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Life and family

Works Bibliography

Born in Siliteni (renamed Dimitrie Cantemir and now located in Vaslui County, Romania), Dimitrie was the son of Moldavian Voivode Constantin Cantemir (and brother to Antioh Cantemir, himself Prince), of the lowranking boyar Cantemireti family. His mother, Ana Bant, was a learned woman of noble origins. The name Cantemir originates from Khan Temir.

His education began at home, where he learned Greek and Latin and acquired a profound knowledge of the classics. Between 1687 and 1710 he lived in forced exile in Istanbul, where he learned Turkish and studied the history of the Ottoman Empire at the Patriarchate's Greek Academy, where he also composed music.

In 1693, he succeeded his father as Prince of Moldavia in name only, as the Ottomans appointed Constantin Duca, favoured by Wallachian Prince and, despite many shared goals, forever rival of the Cantemirs Constantin Brncoveanu; his bid for the throne was successful only in 1710, after two rules by his brother (whom he represented as envoy in the Ottoman capital). He had ruled only three weeks[2] when he joined Peter the Great in his campaign against the Ottoman Empire (see Russo-Turkish War, 17101711) and placed Moldavia under Russian suzerainty, after a secret agreement signed in Lutsk. Defeated by the Turks in the battle of Stnileti (July 18July 22, 1711), Cantemir sought refuge in Russia, where he and his family finally settled (he was accompanied by a sizeable boyar retinue, including the chronicler Ion Neculce). There, he was awarded the title of Knyaz (Prince) of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great and received the title of Reichsfrst (Prince) of the Holy Roman Empire from Charles VI. He died at his Dmitrovka estate near Oryol in 1723 (on the very day he was awarded the Roman-German princely title). In 1935, his remains were carried to Iai.

He was married twice: in 1699, to Kassandra Cantacuzene (16821713), member of the Cantacuzino family (the daughter of Prince erban Cantacuzino), and in 1717 to Anastasia Trubetskaya (17001755; from the Trubetskoy house). Cantemir's children were rather prominent in Russian history. His elder daughter Maria Cantemir (17001754) attracted the attention of Peter the Great who allegedly planned to divorce his wife Catherine and marry her. Upon Catherine's ascension to the throne, she was forced to enter a convent. His son Antioh Cantemir (Antiokh Dmitrievich in Russian) (17081744) was also the Russian ambassador to London and Paris, a prominent satirical poet, and Voltaire's friend. Another son, Constantin (Konstantin Dmitrievich; 17031747), was implicated in the Galitzine conspiracy against Empress Anne and exiled to Siberia. Finally, Dimitrie's younger daughter Smaragda (17201761), the wife of Prince Dmitriy Mikhailovich Galitzine, was a friend of Empress Elizabeth and one of the great beauties of her time.

In 1714 Cantemir became a member of the Royal Academy of Berlin. Between 1711 and 1719 he wrote his most important creations. Cantemir was known as one of the greatest linguists of his time, speaking and writing eleven languages, and being well versed in Oriental scholarship. His oeuvre is voluminous, diverse, and original; although some of his scientific writings contain unconfirmed theories and inaccuracies, his expertise, sagacity, and groundbreaking researches are widely acknowledged.

The best known is his History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire. This volume circulated throughout Europe in manuscript for a number of years. It was finally printed in 1734 in London, and later it was translated and printed in Germany and France. It remained the seminal work on the Ottoman Empire up to the middle of the 19th century notably, it was used as reference by Edward Gibbon for his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Afterwards, the work was largely contested, for some of its sources were doubtful.

In 1714, at the request of the Royal Academy in Berlin, Cantemir wrote the first geographical, ethnographical and economic description of Moldavia, Descriptio Moldaviae. As many of his books it circulated first in manuscript and was only later published in Germany (first in 1769 in a geographical magazine, and then in 1771 the first edition as a book). Around the same time he prepared a manuscript map of Moldavia, the first real map of the country. It contained a lot of geographical detail as well as administrative information. Printed in 1737 in the Netherlands, it has been used by all cartographers of the time as an inspiration for their own maps of Moldavia.

A history and notation of Ottoman court music. "Chronicle of the durability of RomansMoldavians-Wallachians" (17191722). Historia Hieroglyphica (1705) Divanul sau Glceava sau neleptului cu lumea sau Giudeul sufletului cu trupul (Iai, 1698) An introduction to Islam written for Europeans. A biography of Jan Baptist van Helmont