Dimitrie Cantemir

Dimitrie Cantemir (Russian: Дмитрий Кантемир, Turkish: Kantemiroğlu, Greek: Δημήτριος Καντεμίρης; born October 26, 1673 Silişteni; † August 21, 1723 in Dmitrovka in Kharkiv, Ukraine) was Voivode of Moldavia, historian, music theorist, geographer and scientist of the Universal 18th century, humanist and encyclopedist.

Origin and family

Cantemir was born as the son of Moldavian Voivode Constantin Cantemir, as a scion of the family bojarischen Cantemir, who was of low Moldovan nobility. His mother Ana Bantas was a highly educated enlightener, also of noble origin. Dimitrie Cantemir concealed but later its parental origin, which seemed insufficient to specify a descent from Khan Temir.

At home teachers, he received instruction in Greek and Latin and acquired a profound knowledge of the ancient classics. Between 1688 and 1710 he was forced into exile to Constantinople Opel, where he studied the Turkish language and the history of the Ottoman Empire at the Greek Academy of Orthodox patriarchs. During his stay in Constantinople Opel he also served as a kind of hostage to guarantee the Ottomans for the loyalty of his father. He served as a mediator for Ottoman educated to European culture. He was friends with, among others, the Grand Vizier and writers Rami Mehmed Pasha. In 1710 he returned as voivode to Moldova.

There he reigned only about a year to 1711, when he joined the campaign of Peter the Great joined against the Ottoman Empire and placed Moldavia under Russian sovereignty. This page change seems to be the result of a dispute with the Ottoman Grand Vizier of the amount of the tribute to the Porte. After a lost battle against the Ottomans Cantemir fled to Russia, where he could settle down. From Peter the Great to him the title of Prince ( sera) of the Russian Empire was awarded. From Charles VI. He received the honorary title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire. In his last years he was said to be filled with a deep longing for Konstantin Opel and Ottoman culture. Now he has increasingly tried to make known Ottoman perspectives in the West. He died north of present-day Kharkiv and was buried in Moscow.

Cantemir was twice married. First he married in Iasi on May 9, 1699 Cassandra Cantacuzene ( 1682-11. May 1713 ) and on January 14, 1717 in Saint Petersburg Anastasia Trubezkaja (14 October 1700-27. November 1755 ).

Children of Dimitrie Cantemir

  • Maria Cantemir (1700-1754) impressed Peter the Great in such a way that it was planning to divorce his wife Catherine I.. After the accession of Mary had to join a monastery.
  • Antioch Kantemir, (1708-1744) was the Russian ambassador in London and Paris. A friend of Voltaire, he was known for his satirical poems.
  • Another son, Constantine Cantemir (1703-1747), was brought to a conspiracy of the Russian royal family against Anna Galitzine of Russia in connection and exiled to Siberia
  • Dimitrie Cantemir Smaragda 's youngest daughter, (1720-1761), only child with his second wife, was one of the most prominent beauties of her time, and wife of Prince Dmitriy M. Galitzine, a friend of Elizabeth of Russia.


1714 Cantemir was a member of the Brandenburg Society of Sciences in Berlin. In the years 1711-1719 he wrote his most important works. He was one of the great linguists of his time, not only because he spoke eleven languages. Exceptionally were his acquired knowledge in the Ottoman Empire. As a highly respected and original author, he gained great influence in many subject areas. His most important work was the known history of the formation and decay of the Ottoman Empire. It circulated unpublished for several years as a manuscript in Europe before it was printed in London in 1734 and translated into German and French. As a standard work, it was up in the middle of the 19th century. Later, it was challenged because of dubious sources. This work is interpreted as a justification of his treason to the Ottoman Empire. He did not know regarded as a simple waste of a vassal of his suzerain his betrayal. Cantemir used to an Ottoman figure of thought, but in a quite different sense. After Ottoman historians was the figure of thought that the Ottoman Empire was from the 17th century in decline, but this one could stop by wise policy, what the historians gave in their advice expressed. Cantemir, however, saw the difficulties of the Ottoman Empire as an opportunity for his own policies, and said that he intervenes with its waste only the independence of his country before. Cantemir's work is based on two traditions: the text is based very strongly to the Ottoman Empire chronicles a breakdown by years of reign of the sultans. Rather, in the tradition of Greco-Roman historiography, however, are the fictional protagonists of the direct quotes that lays Cantemir them in the mouth. In his work, he takes a stand for the Orthodox Church and less obvious to the Russian Tsar. Nevertheless, he shows admiration for the Ottoman state system, for example gratuity for the soldiers, the power balance between the Grand Vizier and Sultan, etc.

More books treated Oriental Music ( lost) and the first critical history of Romania under the title Historia Hieroglyphica in which it was encrypted occur as animals the acting persons. He also described the history of the two ruling families of those of Brâncoveanu and Cantacuzino, with him - reputation- damaging - made ​​a few errors due to forgeries and mystifications. A philosophical treatise under the title Romanian Divanul sau Gâlceavă Înţeleptului Lumea cu sau cu Giudeţul sufletului trupul was into Greek, Arabic, French (Le divan ou la dispute you say avec le monde ou le jugement de l' âme avec le corps ) and into English ( The Divan or The Wise Man's Parley with the World or The Judgement of the Soul with the Body ) translated.


Cantemir worked as a composer and theorist Ottoman music. His book Kitabu ' Ilmi'l - Musiki alâ Vechi'l - Hurûfât ( Turkish for The Book of written musicology, published in 1698 in Iaşi ) deals not only with the practice of melody and rhythm Ottoman music, but also includes contemporary and previous work in a developed his own notation, works which would be lost without Cantemir otherwise.

This book can be purchased in bookstores today. His bibliographic data are:

  • Kantemiroğlu: Kitabu ʿ İlmi'l - Musiki ʿ alā vechi'l - Ḥurūfāt. = Mûsikiyi Harflerle tesbit ve ICRA İlminin Kitabi. 2 vols. Hazırlayan: Yalçın Tura. Yapi Kredi Yayınları, Istanbul 2001, ISBN 975-08-0167-9.


At the request of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, Cantemir wrote in 1714 the first geographical, ethnographic, economic synopsis of Moldova under the title Descriptio Moldaviae. Re- circulated the manuscript before it was printed ( in German ) in 1769 in a magazine and in 1771 as a monograph. For the period that the work produced Cantemir also a handwritten map of Moldova, the first map of this region at all. It contained geographical and administrative- political information and was printed in 1737 in the Netherlands and has long been regarded as a standard work.


In his work Descriptio Moldaviae Cantemir was also as previously Romanist. He proved the origin of the Romanian from the Latin, compared it with the Italian and discussed numerous contact languages ​​that had left their mark in Romanian.

Secondary literature

At the secondary literature on Cantemir especially publications of the Romanian historian and musicologist Eugenia Popescu- Judetz are mentioned, which are translated into several languages, eg

  • Eugenia Popescu- Judetz: Prince Dimitrie Cantemir. Theorist and Composer of Turkish Music. Pan Yayıncılık, Istanbul 1999, ISBN 975-7652-82-2.

In addition:

  • Klaus Bochmann, Vasile Dumbrava (ed.): Dimitrie Cantemir. Prince of Moldavia, scholar, actor in European Cultural History ( = Publications of Moldova Institute Leipzig. Vol. 3). Leipzig University -Verlag, Leipzig 2008, ISBN 978-3-86583-257-3.
  • Tudor Dinu: Dimitrie Cantemir şi Nicolae Mavrocordat. Rivalităţi politice şi la lite rare începutul secolului XVIII. Editura Humanitas, Bucharest, 2011, ISBN 978-973-50-3090-2, Romanian short presentation of the author, Chapter One ( partial) and contents (PDF, 407 kB), English book launch, book display on the side of the European Society for Modern Greek. ( " Demetrios and Nikolaos Kantemiris Mavrokordatos. Political and literary rivalry at the beginning of the 18th century." ).
  • Jens Luedtke: Diachronic Romance linguistics and language history. In: Encyclopedia of Romani linguistics tables. (LRL). Volume 1, 1: history of the subject Romance languages ​​, methodology ( the language system ). = Histoire de la philology novels, méthodologie ( langue et système ). Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 2001, ISBN 3-484-50231-2, pp. 1-35, here p 23
  • Jürgen Storost: 300 years Romance languages ​​and literatures at the Berlin Academy of Sciences ( = Berlin contributions to the history of science, vol 4. ). Volume 1 Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, inter alia, 2001, ISBN 3-631-38312-6, pp. 31-36 ( same time: Berlin, Free University, habilitation font, 2000).