‘A tent has fallen from the sky’: the convoluted story of a balloon accident in Ottoman Bosnia in 1803

Sel Turhan F.

Middle Eastern Studies, 2023 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/00263206.2023.2268009
  • Journal Name: Middle Eastern Studies
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Periodicals Index Online, Geobase, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, Jewish Studies Source, Linguistic Bibliography, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, PAIS International, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Keywords: Balkans, Balloon technology, Bihke, Bosnia, Francesco Zambeccari, Napoleon, Ottoman Empire
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Based on the story of a balloon accident in the Bihke region of Bosnia in 1803, this article evaluates the balloon technology of the period through the life of Francesco Zambeccari, who was the aeronaut of that balloon, as well as the anxiety caused by the falling balloon both in Bosnia and the Ottoman centre, in the context of the Napoleonic threat. It first focuses on the balloon technology of the period and considers the mobility and network of relations it created by focusing on Zambeccari, a Bolognia notable. Secondly, it tries to understand how local people interpreted this event and the methods local administrators used both in managing the public’s reactions and deciding what to do with the falling balloon. Thirdly, the article examines how, under the shadow of the Napoleonic threat, tensions grew steadily for the Ottoman centre which believed the falling balloon to be linked to a French military advance towards the Bosnian border.