DRAGOMAN (from the Arabic terjuman, an interpreter or translator; the same root occurs in the Hebrew word targum signifying translation, the title of the Chaldaean translation of the Bible), a comprehensive designation applied to all who act as intermediaries between Europeans and Orientals, from the hotel tout or travellers' guide, hired at a few shillings a day, to the chief dragoman of a foreign embassy whose functions include the carrying on of the most important political negotiations with the Ottoman government, or the dragoman of the imperial divan (the grand master of the ceremonies).
It soon became necessary to create the important post of chief dragoman at the Porte, and there was no choice save to appoint a Greek, as no other race in Turkey combined the requisite knowledge of languages with the tact and adroitness essential for conducting diplomatic negotiations.
The first chief dragoman of the Porte was Panayot Nikousia, who held his office from 1665 to 1673.
From that time until 1821 the Greeks monopolized the management of Turkey's foreign relations, and soon established the regular system whereby the chief dragoman passed on as a matter of course to the dignity of hospodar of one of the Danubian principalities.
The duties of an embassy dragoman are extensive and not easily defined.