Skip to main content



Translators of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic into European languages.

When the Ottoman Empire began commercial dealings with the Europeans, translators were employed by European agents and diplomats in the capital, Istanbul. As no business could be conducted without these translators, they fulfilled a vital intermediary role in EuropeanOttoman relations, both political and commercial. Known as dragomans, these translators were usually Christians and often Greeks from the Phanar district of Istanbul. By the nineteenth century, they occupied a position of power and influence in Istanbul.

The Ottoman ministry for foreign affairs employed an official dragoman, and many European diplomats dealt with him or his deputies rather than directly with Ottoman administrators. Ottoman embassies in Europe also employed drago-mans. After the Greek revolt in 1821, part of the Greek War of Independence, Muslims and Turks began to act as dragomans, and some became important figures during the Tanzimat reform period of the mid-1800s. One of the many Tanzimat reforms was the creation of a bureau of translation in the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which centralized and incorporated the dragomans.

See also Greek War of Independence; Tanzimat.


Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 3d edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Shaw, Stanford, and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 19761977.

zachary karabell

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dragomans." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . 22 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Dragomans." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . (March 22, 2019).

"Dragomans." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved March 22, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.