the northern entrance. A special note recorded by Marsili says in Turkish ‘dibinden akar’ - ‘a fundo fluit’ its latin version meaning the water flows at the bottom of the channel. A surface protrusion of a rock, the ‘zincir taşı’ – ‘chain stone’ and the chain that would be stretched across the Bosphorus to opposite banks is sketched in Marsili’s handwritten notes in Fig. 2b, a tool of defense of İstanbul against ships approaching from the north, possibly used since time of siege of Byzantium in 1453. The present rock base of the Dikilikaya Lighthouse in Fig. 2c marks the present position of the ‘zincir taşı’.

Observations of sea life

Figure 3. Corals and bottom dwellers painted by Marsili

Figure 4. (a) Sulatarina – Sulatirino / Mugilis species, (b) Çirçe (Çerçi ?) – Circa, (c) Kefal – Cephalus, (d) Lapina – Lapines,

Figures 3, 4 and 5 show Marsili’s drawings of corals, bottom dwellers, fish and seal that he observed and recorded during his trip to İstanbul, although the dates are not certain. It is known that he made some drawings of fish during his second visit in 1691. His book on observations in the Bosphorus (Marsili, 1681) already described the anatomy of  ‘midye’ (mussels) living in the Bosphorus, and described its migrating and permanent fish species: migratory fish lissa (?) uskumru (scombri/mackerel), kalkan (rombi/turbot), palamut

(palamide/bonito), kılıç (swordfish), sardalya (sarda/sardines), kefal (mugil/mullet), and resident fish barbunya (red mullet), gobi (?), arbori (?), sfoglie (?), describing their times of passage / abundance periods through the strait, preference for the west or east coasts of the Bosphorus (?) and some fishing practices (Soffientino and Pilson, 2005).

Figure 5. (a) Kırlangıç – Chilidonopsaro, Çinakop – Zinacopp, (b) Mercan – Mergioni (c) Lipsos (d) Ayı Balığı (Fok) – Fogia


We thank the personnel and administration of the Marsili Museum of the University of Bologna Library, for showing us around during our visit to the Museum and for making available the material presented here.


Rosen, V. R., Remarques sur les manuscrits orientaux de la Collection Marsigli à Bologne, suivies de la liste complète des manuscrits arabes de la même collection, Rome , impr. de l'Accademia dei Lincei, 1885.

Frati, L., Catalogo dei manoscritti di L. F. Marsili, Florence, 1928.

Longhena, M., L'Opera cartographica di L. F. Marsili, Rome, s. n., 1933.

Soffientino B. and M. E. Q. Pilson, The Bosphorus Strait. A Special Place in the History of Oceanography, Oceanography, 18(2), 16-23, 2005.